Missing United Airlines Executive Identified After Human Remains Discovered in Forest

Remains discovered in a forest preserve in a Chicago-area suburb on Friday have been identified as belonging to Jacob Cefolia, a United Airlines executive who was reported missing in August 2020. Contractors found Cefolia's remains in Waterfall Glen Forest Reserve in Darien, Illinois. The body was found hanging from an uprooted tree in an area that was searched in the past, DuPage County officials said.

Cefolia was identified using dental records, DuPage County Coroner Dr. Richard Jorgensen said, reports the Chicago Sun-Times. The cause and manner of death have not been determined, although officials said there were no signs of foul play. A death investigation is ongoing.

The airline exertive was reported missing on Aug. 8, 2020. At the time, Cefolia's disappearance drew national media attention and led to a manhunt. Searchers found his vehicle near the forest reserve, but his body was never found despite the searches in the area. DuPage Forest Preserve Police Chief David Pederson told NBC 5 Chicago Cefolia's body was found by contractors who were removing invasive species. "The human remains were located in a very thick covered brush area, extremely, so you can be 10 feet away and not see it," Pederson explained. "Obviously the foliage is starting to drop this time of year, these contractors were working in a very thick area."

When Cefolia's body was discovered Friday, his wallet, driver's license, backpack and other personal effects were still in the same area. The remains were also wearing clothes that matched the description of what Cefolia was wearing when he was last seen. When police found his vehicle last year, there was a COVID face mask, a grey pullover, a golf bag, and $120 in cash inside. Bloodhounds used the scent from the pullover and a pair of Cefolia's glasses, but they lost the scent about 20 yards into the forest, police reports noted.

On Aug. 6, Elmhurst, Illinois police arrived at Cefolia's house with a search warrant, according to police reports NBC 5 obtained. Detectives reportedly wanted to "search and collect/package evidence," but police declined to explain. Cefolia was also never charged. On the day he disappeared, his ex-wife Kristine called 911 to report him missing and felt something was "absolutely not right" since she hadn't heard from him since Aug. 6. Cefolia shared teenage twins with his ex-wife.

Cefolia and was the senior vice president of worldwide sales for United Airlines, which is based in Chicago. He joined the company in 2007. A United spokesman told the Sun-Times they were "sad to hear the news about our former colleague Jake. Our thoughts are with his family and friends during this difficult time. And we remain grateful for the support and prayers that so many of our employees - including Jake's co-workers - have shared with one another and on his behalf over the past year."