Did you find this article after viewing an episode of Disappeared on Investigation Discovery? You may be interested in some other missing persons cases with equally compelling stories who have not been featured on TV, like Madeline BabcockSheldon BoydJay PringleAnita Drake. You may have a tip that could help!
Update, 17 March 2015

Robert Owens, the person whose story about Zebb Quinn’s disappearance seemed suspicious to police, has been charged with the murders of a Leicester, North Carolina couple which included Food Network star Cristie Codd. That story is here. Although apparently unrelated to the Quinn case, authorities may as a collateral matter learn more from Owens about what really happened to Zebb Quinn.

Original Article, posted 1 January 2015

Fifteen years ago tomorrow, on the night of January 2, 2000, an 18-year-old kid named Zebb Quinn walked into a Citgo gas station in Asheville with a friend, Robert Owens, to buy some sodas. Their cars–Quinn’s was a Mazda Protege–were parked outside. They bought their drinks and left, driving their own cars but in close proximity. Something happened on Long Shoals Road not long afterward, and the two separated. Zebb Quinn was never seen again. A decade and a half after driving off that night, no trace of him has ever been found.

The bizarre clues surrounding his mysterious disappearance make this case stand out, and that’s one of the reasons why it’s famous. More than two weeks after Quinn vanished, his car was found in the parking lot of a barbecue joint in Asheville. He wasn’t in it, but a small black Labrador puppy–which did not belong to him–was, as well as a jacket that wasn’t his and a few drink bottles. Most notably, someone had drawn a pair of lips and an exclamation point on the back window in lipstick. The meaning of this clue or where the dog came from has never been explained.

To all who knew him, Zebb Quinn seemed like a very nice guy. In fact, the Investigation Discovery show Disappeared titled its episode about Quinn, “Just A Nice Guy.” He was close to his family, three members of which worked at a hospital near the barbecue restaurant where his car was found. He was in ROTC in high school. But it’s also clear that something was going on with Quinn shortly before his disappearance. He was romantically involved–or perhaps trying to be–with a woman whose boyfriend, according to what Quinn told his coworkers, was abusive and frightening. He also told a coworker that his life was in danger. Clearly there’s much more to the story than we know.

quinn car found

On January 16, 2000, more than two weeks after Zebb Quinn vanished, his car was found in this restaurant parking lot, with a number of bizarre clues.

Exactly what happened on January 2, 2000 is a subject of dispute. Robert Owens said that Quinn flashed his headlights at him on the road and they pulled over, and Quinn told him that he just received a message on his pager. He needed to return the page, so they went to a pay phone. The call (still according to Owens) agitated him, and when he pulled away, saying he had to cancel their plans for that evening, supposedly Quinn rear-ended Owens’s truck. Police confirmed via phone records that Quinn did receive a page that night, from a relative he rarely talked to. As it turned out, the girl he was interested in and her boyfriend were present at the relative’s house. Thus it seems likely that he was talking to her, and she may have told him something that upset him. The relative’s house was broken into that evening.

We may actually know less about what happened on January 2 than we think we do, because Owens’s story is apparently suspect. He called the local Wal-Mart, where Quinn worked, the next morning and pretended to be Quinn, calling out sick. He later admitted to police that he did this, but insisted he was doing a favor for his friend who asked him to call the store. Early on the morning of January 3 Owens was treated for minor injuries at a local hospital after suffering a minor car accident–a separate accident, evidently, than the rear-ender with Zebb Quinn a few hours previously. Two accidents in one night? Certainly possible, but why has Owens refused, since the first statement he gave them, to cooperate any further with police?

This case is extraordinarily mysterious, and the answer to whatever happened to Zebb Quinn is probably very complex. It’s a strange jigsaw puzzle of clues, none of which fit very well together, and without a few more pieces, postulating theories is utterly pointless. The very sad truth is that this nice young man remains missing after a decade and a half, and the family who loved him remains without answers, closure or justice. Hopefully that will not always be so.

Here is the Charley Project file on Zeb Quinn.

I do not know the copyright status of the photos used in this article, but they have been widely circulated among law enforcement agencies so I believe my inclusion of them here constitutes fair use.