Remains of missing UIC student found in Lake Michigan, boyfriend still missing

Remains of missing UIC student found in Lake Michigan, boyfriend still missing

natally brookson

Human remains located in Lake Michigan at the beginning of May have finally been indentified as belonging to Natally Brookson, 22, a University of Illinois at Chicago student who was reported missing on August 30th. At the time of her disappearance, Brookson was studying psychology at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Brookson was last seen at her place of work, an assisted living community for adults who are blind where she worked as a dietary aide. Brookson’s death has yet to be determined, and the police are investigating the incident.

In addition to the disappearance of Brookson, the search also continues for 26-year-old Daniel Sotelo, who was Brookson’s boyfriend at the time of her disappearance. Sotelo was last seen the day before Brookson was last seen, August 29th near the 700 block of South Racine Avenue near the UIC campus where he was a grad student. At the time of his disappearance, he was only days away from finally graduating with a masters degree in organic chemistry.

A search party for Sotelo was set to be conducted on Sunday, May 15 based on a post in a Facebook group entitled Find Daniel Sotelo. According to his family, Sotelo was in the middle of planning a graduation celebration just before he disappeared. He was reportedly dropped off by his roommate at the Roosevelt stop on the Chicago Transit Authority’s Red Line. Sotelo told the roommate he was going north from there.

A GoFundMe page has been set up on behalf of Brookson’s family to help with the impending funeral expenses. To date, the campaign has raised nearly $14,800 of a $15,000 goal. That page denotes Brookson as “passionate, ambitious, and everything you would want in a friend.”

Chicago police describe Daniel as a Hispanic man standing 5 feet, 8 inches, and weighing 155 pounds. He has brown eyes, brown hair, and a medium complexion, they said.

Body of missing Yale employee found on Long Island shoreline

Body of missing Yale employee found on Long Island shoreline

The family of missing Yale employee, Anton Sovetov, may finally get closure after months of waiting for answers in his case. After three long months, the case of the missing Yale employee has taken a turn following the tragic discovery of his body on the shoreline of Long Island, New York on Saturday, April 30th.  The obituary distributed by Yale University themselves can be read here.

The last time anyone saw from Sovetov, a 44-year-old graphic designer working in the Yale Office of Public Affairs and Communications, was Friday, February 4, when a security camera observed him leaving a market on Chapel Street, heading in the direction of his apartment, which was close by. However, he wasn’t reported missing until February 9. Since his disappearance, his case has been investigated by multiple investigating agencies, including Suffolk County, New Have Police Department Investigative Services Unit, and other state and local authorities.

The cause of death in the case of the missing Yale employee is currently being investigated by the Suffolk County Medical Examiner’s Office on Long Island. While cause of death is being determined, investigators continue to search for leads that might lead them to a reason why Anton ended up in the water. “We will continue to do all we can in the face of this terrible tragedy,” said Yale Chief of Police Ronnell Higgins.

It’s been over three months since Anton was first reported missing, and his absence. “We mourn Anthon’s loss,” said Vice President of Communications, Nate Nickerson. “Anton was a wonderful, devoted colleague with uncommon talent. His work honored and added to Yale’s legacy of exceptional graphic design. We will miss him dearly.”

Anyone with information that could aid the investigation into Sovetov’s death should contact Yale Police at 203-432-4400,  New Haven Police at 203-946-6316, or send an anonymous text tip through the LiveSafe app.

Christopher Abeyta case still active after 35 years

Christopher Abeyta case still active after 35 years

christopher Abeyta

Like many states in the U.S., Colorado has its own share of unsolved missing person cases in the backlogs of their jurisdiction. In addition to unsolved missing person cases, there are also hundreds of cases of unidentified remains—each one with a family somewhere who still have not received answers. The same is true of the family of Christopher Abeyta, who was kidnapped over 35 years ago from his parents bedroom—a crime that continues to baffle Colorado Springs authorities and civilians alike.

Christopher Abeyta was only seven months old when he was taken from his parents residence. Infant abductions by strangers are statistically very rare, but for Christopher’s parents, the nightmare became real on July 15, 1986. Their home was located in Ashwood Circle in Colorado Springs, CO. Christopher was believed to have been taken between 12:00 AM and 2:30 AM, and foul play was suspected in his kidnapping.

Despite the decades that have passed, the investigation into the Christopher Abeyta kidnapping remains active. As recently as 2019, the Colorado Springs Police Department tested three DNA samples of unclaimed remains against individuals who have claimed they might be the long-lost Abeyta, but sadly, those samples were not a match to his DNA. It was the last hope for Christopher’s father, Gil Abeyta, who passed away after a heart attack in 2020. His mother, Bernice Abeyta, passed from cancer in 2017.

As of 2013, Christopher’s family was offering $100,000 reward to anyone with information on his kidnapping. An age progression photo was created by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in 2018 to depict what Christopher may look like as a 32-year-old. Anyone with information about Christopher’s disappearance should call Colorado Springs Police at 719-444-7000. You can also contact the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at 1-800-843-5678, or Denver Crime Stoppers at 719-634-7867.

Sherri Papini Admits to Lying About Kidnapping, Arrested on Mail Fraud & Lying to Authorities

Sherri Papini Admits to Lying About Kidnapping, Arrested on Mail Fraud & Lying to Authorities

sherri papini

Followers of the true-crime world were rocked this week with news that the harrowing story of Sherri Papini, the California mom who claimed she had been kidnapped, beaten, branded, and held captive for three weeks, has turned out to be an elaborate hoax. Sherry Papini will be pleading guilty to federal charges and required to pay back in restitution more than $300,000 that were issued by the California Victim Compensation Board.

Everyone in the nation began hearing the name Sherry Papini when she went out for a jog back in 2016 and never came home. All that was found was her phone and earbuds on the side of the road.  A nationwide search was launched after she was reported missing—her name and face were everywhere. It wasn’t until three weeks later when Papini was found trying to flag down a car on the side of the road more than 150 miles from her home, bound in chains, her hair cut short, and her body bruised and branded. Sherri Papini spun a wild story about how she had been kidnapped during her jog by two armed women who held her captive and branded her like cattle.

Last month, the terrifying story that Sherri concocted finally unraveled last month when she was arrested on charges of lying to federal authorities and mail fraud. Department of Justice investigators were able to confirm that the injuries on Papini’s body were self-inflicted, and she had been hiding out at the home of her former boyfriend. According to US Attorney Phillip A. Talbert in a released statement, “Ultimately, the investigation revealed that there was no kidnapping and that time and resources that could have been used to investigate actual crime, protect the community, and provide resources to victims were wasted based on the defendant’s conduct.” Despite initial doubts about her story, both from law enforcement and the public at large, Papini had remained adamant about the truth of her story—until this week.

A plea agreement for Sherri Papini was announced Tuesday in which she will plead guilty to a single count of mail fraud and a single count of making false statements to authorities. In a statement issued through her lawyer, Papini apologized to her family and loved ones, describing herself as “deeply ashamed” of her actions.

Postal carrier, Kierra Coles, still missing after 2 years

Postal carrier, Kierra Coles, still missing after 2 years

Right after his daughter, Kierra Coles, Joseph Coles began living out of his car, keeping vigil in front of the building where she leaved, waiting for her to come home. But in the two years since her disappearance, Coles says that investigators have recently hit a brick wall in the search for Kierra, a then-26 year-old postal worker who was pregnant.

Kierra Coles was last seen leaving her apartment on the morning of October 2, 2018. She lived alone in the apartment on 81st street, and had just moved to the area less than four months ago, according to her mother, Karen Phillips. Kierra was in regular contact with her family, especially her mother. When she didn’t hear from Kierra all day on October 3rd, her mother felt something was wrong, but did not react immediately. After two days of radio silence, Karen Phillips called the Chicago police to conduct a welfare check on her daughter. “I went over to her house to call the police for them to do a well-being check because I had seen her car. So I said, okay she’s probably just in there, maybe she’s asleep or – I don’t know, I just didn’t feel right,” Phillips told the Pittsburg Courier.

The key piece of evidence so far in the case is surveillance footage recovered from a neighbor’s camera, which captured a person believed to be Kierra leaving the building, dressed for work in her postal carrier’s uniform. This has puzzled investigators a great deal, as Kierra called in sick to her job that morning, but still left the apartment dressed for work. The CCTV footage captured Kierra walking up and down the street in front of her building, past her car, before walking out of frame for the last time. Law enforcement and family members have been hoping to find similar CCTV footage that would illuminate more of Kierra’s movements, but no such leads have emerged. When the car was found, her cell phone and purse were inside, along with her lunch bag.

Although they now suspect foul play in the young woman’s disappearance, in the first few weeks of the search, police were not ready to deem Kierra’s disappearance suspicious. Because of Kierra’s age, there are not as many resources in place to locate her—not to mention that adults in the United States, for all intents and purposes, do have the right to go missing if they wish. However, Kierra’s family does not think that she vanished over her own accord, especially given that she was pregnant with her first child.

According to the National Institutes of Health, intimate partner violence affects roughly 300,000 pregnant women every year in the United States. Even more staggering, it knows no sociological boundaries. It affects pregnant women of all ages, colors, education, and religions. Heightened emotions and changes in body chemistry can already be triggers for depression, anxiety, and maladaptive behaviors such as smoking, drugs, and alcohol during pregnancy. It can also trigger intimate partner violence, or what’s more commonly known as domestic violence. The National Institutes of Health also report that homicide is the second-leading cause of injury-related death for pregnant women, superseded only by car accidents. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence reported that between 1990 and 2004, more than 1300 pregnant women were murdered in the United States, most commonly by gunshot, stabbing, or strangling. More than two-thirds of these women were killed in their first trimester.

Kierra’s family has noted that they have received few updates from police since she was reported missing, but that USPS had been regularly in touch. Karen told 107.5 WGCI, “The postal inspector, he has been calling and checking in saying, ‘We are doing all we can. There’s things that we can’t tell you right now, but we’re doing all we can.’ I’m just guessing they just want to have facts together, they don’t want to give me bits and pieces.” The USPS has offered a $25,000 reward for anyone providing information that leads to Kierra’s safe return, and has been assisting in the investigation since it opened. As Kierra’s case continues to garner national attention, non-profits such as Black and Missing have placed Kierra’s name, picture, and case information on their website in hopes of spreading her story throughout the country.

Anyone with information on Coles’ whereabouts should call Area South detectives at (312) 747-8274.

LaShaya Stine, Still Missing After 4 Years

LaShaya Stine, Still Missing After 4 Years

The family of LaShaya Stine is still waiting anxiously for answers in her mysterious disappearance. LaShaya was 16 years old and living in Aurora, Colorado with her family when she disappeared in 2016. For almost four years, investigators have been trying to answer the curious questions about that night, including why would a young teen girl suddenly leave her house in the middle of the night?

LaShaya Stine was a bright and diligent student who was on the honor roll at George Washington High School in Aurora. She was on the professional track to become a nurse and devote her life to caring for others. Great things were on the horizon for her, including an internship with the University of Chicago hospital and a potential new job opportunity.

The night of July 15, LaShaya Stine was mentally preparing for that job interview the next day. When her mother, Sabrina Jones, went to bed that evening, LaShaya was still in the house. The next morning, when Sabrina went to wake her daughter for her job interview, she realized Sabrina was gone. Sabrina grabbed the phone and called her daughter’s cell number, but the line went straight to voicemail. The family combed the neighborhood looking for her, but turned up nothing. That’s when the family contacted the authorities and filed a missing person report.

Unfortunately, the investigators at the time treated LaShaya’s case as that of a runaway. It’s not uncommon, when a missing person case gets labeled as a “runaway” case, that investigators will be slow to act or less than thorough when it comes to following up with leads. Another case might be prioritized over a “runaway” case because it deals with a subject who doesn’t want to be found. It wasn’t until a week after her disappearance was reported that the police chief put a new set of eyes on the case.

CCTV footage near LaShaya’s home revealed that she was out walking along East Montview Boulevard around 2:30 am. When investigators showed the footage to her mother, Sabrina Jones said that it was likely her daughter had gone to meet someone, and had every intention to return to the house—seeing as how all of her personal effects, including her wallet and cell phone, had been left behind. The next logical step was to interview the people in LaShaya’s life, primarily her friends. HOweve,r after multiple interviews with LaShaya’s ex-boyfriend and close friends, police still had not generated any promising leads. Seeing as how the investigators had no proof of foul play, it was extremely difficult for them to move forward.

In the years since LaShaya Stine was reported missing, there have been multiple alleged sightings of LaShaya that corroborate theories that she might have become a victim of sex trafficking, such as her coming and going from motels that were known for facilitating sexwork. The witnesses claimed she was in the custody of a man who might have been transporting her across state lines. One girl who was successfully recovered from sex trafficking claimed to have been trafficked with LaShaya, and described a scar on her chest. Despite police follow up, LaShaya was never found at any of the alleged sightings.

The FBI has joined the search for LaShaya, and the case is still being investigated.  If you have any sort of information regarding this case, please contact the Aurora Police Department at 303-739-6164 and Metro Denver Crime Stoppers at 720-913-7867.

The Aurora Police Department, Metro Denver Crime Stoppers and FBI are offering rewards totaling $15,000 for information that helps them find LaShaya.