On March 17, 1977, the BTK struck again. Shirley Vian, age 24, was found dead at her home at 1311 S. Hydrualic in Wichita. The BTK had knocked at her door and gained entry with a gun. Her children had been locked in the closet and after freeing themselves called police. She was found partially dressed on her bed with a plastic bag over her head. The characteristic cord was wrapped around her neck, hands and feet. Semen was found at the crime scene.
Then, on December 9, 1977, the partially nude body of Nancy Fox, 25, was found at her home at 843 S. Pershing. Her telephone cord was cut and the BTK had gained entry through a broken back window. Once again, semen was found at the scene and she was strangled with nylon stockings.
This time the BTK called in the homicide. At 8:30 a.m. on December 9th, the BTK killer called a Wichita police dispatcher from a pay phone at Central and St. Francis: Yes. You will find a homicide at 843 South Pershing. Nancy Fox.
The dispatcher tried to reconfirm what she heard and the caller replied, Yes, that's correct. The phone was found off the hook.
Still thirsting for attention and wanting to continue boasting about his accomplishments, a poem is sent to The Wichita Eagle-Beacon on January 31, 1978. The poem refers to Shirley Vian and is modeled after the Curley Locks nursery rhyme:
Curley Locks, Curley Locks,
Wilt thou be mine?
thou shalt not wash dishes,
Nor yet feed the swine,
But sit on a cushion
And sew a fine seam,
And feed upon strawberries,
Sugar and cream
It was written on a single 3 by 5 index card: Shirley Locks, Shirley Locks, Wilt thou be mine? it began.
Someone at the station mistook the envelope for a Valentine and it was forwarded to the classified ads department. The BTK killer must have been furious that this poem received no attention because a two-page, single spaced letter arrived on February 10 to KAKE-TV from the killer. How many people do I have to kill before I get my name in the paper or some national attention? he asked. In addition, he wrote that he planned to kill again.
Then, he sent another poem, this time patterned after Oh Death, a poem in a folklore textbook used at Wichita State University. This poem, Oh Death to Nancy was also accompanied by a letter explicitly detailing the brutal slayings of both Vian and Fox. He said in this letter, I find the newspaper not writing about the poem on Vian unamusing. A little paragraph would have enough. I know it not the news media fault. The Police Chief he keep things quiet….
His final communication, until recently, was a note sent to a woman on June 15, 1979 telling her he had been there waiting for her.
Interesting similiarities between the killings include the signature cutting of the telephone phone line and binding of his victims. The crimes took place within a three and one-half mile radius of each other, two of the victims were employed at the same business, and the months in which the murders occurred -- January, March, April, September, and December -- correspond to school being in session. No murders took place during the summer months. Could this imply someone whose employment depended on weather or a student, a teacher?
Police have released parts of the letters over time. The letters state that he was compelled to kill by a “factor-X.” In an earlier letter he talks about the monster that controls him. He doesn’t cast himself as evil, but portrays himself as a victim, claiming there are forces beyond his control that force him to commit these brutal acts. It’s not his fault, but the fault of the monster. The letters, themselves, are littered with typos and grammatical errors, are long and rambling. His sentence structure resembles someone who uses English as a second language. However, given that BTK is calculating and meticulous in his kills, it would be highly probable that his communications are littered with errors done with the purposeful intent to distract.
In another letter, written to KAKE in 1978, he writes:
You don't understand these things because your not under the influence of factor x. The same thing that made Son of Sam, Jack The Ripper, Havery Glatman, Boston Strangler, Dr. H.H. Holmes Panty Hose Strangler of Florida, Hillside Strangler, Ted of The West Coast and many more infamous character kill. . . It seems senseless but we cannot help it, There is no help, no cure, except death or being caught and put away. . .
P.S. How about some name for me, its time: 7 down and many more to go. I like the following. How about you? 'THE B.T.K STRANGLER, 'WICHITA STRANGLER', 'POETIC STRANGLER', 'THE BONDAGE STRANGER' OR 'PSYCHO', 'THE WICHITA HANGMAN', THE WICHITA EXECUTIONER, 'THE GAROTE PHATHOM', 'THE ASPHYXIATER'. You don't understand these things because your not under the influence of factor x. The same thing that made Son of Sam, Jack The Ripper, Havery Glatman, Boston Strangler, Dr. H.H. Holmes Panty Hose Strangler of Florida, Hillside Strangler, Ted of The West Coast and many more infamous character kill. . . It seems senseless but we cannot help it, There is no help, no cure, except death or being caught and put away. . .
He compares himself to other serial killers, many who also enjoyed binding and torturing their victims. Even the names he chose to be called reflect his passion for bondage and ligatures. Interestingly, he has termed his desire to kill, “factor x,” which in medical terms is a “disorder that causes abnormal blood clotting (coagulation), resulting from a shortage of a plasma protein called factor X” (http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000553.htm)
In addition, in the Vian letter, he writes:
They were very lucky; a phone call save them. I was going to tape the boys and put platics bag over there head like I did Joseph, and Shirley. And then hang the girl. God-oh God what a beautiful sexual relief this would been. . .
Sexual sadism is inflicting punishment to achieve sexual arousal or gratification. Certainly, by evidence left at the crime scene, it is apparent that BTK is a sexual sadist. He enjoyed asphyxiation, both bagging his victims and using a ligature. Perhaps BTK has characteristics similar to Gerard John Schaefer, a one-time Florida police officer suspected in twenty-nine murders, who was also known as the Sex Beast. When Schaefer couldn’t find a victim, he played the victim role himself and took photos.
People who are sexually inhibited may become obsessed with a certain simulus and this, in turn, becomes a compulsive perversion. Did BTK enjoy autoerotic asphyxia as a teen? Perhaps he started by practicing autoerotic asphyxiation, a dangerous sexual fetish. Over time he needed additional stimulation to feel the same effects. His fantasies play heavily into the killing process and he uses fantasy as fuel for his sexual perversion. To BTK, it’s the victim’s suffering, not the pain he inflicts, that is most crucial to him as he feels there is no greater power over an individual than by inflicting pain.
With his recent letter of March 17, 2004, again boasting about a kill and again attempting to regain control of a city that had almost forgotten him, he claims responsibility for the murder of Vicki Wegerle. He sent a copy of her driver’s license (his trophy), and pictures, which were taken during her murder. This shows that this killer preserved his killings – choreographed them and then froze them in time so that he could relive the feeling over and over. The letter was marked with his secret signature.
The semen left at the crime scene indicates there is sexual motivation to these crimes. Binding his victims is a way he can gain and exert power over them. In one letter he says, 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... He is explaining that he does pick his victims ahead of time – he writes down their address, stalks them and watches them for some period of time before going on to the actual kill. This is part of the thrill for him – the fantasy period before he acts. He brings to the crime scene venetian blind cord – binding – and this is very important to him as he can feel the ultimate power, the ultimate control when he has bound a victim. He finally has control and power.
And, this control is something he attempts to capture or retain in the letters and poems he sent, including his recent letter. Look at the control he has regained over an entire city just by sending one letter. In some of his earlier letters he sent gruesome drawings of victims – again, exerting his silent control over the people that would view those letters and continuing to taunt the police, who have never been able to capture him.
In an article by Tom Guillen, “Serial Killer Communiques: Helpful or Hurtful,” he states: The communiqués also hampered the investigation because many of them were sent to the news media, which added pressure for police to solve the case. In the communiqués the killer painted police as inept since they could not catch him. (Guillen, Serial Killer Communiques: Helpful or Hurtful, Seattle University)
We now know that he did photograph his victims, something many have speculated on over the years. With his trophies and his photographs, he has been able to keep the fantasies of the kills alive in his mind. We also know through his earlier correspondence that he would typically announce any future kills and this was not alluded to in the most recent letter.
So, why did he, after all this time, resurface? After all, it’s been years. The cases are “cold” and by anyone’s standards he’s got away with the seven murders he claimed. Is his extraordinarily long “cooling off” period over? Was he just released from prison or a mental institution? Did something traumatic recently happen in his life to trigger this letter, perhaps the death of a loved one? Did someone try to take responsibility for one of his crimes? Is he in a position where he can’t commit a murder anymore (remember, he’s in his 60s now) but still needs the attention? Maybe he hasn’t stopped -- just changed his modus operandi and location.
John Douglas, a retired FBI profiler, commented in his book, Obsession, that he felt there was a good possibility the BTK killer had been interviewed by law enforcement at some point in the investigation, and he simply got scared and stopped. Investigators feel he came back after a news article ran in January marking the 30th anniversary of the Otero killings. In the article, a lawyer, Robert Beattie, who is also writing a book about the BTK, said: “I don’t think we’ll be contacted by the BTK again.”
And, just as most high profile cases attract an internet following, this case is no exception. A board that was started on the BTK killer, www.Kansas.com, has attracted attention since Wichita authorities have subpoenaed posts from six of the board’s members. One of the members, RonB1, feels he knows a criminal mind, BTK’s way of thinking, since Ron spent some time leading a criminal life himself. Now, a stay at home dad, Ron started following this case about a month ago. In his various postings on this message board he has detailed his opinion about the BTK killer. In one thread, entitled, “Dear BTK, from RonB1,” he writes to the killer:
Apr-23 5:22 pm
976.1 Dear BTK,
The last letter I wrote to you was an attempt to draw you out and talk. Needless to say, you were much too smart. I am going to speak bluntly with no deception in the slightest. I realize I am one of your least favorite people right now, but I want to talk to you , criminal to criminal, O.K? This newly created obsession with catching you was generated by your own greed and nothing else. You and I both know why you returned and it is not to kill again. We both know you could have faded into oblivion free of pursuit and capture but YOU chose otherwise. You can play this game of cat and mouse for a little longer and wait to be apprehended or you can take the high road. Let me explain, please. You are now faced with two choices on how this will end: jail or death, and you know this. These bleak choices are the result of your resurfacing. Of the two, only one permits you to see tomorrow. The police are not as dumb or incompetent as people believe and are much closer than you know. I have not spoken to the WPD as of yet, but, If I did or do, I cannot reveal that to anyone, so take it for what its worth.
You, BTK, can control the final outcome and preserve your legacy forever. Take care of what personal business you may have left and turn yourself in. Sound crazy? Please listen. If you give yourself up, you accomplish quite a bit. You will not have to wonder when or how you'll be snagged. You can stop guessing who will trip you up or betray you. You can forever lay claim that no one, department or task force could identify or catch you. You will receive the notoriety and attention that is important to you. But the best part is this: your final act to the fine people of Kansas will be dignified and on your terms. You don't even have to express guilt or remorse. Just turning yourself in and ending this madness is enough to hold your head high with dignity. You have been in control this entire time and I see no reason why it can't end with you in firm control. You can wait for death or capture but those days will be filled with anxiety, anonymity and lonliness. This will never fade away like before and you need only to look in a mirror to see why. You can continue to lead a hollow, fearful and anonymous life or you can call your own shots, be recognized forever and stop running. The final chapter is to be written only by you. What will YOU do. RonB (Quoted with permission of the author.)
I wonder who’s getting the attention now? Since the news media announced that the “suspicious six” are under police scrutiny, more attention has been directed toward why they are being scrutinized rather than the BTK. Perhaps this will spur another letter by the BTK since he’s not the focus of attention – perhaps this latest ploy by the police will draw out the BTK one more time to write another letter or better yet post on the board.
However, in lieu of that, BTK, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org – play Misty For Me.
A timeline for BTK is located here.