Auburn man’s apparent suicide follows Justice Department search of house

Auto-shop owner Michael McConnehey remembered as loving father, hard worker
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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AUBURN CA - An Auburn car-repair shop owner committed suicide soon after his house was searched Friday by U.S. Department of Justice investigators.

But the reason for the search and his death are still couched in mystery.

The search took place just after dawn on Friday in a quiet, residential neighborhood on the outskirts of Downtown Auburn.

On Monday, Placer County Sheriff’s Office deputies pried open the door on the leased Auburn auto shop 65-year-old Michael McConnehey rented. He was found dead inside his car, the victim of apparent self-induced carbon-monoxide poisoning. 

Monte Short, an Auburn resident who had known McConnehey for 35 years, said it didn’t make sense to him that his friend had committed suicide.

“He was a very good father to his daughter,” Short said. “He raised her pretty much on his own after his wife died a few years back. He was a hard-working, honest guy.”

Little is being released by the Sacramento office of the Department of Justice on the search of McConnehey’s Channing Way house. Spokeswoman Lauren Horwood said agents executed a search on Nov. 9 but declined to release details regarding why the home was targeted. The contents of the search warrant are sealed, she said.

By late Wednesday, a plant and two bouquets of flowers left at the door of McConnehey’s Sport Tech Car Care on Sutherland Drive had been removed and yellow tape on the door lock had been taken off by the Coroner’s Office. A scrawled message, presumably written by McConnehey stated he was “Taking a few days off and should return Thursday.”

McConnehey left his car running as he sat inside and may have been dead for more than a day before his body was discovered, authorities said Wednesday.

Sheriff’s Lt. Mark Reed said indications are that he died of carbon monoxide poisoning. Suicide was the apparent cause, he said. There was no indication of foul play, he added.

Russ Miller owns a transmission repair business near McConnehey’s shop, and said he noticed one indication that McConnehey’s decision wasn’t spur of the moment. He said that McConnehey appeared to have recently removed a device that thickened the exhaust sound on his customized car. Surrounding business people hadn’t noticed Monday that the vehicle was running inside because the car ran silently, he said.

A relative concerned about McConnehey eventually was able to alert law enforcement around 6 p.m. Monday, Miller said.

McConnehey had worked out of the Sutherland Drive complex of shops for about 10 years and had owned a shop in Auburn since 1993, specializing on repairing Subarus.

“He had a following of people who had Subarus,” Miller said. “He was a good man – and one of those guys who kept to himself, him and his dog.”