WEST COVINA (CNS) - Former West Covina Mayor Mike Spence, who had battled substance abuse, was found dead in an Ontario motel room. He was 52.
Ontario police responded to a call from staff of the Folk Inn, 204 N. Vineyard Ave., at 5:37 p.m. Thursday about an unconscious man in one of the rooms, Detective Fred Alvarez told the San Gabriel Valley Tribune.
The Ontario Fire Department arrived and pronounced the man dead at the scene.
Alvarez confirmed the man was Spence, and that the cause of death was pending an autopsy but the initial investigation was for a possible drug overdose.
Colleagues described Spence as devout, conservative and a vocal critic of excessive government spending and high taxes.
He was “one of the smartest people I ever knew,” current mayor Lloyd Johnson told the Tribune. “He was very respected as a person, politician, even adversary, and no one can take that from him.”
The city's mayor pro tem, Tony Wu agreed Spence “worked very hard on his policies. But it is very sad that he had these demons he could not control.”
In July 2016, the San Gabriel Valley native who admitted to dealing with substance abuse issues in the past, was cited for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs when he crashed his car into a utility pole, the newspaper reported.
Spence later pleaded guilty to driving under the influence of methamphetamine.
This past May, Costa Mesa police found him unconscious in a hotel room with “controlled-substance items” at the scene, authorities said.
As a result, Spence was stripped of the title of mayor. He remained on the Council but was defeated when he sought re-election in November.
He is survived by his wife, Marielena, and two children.