Body found near car of missing man in Vernon Hills

A body has been found near the car of a Lake Villa father who disappeared last month on his drive home from work, and police say they believe it is him.

"We have reason to believe that these are the remains of Nicholas Steward, based on a number of personal items that were discovered on or near the body," the Lake County state's attorney's office said in a statement. "We are awaiting official identification from the Lake County coroner's office as well as a preliminary cause of death.

Steward, 33, disappeared on Sept. 20, just after he talked to his boss, texted his wife and called his parents, telling them he was headed home, according to family and friends.

For two weeks, authorities had little luck narrowing down where Steward disappeared and struggled to locate his 2008 white Saturn Aura.

But a Vernon Hills police officer responding to a call Thursday evening found Steward’s car in a parking lot outside an apartment complex, said Cynthia Trujillo Vargas, a spokeswoman for the Lake County state’s attorney’s office.

Trujillo Vargas said the officer recognized the vehicle, which appeared to be in good condition. Nobody was inside the car, which she said had been left in the 900 block of Westmoreland Drive in the northern suburb. Asked if there were any signs of foul play, Trujillo Vargas said only that the case was “still under investigation.”

The Lake County coroner’s office said an autopsy is being conducted and no more information will be released until that has been completed, estimated to be sometime around midday.

Authorities said the body was found around 10:30 p.m. in a densely wooded area about three-fourths of a mile from the car.

Last Sunday, volunteers canvassed an area stretching from Wood Dale to Lake Villa searching for the engineer.

mitsmith@tribune.com

Copyright © 2015, RedEye
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