I watch a lot of ID Discovery. True crime is something that I find really interesting. A lot of the cases are unsolved, and there are a lot of people that go missing that are never found. Those are the cases that disturb me the most. How does someone just vanish off the face of the earth? I read and watch, and with all these cases, someone somewhere knows something. Missing people, is going to be a topic that I'm going to be blogging about a lot. I'd like to think as long as people are still talking about these cases eventually someone will come forward with the information needed to solve them.
A friend and I were talking about missing person cases, not too long ago, and she brought up the disappearance of Michael Negrete, an eighteen year old college student who was attending UCLA. I had never heard of him before, so I started reading and watching anything I could find on him. The more I found, the stranger the story became. The kid just vanished one night and there wasn't a whole lot of information or leads.
The year was 1999, Michael Negrete was a freshman at UCLA on a music scholarship. He had been living at Dykstra Hall which is a dorm for students attending UCLA. On the night of December 10th he had attended a party on his floor, then returned to his apartment and played an online game with a friend. At 4am he left his apartment after finishing the game to congratulate his friend who had also lived in the same building. After congratulating his friend he never made it back to his room, and no one ever saw him again.
Negrete's roommate awoke at 9am to find that Michael was gone. His shoes, clothes, wallet, and keys were all left behind, to suggest that him leaving wasn't something he had planned. Since going missing in 1999, there has been no activity on any of his bank or credit cards. The police originally opened this as a missing persons case, but upgraded it to a homicide investigation. No body or trace of him has ever been found. There was a strange man seen lurking about Dykstra Hall that night. No one knew who he was, and no one has come forward to say, "yes that's me." and give an explanation, so that individual is still considered a person of interest. A composite sketch was made of the suspect which is pictured below.
Police investigated exhaustively. They used bloodhounds, which did pick up Michael's scent. The scent led to a dead end, at a bus stop, which only added more questions. Where was he going? He did not have a car, so him taking a bus to go somewhere did make sense. Where he was going still remains a mystery, and the man in the sketch above was never identified. Do you know who that is? He is described as being heavy built, about 35 years old, standing about 5'8, wearing a shiny grey jacket with a turquoise design.
That's basically all the public information on this case, and though there has been hundreds of leads, this case has gone ice cold, and it's been almost twenty years. If alive today Michael would be 38 years old. There are some theories out there, and they are a little wild so I have taken them with a grain of salt.
The first theory I came across, comes from Michael Negrete's brother Steve, who is a member of the band, "Steam Powered Giraffe", that Michael was also a member of. He had said that his brother was taking drugs like ecstasy and going to raves. I remember raves being a very popular thing in 1999. For those that don't know, a rave is an underground party, usually held at a random warehouse or sometimes out in nature. DJ's would blast "House" music while the attendees would trip out on psychedelic drugs, and other drugs like ecstasy. Steve is of the opinion that his brother was probably out of his mind under the influence, someone took advantage of that and abducted him.
I believe the brother when he says Michael was taking drugs, I just don't see a brother lying about that. The problem I have though, is that none of the witnesses that saw him that night described him as being out of it on drugs tripping out. Maybe they were protecting him, but again it's been almost twenty years and I feel someone would have said something by now if that were the case.
The strangest theory I've seen out there is about a man named Damon van Dam. Years after this case his daughter (Danielle) had gone missing, and was murdered. She was only seven years old, which really rips at my heart. Her body was found a few weeks later. Their neighbor, David Alan Westerfield was arrested, tried and convicted of the crime. He is serving his sentence at San Quentin State Prison. So how does this all fit in?
David Alan Westerfield, claimed innocence and still does to this day. He was forty-nine at the time and had no police record before this. Part of his defence was that the van Dam's were swingers, and would have sex parties. His defense was trying to create reasonable doubt and that their risky lifestyle was to blame, and maybe one of their swinger guests could have possibly been a pervert and was behind her kidnapping and murder. So how does this connect?
Michael's father Miguel and Damon van Dam were friends, and Damon was living in Southern California at the time of his disappearance. Believers of this theory believe that Damon van Dam is the unknown person in the police sketch. I've looked up Damon and he does resemble the sketch. But so could a lot of people. Police sketches are often like that, where they can appear to be very generic. Go ahead and google his name and tell me what you think in the comments.
Proponents of that theory believe that Damon was having sex parties and lured Michael into coming, which leads to many possibilities. Maybe he overdosed on drugs and they hid his body to cover it up. Maybe Damon van Dam is a serial killer? Maybe he is a part of something more sinister, like a satanic cult and Michael was a sacrifice, like their daughter. These theories get crazy and there are a lot of people out there on the web that believe them. I don't buy the satanic theory for even a second. And my heart breaks for these families.
The "Damon van Dam" theory makes no sense at all to me. First, the case against David Westerfield was very strong. There wasn't only circumstantial evidence, with motive, and opportunity. There was also very strong forensic evidence. Danielle's blood was found on Westerfield's jacket and on the floor of his motor home. Her fingerprints were also found in his motor home. Westerfield also had child pornography. The evidence against him was so overwhelming, that I'm absolutely convinced he is guilty. Westerfield's guilt to me means that there is no alleged history of Damon van Dam being involved in nefarious things. Him knowing the Negretes is nothing more than a coincidence in my opinion.
Marc Collins-Rector is the last theory I know of. He is a convicted sexual offender, who resembles the composite sketch. Marc Collins-Rector is a subject of the documentary, "An Open Secret" which is about sexual assault and Hollywood, and the tactics these sick individuals used to target and assault their victims. After watching "An Open secret" I do believe that Marc Collins-Rector is a predator, he is also a rich connected individual that would have the means to make someone disappear. Other than him looking like the sketch, and living in Southern California, there is no direct evidence that links him to the disappearance of Michael Negrete.
What do I think happened? It's hard to say, there's not much information and almost zero evidence. I do believe foul play has occurred here. I believe the perpetrator, is well off and may have had help covering everything up. I don't for a second think that Michael disappeared of his own accord. I'm convinced someone did something, and that drugs, and sex are somehow a part of the equation. Someone out there is holding onto this secret, and I do believe that the man in the police sketch is the key to solving this case. What do you think happened? Let me know in the comments.
If you have any information, no matter how small or big please call and report it.
UCLA Police Department 310-825-1491
LA County Sheriff's Department 323-890-5500