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Wichita's Serial Killer Reemerges, and So Does the Fear

The killer spent the longest time in the basement, police believe, hanging Josephine from a pipe and masturbating. B.T.K. did not sexually assault his victims, but in the Otero house and others, police discovered semen, the source of the DNA detectives are trying to match.

It was not long before police had what they called a confession from a young Wichita man, who named two friends as accomplices. Word spread fast, inspiring the true killer to indignation. He placed a letter in an engineering book at the library and called the Wichita Eagle with instructions about where to find it.

The body of one of the four murdered Otero family members is carried from their house in Wichita in 1974. They were killed in the first attack by the unidentified serial killer. (Wichita Eagle Via AP)

"I did it by myself and no ones help," he said in the October 1974 letter, dismissing the suspects as mere attention seekers. He reported details that only the killer could know. For good measure, he included a symbol of authenticity that would mark later missives, including the one mailed to the Eagle this year.

The police were persuaded. The hunt was back on.

By then, B.T.K. had killed his next victim, Kathryn Bright, 21. He was waiting for her when she arrived home. Either then or later, her brother also entered the apartment. The attacker tied up Kevin Bright in a separate room, tried to strangle him, shot him in the head and left him for dead. After B.T.K. left the room, Bright staggered from the apartment and survived, badly wounded and foggy about the details. In a panic, retired police chief Richard LaMunyon said, B.T.K. stabbed Kathryn Bright to death.

For three years, he was not heard from.

On March 17, 1977, B.T.K. herded Shirley Vian's three young children into a bathroom of their house at 1311 S. Hydraulic. As he killed her, the children escaped through a bathroom window. They described a white man about the age of their 26-year-old mother. They said he carried a black bag, but other details remained fuzzy.

The same year, the killer struck again, strangling Nancy Fox, 25, and calling 911 from a pay phone. "You will find a homicide at 843 South Pershing," he said in a tape replayed endlessly on Wichita radio and television stations. Detectives hoped, in vain, that someone would recognize the voice.

Four attacks, seven dead bodies, but no good leads. Police found little that united the cases.

On Jan. 31, 1978, B.T.K. got in touch again. He sent a short poem to the Eagle, where a clerk first assumed it was a Valentine's Day paean. It began, "Shirleylocks, shirleylocks." It was the killer, referring to Shirley Vian.

The police didn't broadcast the note, and the killer became frustrated. He contacted KAKE television.

"How many people do I have to kill before I get my name in the paper or some national attention? How about some name for me, its time: 7 down and many more to go," he wrote. "I like the following. How about you? The B.T.K. STRANGLER, THE WICHITA HANGMAN, THE WICHITA EXECUTIONER, THE GAROTE PHANTOM, THE ASPHYXIATOR."

Number eight got away. On April 28, 1979, the killer waited for Anna Williams, 63, but she was at a square dance and stopped to visit her daughter, not returning home at her usual time. B.T.K. left in a huff. He soon sent a 19-line poem to Williams and KAKE, along with proof that he had been inside her home. He titled his ode, "Oh, Anna, Why Didn't You Appear."

"T'was a perfect plan of deviant pleasure so bold on that Spring nite," it read.

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