March 30, 2004

BTK is back; intended victim gets poem

The BTK Strangler, who already has killed seven Wichitans, resurfaced this weekend after 16 months of silence when he mailed a poem to a 63-year-old woman who nearly became his eighth victim.

The strangler broke into the woman's home in the 600 block of South Pinecrest on April 28, about a mile from the site of BTK's last murder.

The woman lived alone, but she was at a dance that evening. BTK, which stands for "bind, torture, kill," cut the phone line and entered the house through a basement window sometime between 7 p.m. and 11 p.m. Apparently, he got tired of waiting for her and left, taking about $35 in cash and some clothing and jewelry.

"It is our opinion that BTK was in fact in her home," said Deputy Chief Bobby Stout. "... It is our opinion that had this lady been at home, she would have been killed. We quite definitely believe that that was the intent, and we feel very fortunate that no one was killed."

Police learned that the woman received a package from BTK Friday. KAKE-TV received a similar package Saturday morning.

Each 8 ½ by 11-inch manila envelope was addressed in neatly printed block letters and contained a 19-line typewritten poem, a sketch, an article of the woman's clothing and an article of jewelry.

In the poem, the strangler, who has asked in previous messages to be called BTK, wrote that he had intended to kill the woman and regretted that she did not return home while he was there.

Stout said he is convinced that the poem is from BTK. Some errors in it are consistent with previous BTK letters, and the art style of the sketch is consistent with a sketch sent in an earlier letter to KAKE.

Police refused to identify the woman to protect her privacy. They also are concerned about her health because her husband died within the past year and she was treated recently in a hospital for severe depression. She is staying with relatives now.

The woman and her daughter were returning to her South Pinecrest house Friday afternoon as a letter carrier also arrived. He handed the mail to the daughter, who opened the envelope and immediately linked the poem, sketch, burglary and BTK. She did not show the contents of the envelope to her mother but called the police.

Capt. Al Thimmesch was notified and went to retrieve the envelope. Deputy Police Chief Stout also was notified and he called Police Chief Richard LaMunyon, who is vacationing in California. LaMunyon is not expected to return early from his vacation but is due back June 25.

Because BTK has sent letters to The Eagle and Beacon and KAKE-TV in the past, Stout asked news organizations to watch for a similar envelope in the mail. About an hour later, KAKE personnel told him the station had received a BTK package.

The station personnel turned the unopened envelope over to a laboratory detective. Stout said it was the first time police had handled the contents of a BTK communication first.

The letters were being examined and tested Saturday. It was not known whether fingerprints were found in or outside the envelopes.

In two previous communications with the Eagle and Beacon and one with KAKE, BTK claimed to have killed seven people between 1974 and 1977. He named six of the victims, and police believe they know who the seventh victim was.

About 15 detectives and eight laboratory investigators have been put on the case. In their investigation:

Lab investigators are examining the envelopes and their contents for fingerprints and other evidence. The house on Pinecrest has been examined a second time.

Detectives are poring over computer printouts, looking for similar burglaries and other burglaries and reports of suspicious characters in the South Pinecrest neighborhood.

Detectives are working with postal inspectors to determine from which postal substation the envelopes were mailed and which postman handled them.

Because BTK's two previous poems are believed to be rewritten versions of a nursery rhyme and a folk song, other detectives are searching for the origin of the latest poem. They hope this will give them a clue to the killer's background.

Other detectives have been going from house to house in the South Pinecrest neighborhood questioning residents about anything they recall seeing at the time of the burglary.

Stout met with one psychiatrist Friday and expects to meet early this week with a group of psychiatrists and psychologists who have examined earlier letters.

In the past, police have attempted to compile a psychological profile of the killer to predict how he might react.

Stout, when asked Saturday what he thought BTK might be wanting, said, "Everybody has tried to second guess what this man wants, and I'm not going to add my name to that list."

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