A missing woman's cold case and a killer's appearance on 'The Dating Game': Part 1

Christine Thornton, described by her sister as a free spirit, went missing in the summer of 1977. Clues about her disappearance wouldn’t be uncovered until 40 years later.
6:41 | 01/09/21

Coming up in the next {{countdown}} {{countdownlbl}}

Coming up next:



Skip to this video now

Now Playing:


Related Extras
Related Videos
Video Transcript
Transcript for A missing woman's cold case and a killer's appearance on 'The Dating Game': Part 1
I'll come and find you Sometimes I think Chris was probably hitchhiking, probably looking to get away somewhere, and he just probably stopped for her. She's by herself. She could have met him at a gas station when he's filling up. "Can you give me a lift?" Somewhere along the lines, I think that he was giving her a ride some place. I don't think she had any indication what was about to happen to her. Chris was very trusting, so you know, that was her downfall. My sister Christine was born Christine Ruth Thornton, but we always called her Chris. She was 11 years older than me. Chris was tall. She was 5'10". Dark hair, dark eyes. Just, you know, a beautiful person, inside and out. In the summer of '77, Chris was just 27 years old. Chris was in San Antonio. She was pregnant at the time. Christine was a free spirit. She kind of went where the wind blew her. She met up with her boyfriend and had this crazy idea of going to Montana to pan for gold. And my understanding is that they were in southwest Wyoming. An argument ensued between the two of them, and he left her pregnant and alone. And I believe that's the last time anybody had ever seen her. In the summer of '78, I decided to go down to San Antonio and do some investigating of my own. I actually tried to find her boyfriend but did not have a good address for him. The San Antonio police refused to take a missing person's report on Chris because she was an adult. I believe throughout all the years that Christine was missing, I think Kathy was always looking for a way to open up that door of where she is. In '82, this herder out in the middle of nowhere comes across a pile of bones, obviously human remains. What they found was it was the body of a 25 to 35-year-old female. Along with her bones were also bones of an infant. There wasn't any identification, and so it remained cold for many years. And investigators never imagined that those bones would lead them to a notorious serial killer, a man I would later be called upon to prosecute. And this photograph discovered by police would lead a heartbroken family to their loved one missing for almost 40 years. Her smile shared by a tragic list of innocent young women and girls who trusted a charming stranger only to discover a dark secret that began back in the fall of 1968. So, '68 was tumultuous, and it was sort of flower power, free living. It was quite an era and quite a year. Reporter: Martin Luther king, Robert F. Kennedy had been assassinated. Andy Warhol was shot that year, and there have been urban uprisings throughout the '60s. Being a police officer in Los Angeles, or anywhere in the country for that matter, at that time, everything was anti-war, anti-establishment. Reporter: And it's commented on by some of the leading vocalists of the day. You had Barry Mcguire in 1965 doing "Eve of destruction." Eastern world, it is exploding You had Bob Dylan of course doing "A hard rain is going to fall." Hard rains are going to fall So, what we're seeing is the influence of the new freedoms represented by the counterculture be appropriated by mainstream culture, and that includes daytime television. That even includes game shows like "The dating game." "The dating game" began with chuck Barris back in -- I believe it was 1965. He had dealings with ABC, and he just came up with the idea and he pitched it to a couple of people. It caught on right away. The premise was a female asking questions of three bachelors who sat on the other side of a partition. She wasn't able to see them, of course. And she picked one for a date. And then she met the guy that she had picked, and they were awarded a date. Looking back, it is chilling to realize this iconic show, celebrating love and romance, would unknowingly feature a remorseless killer. Thank you, and welcome once again to "The dating game." From the mid-'60s on wards, southern California is a Mecca for anyone looking to reinvent him or herself and have a fantastic time. They were all partying at some of the hotels on the strip, like the chateau marmont. Tali Shapiro was an 8-year-old little girl who lived at chateau marmont, which is a famous hotel in California. Her father was a music industry executive. She had a mother and a sister and a brother and they were living there because their house had gone on fire, and they were staying there temporarily. And a car pulls up alongside of her. And it's this man who says, it's okay, I'm not a stranger. I know your parents. I'm friends with your parents. She thought, hmm. Well, maybe I'll get in the car. Well, fortunately, a good citizen looks at this and says,

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

{"duration":"6:41","description":"Christine Thornton, described by her sister as a free spirit, went missing in the summer of 1977. Clues about her disappearance wouldn’t be uncovered until 40 years later.","mediaType":"default","section":"ABCNews/2020","id":"75144633","title":"A missing woman's cold case and a killer's appearance on 'The Dating Game': Part 1","url":"/2020/video/missing-womans-cold-case-killers-appearance-dating-game-75144633"}