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Missing witness in celebrity burglary case found

Darwin Vela, a 22-year-old missing Los Angeles man, has been found and was being questioned by police, authorities said.
November 22, 2013 11:11:18 AM PST
A 22-year-old missing Los Angeles man has been found and was being questioned by police. He disappeared two days before he was supposed to be a witness in a celebrity burglary case.

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.

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

Darwin Vela was last seen Tuesday around 9 p.m. when he left his home on the 2900 block of South Redondo Boulevard in the West Adams District of Los Angeles to walk his dog. Fiancee Kelly McLaren said about 20 minutes later, the black Labrador came back without him.

"He was crying, and Darwin wasn't anywhere. So I took the leash, and I noticed on the leash there was a thumb print of blood and a drag mark, where it looked like the leash had been pulled from his arm," she said.

Police say Vela was located around 1:30 p.m. Friday in LAPD's Pacific Division.

McLaren says she and Vela were both scheduled to testify as witnesses in a criminal case against Ricardo Orozco, who is accused of stealing four computers, a DVD player and a Rolex watch that belonged to Weston Cage, actor Nicolas Cage's son. A source close to the case tells Eyewitness News that one of the items stolen is a Charlie Sheen sex tape.

The D.A.'s office confirmed Vela was supposed to testify for the prosecution Thursday at a preliminary hearing but did not appear in court. Because he did not appear, a $20,000 arrest warrant was issued for him by the court. McLaren was in court but asserted her Fifth Amendment right at the advice of her counsel.

The burglary happened on Aug. 25, and Orozco was arrested on Oct. 23. Orozco is being held on $1 million bail because of allegations of a three-strike crime. He is scheduled to be arraigned on Dec. 15.

Anyone with information is urged to call (877) LAPD-24-7.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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