Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

A Killer's Rampage

Vanished

Coral Gables High School
Coral Gables High School
     

Elizabeth Kenyon taught emotionally disturbed children in 1984 at Coral Gables High School, south of Miami, Florida, but hoped one day to return to fashion modeling.  At age 23, she was the kind of beautiful young woman that turned men's heads.  Two years earlier, she had won the title of Orange Bowl Princess and had been a finalist in the Miss Florida Contest.  With thick brown hair and a wide, sociable grin, she made friends easily.

Elizabeth Kenyon
Elizabeth Kenyon

On March 4, Kenyon left her apartment in Coral Gables to visit her parents in Pompano Beach, a trip she made every weekend.  According to Bruce Gibney, in his book, The Beauty Queen Killer, Beth's father noticed bruises on her arms and legs that day.  Alarmed, he asked her what had happened.  She shrugged it off as a schoolyard fight that she had broken up.

The Beauty Queen Killer
The Beauty Queen Killer

Kenyon stayed with her parents until 9:00 that evening, and then got into her car to return home.  Her roommate recalled that she arrived around 10 and went to bed.  She went to work the next day and spoke to Mitch Fry, the school's police officer and security patrol, in the parking lot.  He watched her get into her car and drive away. Fry was to be the last person to see Kenyon alive.  On Tuesday, she did not show up for work, so Fry called her roommate and learned that Beth had not come home the night before. Nor had she called to tell anyone where she was.

Beth was not the type that would go somewhere without telling someone.  Calls to others who knew her got everyone worried.  Her parents began calling around to friends and to hospitals, with no luck.  Finally, they contacted the police at the Metro Dade Public Safety Department and filed a missing person report.

Christopher Wilder
Christopher Wilder
 

Several days went by with no news, so Bill Kenyon took matters into his own hands.   He hired a private investigator, Kenneth Whittaker, to look into the matter.  He discovered that there were several men in Beth's life, and thus several potential suspects:  Beth had been on a dinner date recently with a man from West Germany; she had begun seeing a man again with whom she had broken off the relationship; and she had occasionally been having dinner with a former boyfriend,  a photographer named Christopher Wilder.  She had told her father that on their first date, Wilder had been a real gentleman.  After a few more dates, he had even proposed marriage.  But Beth had felt that at seventeen years her senior, he was too old for her.  So over the past two years, they had remained friends.

Whittaker questioned Beth's parents about each of these men and learned that Beth had mentioned Wilder to them the day before she had disappeared.   He'd gotten her an opportunity to do some modeling for good money.

Yet a call to Wilder produced only disappointing results. The man claimed he had not seen Beth in over a month. The other two men did not seem viable suspects, either.

The investigation seemed to have reached a dead-end when another former boyfriend stopped at a gas station in Coral Gables to show Beth's picture around.   It was a Shell station where Beth normally bought her gas.  To everyone's surprise, two attendants said that Beth had been there on Monday afternoon.  She was about to pay when a man in a gray Cadillac drove in behind her and paid the bill.  Beth seemed to know him and she mentioned that they were on the way to the airport. When the attendants were shown photographs, they easily picked out Chris Wilder as the man with her.  Beth's car was subsequently found at Miami International Airport.  Yet she had not packed to go anywhere.

The police would not help with what was still a missing person's case, so Bill Kenyon staked out Wilder's house himself.   When he did not find the man at home, he sent his investigator to the Boynton Beach Police to ask about Wilder.  They told Whittaker they had a lengthy rap sheet on him.  He was far from the "gentleman" that Beth had once described.  He'd had a history of sexual offenses.

Beth's parents suddenly realized that — on the very night that Beth had visited them for the last time, they had seen a television report about another missing woman — one who looked very much like Beth.

The Kenyons were chilled by the resemblance.  Their instinct was that Wilder had been involved in their daughter's disappearance, and that perhaps he had abducted both women.

 

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