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Local News

After 12 Days, Search Continues for Missing Lompoc Man

Zacharey Willks, 27, disappeared while driving between Central Coast and Las Vegas with cell phone ping detected by tower off Highway 166

Family, friends and strangers have launched a two-state search for Zacharey Taylor Wilks, 27, of Lompoc, who disappeared 12 days ago en route to Las Vegas. Click to view larger
Family, friends and strangers have launched a two-state search for Zacharey Taylor Wilks, 27, of Lompoc, who disappeared 12 days ago en route to Las Vegas. (Contributed photo)

Family, friends and strangers have launched a two-state search for a Lompoc man who disappeared 12 days ago en route to Las Vegas. 

Zacharey Taylor Wilks, 27, left Lompoc late May 24 while driving a black 1994 Honda Civic.

“This young man has fallen off the face of the Earth,” his mother, Elizabeth Wilks, said, her voice filled with emotion.

Lompoc police Sgt. Kevin Martin said the agency is treating the disappearance as a missing-person case.

A ping on his cellphone revealed he was on Highway 166 at a time consistent with leaving Lompoc and traveling to Las Vegas, Martin said. 

“At this point, there have been no other leads, but detectives are still investigating,” Martin said. 

He added there have been no sightings of Wilks, and Lompoc police have not been notified of a crash in another jurisdiction since issuing the missing-person alert.

Wilks had worked as a handyman in Lompoc, and was headed to work on his uncle’s houseboat on Lake Powell. 

He expected to arrive early and planned to stop at a casino before meeting up with his aunt and uncle.

A posted displays information about Zacharey Taylor Wilks, 27, of Lompoc, who disappeared 12 days ago en route to Las Vegas. Click to view larger
A posted displays information about Zacharey Taylor Wilks, 27, of Lompoc, who disappeared 12 days ago en route to Las Vegas. (Contributed photo)

“He was excited to go,” his mother said. “He was going on vacation. He was going to go work, but working on the houseboat is vacation, too.”

By May 26, Zacharey Wilks' brother, Andrew, had filed a missing-person report, and friends began spreading news of his disappearance on social media, including creating a Facebook page, Find Zacharey Wilks.

As time went on, the family hired a private contractor to search areas off Highway 166 using a camera-equipped drone due to the cell-phone alert involving a tower on McPherson Peak. 

That means the phone was within a 10,000 meter radius, or within 6 miles. It also could have been a drive-by hit on the tower.

The missing’s man’s phone received a text at 12:13 a.m., but reportedly went dead at 12:25 a.m., his mom said.

“In some ways, it makes no sense because we know he left the house with a fully charged new phone. We know he had a charger,” Elizabeth Wilks said. “Zacharey’s 27 years old. He doesn’t turn his cell phone off. He’s a 27-year-old. It’s connected to him. It’s part of his DNA."

Searches also have occurred on Interstate 5 to Arvin, and from Arvin to beyond California City, focusing first on the route the family traditionally traveled. Drone searches occurred on any area that had a drop-off more than a few inches. 

More recently, efforts focused on Highway 1 between Lompoc and Gaviota and Highway 101 from Gaviota to Camarillo. Searchers also looked on Harris Grade and Highway 154 — “everything imaginable,” his mom said. Others have checked Los Padres National Forest.

"The search is continuing. We're not leaving any stone unturned," David Wilks said. 

Meanwhile, Wilks has not used his credit card or accessed financial resources, and his family has wondered if he made it to Las Vegas and met with foul play.

On Monday, his parents, who live in Washington, D.C. but traveled West to search for their son, were in Stateline, Nevada, searching parking lots for their missing son’s vehicle and contacted law enforcement agencies while while distributing fliers.

In addition one on the Central Coast television station, a Bakersfield television station reported on the missing man.

"We just want as much information out as we can possibly get," David Wilks said.

A GoFundMe page with a goal of $10,000 had raised more than $8,200 after three days.

Zachary Wilks grew up in Lompoc, attending local schools and graduating from Olive Grove Charter School and Allan Hancock College.

His parents described him as “a helper” and “a giver.”

“He’s never met a request that he’s not wanted to help somebody with,” his mom said. “He’s a good soul. … He definitely has an affection in his heart for people that are disadvantaged.”

She said she recently learned that last Thanksgiving he hosted six homeless people at their house. 

“That’s who he is. That’s who he’s always been,” she said, calling him healthy, strong and without drug problems.

Wilks is Caucasian with brown hair and hazel eyes. He is 5 feet, 10 inches tall and weighs 180 pounds. The vehicle he was driving is a black 1994 Honda Civic with a license plate number of 7SGR202.

Anyone with information about Wilks’ whereabouts is asked to call Lompoc police at 805.736.2341 or 9-1-1.

“We have not given up hope,” his mom said. “We have hope. We are believers. We pray. I don’t feel it, but we’re running out of options here. “I just don’t know how somebody can just disappear off the face of the Earth. That’s literally how I feel.”

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with

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