‘Evil is unspectacular, and always human, and shares our bed and eats at our table.’” – The poet, W. H. Auden
Missing persons cases aren’t hard to find, a simple google search can send you down more rabbit holes than one might think possible. It’s always given me chills when I see phrases like “vanished without a trace”, and “it’s like they disappeared”, still does. How can someone just up and vanish? What sort of devious person doesn’t leave the tiniest shred evidence? That’s terrifying, that and the fact that those cases aren’t as rare as one might hope. A loved one missing with no clues leaves more questions than answers. Those questions and the unknown possibilities can eat away at a person’s soul. When Zebb Quinn disappeared in 2000, there were traces left, but the clues only added to the confusion.
Zebb Quinn was born on May 12th, 1981 near Ashville North Carolina. Zebb’s mother Denise described him as sweet, shy, and a little awkward. His awkwardness was attributed to his learning disability which I never could find a definitive diagnosis on, but I speculate Asbergers. Zebb joined the ROTC in his high school and had a part-time job at the local Wal-Mart’s electronics department. He had an excellent work ethic.
Zebb drove an older Mazda Protegé and was saving money from his job to buy a newer car. He had his sights set on a Mitsubishi Eclipse. A friend of his, Jason Owens, told him about an Eclipse in a nearby town and offered to go check it out with him. The two were seen by co-workers in the Wal-mart parking lot shortly after 9p.m. getting into their respective cars. The two left, Zebb following Jason. Surveillance footage showed the two making a stop at a gas station at 9:15 p.m. and purchasing sodas before returning to their cars and continuing down the road.
A few minutes after leaving the gas station, Jason reported seeing Zebb flash his headlights signaling him to pull over. Zebb had received a page and needed to find a phone to return the call. Jason suggested Zebb go back to the gas station and see if they had a pay phone. Zebb told Jason to just wait in his car for him on the side of the road and he would be back in a few minutes. Zebb drove back to the gas station in search of a phone and returned 15 minutes later so frantic and frazzled that he slammed his car into the back of Jason’s. Zebb got out of the car telling Jason they would settle up later but he had to go right then, something came up. Jason remarked on Zebb’s level of agitation and said he then drove off.
Earlier the same night, Zebb’s mother Denise had sent Zebb a page around 9 p.m. to see if he wanted to meet her for a late dinner. She knew Zebb was always responsive to his pages and generally called quickly after receiving a page. When he didn’t respond, she assumed he was still working so she went ahead and went home and tried paging him again later in the evening. When the silence from Zebb continued, Denise began to frantically call around hoping someone had seen Zebb. She continued to page him on and off throughout the night with no response. Knowing how out of character the radio silence was for Zebb, she went to the police station the following afternoon to file a missing persons report.
When the missing persons investigation was opened, police didn’t have anything to go on other than Zebb is missing. There was not a body, no crime scene, no car. Two days after Zebb disappeared, a call was placed to the Wal-mart electronics department by someone claiming to be Zebb saying that he was sick and couldn’t come to work for a few days. Patty (the co-worker who took the call) knew immediately she wasn’t talking to Zebb. Patty used *69 to get the number of the person who called and the number traced back to the local Volvo Factory.
(For those that don’t know, *69 would tell you the number that last called you in the days before caller ID)
Jason Owens also worked at Volvo. At this point, police went to question Jason about the phone call and about the night of January 2nd. Jason said Zebb asked him to make the call for him. He told police about going to look at the car and Zebb getting the page and being panicked and bailing. When police went to check Jason’s story they discovered that not only did he call out of work the day after Zebb’s disappearance, but he was also claiming he was involved in a second car accident that night. Jason went to the hospital the night of the 2nd with a few broken ribs and a head injury. He claimed it was from a car accident. His truck had minimal damage, and no accident report was made.
Police also learned of another person who was close to Zebb, a girl named Misty Taylor. They met about a month prior and according to Zebb’s family and friends, he was head over heels for Misty. Misty, however; tells police that they were not in a relationship and she had a boyfriend, Wesley, and a baby. According to Zebb’s family and friends, when Wesley found out about Zebb and Misty he was angry, but Zebb and Misty kept talking in secret. Two days before New Years, Misty cut off all communication, worried, Zebb called to check on her but forgot to block his number. He realized this, got scared, and hung up. He told his family what he did and that he was scared because Wesley wasn’t the nicest person.
When police asked Misty where she was the night of the 2nd, she said she was at home with her parents, Wesley, and a woman named Ina who was starting a business with her mother. Ina happened to be Zebb’s paternal aunt, but from everything I can find, they never really had a relationship.
Wesley confirmed the story Misty told police.
Police learned the mysterious page Zebb received around the time he became panic-stricken came from Ina’s house. Ina stated that she never paged Zebb, and she was at the Taylor’s. Ina later filed a police report that her house had been broken into. She reported nothing was missing but some picture frames were disturbed.
Somewhere between 4-12 days later (conflicting reports) Zebb’s car was discovered at The Little Pigs BBQ restaurant which happened to be across the street from the hospital Zebb’s mother worked at. A girl reported seeing the car she recognized on the way to work. Police arrived to find Zebb’s Mazda Protegé parked near the street. The windows were cracked, and the headlights were on. There were lips drawn on the back windshield with exclamation points in what looked like lipstick, a jacket that was not Zebb’s, an unidentified hotel key, and a 3-month-old live black lab puppy. The driver seat was also pushed up.
Finding Zebb’s car left everyone with more questions than answers. A week after the car was found, a couple contacted police saying they saw the car driving around Nashville before it was found. A sketch artist worked with them on a composite of the driver. The sketch had a chilling resemblance to Misty.
Months went by with no more leads in Zebb’s case. Police even tried to track down the origin of the puppy, which was adopted by one of the detectives. Zebb’s case goes cold.
Life goes on for everyone without Zebb. Jason Owens seemed to have a difficult time after Zebb disappeared. He was charged in 2007 as a habitual impaired driver and sentenced to two years and his license. That same year his property was searched with ground piercing radar.
The unusual circumstances of Zebb’s case continued to multiply. In March 2015 The Next Food Network Star Cristie Codd, who was 5 months pregnant, and her husband Joseph Codd were reported missing by Cristie’s father. The following day, police got a tip from a caller stating he saw a man he identified as Jason Owens throwing garbage bags inside a private dumpster. When investigators retrieved the garbage bags, they found items belonging to Cristie Codd.
Jason said he accidentally ran them over with his car, knew he didn’t have a license, and panicked. He said he tried to resuscitate Cristie but Joseph was too far gone. He knew Joseph was dead and continued to panic so he burned Joseph’s body in a wood stove. Jason returned the next day to dismember and then burn Cristie. He then sold some of the couples things and sent text messages from their phones alleging to be sick, allowing for their absence.
This led police to perform a new search on Jason’s property where they located fabric, leather materials, and unknown hard fragments under a concrete fish pond. No confirmation has been made on the fragments being human.
Owens subsequently pled guilty to the murders or Cristie, Joseph, and their unborn baby to avoid the death penalty. In 2017 Jason Owens was indicted for the first-degree murder of Zebb Quinn.
Is it really closure though? There’s still no Zebb, he’s still not home. Owen’s, as far as I can tell, has not admitted to any wrongdoing in Zebb’s case. What about the composite sketch that looked like Misty spotted driving Zebb’s car? Or the fact that the driver’s seat was pushed forward for someone much shorter than Zebb. And then there’s the lipstick on the back windshield. I can get over the hotel key.
I’m not saying I don’t think Jason Owen’s isn’t capable of this, I mean he admitted to dismembering two people, I’m just saying there is more to this case than meets the eye. So many pieces still missing after all of this time. Whoever left Zebb’s car in the parking lot of The Little Pigs obviously wanted it to be found quickly, hence the cracked windows, headlights on, and the puppy. Who wouldn’t bust out some windows for a puppy? I don’t know of any forensic evidence found on items inside Zebb’s car.
With so many moving parts, coincidences, and strange circumstances surrounding Zebb’s disappearance, it’s easy to go chasing white rabbits. Hopefully one day soon, they will be able to confirm if the fragments found are Zebb Quinn and he can finally be brought home.
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