ROCKTON, Ill. - A Beloit man who was missing for about a week was found dead Wednesday morning along an Illinois highway.
Beloit police said Cardell Johnson's body was discovered at about 10 a.m. by a road worker who was preparing to mow along Illinois State Highway 2. The body was discovered south of the village of Rockton and just north of Roscoe.
Deputy Chief Scott Meyers, of the Winnebago County Sheriff's Police, said Johnson's body was found near his motorcycle along the treeline, down a bit of an embankment and in heavy brush about 60 feet from the road.
"The motorcyclist was northbound on Route 2, and rather than negotiating the curve, the motorcyclist continued straight, leaving the roadway, and he traveled along the roadway in a grassy area for approximately 375 feet, where the motorcyclist and the motorcycle struck some trees," Meyers said. "It would have been difficult for any passing motorist to see. You really would have had to been looking."
Meyers said the motorcycle Johnson was riding was destroyed in the crash.
Acting as a family spokeswoman, Candida Franke, Johnson's sister-in-law, said he loved to ride motorcycles with his wife of 20 years, Sherri.
"If Cardell wasn't at work or at home with his kids, who were his life -- his family was his life -- he loved to ride. They rode all over. They both had cruisers and rode together, side by side," Franke said.
The 44-year-old also leaves behind five children. He worked for 19 years at Frito Lay in Beloit.
Johnson's family had mounted a massive search effort, beginning last Wednesday. Volunteers spent days checking alongside dozens of southern Wisconsin and northern Illinois country roads where Johnson was known to ride his motorcycle.
He left his wallet and cellphone at home when he left for the gym on the evening of Aug. 9. His wife told WISC-TV Sunday she knew something wasn't right.
On Wednesday night, a memorial was beginning to crop up along Illinois State Highway 2 in Johnson's memory.
"There are parts of us that are glad that we know that he's found, but there was still the hope that he was going to be OK," Franke said.
Authorities are continuing to investigate.
"The coroner is going to conduct their investigation. They'll determine if it was perhaps a medical emergency that perhaps caused him to go off the roadway. In addition, we're also running our investigation with a traffic crash reconstructionist," Meyers said.
As the family grieves and says goodbye, it said it's thankful for the many people who offered support and help in searching for Johnson.
"It's just an overwhelming response from people who never knew Sherri or Cardell," Franke said.
Johnson's wife said she is struggling to come to terms with the reality of her husband's death. After the coroner completes an autopsy, the family said it plans to hold services at Beloit Life Center.
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