Body of Vanderbilt student found in New Hampshire

Emily Sotelo, a sophomore majoring in biochemistry and chemical biology, went on a hike on Sunday while home for Thanksgiving break and never returned.
Published: Nov. 23, 2022 at 8:09 AM EST|Updated: Nov. 23, 2022 at 2:15 PM EST
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) - The body of a missing Vanderbilt University student was found Wednesday in New Hampshire.

Emily Sotelo, a sophomore majoring in biochemistry and chemical biology, went on a hike on Sunday while home for Thanksgiving break and never returned. She turned 20 years old on Wednesday, the same day officers found her body.

Her mother first reported her missing Sunday afternoon.

New Hampshire Fish and Game said the Westford, Massachusetts, native was home from Vanderbilt for Thanksgiving break. Capt. Michael Eastman said her mom dropped her off for a solo hike around 4:30 a.m. Sunday.

“Her mother watched her go up the trail,” Eastman said. “Her mother was going to meet her further down the hiking route to meet her for food and provisions, but she did not arrive.”

According to the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department, Sotelo’s body was found next to Lafayette Brook, a little more than three miles from the start of the trail where she was dropped off. Conservation officers estimate she had veered off the trail and succumbed to the elements sometime Sunday evening. She was seven to eight miles from where she was supposed to meet her mom.

Eastman said she likely passed away the first day amid single digit temperatures and 40 to 60 mile per hour blowing snow.

“It is strenuous to be up there,” Eastman said. “We have people coming down that can hardly walk by the time they get to the bottom.”

Eastman said while Sotelo had hiked before and taken courses on survival. However, he said, she was only wearing a jacket, exercise pants and sneakers Sunday and not equipped for the harsh conditions.

“Someone who had the ability to make fire and the right clothing, it is survivable,” Eastman said. “Someone without the ability to do that is grim.”

A medical examiner will determine the exact cause of death, but there has been no evidence of foul play, the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department confirmed.

Roughly 60 ground searchers representing multiple governmental agencies and search and rescue teams had been looking for Sotelo. Helicopters were also used in the search when weather permitted.

Vanderbilt said it is in touch with Sotelo’s family and have offered support.

Click to view their message to students which includes several counseling resources.