Missing Chicago Pastor Found Dead in Des Plaines River
5 mins read

Missing Chicago Pastor Found Dead in Des Plaines River

The Rev. Warren Beard, 53, was an associate pastor and Sunday school teacher at New Israelite Missionary Baptist Church in Chicago.
The Rev. Warren Beard, 53, was an associate pastor and Sunday school teacher at New Israelite Missionary Baptist Church in Chicago. | YouTube/New Israel Missionary Baptist Church

Pastor Warren Beard, a beloved father of five, Sunday school teacher and associate pastor at New Israelite Missionary Baptist Church in Chicago, Illinois, who had been missing since July 2, was found dead Tuesday in the Des Plaines River. He was 53.

Rockdale authorities told ABC 7 that a week after Beard went missing, a tip from Chicago police led them to the location where his license plate reader was found on a closed section of the Brandon Road Lock and Dam, located 17 miles southwest of Chicago and two miles southwest of Joliet, where he was last seen alive after visiting friends.

Authorities said during a news conference that surveillance footage, first discovered Tuesday morning by a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers lock manager, shows Pastor Beard’s car going into the river late on the evening of July 2, Patch.com reports.

Get our latest news for FREE

Subscribe to receive daily/weekly emails with the top stories (plus special offers!) from The Christian Post. Be the first to know.

Rockdale firefighters said the pastor’s black 2023 Honda HR-V was spotted traveling south on Brandon Road before it went into the water. It appears the vehicle was driven around a barricade and through a 18-foot gap under a raised drawbridge that has been closed for more than a year, they said.

“He was small enough to drive under the bridge on the road leading to the river,” said Rockdale Police Chief Robert Bake.

The scene along the Des Plaines River in Illinois where the body of Pastor Warren Beard was found on Tuesday, July 9, 2024.
The scene along the Des Plaines River in Illinois where the body of Pastor Warren Beard was found on Tuesday, July 9, 2024. | Screenshot/WGN 9

The pastor’s body was found alone in the driver’s seat when the vehicle was pulled from the riverbed Tuesday. The Will County coroner positively identified the pastor but said it could be weeks before a cause of death is determined. The Illinois State Police and the Chicago Police Department are investigating the pastor’s death.

New Israelite Missionary Baptist Church Senior Pastor Chenier A. Alston believes foul play may have been involved because Pastor Beard was not suicidal.

“I want to know the answer to the question, ‘Who did this?’” Alston said at a news conference.

“I don’t believe it. Maybe I’m just thinking ahead, but … Warren was not; he was not suicidal. The fact that his car took off the bridge, (there) were barricades there that had to be bypassed. And we know how dedicated he was to his job, to his wife, to his kids, so we just want answers. And whatever they are, we’re going to seek justice for him,” he said. “He was the most wonderful person, one of the most wonderful men I’ve ever met in my life, and that’s heartbreaking.”

The Rev. Warren Beard, 53, was an associate pastor and Sunday school teacher at New Israelite Missionary Baptist Church in Chicago.
The Rev. Warren Beard, 53, was an associate pastor and Sunday school teacher at New Israelite Missionary Baptist Church in Chicago. | Family photo from a police flyer

Beard has served as associate pastor at New Israelite Missionary Baptist Church at 1625 W. 75th Place for the past six years. He also served as director of Preservation of Affordable Housing Communities.

Alston said he spoke with him on the phone a few hours before Beard went missing on July 2. There did not seem to be anything unusual happening.

“He was joyful. He was happy, joking like always,” he recalled, before they finally ended the conversation, as they always did, by telling each other, “I love you.”

Alston told reporters he wanted to investigate Beard’s death because he was with someone in Joliet the night his car went into the river.

“I hope the police will follow up on every lead with passion. He was with a certain person, he was last seen with a certain person and we pray that the police will definitely investigate him and just give us answers,” he said.

As news of the pastor’s death began to spread on social media on Wednesday, many people who knew him and the life he led publicly expressed their condolences.

“I met Warren 12 years ago and from day one we bonded, we were ordained together and it was a tough time for me and he would call me every night after class and help me with whatever I was struggling with,” Darnell Sharkey wrote in a Facebook post. “I will miss my brother in Christ but my big brother in general, that bad man RIP Rev. Warren Beard.”

Contact: [email protected] Follow Leonardo Blair on Twitter: @leoblair Follow Leonardo Blair on Facebook: LeoBlairChristianPost