Kenneth and Linda Wright tucked their 7-year-old daughter, Christine, into her bed at 9:30 pm on the evening of Tuesday, February 12, 1974. When they woke up around 6:30 am the following morning, they were startled to find Christine’s bed was empty. Their other three children, ranging in age from 4 to 6 years old, were still sleeping soundly, but there was no sign of Christine.
When they headed to the lower level of their Chester, Virginia townhouse, they found that the sliding glass door leading to their back patio was open, although the curtains covering the door were still closed. Their 4-year-daughter, who suffered from epilepsy, was found sleeping on the couch in that room; since she didn’t appear to be too cold, Kenneth and Linda assumed that the sliding glass door couldn’t have been open for very long. They raced outside and frantically searched the area for Christine, but found no sign of her. Frightened, they returned home and called the police.
Kenneth told the responding officers that Christine had been wearing a pink striped nightgown when they had put her to bed the previous evening, and Linda noted that none of the child’s clothing or shoes were missing, so they assumed she was still clad in only her nightgown. They were certain that the townhouse had been securely locked when they went to sleep, and neither the couple nor any of their other children had heard anything unusual during the night.
The family had moved to Chester the previous August after Kenneth, a manager for AVCO Financial Services, had been transferred from their Charleston, South Carolina office to their Richmond, Virginia office. He and Linda were in the process of having a home built; they had been staying in the rented Chester townhouse until construction was complete on their new home. During their stay in Chester, they had not had any problems with any of their neighbors and their children had adjusted well to the move.
Christine had no history of sleepwalking or wandering away from home, and police immediately feared that she had been abducted. Although none of the Wright’s neighbors had seen anyone enter or exit the townhouse, several of them had observed a strange man in the neighborhood the previous night. One neighbor reported seeing the man behind his home around 10:30 pm, but the man had been startled away after some dogs started barking at him.
Another neighbor had heard what she described as a tapping noise coming from the direction of the Wright’s home around 1:30 am. She had peered out her window in an attempt to determine the source of the noise but had been unable to see anything.
Officials immediately launched a search of the wooded area surrounding the townhomes. While officers combed through the area, a Virginia State Police helicopter conducted several flyovers. Although the manager of the townhouse and apartment complex assured investigators that the gates to the complex’s swimming pool had been securely locked overnight, firefighters were brought in to drain the pool in case any evidence had been discarded in it. Volunteers helped to search through all the sewer and drainage pipes in the area. Unfortunately, the massive search failed to yield any clues to Christine’s whereabouts.
Hoping for help in locating the strange man, officials released a statewide alert for him. He was described as a white male, approximately 30 years old, with a medium-length beard and dark complexion. He stood about 6 feet tall and weighed around 175 pounds; none of the witnesses had been able to recall what he had been wearing. It was an exceedingly vague description, and police were flooded with tips regarding his potential identity. Unfortunately, they were unable to locate him.
During the initial search, police considered that Christine might have wandered off on her own and gotten lost, but this possibility seemed less likely as time went on. Kenneth stated that Christine was afraid of the woods and never would have entered them alone. If she had gone into the woods, someone had taken her there.
Many of the people in the complex knew Christine, as she was frequently seen walking her dog, a Pekingese, around the neighborhood. She was a second-grade student at Chester’s Curtis Elementary School and was described as a somewhat quiet child who got along well with her classmates. Her teachers said that she was a joy to have in class and never caused any sort of trouble.
No one believed that Christine would run away from home, especially not while wearing only her nightgown. Although it was possible she might have been enticed outside by someone that she knew, her parents didn’t believe that she would have willingly gone off with anyone without telling them.
Authorities announced that they were working under the assumption that Christine had been abducted, and they contacted the FBI for assistance. Kenneth noted that the family wasn’t wealthy — he was a manager and Linda was a third-grade teacher at a Chesterfield County elementary school — so he couldn’t imagine that anyone would have kidnapped Christine in the hopes of obtaining a large ransom. He was most likely correct, as no one ever contacted police or the family demanding money.
Kenneth participated in the search for his oldest daughter, while Linda stayed at home with their three younger children. A steady stream of neighbors stopped by to offer their support, and the family stated that they were relying on their strong faith in God to get them through each day.
As the physical search for Christine continued, police admitted that they were baffled by her disappearance. Abductions were practically unheard of in Chester, a small town located about 15 miles south of Richmond. The police there admitted that they had never worked on a case like Christine’s; she had seemingly disappeared without a trace.
A special task force was created to investigate the disappearance and a dozen detectives from Chesterfield county were assigned to the case. The Virginia State Police continued to assist in the physical search for the missing girl, along with dozens of volunteers from the community. All of them were desperate to find Christine and bring her home safely, but by the end of the first week, they still had no clues as to what had happened to her.
Investigators followed up on every lead that they received. Although they had questioned several potential persons of interest, they admitted that they hadn’t been able to develop any solid leads and had no suspects. The FBI followed up on several out-of-state leads, including one in Connecticut, but they were unable to find any evidence linking anyone to Christine’s disappearance. An FBI spokesperson told reporters that it was a strange case; all they knew for certain was that Christine was gone. They had no idea who took her nor how they had gotten her out of her home.
Christine’s family held on to the hope that she was still alive, and thanked the community for their constant support. They were trying to maintain a positive attitude for the sake of their three other children, who were too young to grasp the gravity of the situation. Although the children knew that something had happened to their older sister, they assumed she would eventually return.
In the days leading up to her disappearance, there had been no indications that Christine had been frightened of anyone. Although she sometimes resisted going to bed at night, there didn’t seem to be anything specific bothering her; she simply wanted to be able to stay up later. She hadn’t had any problems with anyone at school and hadn’t mentioned any kind of trouble to her friends.
Shortly after Christine went missing, her beloved Pekingese, Pepper, gave birth to a puppy. Linda told reporters that Christine loved dogs, and they had decided that they would allow her to choose the name for the puppy once she returned home. They refused to dwell on the possibility that she might never come home.
Unfortunately, that grim possibility became a reality on the afternoon of Saturday, April 20, 1974, when three men discovered Christine’s body. The men had been driving on a bridge over White Oak Creek in Dinwiddie County, Virginia, about 40 miles away from where Christine had last been seen. They had stopped their car on the bridge to take in the view when they realized that there was a body floating in the water.
Christine’s body was facedown in the water, still clad in the striped nightgown she had been wearing when she disappeared. The medical examiner determined that she had been sexually assaulted, then thrown into the creek while she was still alive and drowned to death. He believed that her body had been in the creek since the day she went missing, frozen in ice and hidden by a snarl of tree branches.
Seven Virginia State Police divers combed through White Oak Creek, hoping to find some clue that would lead them to Christine’s abductor. Detectives stated that they believed the person responsible for her death was likely familiar with the Dinwiddie County area, as the creek was not in an area that someone would stumble across accidentally. It was in a remote and wooded area and accessing it required driving down a narrow, curvy road.
Christine’s family was devastated by her death. They couldn’t understand how someone had been able to kil*l the little girl, who they described as a generous and caring child. Even worse, detectives believed that Christine might have known her ki*ller; it was the most plausible explanation for how they had been able to entice her from her home so easily. Officials noted that several people close to Christine — including Kenneth and Linda — had taken and passed polygraphs concerning the little girl’s abduction; they were not considered suspects.
A reward was offered for any information leading to the arrest and conviction of Christine’s k*iller; by June, the reward fund was up to $7100. Despite this, the number of tips received by the police began to dwindle and the investigation stalled. By the end of the year, the case had gone cold.
Although m*urder cases are never closed, Christine’s case has been inactive for decades. There is little information available about the case online and it doesn’t appear that the police have made any attempts at solving the case in recent years. Christine was just 7 years old when she was abducted from her home; her future was stolen from her by someone who could still be out there. If you have any information about Christine’s mur*der, please contact the Chesterfield County Police Department at 804–748–1251.