Real Name: Joseph Lynn Owens
Wanted For: Murder
Missing Since: September 7, 1989
Details: Seventy-year-old Joe Owens and his seventy-nine-year-old wife, Gladys, were elderly residents of Seattle, Washington. At 7:15am on September 7, 1989, Joe called his nephew, Arden Bradshaw, and asked him to take care of his home and car. When asked why, he told him that he was going to commit suicide because of life-threatening prostate cancer. Arden tried to talk him out of it, but he was insistent. He also said that Gladys had died several months earlier in March. He claimed that he came home and found her dead from an overdose of barbiturates. He believed that she committed suicide, so he kept her death a secret from the family and buried her on Mount Si. He planned to commit suicide near where she was buried. Arden called the police, and a search began for him.
Investigators found no trace of Joe or Gladys in their home. Five days later, Joe's pickup truck surfaced at a masonry yard one mile from Mount Si. The yard's owner told police that he had sold Joe a shovel. His secretary said that she gave him a ride up the mountain in his truck; surprisingly, he told her to keep it, as he would be there "indefinitely". Search dogs traced his scent in a circle; however, they could not find out where he may have went from there.
Nobody had any idea what may have happened to Joe until they looked more into his and Gladys' disappearances. They were comfortably retired; it was believed that he made a small fortune from real estate. They led separate lives; he spent most of his time in the garden while she taught piano. They would barely spend time with each other. Despite his considerable fortune, her only spending money came from teaching piano. She was extremely popular with her students and their parents. At 4pm on March 14, 1989, she taught Gayle Dunham's daughter, Katie; it was the last time she was seen alive.
The next day, Tammy Decker, another student's parent, received a call from Joe. He told her that Gladys would not be teaching for a while because she had to go back to Kansas to take care of her one-hundred-year-old mother. Because her mother was indeed alive and living in Kansas, his story seemed plausible. About a week later, he called Tammy again, claiming that Gladys was busy trying to find nurses to watch her mother. However, as weeks turned into months, Tammy became concerned.
During this time, neighbors noticed that Joe was spending a large amount of time digging in his garden. He told them that he was digging a hole for a compost bin. One neighbor, Joan Petraseck, noticed that it seemed too big for a simple compost bin. One day, he asked her to take a picture of him to send to Gladys. Afterwards, he asked her for both the photo and the negatives.
After Gladys had been gone for three months, Tammy called Joe and asked for a refund for lessons that her daughter never received. He was infuriated about that, claiming that his records showed otherwise. A few days later, however, he came to her house and wrote her a refund check. He changed his story about Gladys' whereabouts, claiming that she had gone to an arthritis clinic in Canada.
That same day, he visited Gayle Dunham to give her a refund check. He told her yet another story: Gladys was traveling the backroads of Kansas, buying antique nickelodeons with her mother, who had improved greatly. She asked about her returning for lessons, but he claimed that she would not be teaching anymore. He then became angry with Gayle for unknown reasons. She recalled that he did not like Gladys and her lessons. When Tammy and Gayle compared notes, they realized that his stories were contradictory. They became worried but were uncertain what to do.
At around that time, Joe was having concrete poured in his backyard. Tammy and Gayle later contacted police and reported Gladys as a missing person. On September 6, an officer came to the Owens home and talked to Joe about her disappearance. He, however, told him that she was not missing, and that she was in Canada. He told them to call back the next day, so that he could give them the phone number to contact her.
A few hours after the talk with the officer, Joe called Arden about his plans of committing suicide. Police then searched through his home. They found that all photos of and papers about him were gone; this led them to suspect foul play. A search began in the backyard and a demolition crew raised the concrete. However, after digging seven feet, nothing was found. Then, on September 14, police searched the compost bin and found Gladys' remains inside. Her head had been wrapped with a towel and duct tape. An autopsy revealed that she had been shot to death with a .22 caliber handgun.
Joe was known to own a .22 handgun. Police searched his house, but found only the gun's box. Inside the master bedroom, police found blood on the back of a pillow. Although the door had been scrubbed, small traces of blood were found in its crevices. This led police to believe that Joe had killed Gladys while she was sleeping, and then buried her body in the compost bin. Police believe that the murder was premeditated, planned possibly as much as a year in advance. Joe is now wanted for it.
Extra Notes: This case first aired on the February 21, 1990 episode.
Results: Solved. On March 11, 1990, a few weeks after his story aired, Joe's remains were found by two hikers. He had apparently committed suicide by shooting himself in the head; a gun was found with his remains. They were found on Mount Si, thirty miles east of Seattle and just a few miles from where he was last seen. After his remains were identified, police closed the cases of his disappearance and Gladys' murder.
- Remains May Be Murder Suspect's
- Remains Identified as Man Suspected of Wife's Slaying
- Death Suspect's Skeleton Found
- Hikers have found the skeleton of a 70-year-old man sought in the September slaying of his wife
- SitcomsOnline Discussion of Joe Owens
- Gladys Owens on Find a Grave