Crime witness who vanished on dog walk is found

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Associated Press

Posted on November 22, 2013 at 10:03 AM

Updated Friday, Nov 22 at 9:36 PM

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A man who vanished three days ago while walking his dog and thus failed to appear in court for a burglary case involving Nicolas Cage's ex-girlfriend was found Friday only blocks from a police station, authorities said.

Darwin Vela, 22, flagged down someone who called police at about 1:15 p.m. to report that the missing man was on Greene Avenue, about two blocks from the LAPD's Pacific Division station, Lt. Julian Melendez.

Vela was treated by paramedics but not hospitalized. He was interviewed for hours by detectives who asked him to write down information, said Melendez, commanding officer of detectives in the Southwest Division, which was handling the investigation.

Melendez said he did not immediately know the extent of Vela's injuries, but he had reassured the man's family members that he was fine.

"He's healthy enough to answer questions," Melendez said.

The lieutenant said he could not confirm nor deny reports that Vela claimed to have been kidnapped and held for three days.

Vela was last seen around 9 p.m. Tuesday when he took his 3-year-old chocolate Labrador, Koco, for a walk in South Los Angeles.

His fiancee, Kelly McLaren, said the dog later returned to their home with a 6-inch smear of blood on its leash.

No one heard from Vela, who was recently unemployed, and he had left his cellphone, wallet and keys at home, McLaren told The Associated Press.

"He wouldn't leave me. He wouldn't leave his mother or his dog," she said. "It's not like him at all."

Vela had been ordered to appear in court Thursday to testify at a preliminary hearing for Ricardo Orozco, who has been charged with burglary and receiving stolen property. Orozco is accused of breaking into the home of Christina Fulton, the former girlfriend of Nicolas Cage, in August and taking a computer and other items.

A police detective testified at a 40-minute hearing Thursday, saying Orozco, Vela and McLaren met with an attorney who represents Charlie Sheen at some point before the burglary and claimed there was a sex tape involving the "Anger Management" star, said Jane Robison, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County district attorney's office.

Sheen's attorney, Martin Singer, told the detective he wouldn't talk further to the trio because they hadn't produced the recording, Robison added.

At this point, "there's no evidence a recording exists," Robison said.

Police were investigating whether the target of the home theft was the purported Sheen sex tape.

McLaren declined to comment about the case against Orozco, a handyman whom the couple knew, and called the details about the Sheen sex tape "all speculation."

Singer said Friday he was contacted by police about the case but was asked not to discuss it publicly. Sheen's spokesman, Larry Solters, said he didn't know anything about the case.

McLaren appeared at the hearing but didn't testify, citing her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

A judge found there was enough evidence for Orozco to stand trial. If convicted, he faces 25 years to life in prison because he has two prior robbery convictions, authorities said.

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