- If he hadn't seen it
with his own eyes, Henrico County
Sheriff A.D. "Toby" Mathews
said, he might not have believed
- On a bright moonlit night 33
years ago this summer, Mathews
said, he saw a large unidentified flying
object hovering silently near
his Varina farm. He suspects whatever was
inside the mysterious craft was
responsible for snatching and snuffing
the life out of his dog.
- "I really saw the thing, I really did,"
65, said this week when asked to respond to talk of his close
"And I've never seen anything like that since
- Mathews said he never publicly disclosed what he saw
because he felt no one would believe him. He talked about his
experience this week after The Times-Dispatch learned that he had told
the story three years ago to his former chief deputy during a Christmas
dinner in Williamsburg.
- Mathews, who's fond of sharing personal stories about
his life, was candid about his UFO experience, which he noted occurred
during a time when such sightings were reported with some regularity by
- During the spring and summer of 1966 --when Mathews said
he saw a saucerlike object hover over a cornfield near his farm and then
disappear in a flash -- more than a half-dozen people, including three
other Richmond-area police officers, reported spotting similar objects
hovering over the city, Henrico and
- Goochland County, according to
news accounts in The Times-Dispatch
and The Richmond News
- One Richmond patrolman told The News Leader that he chased
UFO in his patrol car.
- "If I live to be 100, I'll never forget it,"
said former Officer William L. Stevens Jr. in a July 21, 1966, news
- Mathews' UFO encounter had been the subject of gossip
and recently surfaced again as the local election season draws
Mathews, a two-term sheriff, is running for the
Varina District seat on
the Henrico Board of Supervisors.
- With just four days left until
the general election,
Mathews this week recounted his UFO experience
with little hesitation.
He said it occurred Aug. 9, 1966, after he
returnedhome from a psychology
class at the former Richmond
Professional Institute (now Virginia Commonwealth
University). He was a
road sergeant with Henrico police and was living
alone at the time at
his farm on Charles City Road in the county's Glendale
- At about 10:30 that
evening, Mathews said, his German
shepherd, tied to a chain out back,
began barking loudly, so he went outside
to investigate. After turning
him loose, Mathews said the dog, which he
had acquired only three weeks
earlier, ran to the edge of an adjacent cornfield.
He was astonished at
what he saw next.
- "I happened to look up and there was that UFO right
the cornfield, it was just hovering right up above the power lines"
about 200 feet in the air, Mathews said.
- The craft, which Mathews
described as white and about
30 feet in diameter, made hardly a sound
and emitted no light. The object
was about 4 or 5 feet wide at its
widest point, which was in the middle,
- "It was just like the ones
you see on TV,"
Mathews said. "It was a bright
moon that night," so
he got a good look at it.
- Mathews said he ran
back inside his house to get a flashlight,
and when he returned and
shined it on the craft, the UFO turned slightly,
emitted a burst of
light and "took off like a bullet, just tremendously
- Mathews said he rechained the dog and went to bed after
craft disappeared, and he got up about 5 the next morning and went
to check on his dog. He let it run loose for a few minutes, as was
routine, but the dog didn't come back.
- Mathews said he canvassed the
area, but the dog was nowhere
to be found. When he returned home, he
was startled to find his dog lying
motionless in the middle of the road
just beyond his circular driveway.
He was dead.
- "He didn't have a mark on
him -- no blood, no singe
[marks], no nothing," Mathews recalled.
"It looked like he almost
was sleeping. And whatever killed him,
they had taken his chain collar
off" and dropped it on the
shoulder of the road. "I couldn't
believe how it got off him like
- Mathews said his neighborhood in those days was remote
largely devoid of traffic at that hour. "I didn't see any cars
come through at the time." Mathews said he assumed that his dog was
killed by whoever, or whatever, was in the UFO. "The dog let me know
that they were there," he said.
- The dog's death remained a
mystery, Mathews said. He
buried the shepherd that morning in a meadow
on his property.
- Mathews said the city officer who saw a saucerlike object
the State Fairgrounds a month earlier had urged him to notify the
media about his encounter, but Mathews resisted. Mathews was living
alone at the time, and there were no other witnesses, he said.
- "I wasn't
frightened by it; it was kind of awesome,"
Mathews said of the
object. "Of course, back in those days I was still
in the military
reserve, and it didn't appear to be any type of military
craft at all.
Because No. 1, it wouldn't have done what it did" had
it been a
known military aircraft.
- In December 1996, Mathews told his story to then-Chief
Deputy Patrick Haley and his wife, Brenda, during a Christmas dinner party
at the Seafarers Restaurant in Williamsburg.
- "The way he told it was so
specific and he was dead
serious, he wasn't joking," said Haley,
who now is deputy coordinator
of law enforcement accreditation for the
Virginia Department of Criminal
Justice Services. "We talked about
this for months."
- Haley, who resigned abruptly after about a year as the
department's No. 2 officer because he believed incompetent leadership and
dishonorable management practices by Mathews created a host of problems
with the sheriff's office, recalled Mathews telling him a slightly
story about the encounter.
- Haley said he remembered
Mathews saying the craft had
landed and emitted some kind of strong
"pull" that drew him toward
although he managed to resist it.
Haley also recalled Mathews saying
that his dog, after it was found dead,
appeared to have been burnt or
- Mathews, however, said those things didn't happen. And
shrugged off how his strange encounter may be viewed by the public.
- "Well, I did see
it," he said. "I really
don't know what it