LOMPOC. Calif. - A two-and-a-half-year-old cold case about a missing man from Lompoc may finally come to a close. Lompoc police say Zacharey Wilks' car was found on Friday off Highway 166 in Kern County.
“Getting a call saying the car he was driving was found crashed off 166 was rather shocking to us," said Wilks' father, David Wilks.
The California Highway Patrol says everything seems to point to a rollover crash. An officer tells our newsroom clothing was found inside, but no sign of Wilks. CHP was inspecting the car and the road on Tuesday to piece together what really happened.
“We didn't expect that as a result, we were hoping for the best and hoping to find him and the car intact," his dad said.
The then-28 year-old man left his Lompoc home the night of May 24, 2017. His father says he was visiting his uncle's house for a few weeks, “and never arrived at my brother's house in Las Vegas.”
The family describes Wilks as a free spirit, and they at first thought the young man may have decided to go off the grid.
"We thought he may have just been exploring life and taking an opportunity that he may have found.”
His dad says at the same time, they also feared something bad had happened to him.
An extensive search followed shortly after his disappearance.
“We had searched the area of 166 extensively with drones and manpower at the time he had gone missing.”
Lompoc PD says his cell phone pinged him near the area where his car would be ultimately found. Because it's an area with heavy brush, however, police say their efforts were that much more challenging.
“[His mother] and I, we need closure, and we need to find Zacharey," David Wilks said.
As officials work to find any signs of the missing man near the site of his crashed vehicle, his dad remembers his son as "a very mild, even tempered young man. He never had crosswords with anybody, he wasn't angry, he wasn't combative. He always wanted to be your friend.”
A search and rescue effort is planned near the area of Highway 166 and State Route 33 in Kern County this weekend. Lompoc PD will be assisting.