United Airlines Executive Still Missing, 55 Days Later

Filed Under: United

Let me start by acknowledging that this is a travel blog, and I don’t usually cover missing people stories. However, this is something I wrote about early on (given the airline industry connection), and which I’ve been following almost daily ever since. This is an incredibly mysterious situation.

Anyway, I know a lot of readers have been taking interest in this story as well, and I’ve received several questions about whether there are any updates to this situation. I figured I’d provide an update of what I know, since it has been a while.

A United Airlines executive has now been missing for nearly eight weeks, and there’s still no sign of him. A few weeks after he went missing quite a few details emerged, but they only raised more questions, rather than providing answers. Unfortunately there hasn’t been much more made public since then.

Before we get into the latest, if you have any information about the case, contact the Elmhurst Police Department at (630) 530-3050.

The basics of United executive’s disappearance

49-year-old Jake Cefolia is United Airlines’ Senior Vice President of Worldwide Sales. He has worked at the airline since 2007, and leads a team of up to 725 people.

Unfortunately Cefolia was last seen on Thursday, August 6, and was reported missing on Saturday, August 8. His car was found at the Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve, not far from his home in Elmhurst. Police and volunteers searched that area, but didn’t find any clues.

Latest details about Cefolia’s disappearance

We’re coming up on two months since Cefolia went missing, and there still has been no sign of him. There’s a Facebook group set up to help find Cefolia, which now has around 1,800 members.

Here’s my understanding of the timeline of what we know, which has been made public through a combination of statements from the police, and details obtained through FOIA requests:

  • Elmhurst police was allegedly investigating Cefolia even before he went missing, though the details of that aren’t known, and he hasn’t been charged with anything; a city spokesperson said “we are unable to comment any further on this as it remains an active and ongoing investigation”
  • Cefolia’s ex-wife claimed he had previously fantasized about “getting off the grid”
  • Cefolia flew to San Francisco on August 4 to spend time with his girlfriend for her birthday, and the girlfriend claims she recently broke up with Cefolia, but he wanted to get back together; she said he didn’t make any concerning comments, but was drinking more than usual
  • Cefolia was allegedly seeing a second woman, who he communicated with on August 6; she didn’t hear from him on August 7, and he missed the dinner they were supposed to have together on August 8
  • On August 6, Cefolia returned from California, and had dinner with family at home, where he was allegedly intoxicated
  • On August 7, Cefolia missed a corporate event; however, he was seen on video getting gas at around 9:15AM (his last credit card transaction), and was also seen on video entering Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve (where he would often jog), wearing hiking boots and khakis
  • His car was parked in a gravel parking lot, and a search didn’t reveal anything suspicious — the car had golf clubs, a first aid kit, a sweatshirt, and a face mask
  • He didn’t take any traceable devices with him, as his cell phone and Apple Watch were both found at home
  • On August 8, Cefolia was reported missing
  • On August 10, Cefolia’s family hired a private investigator
  • Police and volunteers have carried out several searches of Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve, and while some articles of clothing have been found, none of them were linked to Cefolia

A few more things to note:

  • We know nothing further about the criminal investigation that Cefolia was allegedly subject to prior to going missing
  • Cefolia was trying to sell his Elmhurst home, and it hit the market on June 16, had a price reduction on July 16, and had a further price reduction on August 4 (two days before he went missing); it was allegedly under contract, but he missed the appointment with his real estate agent on August 6 (since then there was a further price reduction on September 17)
  • There’s video surveillance of Cefolia getting gas before going to Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve, where his car was found; he appears to have spent nearly three minutes putting gas in his car, which suggests he was filling the tank, rather than just topping it off because he was running low (his car is the Range Rover that can be seen in the distance for the second half of the video)

Why am I writing about this?

Obviously this is a very sad and tough situation, and I can’t even imagine what Cefolia’s family is going through. My goal with this post isn’t to speculate (and I’d encourage others not to speculate either), but rather to increase exposure of this situation:

  • In the Facebook group dedicated to finding Cefolia, there’s shock about how little media attention this case has received
  • Surely someone knows more about what happened, so the more exposure this gets, the better the chance that someone might come forward

I’m certainly hoping for the best, because this is simply an awful situation…

Bottom line

A United Airlines executive has been missing for nearly eight weeks now. He hasn’t been seen in person since August 6, though was caught on video getting gas, and then also entering Waterfall Glen Forest Reserve.

The updates that have been provided since his disappearance only make the situation even more confusing, given that they point to opposite conclusions. Hopefully we learn more soon. My thoughts are with Cefolia’s family and friends, especially as he has kids. I can’t imagine how tough it must be to deal with this uncertainty…

  1. Ben, for about everyone but you it’s more than clear what happened and not really a “mysterious situation”, although it’s unbelievable sad for his family it’s more than obvious that he decided to end his life and the only missing part in the puzzle is that they haven’t found his body (yet).

  2. Unfortunately, it sounds like the United guy has psychiatric problems. For everyone’s sake, I hope he doesn’t have an enhancement.

  3. Ben – the above totally unfounded comment by ‘derek’ is why you shouldn’t allow comments on posts like this.

  4. @ Ben — I’m betting he is now hiding in another country…that would certainly be better than many other potential outcomes.

  5. It sounds like the least likely answer is “victim of a crime”

    Almost everything from suicide to running from a legal investigation are more likely.

  6. Interesting that the house wasn’t selling. In many areas of the country the market is red hot and a nice house often goes the first weekend above list price. Must be over priced or just in a bad market.

    “Cefolia returned from California, and had dinner with family at home” I’m guessing you mean with his kids and (maybe?) ex-wife?

    An ex-wife, kids, and maybe 2 current girlfriends.

    Getting off the grid? Haven’t said that but I’ve said I wouldn’t mind disappearing somewhere quietly in Europe as long as I have a nice internet connection. Not exactly off the grid in my case 🙂

    Probably more people than I think disappear. There was a story on BBC where in Japan where it is kind of legal and there is a name for it, Johatsu . Apparently if you aren’t hiding from a legal thing, you can disappear and the police won’t report where you are to anyone.

  7. Hmm so he left his phone and watch at home and his car was seen at the entrance to a forest preserve! No one in their right mind goes hiking/walking/running in the forest without a phone at the very least. And filling up his gas tank is probably just to throw the investigation off. He either killed himself and his body is in that forest or he did what he told his ex. Get off the grid.

  8. Stating the obvious here perhaps but from spending time looking into many missing persons in the past, when someone is missing for this long, the reason is usually either a fatal accident, or perhaps more often, suicide. It is not unheard of that the body is not found for months or years or just never found. It is very rare that someone has actually deliberately “gone off the grid” or even met foul play in these situations, although nothing is impossible.

    I, of course, hope for his family’s sake that he is found alive.

  9. @Bill To be fair, Ben did place a significant ‘qualifier’ about why he was including this story on the blog – and a large number of aviation industry professionals (in addition to the travelling public) do follow this blog.
    It seems to be a story largely about mental health – in particular, men’s mental health – and there are many who are afflicted by the range of this illness, particularly during the current, stressful times.
    The following link might help some readers or their friends or family, who are facing the issue of men in their lives who are struggling to cope:

  10. @Bill +1

    @Ben – Why is so much of this post a repeat of an earlier post? Other than the number of days that have passed, what new information have you added? Why not just post what is new, rather than a cut and paste so much of an earlier post? So much of this seems to be repetitive and it is difficult to see what is new information, rather than reposting previous information.

  11. @JDH, there was new info, but with a significant discrepancy (unless I missed earlier posts). Was it a criminal investigation or not prior to his disappearance?

    I think we know how this will unfortunately end. Why it happened we should leave to family privacy.

  12. One suspects more Lord Lucan(, ie likely dead, )than John Stonehouse or Ronnie Biggs ( hiding in Australia). Sad end for everyone concerned, as in every case of this nature.

  13. Very sad and it doesn’t look good. The idea of getting “off the grid” seems to becoming more appealing. We are just too “connected.” Seems as though he was dealing with family/relationship issues that weren’t all that positive.

  14. Ben, I am not sure you should keep reporting on this. To me, everything suggests that this is not a mystery, but really a sad, personal tragedy.

  15. Thx for the update….why not just retire instead of going off the grid? If he was THAT miserable. I’ve never understood anyone just walking away and leaving children…family..and friends. Now they are left with misery.

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