Police warned victim families about briefings

03/27/2012 1:27 PM

03/27/2012 1:27 PM

The call came into Jeff Davis' office in Memphis on Friday afternoon.

For more than an hour, representatives of the Sedgwick County District Attorney's office and Wichita police held a conference call with the son of BTK's final murder victim. They let him know that a media briefing Friday evening would lay out how authorities tracked down the city's notorious serial killer.

Painful, often intimate details about the 10 murders Dennis Rader committed as BTK would emerge. International interest in BTK meant those details could soon be seen on Web sites and cable television channels around the world.

"They wanted to let everyone know that they're going to have to prepare for the worst," Davis said of his phone call with Wichita officials, among them police Detective Kelly Otis, Chief Deputy District Attorney Kim Parker and Deputy District Attorney Kevin O'Connor.

The BTK Task Force shared details of the investigation because they wanted to tell their story, Police Department spokeswoman Janet Johnson said. Rader was already speaking out himself, she noted. Police first obtained approval from District Attorney Nola Foulston and District Judge Greg Waller, who is hearing the case.

Before the session, investigators met with almost all of the victims' relatives to let them know the information was being released, Johnson said.

Charlie Otero, whose parents and two youngest siblings were BTK's first victims, said no one contacted him to tell him the briefing would be held.

"I haven't been warned or told about anything," he said by phone from New Mexico. "The whole world knows before I know.

"It hurts.... It hurts that they're not letting us know so that we can be steadied or readied for whatever's going to be presented in the media."

Steve Relford, the son of Shirley Vian Relford, said he, too, was not notified of the plans for the briefing. Shirley Relford was killed on March 17, 1977, while Steve Relford and his two siblings were barricaded in the bathroom.

Johnson said police representatives flew out to meet with Otero and someone from the district attorney's office contacted Relford.

Davis said officials told him they were "making every effort" to reach relatives of the victims before the briefing. He was glad to hear the information would be released, because people need to know what happened.

"It's all going to come out in the sentencing hearing anyway — most of it is," he said Saturday evening. "It's a paradox."

As painful as it is for relatives to have the suffering of their family members be made so public, he said, authorities need to show at Rader's sentencing hearing in August "what a monstrosity and perversion of humanity he is."

Authorities told Davis to plan for a three-day hearing.

"We're all in for an ordeal," he said. "It'll be three days of pure hell."

By notifying family members of the events and making public the details of the investigation, Davis said, officials are reducing the risk of what happened on June 27 when Rader pleaded guilty in Sedgwick County District Court and offered a chillingly clinical description of the 10 murders he committed.

Relford hadn't expected to hear his mother's killer recount the events of a day that are still seared into his soul. He took it all in quietly.

"I got a little relief" from hearing Rader admit his guilt, Relford said.

Charlie Otero wasn't in Wichita that day. He's still trying "to get up the courage" to watch a tape of that hearing, he said. But he knows he'll have to, he said, to prepare himself for the sentencing hearing.

"To kill my baby sister and my little brother the way he did, he can't be human," Otero said of Rader.

Relford said the publicity about how his mother died isn't opening old wounds.

"The wounds have been open," he said, and they haunt him "every day of my life."

His only peace, Relford said, is knowing that BTK is "not out there to do it to nobody else."

Making details of the crimes and the investigation public creates a lot of emotional upheaval for relatives of BTK's victims, Davis said, but "as far as I'm concerned, it's something that's just got to be done.

"I've got to know," he said. "The only thing worse than those answers is no answers at all."

It's not for closure, he said.

"That's an illusion," he said. "You can't undo a knife incision in your soul, so you just have to live with it."

A better word, he said, is "resolution."

"It will be resolved — it won't be ever made right again," Davis said. "I think everyone in my position will take some solace in knowing that while they can't get back who they lost, they will have the satisfaction of knowing that he'll rot in prison until he drops dead and they carry him out of there, and I'm getting a lot of satisfaction out of that."

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