Unsolved Mysteries Wiki

Steve Wilson

Real Name: Stephen Leslie Wilson
Aliases: Steve Wilson, John Hardin, John Hardy, John Stephen Harden, Michael Eisenberg, Glenn Moyer
Wanted For: Murder, Escape
Missing Since: August 3, 1984


Details: In 1976, a thirty-year-old jack-of-all-trades named Steve Wilson showed up in Olancha, California. He was a licensed pilot and a certified electrician. He said he had come from San Diego but never revealed much else about his past. With his rugged good looks and smooth talking charm, he soon made friends with the local residents. He was involved in the local college and also liked weightlifting and welding. He was often friendly and fun to be around.
Wilson did occasional odd jobs on the Cabin Bar Ranch, a 900,000-acre spread 100 miles west of Death Valley. The ranch was owned by Bill Thornburgh, a prominent horseman. His twenty-two-year-old daughter, Callie, also lived there and worked right alongside him. When Wilson met Callie, he took an immediate interest in her. They courted for nine months. With Bill's blessing, they ran off to Reno to get married. Bill wanted them to get married because he wanted her to have something other than himself and the ranch.
While on the way to get married, Callie began to have second thoughts. She wished for a way to get out of it. However, she felt as though she had made a commitment and that there was no way to get out of it. The marriage was an immediate disaster. Wilson was abusive and threatened her. Just two months after the wedding, she left him and moved back in with Bill. Wilson was no longer welcome on the ranch. A few days later, she told Bill that Wilson had been making threatening phone calls. The threats sparked a feud between the two men.
According to Callie, Wilson would call them on the phone and harass them, saying things like: "I will hurt you worse than you've ever been hurt before," "I will take everything you love away from you," "You will pay," "You will learn to love me," and "You will learn that loving me is easier than being away from me".
About three weeks after the breakup, Wilson showed up at the ranch to get Callie back. He said that he loved her, but Bill told him that it was over and that she did not love him back. In a rage, Wilson picked up a crowbar and began to smash Bill's truck. Bill grabbed a gun and planned to shoot Wilson; however, she stopped him, saying that it was not worth it. She did not want them to get into any further confrontations because she was afraid that Wilson would hurt Bill.
At 6am on May 29, 1979, the day the divorce was to become final, Bill left the ranch house to do his morning chores. He never returned. When Callie arrived, she noticed that he was not there. She waited for about fifteen minutes, but he never showed up. She felt something was wrong because he was always on time. She walked out to the water lines and found his truck with his morning coffee, still hot, sitting on the dashboard. He was never seen again. At that same time, Wilson also disappeared.
Seven months passed. Then, on Christmas Eve, 1979, a teenager riding his dirt bike through the desert in the Sand Canyon area, forty-five miles south of the ranch house, made a grisly discovery: human skeletal remains. He knew that his parents would not believe him, so he took the skull with him and showed it to them. They called the sheriff's office; officers went out and investigated the crime scene. With the evidence there, including clothing and other possessions, it was immediately clear to them that it was Bill's remains. All the evidence led to Wilson. Police believe that he vented his rage at Bill, up and to the point where he took him out and murdered him.
Wilson remained on the run for over a year. Then, in 1981, he was spotted by a game warden in Kodiak, Alaska, and was subsequently arrested in Las Vegas. He confessed, disturbingly stating that he had forced Bill to dig his own grave before killing him. He pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and received a sentence of twenty-five years to life at Folsom Prison in California. Folsom is a maximum security facility, housing many violent killers. When Wilson arrived, there had not been an escape in fifteen years. He immediately went to work, ingratiating himself to the officers and the administrators. He joined the in-house work program and used his charm on those who could help him.
Before long, Wilson became the clerk in charge of shipping. It is one of the most coveted inmate jobs in the prison with the least supervision and the most freedom of movement. When he became a clerk in the warehouse adjacent to the metal factory and license plate factory, his job entailed him being in all different areas of the warehouse, picking up inventories, invoices, and work orders. Therefore, for him to be in a certain area at a certain time would not be unusual or significant, and for him to not be there would not be significant either.
Two years passed. Prison officials had no idea that during that entire time, Wilson was plotting a way out. At 8:30am on August 3, 1984, while he was working near the loading dock, he put his escape plan into effect. Two inmates crashed their forklifts into each other, causing the guards to be distracted. During that time, Wilson snuck into a truck that was being loaded. When it was fully loaded, the officers sealed the doors shut, unaware that he had enlisted other inmates to create a diversion and help him make his escape.
Wilson's meticulous planning had worked. Nobody noticed that he had left the loading dock. It is believed that he looked for and found the weakest link in the prison's security. It is also believed that he had been planning his escape for at least a year. His escape plan was modeled almost exactly after the last successful escape from Folsom in 1969, fifteen years earlier. Authorities believe that as soon as the truck left the prison grounds, Wilson cut a hole in the roof using tin snips he had stolen from the prison metal shop. Just minutes later, the truck pulled into a local bowling alley. When its driver went inside for a cup of coffee, Wilson squeezed through the hole he'd cut and disappeared.
Two months later, Wilson called prison guards to boast of his successful escape, proclaiming he will never be caught. In December, he called a guard and wished him a Merry Christmas. Him being on the loose has made it hard for Callie because she can never really relax. She does not like being alone. She also is constantly looking over her shoulder, in fear that he will come back for her.

Bill Thornburgh's remains were discovered by a teenager seven months after his disappearance in a desert 45 miles south of the ranch house

Extra Notes:

  • This case first aired on the January 30, 1991 episode.
  • Wilson was also profiled on America’s Most Wanted.
  • For reasons unknown, no pictures of the victim, Bill Thornburgh, were shown.

Results: Captured. In February 1990, Wilson's case was featured on America's Most Wanted. A man named Glenn Moyer of Osceola, Florida, vanished shortly before the story aired. His girlfriend and neighbors soon realized that "Moyer" was actually Wilson. He reportedly had learned that his story would be on the show after reading a TV Guide.
Despite the fact that Wilson was a wanted murderer, his girlfriend remained in contact with him. The FBI placed her under surveillance. In March 1992, she flew to England to meet with him. FBI agents followed her as she went to a London hotel to meet with him on April 2. As they exited the building, he was arrested. He was positively identified as Wilson. In October, he was returned to California to continue serving his sentence. He has since been released.