Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Zebb Quinn

Zebb with his sister Brandi

Zebb Quinn was 18 when he disappeared from Asheville, NC on January 2, 2000. He was, by all accounts, a nice young man. He had no criminal or mental health history and had never been involved with drugs. He was laid-back and gentle. He did have a learning/organizational disability called "Scatter" that kept him a bit socially awkward. His mom claims he had "friends, but not good friends" due to his disability. His disability also may have led him to be manipulated more easily, and he lacked "street smarts".

At the time of his disappearance, he was working in the electronics department of Walmart and looking forward to his second semester at Asheville-Buncombe Technical College. He was well liked at Walmart and had been at the job for over two years at the time of his disappearance.

Zebb clocked out of his shift at 9PM on January 2 and left with a co-worker named (Robert) Jason Owens. They left in separate vehicles and were planning to head to a dealership to look at a car that Zebb had been saving up to buy. 

According to Jason,  they stopped at a gas station for sodas and headed out for the dealership. There is video of both men purchasing sodas at the gas station and leaving, with Zebb following Jason.

While they were barreling down a two lane road out of town, Zebb heard the sound of his pager. He then flashed his lights at Jason, indicating he wanted Jason to stop. Jason claimed that Zebb appeared frantic and asked to use Jason's cell phone. Jason told Zebb he did not have a cell phone and suggested a different gas station with a pay phone "just up the road." Jason claims that Zebb appeared to be frantic and concerned. Zebb promised to appear shortly and took off. When Zebb returned 15 minutes later, he was so agitated that he rear-ended Jason's truck. When Jason exited the truck, Zebb explained that he had gotten a page, he was very upset, and he wouldn't be able to go look at the car with him. He also said he would "settle up" with him later about the damage to his truck. He then raced off into the darkness.

Also that evening, Zebb's mother, Denise Vlahakis, was leaving her nursing shift. She was going to go get a late dinner with her fiancé and wanted to invite Zebb. She paged him and he did not respond. She paged him again about a half hour later, and he still did not respond, so they decided to go eat without him. When they arrived home a few hours later, Zebb was not home. They continued to page him every hour for the next 12 hours. Zebb was not rebellious and he always kept in touch. At 3PM on January 3, Denise filed a missing person's report. The police began investigating immediately.

On January 4, Zebb's supervisor at Walmart, Patty King, got a strange phone call. The person claimed to be Zebb and was calling in to say he was sick and wouldn't be at work. King, who knew Zebb was missing and had also been his supervisor for two years, questioned the caller and knew it was not Zebb calling in. She kept him on the line and then traced the call using *69. The call traced back to Volvo Construction Equipment. King called Zebb's mother about the call and she, in turn, called the police. Meanwhile, Zebb's fellow employees solve one piece of the puzzle-Jason Owens worked at Volvo Industries. 

When police went to talk to Jason he was indeed working at Volvo and did admit to making the phone call. He claimed that Zebb called him earlier that day, asking him to call in to work for him. He didn't know (or ask) why Zebb couldn't do it himself.

Upon further investigation, the police learned that Jason had called in late to work the morning after Zebb's disappearance. He claimed he had been in another car accident, and he had indeed been treated for a head injury and a broken rib. However, this accident was never reported to the police and his truck had minimal damage. Jason became a person of interest in Zebb's disappearance, but the police do not have enough evidence to charge him.

As police are interviewing people close to Zebb, they discovered Misty Taylor. Zebb had not known Misty for very long-they had met at a Christmas party at his mother's fiancé's restaurant. Zebb had become infatuated with her, but Mistly claimed they were just acquaintances. In reality, Zebb did have long telephone conversations with her and would gush about her. It was a few weeks into the relationship before she told Zebb that she had a baby and was in a relationship. Zebb pushed this information aside and continued to fixate on her. (This fixation can be partly explained by his learning disorder, but she was also the first girl he had been interested in) His infatuation did cloud his judgment to some degree, and he was spending money on her. According to Patty King, he had told her that her boyfriend, Wesley Smith, had discovered their relationship and seemed violent. King warned him to get away, and to find someone who was not so complicated.

On December 31, 1999, two days before Zebb's disappearance, Misty and Zebb both stayed in their respective homes and had a lengthy phone conversation. After that, however, there was no communication between them. Zebb had expressed concern and, on January 2, he called her. He forgot to hit *67 (which makes the caller anonymous or private) before calling her. His grandmother claimed he hung up the phone abruptly and said, "I am in trouble now."

Misty has a loose alibi for the night Zebb went missing. She was at home with her baby, Wesley, and her parents. She claims that Zebb's aunt, a woman named Ina Ustich, was there as well. Ina and Misty's mother-both employees at the restaurant where the Christmas party was held-claimed to be starting a restaurant together.

The page Zebb received the night he disappeared came from Ina Ustich's home phone. Ina is Zebb's father's sister, and Zebb had very little contact with her throughout her life. She claimed she had not paged Zebb and that she was with the Taylor family that night. There is no doubt the page came from her home phone.

On January 16, 2000-exactly two weeks after Zebb's disappearance, his mom Denise received a call while she was at work at the hospital. A co-worker and former high-school acquaintance of Jebb's noticed that his car was in a restaurant parking lot across the street from the hospital.

Zedd's car was parked as if meant to be found.  Inside the car was a live, 3 month-old lab-mix puppy and a hotel key card. On the rear window was a lipstick drawing of a set of lips. The headlights were on and the windows were cracked. Police speculated that the way the car was parked and the live puppy were meant to draw attention to the car. Police were not able to determine where the puppy came from. (Note: the puppy, named Katie, was taken home and adopted by an investigating officer). The hotel key card did not have a logo, and despite days of checking hotels and motels in the area, it remains a mystery.

Meanwhile, Ina Ustich began claiming that her house was broken into the night of Zebb's disappearance. She claimed that nothing was stolen, but "framed pictures had been moved." She later denied ever telling the police this story. She then packed up and moved to a job in Tennessee.

In the fall of 2007, Jason Owens led police on a high speed chase which involved him shooting at the police. He was eventually convicted of eluding arrest and sentenced to four years. While he was in jail, the police interviewed him numerous times, but he has refused to discuss the case. Jason, Ina, Misty and Wesley are all considered persons of interest in Zebb's disappearance.

Someone out there knows what happened to Zebb that night, and who was involved with his disappearance. A local non-profit agency, Families Pursuing Justice, is offering a $2,500 Reward for information leading to locating Zebb.

Zebb was born May 12, 1981 and is 5'9" and was around 160 pounds at the time of his disappearance. He has brown hair and blue eyes. Although he is presumed dead, it would give his family closure if this case could be solved.  

Zebb in his ROTC uniform

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