A second era's young women now fear BTK

Until three days ago, the letters "BTK" had no significance to any of the four young women who were chatting away during a break Friday at Friends University.

Now that the serial killer who used those initials during a 1970s murder spree has resurfaced — sending a letter to The Wichita Eagle indicating responsibility for an unsolved 1986 murder — each of the young women knows that BTK stands for "bind, torture and kill."

They don't mind admitting that, like many other young women in Wichita, the knowledge makes them anxious.

"I'm concerned. I'm scared," Mary Dix said. "I live at home with my parents, but when I'm walking alone at night, it's kind of scary."

Although the killer's victims ranged from a 38-year-old man to his 11-year-old daughter, half were women in their 20s.

Officials responsible for security on Wichita's college campuses and at some apartment complexes say that they're aware of the anxiety many women in that age group are feeling but that they can only advise caution and warn against overreaction.

"A lot of people are talking...but we haven't had any direct calls regarding BTK from any of the students," said Rich Oliverson of Newman University. "Naturally, we'll continue to do our patrols like we do normally, with a few more patrols."

Wichita State University is on spring break, but Lt. Bruce Johnson of the campus police said they had "heard a lot of talk about it."

There haven't been any calls to the campus police about it, Johnson said, and nothing in BTK's past suggests he would target a college campus.

"The only people who seem to be concerned live off campus," Johnson said. He said he told them the same thing that Wichita police have advised: Just take normal precautions.

"But I'm sure that some locksmiths are getting extra business," Johnson said.

Dix and her friends, Brianna Baty and Laura Brotherton, said BTK's reappearance has caused them to make a few changes in their routines. Dix is planning to buy some Mace, while Baty said she is "checking the closets, and behind every door, and behind the shower curtain."

Each of the women knows that the chance of being a victim is remote, but as Brotherton said, "you still have to be aware."

The teenage college students said they hadn't heard of BTK until the recent media coverage following his letter to The Eagle, even though all had grown up in the city. By now, even newcomers to the town are familiar with the serial killer.

"Right now, we're not doing anything different," said Angela Champion, who works in the office at Riverpark Plaza Apartments. "As far as what the residents are saying, we did have one woman come in (and) ask for extra locks.

"Other than that, we're not doing too much differently. But here in the office we're talking about it. We're all single females."