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Murder suspect Christopher Wilder dead as police move in to arrest

COLEBROOK, N.H. -- Wealthy playboy Christopher Wilder, wanted in five states in a nationwide string of murders, abductions and sexual crimes, shot and killed himself today in the northern New Hampshire town of Colebrook, state police said.

Wilder, 39, was spotted by two state troopers who had been tipped off by the FBI that he might be in northern New Hampshire, police said. One state trooper was injured when the man identified as Wilder shot two blasts from a gun. The second blast killed Wilder, police said.

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In Washington, FBI sources said no positive identification had yet been made on the civilian shot in the incident. Wilder was an Australian-born race car driver who allegedly picked up women by promising to photograph them. Authorities said he is suspected of raping and torturing his young, female victims in a cross-country rampage. Earlier in the day, the manhunt for the Australian-born millionaire was concentrated on Interstate 95 in Maryland after citizens band radio operators reported seeing Wilder driving south on the highway out of the Baltimore Harbor Tunnel at about 7:30 a.m. today, said Cpl. Donald Chipley of the Maryland State Police.

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Wilder, linked to abductions or slayings in eight states, reportedly was driving a gold Pontiac Transam with New York plates that matched the description of the car he was last seen in.

Wilder, who allegedly lures his victims with compliments about their photogenic qualities, was named Thursday as a suspect in the slaying of Beth Dodge, 33, of Phelps, N.Y., whose body was found on a rural road near Victor, about 20 miles southeast of Rochester. She had been shot once in the back.

Dawnette Sue Wilt, 16, of Dyer, Ind., said she escaped from Wilder and a woman -- believed to be Tina Marie Risico, 16, who he picked up in California -- in Barrington, N.Y., and was recovering from stab wounds today.

At a news conference in Penn Yan, authorities said they consider Miss Risico a victim rather than an accomplice.

Miss Wilt has been coherent enough to provide information on Wilder, a police spokesman said.

Miss Wilthad been kidnapped near Gary, Ind. Tuesday, the FBI said. She was last seen job hunting at the Southlake Mall in Merrillville, Ind.

FBI spokesman Philip Smith in Buffalo said Wilder's traveling companion approached Miss Wilt in Indiana, told her she was photogenic and asked if she wanted to model for magazines. When the woman brought her to the car to sign forms, a man forced her into the vehicle at gunpoint, he said.

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Smith said police in Yates County, N.Y., found duct tape and Venetian blind cord when Miss Wilt was spotted and said it was the same method of operation Wilder had used in other assaults.

In Torrance, Calif., Police Capt. James Popp speculated the man's companion was Miss Risico, who disappeared from a Southern California shopping mall last week.

He said Miss Wilt 'was introduced to the other female who indicated her name was Tina Marie Wilder,' and that 'Tina Marie' referred to her companion as 'Wilder.'

Miss Wilt told New York state police they checked into a motel room and while watching television Tina pointed to the screen and said it was her mother pleading for her return.

The three immediately left the motel, and a short time later Miss Wilt was stabbed and shoved out of the car, the police captain said.

Popp did not say where the motel was located, but the FBI said it believed the man and two women had stayed in motels in Akron, Ohio, April 10 and in Syracuse April 11.

An FBI spokesman in Buffalo said Wilder's attacks were becoming more frequent, and he was becoming more dangerous.

Authorities described Wilder as having blue eyes and blond hair and lisps the letter S. He is believed to be about 6 feet tall, weigh 175 to 180 pounds and has a 5-inch long scar on his right ankle.

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Wilder was added to the FBI's Most Wanted List last week.

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