"The Beauty Queen Killer" Earned His Moniker — Let's Take a Look at Christopher Wilder's Victims

In a span of two months, Christopher Wilder criss-crossed the United States leaving numerous victims in his wake.

Jennifer Tisdale - Author

May 10 2024, Published 2:37 p.m. ET

If you need support, call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 or visit RAINN.org to chat online one-on-one with a support specialist at any time.

According to A&E, Christopher Wilder was victimizing women long before he became a serial killer. Born in the Australia, Wilder was sentenced to one year of probation along with psychiatric counseling when he was only 17 after being convicted of raping a 13-year-old girl in the back of a car.

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When Wilder moved to Florida in the early 1970s, "he faced several charges related to sexual misconduct, and eventually raped a vacationing teen he had drawn to his truck with the promise of shooting her for a modeling contract." He would later use the photography contract lie to lure other women into his trap. His killing spree began in February 1984 and ended with his suicide two months later. He would later be known as "The Beauty Queen Killer." Here's what we know about Christopher Wilder's victims.

Most of Christopher Wilder's victims were killed in a span of two months.

On Feb. 26, 1984, Rosario Theresa Gonzales was reported missing after a stint at the "Miami Grand Prix racetrack, where she was working at a temporary job distributing samples of aspirin for a pharmaceutical company," per The Charley Project. Lauth Investigations, a private firm that looked into Wilder's crimes, noted that the 20-year-old woman was last seen with a man fitting the killer's description. Gonzales was never found.

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A little over a week later on March 8, 23-year-old Elizabeth Kenyon disappeared. Her connection to Wilder was more solid as they reportedly dated. Kenyon was a former fashion model and won the 1982 Orange Bowl Princess competition before going on to become a finalist in the Miss Florida pageant. Incidentally, Gonzales also competed in that pageant. She was last seen with Wilder at a gas station before her abandoned car was found on March 11. Like Gonzales, Kenyon was never seen again.

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A week after Kenyon's car was located, 21-year-old aspiring model Theresa Ferguson disappeared. After telling her family she was going to the Merritt Square Mall, no one heard from her. Her car was abandoned at the mall where witnesses saw her leaving with a man who matched Wilder's description. Five days later on March 23, Ferguson's battered body was discovered.

On March 20, an unidentified woman known only as Jane Doe escaped a night of torture by Wilder. He forced the 19-year-old woman into his car from the Governor’s Square Mall parking lot near Florida State University, where she was a student. Doe was brought to a motel outside of Bainbridge, Ga. where Wilder raped her then connected "copper wires to her feet, then used a blow-dryer to apply super glue to her eyes," via Lauth Investigations. She was able to escape after locking herself in the motel bathroom and screaming until Wilder fled.

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Three days later Wilder was in Beaumont, Texas, where he abducted Terry Walden, a nursing student and mother of two. She was later found stabbed to death. In April 1986, United Press International reported that Walden's husband "won a $3 million wrongful death suit against the killer's estate." On March 25, two days after killing Walden, Wilder kidnapped 20-year-old Suzanne Logan from an Oklahoma City shopping center, via Time. Similar to Walden, Logan died from multiple stab wounds.

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Shopping malls were Wilder's favorite hunting ground because that's where young women in the 1980s would hang out. Per United Press International, the nude body of 18-year-old Sheryl Lynn Bonaventura was found on March 30 in Grand Junction, Colo. She was reported missing on March 29 after her car was found at a local mall. According to the autopsy, she died of stab wounds to the chest. Her mother told the outlet, "I'm happy to know where she is. I have some contentment, she is with the Lord."

A few days later on April 1, Wilder was seen posing as a fashion photographer at a Seventeen Magazine beauty contest in Boulder City, Nev. It's there that he abducted 17-year-old Michelle Lyn Korfman. Her body was found on May 11 in the Angeles National Forest, per United Press International. The medical examiner determined her cause of death was asphyxiation "caused by aspiration of foreign matter (soil) into her larnyx and trachea." To put it more bluntly, Wilder shoved Korfman's face into the ground until she died.

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In a strange departure, Wilder picked up 17-year-old Tina Marie Risico outside of a shopping mall in Torrance, Calif. on April 4 and forced her to accompany him on his spree, via United Press International. She would later say he raped and abused her while she was aiding him in luring victims into his car. Wilder let her go mere hours before taking his own life.

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One of the victims Risico helped Wilder kidnap was 15-year-old Dawnette Wilt. On April 10, Wilder forced Wilt into the back of his car which was being driven by Risico. She was taken from the parking lot of a mall in Indiana and "then left for dead in the woods in Penn Yan, New York," via NBC News. After dragging herself to safety, Wilt was able to identify Wilder as the man who attacked her.

On April 12, 1984, the day before he would take his own life, Wilder killed his last victim. Risico was still driving when the duo pulled into Eastview Mall in Victor, N.Y. It was there that 33-year-old Beth Dodge was taken and later shot to death. His motive for this last murder was to obtain a different car which is probably why Dodge was older than the other victims.

If you or someone you know are experiencing suicidal thoughts, call, text, or message the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. Dial or text 988, call 1-800-273-8255, or chat via their website.

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