Unsolved Mysteries Wiki

John Mooney

Real Name: John Henry Mooney II
Aliases: John Mooney
Wanted For: Murder, Escape
Missing Since: March 16, 1980

Elmo Florence


Details: Athens, Georgia businessman John Mooney owned a restaurant named "Somebody's Pizza". He had a business rival named Ted K. "TK" Harty, who owned a popular bar and restaurant named "TK Harty's Saloon". Both were leased out from a remodeled train station and catered to the college student crowds in Athens. They had great animosity towards each other since they went after the same clientele. When Mooney was behind on rent, he decided to go over to TK's restaurant and get customers from there. While handing out fliers, TK confronted him and made him leave.
In 1977, the original lease on the train station expired and the original owners decided to sell it. TK bought the entire complex and had Mooney evicted. Following the eviction, TK told his family and friends that he was concerned about Mooney and his reaction to it. Just a few days later, on August 30, 1977, he was shot to death at his desk in his house.
Four hours later, Mooney was brought in for questioning. When asked why he was there, he said that it was "probably about the shooting of TK". The investigator asked how he learned of it, as this information had not been released to the public. He became nervous and asked to speak with his lawyer. Authorities did not have enough evidence to arrest him, so he was released.
One month later, a restaurant owner who knew both TK and Mooney contacted the police with a bizarre story. He claimed that an Atlantic electrician named Elmo Liston Florence had told him that he was willing to kill people for money. He said that he had been paid to kill TK. At first, the witness thought he was joking, and asked him how he had gotten into TK's house. He said that he had broken out the glass on a window, entered the house, swept up the glass, and then waited for TK.
At some point, he received a telephone signal which indicated that TK was on the way home. When TK arrived, he hid until TK entered his study, which is where he was shot and killed. Florence described, in detail, the layout of the house, along with the room where the murder took place. He also told the witness what type of gun was used and where the bullet entered and exited TK's head.

TK Harty

After hearing all of this information, the witness was certain that Florence was telling the truth, so he called the police. Going through the witness statement, authorities found more than twenty details that Florence accurately described about the murder that were not released to the public. He was arrested and charged with TK's murder. He had told the witness that Mooney had hired him to kill TK. However, when authorities went to arrest Mooney, they learned that he had fled the country.
Two weeks later, however, authorities received a tip that Mooney was back in the area, staying with a friend in an apartment complex. Later that night, he was arrested while drinking in the complex parking lot. When authorities went through his belongings, they found several incriminating notes that he had written to himself. In one, he wrote: "See Elmo - Offer to him if worse comes to worse to take the whole rap and say robbery was the motive. We have agreement for me to take care of his wife and family."
Florence's trial lasted only one week; he was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison at a maximum security prison in Georgia. Mooney was also convicted and sentenced to life in prison at a maximum security prison. However, three months later, he was moved to a minimum security prison. After six months of observation, prison officials gave him the job of kitchen clerk. He was given access to areas that were not available to most prisoners.
On March 16, 1980, after serving just nineteen months of his sentence, Mooney engineered his escape. He hid in a garbage can which was taken outside of the prison gate by other prisoners. When the guard locked the gate, he exited the can and went to a nearby van, where an accomplice was waiting for him. He discarded his prison uniform and then left the facility. Two hours went by before officials noticed that he was missing. He has not been seen for over nine years.
Extra Notes: This case first aired on the April 5, 1989 episode. It was also featured on City Confidential.

Mooney after his 1989 arrest

Results: Captured. Within minutes of the second airing of this case on July 26, 1989, two viewers in Scottsdale, Arizona, contacted the authorities, stating that Mooney was living there under the alias Robert J. Kelly. On August 8, he was arrested at his house by Mesa police. He had been living in Arizona since 1982 and was enrolled at Arizona State University. He had worked at several accounting jobs in the past. He had also been married for six years and had a one-year-old son. On September 16, he was returned to Dooly State Prison to continue serving his life sentence. In July 2020, he was released on parole.
Florence was released on parole in December of 2007. He had previously been denied parole eleven times. In recent years, he claimed that he was only supposed to scare TK into signing a lease allowing Mooney to stay in business but accidentally shot him when startled. However, at his 2007 parole hearing, he admitted that he purposefully killed him. Florence died on October 31, 2017 at the age of eighty-six.
Interestingly, a man named Lavar Bates, who was a coworker of Mooney's and interviewed in the update, was recognized by a viewer as her long-lost father. He spoke on the phone with her on the night of the update and they were soon reunited.