SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — Tuesday marks exactly one year since a UC Santa Cruz engineering student, Dane Elkins, went missing after leaving his car and belongings on a freeway in Southern California.
Since then, several people have reported seeing Elkins in Northern California, which has given his family renewed hope of finding him.
On Dec. 21, 2020, Elkins, a UC student and racquetball champion, called his family as he drove up and down the state, paranoid and likely mentally distressed due to the pandemic.
That was the last communication they received from him.
Later that same day, Elkins’s car was found abandoned in a mountainous area between Los Angeles and Bakersfield — his phone and wallet left inside the vehicle.
Now a year later, his mother Deborah Elkins has yet to stop looking.
“We miss him. We miss Dane. This last year has been a really challenging year for our family,” Deborah Elkins said.
It was a challenging year for the Elkins, but it was one still filled with hope that he is out there.
“Witnesses have come forward, we had reports that people had seen Dane, so we are grateful” Deborah Elkins said.
Those reports came from possible witnesses across the state. The family, however, has yet to receive pictures or videos of him since his disappearance.
People reported seeing him over the last 12 months. He’s reportedly been seen in Bakersfield, then Mojave and most recently in Northern California. One report is from a woman who says she is confident she interacted with him outside an Oakdale Taco Bell.
“He was a younger gentleman probably in his early 20s — nice looking, but a little scruffy like he had been traveling on the road for a while,” Kelly Christine said.
Christine said she saw Dane Elkins back in July when she was waiting at the Taco Bell drive-thru on South East Avenue. She said she bought him a meal.
“He was very polite, and he said thank you and he was very well-spoken,” Christine said.
She said she then went on her way and that was it. A few weeks later, Christine said she came across a TikTok post urging people to be on the lookout for Dane Elkins; that is when she said it hit her who she had seen.
“I was watching it, I’m like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is the guy,’ because of around the eyes, the color of the eyes. I was never more sure of something in my whole life,” Christine recalled.
Since then, other people have said they saw Dane Elkins in the greater Modesto and Oakdale areas.
Anyone with information is urged to join the “Searching for Dane Elkins” Facebook group for updates and possible sightings. The group has more than 11,400 members, and on TikTok, the user @kindnessmom is dedicated to finding him and has more than 21,000 followers.
Dane Elkins’s siblings said the recent sightings give them renewed hope about the brother they love.
“He’s the geniuine-ist guy and like the best big brother I’ve ever had, and he’s just really a good person,” Maddy Elkins said.
“That’s the one person I look up to. Great kid. Great all-around character,” Cody Elkins said.
“Dane, your family misses you. We love you. It’s been a rough year without you, and we look forward to the day we can hug you again,” Deborah Elkins said.
Anyone with information or who believes they have interacted with Dane Elkins is urged to contact his mother at 562-504-6005 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.