NEWTON, Ill. (WCIA) – Although Missing Persons Awareness Network President Gia Wright says few things bring her to tears, she’s felt a heavy weight on her chest since taking on the case of the Lutz family: 44-year-old Stephen, 34-year-old Monica, 11-year-old Aiden and 9-year-old Nicholas.

“There’s a there’s a darkness in me where I can’t sleep and I can’t stop thinking about this case,” Gia Wright said.

The family of four was first reported missing on Feb. 10. Newton Police say Stephen Lutz was out on bond facing domestic battery charges, ordered not to enter the home where the rest of his family lives. But he, his wife, and two young sons disappeared, leaving many of their belongings behind. Since their story gained traction online, Wright says there’s been an “outstanding amount” of support from people who want to help.

“There’s still no visual on these kids or the or the parents, just to be clear, and I’m terrified,” Wright said.

Newton Police said the family’s cell phones have all been disconnected, and they have reason to believe they left the state. But the red flags don’t stop there.

“I don’t know families that just randomly and irresponsibly disappear with the kids as a whole unit,” Wright said.

Wright has experience working with many families on many cases, and says she always tries to keep an open mind despite how a situation may appear. It’s possible the Lutz family chose to leave town and hide out somewhere without internet or phone access, but Wright worries about the number of other possibilities.

“There are zero signs of life that I know of, unless law enforcement is specifically not saying something that I don’t know,” she said.

Since the day she got involved, Wright says people that know the family personally have been contacting her with information that only makes her more worried – especially when it comes to Stephen.

“He has apparently always asked family members and other people about their teenagers,” Wright said. “He has an interest in teenagers, particularly asking for pictures of girls.”

Stephen’s adult daughter, Brittany, told WCIA last week she cut ties with him in 2020 after she says he was charged with soliciting a minor. On top of that, she says Stephen is known to be aggressive. Wright says another bad sign is that in one of his last text messages to Brittany, Aiden said they were going on a vacation but he didn’t know where.

“When you look statistically at when a parent is going to kill their children, that’s what they say is ‘we’re taking you to Grandma’s house, we’re taking you on a vacation, we’re taking you on a special trip,'” Wright described.

Wright says she wants to be proven wrong, and that’s why she’s doing everything she can to call attention to this case and find out whether the children are okay. On April 10, she hosted a live stream from the house the Lutz family left behind in disarray, where she says they found a “real rifle with a scope and a silencer,” and no serial number, locked in a bedroom closet.

Wright also says DCFS was called when domestic battery charges were first brought against Stephen in January. She says she was told the children were in the home but said they didn’t know anything. Brittany told WCIA that Monica ran to a neighbor’s house with her children to call 9-1-1 that day. Police said there had even been previous reports of domestic violence in the home. Since then, Wright says DCFS has closed their case, and she hopes they’ll reopen it. She’s also hoping for more transparency from the investigation – in the form of press conferences and/or regular updates.

“I challenge that police department to come forward and utilize their communities all across the state to say, ‘you know what, we’re all in this together. There’s a family [and] we don’t know if they’re okay. We don’t know if they’re alive. And we want to make sure that they are so if you guys have information, please call us. We’re here. We’re right here with you,'” Wright said.

Newton Police Chief Riley Britton told WCIA last week he could only provide limited details so as not to compromise the investigation. He said Illinois State Police and the FBI were contacted right away. ISP told WCIA they have “served in an assist role as needed,” and an FBI media spokesperson said Thursday: “The FBI is aware of the missing persons report however it was determined that no federal crime was committed. The FBI remains available to provide assistance should it be needed but we are not involved at the present time.”

Also last week, Britton echoed neighbors’ impressions of the Lutzes as a family who keeps to themselves. One neighbor told WCIA Stephen appeared controlling over Monica, even seeming to prevent her from making friends. Wright says if domestic violence was present in Monica and Stephen’s relationship, it could explain his controlling behavior.

“Monica’s mom lives four blocks from their residence and has not seen them in about 16 years, still living in the same place,” Wright said. “Since we don’t know exactly what has been going on in that house, we can only assume that estrangement on either side of the family has a lot to do with that.”

Wright is calling upon the Center for Missing and Exploited Children to share Nicholas and Aiden’s information.

The Missing Persons Awareness Network is raising a $20,000 reward for any person or agency that can lead authorities to Nicholas and Aiden’s location.

According to police, their last known vehicle was a 2005 Ford F-150 with the 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.