Plea deal confirms NC 18-year-old who disappeared in 2000 was murdered

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Monday, July 25, 2022
Accused killer in NC cold case dating back to 2000 expected to enter plea
Some of the questions surrounding 18-year-old Zebb Quinn's disappearance may finally be answered on Monday when his accused killer, Robert Jason Owens, makes his plea in the case.

ASHEVILLE, N.C. (WTVD) -- For the first time ever, an Asheville 18-year-old who disappeared in 2000 is officially a murder victim.

Zebb Quinn was last seen at about 11:15 p.m. Jan. 2, 2000. Surveillance video shows Quinn and Robert Jason Owens going into a Citgo.

When Quinn left work on Sunday, Jan. 2, 2000, he intended to meet Robert Jason Owens to look at a vehicle he was interested in buying. Surveillance footage shows the two inside a Citgo convenience store a little after 9 p.m. A few minutes later, the tape shows Owens' Ford pickup truck pulling away with Quinn's light blue Mazda Protege following.

Owens previously said Quinn canceled their plans together and rushed off after receiving a page and using a payphone to return that page.

But Monday in court Owens pleaded guilty to accessory after the fact of first-degree murder. In 2017, he was indicted on charged of first-degree murder.

"When you go back in time, the science then wasn't what it is now. So, the ability to do DNA and the ability to check those sorts of things scientifically wasn't there," Attorney Steven Lindsay said in an interview with ABC affiliate WLOS.

Owens is serving 75 years in prison for the 2015 murders of JT and Cristie Codd and their unborn child. Owens took a plea deal in that case to avoid the death penalty.

District Attorney Todd Williams said that it may never be completely clear what happened to Quinn, but Monday's agreement serves as some sense of closure for a family who has been searching for answers for more than 20 years.

Williams' full statement:

"Zebb Quinn would have been 41 this year. It was always the hope of investigators and the DA's Office that more facts and details would be uncovered with regard to Zebb's disappearance. In response to new statements made by Jason Owens law enforcement conducted searches for evidence at Owens Cove Road and Bent Creek but failed to find human remains or other evidence corroborating Owens' statements. Nonetheless, today's plea is supported by non-circumstantial direct evidence obtained by investigators going back to the weeks following Zebb Quinn's disappearance and for the first time legally establishes that Zebb Quinn was murdered. While we may never know the full truth these many years after Zebb's disappearance, my sympathies are with the family and all who have suffered as a result. Today's plea was discussed extensively with both Zebb Quinn's mother, Denise Vlahakis and his sister, Brandi Quinn, and was approved by them in advance of today's conviction. It's my hope that anyone wishing to sensationalize today's plea will respect the family's desire for peace and privacy."