Murderpedia has thousands of hours of work behind it. To keep creating
new content, we kindly appreciate any donation you can give to help
the Murderpedia project stay alive. We have many
plans and enthusiasm
to keep expanding and making Murderpedia a better site, but we really
need your help for this. Thank you very much in advance.
A.K.A.: "The Beauty Queen Killer"
Rape - Torture
Number of victims: 8 +
Date of murders: February-April 1984
Date of birth:
Victims profile: Rosario Gonzalez
/ Elisabeth A. Kenyon,
23 (former girlfriend) /
Terry Ferguson, 21 / Terry Walden,
Suzanne Logan, 21 / Sheryl
Bonaventura, 18 /
Michelle Korfman, 17 / Beth Dodge, 33
Method of murder: Stabbing
Location: Florida/Texas/Oklahoma/Nevada/California/New York, USA
Apparently shot himself to death in
a scuffle with state troopers to avoid capture
on April 13, 1984
Wilder (March 13, 1945 – April
13, 1984) was a serial killer who abducted and raped at
least 10 women and killed at least eight of them during
a spree across the United States in early 1984.
His rampage began in Florida and
continued across the country through Texas, Oklahoma,
Nevada, California and New York before he committed
suicide during a struggle with police in New Hampshire
on April 13. He is also believed to have raped girls
aged 10 and 12 in Florida during 1983. For many years
since his death, Wilder has also been considered the
prime suspect in the unsolved Wanda Beach murder of two
teenage girls in Sydney, Australia in 1965.
Wilder was born in Australia. His
father was an American naval officer and his mother an
Australian. He almost died at birth, but recovered, only
to almost drown in a swimming pool at age two.
In 1962 or 1963, he pleaded guilty in
the case of a gang-rape at a beach in Sydney and was put
on probation, during which time he also received
electroshock therapy. There is some evidence to suggest
that this course of treatment only exacerbated his
violent sexual tendencies.
It is known that he had virtually
memorized the text of the 1963 novel The Collector
by John Fowles, in which a man keeps a woman in his
basement against her will until she dies. A copy of the
novel was found among his possessions after his death.
In 1968 he married, but his wife left
after only a week. Wilder emigrated to the United States
in 1969. He lived in Boynton Beach Florida in a mansion
on Mission Hill Rd and made a small fortune in real
estate while developing an interest in photography.
Over the next few years, however,
between about 1971 and 1975, he was in and out of court
facing various charges related to sexual misconduct. He
eventually raped a young woman he had lured into his
truck on the pretense of photographing her for a
modelling contract. This would become part of his modus
operandi during his later rape and murder spree. Despite
several convictions, Wilder was never jailed for any of
spree and death
While in Australia on a visit to his
parents in 1982, Wilder was charged with sexual offenses
against two 15-year-old girls whom he had forced to pose
nude. His parents posted bail and he was allowed to
return to Florida to await trial, but court delays
prevented his case from being heard. The initial hearing
date was finally set for April 1984, by which time he
The first murder attributed to Wilder
was that of Rosario Gonzalez, last seen on February 26,
1984 at the Miami Grand Prix, where she was employed as
a model. Soon after, on March 5, Wilder's former
girlfriend, Miss Florida finalist Elisabeth Kenyon, went
missing. Neither woman was ever found.
Wilder was known to both of them, and
police were able to link him to them after initial
enquiries by a private investigator who had been hired
to find information about Kenyon by her parents. On
March 15, Wilder went on the run.
On March 18, he lured 21-year old
Terry Ferguson away from a shopping center in Satellite
Beach and murdered her, dumping her body at Canaveral
Groves where it was discovered on March 23.
His next victim was a 19-year old
woman who he abducted and transported to Bainbridge,
Georgia on March 20. When she declined his offer to
photograph her for a modelling agency, he assaulted her,
wrapped her in a blanket and put her into the trunk of
his car after binding her hands. In a motel room that
night, he raped her then glued her eyes closed and
tortured her by applying copper wires to her feet and
passing an electric current through them. When she tried
to escape he threatened to kill her, but he fled after
her screams attracted the other guests' attention.
The Charley Project also connects
Wilder to the disappearance of 15 year old Colleen
Orsborn from Daytona Beach on 19 March
The next day (21 March) he approached
24-year old Terry Walden in Beaumont, Texas about posing
as a model. She turned him down but, on March 23,
disappeared. Wilder transferred his stolen license
plates to her Mercury Cougar and dumped her body in a
canal, where she was found on March 26.
That day, the body of 21-year old
Suzanne Logan was found in Oklahoma City. She had
disappeared the day before. Logan had been raped and
tortured before being stabbed to death.
Wilder then took 18-year old Sheryl
Bonaventura captive in Colorado on March 29. They were
seen together at a diner in Silverton where they told
staff they were heading for Las Vegas. Bonaventura was
shot and stabbed to death around March 31 in Utah but
not found until May 5. Wilder also killed 17-year old
Michelle Korfman, an aspiring model who disappeared from
Las Vegas on April 1. She remained undiscovered until
Near Torrance, California, Wilder
photographed 16-year old Tina Marie Risico before
abducting her and driving her to El Centro where she was
assaulted. Wilder apparently believed Risico would be "robotic
enough" to help him lure other victims, so he kept her
alive and took her with him to Taos, New Mexico.
Wilder had been on the FBI ten most
wanted fugitives list now for some time and while he was
now close to Mexico for some reason which has never been
explained he and Risico now went to Gary, Indiana where
she helped him abduct 16-year old Dawnette Wilt. Wilt
was raped several times as Risico drove to New York.
Near Rochester, he took Wilt into the woods and
attempted to suffocate her before stabbing her twice and
leaving her. Wilt survived, and told police Wilder was
heading for Canada.
In Victor, Risico persuaded 33-year
old Beth Dodge to approach them. Wilder forced Dodge
into his car and had Risico follow him in Dodge's Trans-Am.
After a short drive, Wilder shot Dodge and dumped her in
a gravel pit. He and Risico then drove the Trans Am to
Logan Airport in Boston, where he bought her a ticket to
On April 13, he attempted to abduct
another young woman after offering her a ride to a gas
station, but she escaped. Shortly afterward, he arrived
at a gas station in Colebrook, New Hampshire where he
was noticed by state troopers. There is some debate
about why Wilder drew their attention at this point, but
it is likely that the police would have now been aware
he was driving a Trans Am and Wilt had told them he had
been heading for Canada.
As they approached him, he reached
into the car for a .357 Magnum. Trooper Leo Jellison
jumped onto Wilder's back and during the scuffle the gun
went off twice. The first shot hit the killer and also
went into Jellison's liver. The second blew out Wilder's
heart, killing him instantly. His death was officially
listed as a suicide. Jellison made a full recovery from
Wilder was cremated in Florida,
leaving a personal estate worth almost $2 million. Along
with the eight known victims he killed during February
to April 1984, he has been linked to the murders and
disappearances of many other women, including some whose
remains were found around Florida in areas he was known
Australia's unsolved Wanda Beach
Murders have also been linked to him. The bodies of
Elizbeth Kenyon and Rosario Gonzalez have never been
found. This is because the FBI declines to search his
extensive mansion, that he remodeled several times.
Trail of Death
Man hunt for a rapist
By Jacob V. Lamar Jr. - Time.com
Monday, Apr. 16, 1984
Wilder seemed the very model of a modern
swinging bachelor. An Australian native, he
came to America in 1970 at the age of 24,
eventually settled in Boynton Beach, Fla.,
and soon amassed a small fortune in the
Handsome and well-tailored,
he acquired six parcels of Palm Beach County
real estate worth nearly $400,000, took ski
vacations in chic Vail, Colo., dabbled in
photography and raced cars, finishing a
respectable 17th in the Miami Grand Prix (prize:
$400). A Jacuzzi bubbled outside his bedroom,
a speedboat was moored to his private dock.
And, of course, Chris
Wilder had a penchant for attractive young
women. In an interview for a dating service
videotaped in 1981, he said, "I want to date
and enjoy the company of women, women with
depth. I'm looking for a long-term
relationship but not marriage."
Among the beauties Wilder
befriended in Miami were Elizabeth Kenyon, a
23-year-old former beauty queen, and Rosario
Gonzalez, a 20-year-old model. Gonzalez, in
fact, was watching while he raced in the
When the two women
disappeared last February and March, police
began seeking Wilder for questioning. But he
was nowhere to be found. In the middle of
last month, authorities began to piece
together information about half a dozen
rapes, tortures and murders of attractive
young women in Florida, Texas, Colorado and
Last week the FBI
fingered Wilder as a suspect in these cases
and put him on its Ten Most Wanted list.
Says FBI Spokesman Chris Mazzella: "We
consider this to be the top fugitive
investigation at this time. Unlimited
resources are being poured into it. This is
a truly massive man hunt, stretching from
coast to coast."
On Friday Wilder was
formally charged with the stabbing murder of
Suzanne Logan, 20. Abducted from an Oklahoma
City shopping center, Logan, an attractive
brunette married just nine months, was found
dead near a lake in Junction City, Kans.
Wilder has also been
charged in a brutal kidnaping. According to
the FBI, on March 20, in Tallahassee, Fla.,
Wilder stopped a Florida State University
woman (whose name is being withheld by
police). He offered her $25 an hour to pose
for photographs. When she turned him down,
he punched her in the stomach, bound her
with a clothesline and locked her in the
trunk of his car.
Wilder allegedly drove
her to a motel in Bainbridge, Ga., where he
raped her and tortured her with electric
shocks, at one point attempting to seal shut
her eyes with glue. She escaped into a
bathroom, locking herself in and screaming
so loudly that she attracted rescuers and
caused Wilder to flee.
The other crimes for
which Wilder is a suspect follow a similar
chilling pattern. According to a statement
by the FBI, "In each known incident, an
individual meeting Wilder's physical
description approaches an attractive young
female, identifies himself as a professional
photographer and offers the woman a photo
session for usage in nationwide magazines.
If any resistance or refusal is given, he
forcibly abducts the victim."
On March 18, Teresa
Ferguson was kidnaped from a shopping mall
in Merritt Island, Fla. Two days later her
strangled body was found in a swamp. Terry
Dianne Walden, 23, a Lamar University
student, was reported missing in Beaumont,
Texas, on March 23. Police discovered her
body in a drainage canal three days later;
she had been bound and stabbed to death.
Sheryl Bonaventura, 18, was reported missing
from a Grand Junction, Colo., shopping mall
on March 29.
Three days later, in Las
Vegas, Michele Korfman, 17, disappeared from
a shopping mall where she had been appearing
in a beauty contest. Three other women have
told police they were approached at that
mall by a man who police suspect was Wilder,
but successfully rebuffed his advances.
Wilder was convicted in
1980 of attempted sexual battery in a Palm
Beach County case, but placed on probation.
Police have discovered that he is a fugitive
from sexual-assault charges in Sydney,
Australia. He concealed these earlier crimes
from his fast-lane friends in Florida; most
were shocked by his recent notoriety. Dennis
DeFranceschi, a close friend and racing
partner of Wilder's, failed to see any logic
in his sex crimes. Said he: "If you want to
act out a pornographic scene, you just go
out and hire a bunch of hookers."
Contemplating Wilder's alleged spree,
DeFranceschi added, "He had no reason to
subject himself to this.''
—By Jacob V. Lamar Jr.
Reported by Kim Eisler/Tallahassee
Born March 13, 1945, Christopher Wilder was the
product of an international marriage, between an American naval officer
and his Australian wife. A sickly child from the beginning, Wilder was
given last rites as an infant. Two years later, he nearly drowned in a
swimming pool; at age three, he suffered convulsions while riding with
his parents in the family car, and had to be resuscitated.
By his teens,
the boy had problems of a different sort. At seventeen, in Sydney,
Wilder and a group of friends were charged with gang-raping a girl on
the beach. He pled guilty to carnal knowledge and received one year's
probation, with a provision for mandatory counseling. The program
included group therapy and electroshock treatments, but it seemed to
have little effect.
Wilder married at age twenty-three, but the union
lasted only a few days. His bride complained of sexual abuse, and
finally left him after finding panties (not her own) and photographs of
naked women in a briefcase Wilder carried in his car. In November 1969,
he used nude photographs to extort sex from an Australian student nurse;
she complained to the police, but charges were ultimately dropped when
she refused to testify in court.
Australia was growing too hot for Wilder, so he moved
to the United States. Settling in southern Florida, he prospered in the
fields of construction and electrical contracting, earning (or borrowing)
enough money to finance fast cars and a luxurious bachelor pad, complete
with hot tub and a private photo studio. The good life visibly agreed
with Wilder, but it did not fill his other hidden needs.
In March 1971, at Pompano Beach, Wilder was picked up
on a charge of soliciting women to pose for nude photos; he entered a
plea of guilty to disturbing the peace and escaped with a small fine.
Six years later, in October 1977, he coerced a female high school
student into oral sex, threatening to beat her if she refused, and he
was jailed a second time. Wilder admitted the crime to his therapist,
but confidential interviews are inadmissible in court, and he was later
On June 21, 1980, he lured a teenaged girl into his car with
promises of a modeling job, then drove her to a rural area where she was
raped. A guilty plea to charges of attempted sexual battery earned him
five years probation, with further therapy ordered by the court.
Following his last arrest in Florida, the self-made man complained of
suffering from blackouts.
Visiting his parents in Australia, Wilder was accused
of kidnapping two 15-year-old girls from a beach in New South Wales on
December 28, 1982, forcing them to pose for pornographic snapshots.
Traced through the license number of his rented car, Wilder was arrested
on December 29, charged with kidnaping and indecent assault. His family
posted $350,000 bail, and Wilder was permitted to return to the United
States, his trial scheduled for May 7, 1983. Legal delays postponed the
case, but Wilder was scheduled to appear in court for a hearing on April
He never made it.
On February 6, Rosario Gonzalez, 20, disappeared from
her job at the Miami Grand Prix. Chris Wilder was driving as a
contestant that day, and witnesses recall her leaving with a man who fit
Wilder's description. Her body has never been found.
On March 4, 23-year-old Elizabeth Kenyon vanished
after work from the school where she taught in Coral Gables. She was
seen that afternoon, with Wilder, at a local gas station, and his name
was found in her address book.
Kenyon's parents remembered her speaking
of Wilder as "a real gentleman," unlike the various
photographers who asked if she would model in the nude. As in the
February case, no trace of Kenyon has been found. Wilder celebrated his
thirty-ninth birthday on March 13, treating himself to the peculiar gift
of a 1973 Chrysler.
Three days later, the Miami Herald reported that a
Boynton Beach race driver was wanted for questioning in the
disappearance of two local women. Wilder was not named in the story, but
he got the point. Missing his scheduled therapy on March 17, he met with
his business partner the following night, "I am not going to jail,"
he vowed, tearfully. "I'm not going to do it." Packing his car,
Wilder dropped off his dogs at a kennel and drove out of town, headed
Indian Harbour lies two hours north of Boynton Beach.
On March 19, Terry Ferguson, 21, disappeared from a local shopping mall
where witnesses remembered seeing Wilder. Her body was recovered four
days later, from a Polk County canal.
On March 20, Wilder abducted a university co-ed from a
shopping mall in Tallahassee, driving her across the state line to
Bainbridge, Georgia. There, in a cheap motel, she was raped repeatedly
and tortured with electric shocks, her eyelids smeared with super glue.
Wilder fled after his captive managed to lock herself in the bathroom,
screaming and pounding on the walls to draw attention from the other
The killer touched down next in Beaumont Texas. Terry
Walden, 24, informed her husband on March 21 that a bearded man had
approached her between classes at the local university, soliciting her
for a modeling job. She thanked him and declined the offer, but the
conversation struck a chord of memory when Terry disappeared March 23.
Her body, torn by multiple stab wounds, was recovered from a canal three
On March 25, 21-year-old Suzanne Logan disappeared
from a shopping mall in Oklahoma City. Her body was found the next day,
floating in Milford Reservoir, near Manhattan, Kansas. Raped and stabbed,
the victim had apparently been tortured prior to death.
Sheryl Bonaventura was the next to die, abducted from
a shopping mall in Grand Junction, Colorado, on March 29. Another
shopper placed Wilder in the mall, soliciting women for modeling jobs,
and he was seen with Sheryl at a nearby restaurant that afternoon. She
joined the missing list as Wilder worked his way across the country,
killing when he paused to rest.
On April 1, 17-year-old Michelle Korfman vanished from
a fashion show at the Meadows Mall, in Las Vegas, Nevada. Snapshots
taken at the time show Wilder smiling from the sidelines, watching as
the teenage girls parade before him in their miniskirts.
At last, it was enough. Linked with three murders, one
kidnapping, and four disappearances, Wilder was described by FBI
spokesmen as "a significant danger." His name was added to the
Bureau's "Ten Most Wanted" list on April 3, 1984.
The following day, he abducted 16-year-old Tina Marie
Risico in Torrance, California, raping her that night and through
successive evenings as they stayed in various motels, working their way
eastward. Subjected to threats and abuse, living continually in the
shadow of death, Risico agreed to help Wilder find other victims as he
continued his long flight to nowhere.
On April 10, Dawnette Wilt was lured away from a
shopping mall in Merrillville, Indiana, raped and tortured through the
course of that day and the next. Wilder tried to murder her on April 12,
stabbing Dawnette and leaving her for dead outside Rochester, New York,
but she managed to survive and staggered to the nearest highway, where a
passing motorist discovered her and drove her to a hospital. Wilder's
final victim was Beth Dodge, abducted near Victor, New York, on April 12
and shot to death in a nearby gravel pit. Following the murder, Wilder
drove his teenage captive to Boston's Logan Airport, purchasing a one-way
ticket to Los Angeles and seeing her off at the gate.
Wilder's sudden attack of compassion remains
unexplained, but he wasted no time in searching out another victim. On
April 13, he brandished his gun at a woman near Beverly, Massachusetts,
but she fled on foot, unharmed. Continuing his aimless hunt, the killer
stopped for gas that afternoon in Colebrook, New Hampshire, unaware that
he had reached the end of his run.
Passing by the service station, state troopers Wayne
Fortier and Leo Jellison recognized Wilder's car from FBI descriptions.
Approaching the vehicle, they called out to Wilder and saw him break for
the car, diving inside as he went for his pistol. Jellison leaped on the
fugitive's back, struggling for the .357 magnum, and two shots rang out.
The first passed through Wilder and pierced Jellison's chest, lodging in
his liver; the second snuffed out Wilder's life, resulting in what a
coroner termed "cardiac obliteration." Wilder's violent death,
ironically, did not resolve the tangled case.
Sheryl Bonaventura's body
was recovered in Utah, on May 3, the victim of a point-blank gunshot
wound. Michelle Korfman was found in the Angeles National Forest on May
11, but another month would pass before she was identified, her family's
fears confirmed. No trace has yet been found of Wilder's early victims
in Miami and environs.
With his death, Chris Wilder was inevitably linked
with other unsolved crimes. A pair of girls, aged ten and twelve,
identified his mug shot as the likeness of a man who snatched them from
a park in Boynton Beach, in June of 1983, and forced them to fellate him
in the nearby woods. His name was likewise linked with other deaths and
disappearances across two decades, in Australia and America.
In 1965, Marianne Schmidt and Christine Sharrock accompanied a young man matching
Wilder's description into the beachfront dunes near Sydney; strangled,
raped and stabbed, their bodies were discovered in a shallow grave, but
no one has been charged to date.
In 1981, teenagers Mary Hare and Mary
Optiz were abducted from a mall in Lee County, Florida; Hare was later
found, stabbed to death, while Optiz remains among the missing. During
1982, the skeletal remains of unidentified women were unearthed on two
separate occasions near property owned by Wilder, in Loxahatchee; one
victim had been dead for several years, the other for a period of months.
And the list goes on. Tammi Leppert, teenaged model,
kidnapped from her job at a convenience store on Merritt Island, July 6,
1983. Melody Gay, 19, abducted on the graveyard shift of an all-night
store in Collier County, Florida, on March 7, 1984, her body pulled from
a rural canal three days later. Colleen Osborne, 15, missing from the
bedroom of her home in Daytona Beach, March 15, 1984. Chris Wilder was
seen in Daytona that day, propositioning "models."
There was a final, ghoulish twist to Wilder's story,
Following an autopsy on April 13, 1984, Dr. Robert Christie, the New
Hampshire pathologist in charge of Wilder's case, received a phone call
from a man claiming to represent Harvard University. Wilder's brain was
wanted for study, the caller explained, in order to determine whether
defect or disease had sparked his killing spree. Dr. Christie agreed to
deliver the brain on receipt of a written request from Harvard. Two
weeks later he was still waiting, and spokesmen for the university's
medical school denied making any such request.
Michael Newton - An Encyclopedia
of Modern Serial Killers - Hunting Humans
A Killer's Rampage
By Katherine Ramsland - TruTV.com
Elizabeth Kenyon taught emotionally disturbed
children in 1984 at
School, south of
Florida, but hoped one day to return to
fashion modeling. At age 23, she was the kind of beautiful young woman
that turned men's heads. Two years earlier, she had won the title of
Orange Bowl Princess and had been a finalist in the Miss Florida Contest.
With thick brown hair and a wide, sociable grin, she made friends easily.
On March 4, Kenyon left her apartment in
Coral Gables to visit her parents in
Pompano Beach, a trip she made every
weekend. According to Bruce Gibney, in his book, The Beauty Queen
Killer, Beth's father noticed bruises on her arms and legs that day.
Alarmed, he asked her what had happened. She shrugged it off as a
schoolyard fight that she had broken up.
Kenyon stayed with her parents until
that evening, and then got into her car to return home.
Her roommate recalled that she arrived around 10 and went to bed. She
went to work the next day and spoke to Mitch Fry, the school's police
officer and security patrol, in the parking lot. He watched her get
into her car and drive away. Fry was to be the last person to see Kenyon
alive. On Tuesday, she did not show up for work, so Fry called her
roommate and learned that Beth had not come home the night before. Nor
had she called to tell anyone where she was.
Beth was not the type that would go somewhere without telling
someone. Calls to others who knew her got everyone worried. Her
parents began calling around to friends and to hospitals, with no luck.
Finally, they contacted the police at the Metro Dade Public Safety
Department and filed a missing person report.
Several days went by
with no news, so Bill Kenyon took matters into his own
hands. He hired a private investigator, Kenneth
Whittaker, to look into the matter. He discovered that
there were several men in Beth's life, and thus several
potential suspects: Beth had been on a dinner date
recently with a man from
West Germany; she had
begun seeing a man again with whom she had broken off
the relationship; and she had occasionally been having
dinner with a former boyfriend, a photographer named
Christopher Wilder. She had told her father that on
their first date, Wilder had been a real gentleman.
After a few more dates, he had even proposed marriage.
But Beth had felt that at seventeen years her senior, he
was too old for her. So over the past two years, they
had remained friends.
Whittaker questioned Beth's parents
about each of these men and learned that Beth had
mentioned Wilder to them the day before she had
disappeared. He'd gotten her an opportunity to do some
modeling for good money.
Yet a call to Wilder produced only
disappointing results. The man claimed he had not seen
Beth in over a month. The other two men did not seem
viable suspects, either.
The investigation seemed to have
reached a dead-end when another former boyfriend stopped
at a gas station in Coral Gables to show Beth's picture
around. It was a Shell station where Beth normally
bought her gas. To everyone's surprise, two attendants
said that Beth had been there on Monday afternoon. She
was about to pay when a man in a gray Cadillac drove in
behind her and paid the bill. Beth seemed to know him
and she mentioned that they were on the way to the
airport. When the attendants were shown photographs,
they easily picked out Chris Wilder as the man with
her. Beth's car was subsequently found at
MiamiInternationalAirport. Yet she had not packed to
The police would not help with what
was still a missing person's case, so Bill Kenyon staked
out Wilder's house himself. When he did not find the
man at home, he sent his investigator to the Boynton
Beach Police to ask about Wilder. They told Whittaker
they had a lengthy rap sheet on him. He was far from
the "gentleman" that Beth had once described. He'd had a
history of sexual offenses.
Beth's parents suddenly realized that —
on the very night that Beth had visited them for the
last time, they had seen a television report about
another missing woman — one who looked very much like
The Kenyons were chilled by the
resemblance. Their instinct was that Wilder had been
involved in their daughter's disappearance, and that
perhaps he had abducted both women.
Rosario Gonzales, 20, had disappeared on February 26,
2000. She'd been working at a temporary job distributing aspirin
samples at the Miami Grand Prix racetrack, where witnesses said she had
left around with an older man. She, too, had pretty dark eyes and
long, brown hair. She had not even picked up her paycheck.
Nothing clearly linked
the two, except that Kenyon knew Christopher Wilder, who
sometimes drove cars in races and often hung around at the
Miami racetrack. Also, both had participated in the
Miss Florida contest and wanted to be models. (In the
book Human Monsters David Everitt reports that
Rosario had previously posed for a
book cover that Wilder photographed.)
That Wilder had lied about seeing
Beth made him suspect. Now a look at his case file at
the Boynton Beach
police station convinced the private investigator that
Wilder could very well be a sexual predator. Beth's
rejection of his marriage proposal may have elevated her
Whittaker went with an ex-police
officer to talk with Wilder at his office at the Sawtel
Construction Company, which he owned with a partner.
Wilder pulled up in the gray Cadillac described by the
gas station attendants. Yet inside his office, he
repeated his denial of having seen Beth in the past few
days. He insisted the attendants had made a mistake in
their identification. Then he brought in his secretary
to vouch for his whereabouts, but that proved to have
been a mistake.
The investigators told her they were
looking for Beth Kenyon, and she said, yes, the girl
whose car was found at the airport.
No one had mentioned an airport and
finding the car had not been made public. The secretary
seemed flustered and asked Wilder if that wasn't the
information he had given to her.
Wilder was quick. He said that Beth's
mother had told him that.
Mrs. Kenyon later denied it.
Around the same time, the police
learned that Rosario Gonzales, the other missing girl,
had also known Christopher Wilder. That information
spurred them into a countywide hunt, following numerous
leads and tips, many of which were mistaken
identifications or dead-ends. Then Whittaker informed
them that Christopher Wilder had been at the Miami Grand
Prix and that he was a suspect in Beth Kenyon's
These disappearances became a more
serious matter, and regular detectives from Metro Dade
were now assigned to Beth Kenyon's case, with the
possibility that the same suspect had kidnapped two
girls within a week's time. They placed information in
the newspaper, hoping to get some help from the public.
Just as Christopher Wilder was
celebrating his 39th birthday on March 13,
the police were collecting a file on him. Three days
later, he read in the Miami Herald that "a
racecar driver" and "wealthy contractor" was suspected
in the disappearances, and he realized it was time to
move. He did keep his appointment with his therapist,
who was treating him for sex crimes for which he'd
received parole. Knowing his preference for girls with
long hair and his fantasy about holding a girl captive,
the therapist asked if he knew anything about the
He looked her in the eye and denied it.
Two days later, he dropped his three
dogs at a kennel, withdrew a substantial amount of money
from the bank, and told his partner he was being framed
and was "not going to jail." He got into his 1973
Chrysler New Yorker sedan and drove off. He had said to
others that stress was bad for him. Now it was about to
provoke a shocking spree.
The Development of a Sadist
Born March 13, 1945, Christopher Bernard Wilder was
the oldest child of an American naval officer and an Australian native.
Immediately after he was born, writes Michael Newton in The
Encyclopedia of Serial Killers, he was so close to death that a
priest gave him Last Rites. Yet he recovered, though he remained sickly,
and at the age of two, he almost drowned in a swimming pool. A year
later, he had an attack of convulsions that made him faint.
His childhood was fairly stable, but he did some
window-peeking in early adolescence and got into trouble when he was
seventeen. He was arrested with a group of friends for the gang-rape
of a girl on the beach of Sydney, Australia. He pleaded guilty and
received a year of probation with counseling and electroshock therapy.
That apparently provided some fuel for his fantasies, writes Gibney, for
unlike before this treatment, he now imagined shocking girls while
having sex with them. Therapists noted his need to dominate women and
his desire to turn them into slaves for his pleasure. He wanted to hold
a woman captive against her will.
When he was 23, he married a woman, who soon
discovered his sexual dark side and left him after only eight days. He
had photographs of naked women in a briefcase, and he apparently used
these to try to force a nurse into sexual relations. Instead, she went
to the police but did not press charges in court.
Around this time,
Wilder, who had lived in the United States at one point
during childhood, immigrated to there in 1969, settling
in Florida, where he did very well for himself during a
building boom in the electrical and construction
business. He bought a nice home, began racing cars,
and developed his photography hobby. (Michael Cartel
points out in Disguise of Sanity that the diamond
ring he wore was fake, his Porsche was twenty years old,
and his nice home was constructed from leftover
materials, so much of his glitter was a façade.) He got
into real estate, which further enriched him. He had a
speedboat, sporty cars, and a home with an indoor-outdoor
pool. He was known to hold some wild parties.
But he got into trouble again. In
1971, he was turned in to the police for trying to get
women to pose for him in the nude. He wanted to take
their photographs. He got off with a fine. Lying low
for a while, he resurfaced with the police when in a
home in which he was doing a renovation he forced a high
school student to have oral sex. She turned him in and
this time, he went to court. When asked if he was sane
enough to stand trial, Earl James says in Catching
Serial Killers that he told the judge he was
masturbating twice a week to the mental image of raping
a girl. He did not think what he had done to the girl
A doctor who examined him said that
he was not safe in an unstructured environment. He and
another psychiatrist recommended supervised treatment.
Wilder tried to get his lawyer to make a deal, but the
case went to trial. Nevertheless, a jury acquitted him.
His next act, three years later, was
outright rape. He adopted the name "David Pierce" to
approach two girls in a shopping center, posing as a
photographer who needed models for a job he had under
contract. One went with him and he drugged her and
forced her to have sex in his truck. She turned him
in. But he plea-bargained the charges down to probation
with therapy. At that time he claimed he suffered from
blackouts on weekends. He was scheduled to see a sex
therapist, who over the months of treatment believed he
Wilder returned to Australia to see
his parents, but he did not stay out of trouble. In
1982, he was accused of grabbing two fifteen-year-old
girls from a beach and forcing them to pose without
clothes for photographs. Cartel says that he bound them
into subservient positions and masturbated over them.
He let them go and they went to the police.
His parents posted his substantial
bail and he was allowed to return to Florida until his
trial, set five months away. Then it was postponed,
and postponed again, and by the time his hearings were
finally scheduled for April of 1984, he wasn't an easy
man to find. Had even one of these judges understood
the danger of this sexual predator, he might have been
stopped before so many girls died.
On the Run
"This case contains several lessons
which are significant to those called upon to
investigate serial murders, " writes Earl James. He
devotes a chapter to the Wilder case because it was an
example of a man who traveled thousands of miles and
whose behaviors were novel and extraordinarily depraved.
In particular, he notes, investigators must be vigilant
when they suspect someone of such crimes, because these
men will get others to lie for them and establish phony
James believes that the police
involved should have asked Wilder to take a polygraph in
the Kenyon case rather than just accept his version of
events. It was a mistake that allowed this man to get
away. They had enough on him to make the request and
not doing so was a serious misstep. It was also a
mistake not to place him under surveillance the instant
a link between the two missing women was suspected.
Almost right away, it's suspected
that he picked up a girl in Merritt Square shopping mall
on Sunday, the day after he left, by luring her with the
promise of a modeling career—her ultimate ambition.
Terry Ferguson, 21, was from
Satellite Beach, Florida, two hours north of where
Wilder had departed. She was not far from home when
she disappeared, and she was last seen at several
different stores in the mall. Her stepfather found her
car still parked there. An hour after she was last seen,
Wilder called for a tow truck to come to a state road
near Canaveral Groves to pull his car out of the sand.
It was a lovers' lane, but he was alone. He claimed he
had gotten lost. He paid for the tow with his business
partner's stolen credit card. Once free, he was on his
Five days later on March 23, a female
body was found about 70 miles west of Terry Ferguson's
hometown, dumped in a snake-infested canal. The body
was identified from dental charts as Terry. Once the
story ran in the local newspaper, a witness came forward
to say that she had seen the long-haired brunette
talking to a tall older man. Looking through mug shots,
without hesitation she picked out Wilder as the man with
whom Terry had been speaking. But he was now long gone
and had even killed again.
Yet in his self-destructive drive, he
made a serious mistake.
next victim was from Tallahassee, but he
had grabbed her on March 20 from a
shopping mall near Florida State
University. Leaving her in a motel, he
had driven her car to various places
before abandoning it, and then had taken
her across the Florida state line into
Bainbridge, Georgia, close to
Louisiana. Only 19, she was blond and
pretty. She had fallen for his line and
made herself vulnerable. Instead of
photographing her as promised, he
tortured her, and from her the police
were able to learn a more detailed
version of Wilder's peculiar modus
Around 11:00 that
night, she screamed at the motel, waking
other overnight guests. A man intent
on locating the source of the distress
passed by another man with a suitcase
who was rushing out. The stranger in a
hurry excused himself, speaking in a
foreign accent. He sped out of the
parking lot as if to escape someone.
And the screams had stopped, so there
was no way to find the room from which
they had originated.
However, the girl
eventually found her way to the night
manager's desk. He was stunned to see
her standing there, wrapped only in a
sheet, her hair soaked in blood.
Something was wrong with her eyes, but
she urged him to call the police
immediately, so he did. He called an
ambulance as well, and they were able to
determine that this girl's eyelids had
been glued shut, and they found bruises
all over her body.
The motel clerk
supplied the police with the name of the
man who had registered for the room,
paying with cash and using a Florida
driver's license. He was in his mid-to-late
thirties, around six feet tall, deeply
tanned, and physically fit. He had
thinning brown hair and a trimmed beard.
A search of the room
revealed that while the man may have
packed quickly, he had taken anything
that could have helped them to identify
him. Yet there were bloodstains on the
wall, duct tape on the floor, and an
indication that someone had used the
bed. It was time to speak to the girl.
At the hospital, she
told police officers that she had been
shopping at a mall near where she went
to college and was in the parking lot
when the man had approached her. He
told her that he was a photographer
looking for a model to pose for him.
She need only go with him to a nearby
park, with no obligation. He told her
she had a fresh face and she was just
the type he was seeking. He would pay
her $25 for less than an hour.
He seemed sincere and
credible. He was well dressed, in a
pin-stripe suit and was not at all
pushy. She had hesitated for a moment,
but then decided to go along with him.
At his car, he'd shown her some fashion
magazines and claimed that several of
the impressive photos were his work.
Something told this
girl not to go with him, so she thanked
him and declined. At that moment, he
punched her hard in the stomach. Then
he hit her in the face and pushed her
into his car. She couldn't breathe, let
alone struggle, and he was already in
the car and driving fast before she got
her bearings. When he stopped near a
wooded area, he placed duct tape over
her mouth and bound her hands together.
A little farther away, he stopped again
and placed her in the trunk of his
sedan. She lay there, bound and gagged,
for hours while the man drove to an
unknown destination. When he finally
stopped, he opened the trunk, wrapped
her in a sleeping blanket, and carried
her over his shoulder into a motel room.
She had no idea where they were or what
he might do next.
The man said that if
she did not remain quiet, he would kill
her. Then he began to subject her to
torture. Cartel says that he
intended to keep her there and torture
her over a period of several days.
He made her undress
and then lay down next to her and
masturbated. (James says he also
shaved off her pubic hair and Cartel
adds that he put a knife to her groin to
see how she would react.) Then he made
her perform sexual acts, and finally he
raped her twice. All this time, he was
watching the television. She hoped this
might be all he would do, but apparently
he had decided to make things more
interesting for himself. He pulled out
an electrical cord, which appeared to
have been cut in the middle and
fashioned for some specific purpose.
There was even a switch. She found out
what this contraption was for when he
applied two open copper wires to her
flesh and used the cord to painfully
shock her feet.
Afterward, he used a
bottle of Superglue with an applicator
to force her eyes shut, then used a blow
dryer to try to harden it. He did a
poor job of it, since she managed to see
what he was doing through tiny slits.
He turned the
channels until he found an aerobics
show, and then ordered his abductee to
get up and dance in the way the women
were dancing on the tube. She could
barely see, but she complied. Her feet
were still wired, so when she did not
perform as he wanted, he shocked her
The television seemed
to mesmerize him. After a while, he
stopped paying attention to her and
remained glued to the screen. She
thought she might be able to escape, so
she moved toward the bathroom. He came
at her, grabbing a hairdryer to hit her
in the head. He had told her that if
she tried to escape, he would kill her
and now she faced that possibility. The
girl was terrified. Nevertheless, she
struggled with him and managed to get
into the bathroom and lock the door.
Her eye had been gouged and was bleeding,
but for the moment she was safe. She
turned around to the wall that was
shared between rooms and pounded,
screaming as loudly as she could.
She heard fumbling in
the room and then the door slam closed.
She prayed that he was gone. Yet she
waited fully half an hour before she
dared to venture out to see. She hoped
her screams had frightened him. When
she cracked open the door, sure enough,
he had packed his "toys" and left. He'd
even taken her clothes. But she thought
he might still come back, so she ran
out, grabbed a bed sheet to cover
herself, and went in search of help.
At any moment, she
knew, she might still encounter her
captor, and he could still kill her.
Yet to her relief, she made it to the
motel office without being stopped.
After she told her
story, the sheriff issued notices to all
patrol cars to be on the lookout for a
cream-colored Chrysler sedan, and sent
bulletins to neighboring states. They
also sent a notice to the FBI, since
with a kidnapping they could now step
in. In fact, they had already been on
the case while Wilder was still in
Aware of the two
missing girls in Florida, they gave this
incident a lot of attention.
Christopher Wilder, a convicted sex
offender, was a very dangerous man, and
he was desperate. Yet despite his
knowledge that the law was after him, he
was clearly unafraid of approaching and
grabbing girls along the way.
No one spotted the
car. Wilder managed to get to
where he found his next victim.
Terry Diane Walden, a 24-year-old
nurse from Beaumont and mother of two, told her husband
on March 21 that a bearded older man had approached her
and asked if she would pose for him as a model. She had
turned him down, but he had asked her to go with him to
his car to see some samples of his work. She requested
quite firmly that he leave her alone. Then two days
later on Friday, she disappeared. Her husband failed to
make the connection at first.
A friend had seen her around 11:30
that morning, hurrying through the student union at the
college where she took classes, and her orange Mercury
Cougar was gone from where she usually parked it. Her
frantic family went through the weekend trying to locate
Then on Monday morning, March 26, a
worker found her floating facedown in a canal near a dam.
She was fully clothed. The pathologist found that she
had been tied up with different types of rope at one
point, gagged with tape, and stabbed multiple times, but
there was no indication of sexual assault.
Forty detectives were assigned to the
case. They found a strip of duct tape in the water,
footprints nearby, and tire tracks, but could not find
The FBI came in to help. They knew
that Wilder had stolen license plates in Baton Rouge
shortly before to place on his Chrysler. He had stayed
at a motel near Beaumont where he had registered under
his partner's name, L.K. Kimbrell. Terry's husband
supplied a description of the man who had approached
her, and it matched Wilder.
Then his abandoned Chrysler, sans
plates, was located. It appeared that he had removed
the stolen plates from his car and had probably put them
on Terry's. At least they knew the car he was using,
and the license plate number. But he had a head start.
By then he'd reached Nevada, via Oklahoma and Colorado.
Reports of missing women were turning up almost daily.
On March 25, Wilder had grabbed
Suzanne Logan, 21, from an Oklahoma City shopping mall,
where she had driven after dropping her husband off at
work. Because she did not keep an appointment that
afternoon or pick her husband up, he reported her
missing. On the same day that Terry Walden was
discovered, a fisherman found Logan floating in a
Unlike Walden, she had been tortured
and raped before she was stabbed to death. Some of her
clothes had been removed, James says, and her face was
badly bruised. She also had small cuts on her back, as
if stabbed superficially with a knife. Her pubic hair
was shaved and her long blond locks had been snipped
off. Eventually a maid found her hair in a wastebasket
at a motel. Logan had likely been lured by her interest
in modeling, and Gibney says she had been dead less than
an hour when she was found, but was not identified for
over a week.
Shortly after this grisly discovery,
but in Colorado, blonde Sheryl Bonaventura, 18, was
kidnapped from a Grand Junction mall, and a witness
described a bearded, well-dressed man who looked like
Wilder talking with her. He had wandered through the
mall, soliciting women for photographs and modeling jobs.
Someone had seen him with Sheryl, a girl who'd already
done some modeling and hoped to do more. She had likely
been an easy mark for him. Her Mazda was left in the
parking lot, locked, with her sunglasses inside. With a
nationwide alert now targeting Christopher Wilder as a
fugitive and predator of pretty girls, this missing-persons
report received immediate attention.
A waitress later said she had spotted
Sheryl on the same day she disappeared having lunch in
Silverton, Colorado, a hundred miles away, with a man
who looked like Wilder. She had given her name to the
waitress and told her they were heading for Vegas.
Another teenage girl had eaten lunch and left the
restaurant with them as well.
Wilder and company spent the night in
a motel in Durango and went into Las Vegas, but that was
the end of the ride for Sheryl. Wilder was already
scouting out his next prey.
She disappeared from
Las Vegas on April
Fool's Day. Only 17 but highly photogenic, Michelle
Korfman had been in a fashion show sponsored by
Seventeen magazine, and a photograph examined later
showed Wilder in attendance, smiling broadly as he
watched her. She wanted to be a model. It probably
wasn't difficult for him to persuade her to accompany
him, or at least to listen to him until he had her at a
disadvantage. Witnesses saw them leave together, and
other people recall him approaching a number of women
that day about modeling. Eight turned him down, but
some had agreed to meet him in front of Caesar's Palace.
He had not shown up. Michelle's car was found, which
meant that Wilder was still driving the orange Mercury.
On April 3, the FBI placed Wilder on
their Ten Most Wanted list, and the intensive manhunt
picked up steam.
At the time the Behavioral Science
Unit had been in operation for six years, with John
Douglas as chief, and the agents were developing the
computer database known as ViCAP. They had gone out to
a number of locations to assist with serial crimes like
rape and murder, and now they had Christopher Wilder to
consider. In Human Monsters, David Everitt
points out that this was the same month in which Henry
Lee Lucas was convicted of murder in Texas, after
confessing to hundreds across several states.
In Wilder's case, they knew who the
perpetrator was, they just did not know where he was or
where he would strike next on his path of death. Several
times, they arrived at a motel or restaurant within
hours of his departure. He kept stealing license plates
and driving in erratic directions. He was exceedingly
difficult to predict.
While they judged him to be a classic
serial killer, in retrospect there are many
criminologists who classify him as a spree killer. Yet
if he had killed the two women he had abducted in
Florida and had continued in that pattern, without
getting nervous and running, then he would be a serial
killer. There was some evidence later that he might
have killed several years before.
He was compulsive about killing. It
was a sexual addiction. He was a charming white male in
his 30s, spurred by sexual fantasies and excited by a
certain type of victim—in this case, beautiful young
women who could be models. Hence, he was dubbed "The
Beauty Queen Killer." He was highly mobile, willing to
drive long distances to keep doing what he was doing.
James says "It is not unusual for a serial killer to
drive between 100,000 and 200,000 miles in a year."
Putting him on the Ten Most Wanted
list generated more publicity about him countrywide and
made it clear that catching him was an urgent matter. Everitt
says the FBI did not want to reveal many details of
Wilder's brutality for fear of inspiring copycat crimes.
Authorities monitored the use of the credit cards Wilder
had stolen from his partner, but it was still difficult
to determine where he was going. They expected that at
some point he would try leaving the country.
The best bet for him was Mexico,
since that government would not extradite a man who
might face the death penalty or life without parole, as
Wilder surely would do. At the very least, it would
To try to get a better sense of
Wilder's personality, people who knew him were
interviewed. His business partner said that he spent a
lot of time watching television, because he didn't have
much else to do, while others claimed that beautiful
women went to his home in droves. He even had a
girlfriend who could not believe the charges, although
she recalled several strange incidents. Once Wilder had
commanded her to leave his home, fearing he might hurt
her, and another time, she had woken up to find him at
the foot of her bed. He claimed he did not know how he
had gotten there or why. Someone brought forward
photographs that Wilder had left for developing, which
included women he did not know and prepubescent children.
He had told his girlfriend that his photography hobby
was a sickness, but he had to do it.
In Florida, the manager of a dating
service offered a tape that Wilder had made in 1981.
He talked a lot about himself on the tape and said that
he wanted a long relationship but not marriage. He was
seeking "depth and sincerity." He also indicated that
he preferred women in their early 20s. The FBI
broadcast the tape to help women who were approached by
him to see him for what he was. He could be anywhere,
and any pretty woman was a potential victim. There were
a lot of shopping malls around the country, and one
thing they knew for sure was that he would not stop
abducting and killing pretty girls until he was caught.
A sixteen-year-old girl, Tina Marie,
had filled out a job application at Hickory Farms, north
of Torrance, California. Wilder had followed her into
the store and on their way outside he offered her $100
to pose for him. He was shooting a billboard, he said,
and she would be seen for miles around. What he needed,
however, were a few test rolls.
Apparently she did pose for some
photos for him, but after one roll, she told him she had
to go home. To her surprise, he grew angry. He pulled
out a revolver and stuck the barrel into her mouth. He
then said, "Your modeling days are over."
Binding her, he put her into his car—still
the stolen one from
Texas—and drove with
her for over two hundred miles to
he already had a motel room, and he took her inside. He
tied her to the bed and attacked her. Yet he did not
"It has been speculated," says
Michael Cartel, "that Wilder stopped short of killing
[her] because he believed she was robotic enough to help
him capture other victims."
A missing-persons report was filed
right away. She had family and a boyfriend who
insisted she would not have run away. She clearly had
been at Hickory Farms. From there, no one knew where
she had gone, but she had not come home. The store
manager identified Christopher Wilder as the man he had
seen approach her.
Wilder and his captive now turned and
drove east. They stayed in Taos, New Mexico, on April
7. He began to spot newspaper articles about him
wherever he went, and the videotape from the dating
service was broadcast on television. Now millions of
people would know him on sight. They knew what kind of
car he was driving.
Yet that did not stop him.
next girl was also sixteen. Dawnette
Wilt was filling out a form at a store
in Gary, Indiana, when another girl
interrupted her, introduced herself as
Tina Marie Wilder, and asked her to step
outside the store to speak to the
manager. That turned out to be Wilder.
He had forced one victim to lure yet
another, and he grabbed Dawnette and
used a gun to force her into the car.
He placed duct tape over both her eyes
and mouth. Since he had a driver—Tina
Marie, who had already been assaulted—he
was free to torment and rape Dawnette in
They stopped at a
hotel in Ohio, where Dawnette was
treated to Wilder's special torture
device, and then they all drove across
Pennsylvania to New York State. Tina
Marie and Wilder took photographs at
Niagara Falls before they went to
Rochester, New York for the night.
There, Dawnette was raped and tortured
once again. Wilder warned both girls
that if they tried to draw attention to
themselves or to escape, he would kill
them. They believed him, and while he
took three or four showers each day,
they remained in the various rooms.
When Wilder saw on
television an appeal for Tina Marie's
return, he drove them both away and then
took Dawnette out into the woods near
Penn Yan. He tried to suffocate her,
but she struggled so much he could not
get a grip. So he took out his knife
and stabbed her, front and back. She
pretended to be dead, so he left her
there and walked back to the car. When
she knew he was gone, she struggled to
her feet and walked out to a road where
she found someone who would take her to
a hospital. She told the police that
Wilder was driving the Mercury Cougar
and was heading toward Canada. He had
told the girls that he would not be
Even so, he wasn't so
desperate yet that he didn't have time
to go for yet another victim. At
Eastview Mall near
he had Tina Marie persuade 33-year-old
Beth Dodge, who was getting out of a
gold Pontiac Trans-Am, to come over to
their car. Wilder forced her inside and
took her car keys. He had Tina Marie
drive the Trans-Am, following him. When
Wilder found a deserted gravel pit, he
made the woman get out and he shot her
in the back. He left the Mercury there
and took the Trans-Am.
Wilder seemed to know
his time was just about up. He drove
to Boston's Logan Airport, gave Tina
Marie enough money to fly back home and
get a cab, and they parted ways. In Los
Angeles, she later said that he had
expressed a desire that she not be with
him when he died.
She barely got away
with her life, and even boarding the
plane, she said, she believed she would
be shot in the back. Oddly, when she
arrived in Los Angeles, she asked the
cab driver to take her to a lingerie
store first. She spoke to the sales
manager and told her that Wilder had cut
her hair short to make her look like the
girl in the movie Flashdance.
Then some friends saw her and took her
to the police.
Cornering the Killer
On April 13, Wilder
tried to grab another girl. He saw a
nineteen-year-old by the side of the
road whose car had broken down. Wilder
offered to give her a lift to get gas,
but when he passed the gas station, she
knew something was up. She insisted he
stop, so he pulled out a gun. However,
he had to slow down in one place, and
she grabbed the opportunity to open the
door and leap out. Rolling away, she
managed to escape.
Wilder dumped several
articles, such as his camera, suitcase
and things he'd taken from the victims,
and then drove into New Hampshire. At
a service station in Colebrook, New
Hampshire, about twelve miles from the
Canadian border, he drew the attention
of two state troopers. (Newton says
they had recognized the car from FBI
descriptions, Gibney says they knew it
from recent news reports, while Cartel
says they thought Wilder was acting
strangely enough to investigate.). They
looked at him as he stood talking to the
attendant and thought he looked like the
guy on the FBI posters, sans
beard. His tan indicated he was not
from around there.
The troopers pulled
in and got out of their car. They
called out to him, and he dove inside
the vehicle, apparently going for a gun.
In the scuffle, one trooper, Leo
Jellison, jumped on his back, grabbing
for the .357 Magnum, and two shots were
fired. One went through Wilder into the
trooper's chest, lodging in his liver.
The second went into Wilder's heart,
obliterating it. He died on the spot.
It was Friday the 13th.
It had been 47 days since the first
reported disappearance and he had spent
twenty-six days on the run. His luck
had just run out.
his possession, as
listed by both James and
Gibney, were the .357
rolls of duct tape, rope,
a sleeping bag, his
credit card, the
electrical cord for
stunning the women he
picked up, and a novel
by British author John
Fowles called The
Published in 1963, this
story features a lonely
collects butterflies and
who also captures and
imprisons a pretty art
student named Miranda.
He keeps her in his
nothing wrong with what
he has done, he treats
her well, expecting that
this will eventually win
her love, and willingly
gives her anything she
wants, except her
freedom. While she
grows to need his
attention, since he's
the only person she ever
sees, she also views him
as evil for his
imprisonment of her.
belongs to him, and this
fantasy is not uncommon
those who hoped to
create sexual slaves
were Jeffrey Dahmer, who
murdered seventeen men;
Leonard Lake and Charles
Ng, who tortured and
killed an unknown number
of people, and others
who actually imprisoned
women for sex for long
stretches of time but
did not kill them. One
woman was kept in a box
for seven years.
Therapists who had
treated Wilder over a
period of time knew that
he loved this book and
memorized it. For him
it had been the ultimate
now he would have no
more chances to make it
Wilder's wretched tale
did not end there. Six
days after the autopsy,
Christie took a phone
call from a man claiming
to be from Harvard.
According to Newton,
this man said that
Harvard wanted Wilder's
brain for study. He
agreed, in the interest
of science, but he
wanted a formal written
request. It never
materialized, and when
he phoned Harvard, no
one there admitted to
making any such call.
as Wilder was cremated
in Florida, there were
whereabouts of some of
his victims. The
families of the missing
were sick with grief
that they might never
find their daughters.
gradually, a few more
were located and
On May 3,
over a month after she
had disappeared, Sheryl
Bonaventura was found
under a tree in Utah. She
had been killed with a
gun and also stabbed.
Her time of death was
estimated at around
March 31, two days after
she was spotted with
Wilder in a restaurant.
Eight days later, in the
Angeles National Forest,
Michelle Korfman was
discovered. She was
badly decomposed and it
took almost a month to
notify her family of the
of the two girls who had
disappeared in Florida,
spree, were ever found.
women who were murdered
in places where he was
known to have been on
those dates were
tentatively linked to
him as well,
particularly in Las
Vegas. A couple of
girls identified him
from mug shots as the
man who had grabbed them
in Boynton Beach,
Florida in 1983 and
forced them to perform
oral sex on him. They
were ten and twelve.
in Australia, he was
linked to numerous
incidents of sexual
molestation and two
deaths. In 1965, two
decades before his final
run, two young women had
accompanied a man
description to a beach
near Sydney, and they
were both found raped,
strangled, and placed in
a shallow grave.
more girls had been
grabbed at malls in
Florida. One was
stabbed to death and the
other was never found.
Several sets of skeletal
remains were found near
property that Wilder
owned, and one woman was
estimated to have been
dead for several years.
other places where
Wilder was seen, girls
disappeared. Some were
found dead, others
recovered from his
wounds and was happy to
know the identity of the
man he had stopped from
escaping into Canada. Thanks
to him, it was the end
of the line for
Wilder, who left an
estate estimated as
being worth between half
a million and almost two
he's credited with eight
tentatively linked to so
many others that it's
impossible to know the
final count of his
he died as an apparent
suicide, Earl James
suggests that when the
police began to close in
on him, he had already
decided to kill himself.
However, he wanted a
final spree before doing
so. Yet given the fact
that he went to
California and then New
Hampshire, it seems more
likely that he was
trying to flee to
another country. He got
fairly close to the
Mexican border, but
something must have made
him decide to turn
around and go back
across country. James
believes his intent to
cross into Canada is
unlikely, since he
didn't choose a
populated place to do
so. But when he died,
he was ten minutes from
authors call him a
nomadic killer, as if he
chose to go from place
to place as Ted Bundy
did. However, that
seems to be a mistaken
notion as well. He
certainly had learned in
Australia that one way
to elude a trial was to
just leave the country.
It was also clear to him
in Florida that he would
have to leave the state.
He's less the
intentional nomad and
more likely a killer on
the run who grabbed
opportunities to rape
and kill as he saw them.
also demonstrates the
fact that some serial
killers use different
methods to kill. He
stabbing, and shooting.
One victim was both
stabbed and shot.
Several were let go.
Many were tortured, but
some were merely killed
for their cars. Some
were left in rivers,
some in rest areas, and
one in a gravel pit.
Yet he kept his victim
type relatively stable.
Psychologist Al C.
Carlisle believes that
serial killers have a
exhibited a good side
that fooled people,
Carlisle points out, and
a bad side that harmed
them. He was able to
maintain a public
persona of an upstanding
citizen and run a
even as he entertained
and acted out his darker
fantasies. As each one
was played out, and as
life became more
fantasies became more
Carlisle admits, "the
that leads to the
development of an
obsessive appetite (and
possibly an addiction)
to kill is still one of
the most perplexing
yet to be solved."