The circumstances surrounding the death of Roseville restaurateur Steve Pease remain a mystery.
The Mendocino County Office of the Sheriff-Coroner announced Tuesday that it has not been able to pinpoint the cause of death for Pease, whose body was found in the Pacific in November. In a short news release, the office said the death has been classified as “due to undetermined causes.”
Stephen Clark “Steve” Pease, 57, the owner of Sammy’s Rockin’ Island Bar & Grill in downtown Roseville, dropped out of contact with family and friends on Halloween. His body was found Nov. 24 in the Pacific Ocean near Gualala.
“We’ve come to an official end,” said Capt. Greg Van Patten, Mendocino County sheriff’s spokesman. “We have exhausted all investigative leads that are known to us. A large percentage of these cases go unsolved.”
Pease, who reportedly had told his ex-wife he needed to “clear his head,” rented a sport-utility vehicle in Portland and apparently drove to Fort Bragg. He was last seen there Nov. 3, when he checked out of a motel and drove off in the rental. The silver Chevrolet Captiva SUV has not been located despite a search on land and from the air.
“That vehicle’s discovery is going to open a lot of doors to help us begin to find some of the answers,” Van Patten said.
The car was equipped with satellite tracking, but authorities have been unable to activate it. A number of things could be preventing the activation, including the lack of reception, Van Patten said.
Because Pease’s body was found in such poor condition several days after his death, officials relied on serial numbers from a hip implant to confirm his identity. The case could still be re-opened if authorities receive more information or find the SUV, Van Patten added.
Pease was a key player in Roseville’s efforts to revitalize the city’s downtown. The Roseville Community Development Corporation, a city-affiliated nonprofit, loaned him $1.5 million to launch his restaurant, which used rocker Sammy Hagar as its theme. Pease was in default of the loan at the time of his disappearance, and the restaurant subsequently shut its doors.
The latest announcement ends a chapter in Roseville that has baffled residents, Pease’s friends and city leaders alike. Howard Rudd, chairman of the development corporation board, said Tuesday that RCDC is actively negotiating with Pease’s estate administrator to deed over the restaurant in lieu of foreclosure.
“It would be easier and simpler if there was no foreclosure process,” Rudd said. “We would like to see the restaurant reopen as soon as possible.”
Call The Bee’s Richard Chang at (916) 321-1018. Follow him on Twitter @RichardYChang.