Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The BTK Story

Vanishing Act

As abruptly as they started, the killings appeared to have ended in 1977.  It seemed as though BTK had vanished.  Or had he?

Eula West, a receptionist at the Sedgwick County Courthouse, recalls, "I was taking all precautions, and everybody I heard talking about it did too." Many people refused to go outside at night for weeks. Some people bought firearms.

On January 31, 1978, BTK mailed a letter to the Wichita Eagle-Beacon. Within the letter was a short poem about Shirley Vian, who was murdered in March 1977.  However, it was accidentally routed to the advertising department by mistake and it went overlooked for days.

"It seemed as though every day we were waiting to see what would happen next," said Rose Stanley, who began work at a Wichita TV station just before the killings began. "He would choke the person almost to the point of death. Then he would let them come back. Then he would strangle them to death."

The Wichita Eagle Newspaper building
The Wichita Eagle Newspaper building

Distraught at the lack of publicity, BTK wrote another letter on February 10, 1978 to a local television station.  "How many do I have to kill," he wrote, "before I get my name in the paper or some national attention?"  In this latest letter, the strangler claimed to have murdered seven victims, naming Nancy Jo Fox as the latest.  Number seven remained nameless, adding, "You guess the motive and the victims."  According to The Wichita Eagle newspaper, even though investigators were unable to document the killer's claim, they took his word - announced acceptance of the body count - and assumed that the seventh unnamed victim was Kathryn Bright.  In addition to these claims, the killer blamed his crimes on "a demon" and a mysterious "factor X", he compared his work with that of Jack the Ripper, the Hillside Stranglers, and Son of Sam.

He claimed that he was sorry for the murders and that a monster had entered his brain. He also warned that he had chosen his next victim.

Until March of 2004, the last confirmed BTK incident took place on April 28, 1979, when he waited inside a house in the 600 block of South Pinecrest for the 63-year-old owner to come home. When she did not show up, BTK became angry and sent the woman a note along with one of her scarves.  "Be glad you weren't here," he wrote, "because I was." 

''I think people were really scared, especially if you were a woman living alone, which I was at the time," said Kathy Page-Hauptman, director of performing arts at the Wichita Center for the Arts.

The BTK investigation was dormant through most of the early 1980s with no new leads or tips.

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