David Silveti, a third-generation Mexican matador famous for his courage, classic style and stoicism in the face of injury, died in an apparent suicide Wednesday at his family ranch in the city of Salamanca. He was 48.
The matador, known as King David to his many fans, was found in a bedroom with a bullet wound to the head and a .38-caliber pistol nearby. The Guanajuato state attorney general's office said in a statement that "all the indications" were that the gunshot wound was self-inflicted.
The popular Silveti battled physical and mental ailments to rise to the top of his profession in the late 1980s and early 1990s. He fought in all the major rings in Mexico -- including Plaza Mexico in Mexico City, the country's largest -- and appeared frequently in the two Tijuana bullrings. He developed followings in Spain and South America.
Silveti made his debut in 1977, following his father and grandfather, both named Juan Silveti, into the bullring. His brother Alejandro was also a matador before retiring several years ago.
Silveti's daring and ability to communicate passionate involvement in what he was doing made him a leading star, said Guillermo Leal, bullfight critic with the Mexico City daily, Reforma.
But his fearless approach exacted a toll. He was frequently gored and tossed by bulls, leading to 40 operations, including a dozen on his knees. His bad legs restricted his movements and made him even more vulnerable, said Ramon Lopez of the Taurine Archive in Guadalajara.
"He stuck so close to the bull and never moved," Lopez said. "He was very dedicated and brave."
Hobbled by injury, Silveti first retired from bullfighting in 1995 after appearing in more than 470 corridas, according to the National Assn. of Bullfighters office. But he could not stay away and made several comeback appearances. One of them, at the Plaza Mexico in January, was voted the best fight of the season.
Doctors urged Silveti to retire once and for all after bulls inflicted serious head and spinal cord injuries late last year and again in February, Leal said. Practicing before a private audience in the state of Nuevo Leon in August, he suffered another serious knee injury.
His son Eduardo, 15, said in a telephone interview Friday that his father had been under medical treatment for bipolar disorder at the time of his death. Silveti told friends and relatives in recent days that he felt tired. His assistant, Jose Antonio Ramirez, told reporters that the matador had suffered from bouts of depression in recent months.
The attorney general's office also said in its statement that the matador had recently mentioned having financial problems.
At the time of his death, Silveti, who studied economics at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, was mulling an offer to join the local government in Salamanca, his hometown, his father told reporters.
But he had difficulty accepting that his bullfighting days were over, friends and family said.
"His character, his way of life, and profound approach to bullfighting, was so intense that it caused him conflicts," said Eduardo Martinez, whose Los Encinos ranch in Queretaro state is one of Mexico's top breeding grounds for fighting bulls. "Nothing else but bullfighting made him happy, and when the moment came that he couldn't continue, he didn't know what to do with his life."
In addition to Eduardo, Silveti is survived by his wife Laura; sons Diego, 16, and Sebastian, 11; and twin daughters Lucia and Monica, 10.