Michael Negrete was the only person who knew his intended destination when he left his UCLA dorm room around 4 AM on Friday, December 10, 1999. If anyone encountered him early that morning then nothing he did stood out enough for them to remember him. Negrete was no different than any of his other high-achieving UCLA classmates. He was an accomplished trumpet player attending the prestigious UCLA on a music scholarship and had many friends. Negrete was a young man who knew where he was going in life. At least, that was true up until the day he inexplicably vanished without a trace. He couldn’t possibly have known the moves he made that morning would’ve been his last.
If Michael Negrete were still alive, he would have been 40 years old on March 25, 2021. Since the cold winter morning he disappeared after complimenting a UCLA classmate on a well-played computer game, no one has seen him. Negrete’s roommate and a hallmate on the sixth floor of UCLA’s Dykstra Hall were the last two people to see him. Negrete played his trumpet in a band concert the night before he disappeared. He then went to a party with 15–20 other UCLA students for a short time and then went back to his dorm room to play a computer game with his roommate. There was also Negrete’s roommate in the room when the two of them were playing the computer game. Negrete’s roommate woke up at 9 a.m. on December 10, 1999, and saw that Negrete wasn’t in the room. He also saw that Negrete had left his wallet and other personal items behind.
Mike didn’t have a car, so he walked everywhere. His scent led bloodhounds to the corner of Sunset and Bellagio, which was a 15-minute walk from his dorm. It was the end of his scent. The police didn’t believe what the bloodhounds found because they said the dogs were confused. Harvey et al. (2003) looked into how reliable bloodhounds are and found “that the potential error rate of a veteran bloodhound-handler team is low.” This means that a bloodhound and its handler rarely make mistakes. I think the police were wrong when they said they thought the dogs were “confused.” Keep in mind that the dog that tracks scents is only looking for the scent, not the person. This is important to note because it may help explain why the bloodhounds followed Negrete’s scent but never found him.
If the scent of a missing person is traced to a street and then stops, it’s possible that they got into a car, either on purpose or because they were forced to. It is likely that Negrete chose to get on a bus because his scent disappeared at a bus stop. An article from December 21, 1999, says that detectives talked to bus drivers and people who were on the bus when Negrete went missing. The article also says that Negrete’s scent was found at a pay phone next to the bus stop. What did the detectives learn, if anything, from talking to bus drivers and riders and going through the pay phone records? I haven’t been able to find any follow-up information. I think there is a good chance that Negrete got into a car that was stopped at the bus stop, whether he wanted to or not. However, there is no proof that a possible suspect’s car pulled up to the bus stop.
There is only one “suspect” in this case, but police have never been able to figure out who it is. A student who did not want to be named told police that a white man in his 30s was hanging out in Dykstra Hall at the exact time Michael went missing, a few months after Negrete went missing. People have said that Dykstra Hall is just for first-year students. So, a man in his 30s would not fit in because most of the people living in this residence hall are around 18 years old. It’s also possible that this balding man who looked 30 was actually 18 and just went bald at a young age, which happens to a lot of people. It’s also possible that this man had nothing to do with Michael’s disappearance and should never have been considered a suspect. Researchers have also found that harmless information about the event that people read, hear, or watch after the fact can mess up their memories it.
What would happen if no one took him? Could he have left on his own? Could he have killed himself somewhere? A story in the Daily Breeze in August 2001 said that Mike’s mom said Mike emailed her on December 9, 1999, just hours before he disappeared early on December 10, 1999. Mike wrote in the email that he would be back in San Diego on December 15 and would like his mom to call or email him. I didn’t know this before, but it makes sense to me that he wasn’t planning to kill himself or run away.
In a 2013 Tumblr post, Steve, Mike’s younger brother, talked about Michael. He said that Michael tried drugs at raves in the months before he went missing. I think ecstasy is the most common drug used at raves. If Michael did take drugs and go to raves often like his brother said, that’s probably the drug he used. Michael’s addiction to drugs may have been the cause of his de*ath if he went to get drugs and was instead kidnapped.
Michael Negrete walked out of his dorm and into the ether many years ago. Not only have his family and friends to deal with the fact that he probably died around the time he went missing, but his body has also never been found. His final resting place has been a mystery for many years.