Real Name: Debbie Wolfe
Case: Suspicious Death
Location: Fayetteville, North Carolina
Date: December 26, 1985
Details: Nurse Debbie Wolfe vanished after leaving her work at 4 pm on December 26, 1985; on the previous day, she had celebrated Christmas with her family. When she did not show up at work the next day, her family became concerned. Her mother Jenny, Jenny's husband John, and a friend, Kevin Gorton, went to her home, which was an isolated cabin seven miles outside of Fayetteville, North Carolina.
Because Debbie was particularly neat and meticulous, they were surprised at what they found in and around the cabin. Her car was parked in a different spot than normal, there were several beer cans scattered around the property, her dogs had not been fed, her uniform was thrown on the kitchen floor, and her purse was shoved behind her bed.
They also found a strange message on her answering machine. The message was recorded earlier that day, with the caller claiming that she had been gone from work for several days. This was incorrect because she had been at work the day before.
They searched the area surrounding a pond in Debbie's backyard. However, no trace of her was found. When Jenny tried to report her daughter missing, she was told that the police would not become involved until seventy-two hours had passed. On December 31, five days after her disappearance, the sheriff's office finally began their investigation.
Bloodhounds were used to search for Debbie's scent; however, no trace of her scent was found. On the first day, a search was not done of the pond. On New Year's Day, 1986, Jenny had two divers, Kevin Gorton and Gordon Childress, search the pond. Within just a few minutes, Gordon found two sets of footprints and drag marks at the bottom of the pond. He followed the tracks until he came across Debbie's body. Strangely, it appeared that her body had been placed in a burn barrel.
The police were brought to the scene and took her body from the water. An autopsy determined that there were no drugs or alcohol in her system; the cause of death was determined to be drowning. However, Kevin Gorton, who was involved with search and rescue, believed that her death was not consistent with drowning. According to him, normal drowning victims would have their eyes and mouth wide open, along with their arms and hands stretched out. However, her body was not found in this condition. Also, her body appeared to be clean, despite the dirtiness of the pond.
Police investigators believed that she had died accidentally, falling into the pond while playing with her dogs. Her family and friends, however, did not believe this. They noted that the strongest piece of evidence was the fact that her body was found in a barrel. Surprisingly, the investigators claimed that there was no barrel at all. They believed that the divers had seen her jacket ballooned out from being in the water.
However, the divers claimed that what they saw was definitely a barrel. Also, Jenny claimed that she had heard some of the investigators talking about taking the barrel in for evidence. Finally, prior to Debbie's disappearance, she and several others remembered seeing the barrel next to the cabin; at the time, it was used for target practice. When Jenny went to the cabin on December 27, the barrel was gone, but an indentation from the barrel was still left in the ground.
A few months after Debbie's death, Jenny had a chance to examine the clothes found on her daughter's body. After looking at the clothes, Jenny became convinced that the clothes did not belong to her daughter. The pants appeared to be too large, the field jacket did not belong to her or her brother (she had borrowed one from him), the bra had a cup size that was three times too large for her, and the shoes were three sizes larger than her normal shoe size. However, the police claimed that the clothes belonged to her.
Jenny believes that one of two volunteers from the hospital was responsible for Debbie's death. Both men had tried to pursue romantic relationships with her, and both apparently knew where she lived. Jenny believes that one of the suspects took Debbie hostage, kept her alive for several days, and then killed her. She believes that the killer returned later to remove the barrel from the pond, so that her death would appear to be accidental. To this day, Debbie's family remains convinced that she was murdered.
Suspects: At the hospital, Debbie was in charge of the volunteers. One volunteer particularly bothered her, as he had a history of psychiatric illness and often asked her to go out with him. At one point, he was able to get her home phone number and began to call her. He even claimed to know where she lived and threatened to come see her. After her body was found, this man was questioned by the police; however, he had an alibi and refused to take a polygraph. He left the state a few days later.
Another volunteer at the hospital tried to become romantically involved with her in the weeks prior to her disappearance. However, she told her that she just wanted to be friends. Jenny believes that this man was the suspicious caller on the voicemail. This man was also questioned by the police; however, they found no evidence to suspect that he was involved.
Extra Notes: This case first aired on the December 19, 1990 episode.
- Debbie's case on Unsolved.com
- Debbie Wolfe Analysis
- Examiner Article - Debbie Wolfe
- Help Solve the Murder of Debbie Wolfe on Facebook