‘Files Of The Unexplained’ Episode 3 “Missing Yuba County Five” Recap

The third episode of Files of the Unexplained, titled Missing Yuba County Five narrates the story of five disabled pals who had gone missing 50 years ago. There are multiple speculations about the case, but it still remains an unsolved mystery. The bodies of four friends were found, but the body of the last friend is still missing. Whether Gary has murdered his four friends and fled the place remains a mystery. Why did the Yuba County Sheriff not put in enough effort to find the men? Could Gary be the murderer? Will the mystery of the missing five young men ever be solved? Let’s find out! 

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Spoilers Ahead


Were The Five Young Men Close?

Five young men mysteriously went missing on February 24th, 1978, in Chico, California. Their car was found abandoned 70 miles away from their home. Tom Huett, Jackie’s brother, said that Jackie had met his other pals, Jack, Bill, Garry, and Ted, at a Gateway Project that was helping autistic and disabled people. Jackie, who was autistic, was a slow learner and was quite close to Ted. Dallas (Ted’s nephew) said that his uncle was fun and was quite close to Jack (Doc), who wasn’t as outgoing as his uncle and was considered to be socially awkward. It was revealed that Jack and Bill shared a close bond and relied on each other. These four lads were very close to each other, and when Gary entered their group at a later stage, he too became a crucial member. Gary’s brother, Mark Mathias, said that he was a good athlete and musician and had even served in the military. According to his sister, Tammie Phillips, he was schizophrenic, as a result of which he had been released from the military.

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Where Was The Car Found?

The young men were very excited, as they had a match to attend the day after they went missing. The day before the match, they decided to go to Chico to see a basketball match, but when they did not get back home that night, their families started panicking. They reached out to the Yuba County Sheriff for help, but they were asked to wait for 48 hours as the boys were all adults. 

Tony Wright, an author, sympathized with the families, stating that they did what they could. Finally, when the police started searching for them, they found the abandoned car (on February 28)  up in the mountains in the Plumas. Everybody was baffled as to why the boys had driven up to a no man’s land with snow drifts. Later, milk cartons were found inside the car, and they started contacting milk vendors for further information and realized that the boys had headed to Oroville and maybe had stopped at that point due to excessive snow. However, things were blurry as the men were lightly dressed, and it wasn’t clear why they had driven 70 miles away from their home in the wrong direction. The families suspected that maybe someone had threatened them and guided them to the wrong path. 

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Were The Bodies Of The Men Found?

There were rescue teams that had been launched in order to search for the boys in the area. The families had not given up hope of finding them, but the sudden snow in that area caused them to halt their search. In June 1978, when some motorcyclists were crossing past the Forest Service campground, they were alerted by a foul stench coming from a camp trailer. They were horrified to find a dead body there, and it was later identified as Ted’s. The body was tightly wrapped, and he had probably died of starvation and frostbite. When he was discovered, he had a full beard, indicating that he had been alive for about 8–15 weeks. 7 miles south of the trailer, they found Jack’s decomposed body, and they found the car keys in his pocket, suggesting that he was the driver. Across the road, they found Bill’s body, which was messed up by animals, and Jackie’s body was also found nearby, which had turned into a pile of bones. 

However, Gary’s body was not found on the site. The search party gave up hope after a few days and left the place, but his family stayed on for two more weeks. As per Gary’s family, the police didn’t help them enough in their search for Gary. The newspapers called the group of men mentally unstable, which could have been a way to trivialize the incident. People were made to believe that the boys were stupid enough to have taken a treacherous path (hence shrugging off any responsibility for the incident). 

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Could Gary Have Been The Murderer?

The case got more baffling when it was found that there were food lockers outside the trailer, and the boys didn’t eat from there. They also realized that a propane heater had also been found at the spot, but they didn’t turn it on to keep themselves warm! Upon further digging, a pair of black tennis shoes (belonging to Gary) were found in the trailer. It is possible that Gary was the real culprit who led the boys to meet painful deaths, eventually fleeing the spot. 

It was revealed that the other boys didn’t like Gary a lot and were scared of him. He had drug abuse issues and would often have violent outbursts. There is a possibility that his psychosis kicked in, causing him to act deranged. Jack’s sister said that she had once seen Gary near a bar and even showed him to her mother, but they lost track of him right after they informed the sheriff. Many people had reported having seen Gary around that area, and even a passerby had seen Gary hitchhiking, but there was no mention of the sightings in the sheriff’s file. It is possible that Gary was still alive and had been living as a fugitive after murdering his friends. 

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What Were The Speculations About The Deaths?

There are several speculations surrounding the deaths of the young men. Some people say that there was a bully in town who had bad blood with Gary and took it out on all his friends. As per Tom, maybe the bully and his gang had thrown Gary out of the Oroville bridge and made the 4 boys go up the hill and stay there, as only 4 sets of footprints had been found that had gone up the hill. There is a possibility that one of the four boys brought Gary’s shoes along with him up to the mountain. 


Final Words

The fact that the case of the five missing boys remains unsolved to date is heartbreaking. Some unknown force must have caused the boys to go up the treacherous mountain road, where they met their tragic end. Maybe the case will remain a mystery forever, as there have been no clues even though 50 years have gone by. We just hope that Gary someday pops up and gives us all the information about the murders of his friends. It is very unfortunate that the families of the deceased hadn’t been able to find the kind of support that they had expected from their government. 

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Debjyoti Dey
Debjyoti Dey
Debjyoti’s obsession with creativity and travel fervor has helped her branch out into the entertainment genre. Her love for psychological thrillers helps her get a daily dose of adrenaline. A regular caricature of the films and its characters is what keeps her going!

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