Police turn quiet on BTK

Confronted by a growing onslaught of local and national media attention, Wichita police officers closed ranks Friday and remained quiet as they continued their search for a serial killer who is thought to have killed eight people from 1974 to 1986.

In a terse statement at a City Hall news conference Friday morning, Lt. Ken Landwehr said police — aided by the FBI and the Kansas Bureau of Investigation — were continuing to ask for the public's help in the BTK case. He said detectives were prioritizing leads from 365 telephone and e-mail messages received since Wednesday night.

And that is all he said. He also refused to take questions on the case and said the next public statement will be Monday at 10 a.m.

But the lack of information has done nothing to quell the interest among the public and the media.

Since The Eagle reported Thursday that police think a letter sent to The Eagle came from BTK and linked him to a previously unsolved 1986 crime, the case has quickly become an international story.

Police will not say why they are convinced the letter came from BTK. The Eagle has agreed not to publish several of the details in the letter that have led police to this conclusion.

The letter, which arrived in The Eagle newsroom on March 19, contained a single sheet of paper with a photocopy of the driver's license of Vicki Wegerle, who was found strangled in her home in 1986. The page also contained copies of three pictures of her body.

The return address said the letter was from "Bill Thomas Killman" — a person who police say does not exist.

Evidence of the media interest was easy to see Friday morning at City Hall.

While Landwehr was giving his news briefing inside the building, dozens of out-of-town reporters and producers were outside preparing stories about the case.

Fox News, MSNBC, CNN and CBS News are among the news outlets that have either sent news crews to Wichita or have run segments on the re-emergence of the serial killer.

With the Police Department not talking, many out-of-town reporters were turning to retired officers who worked on the BTK case years ago.

A CNN news crew visited the newsroom at The Eagle on Friday, and a "Dateline NBC" crew is expected to be in town next week. Newspapers in Miami, Boston, Atlanta, Chicago and New York all carried the BTK story Friday.

A quick search on the Internet for the case shows how wide its coverage has gone. A quote from Landwehr that appeared in The Eagle on Thursday appeared Friday in newspapers in Indiana, Alberta, Australia and Singapore.

The quote said simply, "I'm 100 percent sure it's BTK."