Monday, April 08, 2002

Friend of missing man says
he saw nothing

'I'm obviously the main suspect'

By Jennifer Edwards
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The last person to see an Alabama man before he vanished in Covington last week said Sunday he never heard a sound or saw anything to explain his friend's sudden disappearance.

        But John Dark of Fairfield keeps replaying in his head those final moments with his lifelong pal, Lon Dowdle, and says he blames himself for not being with him, to perhaps help him.

    Lon Dowdle is described as a white male, with brown hair and hazel eyes. He's 5-11, weighs 164 pounds, and was last seen wearing a maroon shirt, khaki pants and black wingtip shoes. Anyone with information is asked to call Covington Police at 859-292-2222 or Crime Stoppers at 513-352-3040 or 800-338-5947.
        Mr. Dowdle, of Alexander City, Ala., vanished early Thursday after walking behind the Waffle House in Covington after a night of bar-hopping with Mr. Dark.

        “It's horrible. It's stuff you see on a bad movie,” said Mr. Dark during an interview at the Holiday Inn in Covington. “Every hour that goes by you start thinking worse and worse. The longer it gets, the worse it looks. If there's any way he could physically get to a phone, he would have done it by now.”

        Covington police said Sunday they are just as baffled as Mr. Dowdle's friends and relatives over the disappearance.

        They have no suspects, no leads and no evidence that a crime occurred, said Covington Detective Richard Webster.

        Mr. Dark has told police he assumed Mr. Dowdle walked behind the Waffle House to urinate.

        Mr. Dark, an underwriter at Cincinnati Financial, said the two men bar-hopped in Fairfield, Over-the-Rhine and Covington on Wednesday night and early Thursday. They started about 7:30 p.m. at Hooters in Fairfield, then went to The Waterfront in Covington, and then two bars on Main Street.

        The childhood boating and hunting buddies grew up in the same Alabama neighborhood and often got together because Mr. Dowdle came to town at least once a month on business.

        Mr. Dowdle arrived in the Tristate on Wednesday afternoon for a golf outing with clients of his family's global fixture company, Madix Inc., said his father, Walter Dowdle.

        After downing large amounts of beer and liquor, the pair left Main Street about 2 a.m. for the Holiday Inn, where Mr. Dowdle was staying. They called a cab to take them to The Waterfront, but the cabbie told him it was closed. So they decided to eat at the Waffle House across the street from the hotel.

        “I'm obviously the main suspect because I'm the last one who saw him,” said Mr. Dark. “That's the worst thing about it. I sat there answering the police detective's questions and he said I was a suspect. I said, "Don't call me a suspect. I'm his best friend in the world.' I got upset. I would never do anything to hurt him.”

        When they arrived at Waffle House, Mr. Dowdle gave the cabbie a $20 for the $5 cab fare, told him to keep the change and headed behind the restaurant, Mr. Dark said.

        But Mr. Dark balked at giving such a huge tip, since it was such a short trip, and waited for the change.

        Just before Mr. Dowdle disappeared around the corner, Mr. Dark said, he looked back and Mr. Dark mouthed, “I'll be right here” and pointed down to the ground.

        But after standing in front of the restaurant for two minutes, Mr. Dark said, he wondered what was taking his friend so long and went searching for him. He was gone.

        Now he blames himself for his friend's disappearance.

        He estimates his friend had $50 or $60 in cash on him, but his silver Rolex watch was visible because his shirt sleeves were rolled up.

        Mr. Dowdle's father, Walter Dowdle, said Sunday his family has been close friends with Mr. Dark's for decades and they don't consider him a suspect in his son's disappearance.

        “I really feel for him,” said Mr. Dowdle, 55, of Alexander City. “His dad is one of my childhood friends ... but they have to start somewhere and rule things out. It's just a freak, freak thing.”


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