There is absolutely no doubt that society is fascinated by serial killers. This fascination becomes alarmingly apparent by the number of crime novels and crime movies we churn out to help satisfy our seemingly ravenous appetite for these killers. We’ve even come up with definitions to separate the mass murderers from the spree killers from the serial killers. We wouldn’t want to confuse our mass murderer with our serial killer. And, we’ve even come up with descriptions or profiles to characterize serial killers.
The definition? A serial killer is a person who has a history of multiple slayings over a span of time with a period of “normalcy” (called the cooling off period) in between killings. The phenomenon gained notoriety in the second half of the 20th century with cases such as Jack the Ripper or H.H. Holmes, who has gained the status of being America’s first documented serial killer. Interestingly, the US produces the greatest majority of serial killers, about 85 percent of them.
What then causes a person to become a serial killer? This seems to be a question even the most elite criminal profilers have been contemplating for decades. The FBI studied their behavior in depth, but still can’t identify a serial killer before he begins the killing process. They have even put together a profile on the characteristics of a serial killer, but this by no means, is conclusive.
A serial killer is usually male between the ages of 25-35 years old. Victims are typically strangers and age varies dramatically. One factor, however, is widely recognized in the serial killer personality -- fantasy is key in a serial killer’s world. (See Genesis of a Serial Killer .) A serial killer has a compulsion to kill and uses fantasy as a coping mechanism. It is an addiction and just like with any addiction the killer needs a fix. Therefore, a serial killer will continue to kill until he is stopped. A killer may go years without killing, perhaps because he’s incarcerated, institutionalized, or sick. But eventually that desire or need becomes so great he will find another victim; there’s no question about that. Or is there?
We have one serial killer who seems to be the exception to that particular rule – the BTK serial killer. This guy is stepping out of the norm for serial killer behavior because he stopped killing and, until recently, we haven’t heard a peep out of him since the 70s.
Let’s go back a few years and see what this guy did. Between 1974 and 1977, the BTK killer murdered seven people and then sent letters to a local Wichita, Kansas newspaper boasting about the crime. He even coined his own name: BTK, which stands for Bind, Torture and Kill.
The BTK claimed his first victims on January 15, 1974. Four members of the Otero family – Joseph (38), Julie (34), Josephine (11), and Joseph II (9) – were found strangled with venetian blind cord at 803 N. Edgemoore in Wichita, Kansas. The telephone line had been cut and semen was found at the scene. The nine-year-old was found with a hood over his head and the 11-year-old was found nude except for a sweatshirt and socks, hanging from a rope in their basement. Joseph Otero’s watch was missing from the crime scene and their car, a 1966 beige Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser station wagon, was driven to Dillions store parking lot at Oliver and Central.
Mr. Otero, a retired air force officer, was born in New York. The family had just moved to Wichita and Mr. Otero was employed as a mechanic and flight instructor at an airport while Mrs. Otero worked on the assembly line at Coleman.
The attack was apparently planned because the cord used to bind the victims was brought to the crime scene. And, he must have identified with the boy or felt some remorse toward him because he had placed a hood over the boy's head. The BTK couldn’t face this child as he killed him. Perhaps he didn’t want the boy’s dead eyes staring at him.
On April 4, 1974, Kathryn Bright arrived at her apartment along with her brother, Kevin. The BTK killer was waiting in a back room, but apparently didn’t expect Kevin to be with Kathryn. The two were tied up. BTK then attempted to tie a cord around Kevin’s neck, but Kevin fought back and was subsequently shot twice with a .22 caliber gun. Kathryn, tied up in another room, was stabbed three times and died later. Kevin pretended to be dead, but did survive the attack. He later described the BTK killer as a white male about 25 wearing an orange shirt and black stocking cap.
The attack took place about 2:00 p.m. at 3217 E. 13th St. in Wichita. There was no semen found at the scene, but then again, the BTK was probably not expecting Kathryn to have company that day. The BTK killer has never acknowledged killing Kathryn Bright, but authorities attributed her death to him because of similarities to the Otero murders. She was bound with a certain kind of knot, undressed similar to Josephine Otero, and the telephone cord had been cut (Detnews.com, 4/24/04). Another interesting parallel between the Bright and the Otero attacks is that both Kathryn and Mrs. Otero worked on the same assembly line at Coleman.
After these brutal murders the BTK sent a note. In October 1974, he phoned Don Granger, an editorial board member at The Eagle, a local Wichita paper, and told him where to find the note.
Listen and listen good, I’m only gonna say this once. He told Granger the note could be found in a book at the public library and it was found in a book on mechanical engineering. The note itself was typed, single spaced and contained a long, detailed description about the crime including how he left the victims. He was smart about forensics though because he copied the note so many times it was untraceable. Regarding Mr. Otero’s watch, I needed one so I took it, he wrote. Runs good.
The reason he sent the letter was because a patient in a psychiatric hospital had confessed to the Otero murders and BTK couldn’t have that.
I write this letter to you for the sake of the tax payer as well as your time. Those three dude you have in custody are just talking to get publicity of the Otero murders. They know nothing at all. I did it by myself and with no ones help. There has been no talk either. Let's put this straight.
(Missing section – description of murders)
I'm sorry this happen to the society. They are the ones who suffer the most. It hard to control myself. YOu probably call me 'psychotic with sexual perversion hang-up.' When this monster enter my brain I will never know. But, it here to stay. How does one cure himself? If you ask for help, that you have killed four people they will laugh or hit the panic button and call the cops.
I can't stop it so, the monster goes on, and hurt me as well as society. Society can be thankfull that there are ways for people like me to relieve myself at time by day dreams of some victim being torture and being mine. It a big compicated game my friend of the monster play putting victims number down, follow them, checking up on them waiting in the dark, waiting, waiting... the pressure is great and sometimes he run the game to his liking. Maybe you can stop him. I can't. He has areadly chosen his next victim or victims. I don't know, but it to late. Good luck hunting.
"YOURS TRULY GUILILY"
P.S. Since sex criminals do not change their M.O. or by nature cannot do so, I will not change mine. The code words for me will be... Bind them, toture them, kill them, B.T.K., you see he at it again. They will be on the next victim.
On October 24 the police ran a classified ad in the Wichita Eagle: BTK Help is available. Call 684-6321 before 10 p.m. and on October 31 Granger wrote a column that invited BTK to call the number. He never did.