A Killer's Rampage
Cornering the Killer
On April 13, Wilder tried to grab another girl. He saw a nineteen-year-old by the side of the road whose car had broken down. Wilder offered to give her a lift to get gas, but when he passed the gas station, she knew something was up. She insisted he stop, so he pulled out a gun. However, he had to slow down in one place, and she grabbed the opportunity to open the door and leap out. Rolling away, she managed to escape.
Wilder dumped several articles, such as his camera, suitcase and things he'd taken from the victims, and then drove into New Hampshire. At a service station in Colebrook, New Hampshire, about twelve miles from the Canadian border, he drew the attention of two state troopers. (Newton says they had recognized the car from FBI descriptions, Gibney says they knew it from recent news reports, while Cartel says they thought Wilder was acting strangely enough to investigate.). They looked at him as he stood talking to the attendant and thought he looked like the guy on the FBI posters, sans beard. His tan indicated he was not from around there.
The troopers pulled in and got out of their car. They called out to him, and he dove inside the vehicle, apparently going for a gun. In the scuffle, one trooper, Leo Jellison, jumped on his back, grabbing for the .357 Magnum, and two shots were fired. One went through Wilder into the trooper's chest, lodging in his liver. The second went into Wilder's heart, obliterating it. He died on the spot.
It was Friday the 13th. It had been 47 days since the first reported disappearance and he had spent twenty-six days on the run. His luck had just run out.
Found in his possession, as listed by both James and Gibney, were the .357 revolver, extra ammunition, handcuffs, rolls of duct tape, rope, a sleeping bag, his business partner's credit card, the specially designed electrical cord for stunning the women he picked up, and a novel by British author John Fowles called The Collector.
Published in 1963, this story features a lonely entomologist who collects butterflies and who also captures and imprisons a pretty art student named Miranda. He keeps her in his basement. Seeing nothing wrong with what he has done, he treats her well, expecting that this will eventually win her love, and willingly gives her anything she wants, except her freedom. While she grows to need his attention, since he's the only person she ever sees, she also views him as evil for his imprisonment of her. Nevertheless, she belongs to him, and this fantasy is not uncommon among sadists.
Among those who hoped to create sexual slaves were Jeffrey Dahmer, who murdered seventeen men; Leonard Lake and Charles Ng, who tortured and killed an unknown number of people, and others who actually imprisoned women for sex for long stretches of time but did not kill them. One woman was kept in a box for seven years.
Therapists who had treated Wilder over a period of time knew that he loved this book and had practically memorized it. For him it had been the ultimate fantasy.
But now he would have no more chances to make it come true.
Yet Wilder's wretched tale did not end there. Six days after the autopsy, New Hampshire pathologist Robert Christie took a phone call from a man claiming to be from Harvard. According to Newton, this man said that Harvard wanted Wilder's brain for study. He agreed, in the interest of science, but he wanted a formal written request. It never materialized, and when he phoned Harvard, no one there admitted to making any such call.
Even as Wilder was cremated in Florida, there were many questions concerning the whereabouts of some of his victims. The families of the missing were sick with grief that they might never find their daughters.
Yet gradually, a few more were located and identified.