KINGSTON – The disappearance of a DeKalb man whose vehicle was found abandoned near Route 72 and Glidden Road in rural Kingston remained a mystery Tuesday despite an exhaustive daylong search.
Authorities deployed dogs, a boat and enlisted the help of a crop helicopter in a search that began about 1 a.m. Tuesday and lasted into the evening, looking for any trace of Steven Schulz, 23, of DeKalb, who friends said had planned to exchange guns with a man near Genoa before he disappeared Sunday.
“We don’t know what happened,” DeKalb police detective Lt. Bob Redel said. “Until we get something more, we are investigating all the way from suicide to homicide and everything in between.”
Redel said there was no indication Schulz was suicidal, nor were there any signs of foul play at the scene.
He said other possibilities were that Schulz went swimming or was picked up by a friend.
A DeKalb County Sheriff’s deputy on patrol found Schulz’s Ford pickup truck about 2:40 a.m. Monday. Schulz was reported missing Monday night to DeKalb police, and authorities then made the connection and began searching.
Schulz was last seen Sunday, and Redel said Schulz’s phone records show he hasn’t contacted anyone since.
Other than the fact they found his Ford pickup nearby, police said they had little indication Schulz was in the area.
“We’ll regroup [today] and figure out where to go from there,” Redel said, adding a search today would be on a smaller scale than Tuesday’s search.
The search Tuesday was confined to a half-mile area of the north branch of the Kishwaukee River, along with its banks on either side. Two K-9 officers were on a boat in the river looking for any evidence.
The dogs barked occasionally, but no evidence was ultimately found, DeKalb County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Gary Dumdie said. Sheriff’s deputies also searched the Kishwaukee without K-9 officers.
The search was difficult because the water level is slightly elevated because of recent rainfall, officials said.
“We just want to make sure we’ve got this area all covered before we leave,” Dumdie said .
Schulz’s longtime friend, Thomas Joiner of Sycamore, said that the last time he heard from Schulz was at 1 p.m. Sunday. In a phone conversation, Schulz told Joiner he was planning a “firearms exchange” with a man.
Joiner, who graduated from Sycamore High School with Schulz in 2009, said he didn’t know who Schulz was going to meet or what kind of gun Schulz was going to get.
Joiner said he’s tried calling Schulz several times only to hear one ring, an indication Schulz’s phone is dead.
“I’m hoping, worst-case scenario, things went bad with the exchange and he jumped in the river,” Joiner said. “He’s a pretty good swimmer. Maybe he’s just balled up in a corn field somewhere. Maybe he’s just chilling somewhere, thinking things through.”
Schulz’s roommate, William Cornish, said even on his days off, Schulz usually would pop in at Insight Services in DeKalb, where he works in maintenance.
Cornish said he last saw Schulz was about 10 a.m. Sunday. Cornish said Schulz agreed to work on his truck later, giving no indication he didn’t plan to come home.
Cornish started to worry when he came home Monday night and learned Schulz had not returned since Sunday.
“This is not Steve,” Cornish said. “This is not like him at all.”
Schulz’s mom, Nona Schulz, of Sycamore, did not want to say much about the search for her missing son, other than to compliment police for their efforts.
Emergency crews, sheriff’s deputies and DeKalb police participated in the search, with assistance from Kirkland police, Kendall County Search and Rescue, Boone County Emergency Management Services Search and Rescue, Naperville’s search and rescue team, and the Illinois-Wisconsin Search & Rescue Dogs.
“I’m extremely grateful for law enforcement,” Nona Schulz said, “and all they have done and are continuing to do.”