BTK survivor recounts mother's slaying

"Are your parents home?"

Little Steve Relford looked at the well-dressed man holding a briefcase who had knocked on the door, and, like almost any 5-year-old would have done in 1977, told him the truth.

"My mother," he said. "She's sick in bed."

And he let BTK in.

Nearly 30 years later, Relford told KAKE-TV's Susan Peters, he is still haunted by that. KAKE, Channel 10 in Wichita, shared portions of the interview with The Eagle, and will broadcast more on its 10 p.m. newscast today.

The brown-haired man Relford opened the door for is now blamed for eight murders between 1974 and 1986.

Four members of the Joseph Otero family had been killed in their home on Jan. 15, 1974, and Kathryn Bright was stabbed to death on April 4, 1974.

Relford's mother, Shirley Vian, was about to become his next victim. It was March 17, 1977.

The man turned off the television and closed the blinds of the house at 1311 S. Hydraulic, then pulled a gun from underneath his jacket.

Seeing the gun "scared the hell out of me," Relford told Peters.

By then, his mother had come out of her bedroom to see what was going on.

According to a 1978 account in The Eagle based on what the children told police, Vian, 26, told the intruder: "Don't hurt us."

"I'm not going to," the man reportedly answered before starting to tie up Vian's oldest child, who was 8.

When the child began to cry, the man who later asked to be called BTK — short for "Bind, Torture, Kill" — herded Vian's three children into the bathroom.

He wedged one door to the bathroom shut, and secured the other door by tying one end of a rope to the doorknob and the other to the sink.

"I said, 'I'm going to untie the rope,' " Relford told Peters.

"'You better not,' " he said BTK told him. "'I'll blow your... head off.' "

When their mother pleaded with them to stay in the bathroom, the children obeyed. As time passed, however, they grew more frightened, and a sibling broke out the bathroom window in an effort to escape.

But none of them could get out. By the time Relford forced one of the bathroom doors open about 40 minutes later, BTK was gone.

He found his mother on her bed. She was already dead.

She had been stripped of her clothing, bound hand and foot, and had a plastic bag over her head and a cord looped around her neck.

Relford told Peters he tried and failed to untie his mother's hands. Then he ran from the house.

He has never been the same, he told Peters. He has spent time in jail, and life has been "a mess" for him and his two siblings.

"My childhood was taken from me," he said. "I had to grow up very quickly."