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Search resumes for missing St. Charles man
By Josh Stockinger | Daily Herald Staff

Stephanie McNeil and Sean Henady search the West Branch Forest Preserve in Bartlet Friday for missing St. Charles musician John Spira.


Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

John M. Spira


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Published: 10/10/2008 11:13 AM | Updated: 10/10/2008 5:03 PM

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The search for a St. Charles bluesman missing for more than a year shifted from land to water Friday, with relatives and friends scouring rural ponds for signs of John Spira.

"He deserves to be found," said Spira's sister, Stephanie McNeil. "He deserves a proper goodbye from all of us."

Spira, a blues guitarist who went by the stage name Chicago Johnny, disappeared Feb. 23, 2007, after leaving his West Chicago business, Universal Cable, for the day. Mysteriously, the business burned down and a missing person banner for Spira was vandalized about six months later.

Although previous searches came up empty, McNeil, who lives in Arizona, said she wanted to try once more before winter, this time focusing on bodies of water near Spira's business property at County Farm Road and North Avenue. The effort continues through Sunday.

"This weekend, the plan is to focus on a 1-square-mile area near John's business so we can cross it off our list and move on," she said. "We don't feel confident (previous searches) have been enough. So we're sort of starting over again."

Aiding in the effort, McNeil said, are searchers who also have looked for Lisa Stebic and Stacy Peterson, two high-profile missing persons cases from the Chicago region.

The team is using a sonar-equipped boat, named the "Stacy Ann" after its use in Peterson searches. They also have access to an underwater camera, and McNeil rented a metal detector to use on land.

Sean Henady, an Indiana man who is operating the boat on behalf of Texas EquuSearch, said more than 100 missing people have been recovered using the equipment.

"(Sonar) basically gives us a view of the bottom of the waterway, and it's pretty precise," he said. "It will reflect back a rock or whatever you're looking for. It will pick up things like a gun on the bottom of the waterway."

Spira was 45 when he disappeared. He was last seen wearing a turtleneck, blue jeans and a green aviator-style jacket. He is 5 feet, 8 inches tall and weighs about 145 pounds.

McNeil said she maintains contact with police but has no new information about the investigation into her brother's disappearance. Investigators looking into her brother's disappearance and the fire could not be reached for comment Friday.

Looking for him "breaks my heart and lifts me up all at the same time," she said. "At the end of the day, I have to keep looking. He deserves it."

Volunteers interested in helping search Saturday and Sunday should meet at 10 a.m. at Brian's Charhouse, 27W371 North Ave., West Chicago.

More information about Spira's disappearance is available visit