Colleague: Rep. Kivela said he planned to resign from House, seek treatment

John Kivela suicide follow-up

LANSING - Those close to the late state Rep. John Kivela — including his daughter Shelby and Lansing housemate Sen. David Knezek — used social media Tuesday to express their pain and share their memories after his tragic death.

And Clinton County Sheriff Lawrence Jerue — whose deputies arrested Kivela Monday afternoon and released him early Tuesday morning, said Kivela showed "no indication that he would do harm to himself or anyone else."

Kivela, D-Marquette, was found dead in Lansing from an apparent suicide Tuesday afternoon, hours after he was released on bond from the Clinton County Jail following his second drunk driving arrest in less than two years.

Kivela was released shortly before 5 a.m. Tuesday after he posted bond and a friend came to the jail to accompany him, Jerue said.

Sen. David Knezek, D-Dearborn Heights, one of a handful of out-of-town lawmakers who shared a Lansing home Kivela owned, said on Facebook that he spoke with Kivela there Tuesday after Kivela's release from jail.

"I'm going to resign. I'm going to seek in-patient treatment," Knezek said Kivela told him Tuesday morning after again acknowledging his drinking problem.

"I don't know what it is, but when I start I just can't stop."

Knezek said Kivela told him he had let down the people who loved him and was only thinking about his wife Sandy and his two children.

"I told you that the people who love you are going to love you no matter what and you needed serious help," Knezek said in the post, written as a letter to Kivela.

He said he then gave Kivela a hug.

"I said that I loved you, you said that you loved me. Those were our last words to each other."

Knezek, who described Kivela as a "rock star" who was passionate about the Upper Peninsula and an effective advocate for the region, described joining other housemates in emptying the home of every drop of alcohol after Kivela's first arrest in 2015, when Kivela told Knezek he was a functioning alcoholic.

In another widely shared Facebook post Tuesday, Kivela's 25-year-old daughter Shelby said her father's drinking problem had strained their relationship in the last two years, but "he battled his disease and continued to be an incredible advocate for our corner of Michigan."

"My dad's drunk driving arrest wasn't because he couldn't afford a taxi or Uber, it was because he was trying so hard to be a husband, father and state representative and juggle his disease somewhere he could hide from the people — unfortunately in a very unsafe place," Shelby Kivela said in the post.

She described the wonderful childhood her parents gave her and said "the time I spent campaigning with him for his first run for state rep is still one of the proudest times of my life."

Shelby Kivela said: "I'm not ashamed to talk about the last two years of my dad's life that have been extremely difficult and will continue to speak out more as addiction is now closer to my heart than ever."

© 2017 Detroit Free Press


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