|From||United States of America|
Donald Albin Blom (born 1949) is an American citizen, who was sentenced to life in prison for the killing of Kathlyn "Katie" Poirier in 1999. A registered sex offender involved in five cases of kidnapping and sexual assault prior to Katie's murder, he is suspected to be a serial killer by the case investigators. Blom is serving his prison sentence at SCI Greene maximum-security facility in Waynesburg, Pennsylvania.
Donald Blom's father abused him from the time he was very young until he was around 13 years old. By the time he reached adolescence, Blom was a heavy drinker and exhibited behavioral problems. In 10th grade, he went to a reform school, where he often skipped classes.
In 1975, Blom kidnapped a 14-year-old girl, gagged her and raped her. He locked her up in his car trunk, but she managed to escape and turned him in. He went to trial and was convicted. Three years later, in 1978, he committed aggravated assault. In 1983, he was arrested again for criminal sexual conduct. The same year, he also threatened two teenage girls at knifepoint in a remote area. He tied them to a tree, and put socks in their mouths. He choked and revived one of them several times, and said he was going to rape them. The girls were rescued when a police officer saw their car parked the wrong way, and came by. Blom fled into the woods, and later changed his appearance by dying his hair. He was arrested two months later, when one of the girls recognized him. He pleaded guilty to the crime.
During an examination in 1992, a psychologist predicted that if Blom were not closely monitored, he would probably engage in additional antisocial behavior. However Blom managed to change his name, get a job, and get married. By May 1999, he had six felony convictions, five of which involved kidnapping and sexual assault.
Katie Poirier's murder
On May 26, 1999, 19-year-old Katie Elizabeth Poirier went missing from the D. J.'s Expressway Conoco convenience store in Moose Lake, Minnesota, where she worked as a night clerk. A passer-by, who noticed that there was no attendant present in the store, reported the odd incident. A grainy black-and-white surveillance video showed Katie being forced out of the store around 11:40 pm, by a man wearing jeans, a backwards baseball cap and a New York Yankees baseball jersey with the number 23 on the back. The man's hand was at the back of her neck, and from the way she touched her throat, there might have been a cord tied around her neck.
The video was sent to imaging specialists at NASA, who were able to enhance the image so that more details of the suspect could be seen. The police estimated that the abductor was 5'10" and weighed around 170 pounds. He had long light-colored hair, and appeared to be around 25 years old. Witnesses reported that they had seen a black pick-up truck circling the area around the convenience store that evening. One of the witnesses gave a partial license plate number (three numbers and a letter).
One witness also reported seeing a suspicious man leering at female passersby outside a local sandwich shop earlier that night. The suspect was allegedly driving the same black pick-up truck the other witnesses had described. Based on this and three other witness statements, a composite sketch of the abductor was broadcast on the local media.
Donald Blom was checked soon after Katie's disappearance, since he had a pickup truck registered to his name, with a license plate number matching the partial number provided by the witness. But this vehicle was white-colored.
Blom had been working at the Minnesota Veteran's Home under the name "Donald Hutchinson" prior to Katie's death. On June 18, his former co-worker Darrel Brown, called the police tip line. He stated that Donald Hutchison looked similar to the man in the composite sketch provided by the police. He had been absent on the day following Katie's disappearance. He had recently cut his hair, and had stopped driving his black pick-up truck. Shortly after that, he had suddenly quit his job as the janitor without any notice.
Donald Blom owned a 20-acre property in Moose Lake, 12 miles from the convenience store where Katie had been abducted. The investigators came to know that he had earlier been convicted of abducting seven young girls like Katie. They also learned from Blom's neighbors that he had spent a lot of time at the property before Katie's abduction, but not since.
Blom was spending time with his family at a campground 140 miles away from his home in Richfield, Minnesota when initially questioned by agents from Minnesota's Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. He was arrested later that same day, June 22, while driving home. Blom was friendly and cooperative, but refused to give a statement and requested an attorney. He was initially held in a county facility but was placed in solitary confinement after his plans to escape from the facility were discovered.
Meanwhile, investigators obtained search warrants and searched Blom's residence and extensive Moose Lake property, supported by over one hundred National Guardsmen and several hundred local volunteers. They were unable to find Katie or her body, despite an extensive search. They did find some firearms, which Blom was not allowed to carry, given his prior convictions.
On the second day of the search, investigators found a number of fragments that appeared to be bone, in a fire pit on the Bloms' property. The fragments were sent to a lab, where they were identified as pieces of human bones and a charred portion of a human tooth. The DNA tests proved inconclusive, but an examination by the dental experts established that the filling of this tooth portion matched that of a very rare filling material used by Katie's dentist. The researchers stated that the tooth belonged to a young female, and the chance of it belonging to Katie was quite high.
On 8 September, Blom confessed to abducting Katie, strangling her and burning her body in the fire pit. Blom's account was somewhat inconsistent with the evidence. The surveillance video showed the man with his hand on the back of her neck. Blom stated that he walked out of the store with Katie: she asked him to let her go several times, but did not fight with him until he started choking her at his property. Blom also said that he killed Katie with his bare hands, and burned her dead body with wood and paper. However, according to the investigators, wood and paper alone would not have been sufficient to reduce a human body to ash. Blom didn't confess to sexually assaulting Katie, and said he did not know why he had committed the crime. When asked whether the remains in the fire pit were those of Katie Poirer, he said "I guess so". When pressed, he said he "didn't know the answer to this question." When asked "Then whose remains are they?" he replied "Well, I was asking that myself, man."
Blom soon recanted, saying that the stress of the solitary confinement and hallucinations due to "ten medications" had prompted him to make a false confession.
Donald Blom's trial began in June 2000. Over 50 witnesses were called to testify during the case. The video surveillance, witness reports, testimonies from two women whom Blom had kidnapped in 1983, and his confession were presented as evidence against Blom.
Blom had stated that he never had a New York Yankees jersey with the number 23 on the back (worn by the man in the surveillance video). However, Blom's brother testified that he had given the Blom family a box of old clothing, which included a New York Yankees jersey. The two women whom Blom had kidnapped in 1983, who had resembled Katie as children, testified about what he had done to them. Forensic odontologist Dr. Ann Norrlander testified that the tooth portion recovered from Blom's property was consistent with Katie's age, gender and dental work. Blom's barber confirmed that his hair had blond tips at the time of the abduction, making him appear younger (the man in the surveillance video was assumed to be around 25 years old).
Blom's defense attorney, Rodney Brodin, presented Blom's wife Amy as his first witness on 7 August. She testified that her husband had come home at 9:30 pm on the night of Katie's disappearance. They had gone to bed, and when she woke up in the morning, the coffee had been ready. Thus, she believed that her husband had been home the entire night. She also accused the police of threatening to take her children away, if she did not answer the questions in the way they wanted. She also denied seeing any baseball jersey in the clothing given to the family by Blom's brother. Brodin also restated to the jurors that only one of the six witnesses was able to identify Blom in a line-up. He also called upon his own odontologist to counter the testimony of the prosecution's dental experts. He stated that Blom's earlier confession was a mistake and should not be taken into account. He claimed that another man had confessed to the crime, but was not arrested.
During his trial, Donald Blom expressed angrily to the family that he was not the murderer, and got involved in a heated exchange of words with Katie's mother. On August 10, he denied kidnapping Katie. He said that his wife had threatened to commit suicide due to media pressure, and therefore, he decided to make a confession in order to get out of the cell. He said that he had been at Moose Lake in the evening, for fishing, but returned to the home by 10:00 pm, well before the time of Katie's abduction. The prosecutor, Thomas Pertler, cross examined Blom asking questions about his confession, but Blom did not expand on his answers only giving yes or no answers. Blom also said he had never seen the baseball jersey before, and people who claimed to have seen him wear it were mistaken.
After much deliberation, Blom was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life without parole. He was also given a 19-year sentence for possession of firearms (found at his property) on top of his first-degree murder charge.
By the time of Blom's conviction, over $200,000 had been spent on the case. The case changed the way legislature charged criminals by tightening Minnesota sex offender laws, by implementing longer prison terms to repeat offenders (informally known as "Katie’s Law").
Donald Blom appealed his conviction, but after the trial ended, his wife Amy sent an email to two Minnesota legislators, stating that she believed him to be Katie's murderer. She said that her husband had abused her for seven years. She had not known that he had been married twice earlier. When he adopted her last name "Blom", she was flattered, and did not realize that it was to conceal his past. She said he went to the Moose Lake property frequently and told her little. She believed that he had committed other crimes, including murder. Now that she was no longer under his domination, she said she could tell the truth: he had not been home that night. Blom's sons confirmed the violent abuse, describing Amy's bruises and black eyes.
In 2004, an appeals court upheld Blom's conviction. In 2006, Blom expressed his willingness to answer questions about unsolved local crimes, in exchange for transfer to a prison closer to his relatives. However, when the detectives arrived with the transfer letter, he kept talking about other matters for three days, and the confession never materialized.
In December 2007, the Minnesota Supreme Court rejected Blom's third petition for a new hearing.
Possible links to other crimes
The investigators believe that Blom may have been involved in a series of murders, probably dating back to the 1970s. They believe that his modus operandi was to change his name and appearance after each incident. Dennis Fier, a Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension agent, had suspected Blom was a serial killer for a long time. According to him, Blom had admitted that he "often would leave for entire nights, would be using alcohol and drugs and would not remember when he came home the next day, where he had been or what he did."
At the time of his arrest, the investigators were looking at similar crimes, including the murder of 19-year-old Wisconsin student Holly Spangler. In 1993, Spangler's decomposed body was found in the woods of a Bloomington, Minnesota park. Blom was living in the area under the name "Donald Pince", and was a registered sex offender. At that time, he was one of the top suspects in the case.
Another case studied by the investigators was the strangulation of Wilma Johnson, whose body was found near the St. Paul Cathedral in 1983. Blom admitted to being at the crime scene, but denied killing her.
Blom also told investigators he might have killed a man near the St. Paul high bridge, even though a body was never found.
In popular culture
The story of Donald Blom's murder of Katie Poirier is the subject of many television true crime documentaries. HLN TV reported the story under the Forensic Files series episode titled "Tooth or Consequences". The Discovery Channel reported the case via The New Detectives series, episode "Fatal Abductions". In 2010, the Poirier murder was featured on Extreme Forensics, an Investigation Discovery series. In 2013, a second Investigation Discovery series On the Case with Paula Zahn aired the "Tip 1960" episode about Poirier's killing. In 2016, a third Investigation Discovery series See No Evil episode titled "Snatched on Camera", also reported Poirier's murder.