Body discovered thought to be missing Lake Villa man - FOX 35 News Orlando

Body discovered thought to be missing Lake Villa man

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VERNON HILLS, Ill. (Sun-Times Media Wire) -

A body discovered Thursday night in a wooded area in Vernon Hills is thought to that of a missing Lake Villa man, but it will take DNA testing to confirm that, authorities said Friday.

The body was found by a search team about 10:30 p.m. in a densely wooded area about 3/4 mile southeast of where Nick Steward's car was discovered Thursday afternoon, according to a statement from the Lake County State's Attorney's office.

RELATED: Police find car of missing Lake Villa man, investigation continues

The official identification and cause of death are pending, but authorities believe the body is Steward because of personal items discovered "on or near the body," the statement said.

The Lake County Coroner said Friday he must conduct DNA tests to confirm whether the body is Steward, but officials said they believe the remains are those of the man who disappeared Sept. 20 and that Steward, 33, killed himself.

The body was badly decomposed due to exposure to wildlife, making DNA tests necessary, Coroner Thomas Rudd said. But the man suffered two cut wounds to his right wrist and a single cut wound to his left wrist, Rudd said, adding he also had a cut to his left upper arm.

The coroner said there also appeared to be a cut to his neck, but it could have been made by prolonged exposure to wildlife.

DNA results should be available on Monday, Rudd said.

Thursday's search began when police were responding to another call in the complex around 5:30 p.m. and an officer recognized a car in a nearby lot that appeared to belong to Steward, 33, who previously lived in Vernon Hills and graduated from Libertyville High School.

The officer recognized the white, 2008 Saturn Aura from missing-person information previously distributed by Lake Villa police and Steward's friends and family.

The vehicle looked to be in good condition, a state's attorney's Office spokeswoman said. Authorities took it to a secure location to search for evidence, and said its initial appearance did not indicate foul play.

Police combed the area, drawing a crowd of onlookers that remained for much of the evening.

Both police and fire officials focused their search on a massive cornfield, adjacent to the apartment complex and north of Abbot Laboratories. Approximately half a dozen K9 units searched the field for roughly three hours Thursday.

Numerous law enforcement agencies also descended on the area throughout the evening Thursday, including the Lake County Sheriff's office, Lake County Forest Preserve Police, McHenry police, Lincolnshire police, the Countryside Fire Protection District and the Vernon Hills, Mundelein and Gurnee police departments.

Resident Stacy Schwager, 26, said the car looked "totally pristine and normal" from the exterior. She also said Steward's car was parked abutting the cornfield.

Steward was last seen Sept. 20 as he left his job at MC Machinery Systems Inc. in Wood Dale, where he works as a mechanic, and he was driving the Saturn.

The Illinois Tollway Authority told police Steward's car did go through the northbound Touhy Avenue Toll Plaza northbound on I-294 at 5:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 20, and he also had a phone conversation with his employer at about the same time.

A Facebook page, "Find Nick Steward," was set up with family photos of the married father of a young son.

His wife, Megan Steward, reported him missing after he didn't return home from work. Earlier this week, she thanked the more than 100 volunteers that gathered for the search.

"From the bottom of my heart, I am just so stunned by the outreach and the support from the community and just everyone who has been just so wonderful to us," she said. "Hopefully, we'll find something that will help us today and bring Nick home to us."

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