Police are working to uncover any clues in the mysterious deaths of two former Illinois college students who were found dead weeks apart in Lake Michigan after vanishing just over a month ago.
The bodies of Daniel Sotelo, 26, and Natally Brookson, 22, have both been recovered from Lake Michigan, Cook County officials stated this week and Oxygen.com confirmed. The couple originally vanished on April 30.
Brookson’s remains were found on May 2 in Lake Michigan near the 5500 block of North Sheridan Avenue by the Chicago Fire Department.
On May 22, a fisherman discovered Sotelo's body about a mile from Lake Michigan’s shoreline, near the Cook County village of Wilmette, Illinois, the Chicago Sun-Times reported — roughly 8 miles north of where Brookson’s body was located. He was identified using dental records.
Brookson was last seen leaving her job at Friedman Place, located in the 5500 block of North Maplewood Avenue in Chicago, WGN-TV reported. Sotelo was last spotted at a CTA train stop near Roosevelt Road and State Street, according to CBS News.
Preliminary autopsy information for the deceased couple wasn’t immediately available from the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office this week. Officials declined to disclose whether they suspect foul play in the two deaths.
“Cause and manner for both cases is pending at this time,” Natalia Derevyanny, the Director of Communications for the Cook County Bureau of Administration, told Oxygen.com in a statement on Wednesday afternoon. “The Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office does not speculate on cases. Once [the] cause and manner of death are determined, we will release that information.”
Those who knew the couple, however, are convinced their deaths aren’t accidental.
"I broke down because of what happened," Brookson’s co-worker Thet Wai Aung told CBS News. "And there's no way Natally would do this to herself."
Aung said her colleague hadn’t expressed any concerns regarding her safety prior to disappearing.
“No, she never told me anything like that,” Aung added. “There's a lot of missing pieces that doesn't make sense.”
Sotelo and Brookson both attended the University of Illinois Chicago. Sotelo completed his Master’s of Science in chemistry this spring, a spokesperson for the university said. He previously earned a Bachelor of Science in chemistry in 2018.
Brookson, a psychology student, enrolled at the university in 2018 but withdrew from her studies this past semester. She worked as a dietary aide for blind adults, according to CBS News.
Loved ones of Sotelo and Brookson have created separate GoFundMe campaigns to help cover funeral costs and other expenses in the wake of their sudden deaths.
“Danny was an absolute light for us all,” Sotelo’s sister, Jennifer Sotelo, wrote on the fundraising platform. “Losing him is like losing the color from our world. As heartbroken as we are, we are so grateful for the light that he provided us for the past 26 years. We hope and pray that his soul rests in peace.”
Anyone with information is asked to contact the Chicago Police Department Area 3 SVU at 1-312-744-8266 or Det. Dozono at 1-312-744-8200.