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Owner of car in Aurora fatal crash missing

Greg Zanis adjusts cross he put up scene Church Road north Corporate Blvd Aurorwhere TheresM. Burns 57 was struck killed

Greg Zanis, adjusts a cross he put up at the scene on Church Road north of Corporate Blvd in Aurora where Theresa M. Burns, 57, was struck and killed on Monday, January 21, 2013. | Brian Powers~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: February 25, 2013 12:36PM

AURORA — Police are asking the public for help in locating the owner of the vehicle involved in Monday’s fatal hit-and-run crash that killed a woman as she tried to rescue a troubled teenager.

The owner of the vehicle, Gustavo Villarreal, 44, of the 1600 block of Dearborn Avenue, in unincorporated Aurora, has not been heard from or seen since Monday afternoon, police said Wednesday.

His family also reported him as missing with the Kane County Sheriff’s Office Tuesday, police said.

The victim of the crash — Theresa M. Burns, 57, of the 700 block of South River Road, Des Plaines — was struck by a car registered to Villarreal at 5:33 p.m. Monday on Church Road just north of Corporate Boulevard, police said.

The man driving Villareal’s car — a 1997 Chevrolet GEO Metro — fled the scene on foot, leaving the car behind.

Police said they want to question Villarreal; he has not been charged.

Burns and a 25-year-old co-worker were trying to remove an 18-year-old woman from the southbound traffic lanes on Church Road at the time of the crash.

Police have been searching for Villarreal since the crash but have not been able to find him. His family is cooperating in the investigation, police said.

Villarreal is Hispanic, 5-foot-8, 158 pounds with brown hair and brown eyes.

Burns was a staff member at Northern Illinois Academy, a home and school for people with psychiatric problems, at 988 Corporate Blvd. on Aurora’s northeast side.

Burns was walking outside with the student during a one-on-one counseling session when the student ran out onto Church Road, according to Ed Irby, vice chairman of Sequel Youth and Family Services, the mental health system that operates the Northern Illinois Academy.

The girl sat down on the southbound lanes of Church Road, police said, but Burns and her co-worker were able to get her off the road before both were struck by the GEO.

“Counselors sometimes hold one-on-one sessions walking around the building or even outside,” Irby said, but the residential facility’s doors are always locked.

“This session was going well, so Theresa and the student went for a walk. Nobody knows why the student went out into the street,” he said

Burns was pronounced dead at the scene. Her injured co-worker was treated and released from an Aurora hospital. No one else was hurt in the incident, police said.

Burns worked for the academy for about a year. She worked hardest to do the best for students, as exemplified by her actions Monday night, Irby said.

Sequel Youth and Family Services is investigating the circumstances preceding the death and have put a crisis response team in place at the academy, Irby said.

Irby said Burns was connected to everyone at the facility, and staff and students are mourning the loss. The facility is licensed to house up to 60 residents.

“It’s an incredible shock to everybody. This is a close-knit community, and she was a very important part of that. People are still in disbelief,” he said.

School officials are making arrangements with Burns’ brother to hold a memorial service for her next week, Irby said. Where that service will take place and whether it will be open to the public has not been determined.

Sequel Youth and Family Services, an Alabama-based company, runs schools for troubled children in 16 states.

Anyone with information about the crash or Villarreal’s whereabouts is asked to call Aurora Police Traffic Investigators at 630-256-5330.

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