By Bob Uphues
With the search for Brookfield resident Erica Thompson and her missing car now in its second month, a former village resident has stepped up to help spread the word about her disappearance.
Ed Marcin, who lived in the Hollywood section of Brookfield for 63 years before moving to northwest Indiana two years ago, reached out to Police Chief Edward Petrak recently, offering to place a missing person display featuring Thompson's photo and a phone number to report information on billboards along expressways and major streets throughout the Chicago suburbs.
"We created something very simple, so it will be easy to understand as people pass the digital signs," said Marcin. "We hope this helps the Brookfield Police Department find Erica."
The yellow and black display simply states "Missing: Erica Thompson" along with her photo and instructs anyone with information to contact Brookfield police at 708-244-4862, which is the police department's anonymous tip line.
Messages are displayed for 10 seconds and rotate once every 80 seconds.
"I think it'll keep the public's mind on our case," Petrak said. "Hopefully, one of those people sees it and it sends them back to the story, where maybe they remember the car and it leads to a tip to us."
According to police, the last time the 53-year-old Thompson was definitively seen in Brookfield was on Sept. 25. Police also say her phone traveled from Brookfield to other communities, including Countryside, Hodgkins, McCook, Forest View, Summit and the Bridgeview area during the early morning hours of Sept. 26.
Also missing is Thompson's dark purple 2014 Nissan Juke bearing Illinois registration E27 3380. Anyone with information on the whereabouts of that vehicle is also asked to call Brookfield police.
Marcin works for Clear Channel Outdoor, a Chicago-based company that owns more than 60 billboards along highways in the Chicago area. According to Marcin, the missing person messages will be displayed at varying times when advertising space is available on billboards as far northwest as Wadsworth, near the Wisconsin border, as far west as Villa Park, as far southwest as Joliet and as far south as Lynwood.
"These can run system-wide where there's availability," said Marcin.
The message was already in rotation as of Nov. 1, according to Marcin, on a billboard on the north side of I-55 just east of LaGrange Road in Hodgkins, one of the places where Thompson's phone traveled to the morning after she was last seen.
Messages on the system's other billboards ought to start running as early as this week and will continue through the end of 2019.
"It goes to the end of the year and then we'll see if we need to extend it," Marcin said. "We're committed to help them."