DeKALB – A sea of cutoff jean shorts, brightly colored balloons, candles and cowboy boots flowed into Hopkins Park to honor the life of Steven Schulz.
“He made his own little jorts and wore them all the time,” said Tyler Isham, Schulz’s friend. “He would wear them out, he’d wear them to work. We’d say, ‘It’s just Steven.’ ”
At least 200 friends and family of Schulz, 23, of DeKalb, celebrated his life Friday night with a balloon release and candlelight vigil. A day earlier, DeKalb County Sheriff Roger Scott announced that Schulz, a 2009 Sycamore High School graduate, died of a gunshot to the head from the gun he bought legally about a year ago. His family reported him missing Monday evening.
Event organizer Marissa Jackson, a friend of Schulz, thought it was important that the community was invited to Friday’s event.
“I felt like it would help his family,” Jackson said. “It shows the spirit of the community and just how many people Steven touched. He had a huge impact on my life.”
Meanwhile, the police investigation continued Friday with about 15 DeKalb police and county sheriff’s officers following up on leads. Scott said he had not ruled out homicide or suicide in Schulz’s death, but said he did consider it an isolated incident with no threat to public safety.
“We want to leave the case open for any information that may still be out there,” Scott said. “We don’t have all the electronic information back that we need. We don’t have all the autopsy information back.”
There was no evidence of a struggle or trauma, Scott said. Divers found the gun Thursday just east of the Glidden Road bridge north of Route 72; a conservation police officer in a kayak had found Schulz’s body about 800 feet west of there Wednesday.
Scott estimated it would take a week or two to receive information related to Schulz’s phone and other electronics, and up to a month to receive laboratory test results associated with his autopsy.
DeKalb County Coroner Dennis Miller said he would review the investigation with police and Schulz’s family when it was finished, and if there wasn’t a clear consensus on the manner of death, he could hold an inquest to let a public jury determine it.
Police found Schulz’s red Ford pickup truck Monday near the intersection of Route 72 and Glidden Road, and about 20 searchers scoured the river within a half-mile of that point Tuesday using dogs, a boat and a helicopter. He was last seen Sunday.
At the vigil Friday, Schulz’s friends described him as an outgoing, caring person, and Tri-State Towing and Accurate Towing brought tow trucks to the event. Tri-State Towing is owned by Jackson’s family, and Schulz once worked for Accurate Towing, so the truck he used to drive was present at the event. Friends gathered on the bed of the truck to remember him.
“He was obsessed with tow trucks, cars and country music,” Jackson said.
Connor Bolander, who has known Schulz since they were children, started a Spotify music playlist to honor his friend. The playlist is open and anyone can add songs that remind them of Schulz.
Bolander said many people know songs that Schulz loved to play while driving. Many of Bolander’s fondest memories with Schulz involve running out for Taco Bell’s Fourth Meal early in the morning.
“He was like a class clown,” Jackson said. “He was just an awesome individual.”