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Random nature of attacks confirms fears

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Wednesday, March 14, 2007, at 8:24 a.m.
  • Updated Tuesday, March 27, 2012, at 12:03 p.m.

Since BTK revealed that he chose his victims randomly, people across the Wichita area have had their longtime fears confirmed:

It really could have been me, my wife or my daughter.

"It was a spooky thought," said Jennifer Denny, 49, who moved to Wichita in 1998 but feared like many others after BTK resurfaced in 2004. "Just for him to see someone on the street and say, 'Oh, I think I'll kill her.' "

BTK has long caused families to be more vigilant about locking doors and closing windows, but until Friday, when police revealed details of the investigation, no one knew for sure that there wasn't a pattern to his killing.

Dana Dopps, 48, never felt like BTK specifically targeted her.

But she recalls mowing her lawn one afternoon in the mid-1980s when a stranger carrying a suitcase stepped onto her driveway. She left the mower running and ran into the house to tell her children to hide, she said. She locked the doors, drew the blinds and called to warn her neighbor.

The neighbor told Dopps the man was a vacuum salesman.

Now with Dennis Rader behind bars, she said she doesn't look over her shoulder as much.

"I felt like the day they arrested him I could open my garage door and I could open the windows again," she said.

Julia Kirkendall, 55, wasn't personally scared of BTK, but her daughter pushed her to be more careful about locking her doors.

"My daughter would say, 'He might be out there, Ma, he might be out there at the door,' " she said.

Karie McVay, 29, said many of her precautions — locking doors and windows, not letting people into her home — are necessary for all women, especially parents.

But the gun she brought down from the attic to protect herself and her children was especially for BTK.

"I was scared to death as a child," she said. "I really thought he was going to kill me.

"When he came out again last year, it was the same exact feeling."

After BTK resurfaced in a March 2004 letter to The Eagle, sales of guns, pepper spray and security systems soared in Wichita as people prepared to defend themselves.

People like Debbie Brehm, 45, had made plans for a possible BTK attack. "I'd jump out the window, whether it's open or not," she said.

Ginger Payne, 38, didn't fear BTK as much after resurfacing, though her children were often scared. Her paranoia has actually increased since BTK was arrested, and she's scared that there are others like him out there.

She never locked her doors before, but started soon after the arrest.

"You realize someone who just blends in could do such horrible things," she said. "I just think I'm lucky that as unsafe as I was, everything turned out OK."

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