Robert Lee Vendrick

Vendrick, circa 2008; Gary Shawkey

  • Missing Since 02/15/2008
  • Missing From Orange County, California
  • Classification Endangered Missing
  • Sex Male
  • Race White
  • Date of Birth 01/30/1937 (87)
  • Age 71 years old
  • Height and Weight 6'0, 180 pounds
  • Medical Conditions Vendrick suffers from diabetes and requires medication that he doesn't have with him.
  • Distinguishing Characteristics Caucasian male. Graying brown hair, hazel eyes.

Details of Disappearance

Vendrick and another man, Gary A. Shawkey, set sail out of Dana Point Harbor in Orange County, California between 7:00 and 8:00 a.m. on February 15, 2008. They were sailing their 23-foot boat, the Odyssey, which they had purchased the day before.

Shawkey told others he and Vendrick were going to go to San Clemente Island, meet some highly placed government officials and sign papers for a computer programming contract. A photograph of him is posted with this case summary.

Vendrick is from Phoenix, Arizona. Shawkey had convinced him to come to California so they could get a lucrative federal government contract. He said Vendrick had to have $100,000 in an account in the Laguna Niguel Wells Fargo Bank to secure the deal. Vendrick wired $60,000 to the account and convinced his brother to wire the remaining $40,000, but he was reluctant to invest any more money.

The bank account was in Shawkey's name. Shawkey, who is from Virginia, ran several online companies with his wife, was a motivational speaker and co-authored a motivational autobiography. Many people complain he swindled them.

Vendrick's wife reported him as a missing person when he didn't make his flight home on February 18. Police found all his belongings, including his suitcase, laptop computer and diabetes medication, behind in his room at the Dana Point Marina Inn. His rented Chrysler PT Cruiser was located in the Dana Point Harbor parking lot.

Shawkey returned to shore on February 19, without Vendrick. He called the Long Beach Police Department at 8:00 p.m. and said he wanted to talk. He was questioned and then released without charge.

Shawkey said Vendrick changed his mind about the investment while they were out on the water, and that he returned Vendrick to Dana Point Harbor and sailed away alone. Police impounded the Odyssey and examined it for clues, and discovered its anchor and chain had been replaced.

Shawkey said he lost the old anchor and chain at sea, and bought a new one when he arrived back onshore a few days later. Divers in the ocean found an anchor and parts of a chain, but it hasn't been confirmed that they were from the Odyssey's.

The boat's engine had also been replaced. Shawkey said the engine hadn't been working properly and he replaced it on February 15, abandoning the old one on a fueling dock. The old one hasn't been found.

Shawkey later claimed he went looking for Vendrick in Florida and Mexico. He said he found Vendrick in Tijuana, Mexico but Vendrick refused to come back to the United States with him.

Shawkey was imprisoned in Virginia after Vendrick's disappearance on unrelated charges of check-kiting. In February 2009, while still incarcerated in Virginia, he was charged with Vendrick's murder. He was tried in June 2011, and his defense suggested Vendrick had good reasons to walk out of his life and may not even be dead.

Shawkey was convicted and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

An extensive search of the ocean between Dana Point and San Clemente Island turned up no sign of Vendrick. He has no sailing experience. Foul play is suspected in his case due to the circumstances involved.

Updated 3 times since October 12, 2004. Last updated April 1, 2014; details of disappearance updated.