Henrico Sheriff Kept UFO Sighting a Secret for 30 Years
by Dale M. Brumfield
During a quiet 1996 Christmas dinner at the Seafarers Restaurant in Williamsburg, former Henrico County Sheriff A.D. “Toby” Mathews suddenly blurted out to his former deputy, Patrick Haley, and Haley’s wife, Brenda, that 30 years earlier, he had seen a UFO hovering over his house and that it killed his dog. It happened in 1966, and he could no longer keep it a secret.
The Haleys were stunned, to say the least.
Mathews’ sighting came during a three-year epidemic of UFO sightings and encounters by law enforcement and private citizens. From November, 1964 until mid-1967 over 9,000 UFO sightings from all over the country were reported to the Air Force’s Project Blue Book at Ohio’s Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. In Virginia, dozens of reports of various flying discs and mysterious lights came from Norfolk, Wallops Island, Staunton, Waynesboro, Roanoke, South Boston and Buchanan. In Fishersville, a huge craft resembling an 85-ft-tall beehive was reported by a Harrisonburg gunsmith named Horace Burns and by a busload of Woodrow Wilson High School students.
UFO sightings became so common that House Republican Leader Gerald Ford formally demanded a Congressional hearing and an investigation into the phenomenon. Celebrities Arthur Godfrey, Stuart Whitman, Sammy Davis Jr., and Johnny Carson all spoke of their UFO experiences on national television.
Sheriff Mathews was a very credible witness. Known to everyone as Toby, he started his law enforcement career as a patrolman with the Henrico Police in March of 1958, then rose to lieutenant by 1969. His career spanned uniform operations, communications and SWAT prior to becoming a commander in the criminal investigations division. Three years after his retirement from the police force, in 1992, he was elected Henrico sheriff
Toby was not the only Richmond area resident to have sighted a UFO at that time. During the spring and summer of 1966, almost a dozen people, including three area police officers, reported similar objects hovering over the city, as well as Henrico and Goochland counties.
Richmond patrolman William L. Stevens Jr. told the former Richmond News Leader that two months prior to Mathews’ experience he had chased a 100-foot long, dirigible-shaped object 100 feet long at 3:30 a.m. in his patrol car. “If I live to be a hundred, I’ll never forget it,” the former Officer stated in a July 21, 1966 interview of his cat-and-mouse pursuit.
In 1999, Mathews recalled his UFO experience to the News Leader. It occurred August 1966, at about 10:30 p.m., just after he returned home to his family farm on Charles City Road in Varina.
Mathews said that after going into the house his German shepherd, which was chained in the backyard, began barking loudly, so he went outside to investigate. Mathews untied the dog, which then ran to a nearby cornfield.
“I happened to look up and there was that UFO right above the cornfield … hovering right up above the power lines about 200 feet in the air,” Mathews said. He described the UFO as white, about 30 feet in diameter and about four or five feet wide at its widest point in the center. The object made no sound and emitted no light.
Mathews said he rushed into his house to get a flashlight, and when he returned and shined it on the craft, the UFO turned slightly, released a burst of white light and “took off like a bullet, tremendously fast.”
Mathews retied his agitated dog and slept fitfully after his experience. He arose about five the next morning and went out to untie the dog. The shepherd ran off, but when he did not return, Mathews went looking and minutes later found him dead in the middle of the road. He said the dog “did not have a mark on him,” and his collar was lying nearby still clasped, as if someone took the time to remove it then hook it back together. Noting there had been not one car on that remote private road that early in the morning, he was sure it was a presence in the UFO that killed his dog.
Officer Stevens urged Mathews to notify the media about his experience. He declined to do so, as he was living alone at the time, and there were no other witnesses, so he kept quiet for 30 years.
“The way [Mathews] told it was so specific and he was dead serious, he wasn’t joking,” Haley told the News Leader in 1999, adding that he recalled a slightly different version in which Mathews said that his dead dog appeared to have been cooked.
Mathews denied that his dog had been cooked, but did stress that he “… did see [a UFO] … I really don’t know what it was.”
Toby Mathews died in 2013 after a lengthy illness in a Richmond nursing home.