Man missing after dog returns with bloody leash

Darwin Vela, 22, disappeared Tuesday night while walking his dog, police said. (Photo courtesy of Kelly McLaren)
Darwin Vela, 22, disappeared Tuesday night while walking his dog, police said. (Photo courtesy of Kelly McLaren)

LOS ANGELES (AP) - A key witness failed to show up in a burglary case involving Nicolas Cage's ex-girlfriend because he vanished earlier this week after going on a walk with his dog, authorities said Friday. The animal returned home without his owner - but with a leash smeared with blood.
Darwin Vela, 22, 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.
Vela was 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 that Orozco, Vela and the missing man's fiance, Kelly 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.
Singer didn't immediately return a call seeking comment. 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.
She told The Associated Press, however, that she believes the case against Orozco may have to do something with her boyfriend's disappearance.
"We are witnesses and the only things that are holding the case together," McLaren said. "If he was taken, maybe it was the intent to take us both."
A judge found there was enough evidence for Orozco to stand trial.  He faces 25 years to life in prison because he has two prior robbery convictions, authorities said.
McLaren said she skipped the walk Tuesday night so she could shower but later went to the front door and found the dog crying and cowering alone. She was startled when she said she saw a six-inch smear of blood on the dog's leash.
"It looked like the leash had been pulled through his hand," she said.
McLaren said she immediately called 911 and has since been told by police that the blood is human. She said investigators are now trying to determine if the blood is Vela's.
She declined to comment about the case against Orozco, a handyman who the couple knew, and called the details about the Sheen sex tape "all speculation."
McLaren said no one has heard from Vela, who was recently unemployed, and his cell phone, wallet and keys were left at his home.
"He wouldn't leave me, he wouldn't leave his mother or his dog," she said. "It's not like him at all."

(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)