Yuba County Five

I am obsessed with the Yuba county five case. I consider myself an expert on this case, and I have some new information to share. For those of you who do not know the case, here’s a summary:

The yuba county five were five men living with their parents ranging from the ages of 24 to 32 that all had mild intellectual disabilities or mental illness who disappeared on Friday February 24 1978 while going to watch a basketball game in Chico, California. The five were: Ted Weiher, Jack Madruga, Bill Sterling, Gary Mathias, and Jackie Huet. Gary Mathias was the only one of the five that had a mental illness, which was schizophrenia, and which he was very well medicated for. The five were part of the Gateway Projects, which was a vocational training center for people with intellectual disabilities, mental illness, and for drug addicts as well. The five were collectively referred to as The Boys by their friends and families. All five were part of a basketball team that was sponsored by Gateway Projects called the Gateway Gators. They were supposed to play in a game of their own on the morning of Saturday February 25 in Rocklin, which is near Sacramento, but they were never seen alive after 10 pm on February 24, after they watched the game in Chico.

(Note: I will call the Yuba county five “The Boys”, not out of disrespect but because that is what their families used to and still do call them).

I have seen suspicion cast on the Gateway Gator’s coach, whom I will call Bob. That’s not his name really, but he is still alive, so I can’t really name him. Some people have theorized that maybe he was involved in The Boys’ disappearance for several reasons:

  1. The Boys and the coach were supposed to meet at a department store at 8 am Saturday Feb 25 for their basketball tournament. If I recall correctly, the coach (Bob) was maybe supposed to drive them himself in a van to the game or maybe they were suppose to take a bus together. Bob never showed up at the established meeting point.
  2. The coach never helped looked for The Boys during any of the searches. Which is odd, since he knew them. You would think that he cared and that he would help look for them.
  3. The coach, while being questioned, was rather hostile toward the police, and in the case files, it stated he was “nonchalant.” The coach did not give a reason for why he did not show up at the rendez-vous time on Feb 25 and did not help out the police.
  4. In the case files, it states that the coach purportedly gave character statements of The Boys to the police but he described almost all of them wrong. For example: Bob describe Ted Weiher as “aggressive” even though by those who knew him, he was not. He described Bill Sterling as “intelligent but lazy.” By those who knew him, he was not lazy on the basketball court at all or lazy in his community. Bill was actually very active. Bob supposedly described Gary Mathias as “spacey and could flip out at any time,” even though by those who knew Gary, he was incredibly stable on his meds and no one who knew Gary described him as “spacey” or “distant.” Bob also claimed that he had a few confrontations with Jack Madruga, even though Jack almost never fought with anyone and was not a confrontational kind of guy.
  5. I have heard that the coach has a small criminal record and that he was charged with assault. I could not find the details for the charge though and I’m not entirely sure if it’s true.

Well, Drew Beeson, an expert on this case, actually interviewed Bob, the Boy’s coach, quite recently. Bob, as it turns out, is in his late seventies and was willing to talk about what he remembers of that time. Bob was employed by Gateway Projects and I think he helped to form the Gateway Gators. He was friends with Donald Garrett, who was the director of Gateway Projects before he got murdered in 1975. Bob’s car was one of the firebombed cars during the terrible Gateway firebombing attacks that occurred in the mid seventies.

Besides being the coach for the Gateway Gators, he was also a rehab councilor. Bob stated that he knew The Boys quite well and that he took them on a 3 day trip to Redondo Beach California in 1977, where they stayed at a 4 star hotel. The Boys were treated to a special dinner and other basketball players were there too as part of a special event.

Bob stated that The Boys were a very close-knit group. He said that “The Yuba County Five were the entire Gateway Projects adult male basketball team.” The Gateway Gators also included a sixth backup man. This sixth man was not really close to the other five and was significantly more intellectually disabled compared to Ted, Jack, Bill, and Jackie. As a result, he did not really play in their team. I cannot name this sixth man because he is most likely still alive.

Bob stated in the interview that The Boys were all highly functional, including Jackie Huet, of which many claim (falsely) that he was the most disabled of the group. Bob was asked in the interview if he ever recalled seeing Gary Mathias acting as if he could freak out at any minute or go haywire or have some sort of emotional outburst at any time and Bob said “No.” Bob stated that he never saw Gary have any outburst of any kind or felt that he would. Bob said that he never saw Gary push somebody, punch somebody, or get violent with anybody. Bob did state that Gary was the most competitive player out of the group, though, and that he took the basketball games quite seriously. There would be no reason for him to lie. So what’s strange is that why did he say that stuff about Gary in the case files? Drew Beeson (and me as well) believes that it is very possible that the quotes he supposedly said about the Boys back in 1978 in the case files were falsely or mistakenly attributed to him. What is also interesting is that Drew Beeson said that while he was interviewing Bob, he did not seem really aware that Gary had schizophrenia. Bob was also not aware that Gary Mathias had a driver’s license.

Bob stated in the interview that all of The Boys were very interested in girls and really enjoyed going to the co-ed dances held by the Gateway Projects.

Bob was also asked if he believed that it was possible that The Boys got lost during the drive home after going to see the basketball game in Chico on February 24, and Bob stated this, very adamantly:

“No, I do not think so. They were all what I considered highly functional. They would have known the area around Oroville and north of Oroville look nothing like the Yuba City area and they would have simply turned around or stopped and ask for directions home.”

Bob stated that he also did not believe that Gary having a freak out could have gotten them lost either. This is very important as Bob knew them very well! He is also credible when talking about the Boys as he would have no reason to lie about them or to make them sound more functional than they possibly were.

Bob stated in the interview that the reason he did meet at the rendez-vous time on the morning of February 25 for the game was that one of The Boy’s mothers actually called him earlier that morning (like around 5 or 6 am) to ask him if he had seen The Boys and to tell him that they did not come home. Personally, I still find it weird that he did not show up at the rendez vous because it’s not like he knew for sure that they were not going to show up at the department store. I also find it weird that he never helped out with the searches, but oh well I guess. He also stated that he was hostile toward the police because he did not like them, especially after the whole Gateway firebombing incidents, which the police never solved. Bob said he was working at Gateway at the time of the firebombings and believes that Donald Garrett’s girlfriend’s ex husband was to blame for the arson attacks.

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