Real Name: Darlene Messer
Nicknames: No known nicknames
Location: Lake City, Florida
Date: September 18, 1989
Details: Thirty-six-year-old Darlene Messer had moved from Calgary, Canada to Florida in 1987 to marry and be close to her pen pal Charles Messer, who was in prison serving a twelve-year sentence for his involvement in the robbery and murder of a convenience store clerk in West Florida. She got a job at the Suwannee Swifty convenience store sometime after she relocated to Lake City from Middleburg in 1989.
On September 18, 1989, Darlene was abducted from there during her 11pm-7am shift. Investigators discovered that the store had been robbed of some items and that she had struggled with her assailant(s). The store was a wreck and money was scattered all over the store and in the parking lot. Two days later, her body was found under the Swift Creek Bridge in Union County by a railroad conductor who flagged a Florida Highway Patrol Officer. Her murder remains unsolved. She left behind a sixteen-year-old daughter named Angela, who still resides in Alberta, Canada.
Suspects: Darlene is believed to have been murdered by a serial killer who is believed to have killed two other missing Florida clerks: Deborah Poe and Donna Callahan.
Early in the investigation, a thirty-one-year-old man was suspected of Darlene's murder; a few days after it, he was arrested in Gainesville for two convenience store robberies. However, despite statements from his wife, the car that the man was driving in (which belonged to his wife) did not return a positive test for Darlene's DNA.
There is also speculation that her murder was connected to that of another clerk, Eileen Mangold. They vanished from Florida stores within days of each other. This has not been proven.
Extra Notes: This case first aired on the November 6, 1991 episode. It was also featured on the Down and Away Podcast. One report states that Darlene was shot, not bludgeoned.
Results: Unsolved. In 1996, Donna's remains were found and two men, William Wells and Mark Riebe, were convicted of her murder. Riebe also confessed to the murders of several other young women throughout Florida. According to some sources, they are not considered suspects in Darlene's murder.
In 1999, Franklin Smith was arrested and charged in Eileen's murder after DNA and palm print evidence linked him to the crime. However, he was acquitted of the crime a year later. It is not known if he is considered a suspect in Darlene's murder.
In 2002, a suspect was identified in Deborah's disappearance, but he has not been charged with it. In 2013, DNA testing ruled out the main suspect in Darlene's case. Her case remains unsolved; however, there are persons of interest that the Columbia County Sheriffs Office is pursuing.
- Store clerk found dead with bullet wound - September 21, 1989
- Clerk's Body Found in Field After Robbery - September 21, 1989
- Clerk's body found - September 22, 1989
- Police hunt convenience store murderers - September 22, 1989
- Local woman slain in Florida (Page 1) (Page 2) - September 28, 1989
- Police search car in clerk’s slaying - September 28, 1989
- Slaying shocks workers - September 29, 1989
- Calgary woman kidnapped, slain in Florida - September 29, 1989
- Hostage dies awaiting jailed husband - September 29, 1989
- Calgary woman abducted, slain in Florida - September 30, 1989
- Murder remains mystery - October 18, 1989
- Darlene Messer on Down and Away Podcast
- Darlene Messer on Columbia Crime Stoppers
- Darlene Messer on Crimewatchers (includes articles)