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Unsolved Mysteries: Whatever happened to Zebb Quinn?

It’s been almost seventeen years since eighteen-year-old Walmart employee Zebb Quinn went missing in Asheville, North Carolina on January 2, 2000.

The events surrounding his disappearance are truly bizarre, and in many ways, a horrifying update in 2015 resulted in more questions than answers.

After finishing a work shift at 9 p.m. on the 2nd, Quinn decided to check out a car he was considering purchasing. His friend Robert Jason Owens tagged along in another vehicle. Surveillance footage showed the two young men outside a gas station at 9:15.

According to Owens, after leaving the gas station Quinn flashed his headlights and signalled for him to pull over. Apparently he’d received a page. In the days before ubiquitous cell phones, the men had to find a pay phone for Quinn, who was reportedly “frantic” after making his call. Cancelling their plans to look at the vehicle, Quinn drove off in such a rush that he rear ended his friend’s car. Owens showed up at a hospital later that night with fractured ribs and a head injury, claiming he had been in a second car accident that evening. Hmm…and yet, no one reported this second accident to the police (or, presumably, to an insurance company, since that’s easy enough for cops to trace).

Accused killer Robert Jason Owens

Accused killer Robert Jason Owens

Quinn hasn’t been seen since, but two days later, someone purporting to be him called in sick to Walmart. The coworker who answered the phone knew the guy on the other end of the line wasn’t Quinn. Once again, all signs pointed to Owens–the call was traced to the Volvo plant where he worked. Confronted by police, he admitted making the phoney phone call, saying Quinn had asked him to. Though he was considered a “person of interest,” Owens continued to deny his involvement in Quinn’s disappearance.

So far, this case seems pretty open and shut, right? Wait–it gets weirder. Remember that page Quinn received? Turns out this wasn’t a farfetched story. The teenager really did receive a page that evening–from his aunt, whom he rarely saw. The aunt denied making the call, saying she was having dinner at her friend’s home at the time–a friend who just happened to be the mother of a girl Quinn was in love with when he vanished. A girl who reportedly had an extremely jealous boyfriend. Both the girl and the boyfriend were at this dinner. The aunt later claimed her home had been broken into that night. Nothing was stolen, but some picture frames had been moved around.

Odd. And even more bizarre, when Quinn’s vehicle was recovered two weeks later near the hospital where his mother worked, bottles, an untraceable hotel key card, someone else’s jacket, and a live Labrador-mix puppy were found inside! Someone had drawn lips and two exclamation marks on the windshield in lipstick. Quinn’s mother believes she was meant to find the vehicle. So far, the mystery belongings located inside have not been traced to anyone, but an investigator adopted the puppy, who was unharmed.

Years went on and the case went cold, with only the loyalty of Quinn’s friends and family keeping his memory alive. No new leads were publicized. And then came 2015.

Quinn’s old buddy Owens was discovered with the dismembered remains of three people in his wood stove–Food Network star Cristie Schoen Codd, her husband J.T. Codd, and their unborn child. Owens had been the couple’s “friend” too–they’d hired him to work on their home and had thought enough of him to invite Owens to their wedding.

Murdered Food Network star Food Network star Cristie Schoen Codd and husband J.T. Codd Photo credit: FOURFRONT PRODUCTIONS

Murdered Food Network star Cristie Schoen Codd and husband J.T. Codd
Photo credit: FOURFRONT PRODUCTIONS

This crime prompted investigators to take another look at Owens and his possible involvement in Quinn’s disappearance. During the Codd investigation, police found fabric, leather, and “unknown hard fragments” under a layer of concrete on Owens’ property. What the hard fragments are, and whether or not this discovery is related to Quinn, has not been confirmed. The state is seeking the death penalty against Owens for the triple homicide of the Codd family.

Even if you write Owens off as a cold-blooded psychopath who killed his friend and then murdered again fifteen years later, many questions remain unanswered.

  • Why did he put himself in the hot seat of the Quinn investigation by phoning Walmart, pretending to be the missing teen?
  • What’s with the aunt, the page made from her home, and the bizarre burglary where nothing was stolen?
  • Where did the puppy come from? What happened to Quinn’s car after he went missing?
  • If Quinn is dead, why was he killed?

And that’s just for starters. What do you think happened to Zebb Quinn? Have you heard of this case? Please share this near and far–let’s get some justice for this man and his family.

Update: Owens was charged with Quinn’s murder on July 10, 2017.

PS – If you can’t get enough unsolved mysteries, let me know what you think about this strange case, where two people disappeared.

 

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48 Comments

  1. I’ve heard of this case, because I saw a documentary about it a few years ago, but I didn’t know Owens was discovered to have killed people in 2015!

    Reply
    • JH

      Yeah, pretty sad–and chilling. I wouldn’t be surprised if the items they found on Owens’ property end up being Quinn’s remains, but what concerns me is they should have said so now if that was the case.

      That poor family.

      Reply
  2. That is one bizarre twist of events. If it involved the girl and her jealous boyfriend, how was Owens involved?
    At least the puppy found a good home.

    Reply
    • JH

      The puppy is the only bright light in this story! I’m not sure the girl and her bf were involved, but the weird page/robbery-that-wasn’t situation is bizarre. Perhaps Owens was a killer for hire? (Assuming he is guilty–he hasn’t been convicted of anything yet.)

      Reply
  3. Weird connection and actions with the aunt? Zebb’s poor mother! She needs answers. Did the murderer leave her a puppy to replace her son? I don’t remember hearing about this case, but how awful for the Codd family!

    Did you see that Jacob Wetterling’s murderer finally confessed?

    Reply
    • JH

      It is a truly awful case. I can’t even imagine how terrible it is for the families who never get answers. Losing someone you love is tough enough when you know what happened.

      I don’t believe I’m familiar with the Wetterling case, Mary, but thanks for letting me know. I’ll look into it!

      Reply
  4. I had never heard of this case! Such bizarre circumstances. Missing persons cases always haunt me, for some reason. I guess it’s the knowing that someone out there knows what happened, and the frustration of not being able to extract that information from them. I can’t imagine not having closure if someone I love disappeared.

    Any word on what the motivation was for Owens killing the Cobbs? Such unnecessary deaths, it truly is sad. I always hope that the missing person is still alive out there somewhere, but depending on their circumstances, that could be just as horrific.

    P.S. I love that you mentioned the dog got adopted. What a bizarre “message” to leave, if that’s in fact what it was, and the animal lover in me instantly wondered. =) If only pups could talk!

    Reply
    • JH

      I know–it’s so bizarre. If someone took Quinn’s car for a joyride, why leave a puppy behind?

      No motive that I know of yet for the Codd murders. But, as far as I could find out, Owens hasn’t confessed to anything. Could be money, could be jealousy–hard to say.

      Missing person cases haunt me too. I write about them hoping they will help in some way–maybe if enough people share these posts, it could lead to a break. Stranger things have happened. Like you say, someone has to know what happened.

      Reply
    • JH

      Yep, pretty disturbing. Life is truly stranger than fiction.

      Reply
  5. Sounds like Zebb was hanging out with one seriously shady character. Perhaps this crime is drug-related? What a bizarre string of events. Certainly sounds like someone was living in Zebb’s vehicle after he went missing. A lot of the elements here are bizarre. Great post!

    Reply
    • JH

      Thanks, Lisa. Yes, this is one of the weirdest cases I’ve heard about. It seems straight forward at first, but then things keep getting more and more bizarre. The stuff with the aunt is strange too.

      Reply
  6. Now that is shocking and creepy. What a horror that man is, and the young couple’s picture brought tears to my eyes. I vaguely remember the story, and I’m thinking that we hear about these kinds of tragedies one day, then they’re out of our minds so soon after. I do hope the police find out what happened to Zebb Quinn if only to give his family some measure of peace.

    Reply
    • JH

      Me too, Lee. I really hope people share these posts. You never know who might come across it…someone out there has to know what happened to poor Zebb. I feel for his mom.

      What happened to the Codds is horrific. So senseless.

      Reply
  7. I saw this case on the Missing show and everything about it is weird. He seemed like a nice, normal but somewhat challenged young man and I feel for his mother, she was distraught about this. The circumstances with Owen are too telling and I’d bet he’s involved. He probably killed Jesse but we may never know for sure or why!

    Reply
    • JH

      Welcome, Diane!

      I never read anything about him being challenged. I’d love to know more about this if you’d like to share.

      If Owens doesn’t have something to do with Quinn’s disappearance, that would be one heck of a chilling coincidence!

      Reply
  8. I love these posts of yours. Sure makes you wonder but since I work in criminal law, you have to image the most bizarre things can happen.
    If I don’t see another post from you until the new year – have an amazing holiday.

    Reply
    • JH

      Aw, thanks so much, Tami! That’s what I love to hear. You work in criminal law? Sounds like an interesting career…I’d love to do an insider interview about that some day, if you’d be interested.

      I hope you have an amazing holiday too! Let’s hope 2017 is better for everyone.

      Reply
  9. Jeez. I have no guesses for this mystery. That really is puzzling. The thing that really threw me was the puppy.

    Reply
    • JH

      I know, right? My best guess is that his car was left somewhere after Quinn went missing, and someone took it for a joyride–might have even been living in it, as Lisa suggested.

      Perhaps the fact it ended up near the mother’s work was just a strange coincidence.

      Reply
  10. I hadn’t heard of this before today. After reading about it I thought it would be great material for the Serial Podcast.

    Very sad though. My own son is 18 and I can’t even imagine.

    Reply
    • JH

      Definitely sad. Those poor parents. I’m hoping enough people share it and get the word out.

      Thanks for commenting!

      Reply
  11. Wow, that happened in Asheville? How weird. What a shame they couldn’t link anything to Owens sooner. That couple might still be alive.

    Reply
    • JH

      So true. It’s probably one of those incredibly frustrating cases where the cops knew exactly who did it but didn’t have enough evidence. It happens too often.

      Are you from Asheville or nearby, Diane?

      Reply
  12. Ok this is truly one f-upped murder mystery. Owens looks stupid, to be blunt, so I could see him make a call like that thinking he could get away with it. I think Quinn was upset to find out his Aunt was having dinner with the girl he loved and her boyfriend and mom. I bet the girlfriend knows more than what she is telling. I wonder if her boyfriend and Owens knew each other? If picture frames were taken, what were in the frames? Her son? I think the truck was taken and they adopted the puppy but then realized they could be traced so they left the puppy plus the other stuff. You would think, in this day and age, they could find out who the killer is. I doubt Quinn is alive and men do not use lipstick so she is involved as well. I would be concentrating on the girl, her nutty boyfriend and Owens. What a shame about the couple he killed.

    Reply
    • JH

      Those are great theories, Birgit. That’s a really good point about the lipstick.

      I’m not sure the frames actually were moved. To me, “My house was broken into” was the aunt’s alibi so the police wouldn’t think she sent the upsetting text. However, I think she did. The question is why?

      Reply
    • Birgit,
      Who’s aunt was having dinner With the girl zebb loved?

      Reply
      • Was it zebb’s aunt or Owens aunt?

        Reply
  13. This sound pretty much like the first killing by a serial killer — Owens. Some inexperienced ones post on their victims’ FB pages or send postcards or letters to family to make them think the victim is still alive, like with the Walmart phone call. The car turning up is probably another ruse to mystify police, but I have no idea about the puppy! (Though the cops should have been able to trace it. How may pups exactly like that can be born in a small town?) I bet Owens killed others. He just got lot smarter in hiding the bodies and none were famous like the Foodie woman. Great post, as usual!

    Reply
    • JH

      Thanks, Lexa. I agree. I feel like he’s most likely a serial killer as well (as long as he actually is guilty). And if so, there’s no way he took fifteen years off.

      There may be more discoveries in the future.

      Reply
      • Sadly, while most criminals and killers make mistakes, serial killers are smarter. They often lead double lives — one as innocuous husband or family man where they literally play a role and can seem charming — or they choose a career or place to live where their true antisocial personalities can be hidden. (I’m sure you know this if you’re an obsessive true crime documentary watcher like I am!)

        Reply
        • JH

          Yep, Ted Bundy springs to mind. Or all the truck driver serial killers–so much opportunity for them.

          Reply
  14. It makes you wonder if some things aren’t actually connected after all. Like, maybe someone else found the car, took it for a joy ride, put the puppy in it, etc. Maybe the mother wasn’t meant to find the car and where it was left was just a coincidence.

    The whole thing is terribly sad and absolutely bizarre.

    Reply
    • JH

      Agreed, Madeline. And that’s probably the best hunch about how the puppy got involved. There’s just too much weirdness in this case that doesn’t add up.

      Reply
  15. This is a new case for me. Very strange. The body was never found, right?

    Reply
    • JH

      Not yet, no. But also no word on what that “unknown hard substance” was that police found on Owens’ property. There’s been some speculation it was bone.

      Reply
  16. So. Freaky.

    I don’t even know what to think. If Owen did the killing, he certainly knew how to hide the body and evidence. It may have made him overconfident, leading to his arrest in the later murders.

    Regardless, a fascinating story.

    Reply
    • JH

      Thanks, Ryan. I wouldn’t be surprised if it turns out he’s behind other killings as well–assuming he’s guilty of this one.

      Reply
  17. So sad. Owens might be involved but I think he probably had an accomplice with the Quinn killing since their was so much confusion. and strangeness. Sounds like too many cooks in the killing plot. Again really sad case, especially with the death of that poor couple added to the mix. Cops have it tough. I still remember a case where they suspected the husband was a killer and took his gun. Couldn’t prove it and had to give it back. Guess what? He took that same gun and went and murdered his wife in public so that she wouldn’t leave him. Imagine how those cops felt about such an awful thing they didn’t have the evidence to prevent?

    Reply
    • JH

      Oh, that’s horrible. I really feel for the good cops out there. Yes, they need evidence, but often the amount of evidence they need really ties their hands.

      But then you get tons of innocent people convicted of crimes they didn’t commit. I’m grateful I’m not in law enforcement!

      Reply
  18. What in the world??
    Why did Owens kill the couple? What motive did he have for killing Quinn? Where did the puppy come from?

    Yes, I know I’m echoing all your questions. But this sounds like an episode of Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency rather than something real. Truth, stranger than fiction every time.

    Reply
    • JH

      Agreed, Dianne. If Owens is guilty, I think I can answer your first two questions: murderous sociopath who is most likely a serial killer.

      But if so, he’s pretty dumb to kill three people (four if you count the unborn child) who could be easily linked to him. Most serial killers make that mistake the first time, but never again.

      Reply
  19. I love mysteries like this, except when they are real. In this day and age, I have a hard time understanding why law enforcements cannot figure these things out. And why is Owens not convicted for the three other murders yet? It has been over a year already. Crazy people get away with so much these days, luckily in much less serious cases than this one. At least the puppy found a good home. It cannot have been in that car for two weeks, though… Can you solve the mystery for us, J.H.? Please.

    Reply
    • JH

      I wish I could. I’m puzzled by the fact this case hasn’t gone to trial yet as well. I’m guessing some legal wrangling is to blame. It usually is when things move this slowly.

      The puppy couldn’t have been in the car for two weeks, unless someone was staying with it. It was too healthy.

      Reply
  20. My guess is that Robert Jason Owens killed Zeb Quin that night. The puppy, the jacket, the lips all a deversion to take away from the actual killers. The car being found were it was was meant to be found on purpose. Everyone is really making this case harder then it really is.

    Reply
  21. Zebb an owens were gonna look at a car in leicester, which happens to be where owens is from. Zebb had a small amount of money on him to buy the car. Owens called wal-mart to throw people off, no doubt there. Shortly after owens was in a high speed chase an went to jail bc he shot at cops an I believe got a dui. The cop adopted the puppy. As for the car I feel it was left there so his moma could find it. Only people that had knowledge that mission employees at that time parked above the 3 little pigs restaurant, would know to leave it there. Owens knew zebb’s moma an sister worked there an his moma was trying everything to find zebb. Zebb was a little slow but nothing major. His moma every year for years rented a bulletin board in leicester trying to get answers. Owens uncle and brother (really his cousin) I feel know alot more than they say. As for the lips on zebbs car, owens was crazy so he probably did that to make them suspect or go after the girl a little more than him. As for the codds he worked for them. They had been robbed at least once (probably owens). He was using the husbands phone to tex the husbands friend so no one suspect he had already killed them. Same mo as in zebb case. I’d say he has killed in between zebb and the codds but he’s not talking. He feels entitled to what others have, to me he’s just a pos period.

    Reply
    • Kim,
      Please tell more. Owens uncle and other family must know more, and likely do other neighbors. I think some neighbors are in fear and some are connected it at least know more. How on earth did that fire occur on Owens property so shortly after police raided his place to investigate? So many unanswered questions.

      Reply
  22. “What’s with the aunt, the page made from her home, and the bizarre burglary where nothing was stolen?”

    Who’s aunt are you referring to? Owens or Zebbs? What is her name? What is her address?

    Reply

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