By AMY LINDBLOM
"We didn't know what we had," said Tuolumne County Sheriff's Lt. Keith Lunney. What authorities had, it turned out, were three Elk Grove men who took too many drugs, drank too much beer and got lost in the woods.
Sheriff's Sgt. Chris Harrison said the young men were suffering from "methamphetamine-induced hallucinations and paranoia."
At 5:30 a.m. yesterday, two of the men called 911 and said they had been camping near Lyons Lake when they were attacked and that their friend was either lost or dead. Adam Kruger, 21, and Deven Potter, 20, made it out of the woods, but Justin Kossak, 22, was missing.
But over the course of the next four hours, Kruger and Potter told investigators several stories: They had been chased by giant rabbits, attacked by people with rocks and a dog-like monster, had seen a dead girl on their pickup truck, a man who had mutilated his wife and floating people dressed in white, Detective Neil Lillie said.
Before fleeing into the night to get away from these various hallucinations, the three hacked up the dog-like creature which turned out to be Kruger's truck, said Lillie. At some point, Kossak got separated from his two friends.
Potter and Kruger made it to a house near Lakeview Drive in Long Barn and called 911, said Lt. John Steely.
Because Potter and Kruger said they had been attacked and their friend was missing, sheriff's investigators were called in.
"We didn't know if we had a homicide, a lost person, or just what we had," said Lt. Lunney.
But after finding the hacked-up truck, the beer and no signs of an attack, a search was launched for Kossak.
Aboard an all-terrain vehicle, Deputy Dave Grant found Kossak about 3 p.m., about 2 miles from the truck, wandering near Lyons Creek.
"He was walking around with his pants around his knees and thought he was back in Elk Grove picking apples," Lunney said.