The Mysterious Death Of Debbie Wolfe Explained

In 1986, a barrel was uncovered at the bottom of a remote pond near Fayetteville, North Carolina, a short distance away from the isolated cabin where the local nurse Debbie Wolfe lived. At that point, Wolfe was missing for about a week, and in the drum, her body was discovered — what was later determined to be an accidental drowning, according to the local coroner. As reported by Unsolved Mysteries, though, that ruling made no sense for many who were close to the case — drowning victims often maintain the look of terror and panic that befell prior to their death. In this instance, Debbie Wolfe was serene, with her eyes closed. As if she were only sleeping.

The divers who found the barrel were not affiliated with any law enforcement agency, but instead, were hired by the family of the missing woman to search the water after local police failed to do so. After she first went missing, police said they could see the bottom of the pond and there was no body, via the Fayetteville Observer. After Wolfe's body was discovered, local police became involved once more. A short time later, not only had the barrel in which the body was discovered disappeared, local police denied it had ever existed, per the Fayetteville Observer. Rather than a barrel, they said, what divers had seen instead was the coat of Debbie Wolfe, ballooning in the water. Wolfe's family were now convinced she had been murdered.

The phone message

On Christmas Day 1985, Debbie Wolfe finished her shift at the local hospital where she worked. It would be the last time any of her colleagues saw the woman alive. The next morning, she failed to show up for work, nor did she answer her phone. Concerned, her parents and a family friend named Kevin Gorton rushed over to the cabin where she lived. Typically meticulous, the cabin was in disarray, her uniform was on the floor, among other items, beer cans were strewn around the lawn, and her usually well-cared-for dogs were unfed, according to Unsolved Mysteries. Even her purse was missing, found later, concealed underneath the bed.

The mystery only deepened when Gorton and Wolfe's parents checked the answering machine. A man's voice was on the recording, supposedly someone from the hospital. According to him, Wolfe had missed many shifts at work, but that was not the case, according to her mother, Jenny Edwards. "What concerned me about his message was that he said that she had missed a lot of days at work," she later said, according to Unsolved Mysteries, "and she hadn't. In fact, she had only missed a few hours at work at the time that he put the message on the answering machine." Five days later, the search for Debbie Wolfe began. Nothing was found.

The wrong clothing

Despite the coroner ruling that Debbie Wolfe died by drowning, her mother remained unconvinced, especially after the body was recovered, according to the Fayetteville Observer. She insisted the barrel was real. "I went over to the spot where the barrel was, and the barrel was gone. The indentation of the barrel was still there, on the ground, but the barrel was no longer there," according to Unsolved Mysteries. Not only that, the clothes her daughter wore were not her own, according to Edwards. Her pants were too long, and rather than a woman's six seven, the shoes she wore were a men's size six: three sizes too big.

Part of Debbie Wolfe's duties at the hospital where she worked was to coordinate volunteers, and the theory formulated by her family was that one of those volunteers had become romantically obsessed with the young woman, something Wolfe reportedly spoke of before she died. He then kidnapped Wolfe, killed her, only to return later to retrieve the barrel, throwing police off the scent that what happened may have in fact been a homicide. The individual in question had been questioned by police immediately after Wolfe vanished. He provided an alibi, though, and soon he left the area. Nonetheless, Jenny Edwards remains unswayed that there's more to be known about her daughter's tragic end. "There are people out there who know what happened to Debbie. And I'm hoping that they will come forward and finally say something. She was loved by very, very many people. And I think that she has a right to be put to rest, finally. And I'd like to do that," according to Unsolved Mysteries.