Search for Missing College Student Ends in Lake

Family never gave up hope for finding Jim Sylvester, 21, aunt says.

Up until Friday afternoon when it was reported that a car was found submerged in a forest preserve lake, the family of missing Crestwood college student James Sylvester, 21, never gave up hope.

Family members prayed that Jim or Jimmy, had taken some time away from the stress of his senior year of college and gone off by himself to gather his thoughts.

“I just know he’s going to come walking through the door,” his aunt, Mary Jane Nowdomski, said on Friday, before word of the car being found.

Those hopes were dashed when Sylvester’s 2002 Honda Civic was spotted in Lake Arrowhead in Palos Heights.

The discovery brought nightmarish closure to a desperate family, but at least it was some kind of closure.

Sylvester lived at home with his family while attending classes at DeVry University in Tinley Park. He was stable, ambitious, intelligent, funny and well liked by other students.

He insisted on paying for his own college education. He was conscientious about not worrying his parents.

Before disappearing late in the evening of March 27, he and his mother were watching TV and laughing. Everything seemed fine.

After his mother went to bed, Sylvester went back to his room where he sent distraught text messages to friends, including his girlfriend. The tone of the messages and activity on his computer led many to believe that he might harm himself. 

According to Crestwood police, Sylvester had texted, “tell everyone I’m sorry.”

A friend was on his way over to Sylvester’s house after he had texted him, asking if they could meet and talk. Sylvester was already gone when his friend arrived. He was reported missing the next afternoon.

Police conducted an air search of the forest preserves Easter weekend, using special equipment designed to detect a body or car. When neither was found, the family felt a glimmer of hope.

Throughout the week hundreds of volunteers combed the parking lots of schools, motels, restaurants and train stations, looking for the beige-gold Honda with the license plate N253967 in Happy Hyundai plate frames.

His younger sister, Amanda, had created a Facebook page, “Help Find Jim Sylvester.” A local printer donated 2,500 glossy "missing person" fliers.

His mother was planning a double graduation party for Jim and Amanda, who was also due to graduate from Shephard High School.

Sylvester had recently initiated a breakup with his girlfriend in the weeks before he disappeared because he was busy with school, his aunt said. the couple remained on speaking terms, and family believed they would reunite.

During the week, Sylvester’s parents went out every day to search for their son. Nowdomski and her husband went out looking too.

“We’re just going to keep looking for him,” his aunt said. “My sister (Jim’s mom) won’t stop looking until he’s found.”

The family was organizing another weekend search party on Friday, when Sylvester's car was spotted submerged in Lake Arrowhead near Harlem Avenue and 135th Street, where the last transmission activity on Sylvester’s cell phone had been traced.

As the car with Sylvester’s body inside was being pulled out of the lake, family members announced on Facebook that the weekend's search party had been canceled.

An autopsy is pending at the medical examiner's office. Police do not believe foul play to be involved.

marion April 07, 2013 at 01:33 AM
I am so sorry for him and family. i wish i could make things better. my prayers are with your family.
Stones April 07, 2013 at 04:11 PM
Harry, some people battle their demons in silence and the rest of us know anything is wrong. Others, we are of aware of, and even then with our best efforts, we may not be able to save them. Either way it's tragic and there are no real answers. It seems that, those who end their own life are the only ones who really know why. Many think think its a selfish act and it really isn't. They see it as the only way to end their pain. There is no intent to hurt those they leave behind. For those left behind, there are many places to get the help that is needed. Your doctor or minister can direct you to the right place.
Harry Callahan April 07, 2013 at 04:36 PM
Stones I disagree with you, but I am not going on the soap box.
Baba Wawa April 07, 2013 at 06:09 PM
You know, Harry, why is E V E R Y T H I N G a conspiracy with you? Something's missing; something's not right. The police and media aren't telling everything. There's nothing missing and nothing we can do, okay, Columbo? Quite frankly, it's none of our business. His family and friends are dealing with an unspeakable grief and you come on here and basically insult them with your usual "something's missing" nonsense because YOU, Harry Callahan, WANT ANSWERS!! It's water under the bridge now. Let his family and friends mourn their loss privately.
T Mez April 09, 2013 at 03:51 PM
My heart goes out to family and friends. No words to say here but that our prayers are with you.


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