By Bob Uphues
With the search for Brookfield resident Erica Thompson entering its third week, Brookfield police have revealed new information gleaned from cellphone data records about the location of the 53-year-old woman's cellphone the morning after she was last definitively seen in the village.
On Oct. 14 police reported that they have obtained cellular data that shows her cellphone signal was picked up in nearby suburbs during the early morning hours of Sept. 26, and they are asking people both in Brookfield and surrounding communities for any information that can help them locate either Thompson or her vehicle.
According to police, Thompson was last seen on video at about 4:30 p.m. on Sept. 25, making a bank deposit in Brookfield. Cellular data indicates that during the early morning hours of the following day, Sept. 26, the cellphone travels from Brookfield to other communities, including Countryside, Hodgkins, McCook, Forest View, Summit and the Bridgeview area.
"We're hoping that someone in these areas might recall seeing Ms. Thompson or her dark purple 2014 Nissan Juke bearing Illinois registration E27 3380," Police Chief Edward Petrak said in an emailed statement.
Petrak said police "are not ruling out the possibility that she or her vehicle may still be in that vicinity."
Anyone with information regarding Thompson's whereabouts or vehicle are asked to call the Brookfield police tip line at 708-244-4862 or email tips to the West Suburban Major Case Assistance Team to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Facebook fundraiser started
In the meantime, members of Thompson's family have started an online fundraiser to help them maintain her home, care for her three cats, make mortgage payments and any costs for hiring private investigators to assist in the search.
Thompson's son, Michael Russo, and her sister, Dana Thompson Kujawski, initiated the Facebook fundraiser on Oct. 12. Anyone with a Facebook account has the ability to donate to the fundraiser, which can be found by clicking here. The family may start a non-Facebook online fundraiser in the future.
Russo told the Landmark that he set the fundraising goal at $5,000, though the family likely will face costs greater than that.
"I've never had to deal with this before and didn't know what I needed to ask for,' Russo said in a phone interview. "No one is prepared for these kinds of things. It's uncharted territory."
Russo said he has been in regular contact with police, but that there's been nothing new to report concerning his mother's well-being.
"There's nothing really new," Russo said. "As far as her whereabouts or the vehicle's whereabouts, nothing has come to light."
The last time Thompson and her vehicle definitively were seen in Brookfield was on Sept. 25. Her family reported her missing on Oct. 1 after Russo visited his mother's home and found the back door open, the air-conditioning on and moldy dishes piled in the sink and by her bed.
Police who processed the residence for evidence at that time said it looked like no one had been there in days. No one has heard from Thompson since she was last seen, and her vehicle also hasn't been seen.
Russo in a social media message posted on Oct. 1 indicated that police had pinged her cellphone in Springfield, Missouri. Until Oct. 14, police had declined to release any details regarding what is still an active, ongoing investigation.
In addition to worrying about their loved one's whereabouts, Thompson's family faces the burden of making sure mortgage payments are kept current and the utilities paid for. Kujawski, who did not have pets or the expense associated with them before, is caring for Thompson's three cats.
Russo said his family is small and that few live in the immediate area.
"None of us are wealthy people. We're struggling to pay our own bills," Russo said.