Gary Dale Mathias

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Above: Matthias, circa 1978

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Vital Statistics at Time of Disappearance

  • Missing Since: February 24, 1978 from Oroville, California
  • Classification: Lost/Injured Missing
  • Date of Birth: October 15, 1952
  • Age: 25 years old
  • Height and Weight: 5'10, 170 pounds
  • Distinguishing Characteristics: Caucasian male. Brown hair, hazel eyes. Mathias wears eyeglasses and will have double vision without them.
  • Clothing/Jewelry Description: A beige t-shirt with the words "Gateway Gators" across the chest.
  • Medical Conditions: Mathis has schizophrenia and takes the anti-psychotic medications Stelazine and Cogentin on a weekly basis to control his mental illness. He is high-functioning, but if he is placed in a stressful situation, his functioning deteriorates.
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    Details of Disappearance

    Mathias was last seen near Oroville, California on February 24, 1978. He went missing with four friends: Jack Antone Madruga, Jackie Charles Huett, Theodore Earl Weiher and William Lee Sterling. The men were part of a day program for mentally handicapped adults and played on a basketball team. On the night of February 24 - 25, they were supposed to play a basketball game in Chico, California, then return to their homes. They all lived with their parents. Mathias and Madruga were both licensed drivers; Madruga was going to drive them that night.

    The five men never returned home. On February 27, their car was found on a mountain road in the snow on a Plumas National Forest service road, 70 miles from Chico and far from their route home. Although it was at the snow line and its tires had spun, it wasn't stuck and the men could have pushed it free, and it had a quarter tank of gas and was in operable condition. The area where the vehicle was located is heavily forested, mountainous and rocky. The snow was four to six feet deep, and a storm was raging in the area at the time. The men were not dressed appropriately for the weather; they all wore street clothes and low-cut shoes. Madruga was the only one who ever drove that vehicle, he didn't like camping or cold weather, and none of the men were familiar with the area.

    In June 1978, after the spring thaw, the bodies of Madruga, Huett, Weibel and Sterling were found. Authorities found Weiher's body in a Forest Service trailer in the Daniel Zink campgrounds, nineteen and a half miles from where the car had been. He was lying on a bed, with eight sheets pulled over his corpse and tucked around his head. Weiher lived for an extended time period, perhaps eight to thirteen weeks, but eventually died of exposure. His feet were badly frostbitten and he had lost 80 to 100 pounds before dying. His shoes were missing, but his ring, necklace, and wallet with cash were sitting on the table next to the bed. There was also a gold Waltham watch, with its crystal missing. It didn't belong to any of the five men.

    Weiher had apparently gained access to the trailer through a broken window. Although there were matches and paperback books and wooden furniture, no one had started a fire, and no one had touched the propane tank nearby. Someone had consumed more than a dozen cans of food from an outside storage shed, but there was an unopened locker in the shed that contained enough food to have fed all five men for a year.

    Investigators believe Sterling and Madruga never made to the trailer; their bodies were found four and a half miles short of it, on opposite sides of a road, the day after Weiher's body was found. Police think Huett and possibly Mathias came to the trailer with Weiher, but left again. The day after Sterling and Madruga were found, Huett's skeletal remains were located along the same road, but much closer to the trailer. Searchers did find three wool Forest Service blankets and a rusted flashlight about a quarter of a mile northwest of the trailer. They found Mathias's sneakers inside the Forest Service trailer with Weiher's body; authorities think Mathias might have put on Weiher's shoes, which were a larger size than his own, after his feet got swollen from frostbite. An extensive search turned up no sign of him or his body.

    Mathias served in the Army and got a psychiatric discharge after his mental illness symptoms surfaced while he was stationed in Germany. He would become violent on occasion and had previously been charged with assault, and he had been hospitalized several times for his mental illness. However, by the time of his disappearance, his schizophrenia had been in remission for about two years. He worked as an assistant in his stepfather's gardening business and also had disability pay from the Army. He is presumed deceased, but remains classified as a missing person.

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    Investigating Agency
    If you have any information concerning this case, please contact:
    Yuba County Sheriff's Department
    530-749-7777

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    Source Information
    Yuba County Sheriff's Office
    The Marysville Journal-Tribune
    The Santa Fe New Mexican
    The Elyria Chronicle Telegram
    The Washington Post

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    Updated 3 times since October 12, 2004.

    Last updated June 14, 2017; clothing/jewelry description added, medical conditions and details of disappearance updated.

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