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Arson suspect commits suicide after bout with Parkinson's

DULUTH--Family members were devastated at the loss of a man suspected to have set fire to the Midway Town Hall on Sunday and who was later found dead of an apparent suicide.

"He was an unbelievable man," said Gerald Carr, brother-in-law to Kevin Horvat, 45, who was found Monday morning on the 5500 block of Hermantown Road in Hermantown. "But the disease and the medication took an unbelievable toll on him."

Up until three years ago, Carr said Horvat was a beloved teacher and football coach at Red Wing (Minn.) High School, twice given the award for the school's teacher of the year and nominated by his peers for the statewide teacher of the year award. But Horvat was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, which Carr said aggressively debilitated Horvat. A year later, Horvat could teach only part time. A year after that, Horvat couldn't teach at all, so he moved in January to an adult foster care home run by his family on the 5600 block of Halie Road in Duluth, Carr said.

"We could safely house him here and we had staff to be with him 24/7," Carr said.

A friend who coached with him said there were two Horvats -- the one before the illness and the one after, especially when he began taking an experimental medication.

"He was just a completely different person," said Russ Marshall, who said he was a neighbor of Horvat's.

Marshall described Horvat as someone who was intelligent and dedicated and who had hoped to be an astronaut through the Teachers in Space program.

"He was a tremendously well-liked person. If people needed something done, you could count on Kevin to be there," Marshall said. "He accepted challenges. He was a brilliant man. But the medication, it changed his personality. It affected the restraints on his behaviors. He would do things that just weren't Kevin."

Horvat said in a story published in October in the Red Wing Republican Eagle newspaper that he was taking 26 pills a day and his wife said he spent last summer dealing with a mood disorder brought on by the medication.

Carr also said that Horvat was changed by the medication and was put on a different drug as he was living in Duluth.

Horvat was a biology teacher at Red Wing High School and while living in Duluth, Marshall said Horvat was a tutor.

Horvat was scheduled to undergo brain surgery soon at the Mayo Clinic, Carr said, but he took his sister's car Saturday night and didn't have his medication. Carr said without it, Horvat's mental health probably deteriorated rapidly. On Sunday, Horvat was suspected of setting fire to the Midway Town Hall, which sustained heavy damage on the inside. Horvat's vehicle was spotted leaving the scene, according to the St. Louis County Sheriff's Department.

Carr said family members aren't sure why he would have set fire to the building.

"That doesn't make sense," Carr said.

Horvat had seven siblings and is survived by both of his parents, Carr said. According to the Red Wing Republican Eagle, Horvat had three children, including a son playing football whom Horvat had hoped to coach.

County sheriff's Sgt. Wade Rasch said Horvat's death is being investigated by the Hermantown police department, but that it was caused by a self-inflicted wound that was not a firearm.

The suicide has shocked Horvat's friends and family.

"I know for a fact that one Kevin wouldn't have done this," Marshall said. "But the other Kevin probably felt this was the way he had to go to keep things from getting worse."