On May 26th, 1999, 19-year-old Katie Poirier was abducted while working at DJ's Expressway. This convenience store was located near Interstate 35, on the outskirts of Moose Lake, Minnesota. The store had four surveillance cameras, but they were too grainy to see the abductor. Police sent the tapes to NASA and Solar Physicist Dr. David Hathaway was able to view the images. He could see a man with short, blonde or gray hair, about 5'10", average build, and wore a dark NY Yankees baseball jersey with the number 23 on the back. Tips were rolling in and Katie's friend, Kathy Hanek, who worked at the Subway Sandwich shop, saw a suspicious man and got part of the license plate number, 557 --Y. The tips lead the police to a man named Donald Blom. They searched his property and found a tooth with a filling. The filling had elements that were very unusual. Investigators found out that Katie had gotten a filling 2 weeks prior to her abduction. Her dentist used a brand new material that wasn't on the market yet. This filling helped solve the whole case.
19-year-old Katie Poirier was attractive, independent, bubbly, and vivacious. Her interests included her family, sports and dogs. She was attending community college for criminal justice. Her plan was to be an officer and move to Montana and she was getting married soon. Katie got a job at a local convenience store and her mom didn't want her to take the job because she didn't think it sounded safe, but Katie told her everything was fine.
On May 26th, 1999, 19-year-old Katie Poirier was abducted while working at DJ's Expressway. This was a convenience store located near Interstate 35, on the outskirts of Moose Lake, Minnesota.
A girl named Kathy Hanek, worked at a Subway sandwich store, which is adjacent to DJ's Expressway and the two stores are connected by an internal door. Kathy had stopped by the store to see Katie before her shift ended that night. Kathy was only there for a few minutes and they chatted for a bit and she let her friend know that she couldn't stay and hangout after work because her husband made dinner and she needed to get home.
Veteran Moose Lake Police Chief Dale Heaton was working night patrol. He knew that Katie was working alone that night at the convenience store and he stopped by to check in on her. They chatted briefly and Katie was going to be working on homework during her shift. Around midnight, a customer entered the convenience store to pay for gas. When the customer got inside, she didn't see any employees. By the cash register, there was a pile of money and some notes. The notes were written by other patrons and explained that they left money to pay for their gas because they couldn't find a store clerk. The lady knows that something is wrong and she calls 911 to report this.
Police Chief Dale Heaton gets the call about 12:20 AM and heads to the store. Based on the amount of cash and notes that were built up on the counter, it was obvious that Katie hadn't been at the store for a good amount of time. Chief Heaton began looking around and found Katie's purse and car keys behind the counter. He headed outside to check the parking lot and saw Katie's car. Chief Heaton knew Katie and she would not leave the store unattended. Something bad had happened. There was a truck stop near by and Chief Heaton started searching the trucks right away to see if anyone had taken her into their semis.
The police questioned Kathy Hanek and she told the police that shortly before closing the Subway, at about 10PM, she saw a man who was in and around the Subway store and acting strangely. Kathy Hanek closed the Subway and drove home towards Moose Lake. The crazy thing, is she ended up following the guy that was acting strange in the store. They left at the same time and she noted that the man drove a black Ford F150 extended cab pickup truck with white markings on the side and she caught part of the license plate: 557 - - Y. The truck was weaving a number of times and pulled into the parking pot of a local cafe when entering Moose Lake. Kathy did notice that Katie Poirier's vehicle was still at DJ's expressway when she left. Before we move on with the story, I just want to say, if you see something strange, say something. Get information, memorize cars, specific features of the person, whatever you can. This girl did an amazing job!
Police began searching all of their records for a MN license plate that began with 557 and ended with a Y. Surprisingly, there were 100s of license plates that matched this. They felt that they were looking for an experienced sexual predator, they clearly weren't concerned about the cameras in the store. There were four security camera's at the convenience store that Katie worked at. On the night of her disappearance, at 11:33PM, a man enters the store, at 11:38 PM, a man was seen forcing Katie out the front door and the man's hands were around her neck. The cameras were so grainy, that the police weren't able to see who the person was that took Katie and there weren't any cameras outside to catch the vehicle. The police brought the videos to a local casino because they have better video equipment. They were able to determine that the abductor was most likely Caucasian and could be in his late 20's and had a two-toned jersey on. Katie was talking to the abductor and their body language showed that they may have known each other. She at least doesn't look afraid. Suddenly, the man puts a knotted cord around Katie's neck and takes her out of the store.
The police weren't done trying. They knew that there was valuable information on those tapes. So, the surveillance videos were sent to NASA to see if they could enhance the images. Solar Physicist Dr. David Hathaway created a process to view the images. It basically stabilizes the video, so you can add images together and he explains that it cuts out a lot of the noise that you see with a still frame. He combines the even and odd frames to view them at the same time. This increases the resolution. By doing this, he was able to find a frame where the kidnapper could be isolated. He could see that the man had short, blonde or gray hair, was about 5' 10” with an average build, and wore a dark NY Yankees baseball jersey with the number 23 on the back. This still didn't get a clear image of the kidnapper's face though. Police decided to use what they had and release a rough sketch along with a physical description that included the clothing.
On June 18th, 1999 the police got a tip. It was lead # 1,960. Someone saw the police sketch and thought the police should know that it looked similar to one of their co-workers, named Donald Blom. He was a janitor that just quit recently. The caller felt that this person had acted strangely during the week of the abduction and they mentioned that Donald had just changed his appearance. He got a new haircut, and was clean shaven. The caller said they had seen Donald wearing the Yankees jersey on several occasions. The police began investigating this and found out that Donald Blom drove a Ford F150 extended cab pickup truck....now this could all just be a coincidence right? Well, the truck's license plate number was 557 HDY and it had been scrubbed from top to bottom with bleach. Inside the truck, police found a receipt for gas that was purchased from DJ's Expressway Conoco in Moose Lake. This is of course, the location that Katie worked at. Donald had some property near Kerrick, which is less than 10 miles from DJ's Expressway. He also didn't have a squeaky clean background. Donald had prior convictions for assault, rape, and kidnapping, dating back to the 1970's. His last conviction was from 1983 when he forced two women into the woods at knife point and tied them to a tree. Luckily, both of the girls escaped before being assaulted.
The property was searched on the evening of June 18th and it took 12 hours. The investigators examined the fire pit on the property and found several bone fragments, including what appeared to be part of a jaw bone and a human tooth. The bone fragments were collected for evaluation by a forensic anthropologist.
On June 20th, 1999, shortly after midnight, police located Donald Blom at a campground near Alexandria, Minnesota. They walked up to his tent and unzipped the flap. They questioned him about Katie's abduction and he denied having any involvement. He said he had been at his property near Moose Lake on May 14th or 15th and again on June 12th. On May 26th, he left early for work and went fishing on the Kettle River and was home in Richfield between 7 and 8 PM. Police arrested Donald Blom and Kathy was able to ID him as the man she saw acting strangely at the convenience store on the night of the abduction.
Donald's property ended up being searched again on June 29th, 1999. A tooth was discovered and it had a filling....it was strange though. This filling had elements that were very unusual for dental cement. The scientists contacted Katie's dentist and she said she had just done a filling for Katie 2 weeks prior to the abduction. She used a brand new material that wasn't even on the market yet, it was a sample that she received at a dental conference. It had been made by a MN company, called 3M. The bones that had been discovered were so badly degraded by fire, that there wasn't DNA evidence any longer. It's the same for the teeth, except for that filling.
Eventually, Donald admitted to kidnapping Katie. He drove her to his property, brought her to the fire pit, choked her and put her in the fire. He later recanted and said he was forced into the confession, but the jury convicted him based on the scientific evidence and he received life in prison, without parole.
An interesting thing about Donald Blom, is that his last name wasn't originally Blom. He took the name of his former wife, in an effort to conceal his past. At the time of Katie's murder, Donald was working at a Veteran's home under the name Donald Hutchinson. He had a very long list of alias names that he used. It's also believed that Katie wasn't Donald's first victim. There are several other girls that he is suspected of murdering and this dates back to the 70's.
Donald grew up with an abusive father and ended up in reform school because he often skipped school and he became an underage drinker. In 1975, Donald began his criminal behavior with kidnapping and raping girls and women. He served time in prison for the crimes and was on parole when he abducted Katie.
As a result of this case, MN lawmakers passed Katie's Law, which means there are stiffer penalties for convicted sex offenders, and it mandates better ways for police to track past offenders.
The Published Pen
Watched Forensic Files, season 7, episode 30: Tooth or Consequences
Watched It Takes a Killer Season 1 Episode 103, Missing in Minnesota
A Crime Remembered: TV show again puts 1999 case sheriff in the spotlight
A crime remembered: TV show again puts 1999 case, sheriff in spotlight | Bemidji Pioneer