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5 Years Later, John Glasgow’s Disappearance Still Unexplained

4 min read

The last time Jan. 28 fell on a Monday, the chief financial officer of one of the state’s largest construction companies left home early in the morning and vanished.

Five years later, the only person who has ever publicly claimed knowledge of John Glasgow’s fate is working as a prison barber and hoping for early release for two unrelated felonies.

Glasgow, 45 at the time he went missing, was CFO of CDI Contractors LLC of Little Rock, which was then half-owned and is now wholly owned by Dillard’s Inc. He was legally declared dead almost two years ago, and his widow hopes to find out what happened to him but isn’t holding her breath.

“I have just resigned myself that I may never know. I’ve turned it over to the universe and moved forward,” Melinda Glasgow said last week.

She has thrown herself into her work for the city of Little Rock — first as recycling coordinator and then, after a promotion at the end of November, as sustainability officer — which feels like the work she was meant to do.

She still lives in the house in the Hillcrest neighborhood that she shared with John, and she remains close to his seven siblings.

As the initial shock of her husband’s disappearance wore off, Melinda Glasgow said she tried to make the kinds of decisions that John would have wanted her to make.

“I didn’t want to make bad decisions because I was dealt this unbelievable blow,” she said. “He was smart and practical-minded. It would have been easy for me to spin out of control, so I’ve done a lot of ‘what would John do?’”

About three and a half years after John vanished, in mid-2011, a twice-convicted felon named Jonathan Brawner told his lawyer and the Little Rock Police Department that he knew where Glasgow’s body was buried. He said he had been recruited by “thugs from Malvern” to whom he owed money to help bury Glasgow in a bean field near England in Lonoke County.

That development would not become public until January 2012, when reporter Lauren Trager with KARK-TV, Channel 4, broke the story.

Trager’s scoop was immediately followed up by other new organizations, including Arkansas Business. That renewed attention to the case just before the fourth anniversary was hard, Melinda Glasgow said, “because of law enforcement being involved and more publicity” — but also because it came to naught.

The bean field Brawner pinpointed as the burial site yielded no remains, despite time-consuming and expensive searches using sophisticated imaging equipment. And Melinda doesn’t know exactly what to think of Brawner’s tale, but she suspects there was some truth in it.

“I’m not so sure he didn’t know something, but it was hard to sort fact from fiction with him,” she said.

Brawner’s Status

When Brawner first started talking about his knowledge of the Glasgow case, he had been paroled after serving 202 days, most of it in prison boot camp, for his role in the attempted kidnapping of a Conway County businessman named Jim Daven on July 31, 2009.

Brawner pleaded guilty to robbery and was sentenced to 20 years with 10 years of it suspended. The Conway County Sheriff’s Department’s investigation concluded that he enlisted two co-workers from Cudd Energy Services in Conway to kidnap Daven, owner of a commodities brokerage where Brawner had worked, with the intention of forcing him to transfer millions of dollars from client accounts to offshore accounts set up by Brawner.

One of Brawner’s henchmen, J.C. Chapman, was fatally shot by Daven’s stepson during the attempted kidnapping. The other, David Newkirk, is serving a 20-year sentence for attempted capital murder and attempted kidnapping and isn’t eligible for parole for seven more years.

In October 2010, four months after being paroled, Brawner was arrested for stalking his ex-wife, who testified that he had told her about helping to bury a body. After being convicted, Brawner started trying to use his claimed knowledge of the Glasgow case to improve his situation.

So far, it hasn’t worked.

“He maintains even today that he has information” concerning the Glasgow case, Brawner’s attorney, Frank Shaw of Conway, told Arkansas Business last week. Brawner passed an Arkansas State Police polygraph exam concerning the location he identified, Shaw said, but after the archeological search of the about 2 acres of bean field came up empty, “some in law enforcement believe him and some are skeptical.”

No immunity or plea bargains were offered to Brawner in connection with the Glasgow case, Shaw said, “and that stalled things.”

Brawner was sentenced to 10 years for the stalking conviction, which was a violation of his parole and the terms of his suspended sentence on the robbery conviction for the Daven kidnapping attempt. The stalking conviction is under appeal, but in December, Brawner was returned briefly to Conway County, where he came away with an additional sentence of 96 months.

“He’s serving his sentence and being very patient, but he wants out as soon as possible — like everyone else in prison,” said Shaw, who said anything else he knows about the Glasgow case is protected by attorney-client privilege.

The Arkansas Department of Correction website shows Brawner’s parole eligibility date as March 20, but department spokeswoman Shea Wilson said a delay in getting paperwork on the additional sentence out of Conway County had kept the department from updating Brawner’s status.

Exactly when he might be eligible for parole was uncertain, Wilson said.

In the meantime, Brawner has had no disciplinary violations during his incarceration. His work assignment is as a barber for other inmates.

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