Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

A Killer's Rampage

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.

<em>Disguise of Sanity</em>
Disguise of Sanity

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 was wrong.

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 made progress.

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.


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