Disappearance of Zebb Quinn

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Zebb Quinn
Zebb Quinn.jpg
Zebb Wayne Quinn

(1981-05-12)May 12, 1981
DisappearedJanuary 2, 2000 (aged 18)
Asheville, North Carolina, U.S.
StatusMissing for 21 years, 4 months and 4 days
Known forMissing person
Height5 ft 9 in (1.75 m) – 5 ft 10 in (1.78 m)[1]

Zebb Wayne Quinn (May 12, 1981[2] – disappeared January 2, 2000) is an American man who went missing in Asheville, North Carolina. Quinn was 18 years old and working at a local Walmart when he disappeared after finishing his shift. His car was discovered several days later in a restaurant parking lot under unusual circumstances: its headlights had been left on, a live puppy had been left inside, and a drawing of a pair of lips and an exclamation mark had been scrawled in pink lipstick on the back window.

Seventeen years later, on July 10, 2017, Robert Jason Owens was indicted on charges of murdering Quinn.[3] Owens worked with Quinn at Walmart and was the last known person to have seen Quinn alive.


At around 9:00 p.m., on Sunday, January 2, 2000, Zebb Quinn ended his shift at the electronics department of a Walmart in Asheville, North Carolina. At the time, Quinn had been enrolled in an ROTC program.[4] He had plans to travel after work to Leicester with Robert Jason Owens, one of his co-workers, to buy a new car.[5] Quinn met Owens in the Walmart parking lot before they drove separately to look at the vehicle. The two men were seen on surveillance footage at a nearby gas station at approximately 9:15 pm, purchasing sodas at a convenience store.[4][6]

According to Owens, after leaving the gas station, Quinn signaled for him to pull over by flashing his headlights. Quinn told him that he had received a page and needed to return the call. After he returned from using a payphone, Owens described Quinn as "frantic". Quinn told him that he needed to cancel their plans and eventually sped off, rear-ending Owens' truck. Hours later, Owens was treated at a hospital for fractured ribs and a head injury that he said he had sustained in a second car accident that evening. No accident report was filed with police.[4][1][7]

The following afternoon, Quinn's mother Denise Vlahakis filed a missing persons report.[4] Two days after he was last seen, a man purporting to be Quinn placed a phone call to the Walmart where he was employed. The man told Quinn's co-worker that he would not be coming to work because of illness, but the co-worker thought that the voice sounded unfamiliar and that it was not Quinn. The phone call was traced back to a Volvo plant where Owens worked. When questioned, Owens admitted making the phone call, claiming that he was doing his friend a favor after Quinn phoned and asked Owens to call in sick for him.[4]


During the investigation, police interviewed a woman named Misty Taylor, in whom Quinn was romantically interested. Quinn had developed a relationship with her in the weeks preceding his disappearance and had told friends and family that he had been threatened by her boyfriend, Wesley Smith, after he discovered the two had been speaking. Taylor and Smith have denied any involvement in Quinn's disappearance.[4][8] No ties between Owens, Taylor or Smith have been established.[4][9]

A review of the phone records in the case indicates that the page Quinn received on the evening of January 2 was dialed from the home of his paternal aunt, a woman named Ina Ustich.[8] Quinn had very little contact with Ustich prior to his disappearance, and she denied making the call. Ustich told police she was having dinner at the home of her friend Tamra Taylor, Misty's mother; Misty and Smith were also present. Ustich later filed a police report stating that her house was broken into that evening. Although nothing was stolen, she reported that a few picture frames and other items were moved around.[4][8]

On January 6, 2000,[6] Vlahakis received a phone call from a former classmate of Quinn's, who happened be a co-worker at the Asheville hospital where both were nurses, who told her that she had seen his Mazda Protegé in the parking lot of a barbecue restaurant adjacent to the hospital.[4] Police examined the car, which had been left with its headlights on; a pair of lips and an exclamation mark were drawn on the car's back windshield in lipstick, and a live black Labrador-mix puppy was found inside.[4] A plastic hotel key card was also discovered in the vehicle, but investigators were unable to trace the hotel. Also found were several drink bottles and a jacket that did not belong to Quinn. Police collected forensic evidence from the car but uncovered no new leads.

Quinn's mother believes the car was placed there by someone who had knowledge that she, Quinn's grandmother and sister worked nearby, intending that one of them would find it.[10] The puppy was later adopted by one of the investigators.[9] A couple later called local police to report that they had seen Quinn's car being driven in downtown Asheville, and assisted police in producing a composite image of the person driving the car. Police would later note that the sketch bore a striking resemblance to Misty Taylor.[4]

Developments since 2015[edit]

On March 17, 2015, fifteen years after Quinn's disappearance, Owens was arrested in an unrelated incident for the disappearance and murder of Food Network Star contestant Cristie Schoen, her husband J.T. Codd, and their unborn child.[11][12] Owens later admitted to killing the family by accidentally running over them, and also pleaded guilty to two counts of dismembering human remains. On April 27, 2017, as part of a plea deal his attorneys reached with Buncombe County District Attorney Todd Williams, Owens was ordered to spend between 60 and 75 years in prison without the possibility of parole.

In June 2015, detectives investigating Quinn's disappearance announced they had unearthed "fabric, leather materials, and unknown hard fragments" under a layer of concrete on Owens' property. The search warrant was initially obtained March 31, 2015. According to the warrant, investigators also found an unknown white powder substance, as well as pieces of metal and concrete. On another part of the property, authorities found "numerous plastic bags containing possibly pulverized lime or powdered mortar mix." Authorities did not comment on whether the fragments found were human bones or if they believe they had discovered Quinn's remains, citing an ongoing investigation.[13]


On July 10, 2017, a Buncombe County grand jury returned an indictment charging Owens with first-degree murder for the death of Quinn. According to the Asheville Police Department, "this indictment is the result of years of investigative work and persistence by detectives of the Asheville Police Department, as well as ongoing partnerships with members of the Quinn family and the Buncombe County District Attorney's Office."[14] As of January 2021, Owens is awaiting trial for the alleged murder, and no trial date has been set.[15]

Media coverage[edit]

The case received increased visibility in 2012 when the show Disappeared covered the case.[16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "The Charley Project: Zebb Wayne Quinn". Charley Project. Retrieved 21 April 2014.
  2. ^ "4536DMNC - Zebb Wayne Quinn". www.doenetwork.org. Retrieved 2018-07-27.
  3. ^ Kracher, Frank (10 July 2017). "Owens charged with killing Zebb Quinn". WLOS. ABC. Retrieved 22 July 2017.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "Just a Nice Guy: Zebb Quinn". Disappeared. Season 4. Episode 25. 16 April 2012. Investigation Discovery. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  5. ^ Boyle, Jason (July 10, 2017). "Robert Jason Owens indicted in Zebb Quinn homicide". Citizen-Times.
  6. ^ a b Staff (11 July 2017). "Timeline: From Zebb Quinn disappearance to Robert Jason Owens charged". Citizen-Times. Retrieved 22 July 2017.
  7. ^ Newton, Michael (October 1, 2009). The Encyclopedia of Unsolved Crimes. Checkmark Books. p. 310. ISBN 978-0816078196.
  8. ^ a b c Forrest, Brett (February 2001). "The Vanishing". Spin Magazine.
  9. ^ a b Phillips, Jennifer (Aug 14, 2012). "Missing Asheville man's case featured on national show". Fox Carolina.
  10. ^ "20 years after the disappearance of Zebb Quinn, still very few answers".
  11. ^ Sabian Warren and John Boyle (March 17, 2015). "Man charged in deaths has tie to Zebb Quinn case". Asheville Citizen-Times. Retrieved March 17, 2015.
  12. ^ "Man Charged in Couple's Death Linked to Missing Persons Case". WLOS. March 17, 2015. Archived from the original on March 19, 2015. Retrieved March 17, 2015. Owens was a person of interest in the January 2000 disappearance of Asheville teenager Zebb Quinn. Owens was reportedly the last person to see Quinn before his disappearance.
  13. ^ Warren, Sabian (June 15, 2015). "Warrant details Zebb Quinn-related search at Leicester property". Citizen-Times.
  14. ^ Sierra Hancock, "Buncombe Co. man indicted for 2000 murder of missing Asheville teen", FOX Carolina, 10 July 2017.
  15. ^ Kepley-Steward, Kristy (January 2, 2020). "20 years after the disappearance of Zebb Quinn, still very few answers". WLOS. Retrieved February 2, 2020.
  16. ^ "Investigation Discovery: Puppy Left In Car Of Missing Teen". Investigation Discovery. Retrieved 11 October 2015.