Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

A Killer's Rampage

A Profile

At the time the Behavioral Science Unit had been in operation for six years, with John Douglas as chief, and the agents were developing the computer database known as ViCAP.  They had gone out to a number of locations to assist with serial crimes like rape and murder, and now they had Christopher Wilder to consider.  In Human Monsters, David Everitt points out that this was the same month in which Henry Lee Lucas was convicted of murder in Texas, after confessing to hundreds across several states.

In Wilder's case, they knew who the perpetrator was, they just did not know where he was or where he would strike next on his path of death.   Several times, they arrived at a motel or restaurant within hours of his departure.  He kept stealing license plates and driving in erratic directions.  He was exceedingly difficult to predict.

While they judged him to be a classic serial killer, in retrospect there are many criminologists who classify him as a spree killer.   Yet if he had killed the two women he had abducted in Florida and had continued in that pattern, without getting nervous and running, then he would be a serial killer.  There was some evidence later that he might have killed several years before.

He was compulsive about killing.   It was a sexual addiction.  He was a charming white male in his 30s, spurred by sexual fantasies and excited by a certain type of victim—in this case, beautiful young women who could be models.  Hence, he was dubbed "The Beauty Queen Killer."  He was highly mobile, willing to drive long distances to keep doing what he was doing.  James says "It is not unusual for a serial killer to drive between 100,000 and 200,000 miles in a year."

Putting him on the Ten Most Wanted list generated more publicity about him countrywide and made it clear that catching him was an urgent matter.   Everitt says the FBI did not want to reveal many details of Wilder's brutality for fear of inspiring copycat crimes.  Authorities monitored the use of the credit cards Wilder had stolen from his partner, but it was still difficult to determine where he was going.  They expected that at some point he would try leaving the country. 

The best bet for him was Mexico, since that government would not extradite a man who might face the death penalty or life without parole, as Wilder surely would do.   At the very least, it would take years.

To try to get a better sense of Wilder's personality, people who knew him were interviewed.   His business partner said that he spent a lot of time watching television, because he didn't have much else to do, while others claimed that beautiful women went to his home in droves.  He even had a girlfriend who could not believe the charges, although she recalled several strange incidents.  Once Wilder had commanded her to leave his home, fearing he might hurt her, and another time, she had woken up to find him at the foot of her bed.  He claimed he did not know how he had gotten there or why.  Someone brought forward photographs that Wilder had left for developing, which included women he did not know and prepubescent children.  He had told his girlfriend that his photography hobby was a sickness, but he had to do it.

In Florida, the manager of a dating service offered a tape that Wilder had made in 1981.   He talked a lot about himself on the tape and said that he wanted a long relationship but not marriage.  He was seeking "depth and sincerity."  He also indicated that he preferred women in their early 20s.  The FBI broadcast the tape to help women who were approached by him to see him for what he was.  He could be anywhere, and any pretty woman was a potential victim.  There were a lot of shopping malls around the country, and one thing they knew for sure was that he would not stop abducting and killing pretty girls until he was caught.


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