Body Discovered Behind Diplomat West Banquet Hall

Police are investigating the death, but are not saying whether the body is that of Russell Winkler, who was last seen leaving Mack's Golden Pheasant around 2 a.m. Saturday.

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UPDATE Monday, Dec. 24, 2:16 p.m.:

Elmhurst police are saying that a body was discovered this afternoon behind the Diplotmat West Banquet Hall at North Avenue and Route 83.

"We've got a body behind Diplomat West ... alongside the creek," Elmhurst Police Chief Michael Ruth said at about 2:10 p.m.

"We're still at the scene; we've notified the coroner. We're in a holding pattern until the coroner arrives."

The identity of the individual is currently under investigation.

Monday, Dec. 24, 11:45 a.m.

Dozens of friends and family members of Russell J. Winkler have been doing what they can to try and locate the 44-year-old Bensenville resident.

Winkler was last seen leaving Mack's Golden Pheasant, 668 W. North Ave. in Elmhurst, at about 2 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 22. He was reported missing with the Bensenville police at 8:26 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 23.

Winkler, an Elmhurst native and a 1986 graduate of York High School, has been living on the 200 block of South Miner Street in Bensenville for about six months.

Gina Severino, one of Winkler's best friends, was with him at the bar Friday night. She said when he left, he was frustrated after having some trouble finding a ride home. One friend did offer him a ride, she said, but he "stormed off" in frustration and said he would just walk home.

"We went after him and couldn't find him," she said. "We drove up and down Route 83 for about an hour.

"He's just not been himself lately since he got divorced," she said, adding he has been divorced for about a year.

Winkler was supposed to see his two children, ages 11 and 14, over the weekend, but he never showed up, Severino said. This is concerning to both friends and family, who say his children mean the world to him.

"That's what made me really start worrying," Severino said.

He is employed at Victor Envelope Company in Bensenville and was supposed to work over the weekend, but he didn't show up there either, she said.

Attempts to contact Bensenville police have been unsuccessful. But Elmhurst police and surrounding jurisdictions are working in cooperation with Bensenville. Elmhurst police Chief Michael Ruth said Winkler has been entered into the law enforcement data system as missing, and "if any law enforcement agency comes across him, it would cause immediate notification to local authorities."

When police tried to call his cell phone, it went directly to voicemail, but Ruth said that while the cold weather is a concern, there is no reason to suspect foul play just yet.

"Any time someone is last seen on foot, it sets off some concerns for us," he said.

Severino said she last heard from authorities that his phone pinged off of a cell tower that placed him in Addison, near Lake and Villa, about an hour after he left Mack's.

"The timing is right," she said. "If he was walking from Mack's to Lake and Villa, it would take about an hour. I don't know why he would walk that way, though."

Search crews have been out all weekend.

A number of his friends on Sunday night combed the area on foot from Mack's up to Bensenville hoping to find clues to his whereabouts, and friends were still out searching on Monday morning, Severino said.

Elmhurst resident Chris Byrnside is one Winkler's friends who was out searching Sunday night.

"Last night and into the early morning, I participated in a spontaneous search of the assumed path that Russ may have walked," Byrnside said on Monday, via email. "There were 10 to 20 people involved.

"I searched with someone who claimed to be Russ's landlord. With flashlights, we combed the areas behind Mack's and Shell, the wooded area south of there and the banks of Salt Creek. We then searched frontage Road and the woods along the west side of Route 83."

Byrnside said they ran into two other groups, one on the east side of Route 83, who searched well into the night.

"I saw cars and flashlights around Route 83 and (Interstate) 290, and around Grand Avenue and Church Road," Byrnside said.

Chief Ruth said Winkler was last seen wearing a maroon shirt, a Santa tie and a black jacket.

A Facebook page titled, "Bring Russ Home for Christmas" has been started.

Anyone with information is being asked to call their local police.

This story will be updated as more information becomes available.

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Rhonda Faklaris December 24, 2012 at 08:33 PM
Absolutely hearbreaking news. My prayer go out to everyone.


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