Video: The search for a missing mom

updated 5/23/2007 5:37:25 PM ET 2007-05-23T21:37:25

On the day she vanished, Lisa Stebic mailed off a petition seeking to remove her husband from the suburban Chicago home the couple shared with their two children while going through a divorce.

Stebic's husband was the last person to see her, but police have said he is not a suspect in the disappearance, and the search goes on for the woman whose face is now on fliers posted throughout this quiet village.

Just about everyone here has a theory about Stebic, who vanished on the evening of April 30. Her credit cards and cell phone have not been used since.

Authorities have searched the couple's home and vehicles, but a judge sealed the contents of the warrant.

"She wouldn't have just left," said Kimberly Young, Stebic's boss and friend, who saw Stebic the day she disappeared. "She did not leave that house of her own free will."

In the last three weeks, Stebic's family has offered a $20,000 reward, posted clips on the video-sharing Web site YouTube, created a Web site (www.findlisastebic.com) and appeared on national news shows.

"We're using all different ways to try to reach as many different people as possible," said Melanie Greenberg, who is married to Stebic's cousin and acts as family spokeswoman.

The family is also in contact with husband Craig Stebic, and relatives try to visit the children often, Greenberg said. "He has called and asked me, 'How's it going with that Web site?'" she said.

The Stebics were divorcing but still lived together because Lisa Stebic did not want to upset her children's routine.

"She wanted her children to stay in their schools. She was trying to do whatever she could to make that happen," Greenberg said. "That meant staying in that house in a very difficult situation."

On the day she disappeared, Lisa Stebic had mailed off a petition seeking to remove her husband from the home. In the divorce case, she accused him of being "unnecessarily relentless, cruel, inconsiderate, domineering and verbally abusive."

Stebic, whose 38th birthday was Saturday, had worked her normal shift in a nearby elementary school cafeteria on the day she disappeared. She was home when her 10-year-old son and 12-year-old daughter returned from school.

Husband denied sole temporary custody
Craig Stebic has said that he saw his wife leave the house carrying only her cell phone and purse. He reported her missing the next morning.

The case took another twist when Craig Stebic, who has been caring for the children, filed for sole temporary custody, arguing it was a precaution in case his wife returned and attempted to take them away. A judge denied the request Tuesday.

Plainfield Deputy Chief Mark Eiting has repeatedly said Craig Stebic is not a suspect in the disappearance.

Dion Davi, an attorney who represents Craig Stebic in the divorce, said speculation swirling about his client hurts the children.

"He's holding strong, he has to. He has two children he has to think about. Their well-being is constantly on his mind," Davi said.

Craig Stebic declined to comment to The Associated Press.

The day she vanished, Lisa Stebic told her divorce attorney, Glenn Kahn, that she would send him a petition seeking to have Craig Stebic removed from the house, but otherwise acted normally, Kahn said. He later got the petition in the mail.

Contentious divorce
Court documents show the divorce proceedings have been contentious. Craig Stebic filed for divorce in January, citing irreconcilable differences.

A motion filed by Lisa Stebic claimed her husband, "both alone and in the presence of the minor children, is unnecessarily relentless, cruel, inconsiderate, domineering and verbally abusive, (and) is jeopardizing both Lisa's mental and physical well-being."

Davi said the allegations were made in the heat of a divorce battle.

"There are no specifics. It is just a vague generalization that is made, and appears to be one of those tactics that are made ... to force the other spouse out of the home," he said.

In the search, divers have searched a nearby lake and retention ponds, and an army of volunteers has combed walking and biking trails.

When she disappeared, Stebic was happy, despite the divorce, Greenberg said. Over the past year, she had lost 40 pounds and started socializing again after the breakup of her 14-year marriage. She recently got a butterfly tattoo on her back featuring her kids' names.

"The last month has been the happiest I have ever seen her," Young said.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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