A Year Later: Family Believes John Glasgow's Dead

by Gwen Moritz  on Monday, Jan. 26, 2009 12:00 am  

John Glasgow, front, has now been missing for a year, gathers with his siblings for a family photo.

A year has passed since John Glasgow, chief financial officer of CDI Contractors LLC, vanished – a year in which the most significant development in the case has been his family's painful conclusion that he is probably dead.

"All the brothers and sisters have come around to that point of view," Little Rock lawyer Roger Glasgow told Arkansas Business last week. Roger is the oldest of the eight siblings, John – 45 when he vanished – the youngest.

And John's wife, Melinda? "Same thing," he said. "She and I were the last ones to come around to that point of view."

What's changed, he said, is mainly just the passage of time.

"I think we've all looked at the year anniversary as being a turning point. If he's still gone and we still don't know what happened to him in a year, and we haven't come up with any leads, then we are going to have to accept the likelihood that we may never know what happened."

The little that is known about John Glasgow's mysterious disappearance was known within a matter of hours. His next-door neighbor, Little Rock attorney Brian Rosenthal, out of bed unusually early on Jan. 28, 2008, glanced out his window and saw his next-door neighbor's Volvo SUV driving east on South Lookout toward Point Circle.

Rosenthal couldn't see the driver and couldn't swear that the Volvo was the one that belonged next door, but the Glasgow family doesn't doubt that what Rosenthal saw at about 5:15 a.m. was John leaving his Hillcrest house for the last time.

There are other things the family doubts, like dog handlers who claimed their dogs had picked up Glasgow's scent at Russellville three weeks later. But Rosenthal's chance glimpse matched perfectly with the timing of a routine "ping" from Glasgow's company-provided cell phone, which bounced off an Alltel tower in downtown Little Rock when it was first turned on for the day.

Since the following day, when his car was found parked front-and-center at Mather Lodge in Petit Jean State Park, not one concrete clue to the fate of John Glasgow has been developed – despite police work that his brother acknowledges exceeded what the physical evidence demanded.

"I think they've done an incredible job on this case," Roger Glasgow said last week. "Probably well beyond what you would expect for just a missing hiker, which is basically what it's classified as."

Most of the investigative work has been done by Detective Joe Carter of the Arkansas State Police. A request for an interview with Carter was denied because, spokesman Bill Sadler said, the State Police was actually only assisting the Little Rock Police Department. Terry Hastings, LRPD spokesman, said the local police still have an open case as well, but nothing new has been developed since the first days of the investigation.


Lots of other things have happened since those early days, of course. As Arkansas Business reported on Feb. 28, Glasgow disappeared during a bitter and unusually personal accounting dispute with James Freeman, the chief financial officer of Dillard's Inc., which owned half of CDI. In March, Dillard's restated its net income over the previous four years by a modest $7.1 million and officially blamed the restatement on an accounting "error" by CDI.

In August, Dillard's exercised its option to buy the other half of the construction company from the heirs of founder Bill Clark. Earlier this month, Bill Clark's son, William, resigned as CEO of CDI and told Arkansas Business that Dillard's had rejected his offer to buy the company.

On Dec. 1, Glasgow's wife, Melinda, took a new job as recycling program coordinator for the city of Little Rock. She declined to be interviewed for this story.

Despite Roger Glasgow's words, there have been a number of leads in the case. They just didn't go anywhere.

The Alltel records show, according to Roger, that Glasgow's cell phone bounced a ping off a tower that covers the area between Lake Conway and Wye Mountain at 7:22 a.m., more than two hours after he presumably left home.

"That's more than enough time to get all the way to Petit Jean," Roger noted. But no one has a clue where he was during that time.

A coworker at CDI tried to call Glasgow at 11:40 a.m. The call was not answered, but the signal bounced off the Bartlett Road tower on Petit Jean, so his phone was there by then. A tourist's photo, received a couple of weeks later, showed the Volvo was in the lodge parking lot by 4:30 p.m.; the cell phone was in the unlocked car when it was discovered the day after Glasgow left home.

Bloodhounds brought in by Arkansas State Parks and by the Arkansas Forestry Commission couldn't seem to pick up Glasgow's scent outside his car or in the parking lot. Surveillance videos from businesses between Little Rock and Russellville, including businesses all around Petit Jean, were collected and reviewed, to no avail.

About three weeks later, the Glasgow family paid the travel expenses for a dog handler from Maine and her associate from Virginia. The women claimed their dogs were trained to follow cold trails, even to the point of tracking people who were traveling by car. An employee of the Waffle House in Russellville claimed to have served a man who looked like John Glasgow, and the handlers believed the dogs picked up his scent there.

Roger Glasgow says he appreciates the effort but has no confidence in it.

"We don't believe that he was at that restaurant in Russellville, or any of these reports from people within about a month who thought they saw him," he said.

One of those reported sightings was at a Searcy motel, where a construction crew reported hiring a temporary laborer who resembled John. The man said he had experience in construction and that he couldn't go home.

"It sounded very promising," Roger Glasgow said. But a private investigator from New York, hired by the Glasgow family, waited at the motel until the man returned and talked with him. It wasn't John Glasgow.

A similar report from Bryant also failed to pan out.

"All of these leads that we had during the month or so following his disappearance," Roger said, "they all came up dry."

Fortunately, the lawyer in Roger Glasgow knew better than to let possible sightings raise his hopes too high.

"In my business, [eyewitnesses] are well-intentioned but they are the most unreliable," Roger said.

A Florida man who was run over by a train matched John Glasgow's description well enough that the State Police got a call. But DNA taken from John's toothbrush was not a match for the train victim, Roger Glasgow said.

A woman reported that the man seated next to her on a flight from Atlanta to Little Rock looked like John, but video of the passengers deplaning showed that she was mistaken.

Strange Vision

The rewards offered when John first vanished have expired. But a tip still comes in every now and then, according to Roger, and the www.FindJohnGlasgow.com Web site is still online. In December, he got an e-mail that was different from the rest.

It was from a Garland County man who claimed to have psychic ability and who claimed to have seen a vision of John Glasgow's body lying face down in a bed of oak leaves somewhere near a craggy outcropping of rock.

"I'm pretty scientific minded," Roger Glasgow said, and he had been unimpressed with various psychics who had contacted the family after John vanished. Still, this man's story gave him the creeps.

The man, who agreed to be interviewed only if his identity was not revealed, told Arkansas Business that he worked for Dillard's Inc. for several years. He was familiar with John Glasgow because of the work CDI did for Dillard's, but he had never had a conversation with him. He was working in Mississippi last winter when a former coworker from Dillard's called and told him the news of Glasgow's disappearance.

"At that point, I closed my eyes and I had this vision of what happened to him. I do this quite often. So I told her what I saw."

He didn't contact Roger Glasgow for many months. But he said he bought a good set of binoculars and, with his former Dillard's coworker and another man, spent time searching the back roads off Highway 10 between Pinnacle Mountain west of Little Rock and Petit Jean, looking for a spot that matched his vision.

The man believes Glasgow was killed by a blow to the head.  



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