The Yuba County 5


On February 24 1978, five young men from Yuba City, California attended a basketball game at California State University:

  • Bill Sterling, 29;
  • Jackie Huett, 24;
  • Ted Weiher, 32;
  • Jack "Doc" Madruga, 30;
  • Gary Mathias, 25

They were there to cheer on the UC Davis Basketball team in an away game against Chico State. Their plan, to see the match and then return home that night to prepare for their own game the following day.

But they never made it home

Several days later the group's Mercury Montego was found, abandoned in a remote area of Plumas National Forest, on a high mountain dirt road that was far out of their way back to Yuba

Why had the car been abandoned? It was in good working order and could easily have been pushed out of the snowpack it was in, especially with the help of the five men. And where did they go? This is the story of the Yuba County 5


Release Date: April 30th 2021 / May 14th 2021

Researched and presented by Cayla


Shortly after recording this episode, I discovered a book that had been published in December 2020 that was packed with new information and interviews with friends and family of the five and others involved. The book is called: Out of Bounds: What Happened to the Yuba County Five? by Drew Beeson

Because of this we ended up recording a whole new episode: File 0027: Gone But Not Forgotten pt. 3

The Yuba County 5 Revisited article can be found here

It's recommended that you listen to episode 25/read this article prior to moving on to the update

May 5 2023: A listener named Tony advised us that they came across additional evidence that suggested that the P-38 can opener was not the only can opener present/used

"If you look in the supplements file read 056 first then 057. The same manner meaning by a church key type opener. The boys were probably well aware of a church key type opener. It was very common in 1978. They would have opened their soda cans with it.There was only one can opened with a P-38."

Who Were They?

Gary's History

Gary Mathias had grown up in Yuba City and had joined the military in the early 1970s. He had been stationed in west Germany, but it wouldn't be long before he developed a drug habit which eventually led to him being diagnosed with schizophrenia, leading to a psychiatric discharge

Mathias returned home and moved back in with his parents, where he began treatment at a local mental hospital. It was a rocky start with encounters with the law and a couple psychotic episodes. But by 1978 Mathias was on the right path and considered by his physicians to be "one of our sterling success cases."

Mathias received army disability pay for his time in the military, but to help supplement his income he also worked in his stepfather's gardening business. Mathias's future was looking bright

The Boys

But that wasn't all, Mathias had managed to make friends with four other men. Sterling and Huett had slight intellectual challenges, while Weiher and Madruga were considered "slow learners" and were also army vets.

Basketball was their favorite past time and all five men were part of the Gateway Gators, a basketball team sponsored by a local program for the mentally handicapped.

If they weren't playing, they were watching and if they weren't doing that the men hung out together frequently

Due to their special needs, all the of men lived with their parents, either in Yuba or nearby Marysville. Their families affectionately called the group "the boys"

February 25th

On February 25th the boys were due to play their first game in a weeklong tournament sponsored by the special Olympics. The Winning team would get a free week in LA and they were all beyond excited

The night before, Some had laid out their uniforms and others had asked their parents to make sure they'd wake up on time. With everything ready for the next day, the group departed for the UC Davis game in Chico. The trip that would end in tragedy

What Happened?

The to-trip

The boys made the 50 mile (80 km) drive north from Yuba county to Chico in Madruga's pride and joy, turquoise and white 1969 Mercury Montego.

They wore only light coats against the cool temperatures, they weren't planning on spending any length of time outside

The last game of the night ended at 10:00 pm and the boys began the journey home, but not before stopping a couple blocks away at Behr's market to get some road snacks. Much to an annoyed shop-keep who was trying to close for the night. Stocked with pies, chocolate bars, soda and milk the troupe hit the road 

Their families' all expected the men to be back that night, some of their parents even waited up for the return of their son's. But when morning broke and they had not appeared, the police were notified

Search and Rescue

Police from both Butte and Yuba counties searched the route the men had taken, but found no sign of them

On Feb 28

A Plumas National Forest Ranger who had seen the montego parked up in the forest road on Feb 25 called in to the police. He had assumed it was the car of some cross-country skiers, as was common that time of year, but when he saw the bulletin he knew otherwise

The Inside of the Car

The deputies found the car, doors unlocked with a window rolled down

inside they found food wrappers, empty cartons and cans along with programs from the basketball game and a neatly folded road map of CA. The goodies they had bought at Behr's market were all consumed except half of a Marathon bar 

The car was stuck in some snow drifts, with signs of spinning under the tires. But police noted that the snow wasn't that deep and the five healthy men shouldn't have had an issue pushing it out.

With the keys missing, it suggested they may have run into car troubles and went for help, but when the police hot-wired the car it started immediately and the gas tank was a quarter full

Location of the car

The car led to more questions than answers, the first was, why here? At the top of a long, winding dirt road leading up into the remote forest at an elevation of 4,400 ft (1,300 m), at the snow line and just short of where the road was closed for the winter. The men weren't prepared for such adventure

And the location was not on their way home, far off any direct route that would've taken them to Yuba city or Marysville. It was 70 miles (110 km) from Chico

Why would the boys take an off-road joy ride on the night before a game they had been excitedly chattering about for weeks? And especially with no extra clothing?

Madruga hated the cold and had never been up in the mountains before

Sterling had gone on a fishing trip with his father near here, but did not enjoy it, opting out of all other trips up to the area

Further inspection of the car

The car was towed to the police station where they found no dents, gouges or even scrapes on the undercarriage or low-hanging muffler, despite the distance up the rocky road.

Either the driver had been very careful or it was someone familiar with the road, a familiarity that neither Madruga or Mathias had, as the only men in the group capable of driving.

And Madruga was also incredibly protective of his car and wouldn't let anyone else drive it, nor would he have left the car unlocked like it had been found

Inspecting the Area

While the car was being investigated, any efforts to explore the area were hampered by a severe snowstorm. Two days later, after searchers in snowcats nearly got lost themselves, further efforts were called off due to the weather

No trace of the men was found


The families put up a reward for $1,215 ($4,800 today) for any information that led to the missing men. The story had been widely broadcasted in the area and the police received dozens of tips

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. Lt. Ayers could punch holes in all of them. Skeptical but desperate, they consulted psychics: One told him the boys had been kidnapped to Arizona or 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

The Two Tips That Stood Out


There was a store in the small hamlet of Brownsville about 30 mi (48 km) from where the car had been found, the men could've easily made it there if they had turned around and followed the road down from where the car was found

On Mar 3, one of the store's employees called the police and told them that she had seen four of the men stop at the store in a red pickup, two days after they had disappeared.

She said she identified the men immediately as out-of-towners due to their  "big eyes and facial expressions". Two of the men, that she identified as Huett and Sterling had went to the phone booth outside while the other two had went inside

The store owner corroborated this account, saying the two men who came into the store were Weiher and Huett. They bought a couple burritos, chocolate milk and soft drinks.

Both witnesses were deemed credible

But this left many more questions, who was the driver of the red truck? If they had been there two days after they had disappeared why hadn't they contacted their families? Where were they now?

Joseph Schons

The other tip the police had received was a bizarre one

Joseph Schons of Sacramento had inadvertently ended up spending the night of Feb 24th in his car, up near where the Montego was found.

He had driven up the mountain where he had a cabin to check the state of the snow in advance of a family ski trip he had planned for the weekend.

At about 5:30 pm, 150 ft / 46 m up the road from where the Montego would be found, he had gotten stuck in the snow. In the process of trying to get free, he realized he was beginning to experience the early symptoms of a heart attack and retreated to his car, leaving the engine running for heat

Six hours later, lying in the car in severe pain, 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, walking in the glare of a vehicle's headlights. He thought he heard them talking. Schons said he yelled for help, but the headlights went out, and the talking stopped. Schons  got back into his car and lay down again 

Schons 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.

Doctors later confirmed that Schons had indeed suffered a mild heart attack

There simply was not enough evidence for any clear conclusions about what happened that night or where the men had gone, but they were still considering foul play.

June 4

Most of the higher elevation snow had melted and a group of motorists had went to a trailer in the mountains that was maintained by the Forest Service. The trailer was at a campsite, a popular pit stop and resting place for hikers in the park.

The motorists had noticed the front window of the 60ft trailer had been broken and when they opened the door, they were overcome by the intense odor of decay. Upon this discovery the motorists contacted the police

This little camp was off the road about 19.4 mi / 31.2 km from where the car had been found.

Recovery teams spent half a day clearing five huge trees from the roadway before reaching the trailer. 

Madruga and Sterling

The area was searched, following the road between the trailer and the site of the montego. The next day they found the remains of Madruga and Sterling on opposite sides of the road, 11.4 m / 18.3 km from where the car had been left

The bodies had been scavenged by animals but what remained was autopsied and showed that they had both died of hypothermia


Two days later, as part of a search party, Huett's father would find his son's backbone under a manzanita bush 2 mile / 3.2 km east of the trailer. His shoes and jeans nearby helped identify the body

The next day the deputy sheriff found his skull downhill from the bush, 300 ft / 91 m away

The Blankets

Roughly a quarter mile / 400 m northwest of the trailer, 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. 


Weiher's body had been found in the trailer, on a bed, entirely wrapped in eight sheets, including his head. An autopsy showed that he had died of a combination of starvation and hypothermia. Weiher had lost nearly half of his 200 lbs / 91 kg and the growth of his beard suggested that he had lived as long as 13 weeks after he last shaved.

His feet were badly frostbitten, almost gangrenous.

On a table next to the bed were some of Weiher's personal effects, including his wallet (with cash), a nickel ring with "Ted" engraved on it and a gold necklace he frequently wore.

But also there was a gold watch, without its crystal, which the Weiher family said did not belong to him and a partially melted candle

He was wearing a velour shirt and lightweight pants, but his shoes could not be found

How had Weiher come to this fate?

  • No fire had been set in the trailer's fireplace, despite an ample supply of matches and paperback novels that could be used as kindling.
  • Heavy forestry clothing which the men could've worn to keep warm were untouched
  • A dozen c-ration cans from a storage shed outside had been opened and their contents consumed
  • A locker in the same shed held an even greater assortment of dehydrated foods, enough to keep all five men fed for a year if it had been necessary was completely untouched
  • Another shed nearby held a butane tank with a valve that, had it been opened would have fed the trailer's heating system.

"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."

Not alone?

It also seemed that Weiher had not been alone in the trailer and that Mathias and possibly Huett had been there with him. Mathias's tennis sneakers were in the trailer and the c-rations had been opened with a p-38 can opener, which only Mathias or Madruga would have been familiar with due to their military service

The sheets over Weiher's body also suggested that one of the others had been there with him as his gangrenous feet would have been in too much pain for him to pull them over his body himself

Despite knowing that four of the men had died, investigators still couldn't completely explain what had occurred and how it had led to their deaths.

May 5 2023: A listener named Tony advised us that they came across additional evidence that suggested that the P-38 can opener was not the only can opener present/used

"If you look in the supplements file read 056 first then 057. The same manner meaning by a church key type opener. The boys were probably well aware of a church key type opener. It was very common in 1978. They would have opened their soda cans with it.There was only one can opened with a P-38."


All that was left to do was find Mathias' body. But after two weeks and with little progress made, investigators called off the search on June 19, 1978, leaving his emotionally battered family without the closure they craved. 

Other than Mathias's shoes in the trailer, there was no trace of the man in the area

It was presumed that he would have not taken his medication with him, so pictures of him were distributed to mental institutions across California, however nothing has ever been found

They took on a water witcher (a technique also known as dowsing) 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 a lighter.

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 months earlier 

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 locked, 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 happened to the car keys?

"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 his mother.

"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." Mathias's Stepfather

Explanations and Theories

How did the car get there?

Mathias had friends in the small town Forbestown. It's possible in an attempt to stop in for a visit on the way home, the men had taken a wrong turn near Oroville that had put them on the mountain road and got them stuck.

But Reddit User and local CeJeH refutes this:

If you look at a map, you'll see that Chico to Yuba City is a straight shot down Highway 70 through the Central Valley. This area rarely freezes and NEVER snows. Ever. It's low lying Valley land. There's no big turns in the highway. Anybody that lives in this area knows how to navigate it easily.

But where they ended up is WAAAYYY out of the way, past Oroville Lake, way up in the mountains in the Plumas National Forest. This was not a simple wrong turn away from where they were heading. You can't possibly just accidentally end up there along their intended path. You HAVE to go way out of your way to get there. We're talking thousands of feet in elevation change, when their intended path was all along the Valley floor. They had to have had a reason to be where they ended up.

So the question that should be asked here is not why they got out of the car, or whether they were experiencing hypothermia or not when the car stopped. The question is what the fuck were they doing way the hell out in the middle of the mountains in the first place?!?

Side trip to Brownesville?

What about the report of the 4 minute visit to a store in Brownesville in a red pick-up truck two days after they disappeared?

Weiher's brother said that while driving to Brownsville in a different car in apparent ignorance of the basketball games they were supposed to be playing that week seemed completely out of character for them, the owner's description of the two men's behavior seemed consistent with them, as Weiher would "eat anything he could get his hands on" and was often accompanied by Huett more than any of the other four

However, Huett's brother said Huett hated using telephones to the point that he would handle calls for his brother Huett from the other men in the group

The heart attack guy

What about the guy that was having a heart attack up on the road that called for help?

Weiher's mother had a hard time believing that her son would ignore someone's calls for help, if he had been present. She recalled a time when he and Sterling had helped someone they knew get to the hospital after overdosing on Valium

How did they get to the trailer?

A day before the men went missing, the forest service snowcat had gone along the road in that direction to clear the snow off the trailer roof so it would not collapse. It's possible that the men saw the tracks cutting through the 4-6 ft / 1.2-1.8 meter high snowdrifts and thought it would be lead them to shelter. Madruga and Sterling possibly succumbing to hypothermia on the way to the trailer

Why didn't they use the goods?

When the boys would've arrived at the trailer, it would've been locked and they would be forced to break the window to get inside. With the trailer having been locked the boys could've worried that they were in private property and feared being arrested for theft if they used anything else they found

Weiher's family said this behavior wasn't abnormal of their son. His disability greatly impacting his common sense. He frequently questioned why he had to stop at a stop sign and one night had to be dragged out of bed while his bedroom ceiling was burning in a house fire, since he was worried about missing work the next day if he left his bed and getting fired

Why was Weiher alone in the trailer?

It's possible that when Weiher died (or when he had appeared to) the others may have chosen to attempt to return to civilization by different routes, causing them to get lost in the wilderness and succumb to their environment

Why did Mathias leave his shoes behind?

Mathias, perhaps his feet also swollen from frostbite could have decided to put Weiher's shoes instead if he had ventured outside as they were bigger and Weiher wasn't going anywhere

Why were three of the men found outside, various distances from the trailer?

Deputies speculated that one of them had succumbed to the desire to sleep that marks the last stages of hypothermia and that the other refused to leave his side, eventually meeting the same fate

Murder by Mathias

There is another theory, a much darker theory that came out of the collaboration of three newspapers in 2019: The Sacramento Bee, The Fresno Bee (of fresno nightcrawler fame) and Modesto Bee

The Bees were given permission to access the police records from the case as long as they did not photograph or take them out of the Yuba County Sheriff Office. They found information in the records that would indicate that it is possible that Gary Mathias was not as harmless as originally believed. Here is the description they write in the article:

"These files, clips and interviews shape a disturbing image of Mathias. Billed in virtually all media reports at the time as another lost lamb caught out in the cold, Mathias was an aberration within the flock, a young man who did not belong with the others. He was violently schizophrenic and had a history of drug use, and wasn't intellectually disabled like the others."

I want to note here, the way that these newspapers describe these incidents as if they were completely unknown is somewhat salacious. These incidents were known to the police and were even reported on in some of the newspapers at the time. I have a couple other issues with the way this story has been represented, but I am going to keep my opinions to myself until after

His History

Mathias's sophomore year of high school would be his visit to a psychiatric facility, after a bad hallucination trip. Not long after he would join the military, but this wouldn't last as his drug habits got him into trouble. At one point he had been put in base jail

While being in jail, he called over a guard and punched him in the face.

He told investigators at the time:

"I've been in the Army and I don't like it, and I thought if I hit a cop, maybe they'd let me out,"  

He later received a medical discharge after he had been evaluated and determined that he was schizophrenic

He would return home from Germany and things would get worse before they got better

Back in Yuba , Mathias opted to stay with his cousin upon his return instead of his parents

Not a month in, there was an incident. The cousin and Mathias had been watching tv, The cousin's wife hadn't been feeling good so had taken some medication and was asleep in the other room

At one point, Mathias gets up for a bathroom break, but when this break had gone unusually long the cousin went to check on him, finding him in the bedroom fondling his wife. After his cousin told him he was calling the police, he proceeded to tell his cousin that he wanted to return to jail.

And he did, though it didn't last long. He was out within eight months.

In December that same year, Mathias would have another run-in with law enforcement. Police had been called to the scene where Mathias was standing outside a friend's house banging on the door, demanding to be let in

The couple that lived explained that Mathias had showed up after shooting meth and dropping bennies and had begun acting erratically. Threatening to stab the woman in the jaw.

After he told their 3-year-old daughter "I thought I'd kill you once, I guess I'll have to do it again," the man and woman reportedly kicked Mathias out of their house, where he had remained until the police had arrived

Court records do not indicate he served any jail time in connection with the incident.

Mathias also had a history of breaking out of facilities and walking long distances.

After being arrested in Stockton at one point, he was sent to a psychiatric facility. He spent two days there before breaking out through a drainage pipe and walking/hitchhiking the 80 miles back home.

Later he would go and live with his grandmother in Northern Oregon. His mother begged him to return home yet he hung up the phone on her. He showed back up a few weeks later filthy and claimed that he had walked from Portland, stealing milk off porches and eating dog food to stay alive on the 540 mile trip.

The final violent incident occurred a few weeks after his trip back home. He broke into the home of a local couple and the couple awoke to find Mathias standing in their bedroom. He told them that he was looking for a ring to return to Satan and that they also owed him rent money because the house was his.

After that incident, he supposedly straightened out. He started to consistently take his schizophrenia medication and was able to hold down a job with his stepfather's gardening business. He joined the Gateway Projects and become friends with the four other men.

Gateway: Did He Belong?

The other four had been friends for four years and Mathias joined in, having been with them for a year when they had all disappeared.

The bees argue that Mathias didn't belong in the group as he wasn't considered intellectually disabled, though he had a debilitating mental illness.

Despite his seemingly 180 change, some still were wary of him. The Bee states the following:

"Following a 1978 interview with Mathias' longtime acquaintance Janet Enzerra, Yuba County Sgt. James Black wrote that Mathias had repeatedly told Enzerra of a dream where he and several other people would disappear. Enzerra called Mathias "a very violent person, hurting several men seriously, and (said) that he also hates women," according to Black's interview notes."

But even under the mellowing haze of antipsychotic drugs such as Cogentin, Stelazine and Prolixin, Gateway Gators basketball coach Robert Pennock told investigators he still felt like Mathias "could possibly flip out at any time."

The other boys' parents weren't comfortable with Mathias either, even though they didn't seem to know about his criminal record, Jack Beecham said. He was a stronger personality, the only one among them who would fight back if threatened, according to investigators. Of the five missing boys, the case file said, he would be the most likely to "lead and suggest places to go or things to do."

"I know parents at the time told us - they told me personally - that they had deep concerns about Gary being involved in this. They were unabashed in their opinion in telling me that," Beecham said.

A brother of one the victims also notes that the Mathias family was weird following the disappearance. The Bee States:

"No one pulled a trigger on the boys, but something - or someone - killed them. Asked if he thought Mathias set his brother and the others up to die, Dallas Weiher replied "that's the only thing that makes sense."

Weiher recalled that the hit '90s television series "Unsolved Mysteries" sought the involved families' permission to do an episode on the Missing Five some time after their disappearance. Every family agreed except Mathias', despite him still being missing, Weiher said. Mathias' surviving siblings declined to comment or could not be reached by The Bee

"That's just suspicious. I'm not saying they knew, but, well, you can probably guess what I think," Weiher said.

Mathias's Childhood and Family

Ida Klopf had taken her children and fled her husband, Mathias's father, Garland Mathias when he was a child, and it sounds like their relationship wasn't a healthy one.

Sharon, Gary's sister rarely spoke of her father. One day in 1987, Garland showed up out of the blue

He ate dinner with Sharon, her husband and children (10 + 11) and then left without incident

A few days later, Garland committed suicide.

In 2002 Sharon would follow in his footsteps with a self-inflicted gunshot.

Sharon's husband believes that his wife, father in law and brother in law all had the same mental illness.

"As long as (Gary) was on medication, he wasn't too bad. But when he thought he was okay and not doing his medication - same (thing) with my ex-wife, Sharon. As long as she was on medication, she was doing OK."

Some believe these suicides were caused by the knowledge that Gary Mathias had done something. Others simply point to them as evidence of instability of a family mental illness, and that Gary's instability may have caused him to do something undue with his friends

The Mysterious Phone Call 

About three weeks after the boys went missing, a Yuba City woman named Debbie Lynn Reese picked up the telephone. "Hello?" she said. 

"I know where the missing five men are," a man on the other end of the line said before hanging up.

The man called back the next day, Reese told authorities, and said, 

"I need help 'cause I really hurt those guys bad." When she asked "who did you hurt?" he replied, "don't play dumb with me" and hung up.

There was one more call the next day, on March 17. 

"Those five guys are all dead," the man said. "They're all dead?" Reese asked. "They're all dead," he repeated. 

Then he hung up, and Reese never heard from him again.

Beecham doesn't think that was Mathias, though. Mathias couldn't get his medication if he went off the grid, and he couldn't stay out of trouble without his medication. Then there were the family ties: Even on his long walkabouts, he always came back to his mother and stepfather's house.

A Rebuttal

Let's talk about Schizophrenia

So with that let's take analyze the narrative being told by the Bees

It is not uncommon for those with inadequately treated schizophrenia in combination with other risk factors, (including drug use) to exhibit violent outbursts, but that those that have found a stable treatment exhibit very low tendencies for violence. There is a very prominent stigma when it comes to schizophrenia and violence. Schizophrenia in general is very poorly represented in media and poorly understood by the general population

There is no silver bullet treatment for any mental illness. Finding the correct balance takes weeks, months, even years and a ton of experimentation, as there is no one size fits all treatment. Especially when we look at the early 1970s when Mathias was discharged. And things can get worse before they get better

But Mathias had been on a stable regiment for the last two years with absolutely no incidents and had been routinely taking his medication uninterrupted up until his disappearance

One of the primary characteristics of schizophrenia is an abnormal interpretation or understanding of reality. It's typical for this disorder to present itself in the mid 20s for males and late 20s in females

Here is what common symptoms look like:

  • Delusions: you have beliefs that have no basis in reality. You may think you're being hurt or harassed, or that people are talking about you. Or you may think that you have exceptional ability or fame. You may think that someone is in love with you or that a major catastrophe is going to happen. Nearly all schizophrenics suffer from delusions
  • Hallucinations: hearing and seeing things that don't exist, auditory hallucinations are the most common type. These may be small things, like hearing people call your name or what sounds like people talking nearby about you. But not all hallucinations are voices, you may hear thumping music, screeching or people screaming. You are usually unable to distinguish these hallucinations from real life sounds
  • Disorganized thinking: Often exhibited through speech. Effective communication is impaired and answers to questions may be partially unrelated or unrelated entirely. Speech can sometimes string together meaningless words, commonly known as word salad. Often schizophrenics know exactly what they're trying to say and may even think that's coming across very clearly, but that may not be the case to outside parties
  • Disorganized and abnormal motor behavior: This may show in a number of ways, from childlike silliness to unpredictable agitation. Behavior isn't focused on a goal, so it's hard to do tasks. Behavior can include resistance to instructions, inappropriate or bizarre posture, a complete lack of response, or useless and excessive movement.
  • Negative symptoms: This refers to reduced or lack of ability to function normally. For example, the person may neglect personal hygiene or appear to lack emotion (doesn't make eye contact, doesn't change facial expressions or speaks in a monotone).

Many people who have undiagnosed schizophrenia may have no idea that their behavior and challenges come from a mental disorder and are often reliant on family and loved ones to identify these behaviors and encourage them to see a doctor

Left untreated, schizophrenia can result in severe problems that affect every area of life. Complications that schizophrenia may cause or be associated with include:

  • Suicide, suicide attempts and thoughts of suicide
  • Anxiety disorders and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Depression
  • Abuse of alcohol or other drugs, including nicotine
  • Inability to work or attend school
  • Financial problems and homelessness
  • Social isolation
  • Health and medical problems
  • Being victimized
  • Aggressive behavior, although it's uncommon

There is no cure for schizophrenia but symptoms can be managed with medication, therapy and self-help techniques

Many people who receive treatment regain normal function or may even become symptom free as long as they adhere to that treatment

Having a support system is incredibly important

With that in mind let's talk about the points made in this theory:

Mathias is not special needs

If we look at the symptoms I mentioned we can see a lot that are similar to those with intellectual challenges. Also we need to remember this is in the 70s, in a town of 14,000 at the time. The town likely had few resources for such a complex mental illness and there were probably few programs that worked to help integrate people on the path of treatment. We know that a support system is incredibly important for schizophrenics, so the Gateway program was probably the best option available for Mathias and likely did a lot in his recovery.

High school, went to a psychiatric facility for a bad drug trip

Remember this is the 70s, psychedelics were on the rise, especially in California. Mathias was an older teen that was a part of the cool crowd and the football team, a demographic that is prone to experimentation. So he likely wasn't the only person in his friend circle that was doing this.

For some people with underlying mental health conditions or through a particularly intense trip, hallucinogens can disrupt someone's grip on reality (usually temporarily), which is likely what put him in a facility.

Punching a guard:

"I've been in the Army and I don't like it, and I thought if I hit a cop, maybe they'd let me out,"

Here we see some of this abnormal thinking and delusional thought that can come with untreated schizophrenia. He came to a solution that doesn't make logical sense outside of that mindset

The fondling incident

Mathias was still not being adequately treated during this time. We have little information about what exactly Mathias was thinking when this happened and while there is no excuse for assault. If we consider common symptoms, we can see where this logic may have come from.

And his wanting to return to jail, to me suggests to me a guilty conscience

The couple

This is a horrifying incident on so many levels. Again, no excuse for his behavior, but if we look at common symptoms and complications. We know that he had taken a cocktail of potent drugs, which alone can make a person pretty detached from reality and consequence, but in combination with his mental illness created a nuclear circumstance

Was Mathias Responsible?

Looking at all the incidents and behaviors that the Bees cite as evidence that Mathias may have ill intent. nearly all can be attributed to his unique circumstance and his mental illness. Again, this does not excuse those behaviors in the slightest. He deserved punishment and it seemed he got it

But with a clean 2 year record once he was on a stable treatment, we have no evidence that those behaviors would occur again as long as he adhered to his treatment and self-therapy. Nearly everyone around him praised him for how well he was doing, even his own doctors saw him as a shining success of treatment

What about the people that were suspicious or distrustful of him?

No person is liked by every person they encounter. This is a small town, where Mathias's history was likely well known to most members of the public. Today people with mental illness still receive discrimination and it would've been much worse then.

By that logic there's plenty of reason as to why the average person may not like or "trust" him. It's human nature to avoid the unusual and bizarre. And Mathias's behavior did give him some unusual social ticks. It would be very easy for someone to just not like him because he was "weird". Or when interviewed for a newspaper decades later, when the only one still missing is Mathias.

The only reason that Mathias is being considered a suspect is because his body hasn't been found. He had been friends with the other men for a year. It's perfectly natural for the families to want answers and cling to any sort of explanation they can come up and Mathias is the biggest remaining question. He was the "odd one out", everyone has friends that their parents weren't sure of, even if they had no evidence. 

I personally, do not think that Mathias had any malicious intents for his friends, there was simply no contextual evidence to support it and I believe these suspicions are founded in xenophobia, ablism and grief. But we may never know the truth 


Local, state and federal law enforcement agents spent more than 6,000 combined hours looking for the young men. Dogs, horses, helicopters and snowcats all turned up nothing but dead ends.

At the end of the day there are no answers

The last update came in 2006, when a man named Mark Mathias checked "yes" on a letter from the sheriff's office to indicate his brother Gary was still missing.