Death certificate confirms Kivela committed suicide

Michael Gerstein
The Detroit News

Lansing – State Rep. John Kivela committed suicide on Tuesday, according to an Ingham County death certificate that confirmed the suspected cause.

The document shows that the Marquette Democrat lawmaker hung himself with a belt in the closet of a house several blocks from the Capitol after he was arrested Monday for “super drunk” driving in Clinton County. He was facing his second such drunk-driving charge in two years and had previously sought treatment for alcoholism.

Kivela was pronounced dead at 1:09 p.m. on Tuesday by Michael Markey, the Ingham County medical examiner, shortly after his body was found in a residence on the 200 block of Chestnut Street in Lansing. He had shared the house with other lawmakers who stayed there during the week while the Legislature was in session so they didn’t have to make long drives home each day.

Kivela committed suicide less than 24 hours after his arrest.

Kivela’s death — the third by a state legislator in the past year — has rocked the Michigan Capitol. The House adjourned early Tuesday and canceled session the rest of the week. The Senate met Wednesday but canceled its Thursday session.

“I don’t think any of us can pretend to know the dark place that John was in when he made the decision he did yesterday,” Sen. David Knezek, a Dearborn Heights Democrat who rented a room in the house with Kivela, said in Wednesday comments on the Senate floor, “but I think it’s important that we talk about diseases like alcoholism and depression and what those things can result in. The loss of life they can result in.”

On Thursday, Gov. Rick Snyder ordered that the U.S. and Michigan flags be lowered to half-staff Friday inside the Michigan Capitol and in Kivela’s 109th House District that includes Marquette in the Upper Peninsula.

“John was a great person and a passionate public servant and will be remembered for his commitment to his constituents in Marquette and the Upper Peninsula,” Snyder said in a statement, echoing comments he made Tuesday when the death was first reported. “I extend my most heartfelt condolences to his family, friends and colleagues in the Legislature during this difficult time.”

Kivela was serving his third term in the state Legislature and worked in an auto repair shop and then as a general manager of his local car dealership in Marquette. He was the mayor of Marquette from 2008 to 2012 and first elected to the Marquette City Commission in 2006.

Kivela’s body is to be cremated, according to the death certificate. Visitation is set for Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Great Lakes Room inside North Michigan University’s Bottum University Center in Marquette. The funeral starts at 2 p.m., according to the Fassbender Funeral Home.