BTK

Otero home's owners: Privacy, please

In the living room of her home on North Edgemoor — the bungalow where BTK strangled Joseph and Julie Otero and two of their young children 31 years ago — Buffy Lietz wants to make a point. To her, she says, "this is just an ordinary house." But Lietz, 47, realizes that to many people around Wichita — around the world — her home is anything but ordinary because of the terrible crimes that occurred there on a snowy day: Jan. 15, 1974.

For Lietz — a wife, a mother, an assistant shoestore manager and a part-time college student — all the phone calls, knocks at the door and gawkers have been unwanted, stressful attention.

Since BTK resurfaced last March with a letter to The Eagle after about 25 years of silence, the little white house with blue trim has drawn more attention than ever.

Lietz has grown tired of seeing her address in media accounts. Photos of her house have appeared on Internet sites devoted to the case. People park across the street and stare.

"It feels creepy," she says.

She assumes that the people who drive by and "rubberneck" do it out of morbid curiosity.

But she wants people to know:

"There's no bloodstains," Lietz says, looking down at the worn but solid hardwood floors in her living room.

"Couldn't find any DNA, even if you wanted to."

And the pipe in the basement — where the serial killer hung 11-year-old Josephine Otero — is plastic, she says. "So I have a feeling that it must not be the (original) one."

More than a year ago, even before the case drew renewed attention, Lietz would find children pressing their faces against her back French door.

"You need to go home," she would tell them. "You're trespassing."

It's why she wants to send this message: Please respect her family's privacy. Treat them and their house with the same respect and courtesy you expect with your own home.

She and her family have received repeated phone calls and knocks at the door from media outlets, documentary crews, even uninvited visitors from overseas wanting to get inside her home.

For the most part, the answer has been no.

She hung up five times on "America's Most Wanted" before relenting this past December, when cameramen, makeup people, crime-scene re-enactors and host John Walsh descended on her home. She says she felt pressured — but also obligated — to help the anti-crime show because she thought it might help find the killer.

In some ways, she is understanding of the media requests. They have a job to do, she says. The gawkers, on the other hand, are just plain rude.

She and her husband, Greg, who has a work disability, bought the home several years ago. At first, they had no idea what had happened there, she says. The previous owner told them that someone had died there, but she didn't know how.

It wasn't until The Eagle published a story about noteworthy Wichita places and mentioned hers, she says, that she began to learn that the deaths in her home weren't from natural causes.

Until then, she says, she had "no idea what a BTK was."

Some of her teenage daughter's friends declined to come to the house because of its history, she says. It made her daughter, who no longer lives there, feel ostracized. "It really changed her outlook on life a lot."

Their first Halloween in the home, they decorated with lights and bought candy. Trick-or-treaters visited other homes along their block. But none came to their door.

The house, built in 1947 according to property records, sat vacant after the Otero killings. Eventually, people moved in. Over the years, she says, at least five other families have lived there.

It's not the same home that the Oteros briefly inhabited, she wants to stress. Over the years, "people have wallpapered, they've painted, they've changed the doors."

She isn't superstitious. She doesn't sense that any bad spirits dwell within her walls.

She isn't afraid of BTK or suspect that he watches her home or has tried to communicate with her. She says this even though her address was on a postcard — possibly sent by BTK — that led police to two packages that might be linked to the case.

Her Mormon faith is apparent in religious messages on her living room walls. "God dwells here," one message says.

Still, it's not her dream house. Too small. And she would rather live in a warmer, drier climate for health reasons.

As much as she would like to move, she says, she has concluded something: "I can't put it up for sale because I'll get ghoulish people" — those who would want to tour it only to see what in their minds is a crime scene.

As she poses near her front door for an Eagle photographer, she is asked if she often looks out the door to see if anyone is gawking.

"If I stood there looking out for crazies," she says, "I'd feel like I was in a prison. I can't afford to allow myself... to feel like I'm in prison."

She and her husband have made the home their own. They've planted irises, daffodils, lilies of the valley and rose bushes. They've reseeded the lawn.

But it was once the home of Charlie Otero, who was 15 the day he came home from school and found his murdered family. He recently finished a stint in a New Mexico prison for an aggravated battery conviction in a domestic violence case.

Otero, now in his late 40s, told an Eagle reporter that he would like to return to the house on Edgemoor "just to feel their souls, if I could, just to be in touch with them for one second."

But if he came to her door, Lietz says, she would tell him that it is no longer the home he once knew. She would be reluctant to let him in.

"You really can't go home again," she says.

"It's the Lietzes' house" now.

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