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Body found on Bodega Bay beach is missing Santa Rosa attorney Steve Mitchell, sheriff says

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The body of a man washed ashore and found Monday at a Sonoma County beach near Bodega Bay was identified as missing Santa Rosa attorney Steve Mitchell, officials said late Tuesday.

Mitchell, 56, who first was reported missing Feb. 13, is believed to have taken his own life after officials said they had discovered a suicide note and found Mitchell’s parked car above Furlong Gulch Beach, north of Bodega Bay.

His clothing and personal items including his cellphone were found at the beach.

The county Coroner’s Office has scheduled an autopsy to determine the cause and manner of his death, Sheriff’s Sgt. Cecile Focha said in a statement released at 9:31 p.m. Tuesday. Officials have notified Mitchell’s family of the death, Focha said.

A search for Mitchell was conducted in the coastal area after he disappeared. Sheriff’s officials later said Mitchell had left a note for his family and that it was clear he had intended to end his life.

News of his disappearance sent shock and concern last month through the legal community and beyond.

The confirmation of his death came a day after a jogger called 911 at 8:15 a.m. Monday after spotting a body south of Salmon Creek, in the area of Bodega Dunes beach.

The body was badly decomposed after being in the water for an extended time, sheriff’s officials said.

Mitchell, a civil attorney, had represented local government in a career spanning three decades. He had worked at the downtown Santa Rosa law firm Geary, Shea, O’Donnell, Grattan & Mitchell since 1989.

He was a married father of four adult children and a competitive tennis player who with his wife, Terri, had been active in the Montgomery High School athletic boosters.

Mitchell had been involved in numerous high-profile cases as outside counsel for cities and Sonoma County. Most recently, he was defending the Sheriff’s Office in a federal wrongful death lawsuit filed by the parents of 13-year-old Andy Lopez, who was shot by a sheriff’s deputy in 2013.

The attorney represented the Sheriff’s Office in the 2007 fatal shooting of 17-year-old Jeremiah Chass of Sebastopol. He also served as the attorney for the city of Sebastopol when it was sued by a teenager who suffered brain injury in 2009 when she was struck by a car in a crosswalk.

Mitchell, who grew up in a Eureka legal family and studied at Stanford University, was past president of the Sonoma County Bar Association.

You can reach Staff Writer Martin Espinoza at 521-5213 or martin.espinoza@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @renofish.

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