Jeremy Varnell came in 2,075th place out of 2,672 entrants in Sunday's Rock 'N' Roll Marathon in San Antonio, Texas, finishing the 26.2-mile race just shy of six hours.
Not world-class speed by any stretch. But then again the veteran cop with 19 years under his belt may have been conserving energy for the much-longer run he was about to embark upon.
Varnell — a police sergeant in Flower Mound, Tex., about five hours north of San Antonio — never showed up for breakfast the morning after the marathon and wasn't at the El Tropicano Hotel, either.
Oddly while his blue Ford Focus was gone, the 43-year-old's clothing and personal items were still inside his hotel room. No answer on his cell phone, and Varnell's family had lost track of him.
Varnell failed to show up for work on Tuesday, noted KXAS-TV in Fort Worth, and his family had already issued a missing person's alert.
Flower Mound Capt. Wess Griffin said Tuesday the department sent two detectives to San Antonio to help police with the investigation.
"We are just very concerned for his well-being," Griffin told KXAS. "He's a super-loyal employee and a great guy."
By Wednesday morning, the search was over.
About 1,300 miles away in the parking lot of a hotel in Lantana, Fla. — on the east coast of the state about 10 miles south of West Palm Beach — a patrol officer was running plates when he found a match to Varnell's car.
While the hotel had no Jeremy Varnell listed in its guest registry, management told the officer there was a Jack Lawson from Texas staying there. So the cop went to the corresponding room, knocked on the door, and Varnell answered, reluctantly offering his real name, according to KTVT-TV in Fort Worth.
Varnell explained he was staying at the hotel with a man he met online a month ago, KTVT reported, and that he wasn't happy with his life and wanted to leave his job and friends and start over. The officer asked Varnell several times if he wanted to harm himself, KTVT reported; Varnell said no and also declined mental health counseling.
Note: While WFAA-TV in Dallas-Fort Worth and KXAS reported Varnell was found Wednesday morning, KTVT reported Varnell was found Tuesday evening.
Flower Mound Chief Andy Kancel said Varnell's discovery means the missing-person case is now a personnel matter, he told KXAS, adding that Varnell isn't subject to criminal offenses nor is he under internal affairs investigation, although he may be disciplined for failing to report for duty.
"Most jobs, you need to show up for work. You have to have an excused absence," Kancel told KTVT. “Certainly we’re just on the front end of this. We just want to speak to our Sergeant and find out what’s going on.”
Earlier Wednesday Kancel had expressed his confusion and worry. “It’s rare for a law enforcement officer to disappear," he told KTVT. "Obviously that causes us concern. We consider ourselves one big family here in this department, in this town, and we want to take care of each other.”
KXAS reporter Kendra Lyn noted during her on-air segment that she spoke to Varnell's "domestic partner" who had gotten word that his "loved one" was safe and needed time to sort out the "confusing details."
Here's a report from KTVT-TV in Dallas:
The report from KXAS:
(H/T: Dallas Observer)