Collector, a Serial Killer and Beauty Queens
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 too.
Tammy 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 is was that caused this great fear in her I don’t know. When I spoke with Tammy’s mother, I told her that she should take Tammy to a doctor and to take her 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.
Vanishing 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 three 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 care 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 Tammy 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 that 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 her extreme paranoia triggered by the bloody scene during filming of Scarface. The facts lead more to the conclusion that Tammy had witnessed something horrific during the weekend after-party of the filming 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 she frantically called her aunt from? 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 Fla., but 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 Det. 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, Wilder 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.
Marianne Schmidt and Christine Sharrock, tortured and murdered at Wanda Beach.
He was also suspected in a 1965 murder of two teenaged 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 convertibl