Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Murder Cop: A Profile of Vernon J. Geberth


"One thing I did before I left [the NYPD] was to authorize $6000 worth of testing in connection with the Otero case in order to prove the value of DNA testing and get Otero off the street.  Lifecodes later hired me to incorporate DNA testing into my program.  I was authorized to open up any case I wanted in the U.S.  In 1988, I'd been doing it for a short time and this letter came in.  BTK had communicated again with authorities to say he was back.  He was attempting to take credit for another sex-related homicide that, it turned out, he did not do.  I remembered the Otero case.  The killer had masturbated all over the little girl, so I contacted Captain John Dotson and had him send the samples to Lifecodes. We obtained the first DNA print of him for their case."

And it didn't stop there.  Sixteen years passed, but the evidence was soon to become useful.  In March 2004, the Wichita Eagle newsroom in Kansas received a letter from "Bill Thomas Killman" BTK (Bind, Torture, Kill) that contained three photographs of a woman who was clearly dead.  She had been posed in a variety of ways and a photocopy of her driver's license was included.  It had belonged to Vicki Wegerle, a woman who had been murdered in 1986 and not officially linked to BTK then.  Late in 2004, a package was found in a park that contained a manuscript entitled "The BTK Story," as well as the driver's license of one of the 1977 victims.  BTK had reported this murder to police dispatchers.  He also used an eroticized symbol formed from the letters BTK that he had used in his 1970s communications (and kept out of media stories by the police).  So after a quarter of a century, this predator had resurfaced. 

Re-created image of BTK's erotic signature
Re-created image of BTK's erotic signature

"In March 2004, BTK wrote another letter," Geberth recalls.  "I got a phone call from KBI in Wichita, and they told me that BTK had re-emerged.  They sent me all the letters, and I saw that he'd included his special code.  So I suggested some strategies and one thing I told them was to challenge him.  I thought he was trying to taunt the police and might continue to communicate if they "baited" him, but they were overruled and didn't do it."

Then, early in 2005, BTK sent a computer disk that was traced to a Lutheran church.  Dennis Rader, who had used the computer, was arrested.  In August, he confessed in court to ten murders.  When it was all over, the detectives involved provided Geberth with investigative information for his program.

Dennis Rader, the BTK
Dennis Rader, the BTK

While Geberth's books and seminars contain a wealth of cases, with photos and crime reports, some jump off the page.  When asked about one of his more unusual cases, he offered the following, which drew the attention of a rather prominent writer.

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