In tiny Johnson City, the county seat, the locals trade gossip at places like the County Fare Café or the aptly named Rinky Dink Drive Inn owned by Mary Hart.
"It's a very close community. Things can divide it and cause hard feelings. Things can draw it close together," explained Hart.
It's the kind of place that doesn't welcome strangers easily. Deb Golub knows. She moved her family here from California after her husband died; her son, Mike, was 16.
Johnson was her boyfriend, Jim's, hometown, but it was all new to Deb.
"We're newcomers. We've been here since '94. I'm an outsider. My son was an outsider," Deb told "48 Hours Mystery" correspondent Susan Spencer.
Mike's sister, Crissy, stayed in California, but made a point of being part of her brother's life.
"I remember him calling me… about falling out of relationships and likewise. I remember confiding in him. And he was so good about that. And I think that we really connected," she said.
Initially, the local teens, like Danae Meurer, didn't know quite what to make of the newcomer they nicknamed "California Mike."
"At first, I just thought he was a smart-ass. I mean he was kind of full of himself and cocky and walked around tellin' these stories that none of us believed," Meurer said. "And then we asked his mom and found out that most of them were actually true… And it just grew on me. It didn't take very long 'til you were laughing as hard as he was when he was telling the stories."
Shannon and Steve Morris soon realized that behind that cocky exterior was a heart of gold.
"Mike would make you feel good about yourself," Steve said. "Mike was a good guy. He'd give you the shirt off your back."
"He was funny. We were best friends and stepbrothers and he was a very smart guy," said Beau Hines, who also called Mike a hard worker.
Mike was a skilled mechanic, who spent long hours repairing equipment for his boss, Eric Kramer.
"…dependability was really good. Anything you put that kid to, he would figure it out, he was pretty good," said Kramer.
Eric Kramer on Golub: In February 2009, veteran homicide investigators Paul Ciolino and Joe Moura spoke to Mike Golub's boss.
In 1995, Mike met another outsider - a young woman named Shannon Albers, from Montana. From the start, Mike was smitten.
"They seemed to get along very well at the beginning," Deb said. "It was 'Let's go party, let's go have fun…' It was a fast and furious thing."
But the honeymoon didn't last.
"The only time Shannon ever talked to me is when she wanted to complain about Mike. And that's it," said Shannon Morris.
"Michael never made enough money. She always complained about money," said Deb.
"She'd make comments like 'she has caviar taste on a hot dog budget,'" Hines said. "And she'd say that in front of all our friends."
The one bright spot was the couple's son, Mikey - his father's pride and joy. Deb said her son was an excellent father. ""He loved his boy. He was just a natural-born dad."
But having Mikey didn't save the relationship. At its lowest point, Shannon even called the cops, alleging that Mike had choked her. They arrested him.
"They had a fight," Deb explained. "And he had his hand on her throat, holding her away from him."
The charges were later dropped, but Shannon soon moved out, taking Mikey with her.
"He was in love with her and he was devastated when they split up," Meurer said. "That was a hard time for him."
Then, at the age of 24, Mike Golub had a heart attack - apparently the result of a genetic defect. It almost killed him.
"After his heart attack, he got scared," Meurer explained. "And he and I had a number of conversations that God had given him a second chance and that he needed to pay attention to that."
Friends said that brush with death was a turning point. So was a new woman in his life, Brooke Wilkerson.
"Young, fun - they went skydiving together… she brought out a lot of that life back to Mike," said Meurer.
In 2004, Mike and Brooke had a son, Kamryn. By all accounts, Mike Golub finally had grown up. His life was full.
"Mike turned into the young man that I would [have] been proud to call my son," said Hart.
"He was in love with Brooke and he loved his son, Cameron, very much and wanted to be the father that he never had," said his sister, Crissy.
"They were really happy and Mike was talking marriage, he was talking [about] proposing to her," added Meurer.
Mike's former girlfriend, Shannon Albers, also had moved on and up. She married Chad Floyd, who happened to be from one of the richest and most powerful families in Johnson.
According to Hart, "Everybody knows the Floyds, whether it be through farming or setting around a coffee table at the local coffee shop."
"Their name is so prominent here. They're very huge in farming here. They've been here for years," said Deb.
When asked what the attraction was between Chad and Shannon Floyd, Shannon Morris replied, "It was money. Period. She's a gold digger."
She wasn't out of Mike's life; they still were fighting - now over Mikey. And now Chad was involved.
Deb said Mike wanted more time with his son, but "Shannon and Chad weren't willing to share."
Mike was only allowed to see Mikey every other weekend. And despite the bickering, the arrangement seemed to work - for awhile.
But on May 20, 2005, Mike Golub drove away from work a little before 6 p.m. to pick up his son. He's not been seen since.
"And as soon as Steve got off the phone with Beau and told me he was missing, the very first thing I said was, 'You don't think Shannon did something to him?'" Shannon Morris told Spencer. "That's the very first thing I said."