Southern California -- this just in

« Previous Post | L.A. NOW Home | Next Post »

Santa Ana College baseball player's autopsy is inconclusive

December 16, 2009 |  6:57 pm

The mystery surrounding the death of a Santa Ana College baseball player may not be solved for a number of weeks,  after an autopsy today failed to determine a specific cause of death, authorities said.

James Patrick WernkeThe body of James Patrick Wernke, 21, was found face down Tuesday in about 2 feet of water in a rain-swollen creek in Fullerton. Police said they have ruled out foul play.

The heavily-wooded creek was flooded from rainstorms several days earlier. Wernke was last seen Saturday in the 3000 block of Sunnywood Drive in Fullerton, walking his girlfriend's yellow Labrador retriever, according to friends and family members.

"There's no obvious cause of death," said John McDonald, a spokesman for the Orange County Sheriff's Department and coroner's office.

He said investigators would have to await the results of a preliminary toxicology report, which will take several weeks to complete.

If a substance is found in Wernke's system that could have contributed to his death, McDonald said, then a full toxicology report would have to be conducted.

Family members have said that perhaps Wernke slipped and fell into the creek. 

The water was about 8-feet deep at the time, McDonald said.

Wernke was a pitcher on the team and was working toward a full athletic scholarship to Cal State Long Beach, friends said.

--Robert J. Lopez

Photo: James Patrick Wernke. Credit: KTLA.