Photo: California Dept. Of Justice
In the early morning hours of Oct. 5, 2005, 27-year-old Christie Wilson left Thunder Valley Casino after a night of gambling. She wasn’t alone.
When a missing persons report was filed, Placer County investigators immediately pulled surveillance footage from the casino northeast of Sacramento. They watched Wilson, under no apparent duress, enjoying herself like any other patron. Then, they spotted a man who kept striking up conversations with her, hour after hour. Around 1 a.m., the man and Wilson left together. The last bit of surveillance footage showed them walking out into the parking lot.
Using Thunder Valley’s player membership system, that man was identified as Mario Flavio Garcia, a 53-year-old IT specialist who was then working as a project manager for Sutter Health. Garcia, who was reportedly sporting a black eye, told detectives he did meet Wilson that night, but that she had later gone back into the casino to retrieve her cell phone. This was not corroborated by the casino’s surveillance footage.
When Placer County sheriff’s detectives served a warrant on Garcia’s car, they found Wilson’s hair and spots of her blood in the vehicle. No other traces of Wilson were discovered.
In 2007, Garcia was convicted of first-degree murder, the first case in Placer County history where prosecutors were able to secure a conviction with no body. And so while a man was behind bars for her murder, Wilson remained missing.
On Monday, 15 years after her disappearance, the Placer County Sheriff’s Office announced they have finally found Christie Wilson’s body.
Last week, investigators went to Garcia’s former home in Auburn and began searching anew, scanning the four-and-a-half acre property with ground-penetrating radar. A few areas “of interest” were located.
“Detectives and investigators searching one of those areas located and recovered skeletal remains which were brought to the Placer County Morgue for examination,” said a statement from the sheriff’s office. “Dental records have confirmed the remains found on the property, formerly owned by Garcia, are those of Christie Wilson.”
At a press conference Monday, Wilson’s mother Debbie Boyd expressed her gratitude to the investigators and said finding Christie’s body will enable the family the “close this horrible chapter” in their lives.
Garcia, who is now 67, is serving his sentence of 59 years to life at the R.J. Donovan Correctional Facility near San Diego.
Katie Dowd is the SFGATE managing editor. Contact: email@example.com | Twitter: @katiedowd