Real Name: Deborah Ann Wolfe
Case: Suspicious Death
Location: Fayetteville, North Carolina
Date: December 26, 1985
Details: Nurse Debbie Wolfe vanished after leaving work at 4pm 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 parents, John and Jenny, 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 her home. Her car was parked in a different spot than usual, 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 under her bed.
They also found a strange message on Debbie's answering machine. It 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 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 it was found. On the first day, a search of the pond was not done. On New Year's Day, 1986, Jenny had two divers, Kevin Gorton and Gordon Childress, do so. Within just a few minutes, Gordon found two sets of footprints and drag marks at the bottom. He followed them until he came across Debbie's body. Strangely, it appeared that it had been placed in a burn barrel.
The police were brought to the scene and took Debbie's body from the pond. An autopsy determined that there were no drugs or alcohol in her system; the cause of death was determined to be drowning. However, Kevin, 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 mouths wide open, along with their arms and hands stretched out. However, her body was not found in this condition. Also, it appeared to be clean, despite the dirtiness of the pond.
Police investigators believed that Debbie 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 Kevin and Gordon had seen her jacket ballooned out from being in the water.
However, Kevin and Gordon claimed that what they saw was definitely a barrel. Also, Jenny claimed that she had heard some of the investigators talking about taking it in for evidence. Finally, prior to Debbie's disappearance, she and several others remembered seeing it next to her home; at the time, it was used for target practice. When Jenny went there on December 27, it was gone, but an indentation from it was still left in the ground.
A few months after Debbie's death, Jenny had a chance to examine the clothes found on her body. After looking at them, she became convinced that they did not belong to her. 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 had tried to pursue romantic relationships with her, and both apparently knew where she lived. Jenny believes that one of the suspects took her 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, her family remains convinced that she was murdered.
Suspects: At the hospital, Debbie was in charge of the volunteers. One 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, he was questioned by the police; however, he had an alibi and refused to take a polygraph test. He left the state a few days later.
The other volunteer tried to become romantically involved with Debbie in the weeks prior to her disappearance. However, she told her that she just wanted to be friends. Jenny believes that he was the suspicious caller on the voicemail. He 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.
Results: Unsolved. Sadly, John, Jenny, and Debbie's brothers, John Jr. and Joseph, have since passed away.
- Debbie Wolfe on Unsolved.com
- Debbie Wolfe Analysis by Dr. Maurice Godwin
- Help Solve the Murder of Debbie Wolfe on Facebook
- Fayetteville nurse's body found in barrel
- Body of Nurse Found in Barrel
- Nurse's death probed
- Sheriff asks SBI to probe handling of nurse's death
- SBI Probe Requested in Nurse's Death
- Articles about Case
- Debbie Wolfe on Find a Grave