Winnebago County Coroner Sue Fiduccia confirmed today the body found Tuesday evening in the Rock River is Antonio Little, a Rockford YMCA staff member missing since Memorial Day weekend.
Although identification was found on the body, Fiduccia withheld information until Little’s family was notified, and until she had time to complete an autopsy today that included a review of dental records.
“He was positively identified through dental records, and a forensic odontologist identified him,” Fiduccia said. “There were no signs of trauma or foul play.”
While the preliminary cause of death is listed as drowning, Chief Deputy Coroner Bill Hintz said a pathologist will review toxicology results to confirm the cause of the death.
YMCA staff members gathered this morning to pray, grieve and discuss the tragedy.
YMCA President and CEO Mike Brown told his staff that items found on the body belonged to Little, 24, a beloved member of the organization’s youth outreach team last seen May 25. Brown said he doesn’t know what might have happened to Little, who had been sought for weeks by family members and authorities.
“It’s a shock and that makes it hard for everybody,” Brown said. “The thing that everybody talks about is how much he loved his son, what a great dad he seemed like he was, and how much the teens and the kids he worked with loved him.
“Something happened and until we find out, we really don’t know. We have heard all the rumors, but folks are just spouting off their mouths.”
Members of the Ski Broncs water ski show team discovered the body about 7:10 p.m. Tuesday. It had been lodged beneath a dock on the river in Shorewood Park in Loves Park.
Little grew up in South Beloit and was a South Beloit High School graduate. He went on to study at Rock Valley College and Northern Illinois University. He began working at the YMCA more than a year ago after joining AmeriCorps.
His disappearance would be akin, Brown said, to a youth pastor at a church who suddenly went missing.
Little was last seen leaving his aunt’s Campus Hill Boulevard home, the scene of a late-night party.
YMCA staffers who gathered this morning observed a moment of silence. A prayer was led by YMCA vice president for operations Brett Pentenburg, who told two dozen or so staffers that God will comfort those who “cry out to the Lord.” And he asked staff members to support one another during a time of grief.
Questions about the tragedy are inevitable, said Branch Executive Director Tabatha Endres-Cruz. She encouraged YMCA staffers to speak with someone they trust about unexpected emotions and grief. She said grief counselors will be available to any employee who needs one.
She also asked staff to speak with care about the case as an expression of respect for Little’s family.
“We have to stick to the facts,” Endres-Cruz said. “The word that needs to be running through your mind is ‘respectful.’ Are the words that I am saying and the story I am telling respectful to Antonio, his legacy, what he did for the Y, his family and his children? Keep that in your mind.”
Source: RR Star