The demand for background checks is on the rise.
According to Time Magazine, the FBI completed more than 2.1 million background checks for gun purchases in June 2016. This is an increase of 40 percent over 2015, and experts are pointing to the June 12 shooting in Orlando, where 49 people were killed, as the cause of this spike.
These FBI background checks are initiated anytime someone tries to purchase a firearm from a federally licensed gun dealer.
“Mass shootings and acts of terrorism tend to spark increased gun sales because Americans fear for their safety and also because gun advocates worry that the mass shooting will initiate stricter gun control,” writes Time Magazine’s Rosalie Chan.
Mass shooting and acts of terrorism also tend to spark an increase in background checks more broadly.
As employers and HR specialists are becoming increasingly worried about workplace violence, as landlords become increasingly concerned about the backgrounds of their tenants, and as those in the dating world are becoming increasingly anxious about whether or not a would-be-lover is indeed who they say they are.
Consider out these statistics compiled by HireRight:
53% of all job applications contain inaccurate information.
In a survey conducted by CareerBuilder.com, 49% of the 3,100 hiring managers surveyed had caught a job applicant fabricating some part of his/her resume.
34% of all application forms contain outright lies about experience, education, and ability to perform essential functions on the job.
9% of job applicants falsely claimed they had a college degree, listed false employers, or identified jobs that didn’t exist.
11% of job applicants misrepresented why they left a former employer.
Nearly one-third of job applications listed dates of employment that were inaccurate by more than three months.
Up to 5% of American workplaces experience a workplace violence episode annually.
FBI Studies estimate nearly 355,000 businesses will experience a workplace violence episode in any given year.
13% of the 5,840 workplace fatalities that happened in 2006 were the result of assaults and violent acts.
There were 11,613 workplace homicide victims between 1992 and 2006, averaging just under 800 homicides per year.
Of those establishments reporting an incident of workplace violence in the previous 12 months, 21% reported that the incident affected the fear level of their employees and employee morale.
In 2008, the majority of retail shrinkage was due to employee theft at $15.9 billion, which represented almost half of losses (44%).
In 2008, the average employee theft case was $2,672.
30% of all business failures are caused by employee theft.
In 2007, one in every 28.2 employees was apprehended for theft from their employer.
The FBI calls employee theft the fastest growing crime in America. 55% of perpetrators of employee theft are managers.
75% of all employees steal at least once.
More than 75% of substance abusers are employed.
In 2007, 8.4% of those employed full-time were current illicit drug users, and 8.8% reported heavy alcohol use.
Substance abusers change jobs as frequently as 3 times a year.
Substance abusers are at least 33% less productive.
Substance abusers are 2.5 times more likely to be absent 8+ days a year.
Drug abusers cost twice as much in medical and worker comp claims as drug-free workers.
Negligent hiring cases have had verdicts of up to $40 million.
The average settlement of a negligent hiring lawsuit is nearly $1 million.
Employers have lost more than 79% of negligent hiring cases.*Source: Fortune, 2/00
It costs $7,000 to replace a salaried employee, $10,000 to replace a mid-level employee and $40,000 to replace a senior executive.
The U.S. Department of Labor estimates that the average cost of a bad hiring decision can equal 30% of the first year’s potential earnings.
Replacing supervisory, technical and management personnel can cost from 50 to several hundred percent of the person’s salary.
Hiring an experienced investigations firm that is adept in conducting complete and thorough background checks from the ground up is the best first step in safeguarding against false information, workplace violence, employee theft, drugs in the workplace, and bad hires.
Be sure to visit our website for more information.
Private investigator abuse is an unethical practice by which private investigator services are used to harass and intimidate others. This can come in many forms, like visible surveillance operations, and fact-finding/blackmail. Hiring a private investigator in a time of personal or corporate crisis is one of the greatest ways to get answers. Private investigators are trained, licensed professionals who use their diverse skillsets to get answers for their clients. These services are designed to give individuals context and peace of mind when they are making complex decisions in their corporate or personal lives. However, not every client who hires a private investigator does so in search of truth. Some clients seek to abuse intelligence services as a means of intimidation or harassment, and it is a practice private investigators must quash. Private investigator abuse is a real form of harassment that is utilized every day by both high-profile clients and private clients, and only serves to bury the truth further where clarification is needed.
Private investigator abuse and harassment completely fly in the face of private investigations—and independent, objective look at a complex situations concluding with comprehensive solutions. Intelligence services should be used just for that—finding empowering facts and intelligence. It is the pursuit of the truth, meant to be used to restore balance and perspective in a given set of circumstances. Once a private investigator turns over their findings to a client, with few exceptions, a private investigator cannot be held ethically responsible for what the client does with that information. However, when clients use private investigators on regular basis to harass and intimidate others, this is a misuse of the practice. Private investigators are typically independent contractors who can choose who they work for and when they work, meaning that they do have choices when it comes to using their professional talents to harm others. When the job is about bringing facts to light, it seems incongruent to use these services to keep things in the shadows.
When private investigator abuse occurs on the international stage, it further detracts from the true nature of private investigations, validating every trope in film and television of private investigators as parasitic, seedy characters with dishonest intentions. Since 2018, the world has heard the cry of #MeToo when it comes to exposing sexual abusers in the workplace and private life. Among the men who were accused of sexual misconduct, the most famous is arguably Harvey Weinstein, the American movie producer whose crimes of sexual assault and rape got him convicted and sentenced to 23 years in prison. When allegations about Weinstein first broke, he set to work weaponizing private intelligence against his accusers. Ronan Farrow, an American journalist, first reported in The New Yorker that Weinstein was using private investigators of the firm known as Black Cube to dig up information on the numerous actresses and other women who claimed Weinstein assaulted them. The investigators combed through the accusers’ personal lives, building psychological profiles and aggregating information on them that could be used to intimidate or silence them, and it didn’t stop there. Donning the guise of a women’s rights advocate, one of the highly-trained operatives met with one of his accusers, Rose McGowan, attempting to aggregate information from her on the case. That same operative also pretended to be another of Weinstein’s victims in order to speak with a journalist and get names of the women involved. Weinstein’s attempts to subjugate the justice system by frightening his accusers into silence on such a massive level was patently private investigator abuse.
Harvey Weinstein is not the only high-profile clients that utilizes private investigator abuse to intimidate and control others. The Church of Scientology is also a documented culprit of using private investigator abuse to control members of their church and members of the church’s clergy. In recent years, documentaries and docuseries like Going Clear and Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath have brought to light the private investigator abuse utilized by the Church of Scientology. It’s difficult to qualify how high-ranking members of the church weaponized private investigators without going into detail about the doctrines of Scientology. Suffice it to say that when individuals decide they wish to leave the Church of Scientology, it was common practice for high-ranking members of the religion’s Sea Organization to send private investigators after individuals who had left the church, using manipulation, blackmail, and extortion to bring these straying members back the flock. In the same way Harvey Weinstein used private investigators to silence his victims, the Church of Scientology also has a documented history of using private investigators to harass and intimidate their detractors. In one episode of Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath, Leah Remini herself and former Sea Organization executive Mike Rinder are followed by a pair of private investigators while shooting footage in the field. What’s particularly disturbing about the Church of Scientology’s private investigator abuse is that no one is immune to this seedy form of harassment. Ron Miscavige, the father of the church’s leader, David Miscavige, claimed in an interview in 2016 that his own son had also placed private investigators on his father’s trail after Ron Miscavige and his wife escaped from Scientology in 2012. David Miscavige instructed the private investigators to follow his father and ensure that he would not go to press with information about the church following his departure. Miscavige put the private investigator in such a position that on one occasion, during a surveillance operation, the private investigator observed Ron Miscavige having what looked like a heart attack from across the street. The investigator immediately sought counsel from the client on how he should proceed, and Miscavige allegedly told the private investigator to let Ron succumb to the heart attack. According to a police report, stating that David Miscavige told the investigator “…if it was Ron’s time to die, let him die, and not intervene in any way.” This is the implicit extreme of private investigator abuse, in which the client puts the private investigator in the position of being indifferent to human life in the name of getting a more desirable result.
The simple answer to preventing private investigator abuse is that professionals must know when to say no to a client who wants to contract them for nefarious purposes. The free market means that professionals are free to choose where they work and how they apply their trade. Knowing that knowledge is power, it then behooves the private investigators of the world to take careful consideration when deciding to take a case and perform due-diligence in assuring that their clients are above board in the retention of private investigator services.
The Collector, a Serial Killer, and Beauty Queens
Hollywood’s Broken Dreams
Hollywood has long been the destination of aspiring young actors and actresses from throughout the country and world. Those chasing their “Hollywood dream.” A place where on the surface, A-list stars, glitz, and glamorous gowns, fuel dreams of the young.
As bright as the lights are in Hollywood, there is an equally dark underbelly lurking. During the 1970’s, Hollywood became known for sleazy producers and directors, the “casting couch,” and with time, has continued to lose its shine.
With recent headline’s and revelations between Corey Feldman and the fall of Harvey Weinstein, one can’t ignore things have not improved in the Land of the Dolls 2.0.
For decades, there has been a predatory and complacent culture in the hills of Hollywood, a place where stalkers and even serial killers can blend in. It has become a place where dreams have disappeared, along with some actresses and Beauty Queens.
The Disappearance of a Beauty Queen
Tammy “Tami” Lynn Leppert was an 18-year old, employed model and actress, who mysteriously vanished July 1983. Remarkably beautiful, Tammy entered her first beauty contest at 4-years-old, and by the age of 16-years-old, had participated in over 300 beauty contests, taking home 280 crowns.
Residents of Rockledge, Fla., Tammy lived with her mother, Linda Curtis, a theatrical and modeling agent who guided Tammy in pursuit of her childhood dreams. By the age of 18-years-old, Tammy had minor roles in several well-known movies. She was sweet and bright, with equally optimistic dreams.
Spring Break, The Movie
In 1983, Tammy had a part in the widely popular teen movie “Spring Break,” directed by Sean S. Cunningham and filmed in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Cunningham is known for his 1973 film Case of the Full Moon Murders, that included a mix sexploitation and comedy, the 1972 horror flick Last House on the Left, Friday the 13th, A Stranger is Watching, and The New Kids, starring James Spader.
Tammy had been cast as the female boxer in for the “Spring Break” film. Her torso, hips, and legs featured in the main poster for the movie.
In July 1982, Tammy had gone alone to a weekend party after filming. Her best friend Wing Flannagan said Tammy returned from the party a changed person. “Sometimes I’d ask her, what was on her mind, what was bothering her. And she’d usually change the subject, or she’d say, oh nothing, you know and then try to laugh it off,” said Flannigan. He describes Tammy’s behavior as fearful and paranoid.
During that same time, Tammy’s mother said her daughter thought someone was going to kill her and had also become very careful when consuming food or drinks.
Tammy told her mother she had seen something awful at the party, something really horrible, telling her mother they were trying to kill her. “I kept trying to figure out who “they” were”, said Curtis.
Tammy began to isolate from others, staying in her room, having others test her food before she ate. It became increasingly difficult for others to ascertain whether her fears were real, or possibly delusions.
Despite Tammy’s state of mind, shortly before her disappearance, she accepted a minor role in the Hollywood film Scarface, starring Al Pacino, written by Oliver Stone and directed by Brian DePalma. Known for his films, such as Carrie, Femme Fatale, Dressed to Kill, and Carlito’s Way. DePalma’s films commonly promote suspense, gore, crime, and eroticism.
Scarface was being filmed in Miami Fla., about a two-hour drive south of Tammy’s home. Tammy was selected to be the “bathing suit beauty” to distract Manny at the lookout car, during the gruesome chainsaw bathroom scene. It is said she was the youngest person on the set and she was being noticed.
During the March 1983 filming, she stayed with family friend Walter Liebowitz, a Calif., attorney who resided in the Miami area.
All seemed to be going well until the fourth day of filming according to Leibowitz. “I received a call from the casting director to tell me that Tammy had a breakdown on the set. They said it was a scene where someone was supposed to be shot and had artificial blood spurt out. And they said Tammy was watching the scene, she started crying hysterically and it got so bad that they had to take her to a trailer.
Tammy was in a tremendous state of fear and anxiety. What was it that caused this great fear in her? I don’t know. When I spoke with Tammy’s mother, I told her she should take Tammy to a doctor and to the police to find out if the problem was psychological or if there was some basis of fact that someone was trying to kill her and get to the bottom of it,” said Leibowitz. He also recalled Tammy had referred to money laundering and thought maybe there was something to Tammy’s claims.
Returning Home Broken
With everyone concerned, Tammy returned home. Afraid Tammy’s fears were real, her mother took her to Brevard County Sheriff’s Office, but Tammy refused to tell them she felt her life was in danger.
July 1, 1983, Tammy accidentally locked herself out of her house and used a baseball bat to break the windows to get back in. She had finally cracked, scared and emotional. Her mother checked her into a psychiatric hospital in Brevard County where she underwent 72 hours of observation and drug testing. The results were negative, and it was determined Tammy did not suffer from any significant mental illness and released.
On July 5th, Tammy went out for the evening with her friend Rick Adams and told him that she might be going away for a while, not going into detail. Adams later recalled he thought Tammy may have been referring to her planned trip to Calif., to film a movie.
Vanished into Thin Air
July 6th, Tammy, and friend Keith Roberts decided to drive to Cocoa Beach at approximately 11:00 am. Roberts would later tell authorities that he and Tammy had an argument and Tammy had requested he drop her off. Roberts told authorities he left in the parking lot at Glass Bank, near an Exxon gas station on State Road A1A, in Cocoa Beach. No one saw Tammy again.
Tammy’s mother made missing person report to police on July 11, 1983.
Some have erroneously reported Tammy had no shoes or purse when she vanished but according to the police report, she was wearing a blue shirt with floral appliques, a blue denim skirt, carrying a gray purse and wearing flip-flops.
A Florida Today article, “Have You Seen Tami-Lynn”, Roberts says Tammy called him in Lakeland where he worked at a bank and asked him to pick her up. She asked him to borrow $300 and they fought because he would not drive her to a friend’s home in Fort Lauderdale approximately a 2-hour drive south. “At that point, she said, ‘Let me out! Let me out!’ So, I just said OK, whatever you want and that’s the last time I saw her” says Roberts.
Tammy did make 3 frantic phone calls, presumably from the Exxon station, to her aunt Ginger Kolsch’s business Balloonatics the day she disappeared. Kolsch was out of town but she recalled Tammy sounded like she was really afraid of somebody.
A Mother’s Recollections
Curtis recalled her daughter had not combed her hair that fateful day, which was highly unusual since Tammy always took pride in her appearance. In addition, she didn’t believe her daughter left on her own, as Tammy had made plans to go to Hollywood, Calif., for three months to shoot films.
Tammy’s last words to her mother on her way out the door was, “Bye Mommy. I’ll see you in a bit, okay?” At 54-years-old, Linda Curtis passed away on October 4, 1995, never knowing what had happened to her daughter.
Prior to her death, Curtis had been writing a screenplay that accused local elites of having something to do with Tammy’s disappearance. She believed Tammy was kidnapped because she had knowledge of violence, drugs, and a money laundering operation. Curtis also criticized authorities for mishandling the investigation into her daughter’s disappearance.
What Did She See?
The question remains, what had happened at the Spring Break party causing Tammy to say she saw something awful, something really horrible?
Many have speculated Tammy had been suffering from paranoid schizophrenia but her behavior prior to her disappearance translates more toward someone suffering from PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) and extreme paranoia triggered by the bloody scene during filming of Scarface. The facts lead more to the conclusion Tammy had witnessed something horrific during the weekend after-party of the filming of Spring Break.
Who was threatening Tammy’s life? Is it possible she called her own killer that day to pick her up? Did police ever obtain the call records from the payphone where she frantically called her aunt? Who had been at the Spring Break after-party that Tammy feared?
Enter the Serial Killer
In the missing person report made by Curtis on July 11, 1983, it states, THE COMPLAINANT (LINDA CURTIS) ADVISED THAT TAMMY, WHO WORKS AS A PART-TIME MODEL AND ACTRESS, HAD RECENTLY BEEN INTRODUCED TO __________ W/M, LATE 30’s. __________ TOLD TAMMY THAT HE PRODUCES MOVIES. THE COMPLAINANT ADDRESSED THAT ___________ HAS AN UNSAVORY REPUTATION REGARDING HIS INVOLVEMENT WITH YOUNG TEENAGE GIRLS.
The name in the report is blacked out but some speculate the individual referenced in the police report was the Australian born serial killer Christopher Wilder, also known as the “Beauty Queen Killer.”
Wilder is known to have abducted and raped at least twelve young women and murdered at least eight, spanning Florida, Colorado, California, Nevada, New York, Texas, and Oklahoma during 1984, before he was killed by police in New Hampshire.
Prior to Tammy Leppert’s mother’s death, Curtis had also gone as far as filing a $1M lawsuit against Wilder’s estate for pain, anguish and funeral expenses for her daughter, even though Tammy had not been found. Police were never able to directly connect Wilder to the disappearance of Tammy and the lawsuit was eventually dropped. Curtis believed police never treated Tammy’s disappearance as an abduction but instead, a voluntary disappearance.
The Beauty Queen Killer
Born in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia on March 13, 1945, Christopher Bernard Wilder had faced numerous sexual misconduct charges during his early life, including a gang rape in 1962. He pleaded guilty at the age of 17-years old, receiving a one-year sentence of probation with counseling and electro-shock therapy.
Married in 1968 at the age of 23, Wilder left his wife and became an American citizen in 1969, settling in south Florida while traveling back and forth to Australia to visit his family.
In March 1971, Wilder was arrested for soliciting women to pose for nude photographs in Pompano Beach. Pleading guilty to disturbing the peace, only a small fine was imposed.
The first documented sexual assault in the U.S. happened in 1976. A family had hired him to work on their home in Boca Raton. Their 16-year old daughter quickly became the target of Wilder.
Wilder told the young girl she could interview for a job with his company and lured her into his truck. As reported in an archived People Magazine article “Journey of Terror”, the young girl told Wilder that she had venereal disease hoping her lie would protect her but Wilder raped her anyway.
Wilder was eventually acquitted of the sexual assault charges.
The second incident occurred in 1979 in Palm Beach, when Wilder was charged with the attempted rape of a 17-year old. He had introduced himself to her as “David Pierce,” an agent for the Barbizon modeling school offering to photograph her for a pizza ad.
Palm Beach Detective Arthur Newcombe would later testify, “She kept asking why she had to do this?” Wilder responded, “You want to be a Barbizon model, don’t you?”
Wilder would plead to lesser charges of attempted sexual battery and received 5-years probation.
In 1983, he would return to Australia to visit his parents, but his predatory behavior didn’t stop. Wilder was charged by an Australian court for abducting two 15-year-olds, sexually assaulting them, bounding and blindfolding them, forcing them to pose nude for photographs while ejaculating on them.
Wilder posted a $350,000 bail and was permitted to return to the United States. Wilder would never return to Australia to face charges of abducting and raping the two 15-year old girls.
He was also suspected in a 1965 murder of two teenage girls in Sydney. Marianne Schmidt and Christine Sharrock were best friends and neighbors who were found brutally murdered and partially buried in the sand at Wanda Beach, January 11, 1965. The case remains unsolved.
In hindsight, clearly, Wilder was a predator and his thirst for torture, rape and killing increasing.
The Many Others
Wilder had an eye for models and was known to lure his victims with promises of modeling contracts. A successful Boynton Beach real estate developer, his wealth, fast cars, speed-boat and opulent home, made Wilder appear to be a successful gentleman who many young women would tend to trust. In fact, friends would later recall they thought Wilder was a consummate gentleman.
February 26, 1984, a 20-year old model and Miss Florida contestant vanished in Miami, Fla. Rosario Gonzalez had been employed at the Miami Grand Prix, where Wilder raced his 911 Porsche.
According to witnesses, Rosario had left the Grand Prix track between noon and 1 pm with a man in his mid-thirties. She lived with her parents in Homestead, Fla., about a 23-mile drive from Miami but never arrived home that evening. Her parents said she always called home if she was going to be late and would never intentionally worry them.
Her vehicle was later found parked at the Dupont Plaza Hotel in downtown Miami and her paycheck never picked up.
Rosario’s fiancé would later tell police that Wilder had known Rosario and had taken her picture for a cover picture for a romance book in October 1982. Rosario had never heard from him again. That is, until the day of her disappearance when witnesses saw her leaving with a man fitting Wilder’s physical description. Rosario remains missing.
Eight days later, another Miss Florida pageant participant would vanish.
Elizabeth Kenyon was a University of Miami graduate and coach for the cheerleading squad at Coral Gables High School where she also taught special needs children.
A former fashion model, Elizabeth won the 1982 Orange Bowl Princess competition. She was also a finalist in the Miss Florida pageant where she had competed with Rosario.
Elizabeth and Wilder had dated. He had even proposed marriage to the 23-year old, but she had declined his offer because of a 16-year age difference.
On Monday, March 5, 1984, a security guard at Coral Gables High, momentarily spoke to Elizabeth in the parking lot and watched her leave. When she did not show up at her apartment, her roommate was not immediately concerned and assumed Elizabeth had gone to visit her parents who lived 30-miles north, in Pompano Beach.
When Elizabeth did not show up for work the following day, her parents reported missing her missing. Elizabeth’s father William Kenyon had recently seen bruises on his daughter and confronted her, but she explained the injuries away, telling him she had broken up a playground fight at school.
With the reason for concern, in the days following Elizabeth’s disappearance, Kenyon hired Kenneth Whittaker, a $1k per day private investigator.
On March 8th, Whittaker interviewed a gas station attendant who was familiar with Elizabeth and told the investigator she had driven into the station in her Chrysler convertible with a man driving a Cadillac El Dorado following her.
The attendant said they overheard Elizabeth talking about going to the airport. The man, fitting Wilder’s description, paid for her fuel and they drove away. That was the last time Elizabeth was seen.
Whittaker was able to quickly link Rosario Gonzalez to Wilder and took his information and concerns to Boynton Police Dept. Detectives shared information with Whittaker, about Wilder’s long history of sexual offenses. Whittaker and the Kenyon began surveillance on Wilder’s home, then requested help from the FBI who declined to become involved because there was no information leading to interstate kidnapping. Though compelling, the FBI explained they had no jurisdiction at the time.
Elizabeth’s vehicle was found on March 11th, parked at the Miami International Airport. Her name did not show on any flights.
Later, the Whittaker spoke directly to Wilder who denied seeing Elizabeth. Wilder’s secretary then tried to assure the private investigator Wilder was being truthful about the girl whose vehicle was found at the airport. That information had not yet been released by police.
Whittaker then strategically released information to the Miami Herald who reported a “race car driver” was the suspect in the disappearance of two women.
Two days later, Wilder, took his three dogs to a local kennel, withdrew a large amount of money from his bank account, got in his 1973 New Yorker and bolted.
Elizabeth remains missing and her parents have both passed away without ever knowing what happened to their daughter.
On March 15, 1984, 15-year-old Colleen Orsborn disappeared after leaving her home in Daytona Beach, Fla. Colleen has missed her school bus, so her mother gave her money for the public bus and left for work. Colleen never made it to school.
Later, the only thing her mother discovered gone was Colleen’s pink two-piece bathing suit and flip-flops. Had she been lured to skip school with promises of modeling prospects?
A private investigator discovered Wilder was in Daytona, stayed at a hotel in the area and checked out the day of Colleen’s disappearance.
The family spent years hoping they would find Colleen alive.
About three weeks after Colleen vanished, a fisherman found the body of a young girl buried in a shallow grave at a lake in Orange County, Fla. However, the body was not identified as Colleen until 2011, utilizing the advancements in DNA identification.
Police never directly connected Wilder to Colleen and her murder remains unsolved.
Theresa “Terry” Wait Ferguson
Terry Ferguson was a beautiful, 21-year old aspiring model and step-daughter of a local Police Chief.
On March 18, 1984, Terry left her home in Indian Harbor Beach, Fla., to go to Merritt Square Mall about 20-miles from her home in Merritt Island. Theresa never arrived home after her trip to the mall.
Her step-father found her car parked at the mall and witnesses stated they saw Terry leave the mall with a well-dressed, balding man, who fit Wilder’s description. That same day Terry disappeared, Wilder called for a tow truck to remove his vehicle from a sandy area along a remote “Lover’s Lane” in Canaveral Groves, about 20 miles northwest of the mall. He was alone.
On March 23rd, her father was notified by one of his own police dispatchers a body had been found face down in a snake-infested swamp, about 100 miles east. Terry’s abduction and death was the first confirmed murder tied to Wilder.
On March 20, 1984, 19-year old college student vanished from the Governor’s Square Mall parking lot, close to her Florida State University campus in Tallahassee, Fla. She had been offered a modeling assignment but declined. The man then forced her into his vehicle, and into a sleeping bag after bounding and gagging her. He then stuffed into his trunk.
Later that evening, Wilder took Jane Doe to a motel room near Bainbridge, GA where he raped and tortured her, connecting copper wires to her feet, then used a blow-dryer to apply super glue to her eyes.
In the book “Disguise of Insanity: Serial Mass Murderers” by Michael Cartel, he describes how Wilder shaved the young woman’s pubic hair, raped her, then ejaculated while lying beside her.
The young woman was able to escape by locking herself in the bathroom, screaming and pounding on the walls alerting other visitors. Wilder fled the scene and she went to authorities.
Jane Doe would tell police she had been at the mall and a man in a pinstripe suit offered $25 for a half hour of her time to model for him at a nearby park.
At his car, he showed her fashion magazines, claiming the photographs were his work, promising her a career. Initially, she trusted him but suddenly, intuitively, she felt uncomfortable and decided she did not want to go but he beat her and forced her into his vehicle.
Abducting and transporting Jane Doe from Fla. to Ga., was the first proven incident of interstate kidnapping associated with Wilder, allowing the Federal Bureau of Investigation to get involved. Wilder would soon be added to the FBI’s Most Wanted list.
Terry Walden was a 23-year old nursing student at Lamar University in Beaumont, Tex. On March 23, 1984, Terry had told her husband she planned to pick up a couple things at the local mall, go study with a friend, then pick up their 4-year old daughter at daycare. She had intended to be home by 1:30 pm that day. At 5 pm the daycare notified her husband that Terry had never picked up heir daughter. Immediately concerned he filed a missing person report.
Two days prior, Terry had told her husband that a man had approached her at the mall asking her to pose as a model. She strongly declined his offer. The incident at the mall and Terry’s disappearance was not immediately connected but it would soon become clear, two days after rebuffing Wilder’s offer, Terry was yet another victim of a serial killer.
On March 26th, Terry’s fully clothed body was found floating face down in a canal in Beaumont. She was bound, badly bruised, with knife wounds and rope burns on her wrists and ankles. Detectives found duct tape at the scene, along with foot and tire tracks nearby.
Terry’s orange 1981 Mercury Cougar was missing. The police were certain Wilder was driving it.
March 26th, the same day Terry Walden’s body was found in Beaumont, Tex., the body of another aspiring model was found nearly in Milford Lake, Kans.
20-year old Suzanne Logan was found by a fisherman in the reservoir, over 650 miles north of Beaumont, Tex., where Terry Walden had been murdered.
Suzanne had vanished from the Penn Square Mall nearly 300 miles south in Okla., the day prior to the location of her body.
Suzanne was found partially clothed, shaven pubic hair, sexually assaulted, stabbed and bound with nylon cord and duct tape. Police say she was dead less than an hour before her body was found. Strangely, her hair had been snipped and later found in a wastebasket by a hotel maid.
Wilder had left a trail of bodies but was nowhere near done with his cross-country serial killing spree.
March 29, 1984, nearly 800 miles away in Grand Junction, Colo., 18-year old Sheryl Bonaventura was excitedly packing for a trip to Aspen with her best friend Kristal Cesario.
Dressed in faded jeans and gold-toed cowboy boots, Sheryl told her mother she was going to the local mall before meeting up with Kristal to leave for Aspen. Her mother asked her to be careful driving and she replied, “Mom, you worry too much.”
Her car was found at the mall, locked with sunglasses inside.
After the missing person report was made, witnesses at the local mall identified Wilder who was soliciting several women offering a modeling contract.
A waitress later said she saw Sheryl the same day she disappeared having lunch with a man and telling the waitress she was headed to Vegas.
They would stay at a hotel in Page, Ariz., on March 31st. Her body was found May 3rd, 12 miles north of Kanab, Utah. She had been shot and stabbed to death.
Two days later, on April 1st, 17-year old Michelle Korfman vanished. Michelle was a beautiful and popular beauty pageant participant whose father was a casino executive.
The day Michelle vanished she had participated in a beauty contest sponsored by Seventeen Magazine. A fashion photographer caught Wilder in a seat observing and stalking Michelle at the event.
Later witnesses would report they saw Michelle leaving the event with Michelle. Michelle was an aspiring model and probably easily lured, considering Wilder appeared to have connections within the pageantry circles.
Several young women would later come forward indicating they had also been approached by Wilder who offered them modeling contracts and asked them to meet him later that day at Caesar’s Palace. Fortunately, Wilder did not show up for the meetings leaving several young girls alive to tell their story.
It is not known what happened to Michelle following the abduction. Her badly decomposed body was found May 11th, at a southern California rest stop, near the Angeles National Forest.
Tina Marie Risico
On April 4, 1984, 16-year old high school student Tina Marie Risico headed to the Del Amo Fashion Center, in Torrance, Calif., to fill out a job application. There she met Wilder.
When she did not arrive home, a missing person report was made. The FBI was now involved and interviewed an employee at Hickory Farms at the mall, confirming Tina Marie had been there.
Witnesses would also confirm law enforcement’s greatest fear, identifying Wilder as the man Tina Marie was last seen talking to. Other witnesses around town placed Wilder in the vicinity, saying they had seen him at the Proud Parrot Motel in Torrance prior to Tina’s disappearance.
Over the course of the following week, Wilder raped and beat Tina Marie and for some reason, spared her life. After being raped and tortured, Tina had become very compliant, which may explain why she was later set free.
In a UPI report, “Tina Marie Risico, the teenager who accompanied a serial killer” Tina said, “There’s something inside of me that I knew how to play along.”
However, before Tina Marie would have her life spared, Wilder had diabolic plans for her – to use her to lure other victims.
Tina Marie would later recall the day she was abducted and how she agreed to model for Wilder, agreeing to be paid $100 for a billboard shoot. However, after shooting one roll of film, she told him she needed to go home which angered him and he pulled out a gun, placing it inside her mouth. Binding her he threw her into Terry Walden’s Cougar and drove approximately 200 miles to El Centro, Calif., where he got a motel room. There he raped and tortured her.
After the abduction in Torrance, Wilder and Tina Marie traveled east through Prescott, Ariz., Joplin, Mo., and Chicago, Ill., into Merrillville, Ind. Once in Merrillville, Wilder would force Tina Marie to help abduct another girl.
By April 8, 1984, Wilder was added to the FBI’s Most Wanted list, sending a “BOLO” (Be On the Lookout) out to law enforcement nationwide, but they were one-step behind him.
At Southlake Mall in Merrillville, Ind., on April 10, 1984, Wilder forced Tina Marie Risico to lure 15-year old Dawnette Wilt to their vehicle, telling her Wilder was a photographer looking for models. At gunpoint, Wilder forced Dawnette into the car where Wilder bound and gagged Dawnette with duct tape. For the next several hours, Wilder proceeded to rape the young girl while Tina Marie was ordered to drive east.
After eight hours, they stopped at Niagra Falls to take pictures, then stopped at a motel in Victor, approximately 20 miles south of Rochester, NY.
While staying in the hotel, Wilder discovered he was on the FBI “10 Most Wanted” list and decided to hit the road again, stopping one hour south, on a rural dirt road in Barrington, NY. There, Wilder would make Tina Marie stay in the vehicle, walking Dawnette into the woods. There, he strangled Dawnette, then stabbed her twice in the front and back, leaving her for dead. Wilder and Tina Marie drove away but within minutes, Wilder decided to return to the location to shoot Dawnette and finish her off. To his dismay, she was gone.
Dawnette survived the attack and managed to get to a road where Charles Laursen found her and drove her to the hospital for help. Suffering severe trauma and blood loss, during her interview with police, they would glean, Wilder was still traveling with Tina Marie, and headed to Canada.
After leaving Dawnette Wilt alongside the road in Barrington, Wilder and Tina Marie then turned north again, driving approximately 30 miles north returning to Victor, stopping at Eastview Mall. There he spotted Elizabeth Dodge. He ordered Tina Marie to convince the 33-year old woman to approach their car. Taking her car keys, Wilder then forced Elizabeth into his vehicle and drove away with Tina Marie following behind in Elizabeth’s gold Pontiac Firebird TransAm.
Wilder had one motive for abducting Elizabeth. They drove a short time to a remote gravel pit where Wilder forced Elizabeth to walk behind a mound of gravel, shooting her in the back. Leaving Terry Walden’s Cougar at the gravel pit, they drove away in Elizabeth’s vehicle.
A Life Spared
After murdering Elizabeth Dodge for her car, Wilder then headed east nearly 400 miles to Logan Airport in Boston, Mass.
There he entered the airport with his firearm inside his coat and purchased a one-way ticket to Los Angeles. He then gave Tina $100 to get a taxi and whatever she needed.
Tina Marie was clearly suffering from Stockholm Syndrome, a survival strategy where a victim develops an emotional bond with their abductor. Common to those suffering from extreme trauma, Tina Marie perceived Wilder as all-powerful and feared him, explaining why she would cooperate. However, Wilder also displayed a form of sympathy for Tina Marie, sparing her life.
She would be one of the lucky ones. Though haunted by the experience for years to come, Tina Marie would go on to speak about her experiences publicly and her story featured on FBI: The Untold Stories – Kidnapping of Tina Marie Risico.
The end of the road
Friday, April 13, 1984, Wilder began driving north toward Canada, stopping at a Vic’s Getty gas station in Colebrook, N.H. He was only a dozen miles away from the Canadian border when two New Hampshire state troopers spotted him at the gas pump and approached his vehicle.
Faced with capture, Wilder tried to retrieve his Colt Python .357 from the vehicle but Trooper Jellison grabbed him from behind and they began to struggle. Two shots were fired, one hitting Jellison after passing through Wilder’s chest, the other bullet also hitting Wilder directly in the chest, killing him instantly. Jellison would recover from his injury.
Friday the 13th, the trail of terror was over, but Wilder had left a living hell to the families who continue to await answers he took to his grave, and he left a path of broken dreams.
It would later be reported, handcuffs, rolls of duct tape, a specially designed electric cord used to torture his victims, a sleeping bag, .357 revolver with ammunition, and a copy of “The Collector” were found in Wilder’s possession.
English author Peter Fowles wrote and published The Collector in the early 1960s.
An internationally best-selling novel, it was hailed the first modern psychological thriller.
A tale of obsessive young love, Frederick Clegg is a city hall clerk who collects butterflies in his spare time and obsessed with art student Miranda Grey.
Admiring her from a distance at first, he buys an isolated house in the country and decides to add Miranda to his collection of butterflies.
Making careful preparation and using chloroform to abduct her, he locks Miranda in his cellar, convinced she will love him eventually.
He promises to respect Miranda, pledging not to rape her, vowing to shower her with gifts, if . . . she will not try to escape from the cellar.
As his true character is revealed, she begins to pity with Frederick but tries to escape several times. When he doesn’t let her go, she tries to seduce him several times, even fantasizes about killing him. Eventually, she becomes seriously ill and dies. He buries her in the garden. At the end of the book, it is announced he plans to kidnap another girl.
Serial killers Leonard Lake and Charles Ng were said to be obsessed with The Collector. Arrested in 1985, he and his killing partner Charles Ng raped, tortured, photographed and murdered an estimated 25 victims at a remote cabin in the Sierra Nevada foothills, in Calif.
American serial killer Robert Berdella, known as the Kansas City Butcher, told authorities the film version of The Collector was his inspiration to kill. He abducted and held male victim’s captive, photographing them before killing them.
How many more?
Though the FBI estimates under 100 serial killers currently working throughout the United States, the number of missing persons is equally disturbing.
As of October 31, 2017, there were 87,643 missing persons entered into the FBI’s National Crime Information Center and 8,613 unidentified persons, most remains.
“The devastation and number of victims these monsters leave behind is immeasurable because they are able to blend in and operate undetected, maximizing the number of victims,” says Thomas Lauth, private investigator and owner of Lauth Investigations International headquartered in Indianapolis, IN. Lauth has spent over twenty-years working on missing person and unsolved homicide cases and serves as a Consultant for MissingLeads.com.
Whether Christopher Wilder is responsible for the disappearance of Tammy Lynn Leppert, may never be known and her disappearance remains unsolved along with dozens of others. Like other serial killers, Wilder was able to assimilate and operate for years, escalating with killings more frequently. This has caused some to surmise he was a “spree killer.” However, the pattern of sadistic behavior beginning in his teens says otherwise.
“It is highly unlikely the victims named in this article were the only victims of Wilder,” says Lauth. “Sadly, these “collectors” will continue to operate until we catch up to them or they make a mistake and are caught. However, those of us chasing these monsters will always outnumber them – and we never forget the victims.”