Overview of Robert Vendrick
Robert Lee Vendrick and Gary A. Shawkey set sail from Dana Point Harbor in Orange County, California on February 15, 2008, on their 23-foot boat, the Odyssey. Vendrick, who had no sailing experience, had wired $60,000 to an account in the Laguna Niguel Wells Fargo Bank to secure a computer programming contract. Shawkey had convinced him to come to California so they could get a lucrative federal government contract.
Shawkey told others they were going to San Clemente Island to meet with high-placed government officials and sign papers for the contract. Vendrick's wife reported him missing when he failed to make his flight home on February 18, and police found his belongings behind in his room at the Dana Point Marina Inn. His rented Chrysler PT Cruiser was located in the harbor parking lot.
Shawkey returned to shore on February 19, alone, claiming Vendrick changed his mind about the investment while on the water, and he returned Vendrick to Dana Point Harbor and sailed away alone. Police impounded the Odyssey and found that its anchor and chain had been replaced. The boat's engine had also been replaced. Shawkey claimed he lost the old anchor and chain at sea, and bought a new one when he arrived back onshore.
In February 2009, while still incarcerated in Virginia on unrelated charges of check-kiting, Shawkey was charged with Vendrick's murder. Shawkey claimed he went looking for Vendrick in Florida and Mexico and found him in Tijuana, Mexico, but Vendrick refused to return to the United States with him.
In June 2011, Shawkey was tried for Vendrick's murder, 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. Foul play is suspected in his case due to the circumstances involved.