Story Summary

Reported Disappearance Takes Strange Turn

After a woman reported her fiance missing, saying he had taken their dog for a walk but the animal returned with a bloodied leash, police asked for help finding Darwin Vela. His fiancee, Kelly McLaren, said she was worried because the two had been slated to testify in a burglary case in which actor Nicolas Cage’s ex-girlfriend was the victim. Vela turned up a few days later, bruised. On Monday, Nov. 25, 2013, McLaren and Vela were taken into custody on suspicion of burglary in the same case in which they had been set to testify.

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A home repairman pleaded no contest Wednesday to allegations he stole and pawned an $8,000 Rolex Submariner watch from the Beverly Grove house of actor Nicolas Cage’s ex-girlfriend.

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Nicholas Cage and Christina Fulton appear in a photo from when they were dating.

The watch belonged to Christina Fulton’s son, and prosecutors said it was taken from his bedroom last April on a day when 39-year-old Ricardo Orozco was working there. Orozco is accused of pawning the watch the next day.

Los Angeles police matched the watch to the one stolen through receipts and a serial number, prosecutors said.

Orozco, who was facing a life sentence for a third-strike conviction, is instead expected to serve 32 months in prison under a plea agreement with the L.A. County district attorney’s office.

Click here to read the full story on LATimes.com.

A Los Angeles couple who were arrested after a strange disappearance, alleged kidnapping and involvement in a high-profile robbery will not be charged with any crime, authorities announced Thursday.

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Kelly McLaren, left, and Darwin Vela will not be charged in a burglary at the home of their employer, Christina Fulton, Nicolas Cage’s ex-girlfriend. (Credit: left, KTLA; right, family photo)

There was not sufficient evidence to prosecute Darwin Vela and his girlfriend Kelly McLaren with their alleged involvement in a burglary from the home of actor Nicolas Cage’s ex-girlfriend, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office announced.

The pair was in the spotlight last fall after Vela disappeared Nov. 19 and was missing for several days. Vela had gone to walk the couple’s dog, which had returned to their West Adams home alone, trailing a bloody leash, McLaren said.

Los Angeles police announced a call for help finding Vela, who turned up several days later and said he had been kidnapped. The disappearance was a hoax, police said.

While Vela, 23, was missing, he and McLaren, 24, had both been scheduled to testify in a criminal proceeding about a burglary from the home of Christina Fulton, Cage’s ex-girlfriend, who had employed the couple as well as a man named Richard Orozco.

Orozco had been charged in the Aug. 25 burglary. After Vela’s disappearance, he and McLaren were arrested Nov. 25 on suspicion of involvement in the burglary.

A prosecutor’s memo, filed Dec. 20 by Deputy District Attorney Deborah Kranze and released Thursday, stated that the evidence related to McLaren’s and Vela’s alleged involvement in the burglary was insufficient.

In a jury trial, prosecutors would be forced to use the couple’s own statements, trying to convince jurors that some of what they said was true while other parts were false, the memo stated.

Orozco, a convicted felon, had asked the pair to drive them to Fulton’s house, which he allegedly burglarized, according to the memo.

Orozco, McLaren and Vela had all met with an attorney for Charlie Sheen, claiming they knew of a sex tape involving the actor, a Los Angeles Police Department detective had testified in court. The tape, which drew tabloid attention to the case, never materialized, a spokeswoman for the DA’s office had told The Los Angeles Times.

Orozco, 39, remained Thursday at the Twin Towers Correction Facility in downtown L.A. on $1 million bail; he was due in court Jan. 15, according to the sheriff’s online inmate database.

A Los Angeles couple who were scheduled to testify in a high-profile burglary case — then were both arrested on suspicion of burglary in that case following the man’s strange disappearance — were out of bail Tuesday, as police said their tale was a hoax.

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Kelly McLaren, left, spoke with KTLA about her fiancee, Darwin Vela, who was reported missing last week. Vela, seen in a photo provided by McLaren, was discovered by police several days later, and the pair were taken into custody.

The strange case, involving the names of multiple celebrities, has taken many unexpected turns in the past week.

Darwin Vela, 22, was reported missing after his 24-year-old fiancee Kelly McLaren said he vanished while walking his dog on the evening of Nov. 19. The animal returned alone to the couple’s West Adams home with a bloody leash, McLaren said, and Vela’s family and the Los Angeles Police Department officials asked for the public’s help finding the missing man.

Then, on Friday afternoon, Vela turned up near Marina del Rey and was taken to an LAPD station. He said he had been kidnapped by three men and held prisoner, according to police.

He was bruised but fine, police told McLaren and Vela’s mother at the time.

Investigators believe the story was a hoax, police Cmdr. Andrew Smith said Tuesday.

McLaren and Vela had been scheduled to testify Thursday against Ricardo Orozco, a man suspected of burglarizing the home of actor Nicolas Cage’s ex-girlfriend Christina Fulton.

McLaren had said she and her fiance were witnesses to the crime, refusing to comment on reports that they were involved in the alleged burglary.

McLaren appeared in court but refused to testify, asserting her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, court records show.

At the hearing, a police detective said Orozco, Vela and McLaren met before the burglary with an attorney representing Charlie Sheen, saying they knew of a sex tape involving the actor, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The threesome did not have the tape, and it’s not clear if it actually exists, a Los Angeles Superior Court spokeswoman told The Times.

Then, on Monday, both McLaren and Vela were arrested on suspicion of burglary, in connection with the Orozco case, according to police.

They were held on $20,000 bail, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department inmate locator website.

They posted bond and were released from custody just before 1 a.m. Tuesday, the inmate website showed.

On Tuesday, Kelly McLaren’s mother Linda McLaren told KTLA that her daughter, Vela and Orozco were all employed by Fulton, Cage’s ex-girlfriend.

“They all worked for this person, Christina Fulton,” Linda McLaren told KTLA. “Part of Darwin’s and Kelly’s duties were to give rides to … Ricardo, and to other people, various people, and to run errands.”

The couple were scheduled to appear in court Dec. 16.

Orozco, 39, was arrested Oct. 22 and was being held in the Twin Towers Correctional Facility in downtown L.A. on $1 million bail, inmate records showed. He was slated to next appear in court on Dec. 5.

KTLA’s Christina Pascucci and Kacey Montoya contributed to this report.

A Los Angeles couple were arrested in connection with a high-profile burglary Monday, just days after the man’s fiancee reported him missing saying she found his dog with a bloodied leash.

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Kelly McLaren, left, spoke with KTLA about her fiancee, Darwin Vela, who was reported missing after last being seen Nov. 19, 2013. Vela, seen in a photo provided by McLaren, was discovered by police several days later, and the pair were taken into custody Monday, Nov. 25, 2013.

Kelly McLaren reported her fiance Darwin Vela missing last week, saying the 22-year-old vanished while walking his dog.  The two were scheduled to testify against Ricardo Orozco, a man suspected of burglarizing the home of actor Nicholas Cage’s ex-girlfriend.

On Monday, they were both arrested by detectives with the LAPD Wilshire Division on suspicion of burglary in connection with that case, according to police.

They were each being held on $20,000 bail, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department inmate locator website.

While Vela was missing, McLaren told KTLA she believed his disappearance was linked to their upcoming testimony in the burglary case.

“We were witnesses to … a crime,” McLaren said.

When Vela was located on Friday he told investigators he had been kidnapped by three men wearing black clothing and black gloves and taken to a warehouse where he was beaten, an LAPD source confirmed to KTLA.

During a Thursday preliminary hearing in Orozco’s case, a detective said that one of the items stolen was computer with a video of actor Charlie Sheen, TMZ reported. The video is a “sex tape,” the website stated, citing “law enforcement sources.”

On Friday, McLaren would not comment on the specifics of TMZ’s reporting.

“I am staying away from TMZ because I do not the emotional strength or capacity right now to even try and understand what that is about,” McLaren said Friday. “They did quote him as a suspect, which is not true … We were subpoenaed as witnesses, I can say that, but … that is the extent of our involvement.”

Anyone with information was asked to call detectives at 213-996-1800 or 877-527-3247.

Melissa Pamer contributed to this report.

A missing 22-year-old Los Angeles man whose fiancee described him as a witness in a high-profile criminal case was found Friday afternoon, police and his family said.

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Darwin Vela was last seen leaving his home in the 2900 block of South Redondo Boulevard about 9 p.m. Nov. 19, 2013. He’s seen in a photo released by the Los Angeles Police Department, left, and one provided by fiancee Kelly McLaren.

Darwin Vela had last been seen at home in the 2900 block of South Redondo Boulevard (map) in the West Adams neighborhood. He told his fiancee he was going out to walk their chocolate lab.

Some 15 minutes later, the dog returned alone with what fiancee Kelly McLaren said appeared to be blood on its leash.

On Friday afternoon, Vela called his mother and said he was at a Los Angeles Police Department station, McLaren said.

Police confirmed that Vela had been located at 1:30 p.m. within LAPD’s Pacific Division, stating in a news release that “investigators are now going through the process of determining what happened to him.”

An officer at the department’s Pacific Station in the Del Rey neighborhood told McLaren and Vela’s mother that the young man was “bruised” but fine.

Vela told investigators he was kidnapped by three men wearing black clothing and black gloves and taken to a warehouse where he was beaten, an LAPD source confirmed to KTLA.

Earlier Friday, LAPD Deputy Chief Kirk Albanese told the Los Angeles Times it was “too early to draw conclusions” about the bloody leash, even though it may sound “suspicious.”

“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.”

Investigators were looking at Vela’s movements before disappearing and “his lifestyle,” The Times reported.

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Kelly McLaren is seen with Darwin Vela’s dog two days after Vela disappeared. (Credit: KTLA)

Vela was scheduled to testify against a suspected burglar who broke into the home owned by actor Nicolas Cage’s ex-girlfriend, McLaren said. She believes Vela’s disappearance is linked to that upcoming testimony.

“We were witnesses to … a crime,” McLaren said.

During a Thursday preliminary hearing in the case of Ricardo Orozco, accused of breaking into the home of Cage’s ex-girlfriend Christina Fulton, a detective said that one of the items stolen was computer with a video of actor Charlie Sheen, TMZ reported. The video is a “sex tape,” the website stated, citing “law enforcement sources.”

On Friday, McLaren would not comment on the specifics of TMZ’s reporting.

“I am staying away from TMZ because I do not the emotional strength or capacity right now to even try and understand what that is about,” McLaren said Friday. “They did quote him as a suspect, which is not true … We were subpoenaed as witnesses, I can say that, but … that is the extent of our involvement.”

Before he vanished, Vela’s keys and wallet were left at the home, McLaren said. It’s not like him to disappear, she said.

Vela’s family and Los Angeles Police Department’s Missing Person’s Unit detectives are asking for help finding him.

Vela was described as a Hispanic male with black hair and brown eyes, 5 feet 6 inches tall and weighing around 160 pounds. He was last seen wearing a dark green beanie, black shirt and blue jeans.

He has the word “freedom” tattooed on his forearm, McLaren said.

Anyone with information about Darwin is asked to contact Detective Merrill at 213-996-1800 or RACR, 213-484-6700.

During non-business hours or on weekends, calls should be directed to 877-527-3247. Those wishing to remain anonymous should call Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.  Tipsters may also contact Crime Stoppers by texting to phone number 274637 (C-R-I-M-E-S on most keypads) with a cellphone, beginning with the letters “LAPD.”  Tipsters may also go to www.LAPDOnline.org  click on “webtips” and follow the prompts.

KTLA’s Kacey Montoya and Kimberly Cheng contributed to this report.

Police and family members were asking for the public’s help Thursday in locating a 22-year-old man who disappeared while walking his dog.

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Darwin Vela was last seen leaving his home in the 2900 block of South Redondo Boulevard about 9 p.m. Tuesday.  (Credit: LAPD)

Darwin Vela was last seen leaving his home in the 2900 block of South Redondo Boulevard about 9 p.m. on Tuesday, according to a news release from the Los Angeles Police Department.

A short time later police said the dog returned alone.

Vela’s girlfriend, Kelly McLaren, noticed blood on the dog’s leash and called 911.

Vela has never gone missing before and his family and friends are very concerned for his safety, police said.

McLaren fears Vela’s disappearance could be linked to a high profile case the couple is involved in.

“We were witnesses to a crime and we were supposed to testify today,” McLaren said.

McLaren told KTLA they were supposed to testify against the man suspected of burglarizing the home of actor Nicholas Cage’s ex-girlfriend.

Vela is described as a Hispanic man with black hair and brown eyes. He stands 5 feet 6 inches tall and weighs around 160 pounds. He was last seen wearing a dark green beanie, black shirt and blue jeans.

Anyone with information 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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