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Brooke Naylor

Brooke Naylor is pictured in a photo provided by Illinois State Police.

HARRISBURG — Gallatin County Coroner Tony Cox said Saturday the death of 19-year-old Brooke Naylor was caused by hypothermia due to exposure.

After being missing less than a week, authorities reported Friday that the body of the missing Harrisburg woman had been found in rural Gallatin County. 

Naylor had been reported missing since Sunday and, according to a news release from Illinois State Police, a search was conducted after a car belonging to Naylor was found. 

Naylor’s friends and co-workers knew right away something was very wrong.

“She never did a no-call no-show, and we knew immediately something was wrong,” Kirstin Heberer, a co-worker at Morello's Restaurant and Catering said Saturday.

“We gave it a day hoping she would come home,” she said. But Naylor never did.

“At that point we decided she was gone,” co-worker and close friend Robin Wangler said.

The two had become close while working together, and eventually became friends outside of work, Wangler said. She said she was the one who made the call to report Naylor missing.

“It was devastation. I can’t even put it into words,” Wangler said when they all realized Naylor, the “quirky,” “smart” young woman they had all grown fond of was missing.

“The days that she was gone at work you could feel (it),” she said, adding that even customers commented on it.

Then the call came on Friday that Naylor had been found dead. At about 5:40 p.m., a member of the search team located Naylor's body, south of Pot Hole Lane, in rural Gallatin County. 

Few had words to describe the blow they felt hearing that news.

“I haven’t got the courage to call her mom since I found out,” Wangler said.

Searching for a why in the flurry of pain and in a vacuum of actual details, Aisha Brittain, a manager at Morello’s and a work friend of Naylor’s, could only come up with one thing.

“I just feel like she was at the wrong place at the wrong time,” she said.

After Saturday's autopsy, Cox's office declined to comment on other circumstances of the death until toxicology results are released in about four weeks.

Illinois State Police Public Relations Officer Sgt. Joey Watson said that further details were unavailable as the case is still being investigated.

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isaac.smith@thesouthern.com

618-351-5823

On Twitter: @ismithreports

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Isaac Smith is a reporter covering Jackson County.

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