Donald Blom: A Repeat Sex Offender Finally Stopped
Winter's chill was freshly off the air after the Memorial Day weekend in Moose Lake, Minn., on May 26, 1999. Katie Poirier was working a late shift alone at the convenience store in D. J.'s Expressway Conoco service station. Only 19, the popular girl hoped one day to become a corrections officer. After midnight, a passerby called the police to report that the night clerk was not present at the store. Officers arrived and found the store empty. They checked the grainy videotape from the security monitor and saw Katie leave the store around 11:40 p.m. with a man. He was wearing jeans, a backwards baseball cap and a New York Yankees jersey with the number 23 on the back, and his hand was at the back of her neck. From the way she touched her throat, it appeared he might have tied a cord around it to guide her. Clearly, the petite blond had been forced to leave. Her family was notified, and officers formed a plan to search for the girl.
Witnesses said they had seen a black pick-up truck near the convenience store that evening, driven by a man that one person admitted had made her nervous. She gave a partial license plate number, with three numbers and a letter. Police estimated the abductor's height to be about five foot ten and his weight around 170. He had longish, light-colored hair and looked to be around 25. A composite sketch was made from four witness statements, and this image was broadcast on local television stations and placed in area newspapers with a plea for information.
While tips were being called in, hundreds of people arrived from around the state to assist in searching the wooded area around the Conoco station. The police used tracking dogs and helicopters, but found nothing. Posters with Katie's image went into more newspapers and onto billboards around the region, turning it into a high profile missing persons case. A local facility for sex offenders reported that all inmates were accounted for.
Among truck drivers checked out was Donald Blom, who had registered a pick-up with a license plate number matching the numbers offered by the witness, but the truck in his driveway was white. His wife, Amy, said they'd gotten rid of the truck with that plate some time before.
On June 6, after searching a 5-10 mile radius, the official search concluded, but many volunteers continued, setting up at booth at the state fair to pass out fliers. They believed that someone somewhere had seen something that would make the right connection and bring the girl home. The perpetrator had been bold or stupid, taking a girl out of a store equipped with a surveillance camera, and investigators believed he had probably made other mistakes as well. It was also likely, since he was in this remote area at night, that he was a regular there, probably a sportsman. They were certain someone had seen this man either before or after the abduction.
A search headquarters was established at the Hope Lutheran Church in Moose Lake, and staff there assisted in handling tips. Maps were placed on the wall with large Xs indicating the areas that searchers had covered. Boxes of maroon and gold ribbons, already handed out to hundreds of people, stood ready for new volunteers. But despite the efforts and hope of so many, Katie did not turn up.