SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) – The co-owner of a Sammy Hagar-themed restaurant that is the centerpiece of a revitalization effort in a Sacramento suburb was found dead by recreational divers off the coast in far Northern California, authorities said Wednesday.
Stephen Clark Pease, 57, was last seen Nov. 3 when he checked out of a hotel in Fort Bragg, more than 50 miles from the spot where his body was found, the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Department said. He was driving a rental car that has not been recovered.
The body was retrieved near Gualala, a small town that is roughly a three-hour drive north of San Francisco, by a state Department of Fish and Wildlife warden who swam out and pulled it ashore, where it had to be removed by a helicopter because of the steep terrain.
Mendocino County Sheriff’s Capt. Greg Van Patten said there was no obvious sign of foul play, but investigators hope to learn more from the rental car. The department has asked the U.S. Coast Guard to fly over the coastline in an attempt to spot the vehicle.
“The car is a big missing piece of the puzzle,” Van Patten said.
The coroner’s office is investigating the cause of death.
Pease was an owner of Sammy’s Rockin’ Island Bar & Grill and other businesses in Roseville, 20 miles northeast of Sacramento.
The year-old restaurant closed after he disappeared and is more than $9,000 behind on a $1.5 million loan with the Roseville Community Development Corp. It was designed to anchor downtown redevelopment for the city of 124,000.
The city declared Sept. 15, 2012, to be “Sammy Hagar Day” to tout the restaurant’s opening, with a concert and street party featuring Hagar and his band. The restaurant licensed Hagar’s name, but the rocker does not have an ownership stake, city spokesman Brian Jacobson said.
“I’m utterly saddened by the news of the passing of Steve Pease. My family and I send our prayers and deepest condolences to his family and friends throughout the upcoming holidays and beyond,” Hagar said in a statement emailed to The Associated Press by his agent.
Jacobson said it is up to the restaurant’s other owners to decide how to proceed, but the city remains bullish on efforts to revive the historic downtown, which has been overshadowed by a regional mall on the outskirts of the city.
Pease paid the first loan installment in September, said Roseville Community Development Corp. president Howard Rudd. But he missed the second payment days before he disappeared.
The corporation is not expecting Pease’s company, Innova Restaurant Concepts LLC, to make the payment due this month and its attorneys have filed to hold the firm in default.
Another company operated by Pease is the rental agent for three other downtown properties, Rudd said, and its tenants are making their monthly payments. Foot traffic has been good and other merchants are happy, Rudd said, partly due to the risk Pease took in developing the Hagar-themed restaurant.
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