When I initially wrote up the 1978 disappearance of Gary Dale Mathias and the deaths of his four friends several years ago, the case seemed, although incredibly horrific and tragic, to be pretty self-explanatory:
Five mentally disabled guys get lost while driving around in a blizzard, get their car stuck in the snow in a wilderness area, try to hike to safety but instead wind up dying slowly and horribly of exposure and starvation. Only four bodies are found, but that’s no surprise, given the timeline and the wilderness surroundings.
Sad, but not all that mysterious.
Then a little over a week ago I stumbled across this Washington Post article about the disappearance of Mathias and the deaths of his friends (Jack Madruga, Jackie Huett, Theodore Weiher and William Sterling), and I realized the case was a LOT weirder than I had originally thought.
Let’s break down some of the weirdness here:
- At least two of the five men were higher-functioning than I had originally believed. Although they were all enrolled in a day program for mentally handicapped adults, Mathias wasn’t (contrary to what I’d heard) mentally handicapped but instead had schizophrenia. And he was apparently quite high-functioning when he was on his meds. Madruga was considered “slow” but hadn’t been diagnosed as mentally disabled. Both Mathias and Madruga had served in the Army and had driver’s licenses.
- The group’s car, although it was stopped in the snow on a mountain road, was NOT truly stuck. The engine worked, the car had gas, it was still on the road, and if the men had tried they could have gotten it going again.
- There’s evidence to suggest that whoever was driving that car at the time it was abandoned was not lost and knew what they were doing. All the maps were in the glove compartment — you’d think that if they had been lost they’d have consulted the maps. Furthermore, the article notes, This heavy American car, with a low-hanging muffler and presumably with five full-grown men inside, had wound up a stretch of tortuously bumpy mountain road – apparently in total darkness – without a gouge or dent or thick mudstain to show for it. The driver had either used astonishing care and precision, the investigators figured, or else he knew the road well enough to anticipate every rut. Except this definitely doesn’t apply to Madruga, Mathias or any of the five.
- They found Weiher’s body in a forest service trailer nearly twenty miles from where the car was abandoned. He’d died of starvation and exposure. Yet inside or near to the trailer were matches, propane, items that could be used for fuel (books etc.), and enough food to last a year.
- Next to Weiher’s body in the trailer was a watch that didn’t belong to any of the five men.
- Perhaps strangest of all, there was a witness who may have seen the men on the mountain road the night they disappeared. A guy named Joseph Shones drove up the road at 5:30 p.m. and his car got stuck in the snow, just 50 meters from where Madruga’s car was later found. While he was digging himself out, he keeled over from what turned out to be a mild heart attack. He got inside his car and waited there for several hours, with the lights on and the engine running, and at some point he heard “whistling” noises and saw what he thought were a group of men and a woman with a baby, walking in the light of another vehicle’s headlights. Shones called for help and the lights turned off and the whistling sounds stopped. A few hours later he saw flashlight beams outside his car and called out for help again, but immediately the lights went out. Shones stayed in his car until it ran out of gas, then walked eight miles down to get help, passing Madruga’s car on the way. He didn’t think much about what he’d seen until he heard about the disappearances.
The whole thing has me scratching my head — I don’t understand how these young men could have fallen so badly to pieces that they would have abandoned an operable vehicle in the middle of a blizzard, and then starved and froze for months in a building with food and fuel, then abandon said building when one of their number died. And the business with Joseph Shones’s account throws an even bigger monkey wrench into it.
I wonder if they saw something, or thought they saw something, that night that scared the bejesus out of them and made them behave this way. Perhaps some kind of group psychosis.
There’s no evidence of foul play here and no evidence that Gary Mathias somehow survived. I just wonder what caused all this to happen.
Let’s talk about it.
So strange…who even knows where to start with this one?
And, now I’m wondering about the possible woman with a baby, why no one ever started a fire, and why, if there was enough food for a good year, one of them lost 80 to 100 pounds before dying of exposure (according to the article).
For that matter, why would the others (if they were in the building with him) have abandoned the building after the one died? If they were that creeped out by a corpse, it makes more sense to move him outside.
Where is Gary Mathias? If his body was never found, he could potentially be alive. I wonder how well he functioned without his meds. Is it possible he survived and is living on the streets somewhere? Did he end up at a mental health clinic where he was able to restart his meds and is now living a somewhat normal life? If so, why did he not recontact his family?
Way too many questions that seem almost impossible to answer.
I highly doubt Mathias made it off the mountain. Remember it was months before they found the others, and there wasn’t much left of the ones who were found outdoors — decomposition, the weather and wild animals had done their work. I think Mathias is probably still pretty close to the Forest Service trailer but at this point nearly 40 years later there may be nothing left but bone fragments.
Most likely you are right. He didn’t make it off the mountain. It seems like he would have been pretty close to the others, but maybe they just missed him. Wild animals may have disposed of most of him.
Could The man who died have become too ill to eat? Maybe all the others decided to attempt to make it back to the car to go get help. They were only a little over an hour away from home and probably closer to other places to seek help. Mr. Weiher’s boots had been taken and swapped for tennis shoes. The others met up with extreme weather conditions getting lost and/or animal attack. If Weiher was too ill to care for himself, he may have succumbed to starvation if no one stayed behind to help him. The rest ate and left not making it out of the area.
Sounds about right to me. But why leave the car in the first place?
WEIRDER Look at the images of Gary Mathias compare to sketch of Zodiac killer
impossible. Gary was born in 1952 and the zodiac killer was active from 1968-1969. The sketch looks like the man was around 30-40 and was drawn in 1969. That means Gary would have only been 17 when that sketch was made, and the person in the sketch is definitely older than that.
I MAY HAVE FOUND THE MYSTERIOUS GARY MATHIAS AND HE IS LIVING, OR THE GUY THAT IS SUPPOSE TO BE HIM IS LIVING AND USING A DIFFERENT NAME. BUT DONT KNOW WHO I SHOULD CONTACT OR IF I SHOULD JUST KEEP MY NOSE OUT OF IT
Call me now. I know his sister. 713 409 8225
This case is baffling. Why did the 5 men drive up that road? Did one of them have long hair, and Shones mistook him for a female? How soon, after the discovery of Weiher’s body, were the other three bodies found, and where?
Could the watch have belonged to a Forest Service employee? Maybe Weiher was going to steal it, or just use it to keep time?
Meaghan, thanks again for sharing your Poland trip with us! The way you write, well it made me feel like I was there, too!💜
If someone mistook him for a female and decided to silence them later, they would not die in this way
I explain in the casefile where the other three bodies turned up. There’s more details in the article I linked to. There wasn’t a whole lot left of them by the time they were found, just bones.
Yes, but one of them, Ted Weiher, whose body was found intact, he was died of hungry and exposure, don’t think a killer would dispose his victim this way
I don’t think they were murdered either. I just think they died under very strange circumstances and there are a lot of unanswered questions.
Marsyao, I don’t think Joanna meant any thing about Shones murdering them, it’s pretty clear that he didn’t. I think it was meant that the woman he saw was actually one of the five men, and was mistaken by Shones for a female because of his long hair. At least that’s how I read it. It is a baffling case to be sure though.
I wouldn’t say it’s impossible that Shones is covering for someone at all. His story has been slightly inconsistent in a few core ways, as has been pointed out here.
I don’t think he murdered them, but if there was some reason that he was up there it isn’t impossible that he was involved – heart attacks can happen for more than one reason. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, after all.
This case gets me EVERY time. It is beyond bizarre. I wonder if, as time elapsed, being off the medications caused even odder decisions? I still struggle to get past how they went from a basketball game to a snowstorm. Something went wrong somewhere. Sadly, I doubt we’ll ever know. I’ve learned from some of the happy recoveries here to never say never, but I truly doubt he’s still alive.
I think the snow storm occurred on Feb 228, and they disappeared on the night of Feb 24/25, there is no indication there was a snow storm on that night
I didn’t even think they had BLIZZARDS in Southern California! What are the odds of picking that night to travel, but hadn’t they been to this location and back several times?
I’m wondering if Mr. Shones could have seen one of the men holding a coat, bag or pack and mistakenly thought it was a baby, but he also claimed he may have imagined or hallucinated even seeing this. The more that comes out about this story, the more mind boggling it becomes!
@ Marie – Chico, Yuba City, and Marysville are all in northern California, not southern California. Just thought that should be added.
Mathias took his meds on a weekly basis and I think he took them last on the day he disappeared, before he left for the game. So there should have been at least a week before the meds were out of his system and his mental illness symptoms reappeared.
This is America’s answer to the Dyatlov Pass incident in Russia. I have no explanation, except something very unusual must have happened to them.
I was reminded of the same event. The whistling sound, the group disappearance and deaths, leaving a safe place for the cold and exposure…many similarities.
Michael brought up the Dyatlov Pass Incident too when I told him about this case.
That’ll get my vote for freaky case number two. I can’t even imagine what went on there.
Dyatlov Pass incident have been explained by two competing theories, both in engrossing detail. in both hypothesis, the tourists are murdered by a group of outsiders, the only difference is, whom these groups consists of. One of the hypothesis is described in a book by Alexei Rakitin, the other one, I am not sure if he wrote a book. Rakitin’s book is a giant tome that has never been translated into English, and probably never will be, due to the cost of such a project.
In short, the incident is nothing unusual. They were simply at the wrong place at the wrong time, and had to be eliminated.
I always figured they were avalanche victims.
No, the most convincing explanation is they freaked out as a group, some kind of group panic, because of an avalanche, an animal or something like that. They died of exposure.
Please, guys, enough of perpetuating fairy tales that have nothing to do with reality. This incident have been studied by top professionals in great detail. There was no avalanche, no group psychosis, no panic, no Yeti, no animal, nothing like that. Those have long been thoroughly debunked by experts that studied the FACTS. All that FACTS point to is people being KILLED by other people (from outside the group, not each other). Please read a detailed forensic investigation, if you have access to it, if you don’t have access, there is no point in speculating.
I don’t know where you got your info from but saying they were killed by outsiders is just ridiculous. They died of hypothermia/exposure and even demonstrated paradoxical undressing that goes with hypothermia. Then animals picked at their remains. If they were killed by people then there would have been evidence of that. But every single credible source says they died of exposure.
Don’t get all your info from conspiracy theories.
Sorry Elena, but you are incorrect on all counts. Dyatlov Pass has NEVER been explained.
The possibility of outsiders, though, is a reasonable explanation, but probably not true. There were injuries sustained by the group members, which were consistent with being beaten, but people have also suggested that running headlong through the woods in the night could have caused these. They also died of exposure rather than their injuries, which, unless they somehow escaped the group of outsiders, rules out any interference.
In your later post, you ask us to study the FACTS, but it seems you have not studied them yourself. The FACTS point to a haphazard exit from the tent, with all members heading in different directions before regrouping some 500 metres further down the slope and slowing to an orderly, single file walk. This was determined by footprints, which were all attributed to the group. There was no evidence of other footprints from an outside party found at the tent site. But then, with the amount of people in the search party arriving on the scene and walking up and and down the slope in search of the group, one could question how they determined whose footprints were whose.
As you said, the avalanche theory is nonsense. There was no evidence to indicate that one had occurred. The tent was still erect, only the central support had collapsed and was covered by a light snowfall. The groups footprints were still clearly visible and the trees at the bottom of the mountain were all standing. If an avalanche had occurred, both the tent and footprints would have been buried under metres of snow and the trees at the bottom would have been half buried. Also, there was evidence to suggest the group were still alive at the bottom of the slope and had made a fire. The group could not possibly have outrun an avalanche over the course of a mile, which is how far the trees were from the tent.
I have also heard some people mention that the portable stove ignited the tent and the group panicked and exited the tent, but again, this is utter nonsense. Not only was the stove found dismantled (suggesting they hadn’t even begun to unpack it), their behaviour would have been utterly irrational even if it had been set up. Put yourself in their shoes; a piece of burning coal drops on to the tent canvas, you leave the tent. Why, then, would you immediately run a mile away from it? Especially in blizzard conditions and in your underpants. Wouldn’t you stick around to confirm it wasn’t a false alarm? Much easier to repair the cut made to the canvas than seek shelter in trees more than a mile away.
Luna mentioned paradoxical undressing, which is also a falsehood. Many members of the group were already in their underwear when they left, suggesting they had been getting ready to bed down at the time the “incident” occurred. In fact, they built a fire at the bottom of the slope and some of the group members had even taken clothes from their fallen comrades in order to survive, which suggests they were absolutely aware of their situation and were not at all feeling paradoxically hot.
The yeti theory is also silly. This was borne out of a mock newspaper article, which the group had written on the day they disappeared. They mentioned the fact that they knew now that “snowmen did indeed exist and that they could be found south of Otorten Mountain”. They were more than likely referring to themselves.
Finally infrasound has been suggested as a cause of the group’s panic. But infrasound only affects certain people, some people don’t perceive it at all. So in the very unlikely event that all group members were highly susceptible to this rare phenomenon, then this theory also stinks.
All we know is that the group cut their way out of the tent in a panic, running in all different directions, then regrouped further down the slope. They made it to the treeline at the bottom where they built a fire. Two of them succumb to exposure not long afterwards. After this, three of them tried to make it back to the tent, but died from exposure along the way, whilst the other four moved further into the woods for more shelter. Two of them fell into a deep ravine and suffered appalling injuries. The other two tried to look after their injured friends as best they could and took clothes from their dead companions in order to survive. Snow probably collapsed into the ravine not long after, trapping and killing the remaining members.
The crux of the entire mystery is what made them leave the tent and THAT has never been solved.
Ken again; not that Dyatlov has much at all to do with the Gary Mathias case, but I was studying evidence in the Dyatlov deaths before the topic became popular. I think the Donnie Eichar-Infrasonic theory explains what happened to the victims satisfactorily (if you read his chapter, not a summary) I think the radiation measurements on victims’ clothing, whether high or not, came from handling radioactive materials at their school. Infrasonic panic does not explain what
happened to the other group of four who went into the woods. I don’t think they fell into the ravine, I think the climbed into the the cut and began digging into the snow in their gravest extreme to huddle and shelter. Remember, their location was outside of a military reservation where equipment and munitions were known to be used for testing and practice. Apparently it was not forbidden for military activity to extend beyond the military reservation into the sparsely populated, non-military areas. I think the four set off some type of unexploded munition or explosive buried in the snow, causing it to detonate. Perhaps because of snow or maybe because it was a shaped charge, no shrapnel struck them but the blast concussive force injured two of the dying group severely, with the other two receiving lesser injuries that would not have been fatal in themselves, but they were falling victim to hypothermia and exposure anyway. I asked an explosives trained Sargent from Ft. Belvoir, VA, whether that scenario could occur, and he said it could have occurred that way. I think later snowing covered up what was left of the close-by exploded device.
All: my own neighborhood in sweating through its own missing TEEN case: JHOLIE MOUSSA. Please put it on The Charley Project Blog. Ken B.
Hallucinogens ingested either deliberately or unknowingly? One person freaked out, perhaps violently. Everyone in a substance-induced panic ran out into the night.
Not until recently I stumbled upon an article which I believe has the most probable explanation on the Dyatlov Pass Incident: The stove they use for cooking and heating at the entrance of the tent went malfunctioned and generated a lot of toxic gas that filled the tent (or maybe on fire or going to explode). They cut the tent to ventilate the toxic gas and escaped through the holes (because the exist is blocked by the stove). On the outside, they might have heard some roaring noise and suspected an avalanche so they fleet to the treeline and took shelter. Three of them tried to make it back to the tent when they realized that there’s no avalanche, they died on the way of hypothermia (and so did the two who stayed in the forest). The other three tried to walk to find help but fall onto the river and were killed. The radiation found on their clothes was a result of contacting radio active substance at the factories they worked.
Late to the party, but I was thinking the same as I read about this. Crazy.
They did eat more than a dozen C-rations, I guess it was too much to ask them finding extra food hidden in a lock and set fire
It doesn’t seem like it would be too much to ask. Remember, two of these guys had been in the Army. They may not have been rocket scientists but they functioned at least well enough for that. You’d think that, even if they initially panicked and weren’t thinking straight enough to start a fire and open the locker, after a day or so they would calm down, take stock of what they had, and make use of it.
Yeah, this is a reasonable point
Is it certain it was them? I still think the whole group may have decided to walk out or some such. Or a few of them. I would think they were ok with rational decisions, but I wouldn’t want to be in that situation.
They were people with mental disabilities in a panic mood, far from making rational decisions
I’m not mentally disabled, but my autism regularly causes me to go completely off the rails when I’m in a situation I didn’t expect to happen. A lot of times I’ll break things and do physical harm to myself because I’m panicking and just generally melting down. It’s frightening for other people to see.
Maybe i is a remote possibility, but some kind of suicide pact? Or they became delusional, and one of them convinced the rest that God wants them to die, for example?
Perhaps LSD? Could explain a lot of that bizarre behavior and how they may have found themselves lost and not knowing how to return to the car.
Since some of them were found close together, would it be reasonable that they survived the original accident (not sure I buy witness two, they would have had to roam around a lot in the cold and stuff) and found a way to the cabin and left again for some reason? By that time, it would have been days, if not weeks. Was there ever an aerial search for them? I would think it would be easier than ground.
I guess all of them arrived at that trailer, spent some time there, and eventually all but one of them decided to leave and look for help, but none of them made it
It doesn’t make sense that no one would stay with Weiher tho. They were friends. Even if they all decided to leave him, they only made it a few miles?
It is so strange that he died of hunger being surrounded by food. May be he fell victim of the same poisonous plant that killed Christopher McCandless (“Into the Wild”), something that prevented absorbtion of protein?
I don’t think so. If that was the case he would have still been eating all the food, just unable to absorb any of it. It was like he ate a little bit and then suddenly…stopped eating altogether.
Christopher McCandless, as far as I know, most likely died of starvation, he sustained himself nothing but berries in his last days. And in this case, these foods were stored in a lock, they may never think the possibility that there were food stored nearby but out of sight
Maybe. It just seems to me that after a few days, once they’d had time to assess the situation and hunger set in in earnest, they’d be opening everything that they could to see what was available. Yet they didn’t even have it in them to start a fire.
Other four people could have left the next day, they may think that they could find some residence in a short distance, but they got lost, and actually did not go very far before dying from exposure
After reading the WaPo article, I am puzzled by Joseph Shones’ behavior. He drives there alone to check the snow line, because he wants to bring his wife&daughter that weekend. Where exactly did he want to bring them? He has a heart attack and lies in the car for a few hours. Then he walks 8 miles (!!!) down to a lodge. After a heart attack, no small feat! He has a drink there (what, no food?), then continues up the road. On foot again? Where was he going up the road? Back to his car, so 8 miles up hill? (after a heart attack!!!!!!!) He passes “the boys” car on the way up to his car, but does he pass it on his way downhill? Or did it appear on the road after he visited the lodge? Does he bring anyone to help him push his car? Does he call a tow truck? Does he purchase gas for his car on the way from the lodge? How does he get back home to his wife&daughter?
There well may be innocent answers to these questions, the article is just confusing. It is not particularly well written, and could use a bit of editing. In any case, we will never find the answers, because if Joseph Shones was 55 almost 40 years ago, he is probably not alive today.
And who would drive on a mountain road to check road condition that early? He said he arrived there at 5:30 am, then he must have left his home before 5 am!
What I took from the article was he went to the lodge, had a drink, then continued up the mountain to check out the snow line where he became stuck. He tried to dig the car out, had a mild heart attack, stayed in the car for a few hours, (seeing the group of people, etc. during this time) when the car ran out of gas he decided to walk back to the lodge he stopped at on his way up. I was a little confused at this point but I think the group of boys car was behind him a ways and he saw it when walking back to the lodge. I don’t think he walked back and forth between the lodge and his car. I also took it that Shones was up there at night (5 p.m.) not early morning. I’ll probably read through the article again to clarify these points.
The article says that he arrived there at 5:30 PM.
As unbelievable as it may sound, many people suffer heart attacks without knowing it. They usually chalk it up to indigestion or something and go on with their day. They only find out later, even years later, when having an EKG for a surgical procedure or a visit to the ER for chest related problems that occur at a later time. I fathom Shones visited an ER after this incidence for exhaustion and/or exposure and his heart attack was discovered when routine tests were done.
This is true, but the article quoted him saying that he had a heart attack, which prompted him to quit moving. “Shones said he lay in the car until it ran out of gas, and then while it was still dark he walked back eight miles to the lodge called Mountain House, where he had stopped for a drink before heading up the road. Just below his Volkswagen, in the place where he had heard the voices, he passed the Mercury Montego sitting empty in the middle of the road.” So, a few hours after he had to lie down, he finds strength to walk 8 miles to the lodge, then 8 miles (presumably UPHILL) back to his car. I wonder if he had a courtesy to use a phone at the lodge to call his wife who was undoubtedly sick with worry at this point. So, he has what amounts to be a mountain hike of 16 miles (!!!!!!!) right after he fell ill with a heart attack. Wow.
The fact that later on it was determined that he did have a heart attack does not really mean much, because at 55 he could have had a heart attack or several at any point prior to the EKG. The EKG could not have pinpointed his location where he suffered an attack.
So, he does not see the Mercury on his way down to the lodge, but does see it on his way up to his car. Interesting.
Nothing about what he says makes any sense. I hope he was investigated by the dedicated detectives.
The article states he walked BACK DOWN to the lodge he had (past tense) a drink at BEFORE heading up to the snow line. He had a drink at the lodge, went up the mountain, got stuck then walked back down to the lodge he had stopped at prior and walked passed the boys vehicle on his way down which happened to be about 50 yards behind him. The article is clearly jumbled but I was able to see the order in which things occurred. My whole point in mentioning his heart attack was the disbelief you had in the fact that he was able to walk such a distance after suffering one. Obviously, as this article shows, people are able to walk 8 miles in freezing conditions after having one. And yes, a prior heart attack can show up on an EKG at any time but not pinpoint when, I was only trying to relay the fact that it can happen without a person even knowing. A heart monitor, EKG and tests such as a troponin, in conjunction with each other, will better pinpoint if a heart attack is happening in present time. It is my opinion Shones’ troponin level was elevated when he went to the hospital, (one of the routine tests I mentioned) as well as changes on a heart monitor AND the EKG. As a member of the medical field I’m pretty familiar with old and current MI’s and how they differentiate between the two.
From what all I read Shones didn’t do all this 16 miles if hiking and whatnot. Nor did he have a drink after hoofing it to a lodge. After his car ran out of gas and he walked the 7 miles to the lodge, someone there drove him to the hospital where it was confirmed he had had a heart attack hours earlier.
I lived in nearby Berry Creek at the time, right next to a Joseph Shones, who was one of the biggest flakes I ever met. He needed to get away from his awful wife, Cindy, so he’d drive around at all hours of the day and night, guzzling beers. Him being in the middle of nowhere, getting his car stuck, and having a heart attack – sounds exactly in character for him. However, any statement made by this man would be suspect, as he was a pathological liar, and a wet brain alcoholic. A YouTube commenter (JJ-Comedy Ninja) had a theory that Shones sent these men off in the wrong direction to get help. If ever there was a jackass that would do something like that, it would be Joe Shones. The man was an absolute goddamn idiot.
Interesting thought that he sent them for help. One of the boys was said to wave to strangers and be depressed for hours if they didn’t wave back. Seems to be someone who would be a people pleaser and want to help. They panic, head into the woods and mistakes/accidents/being lost leads to their death. Still doesn’t make sense but in a case of nothing making sense I can wrap my head around it….also the person commenting on hiking down and drinking and hiking back, I can see how they read it like that, but it lacks any reading comprehension skill. Guy stops, heart attack, walk down to place he’d had a drink before driving up, sees car on way down. They somehow read the sentence as in chronological order I guess?
There is no way to unravel truth from fiction in Shones’s statement. Saying that he was up there scouting out a camping trip at 5:30 pm in February is an outright lie. Getting his car stuck on back roads while drunk was something he often did, as many locals had retrieved his vehicle at one time or another. At best, his account of what he saw is probably confused, or entirely made up. At worst, he could have fatally misdirected these men.
Two years after this incident, Joe Shones fired several rifle shots at the home where we lived, from his adjacent hill top property, narrowly missing my friend’s children. Despite a bullet hole in our roof, and several neighbors witnessing this, he was not arrested. Shones was alleged to be an informant for the police, and managed to make many enemies as time went by. His stuck vehicles then suffered some serious abuse as a result.
GM White. If you get this, can you please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I wanted to ask you about the area where the boys went missing.
Hello GM White. I hope this message finds you well. I’m currently researching and investigating the Yuba County 5 case. I’ve read Drew Beeson’s book and wanted to ask you some questions regarding Schones if this is ok with yourself?
My email is email@example.com
His wife’s name was Harriet, not Cindy.
His wife’s name was Harriet, not Cindy. She passed in 1996. You are mistaken.
With an old school name like Harriet, she may have gone by her middle name, or a nickname. I have two female cousins, who don’t use their first name. I lived there at the time, and it was a known fact that my neighbor, Joe Shones, was the last person to see those men.
I think you may be mistaken. I can confirm what Drew Beeson has stated above regarding Cindy Schons real name. According to a Sacramento Bee paper covering the theatre production of Treasure Island, published on 11th October 1959 California (Page 117 -118), it states her name as ‘Cindy Jones’. Her full name, as documented, was ‘Rosenda Cindy Schons’ – Partner to Joseph H Schons.
I havent read through all of the comments to consider the many aspects of the case, but the first thing I thought of has to do with how the one man was in a cabin surrounded with things needed for survival and yet didn’t seem to utilize any of them. Twice in my life, was so sick that I couldn’t figure out the basic things (both times involved very high fevers). Once, I didn’t “know” how to use my phone so I just lie on the floor in and out of consciousness where I stayed for I think ten hours. I came to the next morning and didn’t have the strength to get up but I was able to knock on the wall where my apartment neighbor was able to hear me and got to me and took me to the hospital. If I’d suffered the same thing in a desolate cabin, I’m sure I would not have been able to take advantage of the survival basics even if they were three feet away. It doesn’t explain the unknown watch, but it is a viable explanation for why that man didn’t use the things available for his survival.
I think you are right, Only thing I can come up with is the thought they were stuck so went looking around the area for something to help them get unstuck. The cries of Shones scared them so they took off into the woods, one of the ones found near the road got hurt and the other one stayed with him. Weiher was starting to have issues with his feet so Mathis continued on with him until they found the trailer. They ate some food and Mathis took off Weiher’s shoes because of swelling from the frost bite. His shoes were better so he put them on his feet left Weiher there to rest and went back for the others with the blankets. By the time he got back to the others they were probably dead animals attack or something, and something scared Mathis maybe the same animal and he never returned to Weiher. By that time Weihers health and feet started deteriorating for days. Could have made him immobile.
This is close to my theory also. Maybe only Weihers and Mathias were able to make it to the Ranger trailer area. There is obvious proof of this with Weihers body and probable proof with Mathias shoes being there. It would also explain why only a partial part of available food was eaten (only one person vs all 5 men). I’m thinking Mathias removed Weilhers shoes due to frostbite and used them instead of his own and set back out to try and help the other 3 and ended up getting lost and dying of exposure like the rest but in an area more hidden. Back at the ranger trailer Weihers did what he could but progressively got worse and couldn’t walk/move and gave up. Now what I can’t explain is how Weihers was found with weight loss & at least 8 weeks growth of beard and appeared to be wrapped in a blanket it seems by someone else? Maybe he was able to wrap himself up before he died? Very strange and sad story for these guys.
First off, I don’t think there was any foul play here. It is definitely odd that a car in good working order was ditched, so that part bothers me. Maybe there was some light foul play involved with that part? Maybe something happened on the road, like they were forced off by some jerk, and they feared a fight so they took off into the woods to hide and couldn’t get back to the car? Far fetched for sure. The part of leaving the car based on reports of the scene does bother me the most.
As to the one who died in the cabin, he might have been so sick that he couldn’t utilize the food and fire items (see my comment above). But also, his state of mind and body might have both been at their absolute limits. I can’t imagine what it took for him to make it 20 miles in those conditions and his mental state may have been justifiably tenuous.
He could have been getting close to death when he got to the cabin, and once inside he doesn’t find any means of communication (I recall the mention of matches and food in the cabin, but none of any communications means), and he thinks that even if he can survive a while longer, nobody will come to rescue him. After all, he’d gone twenty long freaking miles without seeing a soul other than maybe his friends. He could have lied down to rest, already gravely ill, and didn’t wake up.
The only problem with your “already very sick from frostbite etc. and he just lay down and didn’t wake up” theory is the fact that Weiher had a couple of MONTHS’ growth of beard when he was located. They used the length of his facial hair to judge how long he survived in the trailer.
He also lost 80-100 pounds, which cannot be done in a few days. They probably determined that by his dead weight, also by stretch marks and such. He had to be alive for a considerable amount of time to lose that much weight.
He lived for at least 8 and up to 13 weeks!
I don’t think it is really mysterious. Dyatlov Pass is a good comparaison, As a group, they probably freaked out and forgot everything they knew about survival because of an avalanche or something like that. They had food, warmth clothing, etc. and they all died. Or Christopher McCandless; he died very close to rescue. And god knows what his reasoning was to go there and stay there until he died. Maybe Gary Mathias and co were on some kind of survivalist thing like that. If you don’t know how to survive and\or panic, or wrongly assess your situation, it is very easy to die in the winter in wilderness. From outside, it is always easy to say they could have done this or that, but they just don’t.
Sure, it’s not mysterious at all if you just ignore all the mysterious parts. Like Weiher surviving months before finally succumbing to the cold, having lost 100 lbs in body weight due to starvation, when there was enough food for a year nearby. Like Shone’s report of the whistling and the woman with a baby, or the flashlights outside his car that vanished when he called for help. Like the car that showed no sign of having been driven up the decaying mountain road where it was abandoned. Like five men abandoning a perfectly good car that wasn’t stuck and wasn’t out of gas to wander 20 miles through a frozen wilderness.
You know. Aside from those things, not mysterious at all.
You’re wrong about the Dyatlov Pass comment as well as the Christopher McCandless case. There had NOT been an avalanche at Dyatlov because their tent & equipment and footprints were still visible. An avalanche would have covered all that and most certainly footprints! As for McCandless, he was not “close to rescue”. Nobody had even been looking for him. He was found accidentally by hunters in the early fall. People used that bus as a shelter.
The condition of Weiher’s body, the facial hair and the weight loss could simply be from freezing to death. Dehydration and freezing shrinks the body – meaning weight loss and the appearance of longer hair and nails.And some people obviously have faster beard growth – he may have been one of these. I really find it hard to believe he was alive as long as they claim in those kinds of temperatures. As to the rest – c-rations can freeze and with no fire or heat they would be hard to eat and digest. As to why they were there and did what they did. There is no reasonable explanation. For me the biggest question is why not walk back DOWN the road to the lodge.
My husband’s brother was one of these boys, I have been in the Huett family for 20 years.. there are stories of a situation that happened where the boys were forced up the road. All the stories I’ve heard have all been close to the same from all members of the family. Forensics are much better now, I wish someone would look into this case and give closure to the remaining family members. I do believe there was some sort of foul play. I am always praying that even after all these years answers come out.. this has been a very hard and devastating trauma to the families involved. My husband was also involved with the search and was there when remains were found. He was 18. My father in law speaks of this often and my mother in law has been silent for years. For my loved ones who have been left without answers, I think it would be great if someone with current investigation experience could look into this… has anyone ever realise that shone said 5 people. One woman. Would mean 4 boys on the road, one could have already been missing before they made it to the snow?? Stories are one of the boys was beaten and thrown off a bridge. The other 4 ran due to town bully. It’s just stories… but why did this not air on unsolved mysteries… parents were afraid… afraid of who or what.. the guy who had states evidence was found dead with chlorine in a fluid he drank. A lot of stuff surrounding this that no one shows in these articles. And notice how it’s just left cold.. completely left… but someone knows.. and that someone is still out there.
Wow, that is a lot of info that hasn’t been heard before. Has any of this been presented to local LE ? Or have they been a hindrance ? Who was the guy that had states evidence ? How did they get to the Daniel Zink Campground – had they ever been there before. To walk that far in the winter, in deep snow. Why walk further into the mountains ? This needs fresh eyes with all the evidence as known and all of the “what if’s” and local rumour’s laid out
Thanks so much for your responses on here. Hearing your thoughts from someone so close to the case really brings a new light onto all of this. It truly is inspiring that you and your family are still searching for answers after all this time.
My name is Henry DaCosta, I am a filmmaker from NYC and I am actually going to be making a short documentary on this case this spring. There is no big production company or TV show attached to this project, but instead just a couple filmmakers who are deeply interested in this story. Just like you I think that there is much more to this case then the few articles that came out about it, and that’s what I am trying to explore with this documentary. I am hoping that this documentary can bring some new light and the awareness to this investigation that it deserves.
If there is anyway you can help us I would be so grateful. I am not sure how to send private messages on this website, but I will leave my email here which you can use to contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org . It may be easier to talk over email, but currently we are looking for people to interview and any contacts to this case. Please let me know of any questions or concerns.
Did you maybe contact Huett? My polish friend is making a podcast about that case, he found this informations and we are both wondering is that can be true? Those are some really interesting facts, that can make a big difference in thinking about this young mans and this case.
I understand that propably you don’t want to share that informations because of privacy, but if you done your short video and it is possible to see it anywhere I will be thankfull for shout!
It is hard to know truths, but when multiple families are afraid to air unsolved mysteries episode due to possible backlash, should start putting up some question marks don’t you think. I know my mother in law wanted answers and my father in law was willing to sign the release, why would other families opt out but still want to know the truth. Because 5 families were involved, without consent from all, it wouldn’t air.. stories again of “town bully” and families afraid to come forward. The guy who just so happen to die ” suicide” I believe also had information he wanted to bring forward.. never happened.. I know Jackie would NOT have just gone along. He was very young mentally and was always home. My father in law said he told investigators to search those same areas for months. And they wouldn’t.. said weather was bad. But at first thaw hikers came along and we have bodies.. These boys were afraid of someone or something that happened that night after the game. Baby clothes in the car?. Woman seen by witness?… one of the boys had a sister I believe who broke up with a not so nice guy.. stories were told she would pay but her family would pay first..yes, I know it all sounds crazy.. almost movie material.. but honestly I been hearing these stories from friends and families for twenty years. Like I sad forensic are better now. Wish someone could ask the right questions. Also, where is all the news on this.. papers, articles? Books? Normally this kind of story don’t just get swept under the rug.. but it has, almost 40 years and nothing. It’s very odd wouldn’t you say.. it has bothered me for years.
Hi, I am researching this case for an article I hope to publish, and I am interested in speaking with you. I would like to get the story from a relative’s perspective. This case has always haunted me, and I am also the mother of a child on the Autistic spectrum. Please let me know if you are interested in speaking with me.
Yes, we would love to speak with you. It is Ironic to see this message. Jackie Huetts mother passed away on Feb 19. As we have been going through things we have found information. Also have been hearing stories of people involved from family and friends. Please look for me on Facebook or messenger. and we can exchange information. We have a lot more information than many. If you get this reply I will be available this evening. Thank you. Claudia Huett
I don’t really want to shout into the voice of theories but I think you should be looking at the the teams they due to play or the reserve team that went instead of them. I am suggesting the reserve team were a group of deaf people – that’s why they ignored Schones and the high pitched sound was the feedback on their hearing aids. They wanted to delay the boys but it went wrong.
I viewed 2 YouTube vids about this case, which go into detail describing the personalities of these young men. Based on their respective families discriptions, it seems unlikely that any of them would have proceeded to that location on their own volition; for that reason, I think the witness’ account of seeing a woman with a baby 150 feet away with the men, is the key to why they were there. Each of the young men, except possibly the one who had schizophrenia, were the type who would have done anything to help a woman with a baby. Perhaps she had asked for a ride, they missed a turnoff, and became lost.
I was a social worker for several years and I have experience with schizophrenics, persons having retardation, desperate people, and various mental illnesses. I think the other key persons are the owner of the Montego, and Mathias the schizophrenic. In my experience, when seemingly crazy things happen – look to the “crazy” person. Under serious stress, even medicated, functioning schizophrenics may experience “breakthrough symptoms.” If they find his remains, the woman’s may be near him…. I don’t think it impossible that most of the men trudged nearly 20 miles at night in deep snow. Human willpower is a remarkable thing. I can imagine that they arrived in that location a little before or a little after nightfall, and if they were trying to take that woman home, she would have been as unfamiliar with where they stopped as the men, but maybe she thought they were near her home, and they departed from the car and the road thinking they were moving toward her home. One or more of them may have quit that fruitless search and tried to return to the car. Returning to a spot that looked like where they left it, but not actually being where the car was, they mistakenly concluded that it was no longer there, and walked away from the road and into a forest where they walked for miles….
This is a complete and perfectly plausible theory, though presumably if she existed and had a home and a child she would have turned up missing around the same time. She couldn’t have lived too far.
I suspect if there were another person in Yuba/Butte counties who disappeared on exactly the same night someone would have noticed it.
An person educated as a social worker would never use the term “retardation.”
My own therapist is a social worker counselor with an MSW and he uses the term, in a medical sense, not as an insult.
On further reading, I want to make a few comments about the case, and Mathias particularly. People who have schizophrenia are not team players, they tend not to be collaborative people.
I read a scrap of info that investigators think Mathias may have sheltered in a camper on the site where Ted was found, but separate. Nor would it be surprising that Mathias would go out on his own; schizophrenics don’t subscribe to group thinking; they generally go their own way. Schizophrenics may adhere to their own habits but generally are not followers of rules unless it suits them. One commonality I saw with schizophrenics I worked with is that they desire to be comfortable. It was suggested in some of the speculative comments on other sites that Mathias took care of Ted for a time, then possibly abandoned him; I would believe that. Schizophrenics can be charismatic; no one said that Mathias was, however, he reportedly liked to socialize. Schizophrenics are often described as educated, smart or clever; also, they will lie to appear normal, and sometimes try to pit people against each other. If Mathias had stayed at the campsite any length of time, he would have found the food and the heat. Stranded on the road, Mathias may have become anxious, agitated, and uncooperative in a short interval. Mathias probably would not leave the comfort of the car without reason, but possibly his behavior caused an exit of all from the car. I read one theory that they did not realize that the stranded man’s cries for assistance were from a car ahead of them, they may have believed they were hearing cries for help from the woods and went to help. But there’s a problem, as at least one of the men went up to the stranded man’s car. About the whistling sound the witness mentioned: Perhaps it was a whistle or an air horn being used by one of the men.
You are obviously clueless. You have confused schizophrenia with psychopathy. They are in no way, shape or form similar.
I googled “whistling sounds heard during UFO sightings” and got several hits. The descriptions sounded identical to the whistling sounds heard by Shone, also the “flash lights” and “head lights” have been spotted during abductions. This story should be aired on David Paulides Missing 411 (YouTube) as it fits perfectly with all the other strange and bizarre disappearances that have all occurred in and near ((govt owned)) National Parks. Also Ted Weihler didn’t wear a coat. No way he would’ve made it 20 miles to that cabin on foot in 10″ of snow without freezing to death. UFOs have been reported to relocate vehicles and people after or during abductions. If he had experienced some type of normalcy bias/paradigm changing trauma, that would explain why he was too “out of it” to fend for himself. This is probably the real reason the “authorities” are hush hush about this, just as they are about all the other strange disappearances from National Parks. They know what’s up, I can assure you. Truth has nothing to hide. The Dyatlov Pass incident clearly shows that the people in the tents were microwaved inside their tents, forcing them to cut their way out from the inside rather than use the extremely hot zipper, and explains why they didn’t dress properly. They were being cooked alive.
Let’s try to take a little bit of the mystery out of this, shall we?
We know that three of the men had some form of mental retardation, and the fourth was at least deemed ‘slow’ enough to be eligible to play in the Special Olympics. We also know that Mathias was generally high-functioning but also medicated and prone to “going haywire” now and again. I would think that he was the closest thing to a ‘leader’ in the group. Per Mr. Bickerstaff, shizophrenics tend not to be team players, which isn’t exaclty a desirable trait in the one person that should feel at least some semblance of responsibility for the group as a whole.
How they got on that mountain is a complete mystery. For that, I’ve got nothing to offer that already hasn’t been mentioned. But here’s a few ideas that, for me, plausibly explain certain aspects of this case:
1) Why did they leave an operational car with a quarter-tank of gas in it that wasn’t “really” stuck? Don’t overestimate the intelligence at work here. These men were not experienced with either the conditions nor the situation. If the car doesn’t move, it’s stuck. It’s as simple as that to someone simple. Four of them were exactly that, by all accounts.
2) Where is Gary Mathias? Certainly dead, but again referencing Mr. Bickerstaff’s assertion I believe he probably disagreed with whatever the rest of the group wanted to do. He may have known the car could be pushed, and the others disagreed. Regardless, he determined to set out on his own. Weiher probably decided Mathias was his best hope and followed him. He and Weiher made it to the trailer together. 20 miles through cold and snow is definitely unpleasant to say the least, but it’s by no means undoable. The work of walking, fueled by their last high-carb snack, would keep them warm enough to continue. Google ‘Charles Joughin’ and tell me with a straight face that such a walk is ‘impossible’.
3) Why didn’t the other three stick together? They probably did for awhile, actually. Jackie Huett may have thought he saw or heard something, and diverted in that direction briefly to investigate. When he tried to return to Madruga and Sterling, he couldn’t find them. If you’ve ever been in the deep woods, it’s very easy to lose your sense of direction, even in broad daylight. With snow falling, sound is heavily dampened and yells don’t carry like they do in clear weather with leaves on the forest floor. It’s an eerie sensation. Beautiful when you’re calm and safe, but eerie nonetheless.
4) How could Weiher have died surrounded by food and fuel? Weiher, by every account I’ve seen, was a very rules-oriented person. He wasn’t going to get himself “in trouble” by taking someone else’s food, propane, or anything else. Like most of us, he’d probably also been taught to not play with fire. We are talking about a mentally retarded man; his thought processes are much simpler. Mathias had no such reservations and opened the C-rations, probably telling Weiher that he’d take all the blame–which also explains their break-in of the trailer in the first place. When Mathias finally did relapse into full schizophrenia, he likely took Wieher’s shoes (perhaps leaving his to demonstrate he’d come back for Weiher), left a couple of open cans of food, and walked away, never to be found. With nobody around to open the food, Weiher eventually starved. He couldn’t operate the P-38 (it is not instinctive), wasn’t going to go digging around in the shed (because none of that was ‘his’ to investigate), and he wasn’t going to play with matches. He didn’t want to upset anyone. That logic might seem incomprehensible to someone who functions at a normal level, but Weiher did not. He probably understood the concept of disappointing those around him better than he comprehended death itself, and by the time animal desperation and the will to live took over, he was probably too weak to do anything other than completely cover himself against the cold and wait for Gary to come back. I’ve little doubt he believed Gary would save him to the very end.
a) Everything he saw (while under considerable duress) was either brightly backlit or behind a flashlight. At least one of the men kept longish hair, and another had hair that wasn’t so different than what had been popular with ‘mod girls’ only a few years prior (my aunt wore her hair like that into the ’90s). What appeared to be someone holding a baby could simply be someone hugging themselves against the cold. The positioning of the arms is nearly identical.
b) When he called for help, lights were extinguished and the group fell silent. A man calling out in desperation could easily have been mistaken by the group as them being yelled at, at which point they did everything in their power to stop ‘annoying’ that person.
c) The mysterious “whistling noises” (notice he didn’t specify it as actual whistling) is no mystery to anyone in snow country. Tire treads spinning fast against hard-packed snow or ice, heard through a barrier of any kind, is a high-pitched whistling sound. Madruga, like any first-timer spinning in snow, was probably gunning it trying to get the car moving. The faster the tire speed, the higher the pitch. Don’t like the ‘snow/tire theory’? How about a squealing V-belt on the Mercury’s engine? Also perfectly plausible, and also more likely to happen at higher RPM, such as during acceleration or spinning a tire. A squealing V-belt is definitely a whistling noise, especially through a barrier like a closed car. Anyone old enough to remember the ’70s should be well-versed in V-belt squeal, which is more common and more piercing than the squeal produced by modern multi-V (serpentine) belt drives.
6) I don’t believe the watch has much if any bearing on the case whatsoever. The crystal was missing, and its owner–very likely a previous visitor to the trailer–probably took it off to keep from further damage, and forgot it when he left. It was not necessarily a Forest Service trailer, it was simply a trailer in a Forest Service trailer park. The owner of the trailer is never specifically mentioned, probably for good reason. He/she/they could’ve had any number of guests or friends that used the trailer in their absence that forgot the watch and didn’t care about it enough to worry about it after realizing it was left behind… or they may have planned to fetch it when camping/hunting season returned.
To me, the only real mystery is how they ended up on that road in the first place. Considering the victims, foul play seems almost a certainty, and considering that they were five grown men it’s likely the perpetrator(s) either knew the men somehow, played on their helpful nature, or had weapons. I tend to believe the latter, since from what I’ve read it was clear that Madruga would not willingly allow anyone else to operate his car–never mind that some mugger or robber armed only with a blade isn’t likely to take on a carload of grown men–and on an unfamiliar forest road in wintry conditions, even the most careful driver is going to at least sling some mud on such a car. Once there, they were simply left to their own limited devices.
Though it makes a good search term, I don’t like ‘American Dyatlov’ in terms of a parallel, other than a lack of survivors and that there were no UFOs or aliens involved in either case. Dyatlov Pass was an avalanche followed by scavenging animals, which every shred of the considerable documented evidence has indicated from the first day. The rest is invented hype, rumor, speculation and flat-out bull–the story gets better with every telling.
You make a lot of good points here, particularly about the men’s thought processes.
It reminds me of another case involving a missing boy who was found alive after several days. He also had special needs — either autism or mild mental retardation or both, accounts tended to differ — but was high functioning enough to join the Boy Scouts. He disappeared during a Boy Scout hiking/camping event in a national park.
When they found him several days later he said he had actually seen and heard the search parties trying to find him but had hidden and not made his presence known because his parents had told him never to talk to strangers and the search party were all strangers.
It was a forest service trailer.. Father of Jackie Huett and younger brother my husband were there during the search when bodies were found. It was a know Forrest service trailer that Mr. Huett tried to get search parties too just days after they went missing. I do respect anyone’s thoughts. Much of this is just a few articles that played out through small town media. Town stories still to this day say Gary never made it up that road. If that’s true, it can change everything we know. People say that these boys were forced up the mountain that night. Shell casings found near the end of the road, but Gary’s body was possibly tossed off the Orville bridge??. I know more info is out there. It would be nice to bring a more current investigation forward.
Huett: You have some very interesting thoughts since you are a family member. I am curious about several things if you don’t mind revealing them. You say that one of the fellows had a sister who was dating a hooligan at the time. Did this woman have a baby? Is she missing also? What are the details of somebody with information dying from ingesting bleach? How did the young woman (and baby?) end up with the five young men, and why was she with them that night since she didn’t go with them to the basketball game.?
Yes, she had a baby. She was never missing. Story of girl is that she may be been how the boys were talked into or forced up the road. And the guy who ” ingested” bleach or draino was apparently going to give states evidence. We also learned that another individual who had information was shot at in his home to keep quiet, he never opened up about what he knew. Jackie Huetts mother passed away this last Monday. We have located a lot of news articles and items which she had saved for 40 years. I am hoping to share all I have and someone can maybe put some more light on the story. Next week is the 40th anniversary.
Claudia, if you wouldn’t mind reaching out to me. I am a podcast producer and host. I am thinking of doing a mini-series on this case. I have been reading up on all of this and I really feel like there is more to it and I would love to bring it to the masses and see if at least it doesn’t generate renewed interest.
Desmon to be honest my name showed up on accident here. I tried to reply privately and it turned out not. I will not be comfortable giving contact info on this site. I can respond privately with anyone I can properly identify. If you would be willing to leave an email address? Hoping you understand why at this point..I’m concerned for privacy and safety. But we will no longer share on social media sites like this due to the confidential information being used improperly and or slandered.
cars distributor got wet or the carb acted up and wouldnt start…battery turned over till it quit…the car would start later..they got startled originallyby the heart attack guy…left the area..ate c rats that were bad..got sick and weak and disoriented..happens all the time similarly..
Name one instance where the sequence you say happens all the time similarly happened apart from this
Hope the families get closure
“The Boys From Yuba City,” – Idea for solution to events.
1: Ted Weiher (best buddies with) 2: Jackie Huett – and 3: William Sterling, 4:Jack Madruga (driver and owner of car) Gary Mathias (diagnosed paranoid schizophrenia – okay for 2 years).
Prior to setting off for the basketball game on the Saturday night, with their own big game set for the next day, Mathias, the “de-facto leader of the group,” risks not taking his meds, just this once, so as not to affect his performance on the court – side effects of his meds being spasms.
The evening initially goes OK. All five “boys” get in the car and drive to and attend and enjoy the game. Upon leaving the parking lot after the basketball game, they pick up snacks at a store (possibly annoying the storekeeper who was about to close up). At this point, triggered off by who knows what – something as seemingly innocuous as a sideways or stern stare from a passer by maybe – Mathias starts to “act up” and has an episode. Paranoid and fighting a foreboding and slowly suffocating sense of dread, Matthias is certain the group is being watched…. and followed.
He orders Madruga to turn the car the opposite way to home, as “The Thing” is following them and will find out where they live if they drive back to their home address as planned; killing them and their families. Madruga and the rest of the group go along with the order (as Mathias is the “de-facto leader” of the group.)
They drive, all five seriously spooked and unsettled, with Mathias constantly looking back to see who, or what, is following them and how quickly the threat is gaining on them. Mathias is paranoid of each and every headlight he sees behind. They reach the potholed road and slow down – both to see if “The Thing” is still coming to get them, and also to make sure they do not blow a tire or otherwise damage the car on the rough terrain of the road. They reach the snowline and, wheels spinning, think in their state of distress that they are stuck and stuck bad.
They get out and try and get the car out of trouble, running the wheels, causing a “whistling noise” and, with the car headlights and their voices, they wake up key witness Joseph Shones: (Shones, who had been in the area checking on how bad the snow was ahead of a planned trip there with his family at a later date, suffered a mild heart attack in getting his own car out of the snow.) Having fallen asleep, recuperating in his car, Shones, upon hearing activity, shouts out to the five men. They freeze in abject terror! “The Thing!” The other four men look helplessly at their leader, Mathias.
For 15 minutes or more, they all stand, rooted to the spot, too scared to even breath! One of them, Jackie Huett, cannot even bring himself to prise open his tightly shut eyes. Finally, after what seems like an eternity, Mathias tries to again take charge; his mental condition at this point being completely undetermined. They make a second effort to get the car free and turned around so they can flee the now unimaginably (to them) terrifying scene. But upon trying to move the car a second time, Schones again calls out to the group. “The Thing!”
This time, following Mathias’ lead, they all quite literally run for their lives. There is nothing else for it. Mathias grabs the car keys, leaving the car unlocked, and up the snowy slope they go – on foot. Astonishingly – some say unbelievably – they make it over ten miles (this despite the fact that some of the “boys” are wearing sneakers and are without a heavy coat). A snowcat trail that had been made the day before assists their walking, at least somewhat.
Sadly, after an agonising few hours, two of the “boys” die. Either due to an animal attack or due to succumbing to exposure, Sterling and Madruga are lost. Three members of the group: Weiher, Mathias and Huett – make it to an unattended park trailer. (Note: the trailer was 19.4 miles from the abandoned car, and the bodies of Sterling and Madruga were later found approx 11 miles from the car, the body of Huett much closer to the trailer).
They open around 12 of the ration tins they find inside the trailer, using the army knife to do so, (so this was likely Mathias who, having served in the army, knew how to use the opener) and they eat a tin each. Resting, but not making a fire for fear of attracting “The Thing,” which is still coming (at least in the mind of Mathias), they also fail to notice, or look inside, the locker – the locker that, as people familiar with this horrific tale will know, is full of food (this being the most poignant irony of the entire tale).
They keep warm in blankets and of course eat snow for water. Weiher his feet frostbitten, swaps footwear with Mathias, who, as the “leader,” decides to exit the cabin and look for help (Weiher’s leather boots are taken by Mathias, who leaves his less sturdy tennis shoes in the cabin). Weiher and Huett are now left alone, with the instructions from Mathias to make the remaining open tins of food last as long as they can, until his return (which he is sure he will make after finding help, from somewhere or from someone).
Sadly, and sealing the fate of the remaining two men, Mathias is overcome by the elements and also dies, never to return to his friends.
Astonishingly – some say unbelievably – Weiher and Huett survive for around six to eight weeks, just barely eating enough, as in a couple of spoonfuls of the tinned food a day each, to stay alive. Consuming snow for water (which Huett went outside the cabin to get, as Weiher was unable to walk, bedridden and in extreme pain due to his frostbitten feet) and keeping themselves warm by wrapping themselves in blankets, the two live for some time yet go through an absolutely unimaginable ordeal.
Weiher, heavier-set and needing more food to keep going, eventually dies. A barely functioning Huett covers his dear friend in a “shroud” consisting of eight bed sheets or blankets, and he takes off Weiher’s ring and performs some sort of funeral/goodbye ceremony. Now alone, emotionally shredded and as physically as weak as a human being can be, Huett stumbles out of the cabin, maybe in a pathetic attempt to look for help himself. Huett simply has no choice, other than that of merely sitting and waiting to starve to death himself. With no idea of how much time has elapsed, Huett takes three blankets with him. Inevitably, he dies of exposure very quickly.
Then, in June, comes the spring thaw, and visiting bikers come across the cabin and make a grisly discovery in finding the body of Wieher.
A sad, tragic and terrible case of misadventure.
Why did they not turn on the gas, via the propane tank ?
In their stressed condition, along with their mentally challenged condition, they simply did not know how to do so. They would have had to have re-lit the pilot light for example.
Why is Mathias’ body never found?
Animals simply left hardly anything, what was left was for whatever reason never found.
What about “the woman and a baby” that Shones said he saw?
We can likely discredit this as Shones, by his own admission, was not an ideal witness; as fatigued, in pain and as disorientated as he was. He may have mistaken the long hair of one of the men for a woman. Likewise his statement regarding seeing a pick-up truck at the scene is unreliable – Shones even saying so himself. “I don’t know why I said that,” he is reported to have said to his wife later when looking back on the pick-up statement.
I lived next to Shones back then, and knew him all too well, unfortunately. See my other posts on this thread regarding his supposed account of events.
Someone posted this on Reddit and I think it’s a very plausible theory……………. This mystery is heartbreaking, full of twists and turns, and many unanswered questions.
Four of the five young men were found deceased. One of the deceased was found in a cabin. That cabin contained food and enough fuel to last for months- yet the fuel was never used and the man found there had lost almost 100 lbs and died of exposure. Three of the men were found deceased in various areas outside the cabin.
There were some possible signs of the fifth man in another cabin nearby- yet his remains have never been found and he is presumed deceased with his body yet to be discovered. What drove these young men to abandon their still operable car? Why were they all found in different spots? Why wasn’t the fuel in the cabin used and why didn’t they all stay in that cabin since it had plenty of food and fuel?
Here’s an article on the case. Since it’s so well written, I’ve used it below to help explain the details.
There was a half moon that night, a winter moon in a cloudless sky. Up in the mountains above the Feather River, the snow-drifts sometimes rose to 15 feet.
“You need a coat,” Ted Weiher’s grandmother had said, watching him go.
“Oh, Grandma, I won’t need a coat,” Weiher had said. “Not tonight.”
Two hours before midnight last Feb. 24, when the basketball game ended at the California State University at Chico, five young men from the flatlands 50 miles to the south climbed into a turquoise and white 1969 Mercury Montego and drove out of the parking lot. They were fans of the visiting team, which had won. They stopped three blocks away at Behr’s Market, mildly annoying the clerk (who was trying to close up), and bought one Hostess cherry pie, one Langendorf lemon pie, one Snickers bar, one Marathon bar, two Pepsis and a quart and a half of milk.
Then they walked out of the store, got back in their car, drove south out of Chico and disappeared.
Ted Weiher’s woke up afraid, at 5 the next morning. She cannot say what woke her up, except that maybe the Lord decided it was time to end her one last night of solid sleep. Ted’s bed was empty.
The house was still and it was not quite light and this is how the horror began, as it often does: no crash, no wailling, just a dim morning chill in a small house on what ought to be an ordinary day.
Imogene Weiher got on the phone and called Bill sterling’s mother as fast as she could.
Juanita Sterling had been up since 2 a.m. “Bill didn’t come home either,” she said.
Mrs. Sterling had already called Jack Madruga’s mother. Jack also had not come home. Mrs. Weiher called Jackie Huett’s mother and Mrs. Weiher’s daughter-in-law walked down the street to talk to Gary Mathias’ stepfather. All five friends had vanished. At 8 that evening, Mrs. Madruga called the police.
The boys had never done such a thing before.
They were men, really, not boys – Huett was the youngest, at 24, and Weiher was 32 – but their families called them boys, our boys. They lived at home. Three of the five had been diagnosed retarded; Madruga, although undiagnosed, according to his mother, was generally thought of as slow, and Mathias was under drug treatment for schizophrenia, a psychotic depression that first appeared five years ago and that his doctor says had not resurfaced for the past two years.
They were supposed to play a basketball game of their own on Feb. 25, part of a tournament, with a free week in Los Angeles if they won. Their clothes had been laid out the evening of the 24th, before they left for Chico – each had a beige T-shirt, the words “Gateway Gators” emblazoned across the chest, from the Yuba City vocational rehabilitation center for the handicapped where they all played basketball. Weiher had asked his mother to wash his new white high-topped sneakers for the tournament (he had scuffed them while trying them out); Mathias had just about driven his mother crazy with the game. “We got a big game Saturday,” Mathias kept saying. “Don’t you let me oversleep.”
Saturday came and went and no word came. The police began to take interest. On Tuesday, Feb. 28, they found Madruga’s Mercury, and from that day on nothing they found, nothing anybody told them, seemed to make any sense.
The car was 70 miles from Chico, on a deserted and rut-ravaged mountain road. It had stopped at the snow line, and although its tires had apparently spun, the car was not really stuck; five men easily could have pushed it free. The gas tank was a quarter full. Four maps, including one of California, lay neatly folded in the glove compartment. The keys were gone, but when police hot-wired the car the engine started immediately.
Both seats were littered with the wrappers of the food bought at Behr’s. Everything had been eaten except the Marathon bar, which was half gone.
And the car’s underside was undamaged. This heavy American car, with a low-hanging muffler and presumably with five full-grown men inside, had wound up a stretch of tortuously bumpy mountain road – apparently in total darkness – without a gouge or dent or thick mudstain to show for it. The driver had either used astonishing care and precision, the investigators figured, or else he knew the road well enough to anticipate every rut.
The families say only Madruga drove that car, ever. And the families say Madruga, who disliked camping and hated the cold, did not know that road.
None of the boys knew the road, as far as anybody could tell. Once about eight years earlier, Bill Sterling had gone fishing with his father at a cabin not far away, but he had not enjoyed himself and had stayed home the few times the Sterlings went back. Three years ago Weiher had hunted deer with friends in the Feather River country, but it was quite a way west of the area where the car was found, and his family says he was not keen on the forest either. With the exception of Mathias, who occasionally stayed out all night with friends, each of the lost men led mostly stay-at-home lives of such scheduled predictability that no one could fathom what – or who – might have taken them up that lonely road in mountains.
A storm whistled in the day the car was found, dropping nine inches of snow on the upper mountain. The search teams nearly lost men themselves two days later, as their Snow-cats struggled through the drifts. Nobody found anything, not so much as a shoe, unti lafter the spring thaw, when on June 4 a small group of Sunday motorcyclists wandered into a deserted forest service trailer camp at the end of the road and inhaled a nau-seating smell.
It was Ted Weiher, stretched out on a bed inside the main 60-foot trailer, frozen to death. Eight sheets had been pulled over his body and tucked around his head. His leather shoes were off, and missing. A table by the bed held his nickel ring with “Ted” engraved on it, his gold necklace, his wallet (with cash inside.) and a gold Waltham watch, its crystal missing, which the families say had not belonged to any of the five men.
Weiher had been a tall, heavy-set follow back in February – 5 feet 11, 200 pounds. By the time his body was found he had lost from 80 to 100 pounds.His feet were badly frostbitten. The growth of beard on his face showed that he had lived apparently, in starving agony inside that trailer, for anywhere from eight to 13 weeks.
He was 19.4 miles from the car, Weiher, wearing a striped velour shirt and lightweight green pants, had walked or run, or been somehow taken in the moonlight through almost 20 miles of 4-to-6-foot snowdrifts to reach the locked trailer where he died.
The trailer had been broken into through a window. No fire had been built although matches were lying around and there were paperback novels and wood furniture that would have burned easily. More than a dozen C-ration cans from an outside storage shed had been opened and emptied – one had been opened with an Army P38 can opener, which only Madruga and Mathias who had served in the Army, probably knew how to use – but no one had opened a locker in the same shed containing enough dehydrated Mexican dinners and fruit cocktails and assorted other meals to keep all five alive for a year.
No one had touched the propane tank in another shed outside, either. “All they had to do was turn that gas on,” says Yuba County Lt. Lance Ayers, “and they’d have had gas to the trailer, and heat.”
All though the spring, the search for the boys had practically consumed Ayers. He had gone to Marysville High School with Weiher and his brothers, although he had not known them well, and there was something about this silent disappearance of five strong men that haunted him like nothing he had ever investigated. Leads were drifting in from all parts of the country. The boys had been seen in Ontario; the boys had been seen in Tampa; the boys had been seen entering a movie theater in Sacramento accompanied by an older man. Ayers could punch holes in all of them. Skeptical but desperate, the consulted psychics: One told him the boys had been kidnapped to Arizona and Nevada; another said the boys had been murdered in Oroville, in a two-story red house, brick or stained wood, with a gravel driveway and the number 4723 or 4753.
For two solid days Ayers drove every street in Oroville, looking for that house. It did not exist.
Before long he could rattle off their names and vital statistics almost automatically. Theodore Earl Weiher, brown eyes, curly brown hair, handsome beer-bellied, friendly in a trusting child’s way (he waved at strangers and brooded for hours if they did not waveback); got a good chuckle out of phoning Bill Sterling and reading from newspaper items or oddball names from the telephone book; employed for a while as a janitor and snack bar clerk but quit at the urging of his family, who thought Weiher’s slowness was causing problems. Jackie Charles Huett, 24, 5 feet 9, 160 pounds, slight droop to the head, slow to respond, a loving shadow to Weiher, who looked after Huett in a protective sort of way and would dial the phone for him when Hyett had to make a call. Jack Antone Madruga, 5 feet 11, 190 pounds, high school graduate and Army veteran, brown eyes, brown hair, heavy-set, laid off in November from his job as a busboy for Sunsweet growers. William Lee Sterling, 5 feet 10, 170 pounds, dark brown hair, blue eyes, Madruga’s special friend, deeply religious, would spend hours at the library reading literature to help bring Jesus to patients in mental hospitals. Gary Dale Mathias, 5 feet 10, 170 pounds, brown hair, hazal eyes, 25, assistant in his stepfather’s gardening business. Army veteran with psychiatric discharge after drug problems that developed in Germany five years ago.
By late spring Ayers was dreaming about the boys at night. Once he woke in the darkness, arms outstretched: He had almost embraced all five.
“You do a lot of handshaking.” Ayers says. “And a lot of drinking.”
Then there was the man who saw lights on the road. Joseph Shones, 55, told police he drove his Volkswagen bug up that same road sometime after 5:30 the evening the boys disappeared. He said he was checking the snow line, because he wanted to bring his wife and daughter up that weekend. His car got stuck in the snow just above the snow line – about 50 yards beyond the place where the Mercury would be found – and as Shones was trying to free his car, he said, he had a heart attack. (Doctors later confirmed to investigators that Shones had indeed suffered a mild heart attack.)
Shones lay in the car with engine on and the car heater going, he said. Sometime in the night, he heard what he described as whistling noises a little way down the road, and he got out of his car. What he saw looked like a group of men and a woman with a baby, he said, walking in the glare of a vehicle’s headlights. He thought he heard them talking. Shones said he yelled for help, but the headlights went out, and the talking stopped.
Shones got back into his car and lay down again, he said. Sometime later, maybe a couple of hours, he saw lights outside his car window – flashlight beams, he said. Again he called for help.The lights went out and whoever was out there went away. Shones said he lay in the car until it ran out of gas, and then while it was still dark he walked back eight miles to the lodge called Mountain House, where he had stopped for a drink before heading up the road. Just below his Volkswagen, in the place where he had heard the voices, he passed the Mercury Montego sitting empty in the middle of the road.
The day after Weiher’s body was discovered, searchers found the remains of Madruga and Sterling. They lay on opposite sides of the road to the trailer, 11.4 miles from the car. Madruga had been partially eaten by animals and dragged about 10 feet to a stream: he lay face up, his right hand curled around his watch. Sterling was in a wooded area, scattered over about 50 feet. There was nothing left of him but bones.
Two days later, just off the same road but much closer to the trailer, Jackie Huett’s father found his son’s backbone. Ayers had tried to talk him out of joing the search, fearing something like that might happen, but Huett, whose first name is Jack, had insisted on going. There were a few other bones around, along with Jackie’s Levis and ripple-soled “Get Theres” shoes. An assistant sheriff from Plumas County found a skull the next day, about 100 yards downhill from the rest of the bones. The family dentist identified the teeth as those of Jackie Huett.
Huett’s remains had lain northeast of the trailer, like Sterling’s and Madruga’s. Northwest of the trailer, about a quarter mile away, searchers found three wool forest service blankets and a two-cell flashlight lying by the side of the road. The flashlight was slightly rusted and had been turned off. It was impossible to tell just how long it had been there.
They found no sign of Gary Mathias.
His tennis shoes were inside the forest service trailer, which suggested to investigators that he might have taken them off to put on Weiher’s leather shoes – particularly since Weiher had bigger feet, and Mathias’ feet might have swollen with frosbite. But that was pure conjecture, which was all they had.
State mental institutions have received a description of Mathias – slender, dark-haired, double vision without his glasses. He was not carrying his billfold when he left the house for the Chico basketball game, so he had no identification on him, and if he is still alive he has been without the drugs he needs for the last four months.
Mathias took his medicine weekly, as he had for at least three years – stellazine and cogentin, both used in the treatment of schizophrenia. His family says the illness appeared five years ago, while he was in the Army in Germany. Police records show he had become violent on occasion – he was charged with assault twice – and there was a difficult period, after his return from Germany, when Mathias would fail to take his drugs and lapse into a disoriented psychosis that usually landed him in a Veterans Administration hospital. “Went haywire,” is how Bob, his stepfather, puts it.
For the last two years, though, Mathias had been working steadily in his stepfather’s business and was taking his medication so faithfully that a local doctor who knows Mathias well calls him “one of our sterling success cases.” He collected Army psychiatric disability pay, was enormously attached to his family, loved the basketball games he shared with the other four men and listened to the Rolling Stones and Oilvia Newton-John on the record player in the living room. Klopf says his stepson took his medicine the week he disappeared. But he and the doctor say Mathias had not “gone haywire” in two years.
“What I looked for all the time I was up there were his glasses,” says Klopf. “I didn’t think the bear would eat that.”
He is sitting at his dining room table. His voice is gruff. He is tired of reporters and tired of the pain and tired of not understanding what happened to the boy. Ida Klopf, across the table from him, says she had not turned on her television in weeks because she does not want to find out that way. She says she is going back up there on the weekend, back up to see if she can find something the searchers missed.
“There’s no place to look, Ida,” says Klopf.
“I’ll find someplace,” Mrs. Klopf says, turning her face away. A Thousand Leads
“Bizarre,” says John Thompson, the special agent from the California Department of Justice who has joined Ayers on the investigation. “And no explanations. And a thousand leads. Every day you’ve got a thousand leads.”
They learned that a forest service Snowcat ran up the road to the trailer on Feb. 23, leaving a packed path in the snow that the boys might have followed.
They took on a water witcher from the town up north called Paradise, who said the he had fixed it so his divining rod would pick up traces of human minerals and then led the searchers to a deserted cabin near the abandoned car.
They found a gray cigarette lighter, the disposable plastic kind, about three-quarters of a mile northwest of the trailer. The families said none of the boys carried lighter.
They found that gold watch beside Weiher’s body.
They discovered that Gary Mathias knew people in Forbestown, which is about halfway between Chico and Yuba cities, on a road with a turnoff so easy to miss that anybody driving it late at night might have ended up heading north, toward the mountains, and lost.
But none of it helped. The cabin-found by the water witcher was empty, the cigarette lighter might have been dropped by a hiker, the watch might have belonged to a forest ranger in the trailer mouths earlier, and Mathias’ friends in Forbestown said they had not seen him for a year.
And suppose they followed the Snowcats’ tracks. Suppose that was how Weiher made it through 20 miles of deep snow. Why?
Why abandon a perfectly operable car to strike out into the forest at midnight?
Why press on through 20 miles of snowdrifts and darkness to break into a lock, unheated trailer and die?
Why drive all the way up there in the first place? And how? If someone chased them, why was the car undamaged? What were the whistling noises and the voices Shones heard on the road?
It doesn’t add up.
“There was some force that made em go up there.” Jack Madruga’s mother Mabel says firmly. “They wouldn’t have fled off in the wood like a bunch of quail. We know good and well that somebody made them do it. We can’t visualize someone getting the upper hand on those five men, but we know it must have been.”
“They seen something at that game, at the parking lot,” says Ted Weiher’s sister-in-law. “They might have seen it and didn’t even realize they seen it.”
“I can’t understand why Gary would have been that scared,” says Klops.
Even a fire, he says, “All those paperbacks and they didn’t even build a lousy fire. I can’t understand why they didn’t do that unless they were afraid.”
But he cannot imagine what they were afraid of. Neither can the investigators. They can’t prove there was foul play and they can’t explain it if there wasn’t.
They don’t even know if Gary Mathias is deadd. They think he is. They think his body probably lay on the snow until the spring thaw came and eased him down, deep inside some thick green patch of mountain manzanita.
What if all of them wanted to commit communal; suicide and Gary turned cold feet in the process and bolted? I know this an ultra-bizarre suggestion but we can rule this in as a possibility, right?
No. If they wanted to kill themselves they wouldn’t have walked twenty miles through the snow. They would have just lain down by the roadside and died.
Is it known how long they were alive after leaving the car? Not counting Mathias, did only one of them survive beyond the first day? I can’t find any info on whether a rough time of death was officially released.
Established time of death? Look, Quincy M.E., they found their gnawed on remains. They have no way to establish the time of death.
Not even the pre-brains enhanced Scarecrow in the Wizard Of Oz would ask that
All I can say here is, if you are seriously looking into this case you must read David Paulides Missing 411 series of books. There are 7 now. And I’m sure more to come, because there is something very nefarious going on. And it’s other worldly. Or paranormal. However you want to call it.
If other worldly or paranormal was involved that would have started about the time or after their car stopped. So there are two mysteries, why did they drive up there and what happened ten.
I tend to think Mathies was the catalyst to the deaths due to schizophrenia. and being the intellectual ‘leader’.
Do any of you know the area? I do. I’ve lived in Paradise for 37 years. I’ve camped on Marble creek, Little north fork, driven 4 trees road many times. In 1978 the Oro-Quincy hwy was unpaved past Mountain House. That section of road was difficult to transverse until late into June in a good year. I believe the county finished paving the hwy in 1985 or so. It’s closed now, in 2018, due to a washout and is always closed during the winter. The idea that 5 people, in casual wear and sneakers or leather loafers would strike out east from Merrimac at 11;30pm in February is laughable. From Merrimac(no dwellings) it’s sometimes a 11% grade uphill to Palmetto(no dwellings)and probably a 2,000 foot rise in elevation. They walked 19.4 miles in heavy snow in freezing temperatures? At a normal walking pace on flat ground, 2 miles an hour is about right. Uphill in heavy snow and casual shoes, at night? 1 1/2 miles an hour… maybe. If they kept up the pace, maybe reached the trailer by noon the next day. But how did they know the trailer was there? It wasn’t on the highway.This snowcat story. What the hell? Why would a snowcat be up by Bucks lake in February? It would have had to drive from Meadow valley west for 10 miles through deep snow. For what? For kicks? There is absolutely no reason to go up there. Certainly not by the forest service. There’s nothing there. There’s no one there in the winter. I call bullshit
So how did they end up there?
Is this the precise area they disappeared? Left the car at Merrimac and to Palmetto? I have been trying to determine this as I never saw it mentioned. Otherwise, I am with you. I don’t care what people say, hiking 19 miles in snow and freezing temps? Seriously?
Richard – Pardon me if this reply is a repeat, as my last one seems to have vanished. I lived in Berry Creek back then, and also worked, lived, and owned property on Four Trees road, south of Coyote Gap. You make some very good points in your post, especially about the grades you would have to ascend to get there, right from the beginning of the Oro-Quincy Highway. Past Mountain House was absolutely desolate. Check my reply to another comment above, for my take on Joe Shones involvement.
A fascinating story indeed. However too much is bothering me. Not just the standard “why didnt he eat the food? Light fire? Etc. Etc. But other parts.
The only witness went and had a drink? At the lodge? Shouldnt the boys have driven passed said lodge? Local PD had seen the car, didnt they figure the cabin may have been a reasonable location to look? Especially snce the car was pointed in that direction?
In the 2 months Weiher was alive in that cabin, someone was alive to bring him food & water. How he could survive gangrene or sepsis is beyond me, but a person dies in 3 days without water. I dont see how he was left alone since he was “shrouded”, indicative of another person or how he could have survived weeks alone with damaged feet? If he could move, why didnt he plug the window?
Someone got Weiher there took 3 blankets back down, couldn’t find them and went back? Or they left food forWeiher and never made it back?
Then Weiher sat for 2 months and only opened a dozen cans of food? If Weiher was alive for 8 weeks… thats like, a can of food per week, 2 tops. I dont believe its possible to sustain life at that rate of calorie intake.
This one really is a mystery.
It has been claimed that the road the boys ended up on was in such poor condition that the car should have been shown signs of being damaged by the drive. But the gentleman who suffered the heart attack drove even further up that road in a Volkswagen Bug. Makes me wonder if the road was really in such bad shape or if people are just trying to add an element of mystery by asserting that the boys car shouldn’t have been able to make it up that road?
The VW had 1 driver. The Montego had a driver and four passengers
I heard reports that witnesses related stories about “the boys” defending a woman in an altercation at the basketball game. Does anyone have a source for that story?
A detail I find the most interesting is that Jack Madruga was found clutching his watch and had served in the military. Military training teaches to stop your watch at your time of death if something untimely happens so that when you are found the exact time of your death can provide a clue as to what happened. Also, Jack Madruga loved his car and was low intelligence, slow learning, not disabled. He wouldn’t get lost on a short trip, especially on a trip to a basketball game, of which they played on a team at various locations locally.
Also, the men were found close to eachother, but spread far enough that they could have been running, scattered. It could be an animal attack brought by the smell of the food in the trailer, or a person that was looking for them found them as they made their way back to the car.
For me, there is absolutely no doubt that these five made an unplanned trip to that trailer on purpose. Further, I imagine the only reason they would do that would be if they were scared and hiding from something. None of the men wanted to oversleep for the game tomorrow, and at 10pm they wouldn’t be home before 11pm at the earliest with no detours. It’s unlikely they even took a scenic diversion. Further, Gary Mathias is the only one who enjoyed the outdoors and perhaps knew how to get to that trailer or had an idea about where they were going. From many of the details about the personalities of the men, it was difficult to get them to do things they didn’t like – use the phone, put on a jacket, let someone drive their car. It’s unlikely they were being manipulated.
The body found in the trailer was an injured friend who had to be left when the men went back out to return to the car and get help. Mathias would have been with them or leading if he was still present, but it appears Madruga was out front, leading the way back. The trailer was 20 miles in packed snow from where they parked the car. Another man, the witness, while having a heart attack, was able to walk 8 miles back to his lodge, much later in the evening after more snow had fallen. It is unlikely five basketball players had any trouble getting to the cabin and died on the way. Also, this witness could have seen not the men, but the people looking for the men, when they found the car. They were whistling, like you would for a lost dog, and then disappeared when they realized a witness was present.
The idea that the men may have witnessed something very bad, like a murder, and that they wouldn’t go home or go right to the police because their identities were known to others at the basketball game, makes the most plausible explanation as to why they went to that cabin — to hide. If so, they may have been killed, just as they feared they would be, and the killer remains unaccountable for the crime.
Another detail that sticks out is Weiher’s frostbitten feet and Mathias’s shoes. It indicates that in a frenzy he may have stepped in water in the cold, maybe trying to help someone. To me it is clear he was the only one suffering from the condition and unable to walk by the way he was arranged in the bed and the fact that the other men were still in a group, probably heading back to the car. If Mathias is the one who was first murdered (due to his temper and lack of a mental disability), his tennis shoes are indeed very puzzling but it might have something to do with Weiher’s feet being wet after running through the water upset by the death of his friend, and then swapping out his wet shoes for Mathias’s tennis shoes. Or Mathias survived, avoided an attack by animals, and disappeared because like the others, he knew he had to hide in the first place. I just find it unlikely he wouldn’t come forward to give the families some peace if he were still alive.
What color is the sky in your world?
I will give you my next paycheck if you can demostrate proof of military training that tells you to stop your watch at your time of death.
That may be the dumbest thing ever said on the internet and that is saying a lot.
Wow, what a mysterious case, I’ve read everything that has been said here and the WaPo article, there are a lot of theories out there, and we will probably never know for sure what happened, to huett, my sincere est condolences, what your family have been through must be unimaginable, let me ad my own theory, that I think makes sense of the situation.
The five boys attended the basketball game, everyone is happy cause their team won, and around ten,they buy some snacks from the store clerk who would rather lock up. The night is still young though, and Matthias suggests they see his friends in forbestown, or maybe to go to a bar, they all think this is a good idea and set out, but they take the wrong turn and by the time they realise it, they are thoroughly lost, and heading north up the mountain. The car gets stuck in the blizzard, and they stay there, stuck. They eat the snacks they bought, and wait.
The old man in the car comes by, and they see him, they think he will help them but he has a heart attack instead. This gets them really scared, this would be scary at the best of times, in a snowstorm in the dark, a screaming man having a heart attack is terrifying, (the car is stuck but they try to get it moving by spinning the motor, this causes the whinning sound)they run back to the car.
Sometime later, they think to use the flashlights to check if anyone is still out there, but the old man has recovered, and, seeing the flashlights shouts again. This would be too much, thinking they are being chased they abandon the car and try to run along the road, but it is covered in ice and so they get lost, very lost. Perhaps using their army training, or perhaps through dumb luck, they find the rangers cabin. They rejoice, try the door, but it is stuck, or too cold to move properly, or they are too tired after hiking many miles, but they break the window to get in.
All five are alive at this point, though weihr’s feet is suffering from the early stages of frostbite
They find the rations and eat them, but because they are not too bright they think that that is all the food there is, or maybe they do not find the locker, or realise they need fire to melt snow to eat the dehydrated food. They find the gas tank, but their fingers are too frostbitten to use the matches, or its Too cold and windy in the cabin to light a fire ( remember the window is letting air in all the time) so they never turn the gas on. the group consider their options. They try to stay a few days, but weeks go by without a change in the weather, and with food dwindling they decided that madruga and sterling will try to head back to the car and civilization and get help Madruga takes his watch to use as a compass. Matthias stays with weihr to look after him, because he is the most able .
Madruga and Stirling are too weak to make it back to the car though, and die of exposure, their bodies eaten by animals.
Huett tries to make it back to the car days later, taking blankets and a flashlight but has not eaten in days, and dies as well.
Matthias realises his friends have failed, and bundles up weihr, who is to weak to move, in blankets, takes the shoes to help with frostbite, he dies too.
Finally weihr dies in bed of hunger and cold, after many weeks.
Except 1) There was no blizzard. (There was a snowstorm days later while trying to search for them.) 2) The witness had the heart attack HOURS before they arrived, the men didn’t witness it. 3) I don’t think it has ever been established they had flashlights in the car? (You might carry one flashlight in the car for an emergency, but multiple?) The witness claimed to have seen flashlights. AFAIK, the only flashlight found was outside, 400m from the cabin (came from the cabin?). 4) There’s no way weeks go by without a break in the weather. This is what, a mile high, in California, in late February? It’s not Antarctica. I run outside for several hours through snowy subzero Minnesota winters. 5) Weiher somehow survives weeks alone AFTER being wrapped in a shroud?
Also an ad-hoc side trip was said to be completely out of character, even more so given the game the next day. That doesn’t mean it’s not possible, of course. They were miles and miles out of their way … they “didn’t realize it” until they hit the snow, despite driving up an unpaved mountain road? They didn’t get out their map at any point?
Here’s an weird thought for you: The day the Montego is ID’d by the ranger those guys are alive and at the ranger shelter using the p-38 to open cans.
I don’t know if this has been said or not but C rations all come with a P-38 can opener. They can be tricky to use it you haven’t used them before. This supports the idea that one of both of the prior service men were in the cabin. At least for awhile.
Mathias’ parents tell a story of the time he walked 540 miles home from his grandmother’s place in Oregon, eating dogfood and stealing milk from porches to stay alive. Is it possible that he walked a great distance from the car or trailer? Could he have taken some of the food with him to survive on?
There is one John Doe found the next year in California that could fit. The route from the woods to where the body was found would have taken him through or near his hometown. It’s possible he walked home but was afraid to actually go home because of whatever happened in those woods (even if it were an accident, he would have been paranoid by then).
I was in Search and Rescue, and worked on cases like this one. I suspect instead that Gary Mathias either died first, or was separated from this group. Plus, I would not be surprised if the area has a history. I just checked a search I worked on in 1986, and sure enough, another person has disappeared in the same area for no reason, leaving behind a car.
If you see this please could you elaborate on the case you searched/ worked on in 1986?
Your idea that Gary may have been separated from the others is somewhat supported by some members of the 5 mens families. They believe a man who knew Gary at the time and is now a pastor in the Yuba City area killed Gary at the Oroville dam then scared the other 4 men to drive up towards Mountain House lodge and into the woods.
There’s also the possibility that someone from the area ( Near Forbstown or Berry Creek areas ) may have coerced the men into helping them. Jack Madrugas cousins went to Forbstown looking for their missing uncle at the time. The place was filled with bear traps , Drug dealers and men / women carrying weapons all around the woods.
It seems to me that the answers to all the questions in this case would be found in the most obvious place: the beginning, the basketball game. What happened at the basketball game or, more importantly, WHO did the boys meet at the basketball game? Was somebody else inside their car with them after the basketball game?
Stopping for snacks after the game seems reasonable but it’s at that time when all reason in this story goes out the window. If, somehow, a person at the game had befriended the bunch and convinced them of making a side trip to an interesting place, then this mystery becomes less mysterious.
Everyone agrees that everything for the boys was normal until the ball game was over. It was when the game was over and the boys stopped for snacks when everything became abnormal.
Stop right there. Why was a decision made among them to travel in an unknown direction? A reasonable explanation, or an explanation that certainly warrants scrutiny, is that someone with them convinced them to do this.
Which leads to the most important aspect of the entire incident, in my opinion, and which is mentioned by the investigators: how did the car travel over such harsh road conditions and yet remain nicely clean when it was abandoned? One of the theories mentions that a person very familiar with the road was driving the car.
And, in my opinion, that’s what happened. Somebody at the ball game convinced the boys of making a side trip to an interesting place and he was so convincing, the boys allowed him to drive the car. This person was very familiar with the rough terrain and that’s why the car remained clean after a long drive up a muddy, nasty mountain road.
And it was this person, with malice in his heart, who was responsible for all the events after the car was abandoned. The boys didn’t embark on this adventure on their own. They were coerced. They were coaxed. Somebody was with them during their time of distress in those mountains. And it was this person who was responsible for their deaths.
I am roughly with you most of the way on this, except what motive would there be? Apparently not robbery. There were no signs of violence to any of the 4 bodies. If I were going to kill a group of people, it wouldn’t be by chasing them out into a wilderness to maybe eventually succumb to hypothermia/starvation.
Also, the keys were found in Madruga’s pocket. So, this mystery person carefully drives the car up to this remote location with a car full of guys he wants to scare/rob/kill. Then, he hands the keys back to Madruga, who puts them in his pocket, THEN he scares them off? In what possible scenario would a nefarious kidnapper/assailant give the keys back to the owner of the car, a car which is still functional and has a quarter tank of gas?
Do you think its possible that Joe Schons could have suffered a mild heart attack due to him possibly fighting Gary Mathias? After watching your new yuba 5 vid Drew I agree with you that something must have happened at rodgers cow camp which caused Jack ( the driver ) to roll down the window.
Possible scenario: The boys run into Joe Schons ,who as G.M white describes often got his vehicle stuck and needed other people to help get him unstuck. The Boys may have taken a wrong turn onto the Oroville Quincy highway and couldn’t turn around due to the road not been wide enough to do so plus the snow. The boys run into Joe who asks them for help. The boys start helping Joe get his vehicle unstuck, perhaps some of the men like Gary and Ted try pushing it out whilst Jack stays in his 1969 Montego talking to Schons through the driver’s window.
G.M White describes Joe as a liar, wet brain and would run his mouth if others weren’t doing a good job ( in Drews book G.M White and his neighbours would maintain the roads whilst Joe just complained). If Joe was at mountain house lodge before he got his vehicle stuck, according to eyewitness reports Drew Discovered, then Joe is probably at the very least slightly Drunk which was also a common thing with the guy apparently.
Maybe Joes running his mouth to Jack, whos still sitting in his Mercury Montego because he was nervous about leaving it. Joes not really helping the guys out with pushing his own VW beetle out of the snow which pisses off Gary. Gary would have been the only one who would feel comfortable confronting someone or fighting. Perhaps Gary tells Joe to help him and Ted ( maybe Huett ) push the VW out and Joe refuses. Maybe it escalates, with Joe running his drunk mouth, into a possible fight between Joe and Gary. Maybe Joe could have insulted Gary and the other boys or made a remark about their mental health issues/ Cognitive disabilities. Perhaps in an emotional response Joe pulls out a gun he owned and fired into the air and scared all 5 men into fleeing up hill. Maybe Joe stays in his VW beetle afterwards, not only to try recover from his mild heart attack after possibly fighting Gary, But also to ensure the boys never came back down the mountain road that night.
I base the idea of Joe potentially firing a gun because the Huetts firmly claim gun shell casings were found on the road, near Doc Madrugas car. G.M White also describes a scenario where Joe, after arguing with his neighbours and getting punched for it, opened fire on the neighbours property with a rifle whilst the neighbours kids were still playing outside.
However like both Drew and G.M White state Joe was the town drunk and might have just made up the story and was actually never there that night on the Oroville Quincy highway.
Really hope this case is solved one day and looking forward to the podcast you’re in Drew coming February 2022 discussing the case with Tony.
Anthony – Joe Schones would usually stand back, and let whomever was helping him figure out how to get him unstuck. He was in his late 50s at the time, in poor shape, and would be agreeable to anyone that might get him out of his predicament. He would know better than to look for trouble under those circumstances. He didn’t own or carry a handgun that I ever saw, and the only thing in his VW was beer and empty cans. He did shoot at our place that one time, but that was out of character for him. He may have wanted us to put him out of his misery.
I attended Chico State from 1989-1993. It’s worth noting that Oroville has long had a REALLY bad reputation for crime. Chicoans often referred to it as “Horroville.” Possible scenario: One (or more) of the five may have flashed a wad of cash at Behr’s Market which was noticed by the woman with the baby who recognized five easy marks, late at night, out of their home neighborhoods, and then pleaded for a ride for her and her baby to what ended up being the desolate roadway. They could have been tailed by the second car (that Schone reportedly saw) with her cohorts. When the attempted robbery commenced the “boys” fled in terror in the opposite direction – uphill. The crooks would then have given up on their scheme and driven back in the opposite direction (Oroville?). Just one possible scenario.
Mason – Oroville in the late ’70s was far from dangerous, as it was mostly populated by blue collar working men, and law enforcement was far more active back then, than they are today. Anybody with a driver’s license could walk out of Raley’s with a nice new handgun, no waiting period or background check. Open carry of handguns on you, or in your vehicle, was fine. This made for a polite society, and nobody in their right mind would be looking for trouble with 5 grown men. There’s no way anyone could make those men drive 5 miles past Mountain House. I lived in Berry Creek, next to Joe Schones, who was a wet brain alcoholic, as well as a pathological, stream-of-consciousness bullshitter. Anything he said was likely made up on the spot. Schones often got his vehicle stuck on back roads, while drinking and driving, and did have a heart condition, so it is possible he saw the men. However, the tales he told the next day were total nonsense.
There was a sighting of Schons at the Mountain House Lodge earlier in the afternoon just before the boys went missing in the police files. What I want to know is if Schons VW can definitively be placed at Rogers Cow Camp at any time from Feb 24 thru 26th. GM, one quick question for you is, how hard would it have been to turn the car around on the Oroville-Quincy Hwy.? Would it be so difficult that the boys just kept climbing higher ?
Hey Drew, good to talk to you again. You did interview me at length, if you recall. The Oro-Quincy Highway itself was very broad and well maintained back then, and was kept open year round, due to logging activity. Old growth timber was still abundant at the time. However, Shannon McGarvey told me that one, or both, of the cars (the VW & the Mercury) were actually on the access road to Roger’s Cow Camp, some distance from the Oro-Quincy Highway. Also keep in mind, that getting stuck in ruts, caused by rain, was very common – especially for Joe Schones.
Lots of cars and people descending on one little spot on one little road so late at night in this story.
GM White – who is Shannon McGarvey and what else does he know? Was he involved in the search and does he know the locations of where the bodies were found?
I understand you were living in the area at the time – what is your theory on what happened the night of Feb 24?
Dana – She is a podcast producer, who is doing a series on the YC 5. My take on the case is limited, but I was very familiar with the area, and did know Schones. His travels were usually closer to his home in Berry Creek, and it was unusual for him to go as far as Mountain House, the last outpost on the Oro-Quincy highway, where the pavement ended. For him, or anyone else, going miles past there at that time of year, late in the day, is hard to explain. Driving uphill all the way there from Oroville was no accident, as it took serious time and effort. There were no places to stop, no people you’d encounter. It’s possible the men saw Schones, and he would mention his heart condition to get people to help him. One thing I’d like to point out is how easy it would have been to get disoriented, when it got dark and started to snow. This would be far more likely if they ended up on a side road, versus the Oro-Quincy highway. Was Schones enough of an idiot to send them in the wrong direction ? That he was. Did he even remember seeing the men after he sobered up ? Probably not. Would he just make up what he told the police ? Definitely.
I was just going to ask the same question as Dana. I recall in one of the newspapers from 1978 ( May have been the Marysville Democrat) that Joes wife, named Cindy Schons, was the one who reported that her husband saw 2 vehicles that night. One appeared to resemble a pic up truck. When questioned Joe stated he didn’t know why he said this to his wife. I maybe wrong on this claim however but Drew Beeson or Tony Doug Wright may know.
Was also going to ask if G.M White knew of another disappearance that happened in 1986 around the same area? In this blog post, just further up , a commenter named David stated he worked in search and rescue and another case happened in the same area around 1986 where someone disappeared leaving their vehicle abandoned on the road. I’ve replied to him but not had a response as of yet.
GM White – What was the scuttle-butt/word on the street with the locals on what happened? Don’t be shy now…
Dana – There were only several hundred people, spread out over 60 square miles, and not very many of us saw each other on a regular basis. Some people had landline telephones, and you’d get a few tv channels at best. There was one mountain bar, The Sugar Pine, in Berry Creek – everything else we went to Oroville for. The local speculation about the Yuba City 5 was that it was a tragic accident, and some thought Schones had something to do with it.
GM White – Tragic accident agreed, but how do 5 local guys born and raised in the area get 60 miles off course?
As I’ve stated to Drew Beeson, Tony Wright and Shannon McGarvey – That drive was like going up to the Overlook Hotel, in The Shining. I stayed mostly at my cousin’s place, off Rockerfeller road in Berry Creek (right next to Schones property). But I owned a place off Four Trees road, west of where two of the YC men’s bodies were found. Every time I went up there, I made damn sure my vehicle was in order, and that I was completely equipped and provisioned. There was no mistaking the fact that you were on your own. But fools occasionally rush in, where wise men fear to tread, and I met a couple. But not in February, at night.
GM White – I’ll wager you were in your twenties in ’78, a young dude starting out as a working stiff and such. Did you know Jon Schons (Joseph’s son)? What was he like?
Joe and Cindy’s daughter Dani lived there, but their son didn’t. He was there in the summer of 1980, during the family’s 1st attempt to grow a weed crop. I observed him on trails adjacent to our property on two occasions. He knew we were there somewhere, and headed back the way he came.
It’s been 40+ years into nothing more than a “tragic accident”. Why do you still care?
Difficult question, I admit
“G M White”
Whitely for the win
I agree that the motive is tough to decipher.
It seems to me that it’s blatantly obvious that a stranger was behind the wheel of the car. The car should’ve been covered in mud and dirt and it wasn’t. Unless some supernatural force or an ET spaceship moved that car to that remote location, then it had to be a local person very familiar with the terrain who was driving.
So, it seems to me the stranger parked the car at a determined, familiar spot and continued on foot, inviting the boys to come along with him, maybe to a cabin he had built far away from any roadways. He probably discussed an adventure on foot with the boys while driving and they reluctantly agreed to go along with it. This would explain why Madruga got the car keys back.
And the stranger knew very well that the boys were not psychologically able to turn the car around and navigate it back down a mountainous road in bad conditions at night. Remember: the stranger knows these boys from the basketball game, in my opinion. He knew they would be stuck because of their inherent fears caused by their mental conditions. He knew they were mentally handicapped and easily frightened.
So, he returned the keys to Madruga and set out on foot in a deep forest location that he was very familiar with and told the boys, “follow me to my place in the woods.” The boys were in despair. Do we follow him or stay in the car? They followed.
What happened after that can only be guessed at. But, the stranger leading the boys away into the night on foot into a dense, dark forest seems reasonable considering the deaths and the bizarre circumstances involved later on in this case. (Remember the strange cabin with food in it.)
So, why would the stranger do such a thing and what was his agenda? Ya got me. Revenge on one of the boys? Sick thrills? Pathological evil? I don’t know.
And because there was no sign of violence to the four bodies, the stranger had decided against violence and, instead, to just let them die of exposure.
Jen is wrong. Joe Schons wife went by the name “Cindy” it was her middle name. Her legal first name was Rosenda. Not Harriett. I can prove this. Jen, please do better research.
After watching Nexpos video on this case I read one of the comments who proposed this potential theory:
“The most plausible theory, in my eyes after reading the book and listening to the families, is that on their way home the boys’ route took them through Orovile. The town Bully ( Garys alleged criminal friend ) encounters them and a chase ensues. The boys and the town bully start driving up towards Berry Creek before the Town bully decides to stop chasing them.( either because he lost them OR he got his kicks out of the chase) The boys still think they’re being chased and Gary instructs Jack M to drive to Forbsetown to get help / get Gary’s friend to help them as he had a weapon.
However due to a combination of the mens paranoia, the Dark, the cold, unfamiliar territory and the Boys cognitive disabilities/ mental health issues the 5 men end up becoming lost. They get jacks car stuck in light snow and attempt to push it out when they hear someone shouting ahead of them ( this person being Joe Schons). The boys’ paranoia is already high and in their minds theres an enemy infront of them and the town bully is coming up behind them. In their panic and fear Gary takes charge and takes the men into the woods and round Joe in order to follow the round. Perhaps Gary thought he was closer to Forbestown than he realised.
On their way to the trailer Bill Sterling collapses first due to the cold and hypothermia setting in. Jack Madruga decides to stay with Bill and possibly might have tried to carry him but also eventually succumbed to hypothermia. Gary, Ted and Jackie all make it to the trailer. Gary breaks a window to get in and puts Ted on the bunkbed. Jackie puts the sheets over Ted for warmth as Gary breaks into a storage locker for the canned food. Gary doesn’t light a fire because, in his mind, they are still being chased by the town bully when in reality they’re not. At some point, around 2/3 days later, Gary leaves the trailer to try get help and takes Teds shoes for extra protection against the snow and cold. Unfortunately on his journey to try get help Gary succumbs to hypothermia somewhere on the way to Quincy.
Jackie, given his low IQ and anxiety, wouldn’t have known how to use a propane tank and wouldn’t have gotten more food as he thought it was stealing. At some point, either after Ted passes away or just before, Jackie leaves the cabin in a desperate attempt to try get help. Unfortunately he either passes away due to hypothermia or being attacked by an animal.”
I don’t know if I fully agree with this theory because why would Jack Madrugas car not have showed more signs of damage on the underside. Also the issue with Joe Schons’ story and if he really was there that night.
Not sure if everyone is aware that last year’s North Complex wildfire burned the entire area, from Oroville, north almost to Buck’s Lake, and northeast, almost to Quincy. This includes Berry Creek, up to and beyond Mountain House, and all the areas where the Yuba City 5 tragedy took place.
Just found this case by a wikipedia plunge.
Read the Beeson book and everything I could find on the internet, including the 2019 Sac Bee article.
Here’s some thoughts I haven’t seen expressed yet.
1. Weiher couldn’t have lived for weeks in freezing cold while also starving. It’s not possible. To live, you need warmth. Without a fire or the trailer’s heating system, that can only come from food. The food was available but cold and maybe frozen solid. C Rations freeze- they’re a wet ration. I don’t find it credible that he lost 80-100 pounds but somehow didn’t freeze to death or succumb to frostbite over a period of several weeks. A commenter above pointed out that the weight loss could be accounted for by freezing to death, and I agree. I think whoever decided he had lived for up to two months is wrong. I believe he got frostbite getting to the trailer, it went bad fairly quickly, and he died of exposure or sepsis, probably within a week or two at the most. Gangrene can kill you within 48 hours, but I don’t know how long it took for Weiher to get there.
2. Water. You can’t just eat snow to drink. You have to melt it. This is why mountain climbers take gas stoves with them. If there was no heat, and no fire, how did they not die of thirst? Did the temperatures warm up enough to melt snow? I don’t know.
3. Let’s leave the mens’ disabilities aside for a moment and pretend they were all 100 IQ with no mental illness. Why would they drive up a side road only as far as the car would go, then get out and go into the woods? Why not drive back? Why not walk back? The only reason I can think of would be that something or someone was chasing them. I don’t know why they went up the road. It’s not possible to answer that with the facts I know. But it seems to me that ditching the car when it can’t take you any farther only makes sense if you cannot go back for some reason.
Why make this point? Well, I have an intellectually disabled son. He probably won’t be able to drive safely, and he will not be able to join the Army. Maruga could do both. Driving is HARD. It’s the most demanding cognitive task most people do on an everyday basis. Really, no shit. We take it for granted, but it’s actually a big job for our brain. My son wouldn’t decide to go into an unknown, unfamiliar environment for kicks. He’d walk out the way he came or stay where he was. Maruga was able to drive his car around, get places, manage his own finances, hold down a job, and not crash. So, we have to explain why the owner of the car bailed into a winter night and froze to death rather than drive back or walk to the highway. He was slow, sure, but no one who can drive a car where he wants to go is going to be that stupid. Between him and Matias, there’s no reason to go into the woods and die. Maybe the car flooded or something and wouldn’t restart right away? But why not walk back the way they came?
My experience with intellectually disabled people is that they have limitations, but they are surprisingly sensible about most things most of the time. They do have trouble with new and stressful situations… but everyone does. These guys were fairly high-functioning. They didn’t injure themselves or behave in ways that made them dangerous (except the guy who wasn’t intellectually disabled- see point 11).
4. It’s freezing cold. Why was the driver’s side window rolled down? Why do you roll down a car window at night in the winter? Was Madruga talking to someone? Who? If so, the conversation went badly and the men in the car fled or were forced to flee. Maybe one of the other men got out and Madruga stayed inside but needed to talk?
5. Schons seems like a useless witness. I don’t believe he was there. His story makes no sense. You can’t run the heater in a stationary VW bug. My parents had one when I was a kid and we lived in Colorado. Did he have some aftermarket heater? From what I’ve read, Schons was known for making up stories and generally being worthless. I just discount everything he said. As for the idea he gave the men bad directions- directions to where? They knew where the highway was. All they had to do was turn around. Did the car die and he told them there was shelter nearby? If Schon was there and walked out, why couldn’t the men have done so? Did he tell them to go into the woods and then he drove away? Why? Because he was a jerk? OK… maybe? But why go to the cops with a bullshit story? Because he was an idiot and a jerk? OK… he was? Sending five men to their deaths out of random bloody-mindedness seems pretty awful, but I guess it could have happened.
6. Matias’ psychiatric meds. I’ve seen it written that he took them “weekly” but there weren’t any medications for schizophrenia taken weekly until very recently when they developed long-term injections. I don’t think there were any in the 70s (I had a schizophrenic family member). Beeson quotes a family member saying he took them three times a day, which sounds more likely. So, here’s the thing- if he was on his meds when the men went to the basketball game, he would have been off them once they were in the woods. From the amount of food consumed in the trailer, he probably lived for at least a week or two, depending on how much Weiher ate. It’s possible Weiher ate it all and Matias took off right away. Matias had a pretty bad record of behavior when he was off his meds. I think he just wandered off either for a rational reason (seeking help for himself and Weiher) or for an irrational one. If we want to be charitable, Weiher was in bad shape, probably unable to walk, and likely to die without rescue. The correct thing to do would be to find help (again, let’s pretend they were all 100 IQ without mental illness).
If he were thinking clearly, he’d take matches, extra clothing, food, and walk back to the road. He had to be at least somewhat mobile because his body wasn’t found nearby. On a nice day, he could probably make it at least to the car. There was a snowstorm on February 25, so he could have waited that out and left. Maruga was probably dead along the path with the car keys in his pocket. No telling if Matias knew that or if Maruga was buried by snowfall. If Matias were responsible for their flight into the woods, he could have gotten the keys, walked to the car, and driven off. He had a driver’s license. If he wasn’t responsible, whoever scared them into the woods could still be there… but it’s pretty unlikely someone would guard the road for days on end just in case someone came out of the woods. Also, the risk of getting killed by whoever would be less than the certainty of death in the woods. Maybe there was too much snow to make walking out possible? Perhaps, but where did Matias go? He went somewhere. If something happened to him, then Weiher died as a result. The blankets and flashlight found NW of the trailer, if they were Matias’s, show he wasn’t thinking rationally. He went the wrong way. The failure to find Matias’ body on the path between the trailer and the car is interesting in itself. It’s very hard to justify any other course of action for him if he were rational. If he had some crazy plan to disappear four people and get away, where did he think he was going to go? It’s still rational to leave via the road. I conclude that Matias was incapacitated by cold, injury, or mental illness.
7. Beeson has a wonderful map in his book. The trailer was 5.6 miles from the car as the crow flies, and about 11 miles walking. That makes a lot more sense.
8. I don’t think the mens’ limitations had much to do with the outcome for Maruga, Sterling or Heuett (but see 11, below). It seems to me three of the men were driven out of their vehicle and forced to flee into a winter night with inadequate clothing and died within hours. Hypothermia doesn’t care what your IQ is. I probably would have died, too. If Matias and Weiher both made it to the trailer, it’s baffling why building a fire wasn’t a priority. Matias wasn’t disabled in a way that would prevent him from lighting a match. Maybe he wasn’t there long? Without heat, and water, and warm food there’s no way to live long in winter conditions.
9. The family members interviewed by Beeson have a lot to say and I’m glad he contacted them. However… they contradict each other and I think a lot of it is bullshit. Someone has to be wrong. Matias’ family in particular paints a picture completely at odds with his known police record. He could be violent and delusional off his meds (the guy was arrested for attempted rape!), and he abused many kinds of drugs. He was at Gateway, where he met the others, for dug counseling. That seems to indicate drug abuse wasn’t in his distant past. I don’t believe a lot of what they say because they aren’t being honest about his past behavior (one of them claims that someone drugged his drink before he was arrested. Riiiiiight.) If he really had turned over a new leaf and was helping out intellectually disabled people out of the kindness of his heart, great. I don’t think he deserved to die in the woods, if that’s what happened.
10. And… here’s the thing with Matias. If you suspect foul play, and there’s a guy with a record in the car, he probably has something to do with it. Either he did something directly to the other men, or he was a target because of something criminal he did. That’s almost always how criminal cases work. Most homicide victims are criminals. The other four were in the wrong place at the wrong time. It’s very interesting that they were driven into the woods, and if it weren’t for Matias’ shoes being found in the trailer I’d assume he had been killed right away.
Given the locale and his own history, it was probably something to do with drugs. I’m speculating, but I’m also pretending these are all intellectually normal people and treating this like a normal disappearance. They’re driving on a dark road in the middle of nowhere in an area where people grow weed and carry guns. There’s a lot of rumbling from various family members about local criminals being suspects, and maybe they’re right. I don’t know. If Matias did something directly, it’s confusing because he probably died, too. If he wanted to kill the others, he didn’t need to go all the way to the trailer and leave his shoes. All he had to do was get the keys from Maruga and drive off. Ditch the car somewhere, and he could tell whatever story he wanted, or he could have driven to another state, or Mexico. That makes a lot more sense than wandering into the mountains in winter. Crazy can explain a lot, but… he still wandered into the woods with inadequate clothing and no knowledge of the trailer. That’s suicidal. It doesn’t show planning or forethought. So, Matias was probably a victim rather than a perpetrator.
On the other hand, we haven’t found his body. But given his limitations, I don’t see how he’d be able to disappear without being arrested or committed sometime in the last 42 years.
11. The only real alternative to foul play by someone else is that Matias lost his shit and decided to bring his friends along. This is somewhat plausible, and I think it’s the only way Matias is implicated. If he were rational at all, he wouldn’t have doomed himself to death by freezing. Say he had a psychotic break and the other four didn’t recognize it and took him seriously. There’s a long comment above describing this scenario. This doesn’t fit my personal experience. Schizophrenics who stop taking their meds don’t lose their shit in a matter of hours. His family should have noticed he was off before it got to that point.
12. I guess it’s possible some jerk or group of jerks decided to chase down four mentally disabled men and a schizophrenic for some perceived slight and get some laughs by chasing them into the forest. If so, they deserve to burn in Hell.
RIP Yuba 5.
Does anyone know if Weiher’s body had urine or excrement in his clothes?
If there was evidence of this, it should have been documented in the police report, but I don’t see it mentioned anywhere or by members of law enforcement.
If that evidence was not found at the scene of the cabin, then that makes this case beyond bizarre and baffling.
I’m super late to this party, as I just discovered this case today via Wikipedia.
However, I notice a bunch of people mentioning the Dyatlov Pass incident as a possible parallel. As of January 2021, a compelling theory may explain what happened in that case, involving a delayed slab avalanche. This theory is based on sophisticated modeling and simulation of snow that, interestingly, was derived from simulations created for the movie Frozen.
Read about it here: https://www.wired.com/story/dyatlov-pass-incident-slab-avalanche/
Of course, no one will probably see this since it’ll be buried under a mile of comments.
Does anybody here live in the Yuba City area currently? Or have relatives who lived in the Oroville area from 1970s-1980s? I read Drews book and have researched this case for a long time. There are persistent rumours in the Oroville/Olivhurst area that a local man may have been involved in what happened to the 5 men.
This man knew Gary Mathias as they used to hang out. He was described as the “Town Bully” and had multiple run ins with the law during the 1970s. From what i’ve read and gathered this “Town bully” was heavily into drugs, incredibly violent and was even apparently feared by law enforcement. This town bully was also suspected to have been involved in another strange incident around 1974/1975 when a boy was found dead in a reservoir. This Town Bully supposedly became a Pastor or preacher in the 1980s and is/was somewhat of a prominent member of the community.
From what i’ve seen and read (Family testimonies, In Drew Beesons book, this thread, news articles and a youtuber called Kompulik89 who interviewed a member of the Huett family) this Town Bully / Pastor guy sounds incredibly suspicious and wondered if anyone possibly knew of / met this individual around the time of the yuba county 5 incident? It sounds like members of the Huett’s, Madruga’s and Mathias’ believe this pastor guy might have been involved.
The pastor theory is strange because there’s some conflicting info regarding this guy and this rumour. Jack Madrugas sister swears she nearly killed this alleged pastor at a bar in Drews book. Gary’s sister also stated she knew this pastor guy but both gave different names. Then theres the 2 rumours about the fight taking place ( either at Oroville Dam or outside Behr’s market).
In that book the Huetts told Drew there were shell casings found near Jacks car but none of the other family members seem to mention this. Some news papers also reported one or more torn pieces of fabric were tied around trees nearby the car but police and the families have never mentioned this either.
C’mon Tony… How’s that book coming?