March 30, 2004

Four in Wichita family found slain at home (1974)

Editor's note: This story was originally published in 1974.

Four family members were found "brutally murdered" in their northeast Wichita home Tuesday afternoon.

Three other children of Joseph Otero discovered their father, mother, sister and brother strangled to death. Their bodies were found in various parts of the house at 803 N. Edgemoor.

Otero and his wife, both believed to be in their 30s, were found in one bedroom. The son, 8 years old, was discovered in another bedroom with a hood over his head. A daughter, 11, was hanging by her neck from a rope tied to a pipe in the basement. She was clad in socks and a sweater and was gagged.

Names of the victims were not released late Tuesday. The Otero children include Joseph, Josephine, Carmen, Charlie and a teenage girl who attends Southeast High School.

The four victims were all bound. Two of them had bruises on their cheeks and the other two had bruises around their eyes, Police Chief Floyd Hannon said.

Dell Johnson, 815 N. Edgemoor, said he was shoveling snow from his walk about 4 p.m. when one of the Otero children ran up to him and said, "Come quick, my father's dead, I think."

"I went to the house and went through the living room and through a hall," Johnson said. "I went into the hall and they (Oteros) looked motionless to me."

Johnson said Otero was lying face down at the foot of the bed in the bedroom. He said the woman was lying across the bed.

"I didn't examine them but went immediately to call the police," he said. Johnson said that the telephone wires had been cut in the Otero house.

"The child said something about the telephone wires being cut," Johnson said. "I told him I was going to my house and I would get help as quick as I could."

Hannon said, "I've worked homicides in this city for some 20 years but this is the most bizarre case I've ever seen."

Otero's family has been in Wichita a short time. He was employed by Cook Air Field, but prior to that time he was a reserve sergeant serving in the Panama Canal area.

Hannon said there might be an international incident involved with the murders. The family is Puerto Rican and "something might have happened in the old country to bring on the incident."

The time of death was put sometime before noon. The Otero's car was seen leaving the house, occupied by one person, apparently after the murder. The vehicle was recovered about 7 p.m. in a parking lot at Dillons at Central and Oliver.

Hannon said there was no evidence of a fight in the house.

The only indication of ransacking was a woman's purse turned upside down on the floor "as if someone was looking for keys," Hannon said.

The bodies were taken to St. Francis Hospital by Red Cross vehicles.

As far as the investigation had gone Tuesday night, Hannon said it appeared they were "a very good family."

Otero's neighbors described the family as "quiet."

Mrs. Robert Bruce, who lives across the street, said she last saw Mrs. Otero Monday shortly after 5 p.m. when the woman took some mail from her mailbox, stooped to pick up a newspaper and went back into the house.

Mrs. Bruce and other neighbors said they didn't really know the family, however.

Law officers cordoned off the small frame house as curiosity seekers came into the quiet middle class neighborhood. Newsmen were not allowed in the house.

Investigators said the knots used to bind the victims' hands and feet appeared to be tied by an expert.

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