Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The BTK Story

Cold Case Squad

In 1991, the Wichita Police Department assembled a cold case squad when police received a new lead in the BTK murders.  Although the lead fizzled, Capt. Paul Dotson will not disclose the nature of the tip.

"I believe he is still probably in this community," Mike McKenna, a former Wichita police detective, said.

In 1997, Robert Ressler, a former FBI veteran who first applied the term "serial killer", helped outline a profile of BTK.  Ressler said the man was probably a graduate student or a professor in the criminal justice field at WSU in Kansas, was most likely in his mid-to-late-20s at the time of the killings and was an avid reader of books and newspaper stories concerning serial murders.  Additionally, because his pattern of killings has not been seen in Wichita since the '70s, he has "left the area, died or is in a mental institution or prison," Ressler said.

Robert K. Ressler
Robert K. Ressler

"I've learned that if man gets the opportunity, he will do devious things," Ressler said. "He has a dark side, whether it's poisoning his neighbor's roses or killing his neighbor."

In February of 1998, Police Chief Richard LaMunyon said in an interview that a "typewritten, rambling communiqué, which purports to be from BTK" received by police about a week after the Fager murders has no connection to the Dec. 30 murders of Phillip Fager, and his daughters.  LaMunyon said a continuing investigation has not yet confirmed whether the serial killer sent the letter.  LaMunyon went on to say that the department does sporadically receive bogus letters from people claiming to be the BTK strangler.

As 1988 came to a close, a former BTK task force detective, Al Thimmesch, retired.  Al says he regrets never solving the murders. ''One of the things that bugged me was BTK," he said. "It was one that I worked on for a long time."

Investigators call BTK fastidious, calculating and meticulous; with a strong possibility that he may be heard from again.  "This type of personality doesn't stop voluntarily," said Wichita Police Capt. Paul Dotson.  "This type of person continues to kill."

Sedgwick County Sheriff Mike Hill, who worked on the 1978 probe, said, "It's sad to say the only way that we'll ever find out who this individual is will be we'll have to have a victim."  Nevertheless, Stewart hopes that some day a beat cop will stumble onto the BTK still savoring his press clippings or souvenirs.

Obsession by John Douglas
Obsession by John Douglas

FBI Profiler John Douglas in the book Obsession has a chapter on the BTK strangler. It is the chapter called "Motivation X".  Within the book, Douglas states that there were no defensive wounds found on any of the victims, assuming that the killer used a gun to control them.  He further stated that the killer's letters to the police had so much detail that he is convinced that the perpetrator had taken his own crime scene photos in order to have a keepsake of the crime to fantasize about later.

Douglas states that the killer used police lingo in his letters - Douglas thinks he may actually be a cop, or may impersonate a cop - he probably reads detective magazines and may have even bought a police badge.  He would attempt to insert himself in the investigation.  He would be tempted to brag or leave hints about what he had done.

Douglas states that the killer was in all probability a loner, inadequate, in his 20s or 30s, might possibly have an arrest record for break-ins or voyeurism, but probably no actual rapes.

Douglas further states that the perpetrator may have stopped killing because he is in jail for something else, or a mental hospital, may have died, or maybe he injected himself so closely into the investigation, he got scared.  It is even a possibility that the memories and photographs are enough for him to contain his obsession.

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