ALBANY PARK — A man found dead Friday in the North Branch of the Chicago River has been identified as an Albany Park father who disappeared nearly three weeks ago.
Hector Franco Tello, 53, was last seen by his family about 6:50 a.m. March 9 when he left his home near Spaulding Avenue and Argyle Street to head to work on the South Side, police and his family said.
The father of four lived in Albany Park for more than 20 years. His family spent weeks searching the neighborhood, and asking for the public’s help to find him and supporting their family financially in his absence.
Around 8:50 a.m. Friday, police found a man floating face down in the river near the 2900 block of West Lawrence Avenue. The man was pronounced dead at the scene, police said.
Detectives are still investigating, police spokesperson Michelle Tannehill said. The Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office did not release a cause of death.
The family told Block Club they went to the morgue Saturday and confirmed it was Franco Tello.
“We were just able to see a picture of his face,” said Diana Franco, Franco Tello’s daughter. “They didn’t let us see his body or anything.”
Franco Tello worked as an upholsterer in McKinley Park and was the main breadwinner for his family. He had four children ages 6, 13, 18 and 25.
With the help of Ald. Rossana Rodriguez-Sanchez (33rd), his family set up a GoFundMe campaign last week to cover their expenses during the search, raising over $12,000 as of Tuesday. Now those funds will also help cover the cost of the funeral, Diana Franco said.
The family is planning a private memorial. There will be a public vigil 6 p.m. Friday at Ronan Park near the 2900 block of West Lawrence Avenue, Diana Franco said.
The day he went missing, Franco Tello spent the morning chatting with his wife, Gabriela Maciel Cerde, as he got ready for work and she helped one of their daughters get ready for school. Franco Tello asked her if it was going to be cold that day, Cerde previously told Block Club.
“The last thing he said to me was, ‘I’ll see you in a bit.’ That was the last thing he said to me,” Cerde said in Spanish.
Cerde headed out about 3 p.m. that day to pick up her younger children from school and her oldest daughter from work. Her car was parked behind their building; when she got inside, she saw her husband’s lunch and jacket in the back seats, Cerde said.
Cerde said her first thought was her husband’s car probably had a mechanical issue and he’d headed back home to borrow her car. But the more she thought about it, the more she became concerned, Cerde said. Franco Tello did not usually come home from work until 6 or 7 p.m. and would have told her if his car had any issues, Cerde said.
Franco Tello left his job in McKinley Park about 11:30 a.m., his boss told relatives. Diana Franco said they think he got home about 12:30 p.m. to put his jacket and lunch in his wife’s car, but no one saw him and they don’t know why he’d do that.
“He’s the type of person who goes to work and comes home and doesn’t stop anywhere in between. If he had to work late or a second job he always called or FaceTimed us,” Diana Franco said. “We’re always in contact with him.”
When Franco Tello didn’t come home at the normal time, the family drove around Albany Park and North Park and found Franco Tello’s car — a 2007 light blue Honda CRV — parked at 5017 N. Spaulding Ave. near North Park University, his family said. Inside they found his keys, wallet and other belongings, family said.
The section of river where police found Franco Tello’s body is less than a mile from where the family found his Honda CRV. The winding North Branch of the Chicago River is also less than a block from where the CRV was found, Diana Franco said.
While the family has some closure, they are still searching for answers for why Franco Tello went missing and how long he was in the river before police found him, Diana Franco said. She said she hoped detectives can give more concrete answers on what happened during that two-week period after he disappeared.
“ … I want to be certain that police actually investigate this and look at all the cameras in the area,” Diana Franco said. “He was pronounced dead that Friday but we don’t know how long he was in the water. He was missing for weeks.”