NEWTON, Ill. (WCIA) — A Jasper County, Illinois family of four has been missing for two months. A mother, father and their two young sons were last seen at home on Feb. 10.
While several law enforcement agencies conduct a nationwide search, loved ones back in Newton reflect on the red flags they noticed leading up to their disappearance.
One of the last messages 11-year-old Aiden Lutz sent his half-sister, Brittany Lutz, said “There’s nothing to do when we’re not going somewhere.”
He said his family was taking a vacation but he didn’t know where, and that it was “boring” because he’s “usually playing video games.” Brittany said she hasn’t heard from Aiden since the day he left with his brother and parents.
“On Feb. 14 I did text my father Stephen and said if they needed to get away, I could take the boys and just get them back to a normal life. He said they have a normal life, they aren’t together and he’s not allowed to be around them,” she recalled.
At the end of 44-year-old Stephen Lutz’s lengthy text response to his daughter, he said: “There is nothing wrong with our house or the way we raise our children. So thank you for the offer but all we need is love, support, togetherness and healing.”
That was the last time Brittany heard from Stephen.
Newton police say the family’s cell phones have been disconnected.
“I’m also worried that they haven’t been alive since the tenth,” Brittany said.
At the time, Stephen Lutz was out on bond, ordered not to contact his wife or enter their home. Newton police said in a news release Lutz appeared in court on Jan. 19 facing domestic battery charges.
They issued an “Attempt to Locate” on Feb. 14, four days after the family was first reported missing. The department said: “though at the time we had no evidence to suggest immediate danger for any of the parties we are taking the necessary precautions due to the length of time the parties have been missing.”
The release also said “there have been previous reports of domestic violence in the home and the above charges are still pending.”
Newton police Chief Riley Britton says Illinois State Police and the FBI have joined their investigation, through the course of which they determined it’s possible the Lutz family left the state.
“I will say it’s been challenging having a whole family as missing,” Britton said.
Especially after reviewing the text exchanges.
“That made it a challenge for us too. How far can we go if the family is on a vacation?” Britton said.
He says they won’t stop investigating until they’ve made physical contact with the family. In the meantime, Brittany Lutz is growing increasingly worried – replaying childhood memories from a time she says was the start of her father’s methamphetamine-fueled delusions and violence.
“He could be an awesome dad one moment and the most random thing would anger him and he would just treat me like I was the worst person he knew,” Brittany said.
Like flipping a switch, Brittany says Stephen could become a different person. While she says he never abused her, she says he was arrested for hitting his wife, Monica, on Jan. 17.
Newton Police cannot provide any further details on that case at this time.
“From what I was told, Monica and the boys had to run to a neighbor’s house to be able to call 911 and get away from him. They had no shoes on,” Brittany said.
Brittany says Monica eventually went back to him, and that she later learned of another alarming incident from January. She says Aiden walked into his parents’ bedroom to find Stephen talking to a clown mask on the wall.
“And Steven said: ‘I know what I need to do. I need to kill three people. First my wife Monica, then my son Aiden, then my son Nicholas,'” Brittany said.
Back in December, Brittany says Stephen attempted to commit suicide in front of his wife and children by stabbing himself in the neck. He was admitted to a psychiatric ward and released a week later. In 2020, she says Stephen was arrested for solicitation of a minor. She chose to cut contact with him, but by extension was distanced from Monica, Aiden and Nicholas, who hardly left their house. The boys are home-schooled, and one neighbor says it seemed as though Stephen intentionally prevented his wife from socializing with neighbors or having friends in general.
“This family did keep to themselves quite a bit,” Chief Britton said.
Brittany says Stephen was raised by his grandmother, who says he’s been angry, hot-headed and controlling since he was a child.
“She wanted nothing to do with him because of the domestic violence. She was trying to get Monica to stay away from him and get help for the boys,” Brittany said.
That’s what Brittany tried to do around noon on February 10. She says she stopped by the family’s house expressing that she wanted to help. When she returned a few hours later, they were gone.
“They boys’ school workbooks and everything were still sitting on the kitchen table. Food out that looked like they were in the middle of eating it,” Brittany said.
Britton says he’s hoping people will reach out to police with information that will help them solve the case.
“Steven and Monica, if you happen to see this – just please reach out to us. We want to make sure that you’re safe, we want to make sure that the kids are safe. Please. I know you guys know me, we’ve known each other for a while. Please contact and if you want to talk to me specifically, you can. I just want to know that you guys are all safe,” Britton said.
The Missing Persons Awareness Network is working to raise $20,000 to reward anyone who can lead authorities to the family. According to police, their last known vehicle was a 2005 Ford F-150 with license plate #3078512B.
Stephen Lutz is reported to be 5’6, 200 pounds, with short brown hair and brown eyes.
Monica Lutz is reported to be 5’4, 180 pounds with long brown hair and brown eyes.
Nicholas Lutz is reported to be 4’3-5, with brown hair, brown eyes and olive skin.
Aiden Lutz is reported to be 4’7-5, with brown/red hair and brown eyes.
Anyone with relevant information is encouraged to contact the Newton Police Department at 618-783-8478. The Missing Persons Awareness Network can be contacted at 312-620-0788.