’48 Hours: The Search For Christie Wilson’ documents the case of Christie Wilson, a 27-year-old San Jose, California native, who disappeared on October 5, 2005. Wilson was last seen leaving the Thunder Valley Casino, 14 miles west of Auburn, in the company of 54-year-old Mario Garcia. The two were seen walking together on the parking lot surveillance tapes, but when Garcia’s car is seen leaving the premises, he appears to be alone in his car. Christie Wilson, a former cheerleader and student at Gunderson High School and a business graduate from Chico State University, was living in Sacramento when she went missing, never to be seen or heard from ever again.
Since Garcia was found to be the last person Wilson interacted with, as per the surveillance tapes, naturally, the police believed him to be a major suspect in the case. When the authorities searched his home and car – a Toyota Camry – a couple of days following Christie’s disappearance, they found hairs on the door handle of his car and inside the trunk and backseat, along with a few minute drops of blood, both matching Wilson’s DNA. Garcia’s face and chest also had numerous scratches that were not there on the night he was at the casino.
The investigating authorities believed this much evidence was enough to convict Garcia of the murder of Christie Wilson, and he was formally charged with the heinous crime three weeks after Wilson’s disappearance. ’48 Hours’ depicts the true-crime case and the extensive search for Christie Wilson, telling the heartbreaking story of Wilson’s mother Debbie Boyd as she hopes for her daughter’s return. Let’s look at more details of this case, which came to light during the trial and after.
How Was Christie Wilson Murdered?
During the court trial, a video interview between Mario Garcia and Detective Bob McDonald revealed Garcia admitting that he was “pretty drunk” on the night of October 5, 2005. Tinarat Nunupatham, a witness who was gambling at the same blackjack table as Garcia and Wilson, testified that she thought the two were lovers because they were constantly talking dirty and kissing each other.
Throughout the trial, Garcia maintained that he had said goodbye to Wilson in the casino’s parking lot and insisted that she had not gotten into his car. Garcia’s defense attorneys tried to shift the allegations on Wilson’s boyfriend and a minor suspect at the time, Daniel Burlando. Even as the trial progressed, the search for Christie Wilson kept going on, with hundreds of volunteers scouring Auburn and nearby areas to find her still-missing body. Garcia’s defense tried to imply in court that Wilson might still be alive since a body was never found.
It was also revealed in court that Garcia had been visiting forensic websites on his personal computer’s browser two days before his arrest. Investigators told the jury that there were several searches on the computer, including rape drug screening, services for criminal defense, blood typing, and forensic toxicology. When questioned about the injuries on his face and torso, Garcia said that he had fallen out of a tree. However, a doctor testified in court that Garcia’s injuries were not consistent with that of a fall but looked like someone had “clawed” his face.
Who Killed Christie Wilson?
Even though her body would not be found for 15 years, the Sacramento jury found Mario Garcia guilty of first-degree murder in the assumed death of Christie Wilson after a 2-month-long trial. In January 2007, Judge Larry Gaddis sentenced him to 59 years to life in prison. Even as he was being convicted, Garcia kept saying that they’ve got the wrong man and that he did not kill Christie Wilson.
In 2017, ten years after Garcia was sent to prison, his son Kris contacted the police and told them that his father had been acting very strange in the days after Wilson’s reported death and spent long hours in their backyard, digging holes in the ground with their tractor. Kris showed the authorities two separate areas in the yard where they should check. In August 2020, authorities commenced another search of Garcia’s old property, and this time, they found a human skull buried deep underground.
The skull turned out to be Christie Wilson’s. Soon after, most of her skeleton was recovered from the backyard of the man who had so vehemently denied he had anything to do with her murder. An autopsy later revealed that Wilson showed signs of a broken nose and a broken hand, but the exact cause of her death could not be determined so many years later.
Read More: Where is Mario Garcia Today?