Colleagues, friends baffled at suicide

Tuesday, September 25, 2001

PINCKNEYVILLE, Ill. -- The mayor of this Southern Illinois city left behind more than a grieving family when he took his own life last week.

Mayor Kirwan Heisner's shocked colleagues are filled with questions about what might have led him to shoot himself at the graves of his parents Sept. 18. Following an autopsy, the death was ruled a suicide.

"I just can't believe it," said Harlan Yeager, the city's acting mayor.

Heisner, 63, was in his second term and was popular among Pinckneyville voters, who credited him with attracting employers to the area to replace some of the coal-mining jobs lost in the 1990s.

Lois Heisner said there were no personal problems that could have driven her husband to take his life. The couple, married 12 years ago, had four children and 11 grandchildren between them.

The only bruise on Heisner's reputation came last month, when a local newspaper, the Pinckneyville Democrat, criticized him for buying land on behalf of the city without a vote from the city council.

Lois Heisner said her husband was upset when he learned -- during a vacation out of state -- of the press reports back home. He talked of killing himself, and was worried he would go to prison, she said.

Perry County State's Attorney David Stanton said Heisner was not in legal trouble over the sale.

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