Real Name: Unknown at the time of the broadcast
Aliases: Bonnie Wilder
Wanted For: Robbery, Embezzlement
Missing Since: September 22, 1986
Details: Bonnie Wilder was the name used by an embezzler whom authorities had nicknamed the "Fat Woman" due to the only photograph identifying her was a casual company photo. On the morning of August 4, 1986, she arrived at a new department store in Atlanta, Georgia, responding to a newspaper ad for a bookkeeper. Manager Lisa Penz interviewed her for the position. Based on her body language and response to questions, Penz felt that she was bizarre and eccentric. However, given the work history listed in Bonnie's resume, Penz felt she was a good fit for the job opening.
Bonnie was hired and started the next morning. By all accounts, she was an ideal employee. At the store, she was responsible for securing incoming cash and credit card receipts. She became popular with her coworkers, but revealed little about herself. She only told them that she was from Florida and had a husband and son still living there.
On the night of September 22, 1986, Bonnie went up to each store clerk with an unusual request. She asked them to put all of the money from their cash registers into a bag and then bring the bags to her. She assured them that she would personally refill them in the morning. Since she was a part of the management team, no one questioned it.
At approximately 9:30pm, the store had closed up and the employees were preparing to go out the rear exit so the security guard could secure the building. However, Bonnie said she lost her handbag. This did not arouse suspicion as employees sometimes forgot personal items in the break room or offices, and she returned in a reasonable amount of time. However, in that time she emptied the safe of $20,000 worth of cash, and had also stolen Lisa's personnel file. As the employees left, one of them noticed Bonnie getting into a taxi. She was never seen again.
The next morning, the day shift clerks arrived and discovered that their cash registers were empty. The safe was checked and it was also empty. Store employees were unable to get in contact with Bonnie. Her unexplained disappearance, combined with the loss of the money, caused police to prepare charges against her for embezzlement and identity theft. They discovered that weeks earlier, she had been instrumental in overturning a store regulation that called for the inspection of employee handbags at the end of the day. They believe this was done so that the money would not be discovered in her bag.
Private investigator Vicky Bosma was hired by the store and began to track down Bonnie. She started with her original job application. She found that the schools Bonnie attended had either been torn down or had their names changed. Regarding her previous employment, she put down companies that had gone bankrupt. Also, she put down branches of the federal government, but did not put enough information to verify that she actually worked there.
In another state, police thought they had found her when they traced her to an address in the Midwest. They interrogated a woman named Bonnie Wilder; however, she had a much difference appearance than the suspect, being much more in shape. Also, her background check did not match that of the one they were looking for.
Further investigation turned up five similar store robberies committed by a woman that fit the suspect's description. In each case, a different alias was used. In Florida, she committed a scam while working at a store as a bookkeeper. She has hit stores in Tennessee, Louisiana, Florida, and three other stores in Georgia. She has stolen a total of $350,000.
Authorities believe the criminal may be attempting a copycat embezzlement in another part of the country, probably falsely identifying herself as Lisa Penz. At the time of the Atlanta robbery, she was 5'7", weighed between 250 and 300 pounds, and had a Southern accent. Her true identity remains unknown.
Extra Notes: This case first aired on the October 25, 1989 episode. It was excluded from Amazon Prime episodes.
Results: Captured. "Bonnie Wilder" has since been positively identified as Dora Mae Peterman. She had previously served time for grand theft. In 2003, she was convicted of identity fraud in Ohio and sent to prison. She has since been released. Other charges, such as the embezzlement, were never filed against Peterman. The warrant against her expired and the insurance company decided not to pursue charges against her. She passed away on November 10, 2019 at age 74.
- SitcomsOnline Discussion of Bonnie Wilder (includes update)
- Reddit Discussion of Bonnie Wilder
- Doramae Peterman - Vernon Family Funeral Homes