Sheriff's deputies and bloodhounds searched the foothills of south Orange County on Friday for a 56-year-old man missing since Tuesday.
Three days without contact, freezing overnight temperatures and the area's mountain lion population -- one mauled a biker to death there nearly three years ago -- have caused authorities to fear the worst.
"As more time goes on, the situation gets grimmer," said Jim Amormino, a spokesman for the Orange County Sheriff's Department. "I hope I'm wrong, [but] it adds up to disaster."
David Boone, a father of four, was last seen by son Davis, 17, about 2 p.m. Tuesday, when, authorities believe, he may have taken a stroll in the hillsides near their Foothill Ranch home near Lake Forest. Terrie Boone, David Boone's wife, from whom he has been separated for more than two years, said she stopped by his house about 6:30 p.m. after she was unable to reach him by phone. The house was dark, she said, and the family grew increasingly concerned.
"By Tuesday night," she said, "the alarm went up. By that time it was dark; we were all here in the apartment waiting for him to call. And he did not."
The family called police early Wednesday to file a missing-persons report.
Boone left no note. His car, mountain bike and wallet were all in the house, leading the family to speculate that he may have gone hiking in Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park, a favorite spot. In the pre-dawn hours Wednesday, Boone's four sons, ages 17 to 27, got on their mountain bikes and combed the trails searching for him, Terrie Boone said.
"We [initially] thought, 'Maybe he's under stress and needed to get away,' " Amormino said, explaining why the Sheriff's Department didn't get involved until Friday. "We get many calls a day like that, quite honestly. [But] the more we kept talking to the wife ... and the kids, we thought, 'Wow, he's had two days to come home.' Usually in those situations, it's one, two, three days and they come back home or make contact."
Friday afternoon, about 10 deputies and reserve deputies searched Whiting Ranch on foot while a helicopter assisted from the air. Two bloodhounds tracked Boone's scent from his home to four miles into the park, Amormino said.
But Boone's almost daily sojourns there made it impossible to know if the scent was from the day he went missing, Amormino said. The search was called off at dusk Friday and was expected to resume this morning with bloodhounds and search-and-rescue personnel, he added.
Meanwhile, the Boone family has taken matters into its own hands, visiting the local coffee shops he frequents and checking his e-mail. So far, Terrie Boone said, they have found nothing out of the ordinary.
He's "a pretty straight-arrow guy with no unusual habits," she said. "He loves his boys and is close to all of them. That's why this worries us and that's why it seems so uncharacteristic of him."
Boone is a golf club designer who has made clubs for pros Ernie Els and Fred Couples.
He is white, 6 foot 3, 230 pounds with gray hair and blue eyes. Anyone with information is asked to call the Sheriff's Department at (714) 647-7055 during regular business hours or at (714) 628-7170 after hours.