Mike McKinzie, a 55-year-old San Jose general contractor, decided to take a much-needed vacation with his 3-year-old son Matthew over the Christmas holidays. However, this trip came to an abrupt end when McKinzie discovered he was missing $5,000 in cash.
McKinzie had just been paid for a deck project in Hillsborough (near San Francisco) all in $100 bills, folded over and rubber-banded together.
"The reason I had that much cash on me," McKinzie explained, "is because I'm paranoid and thought the safest place to keep it was in my pant's pocket. I kept checking my pocket routinely to make sure the money was still there, and noticed it was gone on Christmas Day."
McKinzie and his son checked in to the Yosemite South Gate Inn in Oakhurst on Christmas Eve. The next day, he drove to Yosemite National Park, where he hiked, while carrying his son, to Lower Yosemite Falls. "I know I had the cash on the hike up the Falls, I'm just not sure I had it on the hike down."
Hungry from spending the day hiking and playing in the snow, McKinzie returned to Oakhurst with Matthew and began looking for a spot to eat. He had planned on eating at Denny's initially, but once seated inside, Matthew became very restless and fidgety so McKinzie decided to try elsewhere. That's when he discovered the cash was gone.
The bad economy has made life very difficult financially for McKinzie.
"I was right on the edge of financial recovery," he continued, "and now, this loss is breaking me. It came at such a bad time. I'm really not in a financial position to recoup it."
As for the deck job McKinzie has already been paid for, he said he was able to purchase the necessary lumber on credit, and that his employees were willing to advance him their labor, but that only delays the inevitable. "I will have to pay this debt at some point," he said.
A single dad, who spends long days at work leaving him little time to spend with his son, McKinzie had wanted Matthew to experience Yosemite. However, once he discovered this substantial amount of cash was missing, he became very upset, returned to his motel room, packed and checked out early because he "needed to get that money back and right then, the only way was to get back to work."
The anguish in his voice came through loud and clear as he recounted his brief stay in Oakhurst and trip to Yosemite.
"Matthew took to Yosemite like a tadpole-to-a-pond. He jumped from rock-to-rock, played in the snow, so it was still a great trip and a memorable experience."
While he is hopeful the cash will be found and turned in, McKinzie said, "material things like money come and go. The human parts of life like memories are non-replaceable."
McKinzie has filed a report with the Madera County Sheriff's Department and with Yosemite National Park. Anyone with any information about the missing cash is asked to call the sheriff's department at (559) 658-2555.