Netflix’s true crime docuseries Files of the Unexplained episode 3, “The Yuba County Five,” focuses on Ted Weiher, Gary Mathias, Bill Sterling, Jack “Doc” Madruga, and Jackie Huett, a group of friends who went missing in 1978. The episode is gripping, sad, and at times infuriating. Because each episode of the eight real-life cases covered runs in an hour’s slot, some stories had to be edited out. Drew Hurst Beeson’s Out of Bounds: What happened to the Yuba County 5 is an excellent resource for those missing details.

The five men were last seen cheering on their favorite team, Chico State, against UC Davis at California State University. They arrived at the basketball game for celebration, and in defiance, of their own basketball tournament scheduled the very next day. Their team, the Gateway Gators, were about to close out a season-long winning streak with a competition hosted by the Special Olympics in Sacramento on Feb. 25. The champions would win a week-long trip to Los Angeles. The enthusiastic starting lineup wouldn’t have missed the game for the world. At game time, they couldn’t be found anywhere on Earth.

The Yuba County Five case remains unsolved. Here are some unexplored clues Files of the Unexplained left on the cutting room floor.

Doc’s Car is a Big Clue

Witnesses put the men at the Chico State game, and saw Doc’s 1969 Mercury Montego pull out of the California State University lot shortly after 10:00 p.m. on the night of Feb. 24. They were last spotted at Behr’s Market, where they “bought one Hostess cherry pie, one Langendorf lemon pie, one Snickers bar, one Marathon bar, two Pepsis and a quart and a half of milk, drove south out of Chico and disappeared,” according to Cynthia Gorney’s Washington Post piece, “5 ‘Boys’ Who Never Come Back.”

The sports coupe was found abandoned on a deserted mountain road, 70 miles from Chico, with the driver’s window down. Files of the Unexplained vehemently posits Doc couldn’t imagine leaving his car in the snow with the windows down.

“Those men were murdered by being forced or coerced to march to their ultimate demise from the elements,” Jack Madruga’s nephew George Madruga insists in Out of Bounds. “No way would Jack Madruga abandon his vehicle on the side of a mountain road without being forced or coerced to do so.”

Madruga, who served in Vietnam, didn’t let anyone drive his car. Regardless of the situation, he took the driver’s seat.

“He took an immense amount of pride in his car,” George Madruga confirms in Out of Bounds. “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.”

There was nothing wrong with the car. It had a quarter tank of gas. The police hot-wired it easily. The car wasn’t badly stuck. The five men could have pushed it free. It stopped before the snowline, leaving the less likely walking alternative the missing men were forced to take. “Someone made them go up that road,” Sterling’s sister Debby told Out of Bounds. “Bill didn’t like the snow.”

This is only one clue which doesn’t add up in the sum of the official conclusion.

A Local Threat Preceded the Disappearance

Before “the boys,” as so many of their friends and family think of the Yuba County 5 in Files of the Unexplained, made “one bad choice after another,” the local climate was already unsafe. Their shared community-funded safe house had been under attack for several years.

“Gateway Projects was a place that disabled kids could go to for training,” Tammie Mathias, Gary Mathias’s younger sister explains in Out of Bounds. “Learn a job trade and help them to possibly live on their own.”

The Gateway Projects treated a wide range of medical and cognitive conditions, including neuroses, psychoses, schizophrenia, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, and drug addiction. “The clients learn some basic skills,” according to Time magazine’s Aug. 4, 1975 report, “CRIME: Fear by Fire.” “They assemble kits of electric rods for a utility company’s field linemen; they reupholster chairs for nearby military bases; they tie together stalks of wheat for a local florist who sells dried flowers by mail. Sometimes they receive the U.S. minimum wage of $2.10 an hour, sometimes as little as 53 cents.”

The members also eagerly found ways to support each other. “Gary went there at first for counseling,” Tammie Mathias says in Out of Bounds, “and later … showed them sports but also helped with other things they asked for.” Mathias was asked by his drug counselor to put his high school football experience to work for the Gateway Gators, the center’s basketball team who played at Yuba City Vocational Rehabilitation Center. Fast friends on and off the court, it wasn’t the only sport they played. The five men also bowled every Saturday.

The facility fostered integrative comradery inside its walls, but hostility had been festering outside. On Feb. 18, 1975, the Gateway Projects workshop was burned down by an arsonist, according to “CRIME: Fear by Fire.” The damages totaled $150,000, including interior and machinery damage. Weeks later, a Molotov cocktail was tossed into the main office. Gateway Director Donald J. Garrett tied these incidents to attacks on other special needs facilities. Following a birthday party thrown by his staffers, Yuba City firemen found Garrett’s body burning on the carpet inside the door of his apartment. It had been doused with an inflammatory accelerant. The Gateway Projects opened a new location to an immediate bomb threat.

Out of Bounds confirms this path of destruction through assorted arson attacks, including a firebombing, collateral foul play, evictions, and an unofficial police gag order. One investigator publicly considered the possibility “someone really has it in for Gateway Projects,” but officials could never decide if it was initiated by a disgruntled ex-employee, or a personal grudge from insinuating allegations discreditors made of Garrett’s mildly scandalous past.

One Sheriff’s Officer Took the Search Effort Very Personally

The initial nationwide bulletin was put out by Yuba County Sheriff Lt. Lance Ayres, who went to school with three of the missing men, and was emotionally invested. On March 2, 50 men, including Huett’s father, went on the search. They were on snowcats and snowmobiles. By March 7, the docuseries points out they expanded search tools to use horseback, four wheelers, and helicopters.

Files of the Unexplained doesn’t mention Jack Madruga’s parents consulted psychic Gloria Elizabeth Daniel, according to The Los Angeles Times. The prediction included a vision of a red pickup truck which had been referenced by a witness but dismissed by investigators. The session also implied omissions made by law enforcement which are included in Beeson’s Out of Bounds.

A forest ranger called in a sighting of a red pickup truck in the woods near Forbestown. The Sheriff’s Office reported back the truck was gone. According to Out of Bounds, Jack Madruga’s niece Cathy Madruga thought the missing men might visit a friend in Forbestown after the basketball game, and told her grandmother to call the sheriff while she went into the woods with her brother George, and best friend Ann. Passing men with shotguns, alarms, and traps, they found a shed the Yuba County Five might be held in, but were chased off the property at gunpoint.

The search was called off by the Sheriff’s Office to wait for the snow to melt.

Witnesses to the Pickup Truck

The snow also stranded Joseph Schons on the mountain the night the men disappeared. Driving to the Plumas National Forest for some skiing, he suffered a heart attack while trying to push his car back onto the snow-slicked road, according to The Los Angeles Times. Schons told law enforcement he saw “two sets of headlights, one that of a pickup,” which came behind him about 11:30 p.m. He also mentioned a baby, and a woman.

There are discrepancies in Schon’s story, and he later admitted being “half-conscious, not lucid, hallucinating and in deep pain. Whether I half-saw or half-imagined the second vehicle, I just don’t know.” A second anonymous witness said she saw the five men in a “red, 1950s-model pick up about 2 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 25, about 40 miles northeast of Marysville.”

“The Yuba County Five” unequivocally maintains the families grew critical of the investigation, but the specifics present a bigger arc. Files of the Unexplained also tells part of the story of the “bully guy” and his troop, and reports the rumor that Mathias was thrown over the Oroville Dam. The documentary offers a lot of proof that Mathias might have been targeted, but contemporary media reported other missed bullseyes.

According to Gary Mathias’ family, the paranoid schizophrenia symptoms and diagnosis appeared after Gary’s Army duty in Germany, five years prior to Gateway. He was being treated with regular doses of stelazine and cogentin. According to Files of the Unexplained, police records stressed a violent history. “I do know, God forgive me, Doc and the other guys were scared of Mathias,” we hear Jack Madruga’s niece Cathy say in the docuseries. “Gary was going to go to the game with them and they didn’t really want him to go but they were too scared to say anything. And that came from my uncle.”

Files of the Unexplained also includes Cathy’s story about hitting her parents’ Browns Valley, California bar La Casa Blanca after a long shift at the forestry service, and seeing Gary Mathias sitting on the third stool from the door. He was looking right at her before bolting for the exit. The series clouds Tammie Mathias’ encounter with her brother after a victim of a car wreck was admitted to the hospital she worked at as a nurse. She swears it was her brother. 

Files of the Unexplained can be streamed on Netflix.

The post Files of the Unexplained: What Netflix’s Yuba County Five Doc Leaves Out appeared first on Den of Geek.

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