Jake Cefolia, an executive with United Airlines, disappeared on August 6, 2020. Police found Cefolia’s 2019 Range Rover abandoned at the Waterfall Glen Nature Preserve, near Lemont, Illinois. Many believe that Cefolia walked into the 700-acre forest and never walked back out, perhaps taking his own life. However, Jake Cefolia had secrets and has often fantasized about living off the grid.
What happened to Jake Cefolia?
Into The Wild
A nature preserve deputy spotted Jake Cefolia’s 2019 Range Rover at 1:33am on August 8, 2020, abandoned. Since his ex-wife didn’t file a missing person’s report until hours later, the system didn’t alert the deputy of his disappearance.
There are a few worst-case scenarios for a vehicle parked after hours at the nature reserve. The vehicle’s owner could have been hiking and lost somewhere in the park’s 700-acre forest.
This person could have fallen into one of the many ravines, and perhaps now stranded and desperate for help.
Or the vehicle’s owner could have walked out into the preserve to end it all. The park provides a perfect ambience for suicide. The isolation and unconnectedness of nature could bring peace before making that ultimate and final decision.
The deputy reported Cefolia’s SUV again at 4:07am.
Did Jake Cefolia walk into the Waterfall Glen Natural Preserve and never walked back out?
The Senior Vice President is Absent
Jake Cefolia was well-loved. Did something terrible happen to him or is he living a new life somewhere else?
United Airlines promoted Jake Cefolia in August 2018 to the position of ‘Senior Vice President of Worldwide Sales’. Before this promotion he had similar roles, but in charge of the America’s sales team.
Before working for United, Cefolia worked for British Airways immediately after graduating from Embry Riddle in 1996.
Cefolia lead a 725 person sales team and, according to his LinkedIn profile, was a “Global sales leader focused on driving value for customers and instilling a culture of service and support. Experienced in building highly motivated teams, developing strategy and driving execution.”
It was rare for Jake Cefolia to schedule time off work or miss corporate events, both of which happened the week he disappeared.
On Friday, August 7th, the day he drove to the preserve, Jake Cefolia took the morning off work, extremely rare, according to a close friend and co-worker.
That same day, Jake missed a corporate golf event, although police found his golf clubs in the backseat of his abandoned SUV.
On the previous Sunday, Jake visited his sister in Bloomington, Illinois. His sister told police that “He seemed to be in good spirits, nothing seemed out of the ordinary.”
On Thursday, Jake misses a 5:30 meeting at his home with his relator. Later that evening, his son goes over for dinner later telling his mother that his father was extremely drunk.
A Full Tank
Jake Cefolia was last seen driving his 2019 Range Rover at 9:23am by a traffic camera. A few minutes before this footage, a Shell Station CCTV camera, at 218 East Butterfield Road, recorded Cefolia filing up his gas tank. The video shows Cefolia in khakis, hiking boots, and a baseball cap.
The traffic camera that caught Jake driving showed him going toward his home, which he most likely arrived at before 10am that morning.
A neighbor thought he remembered seeing Jake leaving his home around noon, but felt he couldn’t trust that memory and didn’t want to hinder the investigation.
If Cefolia wanted to start a new life, why fill up his gas tank?
Was these actions pre-planned, and did he know we would see him on camera?
Off The Grid
The search for Cefolia within the Waterfall Glen Preserve was the most extensive in the park’s history. Over one hundred citizens, law enforcement, and tracking dogs combed the area for the missing man. Aircraft spotters, drone experts, divers, and even thermal imaging specialist were all used, but no one has ever found any shred of evidence outside of Jake’s abandoned vehicle.
Many people, however, don’t believe Jake Cefolia wanted to be found, that it is possible that he is living a new life somewhere else. But how likely is this?
Cefolia visited the Waterfall Glen park frequently before his disappearance, so much that park attendants knew Jake on a first name basis.
Chief David Peterson of the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County said: “He commonly ran, we have 9 or 10-mile loop here at the forest preserve, so he’s an athletic 49-year-old gentleman. We don’t know for sure he’s still at the forest preserve, but at this point there’s been no contact with family or friends.”
Some would say that Cefolia knew the Waterfall Glen area like his own backyard. If he wanted to be hidden, he knew where his best chances to hide would be.
Jake’s ex-wife told police he would often fantasize about “going off the gird”. His girlfriend confirmed these same desires by saying that Jake would say he wanted to just “go into the mountains to be alone.”
Did Jake’s fantasies about living off the grid really happen?
Perhaps even more shocking is that both Jake’s cellphone and Apple Watch were found still in his home. A senior executive being without his cellphone or any way of communication is like being a bird without its wings or walking naked down the street.
Jake Cefolia did not simply forget to take his phone.
On the surface, Jake Cefolia had a life most people could only dream of. He worked extremely hard to get to the position he was in and everyone who knew him admired him.
Cefolia was always on the go. Flying from Shanghai to Tel Aviv, to Honolulu, just wherever he wanted to visit. The 49-year-old showed no signs of slowing down. He would stay at the Ritz Carlton and spend thousands on luxury gifts and fine dining.
One of several girlfriends would accompany him, in different cities, of course. Jake was active on several dating apps such as Bumble and OkCupid.
His phone showed unanswered text he received from multiple women after he disappeared.
Earlier in the week, Jake had flown to San Francisco to his his ex-girlfriend named Wendy for her birthday celebration. Wendy had told police she had recently broken things off with Jake and that he begged her to take him back. She refused. He spent the night, and then left.
Jake later told his co-worker on the phone that he’s the one that broke things off and that “It’s all Wendy’s fault.”
The Search Warrant
The Elmhurst Police Department has been extremely tight-lipped about Jake Cefolia’s disappearance even to larger and more authoritative news sources.
However, several media sources have claimed that police executed a search warrant in Jake Cefolia’s home on August 6th, two days before his ex-wife reported him missing.
The Elmhurst was adamant that they never charged Jake with a crime, but that he has been under police investigation prior to his disappearance.
What were police looking for with their search warrant?
Was this the reason Jake drank heavily a few hours later, in front of his own son?
How serious is this ongoing police investigation?
What Happened To Jake Cefolia?
This case seems to be divided straight down the middle. Either Jake Cefolia walked into that nature preserve and is still there (or at least parts of him) or he is living a new life and doesn’t want to be found.
It’s worth mentioning that Cefolia received his small engine pilot’s license several years ago, and although he can’t rent an airplane (expired license), he still knows how to fly.
It is possible Jake Cefolia is still alive.
Are you reading this now, Jake?