Volunteers canvass 225 square miles for missing Lake Villa man

Armed with dozens of fliers and copies of maps, more than 150 volunteers canvassed Wood Dale to Lake Villa on Sunday in search of Nicholas Steward.

The 33-year-old man went missing 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. Since then, authorities have had little luck narrowing down where Steward disappeared and haven't found his 2008 white Saturn Aura.

"It's totally out of character," said his father, Don Steward, as he hugged his wife, Kathy. "All indications were he was coming home. He contacted three people that evening in 20 minutes."

On Sunday, on the top deck of a parking garage in Lake Forest, volunteers donning green ribbons and green T-shirts gathered and met before the search began. Green is Steward's favorite color and reflects the pride he holds in his Irish heritage, his parents said.

Nearby, large maps on two SUVs detailed the 225 square miles — from his job in Wood Dale to his home in Lake Villa — that search teams planned to scour.

About 5 p.m., Steward left his engineering job and texted his wife, Megan, to let her know. Twenty-eight minutes later, his I-Pass transponder shows that his car passed through the northbound Touhy Avenue Toll Plaza, friends said. Cell phone towers in that area also picked up his iPhone, which was running out of battery power, friends and family said.

Steward's wife and local and Lake County authorities are monitoring his financial records but have not seen any activity, said friends who organized the Sunday search after combing other parts of the Chicago area last weekend.

Throughout Sunday, volunteers passed out fliers and posted them to cars and telephone poles. Many volunteers hit obscure, out-of-the way areas, including forest preserves, trails and lakes. Some posted updates on a Facebook page dedicated to finding Steward.

"I just feel like … we don't know anything," said Katherine Notargiovanni, 31, a volunteer and friend of Steward's, as she blinked back tears. "I'm just making sure he's adequately searched for."

As Steward's parents spoke about the search and their son, they recalled a recent gathering for the first birthday of Steward's son, Declan. The two bonded on Saturdays when Steward's wife went to work, his mother said.

"I think he's missing that he's not seeing (his father) anymore," said Kathy Steward. "I know he knows."

Anyone with information is asked to call the Lake Villa Police Department at (847) 356-6106.

jmdelgado@tribune.com | Twitter: @jendelgado1

Copyright © 2015, RedEye
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