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Missing Flower Mound Officer Found Safe, Says He Wanted To Start Over

FLOWER MOUND (CBSDFW.COM) - A Flower Mound police officer who went missing after running a marathon in San Antonio over the weekend has been found safe in Lantana, Florida.

Authorities said that 43-year-old Sgt. Jeremy Varnell ran the marathon on Sunday morning and met some friends for dinner afterward. Then, around 9:30 p.m., Varnell told his friends he was headed to his hotel room. However, the Flower Mound officer never showed up for a scheduled breakfast on Monday morning.

Varnell's clothes and personal items were found still inside the room, but his vehicle was missing from the hotel.  Varnell did not show up for work on Tuesday and could not be reached on his phone.

Tuesday evening, Varnell's car was discovered by a Florida police officer, who was running a random check of license plates in a hotel parking lot.  The check revealed that the car's registered owner, Jeremy Varnell, had been reported missing by the San Antonio Police Department.

Hotel management confirmed to the officer that no one was registered under Varnell's name, but a man named Jack Lawson with a Texas address was registered at the hotel.  When the officer knocked on the door to that room, Varnell answered and reluctantly gave his real name.  Varnell told the officer he was staying at the hotel with a man he met online a month ago.  He also said he was not happy with his life and wanted to leave Texas, his job and his friends to start over. The officer asked him several times if he wanted to harm himself, to which Varnell responded no. Varnell also declined any mental health counseling.

Varnell is a 19-year veteran of the Flower Mound Police Department.  Chief Andy Kancel said the issue is being addressed as a personnel matter.

"The first call I made today was to members of [Varnell's] family. They're very relieved, very relieved that he's okay, as we all are," said Flower Mound Police Chief Andy Kancel. "Most jobs, you need to show up for work. You have to have an excused absence. 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 Chief Kancel had expressed his confusion and worry. "It's rare for a law enforcement officer to disappear. 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." Referring to the San Antonio Police Department and their assistance Kancel said, "They really stepped up to assist us -- to bring us to what's found to be a good conclusion, because frankly, as Chief, I was very concerned and worried about his [Varnell's] welfare."

Sgt. Varnell (Credit: Town of Flower Mound)

Chief Kancel says Sgt. Varnell's failure to report for work for two days is now considered a personnel matter.

A check of Varnell's police records shows he has never been in trouble as a law enforcement officer in the past.

Attorney Peter Schulte says he's been hired to represent Varnell and issued this statement on his behalf:

"Sergeant Varnell was taking personal time to reflect on some private personal issues and appreciates the support he has received from his friends, family, and colleagues over the last few days. He in no way intended for law enforcement to search for his whereabouts. He very much appreciates the concern and outpouring of support he has received from the community and looks forward to returning home to Texas in the next couple of days. He sincerely apologizes for any inconvenience caused by this misunderstanding."

Over the phone, friends of Varnell told CBS 11 they're happy he's safe, but declined to comment further.

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