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Lost Man Is Home After Stranger’s Search, Rescue

TIMES STAFF WRITER

He had been beaten and robbed.

His feet were covered with blisters and he was badly sunburned. He had lost 20 pounds.

But 35-year-old Russell Lomax, a retarded man from Portland, Ore., who wandered away from a Hollywood bus tour last week, was reunited with his family Wednesday, thanks to the kindness and perseverance of a Boyle Heights man.

Martin Dominguez encountered Lomax at Evergreen Recreation Center on East 2nd Street. Then he saw a picture of the missing man on television and searched for two days until he found him again early Wednesday, still wandering near the center. Dominguez took him home and called police while Dominguez’s mother, Jessie, fed Lomax two bean-filled burritos.

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Lomax, who has the mental capacity of an 8-year-old, disappeared April 26 from the Gray Line tour after being put on a bus in Anaheim by a brother-in-law attending a convention in Orange County. The family, including relatives in Huntington Beach, set out on an exhaustive search, posting flyers all over the Hollywood area where Lomax had last been seen.

Family members said the reunion was emotional.

“He fell sobbing into my arms,” said John Himes, 48, Lomax’s brother-in-law and legal guardian who had brought him along on a business trip to Anaheim.

Himes and other family members expressed special appreciation to Dominguez, 30, who twice refused offers of money from Lomax’s family. Himes said he finally forced $200 into Dominguez’s hand.

“I didn’t do it for the money, man,” said Dominguez, an unemployed former city employee. “I’m just glad that he’s back with his family.”

Lomax was recuperating Thursday at his home in Oregon. All things considered, Lomax said, “I feel fine.”

"(But) I don’t want to go back to Los Angeles,” he added.

Having always dreamed of seeing the homes of Hollywood movie stars, Lomax readily agreed to accompany his brother-in-law to Southern California for a welding conference. Himes, a welding company salesman, arranged for Lomax to go on a Gray Line sightseeing tour of the stars’ homes while he attended the conference at the Anaheim Convention Center on April 26.

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Himes said he was assured by Gray Line officials that the tour did not stop.

“I explained to the driver that he had to be watched,” Himes said. “I gave him a $5 tip and he assured me there would be no problem.”

Lomax’s bus wound up stopping, however, at Mann’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood and all passengers were told to disembark. When the tour resumed 15 minutes later, Lomax was not on board.

Gray Line public relations officials did not return calls for comment Thursday.

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“Russ said he stood around for four or five hours waiting to be picked up,” Himes said. “Then he started walking back to the motel.”

Himes alerted Anaheim police that night after Lomax failed to return from the tour. Then Himes and other family members began a search.

Lomax, meanwhile, wandered the streets, carrying only a watch, a coin purse and a wallet containing $25 in cash. He was wearing a Mickey Mouse T-shirt.

“He is very trusting,” Himes said. “Some panhandlers were coming up to him for money and he opened his billfold and started giving out $1 bills to them. Then a big guy came up and pulled his ears back and twisted his arms. Then he took his sunglasses, his coin purse and his billfold.”

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On Sunday afternoon, Lomax was munching on a discarded taco at Evergreen Recreation Center just east of downtown Los Angeles when Dominguez struck up a brief conversation. Seeing the man’s picture on television news the next day, Dominguez set out to find him. Finally, Wednesday morning, he found him walking across the 1st Street bridge a few blocks away from Evergreen and brought him home for the police to pick up.

“I just pictured him out there, like an 8-year-old child walking around,” Dominguez said. “I thought this guy must be scared, not knowing anybody.”


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