Details of Disappearance
Judie was last seen at her residence in the 100 block of Arrow Head Drive in Montgomery, Alabama between 4:00 and 4:15 p.m. on April 1, 2000. She has never been heard from again. Her van was discovered abandoned behind the AniMall, a pet store she owned in the 8100 block of Vaughn Road, at 9:00 a.m. on April 2, the day after her disappearance. There was no sign of Judie at the scene.
Judie's husband, Albert Leonard Wilding, stated Judie had simply left him without saying where she was going. Their marriage was troubled; Judie's employees at the pet store witnessed the couple arguing, and they were sleeping in separate rooms.
Albert stated Judie took some of her belongings, including family photos, credit cards, her driver's license and her wedding rings. However, police found Judie's driver's license and credit cards in her bedroom, and they later found her engagement and wedding rings in the bank safe deposit box which Albert opened after Judie's disappeared.
In August 2008, eight and a half years after Judie's disappearance, Albert was charged with her murder. Photographs of him are posted with this case summary. Authorities believe he killed his wife for financial gain. Judie's pet store was failing financially and she had told him she planned to divorce him. They had been married for about 20 years by the time she vanished.
Albert collected $815,000 from four life insurance policies on Judie in 2004, after he had her declared legally dead. He paid approximately $30,000 in premiums on the policies after she went missing, all the while maintaining that he had no idea where she was. If Judie had still been alive, she could have canceled the policies or cashed them in herself at any time.
This wasn't the first time Albert had faced homicide charges. In 1970, he confessed to the murder of his mother-in-law in Kentucky. He had beaten, choked and stabbed her to death in her home. Authorities alleged the motive was to get her life insurance money. He was sentenced to 21 years in prison for voluntary manslaughter, but the state governor commuted his sentence and Albert was released after serving only one year.
In February 2011, only minutes before his trial was scheduled to begin, Albert pleaded guilty to manslaughter in Judie's death. He stated he came home and found her in her bedroom packing to leave him, they began to argue, the argument turned physical, a gun was produced, and it went off accidentally, killing Judie. He said he kept Judie's body in the bathroom for a day, then attempted to burn it and disposed of what was left in various locations in and near Lake Martin.
He was sentenced to five years in prison, followed by five years of supervised release. If convicted of the original capital murder charge, he could have gotten a sentence of life in prison without parole. He was scheduled to be released in mid-2013, but died in prison in March 2012.
Foul play is suspected in Judie's case due to the circumstances involved.