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Possible sighting gives renewed hope to family searching for missing UC Santa Cruz student

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. (KION) It has been four months since UC Santa Cruz engineering student Dane Elkins, 22, went missing, but a potential sighting is giving his family and friends new hope.

Elkins' mother, Deborah Kassin Elkins, says she last saw her eldest son in person on Dec. 15, 2020, and after that, he spent six days driving between the Bay Area and the Los Angeles area. Some of the places he reportedly passed through include Santa Cruz, Salinas and San Francisco.

At around 4:30 p.m. on Dec. 21, Deborah said she got a notice that his car's tires were flat and saw that he stopped at around 6:30 p.m. At around 8:30 p.m., she says he called 911 twice, and by the time law enforcement arrived, Dane was gone.

Dane's vehicle was found abandoned on southbound I-5 near Castaic with his phone, wallet and computer inside. His mother tells us that K-9 units at the scene were able to trace his scent for about 100 yards before it was lost.

The Los Angeles Police Department has since been the main agency handling the case, but the UC Santa Cruz Police Department has continued to show support on social media with tweets, retweets and Facebook posts asking for information

Deborah Elkins took to social media to get help finding Dane, and she has received an outpouring of support across multiple platforms. Since Dane went missing, she has continued to post on Facebook and Twitter asking for the public's help, and her TikTok account that she uses to ask for information has nearly 11,000 followers and more than 300,000 likes. She says it speaks to the kind of person her son is.

A Caring Person to Friends

KION spoke to two friends of Dane's- Delphi Holbrook and Ellie Ross. Holbrook, a fellow UC Santa Cruz student, may have been the last person who spoke with him.

"He was driving at the time and our call cut out, and I was concerned. That was the last time we spoke," she said. She also discussed why Elkins means so much to her.

"Anytime I'd be like 'Dane, let's go on a walk,' or 'Let's go get dinner' or something he was there... And I know when he returns, it will be like that again. And I miss that a lot."

Ross, a friend of Dane's since high school, emphasized what a caring person he is.

"We were staffing a retreat for younger kids, and when they went to bed, we walked around camp until 4 a.m. just talking and getting to know each other, and that is what he really loves to do- getting to know people."

Possible Sightings

Dane's mother says there have been some very difficult moments for the family since they last heard from him.

"We miss him. His birthday, since he was missing, was one of the saddest days. He turned 22," she said.

But the family received some good news the following day. Although Deborah Elkins said she had received multiple reports of potential sightings, they got what they believe to be the most credible one the day after his birthday.

Two people reported seeing Dane in Mojave in February but said they did not realize the person they spoke to was missing until later. They said the person they spoke to said he was on his way to Portland, Oregon.

"It let us know he was eating, he was communicating, he was interacting... and he told the witnesses he was roughing it, which means he knows what is going on," Elkins said.

Although they have not been confirmed, Dane's mother says there have been some reports of sightings in the Bakersfield area. She believes he may be traveling in the Santa Cruz area or as far north as Oregon.

"I just hope someone recognizes him and we find him," Ross said. "I miss his friendship- the late night talks and everything.

Relevant Locations

Some of the places Holbrook said Elkins visited often in Santa Cruz include:

  • Pacific Avenue- Holbrook lives in this area and they often visited Gratitude Cafe, Pizza My Heart and Saturn Cafe.
  • West side- Elkins used to live on the west side of Santa Cruz.
  • Mission Street

The areas are highlighted on the map below.

Other significant locations include:

  • Car found- Elkins' car was found abandoned on southbound I-5 near Castaic
  • Santa Cruz- Elkins attends UC Santa Cruz and has connections to the area.
  • Salinas- He bought new tires in Salinas shortly before his disappearance.
  • Mojave- Deborah Elkins says a credible sighting was reported in Mojave. He was reportedly seen on Feb. 5 by two people.
  • Oregon- The two witnesses said the person they spoke to told them he was on his way to Portland, Oregon, according to Deborah Elkins.

The areas listed are highlighted on the map below.

His mother believes Elkins could be in Santa Cruz, Salinas, San Jose or other parts of Northern California or Oregon.


Dec. 15, 2020- Deborah Elkins last saw Dane in person. After that, he spent six days driving up and down the California coast, including through Santa Cruz, Salinas and San Francisco.

Dec. 21, 2020- Dane's car is found on southbound I-5 near Castaic. He is not in or around the car when police arrive at the scene.

Feb. 5, 2021- Two people reportedly see Dane in Mojave and claim he told them he was on his way to Portland, Oregon. His mother says this is the most credible tip they have had so far.

Contact Information

If you believe you have seen him, email with information and photos or go to one of the social media pages linked above. You can also call the LAPD 24/7 hotline at 877-527-3247 and the tips hotline at 800-222-8477. If he appears to be in distress, you are asked to call 911.

Article Topic Follows: News

Avery Johnson

Avery Johnson is the Digital Content Director at KION News Channel 5/46.


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