‘Yuba County Five’ uncovers more answers and even more questions about the 5 California men who went missing in 1978

True Crime April 11, 2022
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Listen to ‘Yuba County Five’

On a winter night in 1978, five young men from Yuba County, California attended a nearby college basketball game. None of them returned. What should have been a quick road trip to see the UC Davis Aggies basketball team take on the Chico State Wildcats turned into a mystery that has never been solved. The men’s car was abandoned far from the route they should have taken to return to Yuba City. Their disappearance baffled law enforcement, even after the Northern Californian snow melted come that Spring. Hear the story of this strange case in “Yuba County Five.”

New as of February 2022, the “Yuba County Five” podcast is made up of seven episodes, each averaging about 35 minutes long. This is a Mopac Audio podcast and is hosted by writer, producer, and podcaster Shannon McGarvey.

Bill Sterling, Jack Huett, Ted Weiher, Jack Madruga, and Gary Mathias were bonded through sports. They had gotten to know each other through the Gate Gators, a local program-sponsored team for the mentally handicapped. Two of them had slight intellectual disabilities, two were simply declared “slow learners,” and Gary had been diagnosed with schizophrenia, potentially brought on from drug use while in the U.S. Army.

If the five men weren’t playing sports together, they were watching sports together. Their disabilities attribute much to this story: the families of the five men believe that bias played a role in the lack of urgency by law enforcement and led to the sad end for most of the men.

For four years, Shannon and her team have investigated the “Yuba County Five.” Through this podcast, she is exploring the little-known details of this bizarre case in an effort to bring us all closer to an answer of what happened that February night. Through interviews with family members, investigators, and other experts on this case, we hear about who these five men were, what happened after they went missing, and why this case went cold.

When the men did not return to their homes on February 24th, 1978, their families, friends, and local officials urgently tried to locate the missing men. The drive south from Chico to Yuba City was straightforward and should have taken no more than an hour. All five men were also scheduled to play in in a Special Olympics basketball tournament on the 25th, something their families didn’t think they would risk missing.

A few days after their disappearance, their car was discovered. Only, it raised more questions than it answered. The car was over an hour in the wrong direction of Yuba City, having been driven up a winding mountain pass in the Plumas National Forest at the northern point of the Sierra Nevada. The car was empty except for some empty wrappers of food and drinks that had been purchased by the men in Chico and pamphlets from the game they attended. Police were baffled that the car seemed to be in working condition, and despite being lodged in a snowbank, authorities believed that five healthy young men should have easily been able to push it from its position.

Multiple sightings of the five young men were reported, but none led to their discovery. From shop owners to a man suffering a heart attack up in the Sierra Nevada, suspicions of foul play begin to arise. It wasn’t until the snow melted months later that more answers and even more questions arose. In June of 1978, 20 miles away from where the car had been abandoned, bones of three of the men were found near Ted’s emaciated body. Gary was never found, only his shoes were discovered in the nearby woods.

The “Yuba County Five” podcast takes a compassionate look into this unsolved case. Did the young men become stranded and wander until they found the trailer that Ted’s body was found in? Did someone force them to go into the mountains to suffer a brutal fate? Shannon McGarvey and her team shed more light on this mystery in this extremely well-done true crime podcast.

Listen to ‘Yuba County Five’

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