Middle Tennessee Mysteries

Williamson County: George Owens

Dec 31, 2018 at 11:17 am by Michelle Willard

George Owens

It was like George Owens transcended this world when he disappeared from a remote hilltop in Perry County.

A resident of Nolensville, Tennessee, George was last seen July 22, 1985, by a clerk at a market in Perry County. As he bought ice cream and cigars, he told the clerk that he was looking for his wife of 60 years.

The clerk tried to help, but George's wife was more than 75 miles away, waiting for him to pick her up from a bus station in downtown Nashville.

When the clerk couldn't help him, the 79-year-old missing person walked out of the market and disappeared into the ether. The only trace left was his pristine 1972 green Dodge Dart, left on a wooded hill in Perry County.

Investigators searched Perry and Williamson counties, but he was never found, and he was declared legally dead in 1993, eight years after his disappearance.

Even a 1992 episode of Unsolved Mysteries couldn't reveal his whereabouts.

Anyone with information about the disappearance of George Owens is asked to call the Perry County Sheriff's Department at 931-589-8803.

The Victim

George Owens, a retired custodian from disinfectant maker Nashville Products Co., was an associate pastor at New Hope Baptist Church in Nashville.

He was described as being an African American man, standing 5'11" and weighing 160 pounds. He had white hair and brown eyes, wore eyeglasses and used a walking cane.

George was a family man and church leader, not the type to disappear without a trace, his family said. He was described as being well-known and well likely by the people from his church.

He had been married to his high school sweetheart, Alene, for more than 60 years when the 79-year-old man vanished.

She described their relationship as good. "I called him 'honey' and he called me 'Al'," she said. They never had any children, but filled their days with the word of the Lord, doing for others and doing for themselves together.

"After being together all that time, I can't get used to losing him, least not the way I lost him," Alene Owens said in Feb. 1, 1987, article from The Tennessean. Alene died in 1989.

The Disappearance

The last time Alene Owens talked to her husband was Sunday afternoon, July 21, 1985. The couple was making plans for him to pick her up at a bus station in downtown Nashville after traveling home from visiting relatives in Cleveland, Ohio.

George Owens was spotted by friends that afternoon driving north on Nolensville Road. The witnesses assumed he was heading to the bus stop a day early to pick up Alene.

Click here for deals on the latest in True Crime books from Amazon

But when her bus arrived around 6:30 Monday morning George was nowhere to be found. After an hour, she assumed he overslept and called George's brother Alfred for a ride.

Around 9 a.m. or 10 a.m. down in Maury County, George was seen by Larry Potts, owner of Potts Garage in Santa Fe. He was tasked with replacing a flat on the Dodge Dart.

"He acted a little confused at first," Potts told The Tennessean, "like he didn't know what he wanted, but then he told me he wanted to buy a new tire."

Potts replaced the flat, George paid and was on his way.

Potts said he headed north on Highway 7 toward Williamson County, adding "he didn't seem disoriented when he left."

George was about 40 miles from his home in Nolensville, the house he bought in the late 1960s for his retirement years, and 50 miles from the bus station.

Alene got home around 11 a.m. and immediately knew something wasn't right.

"When I saw that his car wasn't there, I got this funny feeling," Alene told The Tennessean in 1987.

She found two place settings from Sunday dinner on the table, George's favorite black hat hanging in its usual spot, and their dog was waiting to be fed.

But her husband was nowhere to be found.

The Investigation

When George didn't come home Monday night, Alene called the police to report him missing.

Investigators searched the woods, distributed missing person fliers and offered a $1,000 reward.

On Saturday, July 27, 1985 -- six days after he was reported missing -- George's car was found more than 100 miles from Nolensville. The car was located near Lobelville in Perry County with a dead battery, the keys in the ignition and no sign of George except for his cane and suit jacket in the backseat.

No were no signs of foul play or a struggle

A deputy from Perry County said it would be difficult for the car to make it there because the country road was rocky and rough.

One of the oddest clues found was the piles of brush and tree limbs found around and in the Dodge Dart. This along with a pack of matches was left on the dash suggests someone might have wanted to burn the car.

For two weeks, search parties combed the woods along the remote ridge line but found nothing.

A local TV news station did a story on his disappearance, which turned up several reported sighting including Potts' tire replacement and the clerk from Lobelville. A separate report of Potts' sighting said the mechanic mistakenly gave George directions to Lobelville when he asked for directions to Nolensville.

There was one report that George was seen at a market in Lobelville on July 23, 1985. He reportedly bought ice cream and cigars.

The clerk said George told her he was looking for his wife, so she called the local clinic to see if the woman was there. When his wife wasn't found, he left. To where exactly, no one knows because he hasn't been seen since.

His car was found five days later and 12 miles from the market.

One witness said she saw the Dodge traveling up the dirt road where it was eventually found with a truck following behind. A short time later, the truck returned alone with its unknown driver.

A segment on Unsolved Mysteries, which aired Aug. 19, 1992, generated more than 140 witness reports, but nothing that led to his whereabouts, according to an article in The Tennessean from March 13, 1993.

The Theories

While no solid evidence exists as to what fate befell George, investigators believe he may have been a victim of foul play after leaving the market.

Alene said her husband loved his car and never would have driven it into the woods and left it with the window down and kindling in the backseat.

Another theory hold that he either had a stroke or another medical episode that left him confused and disoriented. He could have parked the car and wandered off into the woods.

George Owens disappearance remains unsolved. He was declared legally dead in 1993 and his grandson Daryl Owned inherited $33,000 from his estate.