OAKLAND -- Berkeley City Clerk Deanna Despain, who was found dead Saturday morning in her home in Oakland's Oakmore district, apparently died from injuries suffered in a fall down a staircase, authorities said Monday.

Despain, 37, was found just before 2 a.m. Saturday by her husband inside their home in the 4100 block of Lyman Road. Authorities said he found her upon his return home from a business meeting.

She was pronounced dead at the scene. Authorities believe she had been dead for a few hours before she was found.

Authorities said there were no signs of foul play and that the couple's 9-month-old child was asleep in another room.

Preliminary findings of an autopsy Monday indicated the fatal injuries she suffered were consistent with a fall, officials said.

Despain was appointed city clerk in May 2009. Staff in the Berkeley city manager's office were too upset about the news to comment on her death Monday.

Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates called Despain the city's "rock."

"She was one of our most valued employees who is liked throughout the city government," Bates said. "The City Council meetings have been run really well and a lot of it had to do with how she conducted herself. We would have all these convoluted motions on the floor and she knew what was happening. She was a rock."


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As city clerk, Despain was responsible for preparing agendas for city meetings, overseeing elections, managing records for the city, and processing all the appointments to boards and committees.

City Councilwoman Susan Wengraf called Despain's death "a tragic loss for the city and her family."

"She had a really difficult job dealing with the difficult public we have here," Wengraf said. "But she was a wonderful city clerk. She did her job with amazing skill and grace. She really functioned as the hub for the entire city. She was really quite extraordinary, and I don't know how to make sense of this."

Before being appointed city clerk, Despain held city positions as records manager, assistant city clerk and deputy city clerk since 2004.

According to a city staff report from her 2009 appointment, Despain attended the University of Utah and Salt Lake Community College, and became a certified municipal clerk in 2009.