90.4 F

What happened to Scott Madden?


A man mysteriously disappeared in July of last year. His remains were found in February.

Nobody has been able to determine why Scott Madden went missing–and how he died.

Suspicions are high and answers are few in the case of Scott Madden. Madden, 38, mysteriously disappeared July 13, 2019. At about 9:45 p.m. that night, Madden was furiously texting somebody where he was living: his parents’ home. He got up, told his mom, who had dinner prepared for him, he was heading out to meet somebody and would be back in an hour and a half. That was the last his parents heard from him.

He never came back. He was wearing a T-shirt, swimming shorts and flip-flops. His Toyota 4Runner was officially discovered days later in the parking lot above the Fish Hatchery at Washoe County’s Galena Creek Regional Park.

But at least one witness saw his vehicle there the night he went missing, Scott’s parents said. That was the last anybody heard of the missing man — until his remains were discovered in late February of this year about a mile from where his 4Runner was found.

His bones were scattered in an area on U.S. Forest Service land, off of a hiking trail. 

A 4Runner similar to Scott Madden’s.

The Washoe County Sheriff’s Office is still actively investigating Madden’s disappearance. The Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer, Bob Harmon (since retired), said, however, there’s no evidence in Madden’s disappearance that shows criminal intent.

That doesn’t mean criminal activity did not occur, just that detectives have not found evidence to make that determination.

“The detective on the case is still pursuing leads,” said Harmon, who called it an open and active investigation.

Parents want answers, offer reward

Madden’s parents said they appreciate the work of the Sheriff’s Office but answers have been scarce.

Secret Witness has a $2,500 reward for information, and his parents, John and Cynthia, have another $50,000 they are offering “for information leading to a prosecution and the conviction of the person or persons involved in Scott’s death and/or the dumping of his body on that U.S. Forest Service land north of Galena Park.”

Nobody’s come forward with information. There were two weddings at the Galena Creek Park that night — one at the Fish Hatchery and one at the Camp WeChMe Lodge. Both weddings could have potentially dozens of people who may have seen Scott’s vehicle next to other cars parked at either wedding. There is a parking lot between both facilities. 

Washoe County initially refused to disclose who rented the facilities that night, first to a private detective hired by the Maddens, and then to This Is Reno.

County officials cited a state law they said gave them the right to withhold the information, even though the Nevada Public Records Act assumes government records are public unless specifically designated otherwise.

“Washoe County Parks had a private party reservation on Saturday, July 13, 2019 at Camp WeChMe,” said county spokesperson Amy Ventetuolo. “We are not at liberty to provide the private party information. We had a request to do this last year through a records request, and our DA confirmed we are not to provide that information.”

The law cited by the county, however, specifically notes an exception for members of the news media. After days of waiting, the county finally released the name of the party that rented the Camp WeChMe Lodge: Kayla Sandoval.

Scott’s parents are hoping somebody who attended the wedding party for Kayla Sandoval at Camp WeChMe, or the Jempsa/Winkler wedding at the Fish Hatchery, may have seen something and will come forward. They also would like help from a private investigator who can help them investigate.

Scott Madden’s Toyota 4Runner was seen in this parking lot at Galena Creek Regional Park July 13, 2019, the night he disappeared. A park ranger saw his vehicle that night but reported it four days later after seeing news reports, according to Madden’s father John. Image: Bob Conrad.

Family suspects foul play

Madden’s parents suspect foul play, but they are at a loss as to why their son disappeared. They said he did not have a drug problem, he wasn’t depressed or suicidal and he held a full-time job.

He has a young daughter who is now being raised by Scott’s parents.

Madden had girlfriends, worked out and had recently moved from to from Tennessee to Reno, where he had had a caustic relationship with his daughter’s mother. Madden had a criminal record and was on probation when he moved to Reno, but that was effectively eliminated by his move here, his father said.

The Maddens are hoping smartphone records could shed light on his case and what happened to him, but those records are slow to come in. They said all of his text messages have been erased, but his phone was detected off of a cell tower after midnight, the night of his disappearance.

Scott Madden’s father John at the site where Scott’s remains were found in the Galena Forest. John has been searching for answers about his son’s disappearance since July of last year.
Image: Bob Conrad.

Because it’s an ongoing investigation, the Sheriff’s Office will not provide information.

The Maddens frantically searched for him after he disappeared. But it wasn’t until late February of this year that his remains were found, mysteriously, about a mile from the Fish Hatchery.

Reportedly, an autopsy of his remains revealed no evidence of foul play.

Nothing adds up. Although his clothing was found, his flip-flops were not. There was no reason for Madden to be at Galena Creek Park, especially not at that hour. He had told his mom he’d be back soon.

While he had fished at Marilyn’s Pond near the Fish Hatchery, there was reportedly no fishing gear in his vehicle, which is still being held by the Sheriff’s Office. What was in his vehicle was his wallet.

The Sheriff’s Office last year, after Madden went missing, told NBC’s Dateline there was no evidence he was at the park, and his remains were later found off a trail about a mile away in the Galena forest on U.S. Forest Service land.

Scott’s parents believe his body was dumped there; a partial trail leads close to where his remains were found. His cell phone was found near his remains — about 100 yards away — and pending attempts to get evidence off of his phone could shed more light on the case.

To date, no revealing information has come to light. The Maddens continue searching for answers, including periodic visits to where his decomposed remains were found.

They said they’ve found more of his remains in the area as recent as a few weeks ago, scattered likely by animals.

Can you help?

The Maddens are seeking help from people who may have attended the weddings at Galena Creek Regional Park on July 13, 2019, or from anyone who may have been in contact with Scott before his disappearance that night.

“Several months ago we offered an additional $20,000 reward on top of the $5,000 reward from ‘Secret Witness’ for information leading to a prosecution and the conviction of the person or persons involved into Scott’s death and/or the dumping of his body on that U.S. Forest Service land north of Galena Park,” John Madden said.

He is asking people to call or email him, or provide information to Secret Witness. (Secret Witness accepts anonymous tips.)

John Madden

Secret Witness

STORY UPDATES: Madden’s phone was found about 100 yards from his remains, not with them as originally reported (this is new information that was recently received by the family). Madden’s family also said Apple confirmed that all of his text messages had been deleted, not just a week’s worth as originally reported (this is also new information). Lastly, Madden had told his parents he was going to meet somebody when he left that night, not that he was going for a swim, as originally reported.

CORRECTION: Secret Witness is offering $2,500 for the reward in this case. The original amount reported, $5,000, was incorrectly provided to This Is Reno.

Bob Conrad
Bob Conradhttp://thisisreno.com
Bob Conrad is publisher, editor and co-founder of This Is Reno. He has served in communications positions for various state agencies and earned a doctorate in educational leadership from the University of Nevada, Reno in 2011. He is also a part time instructor at UNR and sits on the boards of the Nevada Press Association and Nevada Open Government Coalition.