Christopher Wilder was born on March 13, 1945, in Sydney, Australia, the son of an American naval officer and an Australian national. He nearly died at birth, but recovered, and almost drowned in a swimming pool at the age of two. In 1962 or 1963, he pleaded guilty to a gang-rape at a beach in Sydney and was sentenced to probation, during which time he also received electroshock therapy. There is evidence that this treatment exacerbated his violent sexual tendencies. 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. He married in 1968, but his wife left him after one week. Wilder emigrated to the United States in 1969. He 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, he faced 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 modeling contract. This was to become part of his modus operandi during his later rape and murder spree. Despite several convictions, Wilder was never jailed for any of these crimes.
While visiting his parents in Australia in 1982 Christopher 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. In early 1984 he began a bloody, six-week, cross-country crime spree in the United States. He would leave in his wake a total of 8-9 female murder victims. The first murder attributed to Christopher 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 model. 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 has ever been found. Police linked Wilder to both women after consulting a private investigator who had been hired by Kenyon’s parents to discover information related to her disappearance. When 15-year-old Colleen Orsborn went missing after leaving her Daytona Beach home on March 15, Wilder was staying at a motel in Daytona Beach. Though he checked out on the day Orsborn disappeared, no evidence has been found to connect them. Her body was discovered a few weeks later, partially buried near a lake in Orange County, Florida, although it was initially ruled not to be her, and was not formally identified until 2011.
On March 18, Christopher Wilder lured 21-year-old Theresa Wait Ferguson away from the Merritt Square Mall in Merritt Island, Florida and murdered her, dumping her body at Canaveral Groves, where it was discovered on March 23. His 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, bound her hands, wrapped her in a blanket, and put her in the trunk of his car. That night, in room 30 of the Glen Oaks Motel, he raped her, and then used a blow dryer and super glue to blind her. He tortured her further by applying copper wires to her feet and passing 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 her belongings with him.
The next day, March 21, Christopher 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 disappeared on March 23. Wilder stabbed her to death and dumped her body in a canal, where it 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. Christopher 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. The next day 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 also 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.
Near Torrance, California, Christopher 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 lure other victims, 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, 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 survived and recuperated at Soldiers and Sailors Hospital in Penn Yan; she told Penn Yan police that Wilder was heading for Canada. At the Eastview Mall in Victor, New York, Wilder forced 33-year-old Elizabeth 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 behind a high mound of gravel. He and Risico then drove the Firebird to Logan Airport in Boston, where he bought her a ticket to Los Angeles.
On April 13, Wilder attempted to abduct 19-year-old Carol Hilbert in Beverly, Massachusetts, but she managed to escape. Wilder’s vehicle description was broadcast to law enforcement officials. When Wilder stopped at Vic’s Getty service station at the corner of Main and Bridge Streets in Colebrook, New Hampshire, he was noticed by two New Hampshire state troopers, Leo Jellison and Wayne Fortier. When the troopers approached Wilder, he retreated to his car to arm himself with a Colt Python .357 Magnum. Trooper Jellison grabbed Wilder from behind. In the scuffle, two shots were fired: the first bullet passed through Wilder’s body, exited through his back and into Jellison; the second also went into Wilder’s chest. Both bullets pierced Wilder’s heart, killing him. Trooper Jellison was seriously wounded, but recovered and returned to full duty. Christopher Wilder earned the nickname the “Beauty Queen Killer” as a result of his crimes.
- March, 13, 1945
- Sydney, New South Wales
- April, 13, 1984
- Colebrook, New Hampshire
Cause of Death
- gunshot wounds