Kivela death rocks region

State lawmaker, Marquette native found dead in Lansing home

State Rep. John Kivela, right, who was found dead in his Lansing home Tuesday, talks with Marquette CPA Paul Nardi April 10 during a campaign event at Marquette Township Hall. (Journal photo by Kelsie Thompson)

LANSING — Following a years-long public battle with alcoholism, state Rep. John Kivela, D-Marquette, was found dead in his Lansing home Tuesday.

Lansing Police Department Public Information Officer Robert Merritt said authorities responded to a residence on the 200 block of North Chestnut Street in Lansing around 1 p.m. Tuesday for a death investigation. A caller had reported a man was found not breathing.

Upon arrival, officers located a deceased male, 47, who was later identified as Kivela.

Merritt said there was no obvious indication of foul play, and that officials are awaiting a medical examiner’s report for an official cause of death. An investigation into the incident is ongoing.

Several media agencies have reported Kivela died of an apparent suicide.

Kivela’s death came just hours after being released from the Clinton County Jail, where he was lodged on suspicion of operating under the influence — his second alcohol-related arrest in less than two years, both while in office.

Officials from the Clinton County Sheriff’s Office said Kivela was stopped around 4:45 p.m. Monday on U.S. 127 near Maple Rapids, north of Lansing, and was arrested for suspected drunk driving.

Sheriff Larry Jerue said Kivela allegedly tested at more than twice the legal limit for driving under the influence, potentially qualifying as “super drunk” under Michigan law.

Kivela was also arrested in November 2015 and later convicted for operating while intoxicated. Following the incident, Kivela sent a press release to media outlets addressing the charge, as well as his alcohol dependency.

“I have battled with alcoholism for most of my adult life,” he admitted. “I am truly sorry to my wife, family and constituents for letting them down.”

In an April 2016 interview with The Mining Journal, Kivela said he had been attending treatment sessions at Great Lakes Recovery Centers following his first arrest. He said it was important to be open with his constituents about his addiction.

“To me, it was the only way to be because people throughout my career have been so open and honest in their support for me, and I just felt like I owed it to them,” he said during the interview. “Deep down, I knew this was my fault. I (had) a problem, and I had been hiding this for so long it was almost like a relief to a point that it’s out there. I’m not going to be ashamed by this because there are so many other people battling this.”

Kivela, a former mayor of Marquette, was in his third and final term in the Michigan House. He announced last month a campaign for the state’s 38th District Senate seat.

Kelsie Thompson can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206. Her email address is

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