An actor from Waukegan who had a recurring role on the TV show "Boston Legal" was found dead Monday near his crashed Jeep in rural Iowa County, Wis.
The Iowa County Sheriff's Department said Justin Mentell was driving on Highway 39 when the Jeep went off the shoulder near Moscow Road, down a steep embankment, and struck two trees in a wooded area.
Mentell, 27, was not wearing a seat belt and was ejected from the vehicle, officials said Tuesday. Police added there is no indication drugs or alcohol played a role in the crash.
Authorities said the crash most likely occurred hours before a passer-by noticed the Jeep about 8:30 a.m.
Mentell attended College of Lake County in Grayslake in the summers of 2002 and 2004, said spokeswoman Diane Rarick. CLC sociology Professor John Tenuto, who taught Mentell in 2002, recalled his former student Tuesday.
"I remember his incredible desire to be an artist of all varieties and was proud of him when he began earning success as an actor and artist," Tenuto said.
Tenuto said he was with his wife and son at a convention over the summer when they visited with Mentell for a couple of hours, recalling his CLC days and looking to the future.
Mentell graduated from Waukegan High School in 2001. He also attended Northern Illinois University, where he majored in acting.
At NIU, he appeared in several independent films, including "At the Still Point," for which he received the Golden Reel Award for Best Actor at its 2005 Film Festival. Mentell became a member of the "Boston Legal" cast in 2005 and continued in the role through February 2006, filming 16 episodes in total before the run ended.
His latest project included the Jerry Bruckheimer-produced live-action/CGI family feature "G-force" for Walt Disney Pictures, which was released in theaters July 24.
Mentell also took up speedskating and placed third at the Junior Olympics. He eventually became a member of U.S. Speedskating's junior national long track team.
His mother, Alicia, remains in Waukegan and serves as the Waukegan Park District's superintendent of recreation.