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Mayor Got First Look At Startling Details Wichita Police Arrest Suspected 'BTK' Killer A Glimpse Of Victims
Mayor Got First Look At Startling Details
BY RON SYLVESTER
December 1, 2004
Mayor Carlos Mayans received the message at 6 a.m. Tuesday that the rest of the city would learn four hours later.
On reading the e-mail from City Manager George Kolb and Police Chief Norman Williams, Mayans said he was startled about the nearly two dozen details being released about the serial killer known as BTK.
"I thought, 'BTK, why don't you just turn yourself in?' " Mayans said. "He's obviously tried to give us so much information, and he thinks we're not smart enough to figure it out."
Mayans doesn't hear about all the details of the investigation, but as mayor he gets major briefings from police.
And as a native of Cuba, he said, a detail that jumped out at him was a reference that BTK had a female friend named Petra, an uncommon name among people of Hispanic origin.
"It's an old name," Mayans said. "When I was living in Cuba, I maybe knew two people named Petra."
Mayans said such details may reveal new leads on some of the old BTK cases. Police think BTK killed eight people between the early 1970s and mid '80s.
"The Hispanic references may shed some new light on the Oteros, as the first victims," Mayans said. "There had been some speculations about why they were the first, but they had no connection to the others," who were all were single women.
Four members of the Otero family were BTK's first victims in 1974. Joseph Otero, the father, was a native of Puerto Rico.
BTK resurfaced after decades of silence in March, just a few of months after Mayans assumed office.
Since then, Mayans has seen BTK become the signature of Wichita to much of the world, as news crews from across the globe have flown into south-central Kansas to follow the mystery.
"I had an English news crew ask me if people were afraid," Mayans said. "I told them, no, I don't think people are afraid. They're more curious than anything."
But Mayans stressed that people should remain cautious.
"People should be as careful as they would going to a nightclub, where they might get shot," he said.
Echoing much of the talk around the city Tuesday, Mayans said he thinks BTK is a man who wants to be caught.
"For whatever reason, he wants us to know a lot about him," Mayans said. "Maybe he's sick or dying, or has changed his life. But he wants us to know.
"Or it could just be another game."
So many details, yet so few answers. Mayans said BTK himself may supply them all in time.
"Why not come in and tell us the whole story?" Mayans said. "That's what I think will happen in the end."
Wichita Police Arrest Suspected `BTK' Killer
By Jon Yates, Tribune staff reporter
Tribune news services contributed to this report. "Chilling words from a killer" sidebar by the Associated Press. "BTK Strangler timeline of events" sidebar from
February 27, 2005
WICHITA, Kan. -- Decades after he terrorized residents of this Midwestern city and days after his last letter taunting investigators, the serial killer known as the BTK Strangler has been arrested, police said Saturday.
Police said Dennis Rader, 59, a city worker and leader in his Lutheran church who lives in suburban Park City, killed 10 Wichita-area residents in 1974-91, grisly slayings that shook this city.
"He was one of us," said Richard LaMunyon, Wichita's police chief from 1973 until 1989, when most of the killings took place. "We've been saying all along, he's your neighbor."
Formal criminal charges against Rader, an ordinance enforcement officer, are expected next week, and Wichita Police Chief Norman Williams called the arrest "a defining moment" for his police department. For years, the department has been criticized for not capturing the killer.
"The bottom line: BTK is arrested," Williams announced at a City Hall news conference Saturday that drew more than 200 people, including dozens of law-enforcement officers and victims' relatives. The announcement brought a standing ovation.
"I'm just glad it's over with," said Charles Bright, whose daughter, Kathryn, 21, was a victim of the strangler in 1974.
"He was a real-life monster when we were kids," said James Bozell, 39, who grew up in Wichita.
Investigators were silent about what led them to Rader, but LaMunyon said letters sent to the local news media over the past year may have led police to him. The letters, which began arriving again in March after 25 years of silence, taunted investigators and included pictures of a crime scene, jewelry from the victims and a driver's license taken from one of the victims.
Thousands of tips have poured in over the years, and the Kansas Bureau of Investigation collected thousands of DNA swabs in connection with the investigation. Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius said DNA evidence was the key to cracking the case.
"The way they made the link was some DNA evidence, that they had some DNA connection to the guy who they arrested," Sebelius said. She did not elaborate.
Letters contained clues
In several of the letters, BTK included clues to his identity.
"He obviously was getting rid of his trophies; he was leaving us a wide-open trail," LaMunyon said. "I think the ultimate goal was of him being caught."
Police declined to say whether Rader has spoken to investigators, but LaMunyon thinks the suspect has a story to tell.
"I really think he had a plan," he said. "He didn't want to leave this earth without people knowing it was him."
Wichita Mayor Carlos Mayans said Rader was arrested Friday after leaving his home.
"He accepted his fate," Mayans said. "There was no attempt to get away."
Mayans said investigators are certain Rader is BTK. He said he told Williams he did not want to hold a news conference announcing the arrest if Williams was only 99 percent sure they had the right man.
"He said `We're 100 percent,'" Mayans said.
The killings began in January 1974, when Joseph Otero, 38, his wife, Julie, 34, and their two children were strangled in their Wichita home. Over the next 17 years, police say the killer struck six more times, and all of his victims were women. Most were strangled.
As the killings continued, the killer began writing letters to local news media. In one, he labeled himself "BTK," for "Bind, Torture and Kill," his method in the slayings. He stopped sending letters in 1979 and remained silent until March, when he wrote a letter to the Wichita Eagle with details about an unsolved 1986 killing.
Investigators have since linked BTK to that murder, and on Saturday they said he was responsible for two more unsolved killings in Park City, one in 1985, the other in 1991. One of the women lived on Rader's block.
For many who grew up here in the 1970s, BTK was a real-life bogeyman. Phil Shay, 34, said he remembers his mom yelling for him to come inside their Wichita home when he was young.
"I'd say `Mom, it's still light outside,' and she said `No, you're coming in,'" Shay said.
Many here remember locking their doors for the first time after the killings started, and some left lights on. When BTK resurfaced last year, a new generation of Wichitans learned to fear his name.
Susan Smith, 33, who lives close to Rader, said her 7-year-old daughter began locking the screen door last year.
"She'd tell me that BTK was around," Smith said. "I always teased her and said `We live too far north. He doesn't want anything to do with us.'"
`Always looked angry'
Rader lived about 100 feet away, in a small house with a red awning and a treehouse in the back.
Neighbors said Rader is married and has two grown children. Some, like Dawn Turner, thought he was unpleasant.
"He was a jerk, but we didn't think he was a killer," said Turner, 35. "He never once smiled. He looked like the most unhappy person I'd ever seen. He always looked angry."
Others, though, thought Rader was nice enough, a quiet man who sometimes waved as he drove by. Pastor Michael Clark of Christ Lutheran Church in Wichita said in a statement that Rader has been a member there for about 30 years and has held leadership positions.
Gerald Mansholt, bishop for the central states synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, said Rader's arrest is difficult for many in the church to understand.
"Here's a man who prayed with people and cared with people," Mansholt said. "It's hard to absorb what is being reported about him in the media."
LaMunyon said Rader fit the profile of the man detectives were looking for decades ago, in part because he graduated from Wichita State University with a degree in administration of justice in the late '70s. LaMunyon said early letters from BTK were filled with anger, but also with police jargon.
There were also references to Wichita State. At one point, investigators made a list of white men who graduated from the school in the 1970s. LaMunyon said Rader's name likely was on that list, but he wasn't identified back then as a suspect.
After BTK resurfaced last year, officials secured $1 million in federal funding to help investigate the slayings. A task force was created, with 20 Wichita police personnel, two members of the Kansas Bureau of Investigations and two FBI agents devoted to the case full time.
With Saturday's arrest, many here said decades of fear have been washed away.
"I'm glad they caught him. I was really scared. I think everyone was," said Rona Reynolds, 29, who grew up in Wichita. "Tonight, I know I'll sleep better."
Tribune news services contributed to this report.
- - -
Chilling words from a killer
Excerpts from BTK communications sent to Wichita media outlets in the 1970s. All spelling and grammatical errors are as written:
"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'. Where 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."
--Excerpt of letter left in the Wichita Public Library in 1974, discovered by The Wichita Eagle-Beacon using directions from BTK.
"The code words for me will be ... Bind them, Torture them, Kill them, B.T.K., you see be at it again. They will be on the next victim."
--Postscript to the 1974 letter
"How many do I have to kill before I get my name in the paper or some national attention?"
--Excerpt of letter sent to KAKE-TV in 1978
-- Associated Press
- - -
BTK Strangler timeline of events
Jan. 15: Four members of the Otero family are found strangled in their home. April 4: Police find a 21-yearold woman stabbed to death in her home, later linking the crime with the Jan. 15 killing. October: The Wichita Eagle- Beacon receives a letter from someone claiming to have killed the Oteros.
March 17: A 24-year-old woman is found tied up and strangled in her home. Dec. 8: A 25-year-old woman is found tied up and strangled in her home.
Jan. 31: A poem patterned after a nursery rhyme is received by the Wichita Eagle- Beacon referring to the March 17, 1977 killing.
Feb. 10: A letter from BTK arrives at KAKE, Channel 10, claiming responsibility for three deaths.
Sept. 16: A 28-year-old woman is found strangled in her home.
March 19: The Wichita Eagle receives a letter containing a copy of the 1986 victim's driver's license and crimescene photos.
March 26: Police learn that a 63-year-old woman, who nearly became his 8th victim in 1979, received two envelopes from the killer. Each contained a poem, a sketch, an article of the woman's clothing and an article of jewelry.
March-April: Wichita police begin collecting DNA samples, eventually asking about 4,000 men for samples.
June 24: The FBI confirms that a letter received by KAKE was sent by the BTK serial killer. The letters contained photocopied identifications of employees of Southwestern Bell and the Wichita school district.
Dec. 11: "America's Most Wanted" airs a segment about the killer.
Feb. 26: Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius says DNA samples led to the arrest of Dennis Rader, a 59-year-old municipal worker in Park City. Police link Rader to the eight killings committed between 1974 and 1986 and two more from 1985 and 1991.
Source: Wichita Eagle
A Glimpse Of BTK's Victims; They Have Been Gone For Years. But The People Who Died At The Hands Of The BTK Serial Killer Still Live In The Memories Of Their Friends And Loved Ones.
6 March 2005
Last week, The Eagle interviewed their friends and, when possible, relatives about them. Some family members declined to talk for fear they could jeopardize the case against the man accused in their loved ones' deaths.
The goal was to gather memories that could provide a more complete picture of who these people were.
Their compelling stories overshadow how they died. They were unique, with full lives.
Here you will find snapshots of a strict but loving father, devoted mothers, a cherished grandmother and several young people whose promising lives were cut short.
Champion boxer, skillful pilot, loving father There was Joseph Otero the dad -- sometimes stern with high expectations for his five children. Report cards with B's required explanations.
Then, there was Joseph Otero the man -- obsessed with aviation and cars, a talented bongo player, a flirt, a cut-up.
Charlie Otero remembers both sides of his father. As a 15-year-old, he was just beginning to bond with his dad when Joseph died in 1974 at the age of 38.
"He was the life of the party," Charlie said. "If there were 20 guys in a room, he'd be in the middle making them all laugh, telling stories, joshing with people, flirting with girls. He was not a shy person."
That side of Otero sometimes came out in his parenting too, Charlie said. Otero was known to brag about his children's accomplishments. And his fun-loving nature would often inspire flashes of silliness -- like the time he dragged his kids through a store on a snow sled he intended to buy them.
Born in Puerto Rico, Otero immigrated to the United States as a boy.
He grew up in New York City's Spanish Harlem, where he became a champion boxer and fell in love with Julie, a girl from the neighborhood and another Puerto Rican transplant.
As soon as he was old enough, Otero joined the Air Force, where he served for 20 years. He retired as a master sergeant just before moving his family to Wichita in the fall of 1973.
His final deployment took him to the Panama Canal Zone, one of many exotic sites he visited. Charlie remembers that his father, a gourmet cook, would sample dishes during his travels, pick up the recipes and try to perfect them at home.
Otero, who had a commercial pilot's license, was obsessed with aviation and wanted to live in Wichita because it was the Air Capital, acquaintances remembered. During his short time in Wichita, he worked as a mechanic and flight instructor at a Rose Hill airport.
He was just starting to establish himself in the community.
Days after his death, an acquaintance from the McConnell Aero Club recalled that Otero had recently invited him to his house for dinner.
The man never got a chance to take Otero up on that invitation.
-- Denise Neil
Mother of five respected as 'a lady all the way' Julie Otero was a lot tougher than she looked, her son Charlie remembers.
A 34-year-old mother of five, she was petite, weighing in at only about 100 pounds. And she was as sweet as an angel, Charlie said.
But her angelic exterior hid an inner fighter -- literally.
A longtime Air Force wife, Julie Otero signed her entire family up for summer judo classes being offered on the base. She saw the classes as something she and her kids could do together.
In no time, Julie was a brown belt and her children were winning trophy after trophy.
Charlie laughs when he remembers his tiny fighting mother.
"You'd see my 100-pound mom fighting these 160- and 180-pound women in tournaments," he said. "She was rough and tough, and she'd just deal with them.
"But she was a lady all the way."
Julie was mentally tough as well. Charlie still has visions of his mother dragging herself, her children and all their luggage through an airport as they traveled to join his father in the Panama Canal Zone, where he was stationed for seven years.
Born in Puerto Rico, Julie came to the United States on a banana boat as a child, her son said.
Outgoing, social and popular, she quickly caught the eye of Joseph Otero, who chased her for years. The two were married in a big church wedding in New York City, and Charlie was born "almost nine months later to the day."
When the family moved to Wichita, Julie took a job on the assembly line at Coleman. She was laid off about a month later in a labor force reduction. She was recommended for rehire.
Charlie adored his mother and remembers her as a devout Catholic who remained passionate about her culture.
"My mom would pay me a penny a word to speak Spanish to her," Charlie said. "She didn't want me to forget it."
She was also an excellent cook. She never made anything from a can, and she would prepare her kids anything they wanted for breakfast, from Belgian waffles to fritters.
"My mother was like an angel," Charlie said. "She didn't drink. She didn't get mad. All she cared about was making sure we had what we needed for life."
-- Denise Neil
Painter, poet, artist, young star in the making Eleven-year-old Josephine Otero was known as "the new girl" among her sixth-grade peers at Adams Elementary School in the fall of 1973.
She started school after the term had begun -- something that tends to draw attention from a room full of 11- and 12-year-olds.
They called her Josie.
Josie was quiet and shy, but easygoing, remembers classmate Bill Partridge.
She would just laugh when some of the other kids would sing her the theme song from the "Josie and the Pussycats" cartoon, which was popular at the time.
Charlie Otero remembers his younger sister as pretty and thin with long dark hair.
Her given name was Josephine Estrella --"Josie Star," he said.
She was the best student in the family. Despite holding a yellow belt in judo, she was deeply entrenched in her "girlie life." She liked her Barbie dolls. She wrote poetry. She painted and drew.
She was inseparable from her older sister, Carmen, the only other girl in the family.
"They were like two peas in a pod," Charlie said.
Josie could be sensitive, too. Charlie still remembers a sibling fight that ended with a tearful Josie accusing him of not loving her as much as he loved the rest of the family.
"It broke my heart that she even thought that for a second," he said.
-- Denise Neil
JOSEPH OTERO II
'He was going to grow up to be the fastest kid' Joseph Otero II was the baby of the family, but he wasn't babied.
Known as Joey, he was rarely left alone by his four older siblings.
"Joey was the darling of the family," his brother Charlie remembers. "Everybody played with Joey, used him for judo practice. We'd make the dog drag him around the house. But it was all in love."
At age 9, Joey quickly became one of the most popular boys in his fourth-grade class at Adams Elementary.
He started the school year late, and the girls in his class immediately became enamored of him.
"He was good looking -- Hollywood good looking," said Charlie, six years Joey's senior. "He had all kinds of girlfriends already. He had droves of them following him around."
Joey was athletically talented as well. He could ride his brother's minibike. He excelled at judo. And he could run like the wind.
"He was going to grow up to be the fastest kid," Charlie said.
The family dog, Lucky, was a gift to Joey on his fifth birthday. Though the shepherd mix could be ferocious to strangers, Joey loved him.
"All we had to do was sic Lucky on Joey," Charlie said, "and he'd grab him by the pant leg and drag him all over the house."
-- Denise Neil