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Relford joins in suing Rader

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Wednesday, March 14, 2007, at 8:24 a.m.
  • Updated Tuesday, March 27, 2012, at 1:29 p.m.

Steve Relford has joined the list of victims' families that are suing Dennis Rader for wrongful death.

Relford's mother, Shirley Vian Relford, died at the hands of the admitted BTK serial killer in 1977. She was the fifth of his 10 murder victims.

Last week, a Sedgwick County district judge ordered proceeds from the Monday auction of Rader's house in Park City to be held by the court, pending the outcome of the lawsuits.

Rader, 60, faces sentencing Aug. 17 for the killings, which haunted Wichita and police for three decades.

Because it took so long to catch Rader, the lawsuits don't follow the usual two-year statute of limitations for wrongful death cases.

Kansas law provides for an extension in cases where the person who causes the death flees or whose identity is concealed.

"Because it took 30 years to catch him, now that we got him we can go after him," said Jim Thompson, the Wichita lawyer who is also handling the lawsuit brought by the family of Vicki Wegerle, who was killed in 1986. The daughter of Marine Hedge, killed in 1985, was the first to sue.

At his plea, Rader admitted going to the Relford house at 1311 S. Hydraulic on March 17, 1977. Rader said he posed as a private detective trying to identify someone in a photo. Once the door was answered, he forced his way inside with a gun.

Rader confined the children, including Relford, in the bathroom while he tied up and strangled their mother. Rader said he left in a hurry when the phone started ringing, and because the children were making noise.

He left the children in the house with their mother's body.

The lawsuits are being filed to prevent Rader from receiving any financial benefits from property he's acquired or any money he might receive in prison.

Rader nicknamed himself BTK in letters to police, The Eagle and other news media outlets. BTK stands for "bind, torture and kill."

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