'He just kind of vanished without a trace': Parents offer reward for info on missing Antioch man
The parents of a 24-year-old Antioch man missing since Jan. 22 are offering a $10,000 reward for information on the whereabouts of Thomas "Tommy" Howe III, who was seen last walking away from a crash near the Libertyville area.
Howe's family announced the reward Friday during a news conference at Antioch's village hall.
Tom Howe described his son as a selfless, humble, dependable person who ensures no one ever feels excluded.
"He loves his family. He loves all of his friends. And he's earned the love and respect of all of us," said Tom Howe, his voice catching. "He's the first person to drop everything else he's doing to help someone else out ... . He's the type of person we all strive to be."
Police said Howe, who is white, 5 feet, 8 inches tall, weighs 165 pounds and has brown hair and eyes, was involved in a two-vehicle crash about 11 a.m. Jan. 22 on northbound Interstate 94 near Route 176 after Howe's vehicle struck a guardrail and then hit another car. After the crash, both drivers pulled the cars over in the center median, police said.
Howe was wearing a gray North Face jacket and jeans.
A witness identified Howe as the person seen leaving the crash scene on foot, crossing the eastbound traffic lanes and heading to the Old School Forest Preserve near Libertyville. That was the last confirmed sighting, police said.
"He just kind of vanished without a trace," Antioch police Cmdr. Chuck Smith said, adding, Howe is "not the person you would expect to walk away from an accident."
Family spokesperson Matthew DeMartini said Howe picked up presents that morning for a "white elephant" exchange planned for later that day. The presents were found in his car, family spokesman DeMartini said.
Police said Howe spoke to family members about 10 a.m. and planned to meet them for lunch. He never arrived.
"We find this entire incident completely out of character," said MaryMargaret Howe, Tommy's mother. "We're fearful that he has suffered a pretty good head injury due to the accident, causing him great confusion and to feel disoriented. We pray that he is seeking food ... and shelter over the past 20 days and that he's beginning to heal."
MaryMargaret Howe asked for the public's continued vigilance and assistance to help find her son. She then made a request of the missing young man.
"Tommy, if you see this and you are confused, please know and remember how deep our love and care is for you," she said tearfully. She urged him to call home if he can, and if he couldn't remember the phone number to go to any local authority, such as police or fire station or anyone who is willing to help.
Howe's inoperable vehicle was towed to a facility in Vernon Hills. His personal cellphone was found in his car at the tow yard, Smith said.
Howe's work cellphone was recovered during one of several extensive searches of the Old School Forest Preserve. Libertyville police and fire departments, forest preserve police, members of the Lake County Metropolitan Enforcement Group and the Wauconda Fire Department participated in the searches along with hundreds of volunteers, including handlers and police dogs from the Illinois-Wisconsin Search and Rescue Dogs of McHenry County.
On Wednesday, three teams of 12 police dogs searched an area just outside the preserve, Smith said.
"We have had some credible tips that have given us direction on other places to search," he said.
Police have been monitoring Howe's social media, digital footprint and financials, said village spokesman Jim Moran, but there has been no activity.
Family members said there was no indication anything was bothering the young man.
"There was nothing that raised any red flags," Moran said.
Smith said the investigation continues and that police have received more than 200 leads, some of them credible. The Howe family posted a flyer on Facebook with reward information, a description of Tommy and the tip line number.
The Howe family and friends remain hopeful, DeMartini said.
"Someone, somewhere has to know something," he said.
Antioch police urge anyone who may have seen Howe to call the department's dispatch center at (847) 270-9111. Anyone with information also can call 911 or Antioch police at (847) 395-8585. The tip line is (224) 788-4409.
• Daily Herald staff writer Mick Zawislak contributed to this report.