The Yuba County 5 - Revisited


NOTE: This is an update to my original report found here

So while getting pictures together for the page on the Yuba County 5, I stumbled across a Reddit post that had been made 18 days ago. It was suggesting someone create a video on the Yuba County 5 based on some new information

Turns out I totally missed a book that was published last December full of exclusive new interviews with family members of the men that had disappeared and packed with new details

Out of Bounds: What happened to the Yuba County 5 by Drew Hurst Beeson

So naturally I got the book and read it in almost one sitting

And I am here to share what I have found, and it wasn't just validation

The grand majority if the information presented here can be found in Drew Beeson's book and I highly recommend giving it a read


Release Date: May 14th 2021

Researched and presented by Cayla

Basic Facts

The Gateway Projects

As I mentioned in my original telling, many question why Mathias had been a part of the Gateway Projects as it was a community funded program for individuals with intellectual challenges and he was a paranoid schizophrenic.

Turns out the program was open to a wide array of people with various conditions, including cerebral palsy, cognitive disability, mental illness, emotional issues, epilepsy, and multiple sclerosis.

Mathias had actually been going to the center to meet his drug counselor Don. Don was one of Gary's biggest advocates. He himself was an addict that had been clean for 8 years when he took Gary on

A year before Mathias would disappear, he was in a good place, Don felt his doctor's had found the right balance of meds and was encouraging Mathias to avoid temptation. A particular exercise that Don had Gary do was write affirmations in a small notebook he carried with him.

Location where a Gateway Projects office had previously been located
Location where a Gateway Projects office had previously been located

But Don still felt that Mathias needed to make some new friends and have something to occupy his time with. Remembering that Gary had been on a football team in high school and asked if he liked basket ball. Gary said he did, so Don asked if he'd be willing to help out the Gateway's team, the Gateway Gators. The men in the group were all eager to learn, and one already had the skill but was having a hard time passing his knowledge on to the others.

Gary said "sure" and Don led him from his office to the gym where the men were practicing.

The boys hit it off from there and were soon inseparable.

Aside from basketball, I would learn that they also went bowling every Saturday

For their book, Beeson had the privilege and honor of getting to interview some of the remaining relatives for the boys, one of these was Tammie Mathias, Gary Mathias's younger sister 

Tammie had this to say about the Gateway Project:

Gateway Projects was a place that disabled kids could go to for training. Help them to better themselves. Learn a job trade and help them to possibly live on their own. Gary went there at first for counselling and later was kept to help with the other guys. He showed them sports but also helped with other things they asked for. Gary also liked to help with maintenance too. 

The Boys

Among all the new information about the case, there was also additional information about the boys, that I think is important to know to understand just who these men were

Huett's dad: Jackie and the other Boys could generally take care of themselves, but he also knew that they were very trusting and impressionable.

Ted Weiher

Weiher was incredibly friendly with everyone he met. As an adult, he would often wave excitedly at strangers and would become upset for hours if they did not wave back at him, believing that he had done something wrong.

Ted once bought $100 worth of pencils for no particular reason.

Ted's mother: 

"Ted was a very loving person. He loved life, and he loved people." 

Bill Sterling

Sterling was close with Weiher, having known him for 8 years. One of Weiher's favorite thing was to call Sterling and read him funny-sounding names from the newspaper

While close with Weiher, he considered Madruga his best friend

Bill was very religious and was known to visit people in mental hospitals and read the Bible and other religious texts to them.

He loved to read and spent a lot of time at the library "doing research about mentally handicapped people"

Jack Madruga

Madruga served in Vietnam in 1968

Called 'Doc' by his friends and family, his most prized possession was his 1969 Mercury Montego. He would never allow anyone but himself to drive it.

According to his mother, was never diagnosed as "mentally retarded" but was generally thought of as "slow." According to his family, Jack was able to manage his own finances.

According to Jack's nephew George Madruga:

Jack "was an intelligent and sensitive man. Just extremely shy in social situations."

"Jack's favorite TV show was I Love Lucy. He liked to laugh at all the comedy shows of the time. He also enjoyed game shows, and we would play board games for hours."

Jack also liked to listen to Motown music. His favorite group was Diana Ross and The Supremes. As George Madruga puts it, "He loved the music he could dance to."

Jackie Huett

Jackie lived on a farm with his family, where he'd play with his beagle, Beau, and dirt biked around the property

Huett thought of Weiher like a big brother and the feeling was mutual. The two were inseparable

Weiher would often make phone calls for Jackie because making phone calls caused Jackie to become anxious.

He could not read or write. He was very shy and had a speech impediment. It was reported that Jackie had an IQ of around 40. His mother Sara was quoted as saying: 

"He was a delight," "He was just slow, but real happy."

Gary Mathias

Mathias wore thick coke bottle glasses, he had incredibly poor eyesight and without them he was very close to seeing double

His poor eyesight was due to a mishap where he had fallen out of a moving car after he opened the door. He had a terrible head injury and was blind for four days and his vision never fully returned

Mathias hadn't shown any sign of mental illness a child, it's suspected that this accident may have been a prominent factor in its onset

Mathias was a big fan of the Rolling Stones and prior to his disappearance he had been the lead singer of a local rock band called the Fifth Shade for some time. According to his sister they had even won a Battle of the Bands at the Yuba-Sutter Fairgrounds once

At the time of his disappearance, Mathias was a dating his high school girlfriend Lisa

The Evidence

Feb 24

Several witness recalled seeing the boys at the game and a few recalled seeing the Montego leave the parking lot immediately after the game, shortly after 10:00 pm

The Drive

Madruga's nephew George said that while Madruga wasn't familiar with the road where the Montego was found, he was confident that Madruga could navigate it in a way that his car would not be damaged.

"Uncle Doc could negotiate such a road easily. My grandmother and he lived in a house on a rutted dirt road approx. one-half mile or more from the main road. He drove such a road nearly every day!"

Back at Home

At 5 am, Weiher's mother was jolted awake. She went to check and see if Weiher had made it home, to find his bed empty. She began to panic, and called Bill Sterling's mother, who had been awake since 2 am, who confirmed that her son hadn't made it home either

Sterling's mother had already called the Madrugas and Weiher's mother let the Huetts know, who then walked to the nearby Mathias home to check with them. Sure enough all five of the men hadn't come home

At 8PM, Madruga's mother called the police

The Search Effort

Lt Lance Ayres of the Yuba County Sheriff's office is the one that put out the nationwide bulletin about the missing boys.

This was a personal case for him, he had gone to school with Weiher and his brothers. 


The woman that had seen the men pull up in a red pickup at the corner store she worked at said that the one that matched Huett's description was on the phone for 15 minutes

Huett is the man that gets incredibly anxious about phone calls whose brothers and friends make the calls for him normally

Carroll Waltz, the owner of the store, also said he saw several of the men on both February 25, the day after the basketball game, and Sunday, February 26.    

Joseph Schons

Schons as you will remember was the man that had a heart attack and was stuck on the mountain the same night the men went missing. While his report seemed to be considered quite reliable and is widely cited, there may be more to the story than originally cited

There are many differing versions of Schons account and its hard to say if this was due to reporting errors or that Schons had kept changing his story (or a combination of both) regardless, a closer look at Schons gives a better idea of his character and raises some questions

One of the discrepancies is how he got home the next morning. One account says he got a ride at the lodge back home, where his wife would take him to the hospital. But in another account, he was taken from the lodge to the hospital.

And interestingly in one account he claims he saw a pickup truck behind the Montego. When asked about it later he said he didn't "remember why he said that" 

"I was half-conscious, not lucid, hallucinating and in deep pain. Whether I half-saw or half-imagined the second vehicle, I just don't know."

The Continued Search

Mar 2: ~50 men, some on snowcats took part in the search, including Huett's father and their dog Beau, who took a snowmobile on their search.

Mar 7: searchers took to horseback and four wheelers. An 8-man task force was put together to coordinate the searches, with Plumas, Yuba and Butte pooling their resources

Mar 8: the Sheriff's Office investigated a cabin in the woods near Forbestown after a forest ranger had seen a red pickup truck matching the description of the one seen by Brownsville parked near it. When law enforcement arrived at the cabin, the truck was no longer there, and the cabin appeared not to have been recently occupied.

Helicopters would join the search at this point, combing the area and searching the nearby valleys

The search is called off until the snow melts


One of the theories was that maybe the men had planned to make a detour on the way home, to visit a friend Mathias had in Forbestown which is how they wound up so far off their path

Cathy Madruga, Jack Madruga's 23 year old niece wasn't willing to just wait around for the snow to melt. She suspected that the boys were being held against their will in Forbestown. She had heard the theory, but Cathy knew of this friend and the kind of people he associated with and she feared for the worst

Cathy was determined and gathered the help of her best friend Ann and her brother George, insisting that if the men were up there, they needed their help, and she'd need George to be their getaway driver

She told her grandmother to call the sheriff if they hadn't returned in 2 hours

Cathy navigated, once they reached Forbestown, she directed George down the road into some of the back woods where many people lived

As they passed through, she saw men with rifles and shotguns hiding in the woods. The area was notorious for drug dealers, there were many properties ripe with booby traps, alarm systems and whose inhabitants were always armed.

She had heard the stories of unsuspecting people wandering into tripwires and bear traps and meeting a bloody end and she knew that Mathias's friend was of a similar type

They approached the property where there was a house with 3 or 4 sheds behind it, one had been boarded up. Cathy told George to keep the car running and she and Ann approached the trailer's door and knocked

She never got a response, though inside she could hear a baby crying,

They knocked again to no avail and then they noticed a small girl moving in the trees behind the trailer

This drew Cathy's gaze to the sheds and one of them stood out to her. She couldn't explain what it was. It was a shabby looking wooden shed with a metal roof, overgrown with weeds and It had been bolted and padlocked shut

She pondered what could be so valuable in that shed, when suddenly a thought came to her which wouldn't let her go. Mathias was in that shed, she was sure!

She ran to the shed and pounded on the door, calling for Mathias, not getting a response. She kicked the door, trying to break her way in until her foot started to hurt

She listened for sounds inside, but nothing, but she was SURE. She felt it. She saw another shed nearby that was unlocked and she wondered if there was something in there that they could use to break the lock.

As they opened the door to the other shed, George yelled to them to get back into the car. They sprinted for the car, to see George sitting in the driver's seat, talking to a weathered-looking man standing outside. His left hand on the driver's side mirror and his right hand wrapped around a Remington 870 shotgun

George said that the man had asked them to leave, and Ann obediently got into the car, but Cathy was still fired up

She asked the man if he knew Gary Mathias, and he said he didn't, ordering her to get off the property.

"Gary Mathias is in that shed, and I am not leaving until I get him out,"

The man responded with a pump of his shotgun and she knew when she was beat

The three returned home where Cathy called the Sheriff's Office and explained what happened, and police said they would check it out

Not long after, she heard back about their search. They said they had checked the property on horseback but found nothing. She immediately knew it was a lie. The area surrounding the trailer had been pocked with booby traps and a horse would've easily found itself ensnared or worse.

At this point she knew she couldn't rely on law enforcement to find her uncle and his friends, and lost all faith in the investigation

Law Enforcement claimed that officers did contact people in Forbestown who knew Gary. These "friends" told the officers that they had not seen Gary in over a year.

The Trailer

June 4th: the trailer and Weiher's body are found

19 Miles

Nearly all newspapers stated that it was 19 miles from the car to the trailer, which is a downright impressive trek to make in 3-6' snow, in an area you're not familiar with, in sneakers, AT NIGHT.

It's estimated that the average person can walk a mile in about 15-20 minutes, but that's in ideal circumstances and proper attire

Even if they were managing a mile every 20 minutes, it would take them over 6 hours to get to the trailer, and I am pretty certain they weren't going that fast.

One of the many puzzling things about this story is how did they do it? Well turns out the distance that they traveled wasn't nearly as far

It was stated that the men likely followed the tracks left by the snowcat the day before, which followed roughly where the road to the trailer would be.

The author re-measured the distance based off details from a Napa Valley Register article from the same year and has determined it's much more likely the distance was closer to 11 miles. That's assuming they didn't make any detours

Which, while still an impressive distance, is a lot more achievable

Where did the 19 miles come from? He's not sure. Like many things it's possible that one news article reported it wrong and all other reports copied that detail

The Rations

The author had a little more detail about the rations that had been consumed

Three cases were completely consumed. Each case contains 12 individual meals, things like stew, can of crackers, can of fruit. A total of 36 meals were eaten.

This doesn't tell us a lot, had one person eaten the 36 meals? How many were they eating in a day? Was there more than one person? We have to assume there was at least two people one being Weiher who would be found in the trailer. Madrugas and Mathias were the only two that knew had to use the P38 can opener, so one of them must have been there at some point. While we know that Mathias's shoes were found in the trailer, we have no evidence of Madruga being there. And if Mathias had only come in long enough to trade shoes with Weiher before heading out for help he may not have stayed around

The Fire

One of the many questions we're left with, is why didn't they start a fire? The author states that Mathias would've definitely made a fire if he had been there, according to statements from his family. He knew how to and if the others were concerned about "breaking rules" this wouldn't have hindered Mathias in the same way as he wasn't confined in the same rigid thinking.

But the author poses another theory as to why no fire was lit. What if it was out of fear that someone would see the smoke?

Weiher's Body

Ted was 5'11" and 200 pounds at the time he went missing, but when he was found, he had lost from 80 to 100 pounds. It has been determined by a Plumas County pathologist that based on the growth of the beard on his face, Ted had lived in the trailer from eight to thirteen weeks before he passed

One of the possible reasons the other food stores had not been accessed was if the other men had went to find help, leaving Weiher behind, he wouldn't be able to do much.

He had lost 5 toes to frost bite and his feet were terribly gangrenous he would have not been able to walk or likely even get out of the bed.

But we do know that his body had been wrapped in those sheets, in his shape it was highly unlikely he'd have been able to do that himself, so there must have been another person that had helped him get wrapped up before they left

It's suspected that Weiher had died two weeks before his body was found.

Everything I have read cited Weiher's death as caused by starvation or hypothermia. And yes, he had been very cold and very hungry, but the author states the actual cause determined by the autopsy was a pulmonary edema, often called wet lung

Similar to pneumonia, your lungs and surrounding tissue slowly fill with liquid until you can no longer breathe. What this does is put stress on your heart until eventually it gives out. (This is very likely what happened to our cat, Thor, last summer)

It can be caused by a number of factors including: heart attack or disease, leaking, damaged or narrowed heart valves. Sudden high blood pressure. Pneumonia. Kidney failure. Lung damage caused by severe infection. Blood poisoning. Major injury or severe trauma

Treatment for this always starts with attempting to stabilize the patient by putting them on oxygen, this condition sets on quick and exponentially gets worse with each passing moment. Once the person is stabilized the underlying infection or injuries need to be treated.

There is likely nothing any of the boys could've done for Weiher, other than get him help. As far as we're aware there was no oxygen canisters or antibiotics in the trailer. It's possible his worsening condition is what drove the remaining others out into the wilderness to seek help

June 6th: A local man with the help of his tracking dogs find Madruga's remains. Sterling was found shortly after

Where is Mathias?

One thing that Mathias's stepfather had been banking on was that even if Mathias had been eaten by an animal, an animal wouldn't have eaten his thick glasses, but no trace of them have ever been found

Foul Play

"Just some mentally challenged kids"

George Madruga, Jack Madruga's nephew had been 18 when Jack disappeared had this to say:

Those men were murdered by being forced or coerced to march to their ultimate demise from the elements. No way would Jack Madruga abandon his vehicle on the side of a mountain road without being forced or coerced to do so.

He took an immense amount of pride in his car. Additionally, upon the off chance that he may have taken a wrong turn, he knew to simply turn around and retrace the route and not drive aimlessly until the road ended.

Law enforcement did work the case, but I can't help but feel more could have been done. Just some "mentally challenged" Boys that got lost in the snow I believe was the final conclusion.

The newspapers did not help this stigma such as the June 19, 1978 Los Angeles Times article subtitled "How and Why of Retarden Victims' Disappearance Seem Inexplicable."

Madruga's mother:

Things aren't right. They [the investigators] want to say they [the Boys] got stuck, walked out like a bunch of idiots and froze to death. Why would they leave the car to go die? There's no sense to that theory. But we can't figure anything that works out right, There's no rhyme or reason to any of it.

Sterling's sister Debby:

Someone made them go up that road. Bill didn't like the snow. They knew that it was cold up there. Madruga wouldn't have driven his car up there because he likes it too much.

Debby added that on one occasion, Jack Madruga had refused to take Jackie Huett home because the road to his house was too bad.

This kind of conflicts with George's story

Right after the Boys disappeared, the families and investigators were entirely convinced foul play was involved. In the absence of no answers from the investigators, the families became frustrated and were critical of how the investigation was handled.

Ted Weiher's sister-in-law has theorized that the men may have seen something take place at the basketball game that prompted someone to chase them.

Crimes against the Disabled

There's something else that I had found out about. The author  briefly mentions it but I found really good reddit thread about it written by TopGolfUFO, which is where most of my information will be coming from

Mr UFO had been doing personal deep dive into the Yuba County 5 and he came across some interesting incidents that had happened in the area in the years leading up to the boys disappearances. It's entirely possible they are not be related to this story in the slightest, but they're interesting enough to mention

On February 18th in 1975 almost exactly 3 years before the boys went missing an arsonist broke into the Gateway Projects workshop and burned it to the ground. Everything inside was destroyed and the damages totaled an estimated $150,000.

Days later on March 1st, an unknown suspect threw a Molotov cocktail through the window of the main Gateway office, but this time there were only minor damages to the office.

Near the end of March, the Gateway director Donald J. Garrett expressed concern to reporters that the incidents could have been connected to a series of attacks on other special needs facilities.

Since January, seven other workshops for the handicapped had been set on fire, and Garrett was worried the attacks could all be connected. However, the L.A. Times would later claim that this was an exaggeration on Garrett's part, and that there was only one recent fire and it had been at the grounds of a local hospital.

On April 1st, Gateway opened at a new location, but immediately received a bomb threat and had to evacuate.

On April 6th, Garrett was relaxing at his apartment. Just after 8pm, someone knocked at his door and Garrett answered. The unknown visitor tossed some form of flammable liquid in Garrett's face and then threw a match, igniting him

Within a couple minutes someone else in the complex had noticed the flames and had called 911. In the couple minutes it took for the police to get there, Garrett had passed

It was determined Garrett's death was the result of foul play

On May 31st, Gateway held a welcome party for Donald Larson, who was taking Garrett's place as director. He'd been a longtime friend of Garrett and had been the rest of the team's first choice for his successor.

The party was held at Kay Joyce's place (another Gateway employee) and everything was going well, people were swimming and enjoying themselves, when someone spotted smoke coming from the driveway around 9:15pm

Two cars had been firebombed

Sutter County D.A. Ted Hanson asked police to keep quiet about the arson incidents in an unofficial gag order. Gateway had already relocated once out of necessity, Hanson worried that widespread press coverage of the attacks might prove to be yet another costly obstacle for the center which was already struggling.

On July 7th, someone called the Gateway Offices and threatened that another staff member would his next victim. That night Ted Hanson's car was firebombed

The next day Hanson's landlord served him an eviction notice because the other tenants were afraid to live in the same building as him.

It was later determined that the firebomb at the Larson party may not have been related, as the MO was different from the other fires.

On July 9th, Acting Sergeant Ronald Harnish thought the fires were all related and told reporters:

 "Apparently someone really has it in for Gateway Projects, for some reason or another. Aside from that, we don't have much else. We have to assume the attacks are all related because they were all associated with Gateway."

As of July 13th, police were considering a more personal motive with Garrett, possibly involving a love triangle. Donald Larson said 

"It's a personal grudge of some sort, not directed at the facility. We've eliminated the possibility that it might be a disgruntled ex-employee"

Not long after Kay Joyce would be attacked while at the airport meeting a friend. She returned to her car to find the backseat had just been ignited, a lit book of matches had been tossed in with gasoline

On August 4th, a reflective piece about the attacks would be the last time the firebombing incidents would make the papers. Kay Joyce said 

"I look over my shoulder now and watch in my rearview mirror. I think we all get asked why we still work here. We stay because we've got a job to do." 

"These are neat people". Larson said " I don't think any of us have any time to worry about it. We're too busy doing our job". In an attempt to add some levity to the situation he said "We never have any trouble finding a parking space now. People see us coming and move"

In the comments someone explained how in the 70s the disability rights movement had been really gaining traction and not everyone had been happy about that. These folks had to fight hard against prevailing attitudes that people with disabilities weren't capable of contributing to society.

The 1970s and 80s was a much more violent period than we remember. Politically motivated bombings and other attacks were very common

Joe Schons

Let's talk about sketchy heart attack dude, because he's sketch as all get out

The author had made contact with a former neighbor of Schons, who the author calls Todd. The author was able to independently verify much of what Todd told him

Todd had been living with his cousin and cousin's wife a stone's throw from Schons's property for many years and had some stories to tell

"He (Schons) used to drive around all day, drinking beers, to get away from his wife. Everyone who lived in the area would see his vehicle stuck, and we often winched it free of whatever ditch it was in. If he caught us fixing our awful road, he'd bend our ears with bullshit stories and bad advice.

He had angina, and often mentioned he had heart trouble. He seemed harmless, but we did track down some wild rumors that originated with him and his wife."

The Schons had moved to the area around the same time as Todd and it didn't take long for them to make enemies in the community with harmful gossip, not paying people they'd hired and just generally being shit people

"Drunk or sober, Schons just could not tell the truth about anything, and was a blowhard that rubbed a lot of people the wrong way."

Todd and his cousin had a major falling out with Joe Schons and his wife when the Schonses attempted to start a marijuana growing operation on their land.

Sure enough Schons did what you should never do when growing pot: tell people you're growing pot.

In 1978 A group of local thieves showed up in a van intent on stealing the crop, and taking the shortest path to the field was right through Todd's cousin's property.

Todd and his cousin had seen the van and got in a truck to chase them down, causing the van to skid off the road, totaling it and some trees. The impact of the crash resulted in all four occupants being injured. After making sure that the thieves did not have any life-threatening injuries, Todd and his cousin collected some guns that the thieves had in their van as "souvenirs."

Todd and his cousin then returned home and were met by Schons' wife, standing in the driveway, who was screaming at them and accusing them of stealing her cash crop of marijuana. Todd and his cousin then directed Ms. Schons to where the totaled van could be located with her "shitty product" inside.

Later that day Todd and his cousin heard on the local six o'clock news (and in the newspaper the following day) that they were being sought by the police in connection to the van chase. Todd said that all the locals: "knew they did it, loved it, and no one gave them up."

As could be predicted, they were on the outs with the Schonses after that incident.

The Schonses attempted to grow marijuana again the following year, but their effort was poorly concealed, and their loose lips resulted in their being raided by the Butte County Sheriff's office. Surprisingly, no arrests were made. That fact began to fuel some speculation among the locals that Schons may have been a police informant.

Another incident that stands out among many involving Schons, Todd, and Todd's cousin, was a time when Schons opened fire with a rifle from his property, uphill from Todd's cousin's place.

One of the bullets hit a small building on the cousin's property, and several others hit the dirt, narrowly missing Todd's cousin's small children who were playing outside.

The neighbors had company at the time, and they all had witnessed the entire incident. So when the Sheriff's department was called out, they had a bunch of witnesses, yet Schons was inexplicably not arrested.

This further fueled the rumors that he was somehow connected to law enforcement, possibly even before he moved to Berry Creek, and was being protected by them.

Todd said that eventually 

Joe Schons "made so many enemies, that his stuck vehicles would be vandalized before they could be recovered. We saw his lifted pickup broken down on the way to town one day. It had no wheels on it when we came back up later that day"

A few years after Todd moved out of state he heard that the locals had succeeded in running the Schonses out of town

According to Todd, none of the locals knew what Schons did for a living. He claimed that he was a substance abuse counselor, but neither he nor his wife were ever seen going to work.

When the author asked if Todd thought Schons might have something to do with the boys, Todd laughed at the suggestion that Schons had claimed to be up there checking the snow for a family ski trip

He added that Schons and his wife could barely exist in the same trailer together, let alone vacation together, and anything else that Schons told police was likely made up on the spot as the man was a "wet brain alcoholic and a pathological liar."

The author asked why Schons might have been up there that night and Todd admitted it was very suspicious.

Schons usually was on the roads closer to home and around that time of day he was usually sloshed

People he didn't know would get him unstuck, unhook the chain, and he'd drive off, no thank you, or conversation.

Despite the myriad of accounts from Schons, it seemed like no one had really questioned his account of events and the only part of his report that had been corroborated was the fact that he had a heart attack

The author did some research on heart attacks and found that while doctors can usually tell if a heart attack occurred, it's nearly impossible to tell when exactly it had happened. And we know that Schons had a history of heart issues

The author didn't know if the police verified that Schons owned a cabin up in that area, but the author did

The first thing he found was Schons's primary residence and was surprised to find it was roughly an hour south from where he had his heart attack

He then also found records of Schons owning a property in the area in 1969, but this property was also an hour south of this.

Other aspects of his story also begged questioning

He had claimed that despite having had a heart attack he'd been able to walk at least a couple miles back to the Mountain House

And another interesting fact: Schons vehicle was a VW Beetle. One of Schons claims was that when his heart attack started, he laid down inside the car with the heater on to stay warm until he ran out of gas

But turns out that the VW Beetle doesn't produce any heat when it is not moving as the author found out on the BugShop website

"Keep in mind that the volume of hot air that is blown into the car is dependent on the fan in the fan shroud, which is dependent on the engine RPM."

Other than keeping the cold wind off him, the inside of the Schons Beetle would have been terribly cold that night.

Being a local, why would he not have attempted to make the trek back to the Mountain House Lodge sooner? There is another aspect of Schons' story that does not seem to add up.

He clearly stated that at two different times during the night, he saw people on the road, outside of their car, and he called out to them for help, and they did not respond.

When the author asked Todd if the story was plausible he said. Todd explained that while in the warmer months the Oroville Quincy Highway where the car was found was very well maintained, when it was cold all bets were off

He doesn't think that Schons had lured them there, but more likely had got stuck there earlier and couldn't get out, having made up the bit about scouting out a camp site

The rest of his account sounds exactly like the kind of nonsense he was known to fabricate, out of thin air, and for no reason. There's a good chance he didn't remember anything that transpired, or that he pieced it together, after hearing about the incident.

But Todd's cousin and wife feel that Schons had something to do with what happened.

Would an idiot like Schons send them off in the wrong direction? You bet he would. At best, he misdirected the investigation, and at worst, he caused these men's demise.

The author would continue his own research and found something else interesting, Schons's daughter who 18 at the time had a cognitive disability called dysphasia. Dysphasia can also cause reading, writing, and gesturing impairments.

I found this fact to be very intriguing as it opens the possibility that Schons and his daughter could have crossed paths with one or more of the Boys through the Gateway Projects or events for the disabled.

It was reported in several newspaper accounts, including the article in the June 14, 1978 Napa Valley Register, that the Boys "attended dances for the handicapped in Sacramento." Could Shons' daughter have been at one of these dances? It must also be considered a possibility that Schons' daughter could have been involved with a program at the Gateway Projects, where the Boys were a fixture.

It should also be mentioned that Todd reported that Joe Schons claimed to be a drug abuse counselor. The Gateway Projects also offered drug abuse counseling, which is why Gary Mathias went to Gateway and subsequently became involved with the Gateway Gators basketball team.

A final word about Schons from Todd: 

People told me various tales of their run-ins with Joe and/or Cindy Schons, but most of them gravitated towards drunken buffoonery and callous disregard.

My memory of what I experienced firsthand is sharp, but fuzzy for anything I heard from others.

There were only a couple of local watering holes - The Sugar Pine, Mountain House and a little bar in Brush Creek - and Joe pretty much wore out his welcome in all of them, in short order.

I stayed out of the bars, after almost catching a stray bullet in a parking lot, during a brawl. The sheriffs were 40 minutes away, in Oroville.

One common thread with the Schons family was malicious gossip, which originated with them.

They got themselves in trouble multiple times over that. Another was stiffing people they hired, for work that was done at their place. That pissed off a lot of people.

When it came to maintaining the road we all used, which disappeared yearly, we and our good neighbors toiled and spent thousands, with nothing but blabbering contributed by the Schons. Toss in Joe's vehicular misadventures, which were many, and you've pretty much got the picture, which was more miserable than interesting.

Did Joe sometimes get a kick in the ass, or a punch in the face? Yes, he did. Now if the Schonses turned up dead, you'd have the makings of a good who-done-it because there'd be 50 suspects with a motive. 

Gary the Culprit

Exactly forty years and two days after the boys went missing, the Bee trifecta would deliver their two part article in 2019.

The first part went into good detail about what had happened

But the 2nd part immediately set the tone with the subtitle 

"Were four mentally disabled men set up to die in the woods?"

Mathias' niece, Tammie reacts:

Gary Mathias was my uncle and his sister, was my mother. These articles are actually half-truths or skewed to paint a picture that just isn't true.

They did not reach out to us or have permission to use my family's names either. They want to tarnish my uncles' character to have a villain for their stories.

I get it. We all want answers, but my uncle was not violent. He had a mental illness, yet he was sweet, quiet, artistic, and absolutely loved women and children.

There is a good explanation for all of these allegations recently put out about him and again you're only getting half stories here.

He was very close with my mom and his own mother was his best friend. Please have an open mind and remember his family does exist. All of them were on that mountain looking for him, including my father.

These are memories that still haunt them. Can you imagine never knowing what happened to your brother, son, uncle for 40 years?

Let me tell you; it's still painful. My family hasn't talked because it reopens wounds they don't want to revisit, so please have some compassion and understanding.

I truly hope we all will learn the truth of what happened to my uncle Gary and his friends


She believes that people "drag on" Gary because he was never found.

One of the sources cited for the Bee article was Gary Whiteley who had been married to Mathias's sister Sharon (who would commit suicided in 2002)

Whiteley had been going through a divorce with Sharon when the boys had disappeared

He was quoted in the previously-mentioned 2019 Sacramento Bee article, saying that drugs had "warped Mathias' brain" and that "he was not mentally stable."

But Tammie says Whiteley's relationship with her family was incredibly volatile and was cause for many calls to the local police

It was also reported that Whiteley himself was no stranger to drugs and assaulting people. In fact, according to Tammie, Whiteley had once burned her mother's car to the ground.

Relationship with the group

Mathias thought himself as one member of a 5 person group, but some of the other Boys' family members said that they thought of him as more of a fifth wheel in his relationship with the four other Boys in the group.

While some of the families had their suspicions about Mathias's involvement in their disappearance, on the one year anniversary, the families wrote an open letter to the editor of the MidValley Voices

This idea appears to have been brought on by Mathias's stepfather as his name was the first signed at the bottom of the letter

​Does it seem as long as a year ago, Feb. 24, 1978, when five young men (Ted Weiher, Bill Sterling, Jack Madruga, Jackie Huett and Gary Mathias) disappeared from our area.

To all of the parents and families of each, it has been longer - a lifetime. Each of us has had our share of fear, pain, and sorrow; but we've also received a lot of sympathy and love from friends and even from people we've never had the opportunity to meet personally. ​

Please let us again say "thank you" to all those people who gave of their time, work, and efforts for the recovery of the four that were found. Also, let this be a reminder to all that one, Gary Mathias, has never been located.

Please, don't stop looking or let time dim your memories of the men who lived in your midst the majority of their lives. There is still a reward fund being held at a local bank and it will remain there until all five men are accounted for. ​

A lot of questions have never been answered and possibly never will be. Why were they in the area where they were found? Was someone chasing them? Who was in the pickup seen parked behind the car? Why did they leave the car and wander off into snow when they could have easily driven back down the same road they drove in on?

The car was not stuck in the snow as was reported.

They each had some problems, but stupidity certainly was not one of them.

Why did the Butte County Sheriff's Department refuse the help of the forest rangers to go to the trailer camp with snowmobiles in March? At least one and maybe others may have been rescued at that time. ​

Questions, but no answers. Bitterness, some. Anger sometimes. Bewilderment, ALWAYS! ​

When your son leaves home with friends to go to a basketball game, do you always put your arms around him, give him a kiss and remind him how much you love him? You really should - he may never come back to you


Author note: Please note that there has been some inconsistency in news reports of Mathias' run-ins with the law, and the chronology of events is sometimes unclear

The arrest we had talked about before at the military base. Turns out he had been arrested for going AWOL and his story about punching the cop is little more... interesting than originally portrayed

Mathias called two sergeants and a deputy over to his cell and when they opened the door, a completely naked Mathias walked into the hallway and punched one of the sergeants, causing blood to spill from his mouth and nose. Gary then attempted to punch the other sergeant but was quickly subdued before he was able to do so. Gary was quoted at the time of the incident as saying

"I've been in the Army, and I don't like it, and I thought that if I hit a cop, maybe they'd let me out." Gary was soon thereafter given a medical discharge from the Army for having schizophrenia.


Tammie tells of an unpleasant experience that Gary had had in Oregon, prior to staying with his grandmother,

"Gary had gone to Oregon with some so-called friends. They locked him a closest for almost a month, fed him cat food; he broke loose, and hitchhiked it home in 2 days." 

Mathias's state of mind

While the bee article had found a handful of people to interview about Mathias who showed concern about his stability due to his mental illness, as suspected this isn't nearly that clear cut

Tammie said:

The Mathias family did not share these concerns. Gary seemed to tolerate his medications very well.

Mathias's stepfather was responsible for giving Mathias his medication every day which he did so religiously

Final Opinions

One of the "suspicious" things the Mathias family did was refuse to be involved with the showed Unsolved Mysteries

Tammie: When the author asked about this Tammie said this was the first she heard of it . She said she was a fan of the show and that the family would have definitely loved to have had national media involved to help in the search for Gary and provide new leads in the case. She said her mother never mentioned the show contacting her. 


Gary did not hurt those guys. Ted Weiher lived 13 weeks in that trailer, and someone took care of him. I know Gary did. I believe he had to watch all of his friends die before he left on foot to find his own confused mind a way out. He would have contacted one of us if he had been alive himself.

It's been 42 years and my tears keep flowing like it was yesterday.

David Huett brother to Jackie Huett

"No, we [the Huett family] do not believe Gary Mathias was involved."

The Madruga Family

George: Gary Mathias is still very suspect in the disappearance of the Boys.

"I've believed all along that he [Mathias] was the key to this whole mystery. I totally believe that he was involved one way or another." 

Mathias the target

There's another set of theories I hadn't really found much about prior to this book. Mathias had a troubled history, it was well known he had spent time with more unsavory people during his time doing drugs and sometimes they took advantage of him because of his challenges.

I have collected together statements and theories wherein Mathias wasn't actually the person that had caused problems for the boys, but he had been the target

Mathias's personal trouble

6 months before his disappearance

While everything I had read (even the salacious bee report) had said that Mathias had had a clear record for the 2 years leading up until his disappearance, Tammie told the author of an event that had happened 6 months prior to his disappearance

He been at a party where he had been given a spiked drink. Which resulted in him being out on the street "acting high" and getting apprehended by the cops

Tammie believes that Gary was intentionally given a "spiked" drink that caused him to have a bad reaction. That same evening Gary's mother admitted him to a mental hospital after he had asked her to do so 

The reason Gary had a blow up was he was being harassed by the druggers and such in our lousy town of Olivehurst. A lot was going on back then, naked to most eyes

She fully remembers Gary's run-ins with law enforcement since she was only a few years younger than he was. Tammie also contends that Gary was doing very well in his new drug regimen and was excited about going to watch the basketball game in Chico and playing the next day in the Special Olympics tournament.

The Brawl at Behr's Market

When asked what Tammie thinks caused the men to go up in the mountain she suggested it might have something to do with the brawl that had happened in the parking lot of Behr's Market that night after the game

Reading this book is the first I had heard of this and seems I wasn't the only one, as the author hadn't heard of it before this interview either

She explained that the story had been reported to Lt Ayres by a man that was related to the store owner. Ayres then told the Mathias family

A group of men approached Jackie Huett in the parking lot of the store and started taunting him. Gary Mathias was said to have jumped in to defend Jackie, and a larger fight broke out between Gary and the group taunting Jackie.

Gary would have been the only one out of his group that would have been able to (or know how to) defend himself.

Tammie said that she had heard that the brawl was broken up by the store clerk.

The author couldn't find any news reports substantiating this, but many years later, a woman claiming to be Jackie Huett's sisters-in-law posted on a true crime blog that she believed that there was a fight at Behr's Market and that the men who started the fight possibly chased the Boys after leaving the store, causing them to become lost.

It has also been written that Ted Weiher's sister believed that there was a brawl/altercation at Behr's Market or after the game.

The author contacted Huett's sister-in-law, Mary to see what her account on the brawl was, but she did not wish to comment on anything relating to the Yuba County Five.

But the author did make contact with Mary's daughter-in-law, Brandy, who was very accommodating and was able to get many of my written questions for the Huett family answered by Jackie Huett's younger brother, David.

I also asked if David had ever heard that gun shell casings had been found by Jack Madruga's abandoned car. I had read that somewhere, but did not find it in newspaper reports, so I assumed that it was most likely an internet rumor.

I was surprised when he responded, "Yes. There were gun shells, firing a gun into or at the Boys, believed to scare the Boys so they'd run."

The Dam

There's a common rumor that Mathias was thrown over the Oroville Dam. Tammie believes this came from Alan Martin

Alan Martin

A couple months after the bodies had been found, a man named Alan Martin stopped by the Mathias residence. Weighed down with a guilty conscience, Alan went on to tell a story about the night the men disappeared

He said he'd been with a group that stopped the Boys on the bridge near the Oroville dam.

One of the men "started slapping Jackie Huett to hear him whine." It was known that Jackie would start to make a guttural whining sound when he was distressed.

This angered Mathias and launched himself at the man harassing Jackie, causing the rest of Alan's group to jump on Mathias

Tammie did not recall if Alan said that Gary had been thrown over the bridge.

She did recollect that Alan claimed that Glen Baker was the person who, after this fight, drove Jack Madruga's car up the mountain road to where it was abandoned

Tammie said that she assumes that when the car was driven up the road, the Boys were all inside and at one point were ordered to all get out of the car

Once out of the car, the Boys were threatened or frightened by someone, and they took off running into the freezing woods.

Perhaps they had witnessed Gary's murder and had seen his body being thrown over the dam?

Tammie said that her family hired a diver to search lake Oroville based on the story told by Alan, but no sign of Gary was ever found.

For over twenty-five years after his disappearance, Tammie would "throw flowers into Oroville Lake" in remembrance of her brother.

Tammie doesn't believe Gary was thrown over the dam, she said that if Gary were thrown over the dam, there would not have been any evidence that Gary was ever in the trailer.

We know that Mathias's shoes were in the trailer, but Tammie said she actually went to the Forest Service trailer herself and found some handwritten notes that belonged to Gary, scraps of paper that had something similar to journal writing on them

"Gary took notes to himself like a diary. And several of the writings were found inside, and it was checked by a specialist on writing. They matched Gary's handwriting."

The author was not able to find any other account of Gary Mathias leaving notes in the service trailer.

Tammie said that the notes contained only religious passages and affirmations of encouraging words about getting through tough circumstances and did not contain anything pertaining to what may have caused the Boys to abandon their car and head uphill in the freezing darkness.

The police took the pieces of paper and never returned them to her.

But we do know that Mathias would write affirmations to himself in a notebook as he had been taught to by his drug counsellor, Don

Tammie doesn't know if Alan ever told the police with the story, but Mathias's mother had. But unfortunately deputy Ayres was not able to question Martin because he died two days later

Martin was found dead of a heroin overdose on a couch in his friends Carl and Anna Gage's home.

But Martin was known to favor pills and had never been known to use heroin.

Tammie says that Martin had been brought to the Gage house as his friends thought he had just passed out. They put him on the couch and left

Anna found him the next morning and called 911

Martin's girlfriend said that night some guys took him out of the house, and she never saw him alive again.

Tammie also added that one of the men that she believes was part of the group of men who was with Alan and a still-living person of interest, was a man that drove a red step-side truck.

She thinks that the red truck could be the one later reported by Joe Schons.

Not long after Alan's suspicious death the man who owned the red truck moved to Arizona

The Pastor

There's one more theory that the book discussed that I'm still reeling over and it all started with a woman named Jessica


The author had come across a post online by a woman named Jessica who claimed to be a relative of Mathias (this was later confirmed)

She wrote that she believed that a local man, who is still living in the Marysville area, was responsible for the Boys' disappearance. Jessica further stated that there was a lot that the public did not know about the case.

Of course, many people responded to her claim and asked her to reveal the name of the person she believed was responsible for the Boys' disappearance, but she did not respond back.

Crime blogger

A crime blogger from the Yuba City area responded on the same message thread claiming that she knew who this individual was and that it could not be revealed as "they" still live in the community and are somewhat prominent.

The author contacted the blogger to ask some general questions and was surprised when she gave out the name without him even asking.

The blogger suspected this person had a bad history with Mathias going back years and had made threats against him the past. The author purposely chose not share this person's name either, but could say this: at some later point, "they" became a pastor

The author was able to verify that this man had known Mathias and his family very well and that he had an extensive criminal record involving drugs and violence.

From all appearances, this person turned "their" life around in the 1980s and has had no further problems with law enforcement.

Cathy Madruga

When the author asked Cathy about this, she said that she knew this person of interest very well and that it was highly likely that "they" were involved.

She also said that many people with whom Gary was social with knew that he was planning to go to the basketball game in Chico that fateful Friday night and that may have presented an opportunity for a person or group of persons to plan some sort of attack on Gary Mathias.

David Huett

The author asked David Huett if he knew of a local man that might have had it out for Mathias

"Yes. Someone locally did this. We cannot disclose any names as he's a pastor. We all know the name of who did this."

Another Huett family member has referred to this pastor as the town bully. It should be noted that at the time of the Boys' disappearance and death, this man of whom they speak was not yet a pastor.

Aunt Janet 

The Madruga family was not pleased with the effort put forth by the law enforcement during its investigation of what had happened to the Boys (for example: the Forest Service trailer and Jack's car were never even fingerprinted), so Cathy's aunt Janet did some investigating on her own.

Aunt Janet gathered the facts and came to the conclusion, with absolute certainty, that she knew who was responsible for the death of her brother

10 years after her brother's disappearance she was ready to confront this man. She arranged to meet him one evening at a Marysville restaurant. But she never told anyone about this or what had occurred during this encounter until 2018

Janet told Cathy all about her research and what had happened

Janet had inherited a gun from her grandfather, that night she loaded it and put it in her purse. Janet was not a violent person, she had never wanted harm or kill someone before, but this man, what he had done, it was enough to drive mild mannered Janet to murder

She went to the restaurant. She'd told him what she'd be wearing and when he arrived he found her without problem. He sat down and said "You must be Janet"

She'd gone over her speech a million times in her head, but she found herself with words

"You said you wanted to talk to me - in person. Well, here I am. I don't know what you . . ."

"I know you are responsible for killing my brother. And the other Boys. You know why I am here," she said matter-of-factly. "I am going to kill you."

She pulled the gun from the purse, holding it under the table out of sight, but he knew from the look in her eyes

He began to speak, but she didn't hear him, her hands shaking, it was like the world stood still

According to Janet, she heard the voice of god, telling her to put the gun down, that two wrongs don't make a right. And her hands fell into her lap

Realizing the gun was no longer on him the man got up and ran out of the restaurant yelling about getting away from a crazy woman

That night Janet slept the deepest sleep she had in years, still haunted by the specter of sorrow but no longer possessed by the demon of revenge.

6 months after Janet told this story to Cathy, Janet passed away

Cathy told the author this story over the phone, and about how Janet said the man would become a pastor and the author was stunned. He hadn't mentioned the story of the pastor to Cathy yet

He asked Cathy the name of the man that Janet had met.

But the name she spoke didn't sound remotely like the name that the author had heard

The name she gave was uncommon and he asked Cathy if she had ever heard of this man before her aunt had mentioned him.

She replied that when she was a child growing up in Marysville, there was someone with that name who lived nearby, but she didn't know the man well. 

After this call, the author reached out to Tammie again and asked if she had heard of the man from Janet's tale.

"Of course, I have. I just talked to his sister last week. He died just a few months ago."

Tammie told him this man had never been a pastor, he'd always worked construction. He knew Mathias real well and he and group of friends frequently hung out

She then added that this man had known the pastor, but they weren't friends

She said that the pastor did not have any friends, but that some people hung around him out of plain fear.

"He was the kind of person that people just didn't say no to. He just got his way."

The author suspects that maybe Janet had mixed up the names, that maybe the name she had mentioned had actually been a part of Martin's group? It had been 30 years since Janet had her encounter

When he thought things couldn't get stranger, Tammie recalled that man Janet had named had a tragic history. In 1975 his 12 year old brother had been murdered, the killer never caught

She said that his family suspected the pastor was responsible         

Where's Gary Now?


Years ago Cathy Madruga had just got off a long shift at her job for the forestry service. On her way home she decided to stop at her parents bar, to get herself some dinner and check in with them

When she arrived, first thing she did was go to the bathroom at the back. When she left the bathroom, she noticed the bar was packed, virtually every table and stool were taken.

Then she saw a man sitting on the 3rd stool from the door and he was looking right at her. Her stomach dropped. It was Gary Mathias

She ran into the kitchen, telling her parents, her mom told her to call the cops while she went to watch the bar. Soon as Cathy was off the phone she joined her mother up front, but Gary was gone

They searched every corner of the restaurant and nearby area, asking their customers if anyone else had seen him. But no one had

The deputy showed up fifteen minutes after the call and took Cathy's statement. The next day they asked Cathy to come to the station and look at a photo lineup and pick Mathias out from it. She did with no problem

To this day, Cathy insists that the man she saw at La Casa Blanca was Gary Mathias.


Tammie also shared a story about a time she thought she had seen her brother

Long after he had disappeared, when she was working as a nurse at a hospital. She had worked a long shift and still had 2 hours to go before she could head home. She was getting ready to do one of her rounds, and headed for the first room on her list, room 320

She goes into the room with a big smile, and asks the inhabitant how they were and if they needed anything. It was a man in the bed with his left arm in a sling

She grabbed his chart, reading it briefly before looking at the man closer. Her heart stopped and the clipboard fell from her hands as she stared. It was Mathias, she was sure

The young man broke the spell she was under by answering the questions that she had forgotten she had asked. "I don't feel too bad," he said. "In some pain. Can I get something for that?"

He sounded like Gary, too!

When she asked his name, he said Gary and her head was spinning

"Gary Mathias?"

"Gary Anderson"

"Where do you come from? How did you end up here?" she asked.

"I was in a car wreck on Arboga Road," he replied. Then, noticing that his nurse was staring at him strangely, he asked, "Is something wrong? Are you okay?"

"Uh, yeah, sure," Tammie answered as she attempted to pull herself together and pick up the mess she had made on the floor. "Do you know a man named Gary Mathias? Gary Mathias is my brother. Do you know him?"

"Nope," he replied. "I don't know him."

"You, you look just like him, and you talk like him, too. Are you sure - does the name sound familiar?" she asked pleadingly.

She was trying to will him to say, "Yes." To say that he had not known who he was for a while but hearing the name Gary Mathias had jarred his memory, and that yes, he was Gary Mathias, her brother whom she loved, her long-lost brother who had now returned home.

"Yes, I am sure that I don't know him. Could you please see about getting me something for my pain?"

She pulled herself together as best she could and went to the nurse's station to submit a request for a doctor's signature for Demerol for the patient in Room 320. At the nurses' station she asked the staff if they knew anything about the guy in 320. They did not know much more than she did. Gary Anderson, age 32, had been in a car accident and would be staying for a few days.

For the rest of her shift, the same thought kept going through her head. 

Even though the man in 320 looks and sounds like my Gary, exactly like my Gary, he couldn't be my Gary. But he looks and sounds like my Gary, exactly like my Gary, so he has to be my Gary.

Tammie left the hospital that night, shocked that someone could seem so much like Gary, yet not be Gary. "Perhaps, it's just wishful thinking," she told herself. She decided to sleep on it and check back in with the man the next day

Tammie returned to the hospital, to find the man no longer there. Surprised, she went to the nurses' station and asked what had happened to the man in 320.

"Someone checked him out late last night," was the reply from the Head Nurse.

"I thought he was going to be here for a few days," said Tammie.

"He was," the Head Nurse responded without any apparent concern. "But someone checked him out last night. His father, I think. Go figure."

Although Gary Mathias' family has been absent from the media in recent years, On February 24th, 2008, on the 30-year anniversary of Gary's disappearance, they ran the following obituary in the Marysville Appeal Democrat

Gary Mathias 

October 15, 1952 - February 24, 1978

Part of us, yet parted from us.

Managing grief that becomes us.

Departed in body; eternal in thought

Birthday gifts no longer bought.

Gone to the Heaven far above us

Parted from us, forever far from us.

Love Always

Aliens and Sasquatch

Dyatlov Pass:

One of the fringe theories of what happened to the Yuba County Five blames some sort of supernatural force for leading the Boys up the cold mountain. This case is sometimes referred to as America's Dyatlov Pass. This is a reference to the Dyatlov Pass Incident,

Some online theorists believe that both of the incidents may have been the result of some sort of paranormal phenomenon, such as a UFO or a Sasquatch, causing the groups to flee in a panic.


This book provides us with so much more information and stories, but unfortunately, no concrete answers and we many never find them. Let's consider some of these thoeries

Forced up the mountain

Oroville-Quincy Hwy, near where the Montega was found
Oroville-Quincy Hwy, near where the Montega was found

If the boys had indeed been forced up the mountain at gunpoint or by some other threat, who was the one to order them do so?

The stories about the fight at Behr's Market and the supposed encounter at the Oroville Dam would seem most likely to lead to such a result

Could Joe Schons' sighting of a second vehicle, possibly a red truck parked behind Jack's Montego, explain how the Boys may have been followed up Oroville-Quincy Highway? Could the Boys have been following the second vehicle until they got the Montego stuck in the snow?

According to the author:

I believe investigators missed just how meticulous Jack Madruga was in caring for his car.

Jack's nephew George Madruga really stressed to me that if Jack were unfamiliar with a road that he thought would damage his car, he would flat-out refuse to drive on it. If Jack did have to go down a road that looked questionable to him, he would drive very carefully and avoid any ruts or obvious potholes.

If someone other than Jack, even if that someone knew the area and the road, had driven Jack's car up the mountain, he would not have been as careful a driver as Jack would have been. A driver other than Jack would have had no incentive to drive with extreme caution to avoid ruts or other obstacles that could damage the car.

Further supporting the theory that Jack drove the Montego is the fact that Jack's car keys were in his pocket when his body was recovered.

The boys had some sort of reason to go up the mountain. Either they were told to follow someone under threat, or they were in the process of fleeing from someone.

If Jack Madruga did drive his own car up the road, it is still hard to explain why he would have left it with the driver's side window partially rolled down if he had not planned on coming back to the car. That is something Jack Madruga simply would never do unless he was under duress.

Someone must have taken care of Ted Weiher 

Weiher was alive for weeks in the Forest Service trailer and would've needed a caretaker. Jackie, Jack, and Bill would not have been capable of doing that.

With the authorities believing that Jack Madruga and Bill Sterling had succumbed to the elements before they could make it to the Forest Service trailer, only Jackie Huett would be left to care for Ted if Gary were not there.

Jackie was not able to care for himself and would not have been able to take care of someone else.

Was Gary Responsible?

The highly speculated theory of Gary Mathias' being responsible for the deaths of the other Boys, either directly or indirectly.  

As per the author:

Jack Madruga's niece Cathy did tell me that it was no secret that the Boys were afraid of Gary and what he might do. She added that they did not want Gary to go to the game with them, but they were too scared to tell him that he could not go.

Could Gary Mathias still be out there somewhere? 

Off of his medication, not know who he is? Could he be among the many homeless people in California, Oregon, or Washington? It's also likely that Gary made it just far enough from the trailer that his remains were never found after he surrendered to the elements.

Joe Schons

An intriguing theory has been proposed by a message board poster called earlraul. Basing his theory on his understanding that there were witnesses to Joe Schons' having a drink in the Mountain House Lodge, earlraul speculates that Schons may have stopped at the Mountain House after he had gone up the mountain (not on his way up the mountain, as Shons claimed) and had a run-in with the Boys. In order to establish an alibi, Shons walked down to the Mountain House Lodge, told people at the Lodge that he was on his way up the mountain, then walked back to his car and waited until morning to walk back for help.

Was Gary a Target?

Gary's being targeted by someone who knew him, resulting in his being thrown over the dam, possibly by a man who later became a pastor.

My Theory

I am still not absolutely sure what happened, but here's how I think things went down

I do think the boys were forced up the mountain in some way with Madruga driving. I do not think they went there of their own volition, there's no evidence to support that

Madruga leaving his window rolled down suggests to me that he rolled it down to speak with someone at some point. If they were forced up the mountain by someone, Madruga may have rolled down the window upon reaching where the road was closed to plead with their pursuers. 

According to David Huett, gun shells were found in the vehicle, likely from being fired at the boys. I believe the boys were forced out of the vehicle and scared off into the wilderness, likely with the aid of a gun

Who did the scaring? This could be Alan Martin's group or the Pastor, or both, or someone entirely different

I honestly don't think Schons had anything directly to do with this. I think he was on one of his regular drunk drives. Had stopped at the Mountain Lodge and then got turned around. The Lodge is only 8 miles from where the Montego was found, so if he had taken a left instead of a right he could've easily wound up there. 

I think that maybe he got stuck up there or fell asleep in a drunk stupor waiting for help. I think there's a good chance that he did in fact see the boys and the car, but again I think he was in no mental state to really be sure of anything. 

He may have called for help, and in response the people may have turned off the lights. Especially if there were people trying to scare the boys off into the woods. It's very likely there was another vehicle, but whether or not Schons saw it is entirely up for debate

And maybe he did actually see it, but then got pressured to redact that statement. Schons liked to make himself more important than he was. When he heard about the boys and everything, he took his almost nothing story and made it out to be more than it was. He didn't want to admit to being drunk. So he said a heart attack instead. 

Schons was interviewed by several papers, if indeed the boys had been forced up the mountain someone, that someone may not appreciate Schons's story and made him aware, causing him to redact that part of the story

I do think the boys followed the snowcat tracks to the trailer. Snowcat tracks compact snow a lot, making it much easier to walk upon, and would've been the easiest way for the men to move through the wilderness

Madruaga and Sterling were found between the trailer and the car and the investigators suspect they perished enroute to the trailer. Which is entirely possible, we have no evidence of Sterling or Madruga in the trailer.  

There is two other scenarios: 

  1. They made it to the trailer and decided to return the car when Weiher started to get worse, knowing the car would be the fastest way to get help. But with the snowstorms they would have a hard time finding their way back
  2. Madruga could've insisted on getting back to his car sooner, even that same night when they succumbed to the weather

Huett was found real close to the trailer in another direction. He may have tried to follow Madruga and not know which direction to go and got lost

What we do know is that someone had to have been with Weiher at least for a little bit. With 36 ration meals eaten, requiring the use of the P38 can opener, the presence of Mathias's shoes and his notes, it's very likely Mathias was one of these people. 

If we assume just Mathias and Weiher made it , eating 3 meals a day, they would have 6 days of food. Mathias would likely know that rationing food would be important from his military training. He would have also avoided lighting a fire if he thought someone was after them

Mathias's stepfather was responsible for his medication and had religiously ensured that Mathias took it up until his disappearance. Different disorders, medication and doses have different half-lives in the human body. For myself, with ADHD, I can go for about week without my medications without any huge differences, but by the end of two weeks, or start of three weeks I will feel as if I have no medication at all in my system. With ADHD though the impact is different than schizophrenia. Without medication I can still function on a basic survival level, just not much more than that

With schizophrenia this can vary a lot and with stress can cause worse episodes. Regardless, for the first couple days it was likely Mathias was still mostly himself. It's possible that as time went he became more paranoid 

Maybe Huett, Weiher and Mathias were waiting at the trailer, waiting for Sterling and Madruga to return with help, but when they didn't return and food began to run low and Mathias began to grow more paranoid, maybe Mathias set off after them, leaving Huett to take care of Weiher

We have heard nothing about their being any food or ration cans in the bed with Weiher, which likely meant that someone was feeding him while there was still food. But we do know that he lost 80-100 lbs, meaning while he was alive he would've went hungry for some time

If Huett had been left in charge of Weiher, he may have struggled trying to determine what to do. He wouldn't know how to light a fire, or to even look for other food. When Weiher passed or looked like he had passed Huett may have wrapped him in the sheets. Or Huett wrapped Weiher when he determined that he needed to get help/find the others, with the idea that it would keep Weiher warm

We know that Huett was the most intellectually challenged of the group and that he could not read. He may not have thought to check the closets in the trailer for additional clothing or blankets, or he may have been scared to do so, thinking he could get in trouble. If there was any signage, he wouldn't have been able to read it

I think Huett was the last the leave

So what happened to Mathias? I think he died on that mountain. The park is massive, overgrown and full of wildlife and if he had wandered off in a less travel direction, he may never be found. His family had provided flyers to all the nearby hospitals and mental hospitals. Mathias was known to head home, no matter how far he had to walk. I feel like if he was still out there, he would've found his way home by now. 

I don't believe that Mathias is responsible for his friend's deaths. I can understand the Madrugas blaming him, he is the one that is still missing, and like any family they just want to protect their children. If they didn't like Mathias from the get go, it makes it really easy to blame Mathias

We also have no evidence that any violence had been used against any of the boys. 

I hope one day, Mathias's remains are found and we can put to bed this horrible notion that he had plotted a horrific ends to the lives of his friends and so that Tammie could maybe find some peace

As for those that were responsible for forcing the men up the mountain? We may never know for sure. Maybe once the pastor passes, someone will come forward, but we likely won't have any answers until that day