United Airlines Executive Still Missing, 28 Days Later

Filed Under: United

If this story doesn’t interest you then by all means skip this post. However, I’ve been following this case every single day, so wanted to provide an update, since it has been a while, and the details just keep getting stranger.

A United Airlines executive has now been missing for four weeks, and there’s still no sign of him. Every day more details emerge, and it almost seems like each new detail raises more questions, rather than providing answers.

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 have been searching that area, but haven’t had any luck yet.

Latest details about Cefolia’s disappearance

It has now been nearly a month 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 1,200 members (there was a group before with more members, but it didn’t seem to be legit, as it was run by a guy who claimed to be “working with Zuck” on this case).

There’s some new information about the case that wasn’t previously available, obtained partly through FOIA requests. As I said above, the more information that is revealed, the stranger this case becomes. Here’s a brief summary of the currently publicly available info, roughly in chronological order:

  • 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, it’s not clear that any of them belonged 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
  • 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 four 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 new updates only make this 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…

Comments
  1. This is a sad situation. I just don’t understand why his family initially asked for “privacy” as opposed to publicity. Does anyone else find that odd? I think It sounds like the family was more interested in not releasing details of his most recent whereabouts, rather than trying everything they could to help people to look for him.

  2. I’ve made my thoughts on this clear before (either suicide or he wanted to disappear) but as to the family requesting privacy I think it could be for a few reasons. Many people simply don’t want to be the center of attention and hounded by media so they want privacy. I don’t think (of course I don’t know for sure) it means they don’t want him found, it just means they don’t themselves, children, etc. hounded with questions.

  3. “If this story doesn’t interest you then by all means skip this post” seems a bit unnecessary. You could put that disclaimer at the beginning of every post.

  4. This is very sad. As an officer of a hospitality company in the US, many don’t know the pressures going on within a corporation during Covid. It’s awful but we are trying to keep our nose above water. I truly hope he is safe and decided to go off the grid and find himself, versus the perception we all have after reading this. I wish I could help in some way, and wish for some resolution for his family.

  5. @duane
    Considering all the comments in previous articles from entitled folks saying why is this article here and it’s not travel related I think the disclaimer is necessary. If it was my blog I would just give those people a rude emoji but that’s just me. 🙂

    Some people think that if something is on the web then they have a right to dictate the content.

  6. Not enough media coverage…it was on Good Morning America…hard to get more high profile than that. And on the top rated station in Chicago’s evening news.

    But a really tough situation for the family, especially with a young son.

  7. People with bipolar 1 disorder can function at a very high level even through manic episodes for many years before they have a psychotic episode. His behavior, particularly the sudden increase in substance abuse, might indicate psychosis.

  8. The police should chech all us carriers to see if he deparyed on rheir flights yo some where in sourh America on the day he went missing. If nothing is found then police should check the park’s pond, if there’s one. I feel for his family.

  9. Is there any kind of estimate of the number of people who successfully go “off the grid” and are alive? How many other people who have been missing this long turn up alive? Sadly, I presume he is no longer alive based on the time that has passed.

  10. So he wanted to disappear….voila! No offense, but why is this a story. If he has kids and a wife, a pretty selfish and shitty thing to do…but everyone lives their own life. Go enjoy…and hope the cops don’t find out you were involved in something you should not have been 🙂

  11. When you say he had dinner with his family on August 6th, who exactly is his “family”. Not his ex-wife, I assume. Also who reported him missing and why did wait so long? A clearer picture of his personal life might provide insights. When I first started reading about this case, which I too have been following closely, I was intrigued by the lack of information. How many kids? Was it a contentious divorce? How long ago? Child custody issues? There is a lot that we don’t know.

  12. I work for United and was notified around that time that I was going to be furloughed. I’d be lying if the thought of “the ultimate problem solution” didn’t cross my mind. I’m not speculating nor do I know whether he will be another one of us being furloughed the day after the cares act expired.

  13. Is it normal or customary for a person who regulary jogs in a forest preserve to go there and leave his smart watch and cell phone at home? A busy executive leaves his cell phone and smart watch at home? I dont know the guy but that sounds very odd. Maybe start with that? I hope his family is o.k.

  14. Ok, I don’t know the particulars of this Waterfall Reserve in Illinois. But my immediate thoughts were turning to the Missing 411 or howtohunt channel on YouTube. Y’all can laugh but it sounds like a Missing 411 case where the individual, almost always alone, just completely VANISHES. It is almost always near water and boulders. There are many scenarios as described above, where the person was just out hiking or running alone. God bless this man and his family.

  15. Ben, thank you very much for your post. I’m a TA in NYC, a top producer for UA, I knew Jake, from meeting at UA headquarters and events that he participate here in NYC. He was a top guy fantastic, smart very very friendly and this news is devastating me. I hate the Police Dept. of Elmhurst The way they are handling this devastating case, they don’t talk much about it, nothing makes sense it’s not clear. I received o e in a while letter from UA, but what they send is things that we know. I understand very well UA position, the have to go by the law. I aos know that people there love Jake.
    This is the first time I try to connect with somebody, I think all those face Book page is not of any use and some are making up stupid stories I thin. Any way thanks and I like to be keep informed.

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