Circle K Employee Vanished in 1990: The Story of Deborah Poe
It is like Deborah Poe, 26, vanished into the abyss on February 4, 1990.
Deborah worked two full-time jobs, one at a newspaper and the other working the night shift alone at a Circle K store (now Food Max), on Hall Road and Aloma Avenue in Orlando, Florida.
She vanished from the Circle K sometime between 3 and 4 a.m.
At the time, deputies theorized she was abducted by someone who lured—or dragged—her into a vehicle behind the store.
Now, over 30 years later, people are still searching for Deborah.
Deborah Deann Poe was born on August 3, 1963. Deborah left her parents in Virginia in 1989 for a fresh start in Orlando, Florida. She worked at the Orlando Sentinel as a daytime clerk in the newspaper’s retail-sales department, and her job cashiering at Circle K. She had wanted to buy a new home and was also saving to start her own catering business. In the meantime, she was sharing a duplex with a female roommate.
Her friends describe Deborah as “studious” who made good grades when she was in school. She was fun, with a sense of humor, but she also could “put you in your place” if she had to. She loved Florida and was motivated to make a new life in Orange County.
It would not be her fate.
The Night Deborah Vanished
The night Deborah vanished she was last seen at 3 a.m. standing behind the counter when a friend drove by.
Between 3:15 and 3:30 a.m., a customer entered the convenience store and saw a man behind the counter. He is described as between 19 and 25 years old, long black hair, and dark eyes. The young man was wearing a black T-shirt with the “Megadeth” band logo on the front, a skull ring on his finger and wearing a wire earring with a cross in his right ear. He appeared to be the only individual in the store, so the customer assumed he worked there. The customer wanted to buy cigarettes, having to point them out to the young man because he did not know where they were in the display. The man has never been identified.
Deborah’s store was found empty at 4 a.m. and customers called the police. A cup of coffee and a carton of chocolate milk were on the floor behind the counter, and the cash register locked with no obvious sign of a robbery. A set of house plans and her neatly folded Circle K smock was also found behind the counter. Deborah’s car was found in the parking lot with her purse in the backseat and her paycheck inside.
The Orange County Sheriff’s Department conducted a search within a five-mile radius of the store with helicopters equipped with infrared and used canine trackers. The dogs tracked her scent to the parking lot of the Shoals Apartments behind the store, and then to a deserted business next door. Both spots the dogs alerted to were on pavement leading authorities to believe she was taken into a vehicle.
“We don’t know if she was taken at knifepoint or she left willingly,” former Orange County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Jim Solomons told the Orlando Sentinel. “We have no good leads.”
Friends and family met behind the neighboring McDonalds forming search parties that searched the woods and orange groves around the convenience store trying to find anything that may lead them closer to finding Deborah.
According to the Sentinel, her friends all said Deborah would have never willingly left the store open and left on her own without her purse or her new 1989 red Toyota Celica. She was too ambitious and responsible to just leave.
“She would never do that,” said her Aunt Judy Johnson. “No way! She’s so responsible, she’s like a little old lady.”
Her boyfriend Scott Iaggi had urged her to quit her job at Circle K after an incident that occurred several weeks before her abduction.
According to CrimeBlogger1983, a naked man had entered the convenience store and climbed over the counter toward her one evening. Deborah ran around the store trying to escape him, then ran outside to the gas pumps while he chased her. She was able to escape him and locked him out of the store.
“I told her I thought it was stupid that she was staying there working that shift,” said Iaggi. “There were too many weirdos, too many guys flirting with her and too many drunks.”
Unsolved Mysteries aired a segment about Deborah’s disappearance on November 6, 1991. Though the show spurred many calls from the public, the leads did not lead to finding Deborah.
“A lot of people have been coming by,” Iaggi said in a 1990 interview. “I’ve been praying and praying. I’m praying they’ll let her go and not harm her. I’m praying she comes back.”
On March 8, 1998, Deborah Poe was legally presumed dead.
Police Announce a Suspect
In 2002, authorities announced they had a suspect in the case but refused to publicly identify the individual. The Sheriff’s Office said a re-examination of evidence in Deborah’s case led them to a suspect and to an area in the 8800 block of Trevarehon Road near State Road 417.
Investigators searched an area of land near the Chapel Hill Baptist Church in Orange County, but disappointed search and rescue volunteers, investigators, and cadaver dogs came up empty-handed after the 12-hour search.
Alone to Continue the Search
Deborah’s mother, who would now be 82, was the only one left to continue the search for her daughter. Her father died from prostate cancer years ago.
Deborah’s older brother tragically died of hypothermia outside his West Virginia home in 2013.
“No matter how much time passes, you miss that child terribly," Nancy Poe told the Orlando Sentinel in 2015. “And I keep wondering why I’m still here and all of my family is gone.”
She told the newspaper, she had not heard from Iaggi or Deborah's roommate, Lori Tilman, in years. Orange County Sheriff had not contacted her as frequently as she would have liked either.
“All you do is hope and pray, Nancy said. “I’m starting to lose hope that it won’t be solved here in my lifetime on this Earth.”
If you have any information about the disappearance of Deborah Poe, please contact the Orange County Sheriff’s Office at 407-836-4357.
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© 2020 Kym L Pasqualini