California College Athlete James Wernke Missing After Walk With Dog

California College Athlete James Wernke Missing After Walk With DogCourtesy Kristina Wernke
Police in souther California say they have no leads in the disappearance of a California college athlete who vanished days before a trip home for the holidays. James Wernke, 21, was last seen in Fullerton, Calif., Saturday afternoon as he leashed up his girlfriend's mother's Labrador retriever for a walk. Neither he nor the dog have been seen since.

Police in southern California say they have no leads in the disappearance of a California college athlete who vanished days before a trip home for the holidays.

James Wernke, 21, was last seen in Fullerton, Calif., Saturday afternoon as he leashed up a friend's Labrador retriever for a walk. Neither he nor the dog have been seen since.

"Not one lead," Fullerton Police Lt. Alex Bastreri said. "I wish we did."

Video: Family searches for they missing college-aged son.Play
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One of the few pieces of information authorities have to work with, he said, is that disappearing without a trace is extremely out of character for Wernke.

"He's always happy, he's always smiling," Sheri Wernke told ABCNews.com, her voice cracking at times as she spoke about her son. "So this is just the most bizarre thing."

Wernke, who flew in from Colorado on Sunday along with her husband, said her family is very close, talking to each other several times a day. For even a day to go by without word from James is extremely unusual, she said.

"That's what police were saying, it just doesn't fit any profile" of a missing person, Sheri Wernke said.

Family and friends papered the Fullerton area with 1,500 flyers Sunday, she said, and bloodhounds were sent out to track both Wernke and Kealie. Sheri Wernke said the bloodhounds tracked them to a 7-11 store about a mile away before losing the scent along a major road.

"The only thing we can think of that makes any sense ... did he fall in the rain and hit his head?" Wernke said.

Bastreri said search teams are out on foot and on all-terrain vehicles on the many horse trails in the area and are paying close attention to shrubbery or wooded areas where Wernke may have fallen and laid undetected.

They are also hoping to review the tapes from the 7-11 store by the end of the day in hopes Wernke will show up in some of the frames.

"It's a shot in the dark," Bastreri said.

Wernke went to the gym around 11:30 a.m. on Saturday and talked to his mother around 1 p.m. Wernke, who lived about 20 minutes away from Fullerton in Orange, was a regular presence on weekend's at the home of Diana Bock, his girlfriend's mother, to do laundry and do homework.

Wernke and Sami Bock, a student at Long Island University in New York, were high school sweethearts who had been dating for about three years.

"They were so cute," Diana Bock said. "They're in constant communication. They text 24/7."

Around 2 p.m. Saturday Wernke set off with Bock's 2-year-old Labrador retriever Kealie. Sheri Wernke said it was raining and, they believe, he was clad only in shorts, a T-shirt and possibly flip-flops.

Bastreri said police were told that Wernke returned to Bock's house shortly after leaving and then took off again around 2:15 p.m., presumably with Kealie.

Leaving his wallet, license and his car at Bock's home, Wernke was only carrying his cell phone, which now seems to have died or been turned off, his mother said, preventing police from tracking the GPS signal.

His last known communication was a text message to his best friend at 1:44 p.m. Wernke said the friend sent him a message back, but James Wernke never responded.

Diana Bock said she began to worry after Wernke and the dogy had been gone for about three hours. She called her daughter Sami in New York to see if she had heard from Wernke , but she hadn't. After speaking with Sheri Wernke and waiting for several hours wondering if James Wernke had maybe taken Kealie to visit a friend, Bock called police around midnight.

"By 12, I just couldn't take it anymore," Bock said.

Police, Family Search for Missing College Student James Wernke

Wernke, a sophomore nursing major, is the pitcher for the Santa Ana College baseball team. According to the school's athletics Web site, Wernke was a two-year high school letter winner in baseball. He had been courted by the Oakland A's, Sheri Wernke said, but chose to go to college when his draft pick wasn't high enough.

Police and search teams, she said, are checking not only area trails Wernke was known to take Kealie running on, but also nearby golf courses.

At 6'4" and about 190 pounds, police are confident that Wernke wouldn't be an easy person to attack.

"He's a big guy," Bastreri said. "I don't think anybody would try to abduct him or assault him."

Wernke did have a minor fight on Friday with his girlfriend, who is away at school in New York, but Sheri Wernke said he didn't seem particularly upset about it when they talked Saturday.

Bock said the two had argued over the amount of time Sami had been home, but that the two were looking forward to spending time together when Sami came home for Christmas break on Thursday and then again for three weeks in January before the two headed back to class.

Finals were coming up this week, but he looking foward to transfering to Long Beach State University next year to pitch for the school's baseball team.

"I think he's smart enough to know he's got to take them to get to Long Beach and that's what he wants to do," Sheri Wernke said.

Once finals were over, both James Wernke and his older sister Kristina had planned to hop a flight to Colorado early next week to spend Christmas with their parents.

"I have no idea," Sheri Wernke said. "I can only speculate and we don't really want to do that."

Anyone with information is asked to call Fullerton police at 714-738-6800.