People go missing every day. In fact, more than 600,000 Americans were entered into the National Crime Information Center records in a single year. While most are runaways that are found soon after, some cases are never fully solved. This is the case of 18-year-old Zebb Wayne Quinn, a young man who vanished after leaving work on January 2, 2000.
The details surrounding this case are highly unusual. Even after 23 years, law enforcement is still unclear about what happened to Zebb. To this day, his body has not been found. Zebb’s story reminds us of the disappearance of Ben McDaniels, except the outcomes are far different.
Zebb Quinn was born in Asheville, North Carolina on May 12, 1981, to Denise Vlahakis. He graduated from Roberson High School and soon after attended Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College. Zebb was also a proud member of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps.
For more than two years, he worked in the electronics department of his local Walmart store on Hendersonville Road in Asheville. He enjoyed his job and built friendships at work, including with his co-worker Robert Jason Owens.
On January 2, 2000, Zebb finished his shift at 9 p.m. at Walmart. He was looking for a new car and was thinking about buying a Mitsubishi Eclipse from a dealer in Leicester. Zebb met his friend and co-worker, Robert Owens, in the store’s parking lot and the pair set off to look at the vehicle, driving in their own separate cars.
Security camera footage has the two friends entering the convenience store, purchasing sodas, and leaving several minutes later, heading in the direction of Long Shoals Road.
Robert told police that at around 9:30 p.m., Zebb flashed his headlights to prompt Robert to pull over. At this time, the two men were near T.C. Robertson High School on Long Shoals Road in Asheville. Zebb then tells Robert that he received a page and that he had to make a phone call. Robert suggests that he return to the gas station to find a pay phone.
According to Robert, Zebb returned about ten minutes later. In a panicked state, Zebb rear-ended Robert’s truck before apologizing and telling him that he’ll pay for the damage but had to immediately leave, canceling their plans.
Robert’s Strange Behavior
The next morning, Robert does not show up for his scheduled shift at work, claiming that he had been in an unrelated car accident the night before. He claims that the car accident occurred near The Waffle House restaurant by the intersection of Interstate 26 on Long Shoals Road. Robert was treated at Urgent Care for a fractured rib and head wound. He did not file a car accident report nor were his injuries consistent with a vehicle collision.
Just a couple of days later on January 4, 2000, a Walmart supervisor received a phone call to the electronics department from a man claiming to be Zebb.
This phone call would be later traced back to a Volvo Construction Equipment plant where Robert worked. When later asked about this, Robert said that Zebb had asked him to call in sick on his behalf.
After Zebb’s disappearance, police began to seek out people that knew him well. This is when they discovered 19-year-old Misty Taylor. Zebb had met Misty at a Christmas party held at his mother’s fiance’s restaurant. It wasn’t long after that he became romantically interested in her.
However, their romance was short-lived as Misty was in an abusive relationship with her boyfriend, Wesley Smith.
Due to this connection, police gathered saliva, hair, and fingerprint samples from Misty in 2009. However, she was not considered a suspect or person of interest in Zebb’s disappearance.
Zebb’s mother filed a missing persons report on January 4 when Zebb failed to return home. After hearing Robert’s story, authorities looked to see who had paged Zebb that night. Police tracked the page to Zebb’s paternal aunt, Ina Ustich. However, Ina denied that she made the call.
Oddly enough, Ina claims that at the time that the call was made, she was having dinner at a friend’s house, a woman who happened to be Misty Taylor’s mother. Misty and Wesley were also at the dinner that night. Ina then filed a police report claiming that someone had broken into her house the night of Zebb’s disappearance while she was at dinner.
The car’s headlights were on and someone had drawn a pair of lips on the windshield with pink lipstick. Inside the car were a hotel key card, drink bottles that did not belong to Zebb, and a live puppy.
Later, a report was made by a couple who had seen someone driving Zebb’s car in downtown Asheville. The couple helped produce a sketch that turned out to be a woman that looked very similar to Misty Taylor.
Robert was not immediately charged in the disappearance of Zebb Quinn; however, he did spend approximately 23 months in state prison between 2002 and 2009. Robert faced a slew of convictions for habitual impaired driving, assault on an officer, speeding to elude arrest, drunk and disorderly conduct, reckless driving, and resisting officers.
Cristie was also pregnant at the time of her death. Robert confessed that he did kill the family but it was an accident. He said that he accidentally ran them over and dismembered their remains to hide the bodies.
Robert pleaded guilty to three counts of second-degree murder on April 27, 2017, as well as two counts of dismembering human remains. The judge sentenced him to 59 to 74 years in prison without the possibility of parole.
A break in the Zebb Quinn case did not come until approximately 15 years later. After being charged with the murders of the Codd family, police obtained a warrant to search Robert’s property in connection to Zebb’s disappearance.
They had received a tip that Robert had started a “fish pond project” that he aborted directly after Zebb went missing. Under the concrete of the pond, authorities found leather and fabric materials, unknown hard fragments, and several plastic bags that they believed were filled with pulverized lime or mortar mix.
After a series of delays, Robert was set to appear in court on July 11, 2022. However, on July 25, 2022, Robert pleaded guilty to accessory after the fact of first-degree murder.
Gene Owen, shoot and kill Zebb Quinn
Robert wrote a hand-written statement that reveals that he saw Zebb get murdered. The statement said that he had seen a family member, his uncle Gene Owen, shoot and kill Zebb with a .22 rifle but that Gene was now deceased. Robert was given a polygraph in which he was asked if he had witnessed Gene Owen shoot and kill Zebb Quinn. Robert answered yes and he passed.
When asked why his uncle had shot Zebb, Robert said it was over a love triangle. His uncle knew the jealous boyfriend of Zebb’s love interest and was asked to do something to keep Zebb away from her. His solution was murder. Robert said that Zebb was shot in the back of the head and his remains were burned in Bent Creek. However, no remains were ever found.
Robert was sentenced to 150 to 189 months in prison which will run concurrently with his existing sentence. The case has received increased visibility over the years, including its appearance on the TV show ‘Disappeared.’ Unfortunately, due to a lack of evidence and ever-changing stories spewed by Robert Owens, the real truth about what happened to Zebb Quinn may never unfold.