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Missing witness case: Darwin Vela says he hid for 3 days after attack

Darwin Vela, 22, is seen in this undated file photo.
November 23, 2013 12:00:00 AM PST
A 22-year-old key witness in a burglary case who went missing for three days - leaving behind his dog and bloody leash - says he hid after strangers attacked him.

Darwin Vela disappeared from Los Angeles two days before he was supposed to be a witness in a celebrity burglary case.

Police found Vela around 1:15 p.m. Friday, two blocks away from the LAPD's Pacific Division station. He was bruised, scraped and covered in red marks.

"He looked like he had been in a fight," Lt. Julian Melendez said.

His 3-year-old black Labrador, Koco, had returned home without him on Tuesday, dragging a bloody leash.

Vela claims he was walking his dog near the 2900 block of South Redondo Boulevard in the West Adams District of Los Angeles when three men attacked him. He says he ran away when one pulled a gun and then hid for three days.

"He ran from there and was so afraid he didn't return home," Melendez said. "He has pretty much been walking the streets for the last three days.

Vela missed a court appearance Thursday. He was scheduled to testify as a witness in a criminal case against Ricardo Orozco, who is charged with burglarizing the home of Christina Fulton, Nicolas Cage's ex-girlfriend.

His fianc?, identified as Kelly McLaren, refused to testify in court Thursday, citing her Fifth Amendment right.

If the attack on Vela did take place, "there's a strong possibility that it was tied to the court case," Melendez said.

Vela was unable to give any description of the men except that they wore dark clothing and left in a dark car. Officials said he also told different versions of what happened during hours of questioning by detectives.

The burglary occurred 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.

Police are investigating the claims. Anyone with information was urged to contact police at (877) LAPD-24-7.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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