Howe family 'humbled' by love, support during 3-week search for missing son
As they prepare to lay him to rest, parents and relatives of Thomas "Tommy" Howe, say they are "incredibly humbled" by the love, support and selfless acts shown during the three-week search for the missing Antioch man whose body was recovered Tuesday afternoon.
And though it was not the outcome they had hoped and prayed for, family members in an heartfelt message said they will cherish the time they had with the 24-year-old.
"Tommy will live on in our hearts forever. He will continue to watch over all of us from above," the family said in a message on the Facebook page created to provide updates.
Preliminary autopsy findings released Wednesday indicate Howe had signs consistent with drowning.
Chief Deputy Coroner Steve Newton said Howe's body had been in the water for an extended period of time. There were no significant injuries noted in the autopsy, he added. Further testing is planned throughout the coming weeks, according to the preliminary findings.
"Over the last 24 days, your love, support, and selfless acts gave us the strength we needed to press on," the family said in the message.
Howe, 24, grew up in Antioch where the family is well known. He lived in Chicago but had moved back to the village, according to Antioch police. He last was seen about 11 a.m. Jan. 22 walking away from a traffic crash on northbound Interstate 94 near Route 176 in the Libertyville area. Howe spoke to family members about 10 a.m. and planned to meet them for lunch but never arrived, police said.
A witness said Howe crossed the opposite lanes of traffic heading for the Old School Forest Preserve.
The 543-acre preserve was searched repeatedly by various agencies using dogs and drones. Ten law enforcement agencies, 11 dogs and eight trainers from TOPS Kennel in Grayslake helped with the search. An estimated 1,000 civilian volunteers also assisted and Antioch High School printed large-scale maps used in searches, Antioch police said.
Howe's personal cellphone was found in his car that had been towed. His work cellphone was found during one of the searches. Otherwise, there was no trace of him until last Friday when a kayaker on the Des Plaines River near Libertyville saw a jacket matching the description of that worn by Howe on the river bank and alerted authorities.
Dogs and dive teams searched the area Friday evening and Saturday but the operation was delayed due to unfavorable river conditions.
Libertyville firefighters trained to operate in swift-moving water found Howe's body within 10 minutes of entering the river. Finding the jacket and the use of cadaver dogs pinpointed the location, Libertyville fire Chief Rich Carani said.
The river at that point on the southern end of the village borders the MacArthur Woods Forest Preserve, a considerable distance from where Howe was seen walking toward the Old School Forest Preserve.
"Whether helping us in the searches, saying prayers, sending calls/texts, or providing us with food, it is greatly appreciated," the family told supporters. "While the outcome was not what we were hoping and praying for, we were able to locate Tommy, and now have the honor to lay him to rest."