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Man's disappearance 'suspicious'; LAPD examining bloody leash

Los Angeles police said Friday they are examining the bloody leash of a dog who returned home from a walk this week without his owner, who mysteriously disappeared earlier this week. 

Darwin Vela, 22, was last seen about 9 p.m. Tuesday when he left his home in the 2900 block of South Redondo Boulevard to walk his dog, police said. The 90-pound chocolate Labrador retriever came back alone, Vela's fiancee told The Times, and had blood on his leash.

LAPD Deputy Chief Kirk Albanese cautioned that even though the blood on the leash "sounds suspicious," it is too early to draw conclusions "until we know more about the totality of the circumstances surrounding the leash."

"Is it fresh blood? Has it been there for a long time? ... Is it the dog's blood? Is it his blood? There's a lot of unanswered questions," he said. "It's something we're looking at."

Vela's fiancee, Kelly McLaren, said the couple was supposed to testify Thursday in a criminal case involving a burglary at the home of actor Nicolas Cage's ex-girlfriend. Albanese said detectives are "looking at everything associated" with the missing man "and his movements before and his lifestyle."

"It's a missing persons case under suspicious circumstances," Albanese said. "We're working with detectives at Southwest and Missings Persons and looking at all possibilities."

Police searched the area near the couple's home on Tuesday night, McLaren said, and although a bloodhound briefly traced his scent, police found no sign of Vela. McLaren said he left his cellphone, wallet and keys at home, and has not contacted friends or family.

McLaren said she had skipped the walk that night so she could shower.

"When I came out, I heard the dog crying," McLaren said. "He was outside alone and Darwin wasn't there."

The Lab was "cowering," McLaren said. When she noticed the blood on his leash, she called 911 "right away."

McLaren said her fiance has never disappeared without notice and is "not the kind of person to do that now." He's especially close to his mother, who also lives in Los Angeles, she said.

"He wouldn't. Even if he could somehow leave me -- which he wouldn't, we're going to get married, we're starting a family -- he would never, ever leave his mother," McLaren said.

Police described Vela as Latino with black hair and brown eyes, about 5-feet-6 and 160 pounds. He was last seen wearing a dark green beanie, a black shirt and blue jeans.

Anyone with information about his whereabouts was asked to call detectives at (213) 996-1800 or (877) 527-3247. Anonymous tips can be submitted by calling Crime Stoppers at (800) 222-8477 or by texting 274637.


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