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A witness disappears three days before he is scheduled to testify against a car thief ring leader.

Oliver Munson

Munson purchased a Datsun 240Z

CASE DETAILS

In January of 1983, school teacher Oliver Munson of Baltimore, Maryland, bought a used, but classic, Datsun 240Z. He had no idea that the seller, Dennis Watson, was the leader of a sophisticated car theft ring. Oliver’s new car had been stolen just three months earlier.

Police took the car – it had been stolen

Watson owned a garage and used it as a cover for his “chop shop,” a place where stolen cars were dismantled and sold for parts, or simply resold with fake papers. Authorities had been quietly investigating Watson for weeks. On March 16, 1983, they moved in for a raid. Police discovered illegal titles, partially dismantled autos, and stolen vehicle I.D. tags. According to Det. Philip Goodwin of the Baltimore Police Department, one of the names that appeared in the confiscated records was “Oliver Munson.”

“We continue to check paperwork, and we find that Oliver Munson has a Z car. Not knowing at that time whether or not Oliver Munson had bought this car, or if he was involved with Dennis Watson. So as a result, we took the car as evidence, until such time as we could continue an investigation to determine what exactly was his knowledge of the car.”

“My feeling was, at that time, and still is, that he had bought the car, thinking that the car was in fact a legitimate car.”

Police asked Oliver to testify in court against Watson.  Det. Goodwin said Oliver was nervous about it, but agreed, knowing that he really had no choice. A year passed before the trial began. On February 16, 1984, three days before Oliver was to appear in court, he left for work as usual. He was never seen again. Patrick Cisna was a co-worker of Oliver’s:

“Oliver would rarely miss school, and on that particular Monday, when he didn’t arrive, some of the staff and the kids started to worry that this was not a usual practice for Oliver, and that maybe something was wrong with him.”

Oliver’s brother, James, was also worried. He went to Oliver’s house to look for him:

“I just thought maybe that he was sick and I didn’t know if he was unconscious in the house.. I didn’t know.”

Munson agreed to testifyDetective Goodwin had a conversation with Oliver Munson:

Oliver was nowhere to be found. Three days later, his car was discovered just a few blocks from his home. One tire was flat. School papers and a sack lunch were on the front seat, but there was no evidence to suggest what had happened to Oliver.  Det. Goodwin:

“At that time, I felt that there was something wrong.  Then the decision was made here that we were looking at a kidnapping or a homicide.”

Dennis Watson became a prime suspect. During an investigation, police discovered that two other witnesses scheduled to testify against Watson in previous trials had also died under mysterious circumstances.

Ten years earlier in 1973, a man named Clinton Glenn had burned to death in a car registered to Watson. Glenn was scheduled to testify against Watson in an armed robbery trial the very next day. Based on the testimony of another witness, Watson was indicted for Glenn’s murder. However, this new witness suddenly died of a “suspicious” drug overdose, and the murder charges were dropped.

An earlier witness died in a mysterious fire

And now, Oliver Munson was missing. But with no evidence to implicate Watson, the investigation stalled. Then, police heard from a man named Hilton Solomon. Hilton’s car had been stolen just hours before Oliver disappeared. Inside the car, Hilton found a hat that would later be identified as similar to one owned by Oliver Munson. Det. Goodwin said other evidence was also found in the car:

“Hilton Solomon took his car home after it was released by Baltimore City and decided to clean the car. While he was cleaning, he found several receipts from a video store. On these receipts was the name Oliver Munson.  When we went down to look at the car, we looked underneath the seat, and right by the track of the right hand front seat I found a spent cartridge case.”

Red smudges were also found on one of the receipts and tests revealed that the stains were human blood, type “O” positive. Authorities believe this was proof that Oliver had been murdered.  But with no records showing his blood type, and no other hard evidence, the official investigation reached a dead end.

Oliver’s disappearance had no apparent effect on the outcome of Watson’s car theft trial.  He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to ten years in prison. He was paroled in 1989, after serving half his term. However, Oliver Munson has never been found.


Watch this case now on Amazon Prime in season six with Robert Stack and in season four with Dennis Farina. Also available on YouTube with Dennis Farina. Various seasons available now on Hulu.

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21 Comments

  1. Gardner Berry

    He was my 6th grade Shop teacher at Ellicott City Middle in 1973. I remember him being a very kind and caring teacher. I am saddened to just now be finding out about all of this. I hope someone somewhere will at least set the record straight before they too pass away.

    Rest In Peace, Mr. Munson – you were a fantastic teacher.

    Reply

  2. joyce grande

    That’s sad.

    Reply

  3. Blue Bird

    I Know He’s Dead

    Reply

  4. Blue Bird

    Umm That’s Pretty Bad

    Reply

  5. Jill

    Mr. Munson was my middle school Industrial Arts teacher in the late 70’s .. I remember him well and how he teased me when this guy in my class was “flirting” with me by being mean. Mr. Munson saw that I was irritated at this boy and told me that that is sometimes how boys act when they like you. Anyway … it made me feel better and I’ll never forget him and how he tried to help me and lighten my mood. I have been following his disappearance since I first heard of it and had never heard anything about Hilton Solomon. I guess I’ve always held out hope that Mr. Munson would one day be found alive. My heart sank when I read that information about Soloman’s car and the spent cartridge and blood on the video receipt. I know in my head that’s he’s dead and buried somewhere, but I’m sickened by the fact that this happened to such a good man.

    Reply

  6. Sharon

    Baltimore had three witness deaths related to Watson and could not solve one of them? Munson was definitely set up for demise with no witness protection setup for him…….So much for doing the right thing. The man that reported the items found in his stolen car gave them a cache of very valid evidence (even if it was considered circumstantial). It even sounds like he may have planted the receipts to give authorities clues of what happened to him. They really couldn’t find out his blood type? He had a brother so maybe family knew who his doctor was and could have been subpoenaed for the info. Or blood drives sometimes at employer or other locations may have blood types. He definitely seems like he would have participated in that type of activity. I hate to be judgemental but it definitely seems like they let these murder victims and Mr Munson’s family down!V87

    Reply

  7. Beccaboo

    I think there are only 2 possibilities. One is where Oliver knew something bad would happen by testifying so he left on his accord but i think Watson or one of his gang staked out Oliver leaving his house and followed him and possibly let the air out his tyre so they knew he would break down. I really don’t think he’s still alive but of course this is just conjecture.

    Reply

  8. CRJ

    May the Lord God help oliver munson family! And If Dennis Watson is out there Still alive Somewhere Please Dennis Tell Oliver’s munson family the truth And The Lord God Will Forgive You Knew what you did You cannot escape God’s wrath And Now You Will Forever continue to Keep living in Your Sins You can repent there is still Hope For You Just Tell the Truth!

    Reply

  9. Chanita

    I really do believe Dennis Watson hired some hit men to kill oliver munson it’s so sad that dennis watson has gotten away With murder and he is out there some where!

    Reply

  10. Chanita

    I was wondering This Who Knew Where oliver munson lived at?
    I really do believe Dennis watson had hired some hit men To keep oliver from testifying Against Him He had went missing For 26 years I really Do Hope Oliver’s Family Do Get The Justice They Deserve My Thoughts And Prayers goes Out To Oliver’s Family!

    Reply

  11. Chanita

    What Happened? I just don’t understand oliver munson went missing right when he was scheduled to testify but all of a sudden three people was found dead I suspect that dennis watson had gotten away with murder and I am mad about it!

    Reply

  12. rob main

    i think whats happen here is that they made the disappearance look like an accident.the stolen car thieves now were hes at.

    Reply

  13. G Attard

    Mr. Munson was the only teacher who actually cared about me as a person. He was a very inspiring man, who helped me feel as though I had any talent.
    I had been very sick frequently. He was the only teacher I have ever had who beleived and knew that I was not pretending or would never “skip” school. He was an incredibly kind man. I am so upset about what happened to him. I know there is never going to be any resolution to his case and that is a great tragedy.My heart goes out to his family, who has painfully. lost a valued and loved member.

    Reply

  14. Johnny

    This Oliver Munson case was haunting like several of the great Unsolved Mysteries cases. Oliver buys a Z car he thought was cool from Watson and then finds himself in hot water. I think the police share some blame here knowing that Watson witnesses in the past turned up dead. They should have placed him in protective custody week of the trial or had a trained officer shadow his movements to and from school. It would be theory to speculate what happened to Oliver but the flat tire was a clue. The perpetrators probably flattened the tire in the morning and followed Munson as he left towards his school job. Simply, the killers acted as Good Samaritans offering him a ride to a service station for help. Once he got in the vehicle, they have control of Munson. A 2nd theory would be an attractive woman in a car picked up Oliver who had the flat tire. This would not arouse suspicion. She probably said she had a brother or boyfriend who could help. Once at the place, Oliver was overtaken by a few men. Don’t think this case will be solved. He could have been buried in the woods or in a concrete floor type of structure or maybe the ocean. I do hope Oliver or his remains can be found so the family can have a proper burial. Such a sad case.

    Reply

  15. Emily

    This is one of those cases from the show that always stuck out in my mind for some reason. I was ten years old when this story originally aired and I can still remember watching it and just feeling really sad for Oliver and his family. He seemed like a good man and did not deserve any of this.

    Reply

  16. Jennifer Kettering

    Somebody somewhere knows what happened to this man. I hope they come forward to give loved ones and friends and family closure.

    Reply

  17. James

    My grandfather Det. Goodwin said it will never be solved

    Reply

  18. Unsolved Lover

    What’s the status on this case?? I always wondered what happened over the years.

    Reply