Missing Chicago pastor's remains, car pulled from Des Plaines River in Will County, officials say

Wednesday, July 10, 2024
Missing Chicago pastor's remains, car pulled from Des Plaines River
Rockdale police said a car found in the Des Plaines River belongs to missing Chicago pastor Warren Beard. Human remains inside were ID'd as him.

ROCKDALE, Ill. (WLS) -- The remains of a missing Chicago pastor were identified inside his car, which was pulled from the Des Plaines River in the south suburbs Tuesday, officials said.

The Will County coroner identified human remains found in the car as 53-year-old Warren Beard, who was last seen in the Joliet area visiting a friend around 9 p.m. last Tuesday.

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Beard, 53, was the assistant pastor and Sunday school teacher at New Israelite Missionary Baptist Church, a married father of five, and is beloved in his church community.

"He was the greatest person, one of the greatest men I've ever met in my life, and this is painful," said New Israelite Missionary Baptist Church Pastor Chenier Alston. "We want answers. Words can't even begin to describe how we feel."

His family went to Rockdale after his vehicle was discovered in 8 feet of water Tuesday afternoon, hoping for news about their missing loved one. Beard was found in the front seat.

"We're all sad. This is not how we wanted this end, but unfortunately, it has," said Rockdale Fire Protection District Chief David Brady.

Authorities in Rockdale said one week after Beard went missing, an alert from Chicago police led them to a license plate reader hit of his vehicle near a closed section of the Brandon Road Lock and Dam in the south suburbs.

Rockdale crews responded just after 11 a.m. for a reported vehicle that had entered the river last Tuesday near Route 6, just after 10:45 p.m., officials said. Brandon Road Lock officials saw the vehicle while reviewing routine security footage.

The vehicle was seen on video traveling south on Brandon Road, before driving into the water, Rockdale fire officials said. It appears that the vehicle was driven around a barricade and through a 5.5-foot gap beneath the raised draw bridge, which had been closed for more than a year.

"It was small enough, a small enough of a vehicle to make it under the bridge at the road in the bridge into the river," said Rockdale Police Department Chief Robert Bake.

Divers and sonar were being used to search the riverbed for hours Tuesday. Authorities said murky water and rain have made the search and rescue difficult.

Rockdale officials gave an update on a river search Tuesday.

"The Des Plaines River, unfortunately, is a very, very murky body of water here in the area. Just my experience in working with the local water rescue team, divers go into the water, you can put your hand in front of the water, you really can't discern where your hand's at because the water is that cloudy and muddy," Channahon Fire Chief John Petrakis said.

Beard's aunt said Tuesday has been a day of anguish, following a horrible week.

Rockdale authorities say Illinois State Police and Chicago police are now the lead agencies investigating this case. The Will County coroner says an autopsy is planned for Wednesday, but it could be several weeks before a cause of death is determined.