The Yuba County Five: A Mysterious Disappearance

Having a severely autistic epileptic son and having worked with impaired populations for years, the disappearance of these five men makes me shiver when I think about it. The Yuba County Five didn’t shiver just figuratively, they literally shivered to death. Let me introduce you to these five unfortunate souls.

The Yuba County Five case has puzzled investigators and the public for decades. Therefore, it’s a perplexing enigma. This baffling disappearance is centered on five young men. Moreover, they vanished on the night of February 24, 1978, without a trace. Their inexplicable vanishing has spawned countless theories. In other words, it sparks intrigue and speculation among fans of unsolved mysteries. In this article, we will delve into the background of the case and explore the events leading up to the disappearance. Above all, we will also examine the abandoned car that played a pivotal role in the investigation, analyze the extensive search efforts, evaluate various theories, discuss the enduring mysteries that surround the case, and ponder its impact and legacy.


This is a story about five young men who inexplicably abandon their car and vanish in the middle of the night in the wilderness of northern California in the winter of 1978 (February 24).

The Five Men

These five men ranged in age from 24 to 32. They traveled an hour in the wrong direction, and they just disappeared.

Diverse Disabilities

All five appeared to have developmental disabilities or mental disabilities to more or less varying degrees. Authorities considered three to have developmental disabilities, while the other two had mental illnesses. Mathias had a diagnosis of schizophrenia. At the time, most believed that their untimely demise resulted from mistakes stemming from their disabilities, but others alleged foul play.

Vanishing Act

So what happened that tragic night? The five men attended a basketball game in Chico, California. After the game, they made it into Madruga’s 1969 Mercury Montego with the intention of driving back to Yuba City. When they never arrived home, someone contacted the police.

A Mysterious Discovery

Four days later, searchers discovered Madruga’s vehicle abandoned in a remote area of Plumas National Forest, many miles away from their original route home. The vehicle, as seen below, remained in good working order and had plenty of gas.

Strange Encounters

After the vehicle discovery, the police initiated a search for the young men’s whereabouts. The most intriguing sighting came from Joseph Schons. On the night the men disappeared, Schons, while driving to his cabin, found his vehicle stuck in the snow very close to where the Montego was discovered.

A Baffling Twist

Another credible sighting came from a store clerk in Brownsville, 30 miles from where the men’s car was discovered. She reported that two days after their disappearance, four of the men stopped at the store in a red pickup truck. She identified two of them as Huett and Sterling but described all of them as wild-eyed. The store owner corroborated her account.

A Disturbing Discovery: Ted Weiher’s Fate

Months later (June 4), a horrific discovery deepened the mystery in a remote cabin 19 miles from where the car was discovered. A group of motorcyclists stopped at a trailer, and when they opened the door, decaying flesh overwhelmed them. Found inside the trailer was a dead man laying in a bunk with a sheet over him.

The First Grim Find

Who was the first body found? It was Ted Weiher. He had lost half his body weight, several toes to frostbite, and was without shoes and socks. An autopsy determined that this young man died of starvation and hypothermia. Curiously, though, there was sufficient food to last the entire group of friends for a year. There were also ample matches, paper, kindling, and even a butane tank with which the men could have kept warm. Additionally, they left heavy winter clothing untouched. Based on the length of Weiher’s beard, experts speculate that he survived for at least three months after his disappearance. So this was the first body discovered of the missing Yuma County Five.

The Disappearance

On the night of February 24, 1978, the lives of the Yuba County Five took an unexpected turn. What followed would forever haunt the minds of those involved in the investigation. As the evening unfolded, events leading up to their inexplicable disappearance began to unravel. The last confirmed sighting of the group occurred at a gas station in Chico. They purchased snacks and soda before setting out on an unknown journey.

Initial concern for their safety and well-being arose shortly thereafter, prompting loved ones to report the group missing. Search efforts were swiftly initiated, driven by the palpable fear that something sinister had befallen the young men.

The Abandoned Car

The shocking discovery of the Yuba County Five’s abandoned car further deepened the mystery surrounding their disappearance. In the remote and desolate Plumas National Forest, searchers found the car in an eerily pristine condition. Its presence raised more questions than answers, instilling a sense of unease among investigators.

Upon closer examination, the vehicle yielded few tangible clues that could provide insight into the baffling turn of events. The absence of any discernible signs of foul play inside or around the car was perplexing. It left investigators grasping for any fragment of evidence to guide them to the truth.

Search and Investigation

The search for the missing men was a herculean task that required the combined efforts of dedicated authorities and volunteers. The vast and treacherous terrain coupled with harsh weather conditions posed significant challenges, hampering progress at every turn. Nevertheless, the search persisted, driven by the unwavering determination to find answers and bring these men back to their families.

Multiple potential leads and false sightings emerged during the search, teasing the hopes of loved ones but ultimately leading to dead ends. Family members played an integral role in the search, tirelessly combing through the forest and refusing to succumb to despair.

Theories and Speculations

The case of the Yuba County Five has birthed a plethora of theories, each offering its own interpretation of the events that transpired on that unsettling night. Some hypothesize that the young men fell victim to foul play, while others entertain the possibility of natural causes or even a voluntary disappearance. Conspiracy theories and urban legends have also woven themselves into the fabric of this perplexing tale, fueling the imagination of those seeking to unravel the truth.

Unsolved Mysteries

Decades have passed, yet the mystery of the Yuba County Five remains unresolved. Despite the tireless efforts of investigators and the enduring interest of the public, conclusive evidence eludes them. Lingering questions and uncertainties persist, echoing the haunting silence left in the wake of their inexplicable vanishing. The enduring mystery of the case continues to captivate those with an insatiable appetite for the unknown.

Impact and Legacy

The impact of the Yuba County Five case resonates deeply within the local community and reverberates far beyond its borders. Moreover, this baffling disappearance has influenced subsequent missing persons investigations, leaving an indelible mark on the way authorities handle similar cases. In addition, as public awareness has grown, the fascination for unsolved mysteries has intensified, with the tale of the Yuba County Five serving as a haunting reminder of how quickly and inexplicably life can take a devastating turn.


The disappearance of the Yuba County Five remains an enduring enigma that defies explanation. Moreover, it is a testament to the inexplicable nature of certain events in life and a constant reminder of how fragile our existence truly is. In addition, while the Yuba County Five case continues to captivate our curiosity, it is essential to recognize that mysteries like these exist in many corners of the world. For instance, the Long Island also holds its share of perplexing enigmas and unsolved cases, demonstrating the complex and often baffling nature of human experiences. We invite you to share your thoughts, theories, and speculations on these awe-inspiring cases as we strive to shed light on the mysteries that lie within the recesses of our world.


  • Dave Smollar reported on March 10, 1978, in the Los Angeles Times (p. 23) that foul play was suspected in the case. This information was archived from the original on February 17, 2018, and retrieved on February 16, 2018, via

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