Missing Schaumburg woman's body found inside submerged car
Schaumburg nursing student Sheila Khalili had been missing for six days when a Kankakee County deputy, searching an area of the I-57 shoulder near Bourbonnais, discovered a white side view mirror and a front bumper with her license plate attached early Thursday.
That find at about 3:30 a.m. in a construction zone just north of where an interchange with Bourbonnais Parkway is being built led to a search of a nearby retention pond on the east side of the road. Divers found and recovered a submerged car with the body of a woman inside that matched the description of the 27-year-old Khalili.
The preliminary investigation indicated a one-vehicle fatal accident, but a more thorough accident reconstruction by Illinois State Police is expected to continue for some time.
Though that investigation and a confirmation of the body's identity are still underway, Khalili's family members say they are grateful for the closure the discovery has brought them, family friend and attorney Thomas Glasgow said.
"The family of Sheila Khalili extends their deepest thanks to the efforts of law enforcement, the media, Olivet Nazarene University, as well as the many friends and relatives that contributed their time and efforts to the search for the recovery of Sheila," Glasgow said at a news conference at his Schaumburg law office Thursday. "The location of the car and the recovery of Sheila's body gives the family closure and they understand that without the help of law enforcement, the media and the public, they would never have closure in her disappearance."
As much as the family held out hope she would be found safe, they found some relief that foul play was not involved, he said. Until the discovery of the car, no other explanation seemed apparent, he said.
Khalili's family members went to Bourbonnais to help identify the body, Glasgow said. There was some question of whether that would be done with DNA, dental records or a visual confirmation.
The key to the family's closure was the debris found on the side of the road, without which it may have taken years -- if ever -- to find the car, Glasgow said.
Why the car left the roadway and what caused the debris is undetermined.
Glasgow said there were indications the car may have crossed lanes and the debris may have been caused by it striking a tree as it slid toward the pond. He could not confirm the car had crossed the median but said he had heard from police that was a possibility.
There are visible tire marks leading to the retention pond, but part of the accident reconstruction will be to determine if they're from Khalili's vehicle or were caused earlier, Illinois State Police Master Sgt. Matt Boerwinkle said. It's too early to conclude what caused the debris along the roadside or the car's trajectory into the pond, he said.
Khalili disappeared while out celebrating completion of her final exams at Olivet Nazarene University's nursing school in Bourbonnais last week.
Glasgow said she had just finished the third year of a four-year program but was working on getting her Certified Nursing Assistant license.
She left her family's Schaumburg house at 11:30 a.m. May 4 to visit friends in Bloomingdale, Glasgow said. After spending most of the day with them, she got a call from college friends in Bradley, near Bourbonnais, asking her to come back and stay with them.
The last recorded site of her I-PASS transponder was exiting the I-294 tollway south onto I-57 toward Bourbonnais. She also sent a text about 1:50 a.m. May 5 to tell her friends she had made it that far.
Then, after a day of frequent texting, all communication stopped. The last place her cellphone signal was detected was near Bourbonnais.
Khalili's friends in Bradley waited up for her until 5 a.m., growing increasingly worried, Glasgow said.
Her distraught family offered $20,000 for information leading to her safe return. But remaining out of contact with all her close relatives was so out of character for her that they had initially suspected foul play, Glasgow said.