Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

A Killer's Rampage

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 alibis.

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
Terry Ferguson

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 way. 

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.


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