Btk Killer

Topics: Dennis Rader, Zoosadism, Wichita State University Pages: 6 (2201 words) Published: April 27, 2013
The BTK (for bind, torture, kill) investigation in Wichita, Kansas, was a serial homicide investigation spanning decades and presenting extraordinary challenges. The investigation began in the mid-1970s, spanned 30 years, and concluded with the arrest of a 59-year-old compliance officer in a small community adjacent to Wichita. His apprehension came as a result of a creative approach that used local media to maintain contact with the killer and carefully manage the release of information about the case. The case also allowed the Wichita Police Department to develop innovative ways to manage large amounts of information provided by the public and use biological and computer forensics. The BTK serial killer first stuck in 1974 with the murder of four members of a Wichita family in their home and committed his last murder in January 1991. Thirty years after the first murders, between March 2004 and February 2005, the BTK killer resurfaced amid media attention, triggering an intensive 11-month investigation by local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies that brought the case to a successful close (Gibson 54). The BTK killer’s craving for media attention provided unusual opportunities for innovative involvement of the news media. When BTK sent a letter to the local newspaper after 16 years of silence, the Wichita Police Department developed a controversial media strategy to foster communications with the serial killer. It is not a new investigative technique to employ the news media in communicating with serial killers, but the Wichita Police Department knew it had to develop a carefully planned strategy that controlled the messages sent to BTK (Hansen 25). “Between March 2004 and February 2005, the BTK Task Force recorded more than 5,600 tips and leads from the public, collected more than 1,300 DNA swabs, and convinced the killer to communicate with police by using a computer disk” (Simons 33). The disk provided the first leads to his identity, which was then verified by tests on his daughter’s DNA. This ultimately led to the arrest of a suspect who held a community in fear for more than 30 years. The serial killer who identified himself as BTK, first struck in January 1974 with the murder of four members of the Otero family. He killed again just three months later, but waited nearly three years before striking for the third time in March 1977. When the BTK serial killer resurfaced in Wichita after lying dormant for 16 years, the police department found itself in the unenviable position of having to address the problem on several fronts. The department needed to quickly develop strategies to calm a fearful community and then create a task force to investigate the cases, develop strategies for catching the killer, and, finally, formulate a process to organize massive amounts of data that included thousands of tips and leads (Hansen 40). On March 19, 2004, the killer sent a letter to the Wichita Eagle newsroom. In its report on the letter, the newspaper reported BTK was claiming responsibility for the September 16, 1986, murder of a young mother of two who was found inside her Wichita home (Bardsley, Bell, and Lohr 15). Wichita police held a news conference on March 25, 2004, confirming the BTK communication as authentic and asked citizens with any information to contact the police department. A tip line, an e-mail account, and a post office box were set up to accommodate tips. In the first 24 hours following the news conference, almost 400 tips were received. By mid-May the tips received by the police exceeded 2,000 (Hansen 43). Another letter from the killer surfaced on May 5, 2004, in the newsroom of Wichita television station KAKE. As new chapters in the story of the serial killer began to unfold, the Wichita Police Department started adapting its investigative techniques. Keeping in mind that the department’s primary goal was to identify and arrest the BTK Serial Killer, the BTK Task Force faced four primary...
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