Left and Center: Mary circa, 1981
Right: Age Progressed to age 52
Vital Statistics at Time of Disappearance
Missing Since: January 16, 1981
Missing From: Fort Myers, Lee County, Florida
Classification: Non-Family Abduction
Date Of Birth: December 13, 1963
Age: 17 years old
Height and Weight: 5’5″ and 105 pounds
Distinguishing Characteristics: Caucasian Female, Brown hair, Hazel eyes, Mary has a scar in between the fingers on her left hand, she was wearing orthodontic braces on her teeth at the time of her disappearance and was known to smoke cigarettes, Mary’s ears are pierced, her hair was shoulder length at the time of her disappearance and had a red tint to it
Clothing/Jewelry Description: A Brown velveteen jacket, a white pullover shirt, designer blue jeans, brown pumps, Mary was last known to be wearing two gold bracelets and a gold necklace with a charm on it
NCMEC Number: 768011
Details of Disappearance
Mary Opitz disappeared from Fort Myers, Florida on January 16th 1981. She disappeared after she was seen leaving the Edison Mall to go to her car in the parking lot of the mall during the evening. Mary and both her mother and brother went to the mall at 6:30 pm, she purchased a package of pretzels before saying she was tired and would go to the car. She was carrying the pretzels and other packages at the time.
The car that Mary was heading to was described as a 1979 burgundy Chevrolet Camaro. Her mother came out of the store an hour later and noticed that Mary was nowhere in the parking lot. The package of pretzels and other things were on top of the cats trunk. Investigators have called it odd that no one saw anything, the car was parked in a well lit area near the entrance to the malls Woolworths store.
Mary was initially presumed to have runaway from home. Her family does not think she did such a thing. She didn’t have any serious problems at the time of her disappearance and was saving up money to but a van and left around $300 in her bank account. She was also in the middle of redecorating her room and was looking forward to getting her braces removed about a few weeks later.
Investigators no longer believe Mary left on her own. Her disappearance is classified as a non family abduction and she’s presumed to have been taken by someone she didn’t know. On February 11th 1981, an 18 year old girl named Mary Elizabeth Hare disappeared from the same parking lot that Mary did in January. Much like Mary’s case, Hare’s vehicle was discovered abandoned in the lot and no traces of what happened to her were found at the scene.
Both Hare and Opitz physically resembled one another and had many things in common. For instance, both women grew up in New York before moving to Florida, they both had a slight regional accent from New York. They both also disappeared while on routine errands and were both considered well behaved teenagers who had no significant problems in their lives to leave on their own accord.
Mary Opitz also worked at the Mariner’s Inn which is a place that Mary Hare and her friends sometimes went to. It’s unknown if Hare and Opitz knew each other prior to their disappearances. They did also attend the North Fort Myers High School at one point.
Mary Hare went to the mall on February 11th at 8:30 pm to pick her mother up from work. In June of 1981, an elderly couple looking for stones for their garden discovered Mary Hare’s body. The body was found on a sandy knoll near Lehigh Acres. Her remains were skeletal and she was fully clothed when discovered. She was stabbed in the back which killed her and her case was declared a homicide investigation.
Police also searched the area for the body of Mary Opitz but no sign of her was found in the area. Investigators began to suspect that foul play was involved in Mary’s disappearance after the discovery of Hare’s body.
Serial killer Christopher Wilder is a primary suspect in Mary’s disappearance and Hare’s murder. He was linked to a dozen rapes, murders, and/or attacks of women in the early to mid 1980s. He was known to be in the Florida region in the early 1980s. He was known to try and lure his victims with offers of non-existing modeling jobs or sessions. He also used other ways to gain the trust of his victims.
Wilder was a native of Australia and was put on probation in 1980 after pleading guilty to attempted sexual battery towards a teenage girl. He went on a visit home to Australia and was charged with the abduction and sexual assault of two girls. He was bailed out of jail by his parents and returned back to the United States. He promised to return to Australia for his trial in 1984.
Wilder is also a suspect in the Florida disappearances of Elizabeth Ann Kenyon, Rosario Teresa Gonzales, and Tammy Lynn Leppert. He’s also considered a primary suspect in the 1984 disappearance of Colleen Orsborn. She disappeared from Daytona Beach, Florida on March 15th 1984 after she left her home to go to the beach. Wilder was in the area at the time.
Colleen’s body was discovered on April 6th 1984, a few weeks after her disappearance. It was not identified at the time and was initially ruled out as being hers. As a result, Colleen was listed as missing and a non family abduction until 2011 when the body was identified as hers.
Wilder was not charged with any of the cases although the family of Tammy Leppert filed a lawsuit against Wilder after her disappearance. The lawsuit was dropped. Wilder was killed in a police shootout in 1984.
Mary’s disappearance remains unsolved and foul play is suspected in her case.
If you have any information concerning this case, please contact:
Lee County Sheriffs Office 239-477-1200