Divers Hunt for Woman After Riverside Rite

The woman's family says she went to the river to perform a Hindu ceremony.

ByABC News
December 26, 2007, 12:01 PM

Dec. 26, 2007— -- Divers entered an Illinois river today, and a helicopter was called in to search for a woman who disappeared Monday while attempting to follow the religious orders of her Hindu priest.

Anu Solanki's car was found Monday afternoon near the Des Plaines River in the Cook County Forest Preserve District, according to district spokesman Steve Mayberry. The car door had been left open and the vehicle's engine was running.

Solanki was last seen leaving her job at the gift shop in a Westin Hotel in Wheeling, Ill., and her husband, Dignesh Solanki, told ABC News' Chicago affiliate WLS that she had been planning to stop by the river after a religious idol of the Hindu deity Ganesha kept at their Des Plaines home broke.

The family's priest, citing a tradition of the religion, had instructed the family not to keep the broken statue in the house but instead to either bury it or bring it to a body of water.

The diving team and helicopter joined the search for Solanki after officers from the forest preserve and sheriff's office spent Christmas day on foot scouring the area around Solanki's vehicle for clues.

"The initial ground searches turned up nothing," Mayberry said, "which is why we are there today." Mayberry said there were no immediate signs of foul play.

But Dignesh Solanki told WLS that he believes his wife may have been the victim of a crime. After Solanki left her hotel job around 2 p.m. Monday, her husband said, she telephoned a friend to say she thought that four men were following her as she drove to the forest preserve. Five minutes later, she called the friend back to say that the men appeared to be gone. It was the last time her family and friends heard from her. Her abandoned car was found at 4:30 p.m.

The woman's family told WLS that the woman's cell phone and laptop were missing from the car.

Dignesh Solanki did not return a phone call from ABC News, but a man who answered the phone at the family's house said he had left to go to the river to help search for his wife.