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The BTK Strangler Returns

Letters From the Killer Surface Again in Wichita

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The BTK Strangler who terrorized Wichita, Kansas 30 years ago by bragging to the news media about a series of seven murders he committed in the community, has apparently resurfaced again after disappearing in 1977.

On March 19, 2004, someone claiming to be the BTK killer sent a letter to The Wichita Eagle newsroom taking responsibility for the September 16, 1986, unsolved death of Vicki Wegerle, previously not thought to be a BTK Strangler victim. Included with the letter were a photocopy of Wegerle's driver's license and three pictures of her body, apparently taken by the killer himself.

Letter from BTK

Then on July 17, 2004, a letter found in a library drop box is also being investigated as a possible communication from the BTK killer. The letter has been turned over to the FBI for authentication and its contents have not been released to the press.

The library was the scene of the first letter sent to the media in 1974. In October 1974, several months after four members of the Otero family were killed, someone contacted The Wichita Eagle to say he had placed the letter in a mechanical engineering textbook at the library. He signed the letter "BTK Strangler" telling the press that "The code words for me will be ... Bind them, Torture them, Kill them."

BTK Strangler Victims

Wichita police say they have received thousands of telephone tips since the recent letters surfaced. Over the years they have chased literally hundreds of thousands of leads trying to identify BTK. Their quest began in 1974:

    The Otero Family
    On January 15, 1974, Joseph and Julie Otero, their nine-year-old son Joseph II, and their 11-year-old daughter Josephine were found dead in their home by another family member, 15-year-old Charlie. Joseph, Julie, and young Joseph were all bound at the wrists and ankles. Josephine was hanging by her neck from a pipe in the basement. She was partially nude, dressed only in a sweatshirt and socks. All had been strangled with cord cut from a Venetian blind.

    Kathryn Bright
    On April 4, 1974, just three months after the first murders, 21-year-old Kathryn Bright was found dead in her home. She also was bound and had multiple stab wounds to the abdomen. She was partially undressed and that there was obvious ligature marks around her neck.

    Shirley Vian
    On March 17, 1977, police discovered 26-year-old Shirley Vian on her bed partially undressed, hands and feet bound, with a plastic bag draped over her head. She had a cord wrapped tightly around her neck. An armed intruder locked Shirley's three children in the closet, but they managed to escape and call police.

    Nancy Jo Fox
    On Dec. 8, 1977, someone called the Wichita emergency hotline and said, "Go to this address... You will find a homicide - Nancy Fox." officers discovered 25-year-old Nancy Jo Fox dead in her bedroom, a nylon stocking twisted around her neck. Unlike previous victims, she was fully clothed.

After the 1977 murder of Nancy Fox, the BTK Strangler killings stopped. Police worked for years on the theory that Fox's murder was the last of his victims, but the recent letters tell a different story. BTK claims an eight victim:

    Vicki Wegerle
    On September 16, 1986, Vicki Wegerle was found strangled in her Wichita home. EMTs called to the scene removed her body and took it to a hospital before police could make crime-scene photographs.

The BTK Strangler apparently took some item away from each of the crime scenes, for example Joseph Otero's watch and Vicki Wegerle's driver's license. Police said they found semen at most of the scenes, not in the victims, but on the bodies and around them.

Where Has BTK Been?

Some in Wichita believe the BTK Strangler has been quiet for years because he was incarcerated for another crime, or perhaps that he has been institutionalized.

"Very honestly, I don't think you can eliminate any possibilities," former Police Chief Richard LaMunyon told the Wichita Eagle. "I think you also have to look at the possibility that he's been here all the time. Maybe something's changed in his life. Maybe he got married. Maybe we got close to him. Maybe he's on medications. I don't think you can arbitrarily throw out any possibility."

LaMunyon also said he did not feel the BTK Strangler posed much of a threat to the citizens of Wichita. "The FBI profile in the mid-1970s indicated that BTK was probably in his 30s," he said. "If you just do the math, you're looking at somebody in his 60s."

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