Emilie Morris was a 35 year-old woman who was found deceased under suspicious circumstances on November 4th, 2014. She died while in the midst of a court battle against a high school cross-country coach who had sexually abused her years in the past. The coach's name was Jim Wilder.
|16 year-old Emilie Morris and her high school cross-country coach, 29 year-old Jim Wilder at a track meet in 1995.|
Jim Wilder had been sexually abusing Emilie since she was 15 years old, after she began competing on the cross-country team at Lindbergh High in St. Louis, Missouri. Their “relationship” was an “open secret” amongst students and even parents in the community. According to a classmate of Emilie’s, Wilder was a highly regarded person at the school and often received recognition for his performance in coaching. That same classmate said that nobody thought anything was wrong with Emilie’s relationship with him; as Wilder “always did this, and nobody ever said anything about it before.” In 1996, the principal at Lindbergh High was tipped off about the inappropriate relationship. Both Emilie and Wilder denied having anything other than a coach-athlete relationship, and a “complete investigation” was conducted that apparently concluded that nothing inappropriate happened between the two.
After the investigation, Emilie’s mother said that she started to notice a change in her daughter. The once happy-go-lucky girl began to suffer from low-self esteem and depression that only seemed to get worsen throughout the remainder of her high school years. Things continued to decline for Emilie as she entered college as well, as she began to develop bulimia and increasingly worse depression. Emilie would later trace her eating issues back to Wilder’s criticism of her body back in high school.
By 2007, Emilie’s life seemed to be going in a positive direction. At this point, she was married with two children. According to her family, Emilie was stable for the first time in a long time. This is why she decided to stay quiet the following year when it was revealed that Wilder had yet another inappropriate relationship with a student. In December 2008, Wilder was arrested based on a report that he had sexual contact with a current female student. Emilie knew the allegations were likely true, but she did not want to get involved and have to relive her own painful memories all over again. Unfortunately, those charges against Wilder were eventually dropped. By February 2009, St. Louis County prosecutor’s office announced it had no “credible evidence that any sexual contact had taken place” between Wilder and the anonymous minor. He was able to return to his job at Lindbergh High.
In the years that followed, Emilie’s depression returned. She began struggling with alcoholism and eventually divorced her husband in 2012. He was granted full custody of their two children. During this time, Emilie finally confided in her parents about her relationship with Wilder. It sickened Emilie that Wilder was still able to coach young children, especially since Emilie’s friend had a daughter who was playing on a soccer team that Wilder trained. Finally, in summer 2013, with encouragement from her parents, friends, and therapist, Emilie decided to go to the police.
As part of the investigation, police asked Emilie to have a conversation with Wilder while secretly wearing a microphone to see if he would confess to their inappropriate relationship. Emilie agreed, and approached Wilder by telling him that her new therapist had encouraged her to revisit their past. She wanted to have the conversation via phone, but Wilder insisted that they meet up in person as he was worried about the government tracking his phone calls. During their conversation, Wilder admitted to having a relationship with Emilie while she was a minor, however he did not believe he did anything wrong. At one point, Wilder is heard saying “In 90% of the world, 15’s legal. So if I go over and boff a 15-year-old in Spain, I can do it all day in the streets — whatever — and nothing would happen.” He also stated that he felt Emilie was the “persuasive one” in their relationship and he felt that their relationship was a “choice that they both made together.” At the end of their conversation, Wilder told Emilie: “I always want you to know that I was there to protect you, not harm you.”
Despite the fact that Wilder still obviously did not understand that his actions were wrong, he still confessed to breaking the law by engaging in a sexual relationship with a minor—and Emilie caught his confession on tape. She turned the tape over to investigators, and Wilder was subsequently arrested and charged with six counts of statutory sodomy.
By November 2014, the case was still pending and Wilder was out on bail. Emilie was ready to put the whole ordeal behind her, but she unfortunately never got the chance. On November 4th, Emilie was found dead; face down on her bedroom floor with a large trash can pulled over her head. She died from asphyxiation from the plastic bag lining the trash can, but her manner of death was left undetermined by the county medical examiner. Emilie’s death is being called “suspicious” by investigators, as one of her apartment doors was unlocked at the time and it is unclear how she got into the position she was found in. Her parents were initially worried that she had been drinking at the time of her death, but the autopsy revealed that she had an alcohol level of 0.05%, and the legal limit for driving in Missouri is 0.08%.
After Emilie’s death, the charges against Wilder were dropped. The prosecutor ultimately stated that they needed Emilie’s testimony in order to win the case, and they could no longer obtain that since she had passed away. Wilder remains free today.
Emilie’s case is yet another example of sexual violence inflicted upon a female by a male in a position of power. Additionally, Emilie was just a young child when the abuse occurred, and she was not the first nor the last girl that Wilder abused. These types of situations are unfortunately still common, however there are now many resources available to help young women in these situations. If you are somebody you know is struggling from sexual violence, please visit this website for assistance.