Re: Christopher Wilder
iami Herald, The (FL)
April 18, 1984
COVERAGE WILDER UPDATE DEATH
FBI TIES WILDER TO VEGAS
Author: MARY VOBORIL AND DAVID MARCUS Herald Staff Writers
The FBI released a blurred photograph Tuesday showing Christopher Wilder sitting in the audience at a Las Vegas fashion show featuring teen-aged models, one of whom has been missing ever since.
She is Michele Korfman, 17, who disappeared after the fashion show and is among 12 young women believed to have been kidnapped by Wilder, 39, the Boynton Beach contractor who died Friday in a struggle over a gun in a tiny New Hampshire town.
Wilder's body was returned to Palm Beach County late Tuesday for a private funeral. First the medical examiner was to make plaster casts of Wilder's teeth and jaws for police.
The Las Vegas photo was taken April 1, before Wilder shaved his beard. He sits somewhat stiffly in a mauve plaid shirt, tight white slacks and a brown jacket. His hands are tightly clasped. A woman in a micro-miniskirt stands a few feet away.
The FBI had been searching for him since March 22 but apparently no one recognized him at the show -- and he went free for 12 more days.
"A parent or a bystander" snapped the photo at the fashion show, sponsored by Seventeen magazine, and later recognized Wilder, who was placed on the the FBI's "Ten Most Wanted Fugitives" list, said Joe Delcampo, special agent in Miami.
By Tuesday night, the photo had not yielded any important new clues in the search for four missing young women -- two of them from South Florida -- who are believed to have been among Wilder's victims.
Police still are searching for Rosario Gonzalez, a Miami model who disappeared after the Miami Grand Prix last February.
Although there were no developments, the case is "definitely not" closed, Miami Detective George Morin said.
"We still have to locate Rosario."
Metro-Dade police also were searching for Beth Kenyon, a Coral Gables schoolteacher also believed to have been abducted by Wilder.
"I wish there was a way that we could squeeze his brain to know where everybody is," Special Agent Delcampo said.
In Colebrook, N.H., Bob Moore, owner of the Newman Funeral Home, drove Wilder's body to the airport Tuesday morning. Packed in a white shipping carton, it went to Boston, then to Palm Beach International Airport. There, workers eased the 6 1/2- foot-long box out of the belly of a Delta L1011 onto a baggage cart, then slid it into a white hearse amid a crush of sheriff's officers and reporters at 7:15 p.m.
The Delta Air Cargo terminal was surrounded by five sheriff's cars and a van, two unmarked cars and two trained German shepherd dogs. "This is a precautionary thing," said sheriff's Sgt. Ed Serafin.
The body was taken to the Palm Beach County Medical Examiner's Office, said Dennis Aiken, in charge of the FBI office in West Palm Beach. "The locals here have something they want to do," he said.
That included taking plaster casts of Wilder's jaw and front teeth for "authorities in another state," Aiken said. Asked if they wanted to match bite marks on a victim, he said, "That's possibly it."
The examiner also wanted to take photos of scars and scratches on the body to aid identification in crimes that Wilder was suspected of committing, he said.
Blue lights flashing, sheriff's deputies escorted the white hearse to the Medical Examiner's Office about a mile away at the
criminal justice complex on Gun Club Road. It was due at the Scobee-Combs Funeral Home in Boynton Beach -- Wilder's hometown -- before midnight.
Wilder's brother, Stephen, here from Australia, spent part of Tuesday afternoon closeted in Scobee-Combs, making arrangements. Funeral directors said only that a private service was scheduled for the family. They would not release the date.
Moore, owner of the New Hampshire funeral home, said the body probably would be cremated. By midday his wife had taken 17 calls from the media, he said. "To us, it's just another case."
Along New Hampshire's Route 16, state police continued to hunt for items discarded by Wilder as he traveled from Boston toward Canada.
"We're coordinating new leads but we're not at liberty to say what they are," said Lawrence Gilligan, an FBI spokesman in Boston.
"We're trying to determine what the stuff is that we've been
finding. We know some of it is Wilder's, because it has his name on it -- a clothes basket, a camera case."
So far as he knew, Gilligan said, no relatives of the alleged victims had been able to identify any of the clothing or other objects found along the side of the road.
Wilder is believed to have posed as a photographer to lure young women into his car. He had been sought on suspicion of kidnapping, rape and murder in connection with 12 cases in a six-week period. Four of the women were found slain; four escaped, and four are missing.
Gilligan was unwilling to say whether they can be presumed dead.
"I don't know how I would be able to comment on that," he said.
One of the survivors, 16-year-old Tina Marie Risico of Torrence, Calif., has stopped talking to police pending a "grant of immunity" from prosecution, Torrance police said Tuesday.
Sgt. Rollo Green said that the girl's attorney has "temporarily" halted interviews by law enforcement officials until the attorney gets "the official word" that the girl is immune from prosecution that could arise over assistance she reportedly gave Wilder in abducting two of his other victims, one in Indiana and one in Upstate New York.
photo: Christopher Wilder, Police with Wilder's body
Re: Christopher Wilder
Miami Herald, The (FL)
April 18, 1984
FBI RELEASES PHOTO OF WILDER IN LAS VEGAS
Author: MARY VOBORIL Herald Staff Writer
The FBI released a blurred photograph Tuesday showing Christopher Wilder, dressed in a mauve plaid shirt, tight white slacks and a brown jacket, sitting in the audience at a Las Vegas fashion show featuring teen-aged models -- one of whom has been missing ever since.
She is Michele Korfman, 17, who disappeared after the fashion show and is among 11 young women believed to have been kidnapped by Wilder, 39, the Boynton Beach auto racer who died Friday in a struggle over a gun in a tiny New Hampshire town.
The photo was taken April 1, before Wilder shaved his beard. He sits somewhat stiffly, with his hands tightly clasped, his eyes wary, a woman in a micro-miniskirt a few feet away.
The FBI had been searching for him since March 22, but apparently no one recognized him at the April 1 show -- and he would go unapprehended for 12 more days.
It was not immediately clear who took the picture at the fashion show, sponsored by Seventeen magazine, or whether it had yielded any clues in the search for four missing young women -- two of them from Dade County -- who are believed to have been among Wilder's victims.
Miami police still are searching for Rosario Gonzalez, a model who disappeared after the Miami Grand Prix last February.
There are no new developments, said Detective George Morin. The case would "definitely not" be closed, Morin said. "We still have to locate Rosario."
Metro police also are searching for Beth Kenyon, a Coral Gables schoolteacher who also is believed to have been abducted by Wilder.
Wilder's brother Stephen spent much of Tuesday closeted with funeral directors at the Scobee-Combs Funeral Home in Boynton Beach. Wilder's body arrived Tuesday evening at Palm Beach International Airport in a cardboard box known as an air tray.
"They said want they want a service down there
in Florida>," said Robert Moore of the Newman Funeral Home in Colebrook, N.H.
He said he was fairly certain Wilder would be cremated.
FBI spokesman Lawrence Gilligan in Boston said he knew of no new developments. He wasn't aware of the fashion show photo.
"I've never seen the photo. I don't know anything about it," he said.
New Hampshire state police continued to search along Route 16 for items discarded by Wilder while he traveled from Boston toward Canada.
"We're coordinating new leads but we're not at liberty to say what they are," Gilligan said. "We're trying to determine what the stuff is that we've been finding. We know some of it is Wilder's because it has his name on it -- a clothes basket, a camera case."
So far as he knew, he said, no relatives of the alleged victims had been able to identify any of the clothing or other objects found along the side of the road.
Wilder is believed to have posed as a photographer to lure comely young women into his car. He had been sought on suspicion of kidnapping, rape and murder in connection with 11 cases in a six-week period. Four of the women were found murdered. Three others escaped, and four are missing.
Gilligan was unwilling to say whether they can be presumed dead.
"I don't know how I would be able to comment on that," he said.
Herald Staff Writer David Marcus contributed to this report.
photo: Christopher Wilder at Las Vegas fashion show
Re: Christopher Wilder
Miami Herald, The (FL)
May 5, 1984
MURDER FOUND WILDER COLORADO
BODY OF SUSPECTED WILDER VICTIM FOUND NEAR UTAH-ARIZONA BORDER
Author: VALERIE CUMMINGS Herald Staff Writer
The body of a Colorado woman believed to have been slain by alleged rapist-murderer Christopher Wilder has been found near the Utah-Arizona border, authorities said Friday.
Assistant Utah State Medical Examiner Richard Sander identified the young woman as Sheryl Lynn Bonaventura, 18, of Grand Junction, Colo.
The body was found Thursday in a remote desert area 12 miles north of Kanab, Utah, by Kane County sheriff's officers and FBI special agents, the FBI said.
Bonaventura, a tall, slender, light-haired woman who was interested in modeling, had been missing since March 29. An autopsy performed Friday found that Bonaventura died from two stab wounds to the chest -- one penetrating the heart and lung -- and a single gunshot wound through her lower left arm and into her back.
The circumstances surrounding the slaying and the method used were consistent with those in other cases linked to Wilder, the medical examiner reported.
"At least we know what has happened," said Sandra Bonaventura, the victim's mother, who said the family was relieved that Sheryl's body had been found.
"We always had a small hope that she was alive, but we knew there was a strong possibility she wasn't."
Sheryl Bonaventura's nude body, spotted by picnickers beneath a cedar tree next to a stream, was badly decomposed, Sander said. He said she appeared to have been dead for several weeks. Identification was made through dental X-rays.
Bonaventura was last seen at the Mesa Mall in Grand Junction, where she worked as a saleswoman in a leather shop, on March 29, said Grand Junction Det. Steve King. Later that day, Bonaventura and Wilder, 39, a Boynton Beach businessman and race car driver, were reportedly seen at a sandwich shop in Silverton, Colo., a tiny mining town 125 miles to the south, King said.
The FBI traced Wilder to a motel in Durango, Colo., where he and Bonaventura apparently spent the night, FBI Special Agent Terry Knowles said.
The following night, FBI records show that Wilder checked into a motel in Page, Ariz. A maid there said he was accompanied by a blond woman. Police said they are not certain the woman was Bonaventura.
Bonaventura's mother is convinced that her daughter -- who she said was "bubbly, energetic and loved animals" -- did not go willingly with Wilder.
"I know she didn't," said Sandra Bonaventura. "I think she was taken in the parking lot."
Bonaventura, whose 19th birthday was April 2, was interested in modeling and fashion design and was in the process of applying to colleges, said her mother.
Wilder was killed in a struggle with police on April 13 in New Hampshire. He is suspected of abducting as least 11 women since Feb. 26. Four of his victims survived and three, including two Miami women, are still missing. Bonaventura is the fifth to be found slain.
A gray Cadillac registered to Wilder was found Friday in a Coral Springs parking lot, police reported. Police said one of Wilder's business partners apparently parked the car behind the Coral Springs Country Club Condominium, 10777 W. Sample Rd.
The car was turned over to the executor of Wilder's estate after FBI agents determined it had no use as evidence.
photo: Christopher Wilder, Lynn Bonaventura
Re: Christopher Wilder
Miami Herald, The (FL)
May 13, 1984
MAJOR-STORY PROFILE WILDER LOST MD MI
COULD POLICE HAVE STOPPED WILDER SOONER?
Author: EDNA BUCHANAN Herald Staff Writer
The unmasking of Christopher Bernard Wilder as a homicidal sadist is an epic study of lost chances, frustration, and human tragedy.
Should police here have caught him before he embarked upon his travelogue of terror? The question is legitimate.
For seven days they knew who he was. Yet no policeman ever questioned him, watched him or tried to detain him.
One officer, not assigned to the case, did telephone Wilder. He left a message on his answering machine. Wilder did not return the call.
In the blind and bitter anguish of hindsight, the families of two missing Miami women damn the bureaucracy of law enforcement.
"I went along. I was gullible," said William Kenyon, whose daughter is missing. "Now, if anybody asked me how to handle a situation like this, I'd say take it into your own hands. Don't count on the police for anything. They were negligent and unresponsive."
"What proof did we have?" replied a disheartened homicide detective, Ray Nazario. "We had no proof he was a maniac."
"Nobody expected we had a man who was going to go on an
odyssey of murder across the United States," said FBI man Joe Del Campo.
Wilder, 39, described by his sex therapist as a "deeply disturbed walking time bomb," owned a Boynton Beach contracting firm, raced expensive sports cars, photographed beautiful women, then tortured and killed them.
"It all could have been prevented," said Delores Londos, whose son intended to marry the first missing Miami woman. "That's why the families are furious. You wonder what the police were doing. It just went on and on and on. We found out a lot from all this. We found out the system is really rotten."
"Our police department did things the way they should have been done," said Miami Homicide Detective Harvey Wasserman. "We followed police procedure, sound judgment and rules of law."
"We could not pick him up," said Metro Homicide Captain Robert W. McCarthy, whose men investigated the case of the second missing woman. "We had nothing to pick him up on. I wouldn't authorize sending a homicide team all the way up to Palm Beach County to sit on a surveillance."
The case of Rosario Gonzalez, 20, fills a huge cardboard box. It represents thousands of man-hours. Miami detectives talked to hundreds of people.
"We all were discussing the best way to approach Wilder," said Wasserman. "He was not ignorant of the law. If we were going to approach him, we wanted to have the best case, the most information we could have. We knew we would
probably only have one chance."
It was a chance they never took.
Here, according to police files and Herald interviews, is what happened:
Wilder raced a black Porsche in the Miami Grand Prix on Saturday, Feb. 25. The next day, Sunday, he attended as a spectator. He parked his white 1978 turbo-charged Porsche Carerra near Bayfront Auditorium. A motorist complained that he took up two spaces.
Wilder should not have been in Miami. He was violating his probation for attempted rape. He was restricted to Palm Beach County.
SUNDAY, FEB. 26
At 1:15 p.m. that Sunday, Feb. 26, Rosario Gonzalez, a strikingly attractive model distributing aspirin samples at the Grand Prix, took a break -- and vanished.
Wilder was seen after 5 p.m. driving north on Florida's
Turnpike in his Porsche, apparently alone. At 6:30 p.m. someone else saw him drive away from his Boynton Beach home in another car, his gray Cadillac. He dined leisurely that evening with friends.
"He was clean and relaxed," says Wasserman. Wilder left his friends at 8:30 p.m. "He said he was going home to sit in his Jacuzzi."
No trace of Rosario has been found.
Many families complain that police do not respond quickly when an adult is reported missing. Not so with Rosario.
Her parents were frantic by nightfall Sunday.
By the next day, Miami homicide was on the case.
"Every now and then we get a case that, after talking to the parents and friends, we don't think is a runaway. And we jump on it right away," Wasserman says.
Detective George Morin interviewed the mother, Haydee Gonzalez. He interviewed local and New York officials of the firms involved in the aspirin promotion. Police questioned a man, a friend of the family, seen talking to Rosario at the race. He later passed a polygraph test.
WEDNESDAY, FEB. 29
On Wednesday, Feb. 29, the first news story of the disappearance at the Grand Prix appeared in The Herald. Another model and her mother remembered Rosario walking behind a man in his 30s. They described him to a police artist. The drawing was distributed to the media with appeals for help.
A tipster thought he saw the missing woman cavorting with a man aboard a yacht in the Miami River. Police found the yacht and the woman. She was not Rosario.
On March 1, a Miami firefighter gave detectives the last known photos of Rosario. He had snapped them at the race the day she vanished.
Seated on a stone step, her hands are clasped modestly around her knees, her blond hair tumbles over her shoulders. She is wearing her diamond engagement ring. She is smiling.
"This girl was perfect," says William Londos, 21, her fiance. "So innocent and sweet. The first time I ever saw her, I said this is the kind of girl you marry."
The photo would help, police were sure. Rosario had been one of 12 identically dressed models. "Now we had a picture of her the way she was that day," Wasserman said.
Police pursued more than 200 leads, some outlandish. An anonymous letter to West Miami police from a psychic said, without further details, that Rosario could be found "west of Miami."
Another, more ominous lead, police hotly pursued.
A motorist driving on the Turnpike Monday night, Feb. 27, saw a girl fitting Rosario's description flee from a car occupied by three men. One chased and caught her, beating her as he dragged her back to the auto. The motorist followed the car to Boca Raton's Glades Road Exit. He identified the car as a Chevrolet and caught the last three numbers on the tag: 378.
"I begged Tallahassee," says Wasserman. He got what he begged for, a computer printout of all Florida cars bearing that partial tag number. There are 12,000, about 1,000 of them Chevrolets.
Detectives began checking them out, focusing first on owners in the Miami to Boca area. They never found the young woman. They do not now believe she was Rosario.
A travel agent tipped police to a mysterious walk-in customer eager to leave the country. Questioned, he was eliminated as a suspect.
SUNDAY, MARCH 4
On Sunday, March 4, as the search for Rosario dragged on, Elizabeth "Beth" Kenyon, 23, a Coral Gables Senior High School teacher, visited her parents in Pompano Beach.
Her first year as a teacher had been difficult. Beth taught emotionally disturbed youngsters. As cheerleading coach, she also attended as many as three basketball games a week. She had saved one suicidal student who slit her wrists. She stayed one night at the Jackson Memorial Hospital Rape Center, comforting a schoolgirl who had been assaulted.
Beth had confided to other teachers that she was disappointed in teaching. That Sunday her wealthy parents noticed bruises Beth had sustained breaking up a schoolyard fight.
At about 9 p.m., Beth kissed her dad goodbye and drove back to Miami. After she left, the family watched the 11 o'clock TV news. A picture of a beautiful girl flashed on the screen. "Hey, that looks just like Beth!" cried her brother, Bill.
It was Rosario Gonzalez, the missing model from the Grand Prix.
The next day Beth Kenyon disappeared.
Only two hours before, Beth had chatted with Coral Gables Police Officer Clifford "Mitch" Fry, assigned to the school. After classes, she drove off. She did not return to her apartment that night.
She was absent from school Tuesday morning. It was unlike her. An assistant principal asked Officer Fry to check. Her roommate said Beth had never come home. That, too, was unlike her. Beth did not even have her purse with her. Some months before someone had stolen her handbag at school, and she simply kept her driver's license and a credit card in her car's ashtray.
Her roommate called the Kenyons at 4:30 p.m. to ask if Beth had spent the night with them. She had not.
Panicky, the parents notified Metro police. An officer took Beth's name, height, weight, eye color and race.
Police handled the report routinely. It would take three days for it to arrive at the missing persons office.
TUESDAY, MARCH 6
The Kenyons began at once that Tuesday, March 6, to telephone all the friends listed in Beth's address books. One was Christopher Wilder, whom she had dated. A message was left on his answering machine.
Wilder appeared at his contracting firm in Boynton Beach that day, both hands cut and scratched. His secretary and his business partner noticed the injuries. He said that a sliding glass door at his home had been broken during a fight between his dogs. Police later would find broken glass.
They also would see two Miss Florida beauty pageant photographs on his living room wall. Beth was in both.
Miami homicide detectives, unaware of Beth's disappearance, still searched for Rosario. They re-questioned her sister, Lisette, 18. Perhaps Rosario left home on her own, they theorized. If she had, detectives believed, Rosario would have confided in her younger sister.
Lisette Gonzalez was subjected to a grueling four-hour interrogation and polygraph test, administered by Wasserman.
"I was shocked I had to take it," she says. "He was nasty. He was pretty rough. He cursed at me."
"Sometimes you have to be tough," Wasserman says. "I hoped she would understand the reason. It was important that it be resolved." He does not recall cursing at her, he says.
She passed the test, he says.
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 7
By Wednesday, March 7, school officials and scores of friends knew Beth Kenyon had vanished. It was mentioned at a school board meeting. A Miami Herald reporter and a photographer, who both knew her, heard of her disappearance. Suspecting she might turn up, The Herald did not run a story.
Ron Stone, an insurance man and president of the University of Miami Alumni Association, had dated Beth. He tried to help. He stopped by the Shell service station she patronized at Bird and Douglas roads. The attendant said he had seen her two days before -- on Monday afternoon, March 5.
She offered a credit card, he recalled, but a man in a hurry, a man who drove a Cadillac, rushed up and paid for her gas with cash.
The attendant said that when he started to wipe her windshield, Beth said, "Forget it, we've got to get to the airport."
He remembers the conversation.
"How do I look?" Beth asked the man who paid for her gas.
"Just fine," he said.
"Who's going to take the picture?" she asked.
"I'm going to," he said.
Both cars drove north.
That day Beth's father and brother searched for her car in the parking lots at Fort Lauderdale Airport. Officer Fry searched at Miami International.
Fry was working on his own time. He called friends in Beth's address book. One was Wilder. Fry identified himself and left a message on Wilder's answering machine.
That same day a pair of self-described psychics from Canada arrived at Miami police headquarters and announced that they could help find Rosario. Poring over a map of Dade County, they led Detectives Morin and Sgt. Bobby Cheatam across a large section of west Homestead, pointing out abandoned houses, wells and ditches. They found no sign of Rosario Gonzalez. Another 30 or 40 psychics also would offer futile leads.
Without psychics or police, Beth Kenyon's father found his daughter's car himself at Miami International. He found it by telephone. A clerk checked a log of cars left in long-term parking and told him that Beth's Chrysler was in Building 5, Level M.
Her convertible had been backed into the space. Her New York license tag had been removed from the front. The rear-view mirror was broken off. School books, folders and papers lay on the seat, along with a pair of sunglasses.
THURSDAY, MARCH 8
On Thursday, March 8, Wilder saw his Palm Beach County probation officer. It was a routine visit. He saw a seamstress, leaving his black racing suit to be monogrammed. She happened to be the wife of Thomas Neighbors, 35, a Palm Beach police detective. They chatted. "He was excited about the race at Sebring," said Neighbors, who suspected nothing.
That day Wilder also returned the Kenyons' telephone message. He apologized. "I've been gone the past two days," he said. The mother told him Beth had not been seen since Monday and asked if Wilder had seen or heard from her. He said he had not seen Beth since a dinner date the month before. He would do anything he could to help, he said.
The Kenyons believed him. There was no reason to disbelieve him.
They had met Wilder two years before, after a friend introduced him to Beth. "She would never go out with somebody unless he was a friend of someone she knew," her mother says. "I used to call her Mother Hubbard."
Beth had invited Wilder to dinner. They dined on crepes at a Pompano Beach restaurant. The Australian's manners were impeccable.
Beth, a former Orange Bowl princess and part-time model, confided in her mother. She told her when photographers made passes or asked her to pose in the nude. Wilder, she had said, was a perfect gentleman.
The parents say Wilder proposed to Beth after only a few dates.
"Mom, I've never even kissed the guy and he asked me to marry him," Delores Kenyon quotes her daughter. Wilder told Beth, "You'll grow to love me."
"She was kind of laughing about it, a little amazed," the mother says. "She told him she'd like to remain friends and as far as I know, they did."
"He had a way of listening to problems," her father says. "They could communicate with each other."
Wilder told Beth's friends that he loved her; he wanted to take her to Australia and make her "a princess."
He treated her royally. He offered to pay her way through an auto racing school. When she forgot her sunglasses on the way to a race, he stopped at Lord and Taylor's and chose a $40 pair.
"She told him if he was crazy enough to spend that on sunglasses, she'd take them," the mother says.
Beth had mentioned Wilder the day before she vanished. She had returned a week earlier from a New York visit with the family of ABC sports announcer Jim McKay, whose son she dated. She told her parents she had had a wonderful time, but that while away she had missed a $4,000 modeling job as "Miss Budweiser" at the Grand Prix. Chris Wilder had found the job for her, she said.
That same Thursday the Kenyons hired private detective Kenneth Whitaker Jr., 28, to find their daughter. They paid him $1,000 a day. "My gut feeling," he says, "was that she would be back by the weekend."
SATURDAY, MARCH 10
On Saturday, March 10, Beth's father began to wonder about Chris Wilder. Could he have been the man at the gas station? Wasn't he a photographer? Didn't he drive a Cadillac?
Kenyon and his son found Beth's scrapbook. They took it apart and removed a stack of photographs of her boyfriends. Two photos showed Wilder.
Then they took their homemade photo lineup to the Shell station and showed it to the attendant, Richard Norman.
"We did it very professionally," the father says. "Ricky looked at the picture of Wilder. He yelled, 'That's him!' "
At that instant, midafternoon, March 10, 1984, Beth Kenyon's father knew in his heart who had taken his daughter.
"We called every police agency from Miami to Palm Beach," the mother said. "Metro missing persons told us they did not work Saturday. They gave us another number, and another number. They told us to call back Monday when missing persons opened. We talked to three or four agencies in Miami.
"We called Boynton Beach police. They all said it was out of their jurisdiction. We just sat here crying," the mother said. "Absolutely no one would listen to us."
In desperation, the father called the sheriff of Niagara County New York, their home, for advice. "Nobody in the state of Florida will listen to us," Kenyon pleaded.
"He said the sheriff of Palm Beach County was a personal friend," the mother said. "My husband was crying on the phone." Kenyon called Palm Beach. The sheriff was not in. "A lieutenant or a sergeant listened to our story. He said it was out of his jurisdiction."
The mother also called Whitaker. His father Kenneth Whitaker Sr., former Miami FBI chief and an attorney, took her call. He decided to call Wilder himself.
"It rang about 14 times before he answered," Whitaker said.
Whitaker identified himself as the Kenyons' lawyer and told Wilder he was "conducting an inquiry into Beth's whereabouts." "Wilder said he would be glad to call Beth's mother and reassure her again that he had not seen Beth in weeks."
"What if I told you you were identified as being seen with Beth as recently as Monday?" Whitaker said.
"I would categorically deny that. It's been two or three weeks since I've seen her," Wilder said.
The witnesses, Whitaker continued, "seem relatively sure that you were the one they saw with Beth. We have a picture of you, and you're the one they picked out."
"I can assure you, Mr. Whitaker, that is not true," Wilder told him. Whitaker said Wilder spoke "quickly and clipped, in staccato, machine gun fashion." He said Wilder agreed to meet with his detective son the following day and to appear in a lineup later in the week.
Wilder immediately called Beth's mother. "I like you, I like Beth," he said. "Why is this man (Whitaker) calling me?"
"Everybody associated with Beth is being investigated, not only you," she told him. Wilder asked to talk to her husband. He was not in.
An hour later Wilder called a second time. "Mr. Kenyon," he said. "I don't know what this is all about."
Wilder claimed he was at his Boynton office at the same time he was reportedly seen at the gas station. Kenyon did not believe him.
That night Kenyon and his son stalked Wilder in Boynton Beach. They watched his home. They had binoculars -- and a .38- caliber revolver. At one point William Kenyon Jr. slipped through the bushes in the dark to take down the tag number on a trailer in Wilder's driveway.
"Billy wanted to go in with a gun," his father said. The son wanted to hold the weapon to Wilder's head until he told the truth about Beth. His father stopped him.
Driving their car, "we slowed down in front of the house," Kenyon said. "A hand pulled the drapes apart and Wilder looked out. I sped away."
They returned home and telephoned Gables Officer Fry. It was 11 p.m. "What should we do?" the father asked. "Should I have somebody watch his house?"
"Yes," Fry told him. "You have the money, you have a private detective, he has the manpower. Watch the house."
They got the Whitakers on a conference call. The senior Whitaker advised against it. He said it made no sense to jump to conclusions.
SUNDAY, MARCH 11
The next morning, Sunday the 11th, the younger Whitaker
went to Boynton to keep his appointment. Wilder was not there. His dogs were barking.
Whitaker checked with Palm Beach County police. For the first time, he discovered Wilder's criminal past: two Palm Beach rape accusations, probation, and kidnapping and sex assault charges set for April trial in Australia.
That afternoon Whitaker called Miami homicide. He had a theory. Miami's Rosario case and Metro's Kenyon case could have something in common: Christopher Wilder. "I think it's about time we sat down and talked, enough of this red tape between departments," Whitaker said.
At 11 p.m. Miami Homicide Detective Morin called Rosario's parents. Had they ever heard of Christopher Wilder? They did not recognize the name.
Morin called Metro homicide to talk to the detective handling the Kenyon case. There was none. The case was still stalled in missing persons. No homicide detective was assigned.
Earlier that same evening Christopher Wilder, casually dressed in shorts and a pullover, dropped by the Palm Beach County home of police detective Neighbors. "He seemed to be in a hurry," Neighbors says. "He brought the patches he wanted sewn on his racing suit for Sebring."
Neighbors, assigned to the juvenile and missing persons
sections, did not know about Wilder's record -- or make any connection to the missing Miami women.
Independently, Gables Officer Fry ran a records check on Wilder. And he, too, quickly put the Rosario--Kenyon cases together. Beth, he figured, was in "big trouble." It was Monday, March 12.
He telephoned Miami Detective Harvey Wasserman. He did not know about Whitaker's theory. Fry told him about Metro's Beth Kenyon case -- and about Christopher Wilder.
"All of a sudden all the hairs on the back of your neck stand up on end and you get a cold chill," Wasserman said.
Fry took his file to Miami police headquarters. "I could see the lights light up in their eyes."
Fry "was frustrated," Wasserman said, because Beth Kenyon's case was "still being handled as a missing person."
Wasserman called a Palm Beach detective who knew Wilder. He told him the man was capable of anything. Wasserman called Metro. Homicide would be assigned to investigate the Kenyon case, he was told.
"For the first time we felt good," Wasserman said. "We had something to work. We all felt Christopher Wilder was going to be our person."
That same day two of Whitaker's detectives met Beth's father and brother at Boynton Beach police headquarters. And for the first time they heard that Wilder was under $400,000 bond in the Australian kidnap-rape cases.
Outraged, Beth's brother demanded Wilder's arrest. Lt. John Hollihan said there was nothing he could do. "We have no crime here in this town," Hollihan said. "We had no word from Metro that Beth Kenyon was even missing," Hollihan says now. Beth's brother was so insistent that Kenyon feared his son would be arrested.
So the foursome -- father, brother and their hired detectives -- set up their own surveillance of Wilder's office.
At 3:30 p.m., Wilder drove up. The Kenyons watched with binoculars from across a field near a car wash. The two detectives, Mike Fonelli, a former IRS agent, and Bill Murphy, an ex-cop, followed him into the office. Wilder asked why they were questioning him. "Why wouldn't we, with a record like you've got," one replied.
Wilder's business partner L.K. Kimbrell provided him with an alibi. He said Wilder was there in the office at 3 p.m. the day Beth disappeared. Later, he would admit to police that he lied because Wilder asked him to.
In a lull in their conversation, Kimbrell said: "I understand you found Beth's car." The detectives glared at him in silence. Turning to Wilder, Kimbrell said, "That's what you told me." Wilder said Beth's mother had told him. She did not, she says.
That day Wilder, who had access to a dozen cars, bought one more: a 1973 Chrysler New Yorker. It would become his getaway car.
TUESDAY, MARCH 13
Tuesday, March 13, dawned hectic for the Miami detectives. Nelio Valdez, 80, a great-grandfather, claimed he was holding Rosario captive for $10,000 he demanded from her anguished parents.
The hoax tied up six to 10 detectives and an FBI agent for at least eight hours. The old man was arrested, then freed on bond. Police say he was lonely; he "wanted attention."
That day Beth's mother called the FBI to plead again for assistance. "They said since there was no extortion they couldn't do anything. At 2 p.m. I got a call from an agent. Metro-Dade homicide was finally going to take over the case." This was eight days after Beth's disappearance; four days after the gas station identification.
The day was also Christopher Wilder's 39th birthday. His parents telephoned their greetings from Australia.
That same afternoon Wilder consulted his sex therapist, Ginger Bush. He said nothing that alarmed her enough to call police.
At 7 p.m. Detective Ray Nazario issued the first press release on the disappearance of Beth Kenyon. It was brief, with no note of urgency.
"The investigation is being pursued as a missing persons case," it said. "There is no evidence available at this time to suggest any criminal activity or foul play."
The release asked anyone with information to call homicide or Crimestoppers Anonymous at 326-TIPS.
"I turned everything over to Metro on the 13th," Whitaker, the private detective, said. "They told me that they had jurisdiction, they were in charge now. I said, 'By all means, that's what we taxpayers pay you for,' " he said.
Metro did not conduct the lineup Whitaker wanted. "I think they could have brought him in for questioning," Whitaker said. "They could have had a lineup with the eyewitness. Why were they hesitant, if Wilder was willing?"
"You can't do that," Nazario says. "First of all Wilder would have to volunteer and I'm certain that he would have contacted an attorney who would have said 'Forget it.' And if the station attendant did say, 'Yes, that's the guy who paid for Miss Kenyon's gas,' what do we do then? Put him in jail for 40 years? There's no crime in paying for a beautiful girl's gas.
"Keep in mind. There was no crime at this point. No evidence of any crime. We talked to people from her phone directory. We had to verify all the work already done." Metro homicide detectives interviewed faculty and students at Gables High. They interviewed the cheerleaders.
No one interviewed Christopher B. Wilder.
"I couldn't accuse him of abduction," said Nazario. "I couldn't accuse him of kidnapping. I could bring him back here and put him under the lights, but this is 1984. We don't do that.
"In a homicide investigation you have to be methodical and discount nothing. In this business you don't deal only with the deceased but with the life of the potential subject -- because he could get the electric chair for first degree murder. There is nothing you can do first. We had no proof that he was a maniac."
"Nobody had any reason to believe Mr. Wilder was anybody but an honest hardworking businessman known to Elizabeth Kenyon and the family," said Metro Captain Robert McCarthy.
Beth's father said Nazario "told me to keep my private investigators out of Boynton," and warned that he "had the power" to pull Whitaker's license. "Then he said he wanted to pick Wilder up for questioning, but his superiors wouldn't let him."
Nazario denies the statements.
Miami homicide did not approach Wilder either.
"It was discussed," Wasserman says. He, too, had no evidence of a crime. He thinks Rosario willingly got into Wilder's Porsche. "To go to lunch or to go be photographed."
Miami homicide deferred to Metro homicide, believing Metro had the stronger case. "They apparently had the reins," Wasserman said. "It was bad enough that Whitaker had alerted Wilder. We shouldn't circumvent or be that impolite to the other jurisdictions."
Did Miami ever plan to ask Wilder about Rosario? "I don't know," said Wasserman. "It never came about."
Why didn't anyone pick up Wilder for violating his probation? That possibility, Wasserman says, "was being explored by the FBI."
The FBI denies it. "We can't arrest somebody for a probation violation," FBI spokesman Joe Del Campo said. "That's not an FBI violation."
Said Metro's Nazario: "Just because he was in the Miami Grand Prix, I can't snatch him and put him in jail. Neither can his probation officer. I have to work within the judicial system.
"Say we put him in jail for probation violation. He would have had to have a hearing, bring all the witnesses. You can't do all that in one day. So they violate his probation. Now what? He gets his attorney, who gets him out. A hearing is set for two months down the line. Would that have kept him at home?"
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 14
On Wednesday, March 14, the FBI quietly and unofficially entered the case. "They contacted me and wished to assist us," said Nazario. "Whatever I requested, they did. They checked 190 leads outside of Dade County."
The FBI had been pressured. In response to the Kenyons' pleas, Rep. John J. LaFalce and Sen Alfonse D'Amato, both of New York, and former Wisconsin Governor Lee Sherman Dreyfus had insisted the FBI intervene.
No one from the FBI spoke to Wilder. "We didn't anticipate talking to him at that stage of the game," said Del Campo.
But why, if investigators suspected Wilder was their man, didn't they watch him? If they had, could they have prevented subsequent crimes?
"I can't answer," said Wasserman. "We're not going to get into a hindsight thing. What happened happened. I didn't drive him to it, you didn't drive him to it. Christopher Wilder decided what he was going to do and he did it."
In retrospect, both Nazario and Wasserman say they would do nothing differently. "You can't look back and post judge these things," Wasserman said.
Wasserman said Miami police have interviewed at least two dozen women Wilder approached sexually. Nazario said Metro interviewed at least 40.
"He degraded and humiliated so many people, especially young wide-eyed models," said Wasserman. "It was embarrassing for them to talk to us."
Wasserman found one "very lucky young girl." She had met Wilder at the Grand Prix -- about an hour before Rosario disappeared.
"She fit to a T the type of woman that attracted Wilder," he said. "Very young, very wholesome, clean cut, in her teens. He wanted her to go with him, to be photographed. He gave her his card." The card is simple and tasteful, creme color, with his name, address and telephone number.
"It didn't say 'photographer, race car driver -- or rapist,' " said Wasserman.
The girl's older sister arrived and stopped her. Wasserman had a long talk with the younger girl. "I told her if you believe in God, or go to church . . . "
Among the unexplained ironies of the case is a page missing out of Rosario's personal address book, kept at home, in her room. The page is the one with the W's.
THURSDAY, MARCH 15
On March 15, a Thursday, Wilder skipped his appointment with his Boynton Beach sex therapist. Instead, he checked into a Howard Johnson's motel in Daytona Beach. The FBI later placed him on the beach, talking to pretty girls in swimsuits. One of them, Colleen Osborn, 15, is still missing.
That day Sheriff Anthony Villella, of Niagara County, N.Y., arrived in Miami to help his friends, the Kenyons. His father died suddenly and he could not stay.
On Friday, March 16 -- six days after the gas station identification of Wilder -- The Herald published a news story linking the two missing Miami women to a Boynton Beach photographer, a Grand Prix race car driver with a record of sex crimes. The story did not name Wilder. But to those who knew him well, the identification was obvious.
Miami police discussed the story, Wasserman said.
"My department felt we were going to have to start moving faster."
Still, nobody watched Wilder. That day Wilder telephoned his partner Kimbrell. He said that he was in Tallahassee and that he had "problems."
Kimbrell urged him to return and "straighten them out." That night at 10 p.m. he appeared in Boynton Beach. He cried and told Kimbrell, "I'm not going to jail."
Had anyone watched Wilder's home the morning of Saturday, March 17, he would have seen Wilder take his three dogs to a kennel, put his suitcase in his Chrysler, and bid farewell to his business partner.
Then he drove off -- to a travelogue of terror: 26 days
from Florida to California to New Hampshire. Authorities link him to at least nine more abductions and five murders. Three teen-agers survived; one is still missing.
MONDAY, MARCH 19
On Monday, March 19, Metro police notified Palm Beach County of Wilder's probation violation at the Grand Prix Feb. 26.
"We didn't know he was down there," said Kermit Nelson, a probation supervisor. "If we had known, we could have approached the judge for a warrant."
On Tuesday, March 20, a Tallahassee coed escaped from Wilder after he kidnapped, raped and tortured her. She identified him by photograph, 24 days before his death in a struggle with New Hampshire troopers.
Police here speculate that the bodies of both Rosario Gonzalez and Beth Kenyon eventually will be found near water.
"Wilder had a water fixation," says Wasserman. In a 1981 video-date interview, Wilder spoke of water skiing and surfing. His home, with a Jacuzzi and pool, is fronted on two sides by water. As America's most wanted fugitive, he toured Niagara Falls.
"Look near water," Wasserman says. "Police don't find bodies. Bodies find police. The hunter, the bird watcher, the motorist whose car breaks down . . . "
Herald staff writer Fred Strasser also contributed to this report.
photo: Christopher Wilder, his home, his Porsche,
Rosario Gonzalez, Elizabeth Kenyon, New York deputy sheriff with
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