Official Site of Speaker, Historian and Author Sean Munger

Missing Persons

Disappeared: Zebb Quinn, missing 15 years. (UPDATED!)

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.


  1. EL

    I would love to see this case solved for the sake of his family. This has to be one of the more stranger cases that I’ve come across. Maybe 2015 will yield new clues.

  2. Jane Stone

    I’ve personally corresponded with Zebb’s mother via facebook and she is still in so much pain from his disappearance. She knows that one of the players in this case knows what happened to Zebb and just won’t speak up. She has to sit there and watch as these people get to go on with their lives while her son was left with no future. I pray that this case is solved so this sweet woman can finally have some answers.

  3. joanmartinohughes

    I just watched ID and they had the segment on the disappearance of Zeb Quinn, I have seen this before, I was hoping there had been some new information on Zeb’s disappearance, i feel so bad for you and your daughter not knowing all these years, I take some comfort in knowing Jeb is being watched over by Jesus and his Blessed Mother, I too lost my youngest brother in 1962, he was only 13 yrs. old, I still get very upset talking and thinking about it, that was 52 years ago. God Bless you both! .February 13, 2015

  4. elle

    His friend has been arrested for another double murder last week.

  5. nat from oz

    Only just seen the disappeared episode….i think it definitely points toward his friend, the girl he liked and his aunt….the car being left where it was, ensuring his mother would in a sense find it, points to people that know him and his family…the lips and the puppy…to me seems like awww puppy love, hence someone who knows him well… the fact the page came from his aunts home….who was conveniently with two of the possible persons of interest at their house…alibi of convenience….no coincidence at all…plus the mate who called in sick for him…three people, once common denominator…hope its solved and his mother gets justice

  6. Sue

    My heart truly goes out to Zebb’s Mother. I can not even imagine having to go on with your life never knowing what happened to your child…. For so many years. It is just heart breaking. I truly hope that his disappearance gets resolution shortly. God bless you Denise

  7. I saw this case on Disappeared. I’m glad to see there are some new developments that may lead to what happened.

  8. L. Harper

    I feel for the family, and you are in my prayers. Did anybody take any DNA evidence off the puppy? Someone had to physically place the puppy in his car, and what about the lipstick on the window? I hope his family gets the answers they deserve.

Comments are Closed

Theme by Anders Norén