Cross-country road trips often conjure images of the wind in your hair as you drive a classic Mustang with the music blaring. Add to this rape, torture and murder and you’d come close to describing Christopher Wilder’s 1984 killing spree across the United States.
Origins of a monster
Also known as The Beauty Queen Killer, Wilder was born in 1945 in Sydney, Australia. Having lived through a rather traumatic childhood where Wilder came close to death not once, but twice, he showed signs of sexual deviance at a young age. By aged seventeen somewhat innocent window peeking had developed into gang rape. Having plead guilty to this crime, during his year of probation, he received the controversial electroconvulsive therapy. This treatment, thought to correct unwanted mental conditions, involves small electric shocks being passed through the brain to trigger a seizure. Although it was meant to help, this treatment seemed to further fuel Wilder’s disturbing fantasies – especially those about having complete power over a woman.
Tools of the trade
In the years that followed Wilder’s move to the United States, his work in construction and real estate allowed him to build himself a veneer of success. It was this mask that he would subsequently use to lure women into his trap. Specifically, his new photography hobby and the expensive equipment to match gave him direct access to a plethora of young, vulnerable “wannabe” models.
In 1974, adopting the persona of “David Pierce the Photographer”, he picked up a girl in a shopping centre under the guise of needing a model for an upcoming shoot. Once alone, he drugged and raped her. Ever the negotiator, a plea bargain for this crime meant that he was simply put on probation with compulsory therapy.
However, based on what was to come, is is clear that the therapy didn’t work…
On a highway to hell
The Beauty Queen Killer’s murderous road trip began in his home state, Florida. Wilder’s first victim is suspected to have been Rosario Gonzales, who disappeared on the 26th February, 1984 while working at the Miami Grand Prix racetrack handing out samples. A beautiful young woman who had participated in the Miss Florida pageant, she was seen leaving the racetrack around noon with a man matching Wilder’s appearance.
The next victim, Elizabeth Kenyon, had been a finalist in the same Miss Florida pageant that Gonzales had participated in. This, and the fact that both women had been in contact with Wilder (in fact, Kenyon had even dated him) were the only true links between their disappearances.
Their bodies have not been found to this day.
Wilder’s next victim was smart enough to turn his modelling request down – sadly this was to no avail, as her body was discovered dumped in a canal in Texas soon after her disappearance. She had been repeatedly stabbed to death. Despite being the primary suspect in the previous disappearances, police had no reason to suspect Wilder’s involvement in this crime. This remained the case until a witness reported seeing Walden talking to an older man, later identified as being our killer from a mug shot.
From Texas, Wilder continued his murder spree through Kansas, Utah and California, with his final journey taking him back to the east coast to New York. In his wake, he left a trail of missing and murdered women. They were always young and beautiful, and always easily lured in by his charm and promises. In total, he is thought to have killed at least nine women – raping and torturing countless more.
Profile of The Beauty Queen Killer
As Wilder was embarking on his road trip of terror, criminal profilers were hard at work attempting to predict his next move. Unlike in other cases, they knew who the perpetrator was, but what they didn’t know was when or where he would strike next.
Wilder has been categorised as a spree killer. He was compulsive about killing as his actions were often driven by a sexual addition. He was a charming, white male in his 30s who had a penchant for selecting gorgeous women as his victims. He was willing to drive long distances to feed his fantasies making tracking him near impossible through erratic driving patterns and constant number plate changes.
He was placed on the Ten Most Wanted list in order to raise awareness and prevent other women falling prey to him. In addition, a video tape that Wilder had made for a dating service in 1981 was broadcast by the FBI to demonstrate to women the type of individual they might be approached by.
They might not know where he was – but one thing authorities knew for sure was that he would not stop until he was apprehended.
A just conclusion?
On April 13, Wilder attempted to abduct a nineteen-year-old girl whose car had broken down. He offered to give her a lift to the petrol station and on the way, growing suspicious of his intentions when he refused to pull over, she jumped out of the moving car and managed to escape.
Now The Beauty Queen Killer was on the run and Canada was his destination of choice.
On his way, Wilder stopped at a petrol station in Colebrook, New Hampshire where two state troopers recognised him. As they approached him, Wilder dove for a gun and in a struggle with the trooper, two shots went off. The shot that would end Wilder’s life went straight into his heart, killing him almost instantly.
After six weeks of a killer cross-country trip, justice was served in just a few moments. Or, was it?
Your turn: Do you believe justice was really served in this case? Or do you believe a more just conclusion been a life spent in jail? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.