It was 1995 when Jonathan Covault, with a recently acquired law degree in his hand, applied for a job at the same place where his father had risen to the top. So it might be easy to conclude that he would try to cash in on his father's name to score a job with the Oakland County Prosecutor's Office. But Ron Covault, now director of litigation for the office, wouldn't hear of that, and neither would his son. Mr. Covault didn't need the help.
"Jonathan had job offers from silk stocking firms in San Francisco but he decided he wanted to try prosecuting and when he came here he loved it," said Assistant Prosecutor John Skrzynski, Mr. Covault's boss. "He gave up a golden career and got an ever better one.
"If anyone ever thought he got the job because of his dad, all they had to do was talk to him about a case or listen to him argue. You knew immediately he made it on his own merits. It was just a coincidence his name was Covault." But what was by all accounts a promising legal career ended suddenly Saturday when Mr. Covault apparently died in his sleep while staying with several friends and coworkers at a fishing lodge in Grayling.
It was a bachelor's party of sorts for him. He was to be married in August to Cynthia Brown, a law clerk for Circuit Judge Alice Gilbert. The couple had recently purchased a home in Ferndale. The exact cause of death was not available Monday although he did suffer from sleep apnea, a chronic disorder in which breathing stops repeatedly during sleep. He was 32.
"It's hard to describe the feeling and the mood here," Prosecutor David Gorcyca said Monday. "Everyone is walking around here with their heads down. It's very quiet here. My heart goes out to Ron. I know he was so proud of him." Mr. Covault grew up in Pontiac and White Lake. He graduated from Lakeland High School and the University of Michigan. He was assigned to the circuit court division where he specialized in Internet crime prosecutions.
News of his death spread quickly through the courthouse. Chief Judge Barry Howard canceled Wednesday's motion call so court employees could attend funeral services. Mr. Covault was assigned to Howard's courtroom for several years. "He was professional but never strident. It's just such a devastating and tragic loss," the judge said. Judge Edward Sosnick has been a friend of the Covault family since he joined Ron in the Prosecutor's Office in 1969. Mr. Covault had just finished a case before Sosnick on Friday.
"My heart goes out to Ron and anyone who had lost a child so young," Sosnick said. "Jonathan was a shining light with a bright future... This is a loss for all of us. Closing the court sort of says that." Visitation is today from 3-9 p.m. at Schrader-Howell Funeral Home, 280 S. Main St. in Plymouth. A scripture service is at 7:30 p.m. The funeral is Wednesday at 10 a.m. at Shrine of the Little Flower Catholic Church at 12 Mile Road and Woodward in Royal Oak.
Besides his father and stepmother Margaret Covault, Mr. Covault is survived by his mother, Elinor Covault of Los Angeles; brothers Corbin, of Evanston, Ill., and Christopher, of Los Angeles; and a sister, Justin Covault, of Arlington, Mass.
Instead of flowers, memorial contributions can be made to the Jonathan Covault Foundation and sent in care of the Oakland County Prosecutor's Office, 1200 N. Telegraph Road, Pontiac, 48341.