Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

A Killer's Rampage

Younger Victims

A sixteen-year-old girl, Tina Marie, had filled out a job application at Hickory Farms, north of Torrance, California.   Wilder had followed her into the store and on their way outside he offered her $100 to pose for him.  He was shooting a billboard, he said, and she would be seen for miles around.  What he needed, however, were a few test rolls.

Apparently she did pose for some photos for him, but after one roll, she told him she had to go home.   To her surprise, he grew angry.  He pulled out a revolver and stuck the barrel into her mouth.  He then said, "Your modeling days are over."

Binding her, he put her into his car—still the stolen one from Texas—and drove with her for over two hundred miles to El Centro, California.   There he already had a motel room, and he took her inside.  He tied her to the bed and attacked her.  Yet he did not kill her. 

"It has been speculated," says Michael Cartel, "that Wilder stopped short of killing [her] because he believed she was robotic enough to help him capture other victims."

A missing-persons report was filed right away.   She had family and a boyfriend who insisted she would not have run away.  She clearly had been at Hickory Farms.  From there, no one knew where she had gone, but she had not come home.  The store manager identified Christopher Wilder as the man he had seen approach her.

Wilder and his captive now turned and drove east.   They stayed in Taos, New Mexico, on April 7.  He began to spot newspaper articles about him wherever he went, and the videotape from the dating service was broadcast on television.  Now millions of people would know him on sight.  They knew what kind of car he was driving.

Yet that did not stop him.

Dawnette Wilt
Dawnette Wilt
 

The next girl was also sixteen.   Dawnette Wilt was filling out a form at a store in Gary, Indiana, when another girl interrupted her, introduced herself as Tina Marie Wilder, and asked her to step outside the store to speak to the manager.  That turned out to be Wilder.  He had forced one victim to lure yet another, and he grabbed Dawnette and used a gun to force her into the car.  He placed duct tape over both her eyes and mouth.  Since he had a driver—Tina Marie, who had already been assaulted—he was free to torment and rape Dawnette in the car.

They stopped at a hotel in Ohio, where Dawnette was treated to Wilder's special torture device, and then they all drove across Pennsylvania to New York State.   Tina Marie and Wilder took photographs at Niagara Falls before they went to Rochester, New York for the night.  There, Dawnette was raped and tortured once again.  Wilder warned both girls that if they tried to draw attention to themselves or to escape, he would kill them.  They believed him, and while he took three or four showers each day, they remained in the various rooms.

When Wilder saw on television an appeal for Tina Marie's return, he drove them both away and then took Dawnette out into the woods near Penn Yan.   He tried to suffocate her, but she struggled so much he could not get a grip.  So he took out his knife and stabbed her, front and back.  She pretended to be dead, so he left her there and walked back to the car.  When she knew he was gone, she struggled to her feet and walked out to a road where she found someone who would take her to a hospital.  She told the police that Wilder was driving the Mercury Cougar and was heading toward Canada.  He had told the girls that he would not be taken alive.

Beth Dodge
Beth Dodge
 

Even so, he wasn't so desperate yet that he didn't have time to go for yet another victim.   At Eastview Mall near Victor, New York, he had Tina Marie persuade 33-year-old Beth Dodge, who was getting out of a gold Pontiac Trans-Am, to come over to their car.  Wilder forced her inside and took her car keys.  He had Tina Marie drive the Trans-Am, following him.  When Wilder found a deserted gravel pit, he made the woman get out and he shot her in the back.  He left the Mercury there and took the Trans-Am.

Wilder seemed to know his time was just about up.   He drove to Boston's Logan Airport, gave Tina Marie enough money to fly back home and get a cab, and they parted ways.  In Los Angeles, she later said that he had expressed a desire that she not be with him when he died.

She barely got away with her life, and even boarding the plane, she said, she believed she would be shot in the back.   Oddly, when she arrived in Los Angeles, she asked the cab driver to take her to a lingerie store first.  She spoke to the sales manager and told her that Wilder had cut her hair short to make her look like the girl in the movie Flashdance.  Then some friends saw her and took her to the police.

 

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