Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The BTK Story


In October of 1974, just nine months after the Otero family murders, the Wichita Eagle's Don Granger received an anonymous call, presumably from the Otero killer himself.  The caller directed him to a mechanical engineering textbook in the Wichita Public Library.  Inside the book, Granger found a letter claiming credit for the killings of the Joseph Otero family, and promising more victims.  The authenticity of the letter was not in doubt since it contained details that only the police and killer knew.

The letter was addressed to the "Secret Witness Program" under which people with information about a crime could pass on that information to police through the newspaper and remain anonymous. Investigators immediately requested that the letter be withheld from the public in an attempt to prevent a string of false confessions. The Wichita Eagle complied with the police request.

However, Cathy Henkel, a reporter for a 2-month-old rival newspaper called the Wichita Sun, received a copy of the letter and printed part of it in an article she wrote on Dec 11, 1974, some 11 months after the crime had been committed.

The killer wrote that the three individuals being questioned for the Otero murders were not involved. The following excerpts with their many misspellings and grammatical errors were printed in the Sun :

"I write this letter to you for the sake of the tax payer as well as your time. Those three dude you have in custody are just talking to get publicity for the Otero murders. They know nothing at all. I did it by myself and with no ones help. There has been no talk either. Let's put this straight...." The killer provides details of the crimes and crime scene that were not published in the paper.

"I'm sorry this happen to society. They are the ones who suffer the most. It hard to control myself. You probably call me 'psychotic with sexual perversion hang-up.' When this monster enter my brain I will never know. But, it here to stay. How does one cure himself? If you ask for help, that you have killed four people they will laugh or hit the panic button and call the cops.

"I can't stop it so the monster goes on, and hurt me as well as society. Society can be thankful that there are ways for people like me to relieve myself at time by day dreams of some victims being torture and being mine. It a big complicated game my friend of the monster play putting victims number down, follow them, checking up on them, waiting in the dark, waiting, waiting.... the pressure is great and sometimes he run the game to his liking. Maybe you can stop him. I can't. He has already chosen his next victim or victims. I don't know who they are yet. The next day after I read the paper, I will know, but it to late. Good luck hunting.


Although the letter was unsigned, it contained this postscript:

"P.S. Since sex criminals do not change their M.O. or by nature cannot do so, I will not change mine. The code word for me will be....Bind them, toture them, kill them, B.T.K., you see he at it again. They will be on the next victim."

B.T.K., despite a few feeble attempts to appear to have a weak grip on the English language, is quite well educated and is a reasonably good speller when he is not trying to deceive his audience. He has no trouble with words like "psychotic," "complicated," and "perversion." He has also done quite a bit of reading about the criminal psychology of that era. The famous letters from California's Zodiac Killer and the Jack the Ripper letters were well known from newspapers and books. Interestingly, the Zodiac began his murder series on October 30, 1966 and wrote his first letter to the police almost one month later on November 29, 1966. Even more interesting is the fact that the Zodiac, after three years of silence, sent the first of a series of four letters to the San Francisco Chronicle on January 29, 1974. Chances are that B.T.K. had read about this in the newspaper and decided to open the lines of communication with the media and police.

Kathryn Bright
Kathryn Bright

The Wichita Eagle reported that on April 4, 1974, just three months after the Otero murders, Kathryn Bright, 20, and her brother Kevin, 19, went to her home at 3217 E. 13th Street at approximately 1 p.m.  There was an intruder hiding in the house, waiting for her to return. 

The intruder told them he needed money and a car to escape from the California police. At gun point, Kevin was forced to tie his sister to a chair and was then taken to another room where he to was tied up and gagged. A few minutes later, the man tried to stangle Kevin with a rope, but Kevin resisted and was shot twice in the head. He heard sounds of distress from his sister in the next room. Kevin managed to escape and get help for his sister, but she died five hours after being taken to the hospital with three stab wounds in her abdomen.

Police also noted that the Kathryn was partially undressed and that there was obvious ligature activity around her neck. Kevin assisted the police in sketching a likeness of the intruder, but he was not identified. Police did not associate B.T.K. with this crime at that point in time.

Shirley Vian
Shirley Vian

Three years later on March 17, 1977, Wichita police were dispatched to 1311 South Hydraulic Street. Upon arrival, police entered the home and discovered 26-year-old Shirley Vian dead.  She lay on her bed partially undressed, hands and feet bound, a plastic bag draped over her head.  Upon removing the bag investigators noted the BTK's signature cord wrapped tightly around her neck.  The armed intruder had locked Shirley's three children in the closet. The children eventually managed to free themselves and call police.

Authorities remove Vian's body from crime scene
Authorities remove Vian's body from crime scene

Again, investigators believed that the crime was premeditated. The incident occurred during the daytime and there was no sign of forced entry.  The killer had stopped one of the victim's sons on the street that morning, and showed him photographs of a woman and child, purportedly seeking directions to their home.

We're Following
Slender Man stabbing, Waukesha, Wisconsin
Gilberto Valle 'Cannibal Cop'