Shirley McKeown was last seen at 9:30 a.m. on August 24, 2002 as she left her residence in the vicinity of Laurel Avenue and the 9100 block of east 44th Street, near the Truman Sports Complex in Kansas City, Missouri, to go to her daughter's home in the 3400 block of Charlotte Street. She was helping her daughter remodel her house at the time of her disappearance. McKeown's daughter was away the weekend of August 24 and McKeown was supervising the house painters. When she left them the day before, she had told them she would be back in the morning.

McKeown never made it to her daughter's residence. Her daughter tried to call her at 2:00 p.m. on August 25, but got no answer. After several more calls with no answer she contacted McKeown's neighbors, who said her dog had been left outside all night and her Sunday newspaper was still in the yard. The back door to the residence was unlocked. McKeown's daughter said it would be uncharacteristic of her mother to neglect the animal or leave town without telling anyone. She reported McKeown missing on August 25, one day after she was last seen. There has been no activity on her bank accounts and credit cards since her disappearance.

On September 3, a week and a half after McKeown disappeared, her vehicle was found abandoned in a vacant lot near 33rd Avenue and Highland in Kansas City. The car, a white two-door 1990 Cadillac Deville, was hidden behind trees and covered with a car tarp and some brush. Its license plates, specialized Missouri conservation plates that are blue in color and read "MCQ-N," were missing and have not been recovered. There was a large amount of blood in the backseat of the car, but no indication of McKeown's whereabouts. Authorities stated that there was enough blood in the vehicle to prove that McKeown could not have survived.

A few days after the car was found, a man contacted police saying he had information about the vehicle. He came in for a voluntary interview. Investigators searched his home and yard afterwards. The man, who has not been identified, lives in the neighborhood where the car was found. Authorities have not said whether their search of his residence turned up any evidence relating to McKeown's case. The man is not being called a suspect in her disappearance, but investigators believe he may have had contact with people who were involved in her disappearance. Another individual who had been driving McKeown's car and had some of her possessions has been questioned, but has not been charged in connection with her case.

Foul play is suspected in McKeown's disappearance; her daughter believes she could have been the victim of a carjacking. McKeown has no history of Alzheimer's Disease or other mental problems and was in excellent health at the time she vanished. She is a retired nurse who used to work at North Kansas City Hospital in 1960s through the late 1970s, and has also held part-time jobs at Hallmark and at the Kansas City Royals ticket office. McKeown enjoyed antiques and refinishing old woodwork at the time of her 2002 disappearance. Her case is being investigated as a homicide and remains unsolved.