Missing Fort Gordon soldier part of insurance scam
John Henry Owens and his wife, Nellie Pearl Owens, almost pulled it off.
For nine years the one-time Martinez couple lived in DeLand, Fla., trying to make a go of a tree-trimming business using the proceeds of a $104,000 insurance claim.
A settlement had been gained after Mr. Owens’ reported death in a fiery 1972 car crash near the quarry where he worked. The badly burned body found in his 1956 Cadillac was tentatively identified as him, and his wife took the money and moved to Florida. There she was joined by her husband, now using the name Joe Parks.
At the same time, an Ohio mother named Lillian Barnes was asking the Army what it had done with her 18-year-old son stationed at Fort Gordon.
For most of the 1970s, the Army firmly maintained that Pvt. Kenneth Barnes had deserted his Fort Gordon duties and vanished, leaving Augusta for parts and reasons unknown.
That turned out not to be…