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Missing man's family sees suspect in court

March 30, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
A Virginia man awaits his day in court to face justice. He's accused of murdering his business partner, Robert Vendrick, during a sailing trip. But a body has never been found.The victim from Phoenix mysteriously disappeared following a sailing trip. Investigators were puzzled until they uncovered a series of clues that pointed at their suspect.

It was an emotional day for the Robert Vendrick's family. They came to court specifically to see the defendant in person for the first time since losing their loved one last year.

"I don't feel vindictiveness, I just feel sad," said Fred Vendrick, Robert's brother.

Fred Vendrick wanted to see the man accused of killing his older brother, Robert, more than a year ago. A court order has banned showing any images of the 45-year-old defendant during the hearing.

Gary Shawkey was extradited from Virginia to Orange County last week, charged with murdering his 71-year-old business partner. Prosecutors allege he lured Vendrick from Phoenix to Dana Point to take a boat ride in February 2008, having him believe he was about to secure a secret government contract.

"What we intend to prove in court is he took him on a boat and threw him overboard," said Ebrahim Baytieh, Orange County Senior Deputy District Attorney.

The boat turned up in Long Beach days later, but Vendrick has not been seen since.

Vendrick's clothes, medication and identification were left behind in a hotel room. Investigators say the boat's original motor, anchor and chain are also missing.

Prosecutors allege Shawkey stole more than a million dollars from Vendrick over the years, promising high returns on investments that didn't actually exist. Investigators say Shawkey allegedly convinced the retiree to take part in one last venture, to develop computer software for the government.

They were to sail to San Clemente Island to meet with federal agents. Fred and Bob Vendrick invested $100,000 to seal the deal. Authorities say Shawkey told them Vendrick changed his mind and dropped him off at a dock.

"It got to a point where Mr. Vendrick was not very happy with the fact that he wasn't getting all of his money back," said Baytieh.

Shawkey, a motivational speaker, has been accused of bilking other investors across the U.S. out of millions of dollars. Months after Vendrick vanished, Shawkey himself disappeared from a motel in Orange County in a very similar way, leaving behind essential items. Shawkey was eventually located in Mexico.

"Mostly I'd like to know how it happened and why he did it," said Fred Vendrick Monday.

Gary Shawkey was serving time in jail in Virginia for unrelated theft charges when he was arrested for Vendrick's murder. He is being held in Orange County without bail awaiting his next court appearance next month.


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