The most harrowing experience a family can face is the uncertainty surrounding the fate of a missing loved one, such as their daughter. Christie Wilson’s family underwent a similar agonizing situation when she disappeared after a night out. With no initial leads for the police to follow, a breakthrough came when they discovered CCTV footage that provided some crucial insights. CBS’s ’48 Hours: The Search for Christie Wilson’ sheds light on the possible events leading to her disappearance and demise.
How Did Christie Wilson Die?
Christie Wilson, a San Jose native, grew up in California. Having secured a job at a tech company in Sacramento after completing her education, she found enjoyment in gambling during her leisure time. It was at a local casino where she developed a fondness for blackjack and crossed paths with her boyfriend, Danny Burlando. While their relationship began positively, it took a downturn when Christie faced job loss due to a tech market crash. Subsequently, she decided to relocate to her parent’s house in San Jose.
In her pursuit of a fresh start, Christie secured a job in San Francisco. On October 4, 2005, she visited Sacramento to collect the last of her belongings from the apartment she had shared with Danny. That evening, as Danny went to have dinner with his parents, Christie, 27, decided to visit Thunder Valley Casino and didn’t return. Concerned, Danny searched hospitals, jails, and various locations, but on October 6, he conveyed to Christie’s parents that he couldn’t locate her. He shared that he found her car parked outside the casino, yet there was no trace of her.
Who Killed Christie Wilson?
The initial suspect in Christie Wilson’s disappearance was Danny Burlando, her boyfriend, as he had waited for more than 48 hours before informing anyone of her disappearance. However, scrutiny of his phone records and his cooperation with the investigation established that he was not connected to her disappearance. The focus of the police investigation then shifted to the casino to examine the events leading up to Christie’s disappearance. Surveillance footage revealed her presence at a blackjack table around 11 p.m., where she was seen having drinks and engaging in conversation with the dealer and a man seated beside her.
The surveillance footage indicated that Christie left the casino with the slightly older man, but the camera could not confirm whether she got into his car. The car was observed leaving the casino premises, and Christie was not seen thereafter. Christie’s phone was discovered beneath the table where she had been seated. Facing the challenge of tracing Christie’s whereabouts, the police focused on identifying the man accompanying her, eventually identifying him as Mario Garcia. Garcia, a married man with two children, lived in Auburn and had a respectable job as a project manager in a hospital, not fitting the typical profile of someone who would harm Christie.
During police questioning, Garcia claimed that he recalled conversing with a girl at the casino, and she walked out with him. However, he asserted that she remembered leaving her phone inside, turned back, and departed. According to Garcia, he got into his car, took a left, and proceeded on his way home. Upon reviewing surveillance footage from the street, it was evident that Garcia had taken a left, not a right, after leaving the casino premises. This inconsistency raised suspicions, prompting the police to delve further into Garcia’s statements and actions.
Examining Garcia’s criminal background unearthed a 1981 conviction for assault with a deadly weapon, filed by Wendy Ward. Upon contacting Ward, she conveyed that Garcia was an extremely violent individual who had assaulted her on two occasions, securing only a minor conviction due to a lack of evidence. Furthermore, the police discovered Garcia’s involvement in an unsolved case concerning a woman named Lynette Smith and her mother, Davis Smith, who had an accident while Garcia was driving. This prompted the police to initiate a search of Garcia’s residence.
During the search of Garcia’s residence, the police discovered an array of weapons and observed scratch marks on his hands and arms. Garcia attributed the scratches to a fall from a tree, a justification that the police found implausible. A comprehensive examination of his car led to the revelation of Christie’s hair and blood in the vehicle’s trunk. This evidence led the police to the conclusion that Christie had lost her life. Despite overwhelming evidence, Garcia never admitted his involvement in Christie’s death but was convicted in 2007 and given a sentence of 58 years to life.
Refusing to disclose details about Christie’s fate or the location of her remains, he attempted negotiations with Christie’s mother, seeking a reduced sentence in exchange for information. Persistent in their efforts, the police ultimately discovered Christie’s bones near Garcia’s residence in 2020. The forensic report could conclude that Christie had been strangled and that may have been the reason for her death. The closure brought immense peace to Christie’s family and they were able to rest her in peace.