Details of Disappearance
Madden planned to meet friends at Sand Bar Flat near Sonora, California on August 10, 1996 for camping and fishing. He left his family's residence at approximately 5:00 a.m. on that day and left a note for his mother explaining his plans.
He brought his dog, Matilda, and his camping and fishing gear with him to the campsite. He had camped and fished at Sand Bar Flat with his father several times and was very familiar with the area. He has never been seen or heard from again. Madden's friends arrived at the designated location at Sand Bar Flat at approximately 2:00 a.m. on August 12, 1996. There was no sign of Madden or Matilda at the scene, but his gear was found near a freshly-made fire.
A man identified as Joseph Tine appeared at the location soon after Madden's friends arrived. Tine was carrying a .45 automatic pistol and asked the men who they were and if they were looking for "Mikey." Madden had never been addressed by that nickname. His friends told authorities that Tine repeatedly cocked his pistol throughout the proceeding six hours as they waited for Madden and Matilda at the campsite. Madden's friends also said that Tine appeared to be wearing Madden's boots, though this has not been confirmed.
Madden was reported missing soon after his friends failed to find him around the campsite. An extensive search produced no evidence as to his whereabouts. Matilda came back to the campsite four days later; she was dehydrated and couldn't lead searchers to Madden.
Authorities administered a polygraph test to Tine nine months following Madden's disappearance; the results of the exam are unknown. Tine has never been charged in connection with Madden's case and his gun did not have any spent shells at the time Madden vanished.
There have been no arrests in this case and it remains unsolved. Investigators believe that Madden met with foul play at Sand Bar Flat, possibly at the hands of an unknown serial killer or even Cary Stayner, who was convicted of murder in the Yosemite area in the late 1990s. There is no proof of anyone's involvement in Madden's case.
Madden was a student at Humboldt State University at the time of his disappearance. His mother died in 2004 and his father in 2008. Madden was listed as a survivor on his mother's obituary, but his father's obituary notes his son predeceased him. His case remains unsolved.