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‘Our hope is that’s not her:’ Body found in torched vehicle driven by missing Milwaukee teacher

LAKE COUNTY, Ill. -- Kathleen Ryan, a Milwaukee teacher, disappeared -- and an investigation into her whereabouts spanned two states. Loved ones reached out to police in Milwaukee and Illinois after Ryan's son said she was supposed to meet him at a basketball game in Illinois, but she never showed.

Kathleen Ryan

"We think she is out there. We just have to find her," said Zack Ryan.

Zack Ryan

Ryan's son spoke with FOX6 News by phone on Monday, Feb. 4, worried beyond belief about his mother.

"Her phone is going straight to voicemail," said Zack Ryan.

The family spent the weekend frantically searching for Kathleen Ryan.

"My brother and I started taking drives from my areas to her area -- the highway. Maybe she stopped off or fell asleep. Couldn't really find anything," said Zack Ryan.

Along the route she would've taken, Lake County sheriff's deputies located her vehicle, torched along Highway 41 near Gurnee, Illinois.

"So our hope is someone stole the car and that's not her in there," said Zack Ryan.

The Lake County Sheriff's Office in Illinois is working to identify the remains of a body located inside a car on Route 41 in Warren Township on Saturday evening, Feb. 2.

A Facebook post on the Lake County IL Sheriff's Office page said: "An inspection of the vehicle revealed it had been previously driven by a woman reported as missing from Milwaukee, Wisconsin."

The vehicle was located shortly before 10 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 2 in Warren Township. Gurnee Firefighters arrived and extinguished the fire.

After the fire was extinguished, firefighters and sheriff’s deputies observed a badly burned body inside the vehicle. Notification was made to the Lake County Coroner’s Office and coroner’s staff responded to the scene.

As the investigation continued Monday, loved ones remained hopeful Kathleen Ryan would be found.

St. Augustine Preparatory Academy

"Stay as positive as we can. We are optimistic that she is somewhere, and that she gets back, because we miss her. It's her birthday," said Zack Ryan.

Concern extended beyond her family to St. Augustine Preparatory Academy, where Kathleen Ryan teaches. The superintendent, in a statement, said "Kathleen Ryan is a valued, respected and beloved educator and friend. We are praying for her safe return."

"Thanks to all of the people who have been sharing and praying and messaging for us. We really appreciate it. Keep your eyes open. Keep looking. She is just a great person and this is a nightmare and we are hoping it will end soon," said Zack Ryan.

Anyone with information is asked to please contact police.

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