News of book prompted BTK to resurface
07/10/2005 12:00 AM
03/27/2012 12:48 PM
The retired detective had a warning for Bob Beattie as they discussed the case of the BTK serial killer in May 2003.
BTK was likely dead or in prison, the detective said — but if he's still out there somewhere, news that Beattie was writing a book about Wichita's most notorious murderer "could provoke him into resurfacing."
Two things drove BTK, the detective said: the perversions that led to the murders, and the hunger for attention that prompted him to send letters to the media.
Beattie and his wife recognized the danger if he went ahead with the book. They could become targets of a known killer." We knew there is a risk," he said. "We talked about it very frankly.
"It was opening Pandora's chest, and you weren't sure what was going to fly out."
But they decided to go ahead with the book anyway — even if BTK reappeared.
Beattie gave an interview to The Eagle's Hurst Laviana for a story about the 30th anniversary of BTK's first murders. It was published Jan. 17. He also agreed to speak about his book at the March 20 meeting of the Wichita Retired Police Officer's Association.
Former deputy chief Jack Bruce said a copy of the association's newsletter was found in the filing cabinet of Dennis Rader's office in Park City Hall. On March 17, three days before Beattie's speech, Rader mailed a letter to The Eagle containing copies of Vicki Wegerle's driver's license and Polaroid photos taken of her after she was killed on Sept. 16, 1986.
The next week, Wichita police confirmed that the letter was authentic. After years of silence, BTK had resurfaced.
"He always wanted attention," Beattie said. "He wanted attention so much that he risked being caught."
The same detective who warned Beattie that his book might smoke BTK out from hiding predicted that if he ever did reappear he would be caught "within 10 days," Beattie said.
When that didn't happen, "I started becoming concerned," he said. "I had to start thinking about the possibility they may never catch this guy. We might have another Jack the Ripper."
As weeks, then months, went by, the tension built on Beattie.
"He knew who I was. I didn't know who he was.
"I was his nemesis — we were adversaries," Beattie said of BTK. "He was writing 'The BTK Story' and I was writing about the hunt for BTK."
Beattie and his wife were careful about where they went and when they went there. Retired police officers began shadowing them to keep them safe.
Late last year, Beattie noticed a Park City compliance vehicle drive past his house. At the time, he didn't give it a second thought because a retired dogcatcher lives down his block.
Now, he knows better. Dennis Rader was a compliance officer in Park City from 1991 until his arrest Feb. 25.
"Police have not told me anything to make me believe he planned to make any attack or anything," Beattie said, "but it wouldn't surprise me if he had driven by just to see where I lived."
Last October, Beattie inserted a quote from Herodotus into his manuscript for what became "Nightmare in Wichita: The Hunt for the BTK Strangler."
"All arrogance will reap a rich harvest in tears. God calls men to a heavy reckoning for overweening pride."
"The ancient Greeks taught that the gods punished hubris," Beattie said Saturday. "I thought that if BTK continued to communicate, he would eventually be caught."
Rader has confirmed that learning about Beattie's book prompted him to resurface after 25 years of silence, saying that Beattie was likely "gloating" now.
"I think that says more about Rader, like I won and he lost," Beattie said.
Bill Mohr, secretary and treasurer of the retired police officers' association, said he has no doubt Beattie's book and the newsletter prompted Rader to start communicating again with the media and police.
"I think I can almost guarantee it," said Mohr, who worked as a dispatcher.
That, in turn, ultimately led to BTK's arrest.
On the first Saturday of July, the association gave Beattie its 2005 Distinguished Associate Member Award in appreciation for his "indispensable role" in the hunt for BTK.
Beattie said he felt honored. But his focus, he said, has always been on the people who died and the law enforcement officers who worked long and hard to bring BTK to justice.
Join the Discussion
The Wichita Eagle is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.