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Cops search cornfield for missing Lake Villa man after finding his car

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Updated: October 4, 2013 9:23AM

About a dozen police and fire departments spent more than six hours Thursday night searching a Vernon Hills apartment complex and adjacent cornfield for a missing Lake Villa man, Nick Steward.

Thursday’s search began when a police officer responding to a call in the complex about 5:30 p.m. recognized a white 2008 Saturn Aura in a nearby lot that looked like the car Steward, 33, was driving when he went missing on Sept. 20. Steward had previously lived in Vernon Hills and graduated from Libertyville High School.

Authorities took the car to search for evidence and said its appearance did not indicate foul play.

Police combed the area until just before midnight, drawing a crowd of onlookers.

Police and fire officials focused their search on a massive cornfieldon the south end of the apartment complex, which is north of Abbott Laboratories. About six police dogs searched the field for for three hours Thursday night. Police could not be reached after midnight to confirm whether they will continue the search Friday.

Stacy Schwager, 26, said the car looked “totally pristine and normal” from the exterior. She also said the car was parked next to the cornfield. Schwager and her roommate, Brian Kestin, 30, share an apartment overlooking the lot where the car was found. They said their neighborhood is not a high-crime area.

Kestin was listening to a police scanner when he heard about the investigation. He opened the apartment window and saw officers cordoning off the parking lot. 

“This is our tiny, little, quiet section,” Schwager said. “Stuff like this doesn’t happen here. This is insane.”

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

The Illinois Tollway Authority told police that Steward’s car went through the northbound Touhy Avenue toll plaza northbound on Interstate 294 at 5:30 p.m. Sept. 20. He also had a telephone conversation with his employer at about the same time.

His disappearance sparked a massive, volunteer-run search designed to cover 225 square miles stretching from Lake Forest to Wood Dale on Sept. 29. 

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 more than 100 volunteers who 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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