Christopher Wilder

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Christopher Wilder
Christopher Wilder.jpg
FBI photos of Wilder
Born(1945-03-13)March 13, 1945
DiedApril 13, 1984(1984-04-13) (aged 39)
Cause of deathGunshot wounds
Other namesThe Beauty Queen Killer
Children1
Details
Victims8+
Span of crimes
February – April 1984 (confirmed)
CountryAustralia; United States
State(s)Florida, California, Texas, Oklahoma, Nevada, Arizona, Illinois, New York, Colorado, Utah
Date apprehended
April 13, 1984 (killed)

Christopher Bernard Wilder (March 13, 1945 – April 13, 1984), also known as the Beauty Queen Killer, was an Australian serial killer[1] who abducted and raped at least twelve young women and girls, torturing some, and killing at least eight of them, during a six-week, cross-country crime spree in the United States in early 1984. Wilder's series of murders began in Florida on February 26, 1984, and continued across the country through Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado, Nevada, and California, and attempted abductions in Washington State and New York State before he was killed during a struggle with police in New Hampshire on April 13, 1984.

Wilder is also believed to have raped two girls, aged 10 and 12, in Florida in 1983. Since his death, he has also been considered a suspect in many unsolved murders, including the unsolved 1965 murder of two teenaged girls in his native Sydney, where he had lived during the same period.

Early life[edit]

Christopher Bernard Wilder was born on March 13, 1945, in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia,[2] the son of an American father, a naval officer, and an Australian mother. He nearly died at birth, and reportedly almost drowned in a swimming pool at the age of two.[3] [4]

On January 4, 1963, aged 17, Wilder raped a 13-year-old girl in company with two other young men, both of whom denied being involved in the actual assault. Wilder was sentenced to probation, and claimed later in life that he also received electroshock therapy.[4][5] It has been suggested that this therapy aggravated Wilder's violent sexual tendencies.[6] However, journalist Duncan McNab claims there is no evidence that he underwent electroshock therapy, and that the story of Wilder's near-drowning was an invention of Wilder himself.[7]

Wilder married in 1968, but his wife left him after one week. He emigrated to the United States in 1969 and lived in Boynton Beach, Florida in an upscale home and was successful in real estate while developing an interest in photography. From about 1971 through 1975, Wilder faced various charges related to sexual misconduct.[8] He eventually raped a young woman he had lured into his truck on the pretense of photographing her for a modeling contract.[5] This was to become part of his modus operandi during his later crime spree. Despite several convictions, Wilder was never jailed for any of these offenses.[why?][9]

Crime spree[edit]

While visiting his parents in Australia 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 ever being heard, as the eventual initial hearing date of April 1984 came after his death.[10]

In early 1984, Wilder began a bloody six-week, cross-country crime spree in the United States. He left in his wake eight murder victims, all female.[11]

Florida and Georgia murders[edit]

The first murder attributed to Wilder was that of Rosario Gonzalez, who was last seen on February 26, 1984, at the Miami Grand Prix, where she was employed as a spokesmodel. Wilder was also at the race, where he raced in the IMSA GTU class in a Porsche 911. On March 5, Wilder's former girlfriend, Miss Florida finalist Elizabeth Kenyon, went missing. Neither woman's remains have ever been found. On March 18, Wilder led 21-year-old Theresa Wait Ferguson away from the Merritt Square Mall in Merritt Island, Florida. He murdered Ferguson and dumped her body at Canaveral Groves, where it was discovered on March 23.

Wilder's next victim was 19-year-old Linda Grover from Florida State University, whom he abducted from the Governor's Square Mall in Tallahassee, Florida, and transported to Bainbridge, Georgia, on March 20. She had declined his offer to photograph her for a modeling agency, after which he assaulted her in the mall parking lot. Wilder tied Grover's hands, wrapped her in a blanket, and put her in the trunk of his car. Grover was taken to Glen Oaks Motel and was raped. Wilder blinded her with a blow dryer and super glue. He applied copper wires to her feet and passed an electric current through them. When she tried to get away, he beat her, but she escaped and locked herself in the bathroom, where she began pounding on the walls. Wilder fled in his car, taking all of Grover's belongings with him.

Texas and Kansas murders[edit]

On March 21, Wilder approached Terry Walden, a 23-year-old wife, mother, and nursing student at Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas, about posing as a model. She turned him down, but ran across him again two days later, March 23, and he kidnapped her then. Wilder stabbed her to death and dumped her body in a canal, where she was found on March 26. After killing Walden, Wilder fled in her rust-colored 1981 Mercury Cougar.

On March 25, Wilder abducted 21-year-old Suzanne Logan at the Penn Square Mall in Oklahoma City. Wilder took her 180 miles north to Newton, Kansas, and checked into room 30 of the I-35 Inn. After breakfast the next morning, he drove to Milford Reservoir, 90 miles northeast of Newton near Junction City, Kansas, where he stabbed her to death and dumped her body under a cedar tree.

Utah and California murders[edit]

Wilder took 18-year-old Sheryl Bonaventura captive in Grand Junction, Colorado, on March 29. They were seen together at a diner in Silverton, where they told staff they were heading for Las Vegas with a stop in Durango on the way. On March 30, they were seen at the Four Corners Monument, after which Wilder checked into the Page Boy Motel in Page, Arizona. Wilder shot and stabbed Bonaventura to death around March 31 near the Kanab River in Utah, but her body was not found until May 3.

Wilder killed 17-year-old Michelle Korfman, an aspiring model, who disappeared from a Seventeen magazine cover model competition at the Meadows Mall in Las Vegas on April 1. A photograph was taken of Wilder stalking her at the competition. Her body remained undiscovered near a Southern California roadside rest stop until May 11, and was not identified until mid-June via dental X-rays.[12]

Beth Dodge murder (New York)[edit]

On April 4, in Torrance, California, Wilder photographed 16-year-old Tina Marie Risico before abducting her and driving her to El Centro, where he assaulted her. Wilder apparently believed that Risico would be of use in helping him get other victims,[13] so he kept her alive and took her with him as he traveled back east through Prescott, Arizona, Joplin, Missouri, and Chicago, Illinois. Wilder had been on the FBI's ten most wanted fugitives list since the second week of April.

He and Risico went to Merrillville, Indiana, on April 10, where she helped him abduct 16-year-old Dawnette Wilt at the Southlake Mall. Wilder raped Wilt several times as Risico drove to New York. Near Penn Yan, Wilder took Wilt into the woods and attempted to suffocate her before stabbing her twice and leaving her. Wilt managed to tie a pair of jeans around herself and flag down help. She was taken to Soldiers and Sailors Hospital in Penn Yan by a truck driver, Charlie Laursen. Wilder had doubled back and returned to the spot where he left her to make sure she was dead. He panicked on seeing she had fled.[14]

Dr. John F. Flynn performed a life-saving surgery on Wilt at the hospital and Wilt survived and recuperated at Soldiers and Sailors Hospital. She told local police that Wilder was heading for Canada. At the Eastview Mall in Victor, New York, Wilder forced 33-year-old Beth Dodge into his car and had Risico follow him in Dodge's Pontiac Firebird. After a short drive, Wilder shot Dodge and dumped her body in a gravel pit. Risico and he then drove the Firebird to Logan Airport in Boston, where he bought her a ticket to Los Angeles.[14]

Wilder then headed north, and in Beverly, Massachusetts, he attempted to abduct a woman at gunpoint, but was unsuccessful.[15]

Death[edit]

On April 13, Wilder stopped at Vic's Getty service station in Colebrook, New Hampshire to ask directions to Canada.[9] Two New Hampshire state troopers, Leo Jellison and Wayne Fortier, approached Wilder, who retreated to his car to arm himself with a Colt Python .357 Magnum.[16] Jellison was able to grab Wilder from behind and in the scuffle, two shots were fired. The first bullet hit Wilder and exited through his back and into Jellison. The second bullet hit Wilder in the chest. Wilder died; Jellison was seriously wounded, but recovered and returned to full duty.[17]

A copy of the novel The Collector by John Fowles, in which a man keeps a woman in his cellar against her will until she dies, was found among his possessions after his death.[18]

Wilder was cremated in Florida, leaving a personal estate worth more than $7 million. In June 1986, a court-appointed arbitrator ruled that the after-tax balance was to be divided among the families of his victims.[19][20][21]

Ruled-out victims[edit]

On May 3, 1973, a man walking his dog discovered the bodies of sisters Mary Jenkins (16) and Marguerit "Maggie" Jenkins (18), in a wooded area in Key Largo, about 100 miles from where they were last seen. They were seen the day before trying to hitchhike back to their home in Gloucester, New Jersey. Both girls had been sexually assaulted as well as had been subjected to blunt force trauma and shot to death. Authorities looked into the possibility that Wilder was the person responsible for the murders as he had already been attacking women and resided in Boynton Beach in 1973, which is 150 miles from Key Largo. However, Wilder was ruled out when DNA recovered from a bite mark on one of the girls did not match his.

In popular culture[edit]

Wilder earned the nickname the "Beauty Queen Killer" as a result of his crimes.[22]

The made-for-TV movie Easy Prey (1986) dramatizes a series of events based on Wilder's story.[23]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Chris Wilder - The Snapshot Killer: Inside the Wanda Beach murders | 7NEWS Spotlight - YouTube". www.youtube.com. Retrieved February 6, 2021.
  2. ^ Johns, Loujane. "Nothing Ever Happens Here". The Chronicle-Express. Penn Yan, NY. Archived from the original on February 20, 2012. Retrieved March 12, 2012.
  3. ^ Newton, Michael (2000). The Encyclopedia of Serial Killers.
  4. ^ a b McNab, Duncan (2019). The Snapshot Killer. Australia: Hachette Australia. p. 8. ISBN 978-0-7336-4100-8.
  5. ^ a b Bovsun, Mara (September 19, 2015). "'Beauty Queen Killer' and race car driver Christopher Bernard Wilder takes a bloody ride through the states, kidnapping, raping and murdering 8 women in short 1984 span". New York Daily News. Archived from the original on April 3, 2016. Retrieved December 18, 2020.
  6. ^ Gibney, Bruce (1984). The Beauty Queen Killer.
  7. ^ McNab, Duncan (2019). The Snapshot Killer. Australia: Hachette Australia. p. 13. ISBN 978-0-7336-4100-8.
  8. ^ Ramsland, Kathleen (April 13, 2012). "Christopher Wilder: Beauty queen killer". Dinge en Goete (Things and Stuff). Retrieved September 18, 2012.
  9. ^ a b Ramsland, Katherine. "A Killer's Rampage". TruTV. Archived from the original on April 21, 2012. Retrieved December 18, 2020.
  10. ^ Flowers, R. Barri; H. Loraine Flowers (2004). Murders in the United States: Crimes, Killers and Victims of the Twentieth Century. McFarland. p. 104. ISBN 978-0-7864-2075-9.
  11. ^ "Christopher Wilder a real 'killer' with the ladies". The Tuscaloosa News. April 26, 1984. Retrieved September 17, 2014.
  12. ^ Bustos, Sergio; Yanez, Luisa (2007). Miami's Criminal Past Uncovered. The History Press. p. 91. ISBN 978-1-59629-388-5. Retrieved September 3, 2015.
  13. ^ Cartel, Michael (1985). Disguise of Sanity: Serial Mass Murderers.
  14. ^ a b "Tina Marie Risico, the teenager who accompanied serial killer..." United Press International, Inc. Retrieved April 3, 2016.
  15. ^ Newton, Michael (1990). Hunting Humans: An Encyclopedia of Modern Serial Killers. Loompanics Unlimited. ISBN 978-1-55950-026-5.
  16. ^ "Mystery and a Spree Killer". Law and Ordnance. July 22, 2009. Archived from the original on February 27, 2012. Retrieved March 12, 2012.
  17. ^ "Woman Slayer Described as a 'Demon,' Unhuman". The Mohave Daily Miner. United Press International. April 15, 1984. p. A-5. Retrieved March 12, 2012.
  18. ^ Kahn, Robert. "Elusive 'Beauty Queen Killer' Led Double Life as a Florida Playboy". A&E. Retrieved October 7, 2021.
  19. ^ Sellers, Laurin (June 12, 1986). "Victim's Parents Share Killer's Estate: Arbitrator Awards Portion Of Wilder's Fortune To Brevard Couple". Orlando Sentinel.
  20. ^ Perry, Michael (April 26, 1987). "Massacre victim's family gets $3.5m". The Sun-Herald.
  21. ^ Altman, Larry (2008). "A Teen's Terrifying Days With a Killer in 1984, an L.A.-area Girl Became One of the Targets of a Hunted Man who Took Her on a Cross-Country Nightmare". Daily News. Los Angeles, California. Archived from the original on December 12, 2013. Retrieved March 12, 2012.
  22. ^ "Making of a Monster: Christopher Wilder (The Beauty Queen Killer)". Health Psychology Consultancy. August 12, 2012. Retrieved December 18, 2020.
  23. ^ Kelley, Bill (October 26, 1986). "VICTIM'S ESCAPE EASY PREY FOR TV MOVIE". Sun-Sentinel. Retrieved December 18, 2020.

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