FARGO — Five years ago, a man stabbed his pregnant ex-wife 44 times in her bedroom in Minot, N.D., and another woman he loved helped him plan the murder.
How did a couple go from loving each other to the ex-husband violently killing the woman with three children and a fourth on the way?
It’s a question Minot native C. J. Wynn wanted to explore with her nonfiction book, “Wilder Intentions: Love, Lies and Murder in North Dakota,” a story based on the November 2015 death of 30-year-old Angila Wilder at the hands of her ex-husband, Richie Edwin Wilder Jr. It also delves into why and how his then-wife and former kindergarten teacher, Cynthia Louise Wilder, helped him.
The answer is not as cut-and-dried as some may think, Wynn said.
“I felt... there has to be more than they just hated each other and, therefore, she should be dead,” she said.
The book will hit stores and be available online Aug. 15, and pre-ordering on Amazon begins Saturday, Aug. 1.
The University of North Dakota graduate with a master’s in psychology said she has always been a true-crime follower. Wynn said she didn’t intend to write a book, but she was at a point where it came about.
“The crimes that happen between people who once had an intimate relationship always just really kind of dug into my skin to find out, 'How do these things happen?'” she said. “How do you murder someone you once supposedly loved?”
She saw a "Dateline" special about the murder, so in 2018 she started gathering police reports and interviews from detectives and family members. It eventually led her to several email exchanges and an in-person interview with Cynthia Wilder, a 29-year-old who is serving life at a prison in New England, N.D., after entering an Alford plea in May 2018.
That means she maintained her innocence but admitted there was enough evidence to convict her.
Wynn also exchanged emails with Richie Wilder, who was found guilty by a jury in December 2016. The 34-year-old is serving life in a federal prison in California.
He told Wynn he sent her letters, but she never received them or was able to interview him, the author said.
The book begins with Christopher Jackson, Angila Wilder's fiance, returning home from his Walmart job the morning of Nov. 13, 2015, to find a door to the west side of the house open.
He called the police, who recovered their young, unharmed child from his crib in the house. His fiance, found by officers lying motionless on the floor in her bedroom, was pronounced dead.
Evidence showed the murder was “deeply personal, carried out by someone with the sole intention of killing Angila Wilder,” Wynn writes.
Richie Wilder was charged a month later with murder.
Cynthia Wilder wouldn’t be charged with conspiracy to commit murder and accomplice to escape — her husband tried to escape from the Ward County Jail in August 2016, and she was going to get a car, clothing and cellphones — until May 2017.
She was arrested after telling a former lover who was a confidential informant for the Minot Police Department she knew Richie Wilder planned to kill his ex-wife, she stalked Angila Wilder to determine when Jackson would not be home, she helped cover up blood evidence and she lied to police about them being together during the night of the stabbing.
Wynn’s book talks about the dynamics between those who shared relationships and how they led up to the murder. She didn’t want to give away too many spoilers to her book, but she said it reveals details never before discussed.
For example, Richie Wilder tried to frame Jackson, Wilder said. There were other things he did behind bars in the months leading up to his trial that she described as chilling.
Wynn said she wants people to remember that Angila Wilder was a beautiful woman who didn’t deserve to die.
“This is a woman who had three children, was pregnant with her fourth child,” she said. “All she ever wanted to do was be a nurse and care for people. … This horrific thing happened to her right in the midst of her pursuing all of that.”