BTK

Chat rooms awash in BTK theories

As news of BTK's return continues to spread, thousands of people have turned to the Internet to learn and chat about BTK.

Internet users can post messages anonymously. And they have, by the dozens.

One string, titled "BTK Strangler" at www.ezboard.com, has attracted more than 500 postings and 20,000 viewings.

The Web site touts itself as the world's largest message board network with more than 14 million registered users.

It's unclear whether Wichita police are monitoring this site or others. Police spokeswoman Janet Johnson would not comment Tuesday about whether it's part of theinvestigation.

Some users have wondered whether BTK himself is monitoring the site or has left messages.

"I'm sure he's watching," one person wrote.

Some users wrote that they have reported some postings deemed suspicious to Wichita police. Johnson wouldn't say whether such tips are among the hundreds police are continuing to comb through this week.

It's likely they will, though, said Brian Withrow, an assistant professor of criminal justice and director of the Midwest Criminal Justice Center at Wichita State University.

"Eventually, most investigators — if they're doing what they're supposed to do — will investigate every lead possible," he said.

The Internet offers BTK and others a chance to get information out quickly and without filters that are found with other media, Withrow said.

"He's going to use whatever means he has available to get his story out," he said.

Among other things, the Internet activity is an example of people's natural desire to seek out things people find horrific, alarming or shocking, said Brian Donovan, University of Kansas assistant professor of sociology.

Collecting bits of a puzzle can calm people because it makes them feel that they know the whole story, he said.

"If they can unlock a little mystery of that or a part of that, it's soothing," said Donovan, who teaches criminology.

The Eagle's discussion board at www.kansas.com also has attracted dozens of postings about BTK, some which contain theories on why he resurfaced.

"Maybe the 25-year absence is because he was in another city(s) or state(s) doing the same thing. Now he is back here because he was close to getting caught there," one reader wrote.

Similarly, BTK-related postings at ezboard.com, which date back to Oct. 17, 2003, contain theories about him and the case.

Information online may not be truthful, Donovan warned, including what's posted about BTK on message boards, which allow anonymity.

"There's more freedom to let loose, if you will, or spin stories without any fear of consequence," Donovan said.

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