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The Los Angeles Times from Los Angeles, California • Page 9
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The Los Angeles Times from Los Angeles, California • Page 9

Los Angeles, California
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Mystery of 5 Men Lost in Sierra Deepens How and Why of Retarded Victims' Disappearance Seem Inexplicable IF lofl anarlrfl Jt'uutg June 19, 1978 -Toil I 3 MAS BY CATHLEEN DECKER Tlnitt Staff Wrlftf OROVILLE-Four months ago, five slightly mentally retarded young men, inexplicably miles off the familiar route to their homes from a college basketball game, vanished into the snowy wilderness of the Sierra Nevada. The intense and prolonged search for the five friends by sheriffs investigators and relatives proved fruitless. It was only the late spring thaw that led to the discovery of the bodies of four of the five men two weeks ago. Still, the mystery surrounding their disappearance has deepened, and the questions that have plagued the anguished families and baffled law enforcement officers since that February night persist The five men, clad only in lightweight clothing, abandoned the relative safety of their car and struck out in the deep snowdrifts and silent, terrifying darkness-only to die. One of them almost made it, living for perhaps as long as 13 weeks in a Forest Service trailer within 50 feet of all the necessities of life-which for some reason he spurned. The sparse evidence so far uncovered indicates that at least one other of the missing men had also sought safety in the shelter then left Families and friends of the men, and sheriffs investigators, find themselves grasping at the few hard facts in the case, constructing theories that sometimes collapse with the surfacing of new clues. And what gnaws most desperately, in they say, is that virtually none of the theories makes sense. Well over 100 days after the disappearance, they continue to ask the same question that has dogged them from the beginning. Why? Why would five men who lived their lives by habit, never indulging in whims, voluntarily drive into the mountains the night before their Special Olympics basketball tournament which they were looking forward to with anticipation-without warm clothing and carrying no food or supplies? Why would they park their car on a mountain road and struggle miles uphill in 5- to 10-foot drifts instead of taking the easier downhill route or waiting for help in the vehicle? More perplexingly, why would one of the men make no attempt to use the warm clothing and heating materials only a few feet away from him? Ted Weiher, Jack Madruga, Gary Mathias, Bill Sterling and Jack Huett were "just nice friendly boys who went to games together and went home," the mother of one said recently. Weiher, 32, Madruga, 30, and Sterling, 29, were classified as "slow learners," investigators said, while Huett, the youngest at 24, was somewhat more retarded. Mathias, 25, who sheriffs deputies said had trouble with drugs while in the Army, was under medication for schizophrenia. A ff Buck A Lake Several of the men held full-time jobs gained through the Gateway Project, an organization for the handicapped, but the rest of their time was spent in athletics either playing sports or watching sports, their families said. On Feb. 24, they traveled from their homes in the Marysville-Yuba City area fifty miles north to Chico, to watch their favorite basketball team, UC Davis, compete against Chico State. Before leaving home, several laid out uniforms and shoes for the next day's' Special Olympic basketball tournament, in which their team, the "Gateway Gators," was scheduled to play. The game, families and friends said, had been the topic of excited conversation for weeks. After the Chico game that Friday Aight, the five stopped briefly at a small neighborhood market in Chico, annoying a clerk there by buying "junk foods" just before the 10 p.m. closing time, Dep. Lance Ayers of Yuba County said. It was the last time any of them was seen alive. Several days later, their car was found on a snowy mountain road in the Sierra northeast of Oroville, far from the route which would have taken them from Chico to their homes. No trace of the men was found. Relatives and law enforcement officers began searching the area shortly, but a severe blizzard blanketed the area with several feet of snow, hampering search efforts and covering possible tracks. Despite a flurry of reported sightings shortly after the disappearance, nothing substantial was unearthed until just two weeks ago, when a motorcyclist who entered the area as snows thawed looked into a broken window of a Forest Service trailer 19 miles from where the car was found. Inside was the body of Ted Weiher, wrapped in a bed sheet shroud. Search and rescue teams, including relatives of the men, combed the area and in the following week found the partial remains of Jack Madruga, BUI Sterling and Jack Huett Only Gary Mathias remains missing. Yet even the discovery of the bodies failed to shed much new light Orovlllo Ar BrowiMvlll Bullarda -9 "i I lit ro I Yuba City RETRACING STEPS Map shows 'U iMarysvlll SEARCH Deputies check mine on the case. The best anyone can do is guess. What the few hard facts in the case suggest on the surface is that the men somehow found themselves on a mountain road, left the car for no ap- Earent reason and began walking up a ttle-used, snow-covered road. Based on the heavy growth of beard, a Plumas County pathologist determined that Weiher lived between eight and 13 weeks after the disappearance at the least, just two weeks short of rescue. The body of Jack Huett, which like Sterling's and Madruga's had been ravaged by animals, was found two miles from the trailer under a scrawny manzanita bush. der oath that there were no government informants in their group. Agreed to review Pennsylvania laws which grant parents and guardians the right to commit children to mental institutions at the same time it reviews similar laws in Georgia. Refused to order a federal judge in Illinois to rule on the validity of a state law that seals records in nearly all adoption cases. Declined to involve itself in an attempt by a white Georgia couple to adopt a black child they had raised for 2V4 years. Supreme Court to Rule on Will Test Order Requiring 40 Ratio of Shift of San Andreas Fault Is Faster Than Expected Movement Measured by Laser Beams and Satellite Has Reached 3 Inches a Year, Scientists Report 1 Ar id i in area where bodies were found. fbotot ky Lea Lahnua "Thing's aren't right," said Melba Madruga, Jack's mother. "They (the investigators) want to say they (the men) got stuck, walked out like a bunch of idiots and froze to death. "Why would they leave the car to go die?" she asked. "There's no sense to that theory. But we can't figure anything that works out right. There's no rhyme or reason to any of it" Immediately after the disappearance, the families and investigators suspected foul play as the only explanation for the drive into the wilderness. None of the men had ever expressed any interest in snow or the Please Turn to Page 16, CoL 1 LA. Hiring Minority Firemen Gray's original order noted that while blacks and Mexican-Americans comprised a substantial part of the Los Angeles County population, their presence on the fire department was about 3. Neither Gray nor the appeals court ruled that the fire department had intentionally discriminated against minority applicants. In its Supreme Court appeal, the county asked the justices to apply the same stringent tests as for proving constitutional discrimination in cases involving violations of federal law. ball field two miles southwest of the airport. "There are few temptations in flying as in driving an automobile which are more difficult to resist than the urge to keep going despite worsening weather or a diminishing fuel supply. And there are few mistakes that are as deadly," the board report said. Safety board investigators found only about five ounces of fuel in the craft's fuel lines and filter. There was no evidence of failure or malfunction of the helicopter's engine or systems, including the fuel quantity gauge. Festive Air 1 CRASH CALLED NEEDLESS Powers Flying on Emptyf WASHINGTON GB The Supreme Court agreed today to judge the validity of a court order forcing Los Angeles County's fire department to accelerate its hiring of blacks and Mexican-Americans. In a case with great potential impact on the civil rights movement nationwide, the justices said they will consider what proof of bias is needed in many job-disarimination lawsuits. A group of blacks and Mexican-Americans who had applied unsuccessfully for county fire department Jobs sued the county in 1973. Their lawsuit charged that written examinations given all applicants were discriminatory because they had a disproportionate adverse effect on minorities a higher percentage of blacks and Mexican-Americans failed the tests. U.S. Dist Court Judge William P. Gray-ruled that because the tests were not job-related, their use was a form of discrimination. As a remedy, he ordered that 20 of the fire department's new employes be black and 20 be Mexican-Americans. The fire department has been abiding by that order, In other actions today the Supreme Court: Let stand a lower court's ruling that a group of antiwar activists known as the Gainesville 8 may sue a federal prosecutor over charges he lied to a grand jury when he said un Tax Crisis STORYBOOK Mi JSttfX FINAL NOTE-Last entry in Ted Weiher's diary tells of plans for Special Olympics games. WARM, SUNNY WEATHER DUE TO CONTINUE The sunny skies and warm temperatures of Sunday should continue into the week, the National Weather Service predicts. Highs at the Los Angeles Civic Center should reach into the upper 80s today. Highs in the mid 70s were forecast for the beaches and in the mid 90s for the inland valleys. The high at the Civic Center reached 86 Sunday. The Air Quality Management District said air quality will be good in the coastal areas today but unhealth-ful for sensitive persons in the downtown and inland valley areas. Sunday's sunshine and warm temperatures brought more than 700,000 beachgoers to the sands with lifeguards reporting 700 rescues. In Riverside County, 165 fire fighters spent part of the dy putting Please Turn to Page 19, CoL 1 County Officials May Lose Cars Overnight Use of Vehicles Being Studied BY CLAIRE SPIEGEL Tlmtt Italf Wrttw Free rides between the office and home may come to a screeching halt for many Los Angeles County executives because of the impending, budget squeeze. And the loss would leave some officials fuming. Like about 100 top-echelon employes, county Librarian Carol Moss drives a county car home from work every night and then back to the office in the morning. The cost of the commute is paid by the taxpayer, as even the gasoline is furnished. "I need the car," she said. "I have to attend late-night meetings all over the county. That an area of over square miles. Now, I guess I could Even nights when she does not have meetings, she drives the county car home. "My house isn't far from the office," she said, "so I don't put on so many miles." Besides, she said, she has to have the car because, like all county de- Eartment heads, she is on call 24 ours. However, she added that she was called only three times after hours in the last four years and she ultimately did not have to appear at any of those "emergencies." Ms. Moss is one of about 400 em- Eloyes, including 100 department eads and their deputies, who are assigned county cars for commuting as Please Turn to Page 18, Col. 5 GREENBELT, Md. (1-The San Andreas Fault, which caused the San Francisco area to shake intensely in 1906, is shifting at a faster pace than expected, according to scientists at the Goddard Space Flight Center here. The ground shifts, measured by laser beams and an orbiting satellite, have reached about 3 inches a year. They are "about 50 larger than we would have guessed from geological history," said David E. Smith, a Goddard geophysicist Smith rejected any conclusions that San Francisco may be in for another earthquake. But he did say the calculations indicate the next earthquake may be larger and might occur sooner than expected. "The implications of this larger rate of motion if our calculations are correctare that the strain is accumulating in the region of the San Andreas fault at a rate considerably larger than we had heretofore expected, implying that an earthquake, when it comes, might be larger because of the additional forces accumulated, or that the quake might occur sooner," he said. Scientists have predicted a second major earthquake would hit the area sometime between the present and 2025. The San Andreas Fault begins in the Gulf of California and nearly parallels the coast as it moves northwes U.S. Olympic to Back L.A. WASHINGTON (D Francis Gary Powers, the former U-2 spy pilot, died in a "needless" helicopter crash because he mismanaged his fuel and the craft ran out, the National Transportation Safety Board said today. Powers and cameraman George R. Spears were killed in the crash after filming brushfires in the Santa Barbara area for a Los Angeles television station last Aug. 1. The safety board said Powers tried to make it back to the Van Nuys air- Eort even though he had radioed that was low on fuel. The Bell 206-B Jet Ranger crashed in a vacant base path of five men who vanished. Timet nu Dm Clemcit terly to a point north of San Francisco. Then it heads out to sea toward Alaska. Smith said that as the two massive subterranean slabs which make up the fault continue to rub together as they shift, there is a buildup of "stored energy." When that energy exceeds the power of friction, which keeps the two tectonic plates from sliding past each other easily, an earthquake results, Smith said. Satellite observations of the San Andreas Fault began in 1972 when two markers were placed in the earth in California one at Otay Mountain, near San Diego, and a second at Quin-cy, northwest of Sacramento. A laser tracking station was erected at each site. The laser beams were directed to an orbiting satellite. "The time taken for the pulse to go up to the satellite and return is measured very precisely," Smith said. "And knowing the velocity of light, we are able to deduce the distance of the satellite from the ground stations to a few inches. "The measurements to the satellite from both stations are made approximately every second as the satellite moves across the sky," Smith added, explaining the calculations are similar to triangulation methods used by navigators. Measurements were taken in 1972, Please Turn to Paf 14, Col. Committee Fiscal Stand IOC to sign an Olympics contract with the organizing committee, rather than the city, thus protecting the city against financial responsibility for the games under the IOC's Rule 4. In a cryptically worded statement after their meeting here, the Los Angeles and USOC representatives said they had "executed a memorandum of agreement" subject to ratification later by the USOC executive committee "which in the judgment of both parties will satisfy the conditions upon which the IOC granted" Los Angeles the 1984 Olympics provisionally on May 18. "It was emphasized that this agreement carries out the commitment of the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee to conduct the 1984 Olympic Games without financial liability to the taxpayers of Los Angeles," the Pleaie Tun to Page 14, Col. 1 SCENE IN SACRAMENTO Takes On a BY BILL STALL TknM Stiff wrtfvr BY KENNETH REICH TknHMMcalWrttor SACRAMENTO-There is a disarming storybook quality to life in Sacramento these days. The seat of state government does not at all seem1' tote what it is, or should be: the encircled target of property tax rebellion and public revolt against government. Just as Howard Jarvis asked them to, the people sent a message to Sacramento on June 6. But the full impact of that message has not yet penetrated the Capitol. This is a good time of year to be in Sacramento. These are clear, halcyon, river-rafting days with splashy sunsets and crisp evenings when the breezes come up from the delta. The tree-lined streets around the Capitol are empty and peaceful after working hours. The lawns are freshly manicured and the shrubs trimmed. The people are not here in person pounding on the Capitol doors not as in Los Angeles County where Supervisor Kenneth Hahn declared Friday: "The public is ugly. The citizens are mean." Here in Sacramento, it is more like the Emerald City in the Wizard of Oz. Dorothy and her friends traveled to the Emerald City down the Yellow Brick Road to see the wizard so she could get back to Kansas. The Emerald City was a dreamy pleasant place where people were treated well, but the wizard's chamber was a place of fire and smoke and noise and humbug. To be sure, there is some air of crisis in the Capitol as the Legislature and governor grapple to split up what is left of the tax pie. There is some fire, some smoke, some noise and some humbug. All last week, witnesses went before a special legislative committee to make their pleadings. The COMMENTARY room was jammed. There were television lights and constant movement Everywhere there were knots of legislators, lobbyists or others with heads together planning the next move. In the audience were lobbyists of all factions, part of the Sacramento crowd drawn as if by magnets to the committee rooms whenever something big is happening or might happen. And there were the Please Torn to Page 21, Col. 1 NEW YORK-Leaders of the U.S. Olympic Committee agreed here Sunday in talks with private Los Angeles Olympic representatives to join in pressing for an Olympics contract protecting the city and its taxpayers from any financial liability for the 1984 games. After the six-hour meeting at Olympic House, the national USOC headquarters, it appeared clear that when Los Angeles representatives meet with International Olympic Committee officials in Montreal today, USOC will be fully in Los Angeles' corner. This has not fully been the case in the past What the five representatives of the newly formed Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee and Mayor Bradley's committee of private business leaders hope to do is to get the

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