The sons of a missing woman believe her ex-husband had something to do with her disappearance.

Susan Harrison

Susan and Jim

CASE DETAILS

Susan and Jim fought frequently

On August 5th, 1994, 19-year-old Nick Owsley arrived at his mother’s house in Ruxton, Maryland. They had planned to spend the evening together. The door was partially open and she was nowhere to be found. Her car was gone and a set of keys was on the kitchen table. Nick waited until 2 A.M., then headed home for the night. The next morning, he awoke with a feeling of dread:

“I was really concerned. I called her house and she didn’t answer and at that moment I realized that something was really, really wrong. I felt like at that point, she was probably dead, because it was so unlike her, and so out of character, and basically, I haven’t felt anything different since that moment.”

Susan Harrison was never found. Her son, Jon Owsley:

“We had a memorial service, but we never had a funeral. And that kills me. The fact that she’s out there somewhere, this wonderful, amazing woman, who did so much for so many people, and we can’t give her that final tribute and do what’s right.”

Susan’s car was found abandoned

Susan grew up in Massachusetts and married one of her brother’s college roommates. Her two sons, Jon and Nick, were born five years apart. When the boys were teenagers, Susan left her husband and became involved with a man named Jim Harrison. After a few years together, they were married. From the start, the relationship was rocky. There were reports of heavy drinking and frequent fights. Jim Harrison attributes the problems to Susan’s alleged manic depression:

“Susan, when she was not manic depressive, was just a wonderful woman, and a wonderful wife. And when the manic depressive aspect came on periodically, that was bad. She would start screaming and yelling, and she would start destroying things in or around the house, and she would run around the house and use bad language. It was really sad and really tough.” 

Why did Jim fail his polygraph test?

Jon Owsley isn’t so sure that manic depression is to blame. He believes Jim uses it as an excuse to deflect the blame from himself.Jon’s brother, Nick, agrees, saying there’s more to the story than Jim lets on:

“Well, I think the first time that I recognized that there was abuse in the relationship was when I actually saw abuse myself, when I was about twelve years old. I remember waking up around two in the morning, and hearing voices and some screaming and she said, ‘Jim’s been hurting me. He won’t leave me alone.’ And so I called my brother’s girlfriend at the time, and talked with her, and she said I should get out of there, and that she’d come pick me up.”

Jim Harrison denies ever having abused Susan:

“The only thing I’ve ever done is defended myself when she attacked me. And to some degree that involved simply leaving the house for a day or so, and other times putting myself in the bedroom and closing the door, and just trying not to let her abuse me. But I’ve never abused her, never.”

Det. Lt. Sam Bowerman of the Baltimore County Police Dept. remembers his officers having to visit the house often:

“Our uniformed police officers had been called to their home on a number of occasions for cause of domestic violence. And when they responded to the home, they found, on occasion, Susan had some injuries that were questionable. There had been some drinking on both parties, and it was usually a very confused situation for the officer to determine exactly what had happened.”

Finally, in January of 1994, Susan left Jim Harrison. She rented a house and started her own business. Her family felt that she was finally getting herself back together. Then, Susan began seeing Harrison again and the fighting continued. Her son, Jon, was immediately worried:

“She told me that she’d seen him a couple of times and obviously that made me angry, made me feel sick to my stomach. All of a sudden I saw the slippery slope and I saw her sliding back into all the things she’d worked so hard to get out of. And that worried me.”

Susan’s other son, Nick, gave her an ultimatum. He insisted that she stop seeing Jim Harrison. The next morning, Susan agreed to leave Harrison for good. But just two days later, Susan disappeared. When police questioned Harrison, he told them that Susan had visited him three times the previous day:

The third time she arrived around seven, and she attacked me, verbally, and it was very discouraging. I left the family room and went upstairs to my bedroom and she followed me to the bottom of the steps, and she stayed there and yelled at me at the steps for a short period. Then she left the house, started her car, and drove out.”

Three weeks later, Susan’s car was found at Reagan National Airport in Washington D.C., 50 miles from her home in Baltimore. Records show that the car entered the parking lot around 6 A.M. on the day that Susan disappeared. The keys were in the ignition and the gas tank was full. Had Susan simply walked away from her life and family?

A few months after Susan disappeared, Jim Harrison was given a polygraph and failed it. However, he claims the test was flawed and continues to insist that he had nothing to do with his wife’s disappearance:

“I love Susan. And I really do pray to God that she’s alive and well, and I pray to God that you all can help find her, and please do your best to help find her.” 

Det. Bowerman offers his theory:

“There’s no indication of what we may consider a ‘stranger’ type of killer. So we feel that what happened to Susan was committed by someone close to her, that there had been some kind of a dispute, and someone lost control, and circumstances took a tragic twist.”

Update:

Two years after Susan Harrison disappeared, her skeletal remains were found by hikers in a remote area about 60 miles from her home. Dental records and two sapphire earrings confirmed her identity. The State Medical Examiner ruled that she had been murdered, probably on the day she disappeared.


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

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8 Comments

  1. Tony

    I’m not an expert but I’ve studied body language and took several classes in that field and this guy is as guilty as the day is long. Plus he failed a polygraph test. The amount of times he blinks… The crunched in shoulders… The looking left with his eyes.. The pulled in lips… The verbile content that he uses… He is a perfect example for a beginner s class in becoming a human lie detector. Glad he is gone and a wrongful death suit was awarded to the boys… So in a way Carma gave justice.

    Reply

  2. Black Bieber

    Just watched this case on Unsolved Mysteries, which is still on the Escape channel now. My mom told me that she saw Susan Harrison at St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Towson, Maryland in the 1980s, when my uncle worked at that hospital.

    Reply

  3. Lisa and Chuck

    My husband and I were just remembering this case and found this info. We were always sure Jim did this. Remember “This is so Terrible”….Jim said that while waving his hands in the air. Seemed so fake to us. He was a strange man.

    Reply

  4. Dennis

    Scumbag is dead….obit says a wrongful death suit filed by Susans Sons was settled.

    Reply

  5. nicky adams

    this episode was just re-broadcast. I checked to see if there were any more developments. I did find an obituary for Jim Harrison (date of death 9-18-2007).The obituary was published in the Baltimore Sun on 9-20-07. If you want to find the obituary, look under James Joshua Harrison Jr.

    Reply

  6. Kenny Ford

    Mr. Harrison is now deceased.

    Reply

  7. Ashley

    DOES ANYONE KNOW ANYTHING NEW? I hate when cases like this stay cold. I know that they can’t charge the Jim guy without more than circumstantial evidence. But if that jerk did it id love to see him go down.

    Reply

  8. Krissy

    I remember seeing this episode when Unsolved Mysteries was still on tv weekly. Jim Harrison kept saying in his interview that Susan was being “a bad girl.” It seemed like he was trying to put all the blame on her and that he was a saint.

    Reply