In early 2000, 18-year-old Zebb Quinn suddenly disappeared. After two decades, more questions than answers remain. What happened to Zebb?
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- The Encyclopedia of Unsolved Crimes
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- Sheriff’s Office – Robert Jason Owens Full Press Conference (March 20, 2015)
- Suspect in Food Network Star Killing Was ‘Person of Interest’ in 2000 Cold Case
- Warrant details Zebb Quinn-related search at Leicester property
- Double-murder suspect’s property searched in missing teen case
- Plenty of unanswered questions remain after Owens plea in Codd case
- A timeline in the disappearance of Zebb Quinn
- Timeline: From Zebb Quinn disappearance to Robert Jason Owens charged
- Robert Jason Owens indicted in Zebb Quinn homicide
- 20 years after the disappearance of Zebb Quinn, still very few answers
- Why hasn’t there been a trial in the Zebb Quinn case?
- Convicted killer indicted in Zebb Quinn murder scheduled to appear in court Monday
- Teen vanished from Asheville in 2000, possibly killed in national forest; case resolved?
- New plea date in murder case of teen Zebb Quinn who vanished from Asheville in 2000
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- Zebb Quinn: Will plea deal provide answers about what happened to him?
- Owens pleads guilty to lesser charge in 2000 disappearance of Zebb Quinn
- Although questions remain, Quinn case plea offers resolution after 2 decades, lawyer says
- Zebb Quinn case: Man pleads to lesser charge in Asheville cold case
Welcome back to Bite-Sized Crime. This week we’re looking at the disappearance of 18-year-old Zebb Quinn and the many mysteries surrounding it. This episode discusses sensitive topics, so listener discretion is advised.
Zebb Wayne Quinn grew up in the mountains of Asheville, North Carolina. He was very close to his mother, Denise, and his sister, Brandi.
Growing up, Zebb struggled with school as a result of an unspecified learning disability, but in high school, he enrolled in the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps. Zebb found a sense of belonging in the ROTC, and it became a positive influence in his life.
After graduating from Roberson High School, Zebb began taking classes at Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College, where he worked hard and got good grades. While taking classes, Zebb worked in the electronics department of the local Wal-Mart on Hendersonville Road. He enjoyed the job and was well-liked by his co-workers.
On the evening of Sunday, January 2, 2000, Zebb finished up his shift at Wal-Mart at 9pm. He had plans to meet up with a friend after work – 22-year-old Robert Jason Owens, a former co-worker of Zebb’s. The two occasionally played pool together, and Zebb had mentioned that he was looking to buy a new car. Jason said he knew of a Mitsubishi for sale in the neighboring town of Leicester and offered to go with Zebb to look at it.
Zebb and Jason met up in the Wal-Mart parking lot a little after 9. They took separate cars – Jason in his Ford pickup and Zebb in his blue Mazda Protege. It was about a 30-minute drive from South Asheville to the small town of Leicester. Before they got on the interstate, Zebb and Jason stopped at a gas station on Hendersonville Road to pick up drinks. Surveillance footage from the convenience store shows them purchasing sodas at 9:15pm. The two men then got back into their vehicles and headed south towards Long Shoals Road.
According to Jason, they hadn’t been back on the road for long when Zebb flashed his headlights, indicating that he needed to pull over. They stopped near Robeson High School and Zebb told Jason that he had just gotten a message on his pager. He said he needed to find a payphone and asked Jason to wait until he got back. When he returned about ten minutes later, he accidentally rear-ended Jason’s truck. Passing drivers later reported that it appeared the truck and Mazda had been in a minor accident, but no one seemed hurt. Zebb apologized for hitting Jason’s truck, then told his friend that he couldn’t go to Leicester after all. He then hopped back into his car and drove away.
The next morning, Zebb’s mom Denise was getting worried. She knew Zebb had planned to go to Leicester to look at a car, but she had expected him to be home later that night. He hadn’t taken any clothing or extra money with him, and his contact lens solution was still in the bathroom, so it didn’t seem likely that he had decided to spend the night elsewhere. When she still hadn’t heard from Zebb by that afternoon, she called the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office and reported him missing.
That same day, Jason had checked in at an urgent care center around 9:30am. He was treated for a head wound and a broken rib before being released. He told his boss at the Volvo Construction Equipment plant that he had gotten into a car accident the night before, but no accident reports were ever filed with the police, and his injuries seemed more severe than what he would have incurred in a simple, slow-moving fender-bender.
By Tuesday, January 4th, Zebb still had not returned home, and he didn’t show up for work. This was very out of character for Zebb – he loved working at Wal-Mart and never missed a shift. At some point during the day, Zebb’s supervisor got a phone call from someone claiming to be Zebb, telling her that he was sick and couldn’t come into work. Suspicious, the supervisor dialed *69, which allowed her to trace the call back to a Volvo Construction Equipment plant, the same one where Jason Owens was employed. The supervisor reported this call to the police, who then contacted Jason Owens.
Jason told detectives what had happened on Sunday night, and admitted to making the phone call to Wal-Mart. He said that Zebb had asked him to make the call, but he wouldn’t say why. After that, he refused to cooperate any further.
Over the next few weeks, the search for Zebb continued. Detectives suspected that Jason knew more than he was saying, but they didn’t have any real evidence that Zebb didn’t just drive away on January 2nd.
Zebb’s family did not believe this theory. They knew Zebb would never just leave without telling them, especially his mom Denise. Besides, he didn’t have any money with him, and his whole life was in Asheville. He had a job he loved, and he was working hard at school to make a future for himself.
But Zebb was also young and naive. It wasn’t outside the realm of possibility that he had been lured away or tricked by someone with bad intentions.
Finally, on January 16th, there was a break in the case, but it brought more questions than answers. Two weeks after his disappearance, Zebb’s car was discovered abandoned in the parking lot of the Little Pigs Barbecue restaurant, less than ten miles from where he had last been seen. The driver’s side seat had been pulled up as if someone very short had been driving last. Inside the car, investigators found a plastic hotel key, several empty drink bottles, a jacket, and a black Labrador puppy. The good news was that the puppy was totally fine and was later adopted by one of the police officers; the bad news was that none of the items found in the car actually belonged to Zebb.
The strangest finding was on the outside of the car. Someone had used bright orange-pink lipstick to draw a large pair of lips and two exclamation marks on the rear windshield of the vehicle. No words, just these odd symbols.
Investigators began looking into the possibility that a woman may somehow be involved in Zebb’s disappearance. They soon discovered that Zebb had recently befriended 19-year-old Misty Taylor. Zebb was interested in Misty, but she had a boyfriend, a young man named Wesley Smith. Zebb had told his family that Wesley was abusive towards Misty, and that he was worried about her. He also said that Wesley had threatened him due to his friendship with Misty.
Detectives also began digging into Zebb’s pager history. Jason had mentioned Zebb getting a page around 9:30 on January 2nd. Whatever was in that message had gotten Zebb worked up enough that he had stopped to go make a phone call and then later abandoned the trip altogether.
Police eventually traced the page and discovered that it had come from the home of Zebb’s aunt Ina. This was especially strange, because Zebb was not close with his aunt, and she denied having called Zebb’s pager that night. On the night of January 2nd, Ina had been having dinner at her friend Tamra Taylor’s house. Interestingly enough, Tamra was the mother of Zebb’s friend Misty, and Misty and her boyfriend Wesley had been at Tamra’s house that night as well.
In another strange twist, Ina later reported to police that her house had been broken into that same night, but nothing was taken. Was it possible that someone had broken into Ina’s house just to send a message to Zebb’s pager? But who would do that, and why? And what did the message say?
Unfortunately, we don’t know the answers to those questions. And if the police knew, they weren’t saying. They had a random assortment of clues that weren’t enough to make a full picture of what happened to Zebb, and they certainly weren’t enough to make an arrest.
After a while, Zebb’s case went cold. It was largely forgotten by the community, although investigators would occasionally look into the file over the years. In 2009, they collected hair, saliva, and fingerprint samples from Misty Taylor, but they later said that Misty wasn’t a suspect.
In 2012, the television show Disappeared featured an episode about Zebb’s case. The internet, in its infancy when Zebb disappeared in 2000, was now commonplace, and his case began to get more traction, but there really weren’t any new leads coming in.
In early 2015, detectives told the Asheville Citizen-Times that they were still working on the cold case. “We still believe there are people in the area who know critical information but haven’t come forward.”
Zebb’s mom hadn’t given up either. Denise told local news outlet WLOS that her son’s disappearance had left a hole in her life. “Somebody is watching their children grow and we are living the nightmare of not knowing where he is, or what happened, or anything.”
Zebb’s case was cold, but soon, a tragic double murder would bring his story back to the forefront.
In March of 2015, Joseph “JT” Codd and his wife Cristie Shoen Codd were living in the town of Candler, North Carolina, just a few miles west of Asheville. The couple had recently married and were expecting their first child, a girl they were planning to name Skylar. But on March 15, family members reported Cristie and JT missing after they hadn’t heard from them in a few days. When police searched their home, they found the couple’s cars still on the property and their two dogs left alone. It was clear that Cristie and JT had not left on their own accord.
As detectives processed the scene, they received a report of suspicious activity just off Highway 23, a few miles away. When officers arrived, they searched a dumpster and found items belonging to Cristie Codd. They were able to determine that the person who dumped the items was a neighbor of the Codds that they had recently hired to do some construction work on their home, a man named Robert Jason Owens.
Jason was no stranger to law enforcement. In the 15 years since his friend Zebb disappeared, Jason had racked up quite a list of convictions. He served multiple sentences in state prison for felonies and misdemeanors such as reckless driving, eluding arrest, assaulting an officer, and drunk and disorderly conduct. When he was released in 2009, he was quiet for a while, staying out of trouble for several years.
But when investigators realized Jason was tied to the Codd case, they knew they had their suspect. On March 16th, they brought Jason in for questioning. Jason admitted to breaking into the Codds’ home, saying he had taken some items and later thrown them into the dumpster when he thought he would get caught.
While Jason was being questioned, authorities were executing a search warrant on his property. There, they found what appeared to be human remains inside a wood stove.
Robert Jason Owens was arrested and charged with the murders of JT and Cristie Codd and their unborn child. He later confessed to the crimes, admitting to storing and disposing of the bodies on his property. However, he claimed that he accidentally ran them over with his truck, then panicked and decided to cover it up rather than report the accident.
As Jason waited for his hearing, investigators continued to search his property. In a warrant dated March 31, 2015, authorities noted that Jason had allegedly started construction on a fish pond back in January of 2000, right after Zebb Quinn had disappeared. According to an unnamed relative, Jason had a large area on his property that he often used as a burn pit. But not long after Zebb disappeared, Jason had poured concrete over the pit, claiming that he was turning it into a fish pond. But the pond never materialized, and Jason later covered the pit with dirt.
When investigators searched the area in March of 2015, they uncovered a mountain of evidence, including shreds of leather and fabric under the layer of concrete, and something the reports referred to as “hard fragments”. They also uncovered plastic bags containing an unknown white powder, possibly pulverized lime or mortar mix.
Over the next two years, authorities continued to build their case against Robert Jason Owens. In April of 2017, he pleaded guilty to three counts of second-degree-murder and two counts of dismemberment for the murders of JT, Cristie, and their unborn child. He was sentenced to 59 years in prison without the possibility of parole.
But it still wasn’t over. Jason was serving time for the murders of the Codd family, but the family of Zebb Quinn still needed justice.
On July 10, 2017, a Buncombe County grand jury finally indicted Robert Jason Owens with first-degree murder in the death of Zebb Quinn. If convicted, he will receive a life sentence.
As of 2022, Jason is in prison for one crime while awaiting trial for another. Zebb Quinn’s remains have never been found, and the true circumstances surrounding his disappearance are still a mystery.
Zebb Quinn disappeared on January 2, 2000. He was last seen wearing a white t-shirt, a plaid button-down shirt, khaki pants and a gold chain necklace. He is 5’9” tall and weighs 165 pounds with brown hair and blue-gray eyes. He wears contact lenses and has scars between his fingers on both hands. He would be 40 years old as of this recording.
If you have any information regarding the disappearance of Zebb Quinn, please contact the Asheville Police Department at (828) 252-1110 or call Crime Stoppers at (828) 255-5050.
In July of 2022, Robert Jason Owens appeared before a judge and pleaded guilty to accessory after the fact of first-degree murder.
In court, Jason’s defense team maintained that Jason had not been the one to murder Zebb, but that his abusive uncle had tricked him into luring Zebb into the woods on the promise of meeting up with a young woman named Misty Taylor, whom Zebb had a crush on. According to the defense, Misty’s boyfriend had hired Jason’s uncle Gene Owens to kill Zebb out of jealousy, and that Gene had followed through on the plan, dismembering Zebb’s body before burning it.
Despite this story being extremely similar to what happened to the Codds, the district attorney’s office accepted that prosecuting Jason for first-degree murder would be an uphill climb. Assistant District Attorney Jeremey Ingle told the court, “Based on the evidence available, the lack of evidence of motive, cause of death, [spoiling] of evidence based on a decades-long pause in critical leads in the case, a conviction of first-degree murder at trial — though never a certainty — would present a steep challenge considering all these factors.”
Robert Jason Owens was sentenced to 13-16 years in prison, which he will serve at the same time as the life sentence he was given for the murders of JT and Cristie Codd. His uncle, Gene Owens, died in 2016.