The Louisa County Sheriff’s Office has four cold case files that investigators have worked on intermittently for years as new tips are provided. This article is part two of a four-part series exploring these cold cases.
It has been more than 22 years since 62-year-old Miller Smith Harlow of Louisa vanished, and his mysterious disappearance continues to plague his family and investigators with the Louisa County Sheriff’s Office.
While talking with Harlow’s only sibling, Betty Bowles, it’s clear from the anguish in her face and the quiver in her voice when she speaks about her brother’s disappearance that his absence is still raw after all these years.
“I am telling you, it has been rough not knowing,” Bowles said. “If you know, you can accept it to a certain point, but not knowing, it just leaves that hole in your heart. I don’t know how to explain it.”
Harlow grew up in the Bells Crossroads area of Louisa County. He quit school in the sixth grade to help support his family.
He began working at Liberty Lace Factory in 1968 as an extractor operator in the dye house and was later promoted to dye operator. A dedicated employee, Harlow worked at the factory for 21 years before retiring in November of 1990.
Even after retirement, the hard-working Harlow couldn’t be idle, so he began taking on side jobs such as yard work to keep himself busy.
“Miller would do just about any job that was asked of him,”Bowles said. “He was always willing to help others.”
Retirement also gave Harlow more family time, Bowles said. He enjoyed visiting his sister and her children, Sandy Clough Waldrop and Bill Clough.
“Miller was very dedicated to his loved ones,” Bowles said.
Harlow was known to keep in close touch with his family, friends and was a man who believed and trusted in God.
Bowles said her brother never drove. In his earlier years, Harlow’s only transportation was a bicycle, and as he grew older he walked or relied on friends or family for rides.
Harlow lived alone in a house on Rt. 33, about two miles from the town of Gordonsville, andwas known to walk regularly to the Wooden Nickel Restaurant for breakfast and to hang out.
He was last seen by passerby Frank Highlander at about 1:30 p.m. on Thursday, August 28, 1991 in front of Preddy’s Funeral Home in Gordonsville.
According to Bowles, their cousin, James Harlow, was supposed to pick Harlow up at the Wooden Nickel.
“He was coming the weekend he disappeared to see me,” Bowles said. “James called me and told me he couldn’t find him anywhere.”
James asked around about Harlow and he left a note on his cousin’s front door, but when he returned the next day, the note was still where he had left it, the mailbox was full and there was no sign of Harlow.
The family filed a missing person’s report with the sheriff’s office on August 31, 1991. Lt. Robert Rigsby, Investigator D. L. Bateman and Deputy Roy Franklin McGehee were assigned to the case.
There were persons of interest in the case, because it was a missing person’s case, according to Detective Scott Renalds. He explained there were no suspects, because there was no evidence that a crime had been committed.
A search of Harlow’s home turned up no leads for detectives.
According to Bateman, Harlow was reported missing under suspicious circumstances.
“There was no logical explanation for him [just] leaving,” Bateman, now a captain with the sheriff’s office, said.
The late Sheriff Henry A. Kennon said in a 1991 interview with The Central Virginian that the department had used helicopters, dogs, volunteers on foot and volunteer fire and rescue units to no avail.
Kennon reported that he suspected foul play a few days after Harlow’s disappearance based on Harlow’s fairly predictable habits.
To read the entire story, see the April 24 edition of The Central Virginian.