Searchers Find Body Found Near Creek

By Lorel Kane
|  Thursday, Jan 7, 2010  |  Updated 2:48 PM PDT
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Searchers Find Body Found Near Creek

Search teams looking for a 21-year-old Santa Ana College baseball player who disappeared over the weekend found a body Tuesday near a creek.

James Wernke was last seen early Saturday afternoon, when he left the home of his girlfriend's mother in the 3000 block of Sunnywood Drive with the young woman's dog, said Fullerton police Sgt. M. Rowe.

Police said Tuesday that they believe the body is that of Wernke. They said he might have been swept away in Fullerton Creek after the weekend's rains.

Police said teams located a body that "generally matches" Wernke's description. The body was found just east of St. Jude Hospital.

Police are waiting for the cororner to confirm the identification.

Search and rescue equipment was used to recover the body, which was in an area that was difficult to access. The area is open to the public, but authorities described the creek as "trecherous" because of the rains.

Police on foot searched a golf course and a creek drainage and used helicopters to scan the neighborhood after Wernke was reported missing.

Wernke is described as 6 feet 4, 190 pounds and a good enough a pitcher to be drafted out of Troy High School in Fullerton by the Oakland A's, so it is unlikely he was kidnapped or attacked, said Fullerton police Lt. Alex Bastreri.

The young man also doesn't appear to have any enemies, he said, adding: "He gets along with everybody.''

Investigators doubt Wernke was depressed or suicidal, Bastreri said. He noted Wernke's relationship with his girlfriend, who is attending college in New York, had been strained lately but attributed it to nothing more than "the normal stress of a long-distance relationship.''

The only other stress in his life was finals week, Bastreri said.

"Right now we're thinking he slipped or something so we're hitting the trails," Bastreri said. "Or maybe he just wanted to get away."

Wernke took his girlfriend's dog out for a walk about 1:30 p.m. Saturday, returned about 2:15 p.m. and left again, with the dog, police said. The dog also is missing.

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