Police say 'no' to 32 national media seeking BTK interviews

With the serial killer BTK back in the news, print and broadcast media from around the country are vying to tell the story.

A spokeswoman for the Wichita Police Department said with obvious exasperation Monday that 32 national news organizations had requested interviews about the case since the serial killer resurfaced last week by sending a letter to The Eagle claiming responsibility for an unsolved 1986 murder. In each case, the spokeswoman said, the media were told, "No, no, no. We're turning them all down."

Lacking access to the police, television news crews and print reporters converging on the city are relying on their colleagues in the local media, interviews with residents and help from an author who had previously been working on a book about the BTK case in relative obscurity.

"Just today, my list of phone calls to return — after yours — includes CNN, two different television movie producers, the Denver Post, Fox News and ABC News," said Robert Beattie, a Wichita lawyer who had been working on a book about BTK before the killer's letter renewed interest in the case.

"I just talked to NBC News and told them I couldn't help them by the time they needed."

Among the media in town Monday was a crew from "NBC Nightly News," with field producer Michelle Hofland pulled off the Kobe Bryant sexual assault case in Colorado to help correspondent Don Teague and two cameramen put together a report.

While visiting The Eagle newsroom to interview editors and look over past articles about the case, she said the BTK story attracted the network's attention because of his reappearance after years of apparent inactivity.

"I can't remember when someone killed, then stopped, then resurfaced," Hofland said. "I think what's happened here is unheard of. It's like a monster who's come back to life."

Fox News' "On the Record With Greta Van Susteren" has also been covering the BTK story. The program has used interviews with Eagle reporter Hurst Laviana, and producer Matt Linter said the city's wholesome image has enhanced national interest in the story.

"It's a fascinating story just as a story alone, but it's also the fact that Wichita could be any city in any state in the country," Linter said. "That's part of the point that makes this story so fascinating, that a man who wreaked such havoc on a small town in the middle of America has resurfaced."

John Rolfe, who works to maintain the city's image as president of the Greater Wichita Convention & Visitors Bureau, said, "Certainly news of this nature is of concern not only to us but to any city that would have this kind of news."

He said he has heard questions about the case from groups planning to visit Wichita, such as the Women's International Bowling Congress, which is holding a tournament here between April 15 and June 6. Rolfe said he has reassured them the city is still safe.

"One of the great draws of Wichita is that it really is a very safe and friendly city," Rolfe said. "One individual doesn't change that."