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Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Decemystery (2021) 15: The Money in Matt and Wendy Jameson's Backyard

Amidst a sea of really absurd and depressing mysteries, it’s sometimes hard to remember that there are stories out there which are more uplifting or light-hearted in nature. Today, I want to take a moment to bring attention to one. It’s short and doesn’t involve anything more than a strange event which began as quickly as it ended. This is the story of the Money in Matt and Wendy Jameson’s Backyard.

The Story

I found today’s story on the Unsolved Mysteries Wiki; it first appeared on an episode that aired on April 26, 1996. This was a little under two months after I’d been born, but I’m certain this was merely a coincidence.

Anyways, just over five months earlier, on November 12, 1995, Matt and Wendy Jameson had just come home from Church. It was around 10:30 A.M., and their arrival at their humble Fair Oaks, California abode would be one of the most baffling ever. No, there wasn’t some strange Bigfoot-type creature dancing around on their lawn or Mothman playing with a hula-hoop. Rather, it was something in their backyard.

That “something” was $6,500 in $20 bills (which would total 325 $20 bills). In today’s money, that’s $11,796.77. Man, inflation sucks. Anyways, there were also bills in their neighbors’ yards, though I don’t believe they took the money from there. Some of the money appeared to have been “dumped over the fence”, which is something to remember for later. Anyways: given that money is the root of all happiness/evil (depending on who you are), Matt and Wendy grabbed the money and went inside to count it.

Once they’d counted it, the two realized that they were truly rolling in money. However, they were also met with a dilemma. Should they just keep it and not tell anyone, or should they go to the police and tell them about it? Since this isn’t some Hollywood schlock fest where people who find money decide to keep it, spend it egregiously, then get a visit from some angry person[s] who then try to extract revenge in a pleasant manner akin to that of John Wick or Training Day, Matt and Wendy went to the police.

When it comes to discovering money that doesn’t appear to have an owner, law enforcement can’t simply take the money off of your hands and then hand it over to the State Government. Rather, by Californian law, they had to put an ad in their local newspaper stating that they had found the money and if they were the rightful owner, they had to pay them a visit to retrieve it. In total, the owner[s] had 90 days, or else the money would become Matt and Wendy’s.

“Tick tock,” went the clock. 1 day became 10. 10 became 25. 25 became 50. 50 became 90. On March 1, 1996, 90 days after the ad was put into the pages of the newspaper, the money became the Jamesons. With the money, they were able to pay off various credit card debts and lived a happier life (though I have no way to confirm that since it doesn’t appear there’s anything in the way of updates in the 26 years that have gone by since this story first aired).

The only thing that can be said is something speculative. Wendy Jameson was quoted as saying that she believed the neighbors might have discovered the money prior to her and Matt returning home. However, as far as I can tell, said neighbors don’t appear to have any story to tell in the way of discovering hundreds/thousands in cash, which I find really bizarre.

With that said, that’s where the story ends. As far as I can tell, nothing has ever come of the discovery beyond a couple in California being able to pay off credit card debts. In a way, that’s really heartwarming; a happy happenstance is always something that makes me smile. Still, one has to wonder where it came from. Lucky for us, there are a fair few theories for us to feast upon. So let’s get to it!


1. It fell from the sky!

This theory is mentioned in a very brief write-up by a blog called counteverymystery (which was later posted onto Reddit. That blog has an astoundingly large number of mysteries that are covered there, so if you want something to sink your teeth into on a sleepless night, a long flight/drive, or simply want to read, go there. You won’t regret it.

Anyways, the blog posits that the money may have been thrown out of an airplane. For what reason, I don’t know, but it’s very possible that it was a plane that was trafficking drugs or doing something related to money laundering, and the perpetrators had to get rid of some money to make their operation look less suspicious.

This reminds me a bit of how Blair Adams was turned away from the US-Canada border the first time he tried to cross it because he had a large amount of cash and valuables on him. Generally, the feds in the US won’t pay too much attention if you have a large, but not obscene, amount of cash on you. So if the folks on the plane wanted to get by customs without drawing too much attention to themselves, they may have loosened their load by throwing money out the back of the plane. Of course, that’s me speculating; I could be completely wrong and thinking in Hollywood logic.

2. Drug money

This is perhaps the most popular theory, and with good reason. Drug money is sometimes deposited when the fuzz is hot on the tail of a drug operation. In the aforementioned Reddit post, one user tells a rather amusing story of how someone they knew found some drug money on the side of the road, went on a spending spree, but the police caught up with them and had them not only return the remaining money, but also return everything they had bought with it. That has to suck.

Moving on though, every location in the US isn’t exempt from having its own shady dealings with illegal substances. You can count on there being someone, somewhere, who deals crack, cocaine, meth, heroin, or any other sort of controlled substance. The idea that a drug dealer—be they a small-time one or a kingpin—wanting to dispose of a large amount of cash because the police were closing in isn’t that crazy. The only question is who did it. I don’t have access to arrest records from the Fair Oaks Police Department, and it’s entirely possible the person who disposed of the money was never arrested.

As such, this theory can only answer where the money’s origin is (or rather was) from. I doubt we’d ever know who put it there, unless they came forward. Even then, it’s extremely unlikely they ever would because it’s possible they’re dead, serving a long prison sentence, or have forgotten about it since they’ve got other things to worry about.

3. Dan Cooper

This was a theory tossed out there by a Reddit user in the post from above. In a tongue-in-cheek manner, they posited that it was the infamous Dan Cooper, the still unidentified man who hijacked Northwest Orient Airlines Flight 305 on November 24, 1971. Over 50 years later, the case remains the one and only unsolved instance of aviation piracy. It’s also the only unsolved hijacking in United States history. I personally think he was a Canadian man who was employed at Boeing for the record.

In spite of the comment being humorous in nature, one person did respond saying that one person suspected of being Cooper lived in Sacramento (which is only 25 minutes from Fair Oaks), and the path that the plane took from Seattle to Mexico City (which Cooper had requested after getting the ransom money) would have flown over Fair Oaks. Of course, this is extremely unlikely given the 25 year gap, and it doesn’t appear that any of the bills appear to match the money given to Cooper.

4. It was aliens

I’m including this theory myself because I dang well feel like it. I also want to hit at least two thousand words because I hate knowing that I’m only about forty words away from it. My OCD knows no bounds!

My Take

I’m pretty sure—nay, I’m absolutely sure—that this was drug money. I think that some dealers got spooked by increased police activity and likely disposed of the money in some suburban area, where they knew the locals would take interest in the money. With the money off their hands, they could get back to having a lower profile.

I don’t think there’s any other theory I can really subscribe to. Naturally, I doubt it was Dan Cooper. I think he died after he leapt out of the plane and was roasted into oblivion after Mount Saint Helens erupted (though the theory posited by Expedition Unknown, which involved him faking where he jumped and then really jumped when they were in Nevada is kinda nifty).

Although I didn’t list it as a theory, I want to touch upon the idea that the money originated from a bank robbery. Whenever I think of money being found somewhere, the idea of something out of the Michael Mann film Heat comes to mind. While I sincerely doubt this was some obscure, little-known leftover from a heist that took millions, I want to give my two cents on what I think of such a theory.

Personally, I don’t believe it to be the craziest theory, but I don’t know of any unsolved robberies from around then. The closest I can get is a mother of six being stabbed to death in a robbery, but that occured on the 24th of November, which was after the money was found. As such, if there is a theory out there that this money was leftover cash from a robbery, I highly doubt that.

Finally, the idea of it falling from the sky… that isn’t too far-fetched, but I think the manner in which the money was found shows  that it was dumped from the ground. Had it been thrown out from a plane, I imagine it would’ve been scattered in a much less concentrated manner. Wind and whatnot would’ve caused it to fall in a wider range, y’know? I also imagine people would’ve seen the money falling like snow.

On one final note, I’m rather surprised none of the neighbors—let alone the locals—never reported seeing any suspicious person[s] around the time the money was found. I imagine that someone would’ve noticed an usual man in their backyards. Unless everyone was out at Church or out shopping, that factor kinda bugs me. Maybe they didn’t want the money taken away? I dunno, but it irks me a bit. I genuinely feel like someone out there had to have seen someone with a duffle bag going into their neighbors backyard. Surely a dog was barking wildly because they noticed, or were aware of, a stranger. I’m not crazy for thinking this, right?


My grievances about the lingering questions I have aside, I must admit that there’s something sobering about an unsolved mystery that doesn’t involve someone being murdered, assaulted, seeing a terrifying monster that wants to eat them, scary aliens, or anything of that sort. It’s a good reminder that you can have a perplexing unsolved mystery about something that’s rather simplistic; money that appears to have come from nowhere is actually rather joyful. Well, unless the person (or persons) who put it there come back for it, realize you spent it, then shoot you in the head. Lucky for us, that didn’t happen to today and we didn’t have to label this story as an Unsolved Murder.

With that said, I ask you, dear reader, to tell me: where do you think the money came from? Let me know below and I hope to see you tomorrow!


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