Minot native writes book about Angila Wilder case
True crime writer CJ Wynn was fascinated when she saw a Dateline NBC story two years ago about Richie and Cynthia Wilder, who are both serving life sentences for the murder of Richie’s ex-wife, Angila.
Her interest in the case led to 18 months of research and the upcoming release of a book about the case, “Wilder Intentions: Love, Lies and Murder in North Dakota.”
The book is scheduled to be released on Aug. 15 and will be available where books are sold.
Wynn was known as Carla Rodacker when she graduated from Minot High School in 1994. She later went on to graduate from the University of North Dakota in 1998 and to earn a master’s degree in psychology from Capella University in Minneapolis, though she does not currently work as a psychologist.
Wynn, a true crime fan and a blogger, said she had always wanted to write a book and the Wilder case interested her because it had happened in her home town, where she still has a lot of old high school friends, and in the area where her parents still spend part of the year. She was also interested in the psychological underpinnings of the case,.
Angila Wilder, the victim, was a proud mother and a nursing student at Minot State University. She had a contentious relationship with her ex-husband, Richie, who had been abusive during their marriage. The former couple had battled over their children. Richie Wilder Jr.’s second wife, Cynthia Wilder, was an elementary school teacher with a troubled past who went on to share Richie’s affection for his kids and his hatred for his ex-wife.
In the months before his murder trial Richie Wilder plotted a failed escape from jail, tried to frame his ex-wife’s fiance for the murder, and fabricated elaborate stories that failed to fool police. Cynthia Wilder was arrested after Richie Wilder Jr. had already been found guilty and sentenced to life without parole. She might have thought she had gotten away unscathed, but Cynthia Wilder was arrested as well after she unwittingly confessed her role in the murder to an old friend who was wearing a wire. This is a story that Wynn, who interviewed Cynthia Wilder at the women’s prison in New England, tells in much greater detail than has previously been released.
During her research, Wynn also conducted face-to-face interviews with the detectives, attorneys, family members and friends of the victims. She reviewed thousands of pages of court documents and trial transcripts and evidence in the case and watched the videos of police interviews dozens of times.
She said her goal – at which she has succeeded – was to bring the case to life and to put readers into the story so that they feel like they are in the courtroom.
For instance, Wynn meticulously sets the scene at the start of the book by describing how Angila’s fiance, Christopher Jackson, had been working his usual overnight shift at the Minot Walmart on Nov. 12, 2015 when he received a text message from Angila that she had heard strange noises outside and was scared. Angila texted him that it sounded like someone was trying to get in through the front door. Jackson wasn’t worried too much at that point about Angila, who tended to be nervous anyway and had just learned she was pregnant with their second child. Jackson went on to speak with Angila at 12:08 a.m. and again at 2:10 a.m. But Angila did not respond when Jackson called again shortly after 5 a.m. and she did not come to pick him up at the end of the shift as she usually did.
With empathy, Wynn describes how terrified Jackson felt when he took a taxi cab home shortly after 7 a.m. and he discovered that the back door to their carefully-tended tiny house across from Longfellow Elementary was standing wide open and the door had been damaged. He yelled into the house for Angila and for their 2-year-old son but there was no reply. Jackson went outside and dialed 911.
Inside the house, where family photos hung on the walls, police found the toddler in his crib unharmed and quickly handed him to his father. But there was horror waiting for them in another room, in the locked bedroom where they found Angila lifeless on the floor. The police at the scene knew this was not something that her fiance should see and kept Jackson from going into that room.
In a foreword to “Wilder Intentions,” true crime writer and Wynn’s mentor Shanna Hogan writes that what makes Wynn’s first book stand out is her compassion for her subjects. It might be easy for other true crime writers to forget that the people they are writing about are real people who have been affected by a horrible tragedy.
But as a mother herself, Wynn sympathized with Angila and wanted to tell her story. At the same time, Wynn spent a great deal of time making sure that she got all of the details right.
Hogan wrote in the foreword that Wynn consulted with her while writing the book and confided that she often cried after listening to the police interrogations and reading autopsy reports.
Wynn even reached out to Minot State University and arranged to have Angila Wilder’s degree presented to her relatives posthumously.
Wynn said in an interview with The Minot Daily News that she was struck that neither Richie Wilder Jr. nor Cynthia Wilder appear to have any remorse over the death of Angila Wilder or the pain they have caused to Angila’s family or friends. Wynn said she thinks Cynthia Wilder has tried to minimize her own involvement, but she believes Cynthia Wilder was involved from the very beginning and knew what she was doing.
The victim, Angila Wilder, must never be forgotten, wrote Wynn, who also said great credit should go to the police investigators and prosecutors who worked so tirelessly to solve the case and bring the culprits to justice.