Police on BTK case take DNA

Wichita police apparently have begun collecting DNA samples in their effort to find BTK.

Robert Beattie, the Wichita lawyer who is working on a book about BTK, said police have been conducting what he calls a "swab-a-thon" ever since authorities confirmed March 24 that a letter sent to The Wichita Eagle before had come from the serial killer.

Two individuals not connected with Beattie told The Eagle that they had given DNA samples at the request of police.

The sampling of genetic material could hold the key to solving the eight murders thought to have been committed by BTK. Police collected DNA samples from the BTK crime scenes and now have analysis techniques unavailable when the crimes occurred in the 1970s and 1980s.

A police spokeswoman would neither confirm nor deny that DNA testing was under way. Police are scheduled to give a news briefing on the case this morning.

BTK is the killer's pseudonym, an abbreviation for "bind, torture, kill."

He killed seven people — four women, two children and one man — between January 1974 and December 1977. He was known for taunting police with missives sent to the local media.

In his latest letter to The Eagle, he indicated he had killed Vicki Wegerle, a 28-year-old woman found strangled in her home in 1986. The case was never solved.

One local resident, who asked not to be named, confirmed Thursday that he had been asked to provide a DNA sample.

He said he was approached by plainclothes police officers Tuesday while speaking with a county employee in the lobby area of the Sedgwick County Courthouse.

He said the officers led him out onto Elm Street, where they had a mobile DNA lab set up in the back of an unmarked car.

The officers took swab samples from the inside of his mouth. He said they told him they were performing similar testing on a large group of men, including current and former police officers who have worked on the case.

The man said he had been questioned in the 1970s during the initial BTK investigation. He said the detectives who interviewed him and his girlfriend then didn't ask much about the case. Most of the questions, he said, centered on their sex life.

He said BTK's recent resurfacing clears him. He said that when Wegerle was killed in August 1986, he was in the county jail serving time on assault charges related to a domestic dispute.

"I could have saved (the police) some time, I guess," he said. "I was a guest of the county pretty much throughout '86."

A check of Eagle records from 1986 confirm that the man was incarcerated when Wegerle was killed.

A second man called The Eagle on Wednesday night and said he had also undergone DNA testing by police, who came to his home.

Now 49, he said he thinks he should be a fairly unlikely suspect because he was only 19 when the BTK killings started in 1974. Witness reports pegged BTK's age as mid-20s to early 30s when the killing spree began.

A third person, an acquaintance of Beattie's, left him a phone message Wednesday night saying police had interviewed him, collected a DNA sample and told him he was "number 600."

"The good news is, they're getting lots of swabs," Beattie said. On the other hand, "if they've swabbed 600 men in the last week, that doesn't indicate to me that they've narrowed down any suspects."

Beattie said he himself had volunteered and been tested, although there is no indication police consider him a suspect.

His name was raised later in an Internet chat room as a possible suspect because of his extensive knowledge of the case.

The speculation died down after he disclosed in the chat room that he had undergone the DNA testing.