Los Angeles, CA

Disappeared on Campus: The Case of Mike Negrette

Where are they? Podcast
Missing on Campus: Mike NegretePhoto byWhere are they? Podcast

Mike Negrette was an excellent musician- known especially for his trumpet skills and his talent on the steel drums.

In 1999, he was a freshman at UCLA on a music scholarship, with so much going for him. College years are supposed to be about growing up, having some fun (hopefully not too much fun), making friends, and learning about life.

Mike was doing all of this.

On December 10, 1999, Mike and some friends went to a party. A pretty normal thing for college students to do.

At some time in the early morning hours, Mike and his roommate returned to their dorm room in Dykstra Hall. The roommate went to bed, but Mike stayed up playing video games online with another friend, who actually lived right down the hall.

Around 4:30 a.m., their game ended and Mike went to congratulate his friend on winning.

Mike saw his friend and then headed back to his dorm for the night. But that would be the last time anybody saw, or heard from Mike.

Where is Mike William Negrette?

Mike NegretePhoto byCharley Project

Mike Williams Negrette was born on March 25, 1982. He grew up with his parents in San Diego, California, along with two younger brothers.

Mike was always musically talented, and that talent earned him a scholarship to UCLA- the University of California Los Angeles.

In August of 1999, Mike started his freshman year and lived on campus, in Dykstra Hall.

On December 10, everyone was getting ready for finals the upcoming week, and then the winter break. That evening there were a lot of parties around campus, maybe more than most other weekends.

Mike went to a party with his friends and made his way back to his dorm in the early morning hours. His roommate went to sleep, and Mike stayed awake and played a game online with a friend- a friend who was actually in the same dorm but just down the hall.


Just after 4:00 a.m., Mike and his friend ended their game. Mike had lost, and he walked down the hall to congratulate his friend on the win.

Around 4:30 p.m., Mike headed back to his dorm ready, finally ready to call it a night.

The next morning, Mike’s roommate woke up and saw Mike wasn’t there. He thought it was odd, knowing that Mike had stayed up late playing games, and also noticed that Mike had left his wallet and keys behind on the desk. Even stranger- but the roommate figured Mike must’ve just gone somewhere and he’d see him later.

Later that night, Mike still hadn’t come back to the dorm room and he was finally reported missing.

Authorities did start looking for Mike. His parents in San Diego were contacted, and a search began.

First, detectives started questioning everyone in the dorm, including the roommate and the friend down the hall. The friend said that Mike left his room around 4:30 a.m., and he believed that he was going back to his room and going to bed.

They questioned everyone in the dorm building- Dykstra Hall, but no one recalled seeing Mike at all at 4:30 a.m.

Eventually, search dogs were brought in, and they were able to track Mike’s scent across campus to a bus stop about a mile away, where the scent ended.

Mike didn’t have a car on campus, so that would make sense he would take the bus. But at 4:30 a.m.? And no one had seen him if he had been walking there.

Plus, where would he be going?

Mike was from San Diego and living at UCLA, in Los Angeles.

Where did he need to go on the night of December 10? After partying all night and playing video games until 4:00 a.m.?

Mike’s background was thoroughly looked into, and even after talking to friends and family, nothing was found to lead anyone to believe that Mike had a secret life, or something else going on that could have been dangerous or troublesome.

Mike himself was also not troubled, not that anyone knew, so would he have just left on his own? And, he left behind his keys and wallet, and most, if not all of his personal belongings.

The searches and investigation turned up nothing- as far as the public knew. They searched construction sites on campus and garbage dumpsters. Nothing was found.

Map Image of UCLAPhoto byGoogle Maps

The campus of UCLA is located on the west side of Los Angeles, surrounded by very affluent neighborhoods. But also not far from the hills and valleys of Topanga Canyon State Park, Red Rock Canyon Mountains, and the Santa Monica Mountain Region.

It’s also just about 6–7 miles to Santa Monica Beach and the Pacific Ocean.

Mike didn’t have a car, so could he have taken the bus somewhere?

Did he leave the area to meet with someone?

Or, was he picked up by someone- either a pre-planned meeting or something that happened spur of the moment?

In 1999, UCLA had an enrollment of over 30,000 students. While populated, it was also 4:30 in the morning when Mike was last seen, and certainly a higher probability Mike left the area- willingly or unwillingly- without being seen.

Seven months after his disappearance, police reached a sketch of a man who had possibly been seen in the dorm in those early morning hours- the same hours in which Mike vanished.

The man was described as caucasian, possibly mid-30s. It’s unclear why it took seven months for this information to come out.

Some have said that the student- or students- that reported seeing this man, did report it to law enforcement right away, but that they weren’t taken seriously. Others have said that police were keeping this information hush-hush until they decided to release it for possible leads.

Law enforcement hasn’t said why it took 7-months for this sketch to be released.

Now here’s where things get interesting.

A family friend of the Negrete’s, a man by the name of Damon Van Dam, resembled the sketch quite a bit. This man also admitted to being in the Los Angeles area at the time of Mike’s disappearance but denied being near the campus.

This was before the time of tracking cell phones, so we really don’t have any way to prove or disprove this statement.

Damon Van Dam also admitted to being into sex and drug parties, along with his wife. At this same time, some information started coming out that Mike might have been experimenting with Ecstasy.

So people started talking about Damon Van Dam, but at no point did he ever become a person of interest or suspect.

Damon Van Dam next to Sketch Drawing of Person Seen in Dykstra Hall

There was virtually no trail to follow, few leads that led to anything substantial, and still no sign of Mike Negrete anywhere.

Another strange, and terribly tragic, twist in this story would come in 2002. Damon Van Dam’s 7-year-old daughter was murdered.

Danielle Van DamnPhoto byFamily Photo

Danielle Van Dam

A neighbor would be tried and convicted of the heinous crime, and during that investigation, Van Dam’s character came into question. Again, it was brought up that he was into these sex and drug parties, and in fact, the night his daughter was murdered, he was doing drugs and had women in the house. Van Dam admitted to using Marijuana that night but said he did nothing else.

And really, none of that gives the neighbor who has been convicted any more reason for doing what he did. There is no excuse, I don’t care if a crazy sex and drug-fueled party was happening.

In one strange interview Van Dam did with a radio host, he made a strange comment that people latched on to. He voluntarily said- without being asked- “It is strange that I was in Los Angeles when Mike Negrete disappeared and in Florida when Adam Walsh disappeared.”

Why did he even bring that up?

Other than all these odd circumstances, there is nothing concrete pointing to Van Dam as a person of interest.

Mike’s younger brother later came out and said that he knew Mike had started dabbling with Ecstasy, and he thinks he left the dorm that night in search of some, or with plans to meet up with someone and met with trouble.

Police have also said they suspect foul play- if only because Mike left behind everything, his socials and bank accounts have not been touched, and he had no reason to leave on his own or disappear to harm himself or commit suicide.

Whatever he was up to that night, it seems no one close to Mike knew about it, at least that they have fessed up to. Detectives have said that everyone close to Mike seemed very cooperative and forthcoming with information.

So what happened around 4:30 a.m. to UCLA Freshman, Mike Negrette?

Mike is described as a Caucasian male, about 5’8” tall and weighing around 130 pounds when he was last seen in December 1999. He was 18 years old, and would today be 41 years old.

He was known to be wearing a blue plaid shirt, khaki shorts, and white shoes.

Anyone with any information is asked to contact the UCLA Police Department at 310–825–1491 or the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department at 323–890–5500.

This is original content from NewsBreak’s Creator Program. Join today to publish and share your own content.

Comments / 2

Published by

We cover unsolved missing person cases in the United States and Canada.

Kansas City, MO

More from Where are they? Podcast

Comments / 0