Real Name: Hugh Frederick Harlin
Nicknames: No known nicknames
Location: Morro Bay, California
Date: November 1, 1986
Date Of Birth: July 31, 1935
Height: 5" 6"
Weight: 140 lbs.
Marital Status: Widowed
Characteristics: Gray hair and beard, blue eyes, missing thumb and forefinger on left hand
Details: Hugh Harlin was a native of Morro Bay, California. He was self-employed as a fisherman and did his work when he saw fit, also volunteering to help neighbors out of personal fulfillment. Although regarded by the community as atypical and quirky, he got along well with others and his foibles were viewed as living his own life the way he wanted and respecting others.
Although Hugh seemed well-adjusted in a seacoast community like Morro Bay, his personal life had some problems. He was married to forty-three-year-old Dian Harlin, known among the town gossip as the "Dog Lady" as she loved her dogs more than people. They were known locally to have a stormy marriage, with her squandering his meager income and doing things to intentionally enrage him. She often used his money and spent it on her dogs, her friends, and even beggars. Sometimes, she would serve him dog food for dinner. According to one rumor, she even baked it into a casserole for him.
On October 13, 1982, the badly-decomposed body of a woman was found just off the beach at Morro Bay. A jade bracelet and a silver bracelet were found nearby. She had been strangled with a dog leash. At first, she could not be identified, so a description of her was released to the public. A friend urged Hugh to go to the police, believing that she was Dian.
When Hugh met with investigators, he identified the bracelets as Dian's. He claimed that she had been away from home for twelve days. He said he was not worried until he heard about the body. Investigators considered him a suspect since he never reported her missing and had an obviously stormy relationship with her. However, he claimed that she would often leave for days without contacting him.
When the investigators asked Hugh about the day he last saw Dian, he claimed that her dogs had come home that night with their leashes on. However, when they told him that she had been strangled with a dog leash, he abruptly revised his statement and claimed that her dogs found their way home and were without their leashes. The change in his story made the investigators more suspicious of him. He asked for an attorney and did not want to be questioned further.
Hugh later claimed that the police were wrong and that Dian's death was not a homicide. He believed that she had died as a result of an aneurysm, which she had sought treatment for in the past. Police considered him a suspect but never charged him in connection with her murder. Although the investigators later stated that they didn't believe he committed it, they felt that he knew more about it than he claimed, and may have been concealing facts out of fear. Four years passed; then, on November 1, 1986, he went to a friend's house to borrow some tools for a two-day construction job in San Siemian, twenty-seven miles away. He left that evening and was never seen again.
A few days later, friends found Hugh's pickup truck deserted on the side of the road near Cambria. Several personal possessions were left behind in it, including his glasses, backpack, sleeping bag, and some tins containing tobacco and ragweed pot. Its keys were found on the ground a few feet away. His friends later discovered that a fuel line had been removed from it.
Some people believe Hugh vanished on his own due to guilt about Dian's murder. Some of his friends believe that he may have just left for other reasons. Several people believe he was harmed by Dian's killer. They don't believe that he would have left his truck on the side of the road.
Suspects: No known suspects
Extra Notes: This case first aired on the April 6, 1994 episode.
- Hugh Harlin on Unsolved.com
- Hugh Harlin on The Charley Project
- Hugh Harlin on San Luis Obispo County Missing Persons List
- Missing: Hugh Frederick Harlin
- Hugh Harlin: Missing Since November 1, 1986
- Wife is Murdered; Four Years Later Husband Vanishes