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Missing UIC student Natally Brookson found dead; boyfriend Daniel Sotelo still missing

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A body found in Lake Michigan earlier this month has been identified as a University of Illinois at Chicago student who had gone missing a couple of days earlier.

Natally Brookson, 22, was last seen leaving work on April 30 in the Budlong Woods neighborhood, according to a missing person flyer.

Natally Brookson Photo supplied to CBS

She was found dead on May 2 in Lake Michigan near Bryn Mawr Avenue, according to the Cook County Medical Examiner's office. An autopsy the next day was inconclusive, and the cause and manner of her death are still pending.

Brookson was a senior at the UIC College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, although she had withdrawn from the spring semester, according to a university spokesperson.

"I broke down because of what happened," said Thet Wai Aung. "And there's no way Natally would do this to herself."

"Her family deserves the answers to why it happened," Tom Wojcik said. 

CBS 2's Charlie De Mar spoke to Brookson's co-workers at the Friedman place -- a community for blind adults where she worked as a dietary aide since 2020. Her boss says she quit after her shift on April 30th -- Friedman place is also the last place Brookson was seen.

Charlie: Did she ever express any concerns for her safety or anything along those lines?

Thet: No, she never told me anything like that. There's a lot of missing pieces that doesn't make sense.

However, her boyfriend, 26-year-old Daniel Sotelo, remains missing.

Daniel Sotelo Supplied to CBS 2

Sotelo also was last seen on April 30 -- he was dropped off at the CTA train at the Roosevelt 'L' stop.

That station serves the Orange and Green lines on the elevated tracks and the Red Line below ground. A missing person flyer did not specify where exactly in the station Sotelo was last seen, but friends and family say he was last seen taking a CTA train. They are heartbroken to hear about Brookson's death and are hopeful they will be reunited with Sotelo.

"Something like this to happen to someone so close to you, it's pretty much a nightmare," said Melissa Verdin, friend.  

A GoFundMe was started to help with Natally's funeral arrangements. You can find the link here

Anyone with information on his whereabouts is asked to call Area Three detectives at (312) 744-8266. The flyer also gave a number of (630) 795-9034.

Meantime, Brookson was the fifth person found dead in a span of more than two weeks in the waters of Lake Michigan or the Chicago River.

On April 16, 80-year-old Yuet Tsang's body was pulled from the Chicago River in the 2800 block of South Eleanor Street, near Bridgeport.

About an hour later, an unidentified body was found in the river in the 100 block of North Riverside Plaza in the West Loop.

On April 17, an unidentified man's body was pulled out of Lake Michigan in the 3000 block of South Fort Dearborn Drive, just north of 31st Street Beach.

On April 22, the body of 31-year-old Karina Pena Alanis, a pregnant woman who had been missing for two weeks, was pulled from the river in the 2600 block of South Damen Avenue, in the Heart of Chicago neighborhood. According to the family's GoFundMe, Alanis is a pregnant mother of three daughters and was last seen two weeks ago. She was last seen near 43rd and Wood. 

The cause of her death has yet to be determined

Police have not said if any of the cases are connected.

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