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BTK Strangler serial killer resurfaces after 25 years
Wichita Eagle ^ | Mar. 25, 2004 | Hurst Laviana

Posted on 03/25/2004 8:50:41 PM PST by rogueleader

A serial killer who terrorized Wichita during the 1970s by committing a series of seven murders has claimed responsibility for an eighth slaying and is probably now living in Wichita, police said Wednesday.

A letter The Wichita Eagle received Friday suggests that the BTK strangler was responsible for the Sept. 16, 1986, strangulation death of Vicki Wegerle, who was found dead in her home at 2404 W. 13th St. The crime was never solved.

The letter contained a single sheet of paper with a photocopy of Wegerle's driver's license and three pictures that apparently were taken of her body. Each picture shows the victim in a slightly different pose and with her clothing arranged in a slightly different manner.

The letter was postmarked from Wichita on March 17.

The victim's relatives said Wednesday that the driver's license was the only thing they know of that was missing from the home.

Police said there were no crime scene photographs of Wegerle's body because it was removed by EMS workers before police arrived. At that time, police said, EMS policy was to transport injured people to the hospital as quickly as possible even if there was no pulse.

"The photographs appear to be authentic," said Lt. Ken Landwehr, who has been working on the BTK case for 20 years. "I'm 100 percent sure it's BTK. There's no doubt that that's Vicki Wegerle's picture."

Landwehr said the letter contained no suggestion that the killer planned to strike again, and he asked residents to take normal safety precautions.

Landwehr said the letter is being processed for fingerprints and DNA evidence at the Sedgwick County Forensic Science Center.

He said evidence from the Wegerle homicide also has been sent to the forensic center and is being processed using technology that was not available in 1986. He said detectives planned to run any evidence they find through national fingerprint and DNA databases.

Landwehr said detectives also would be studying other unsolved homicides to see whether there may be more BTK victims.

Detectives also are looking through lists of prison inmates who have recently been released to make sure that BTK's silence wasn't caused by his incarceration.

"We're going to work it as a strong cold case," he said. "This is going to be homicide's top-priority case."

The return address on the letter said it was from Bill Thomas Killman -- initials BTK -- with the address in the 1600 block of Oldmanor.

"There has never been a Bill Thomas Killman," Landwehr said.

There is no Oldmanor street in Wichita, although there is an Old Manor. An apartment at that address on Old Manor, which is in a group of brick four-plexes, is vacant, Landwehr said. He said he did not know whether the address had any significance.

Although BTK cut the phone lines of most of his victims, the lines at Wegerle's home were not damaged, Landwehr said.

Landwehr said detectives are setting up hotlines that will allow the public to relay information anonymously by telephone, through the mail or by e-mail.

"This is most challenging case I've ever worked on, and the individual would be very interesting to talk to," Landwehr said.

Norma Wegerle, who was Vicki Wegerle's sister-in-law, said her family was hopeful after hearing of the development in the case. She said relatives had often wondered whether BTK could have been involved.

But Norma Wegerle said she also was saddened by the reopening of old wounds.

"We just want it to be solved so we can get closure," she said. "There's hopefulness that somebody might actually be found. We want it to be solved."

Wichita lawyer Robert Beattie, who is working on a book about the BTK killings, said most people he has talked with thought the killings stopped because BTK was dead or in prison.

"The vast majority of police officers thought he was dead," he said. "I thought he was probably dead.

"But now you have to allow for the possibility that he's been walking around Wichita, getting his hair cut and acting like a normal person."

Beattie and Landwehr said they had no idea why the killer would contact the paper after remaining silent for nearly 25 years.

"Maybe he wants more publicity than the guy who's writing the book," Beattie said.


TOPICS: Crime/Corruption; US: Kansas
KEYWORDS: anngotlib; annharmeier; artichoke; btk; donutwatch; i70stargazer; jillbehrman; kn; policecorruption; serialkiller; sk; theartichoke; wichita
Wichita Eagle special coverage

history of case

killer flaunts crimes

Let's nail this guy now!

1 posted on 03/25/2004 8:50:42 PM PST by rogueleader
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To: rogueleader
May I suggest they check prison records for persons who were incarcerated over this same period of time.

The killer may have been put away for another crime (though 25 years sounds like a "life" sentence) and has just now returned to the outside world.

2 posted on 03/25/2004 10:27:04 PM PST by BenLurkin (Socialism is slavery.)
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To: BenLurkin
That's an excellent idea.
3 posted on 03/25/2004 10:59:25 PM PST by rogueleader
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To: BenLurkin
Beattie and Landwehr said they had no idea why the killer would contact the paper after remaining silent for nearly 25 years. The killer may have been put away for another crime (though 25 years sounds like a "life" sentence) and has just now returned to the outside world.

Or he's been living around Columbus, Ohio, and has just now returned to his old boyhood home. Ah, nostalgia.

LAUREL to the Columbus, Ohio, Dispatch and reporter Michael Berens, for seeing the forest and the trees. Using the computerized databases of local newspapers. Berens studied reports on the deaths of nine women whose bodies had been found along interstate highways in Ohio, Illinois, Pennsylvania, and New York between 1985 and 1990. The comparative analysis -- which for bureaucratic reasons no law enforcement agency at any level had managed to do -- revealed such unmistakable similarities that, within days of his page one March 10 piece, an investigative task force was at work in Ohio, the FBI was on the scene, and other links to other murders in other states began to emerge. By May 4, evidence was pointing to a single suspect in Florida in at least three of the serial killings.


4 posted on 03/25/2004 11:21:43 PM PST by archy (Concrete shoes, cyanide, TNT! Done dirt cheap! Neckties, contracts, high voltage...Done dirt cheap!)
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To: archy
If these crimes are all tied in, it's possible the killer was in prison for a period of time and began killing once he was released. It is however a complete certainty that he did not stop killing. Prison or death are the only things that stop these types of killers.

Seems to me the police should be looking at people who's jobs take them out of the area on a frequent basis. Salesmen, truck drivers etc. If other murders are established to have the same MO as this one in various localities, it makes sense to look at time frames the crimes took place then match them up to possible seasonal trucking out of the Wichita area. Ohio, Illinois, Pennsylvania, and New York sounds like a trucking pattern to me and Florida fits right in if the killer hauls produce.

Secondly, if DNA can be extracted from crime scenes around the country that match the MO of this particular crime, maybe the police in those jurisdictions have information in their cold case files that can be useful. When various police departments put their investigational material together similarities come up that can establish possible suspects. It's amazing how many departments are only missing one piece of a puzzle to make a connection.

On bit of information in the report is the killer dismantling the phones of his victims. Obviously he also took the drivers license of one of his victims along with photo's of his handiwork (obvious souvenirs). It would be interesting to see how many murders can be found where this same type of MO exists. Along with other similarities such as entrances into the crime scene, any specific injuries or positioning of bodies/items at the crime scenes.

Serial killers make mistakes, sometimes the smallest mistake takes years to figure out for law enforcement. Let's hope his letter to the paper was the final mistake that allows his capture. Not only to save another persons life, but to give the families of previous victims the closure they deserve.
5 posted on 03/26/2004 12:07:24 AM PST by Brytani (Politics: n. from Greek; "poli"-many; "tics"-ugly, bloodsucking parasites.)
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To: rogueleader
"BTK Strangler"

Is that the new sandwich from Burger King? Or am I thinking of something else?

6 posted on 03/26/2004 8:35:02 AM PST by robertpaulsen
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To: Brytani
"On bit of information in the report is the killer dismantling the phones of his victims. Obviously he also took the drivers license of one of his victims along with photo's of his handiwork (obvious souvenirs). "

If I remember correctly, he did this at another murder back in the 70's. He also called one of the radio or TV stations one time and basically announced where a body could be found. It was thought back then that the photos and the phone call were more of a way to taunt the investigators and implying that they could not catch him. I hope they prove him wrong.
7 posted on 03/27/2004 5:06:22 PM PST by mjaneangels@aolcom
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To: mjaneangels@aolcom
Seems to me there are three distinct classes of serial killers. First are the ones driven by their desires to kill, for what ever reason exists, then covers their crimes knowing if caught they can not fulfill their sickest desires. (Ted Bundy, Gary Ridgeway come to mind)

Secondly are the serial killers who are mentally disturbed but by sheer luck and basic survival skills are able to allude the police for periods of time. David Berkowitz is a perfect example of this.

The third is the type that enjoys the chase and taunt of their crimes. The Zodiac killer was famous for writing the police and the press giving bits of information, threats and clues to his identity. He enjoyed the fact that the police had not caught him and he was "free" to kill. Jack the Ripper did the same, long ago. This killer seems to fall into the same fold. The publicity, the ability to fool the police is the last part of their crime. A part that needs to exist to receive the total satisfaction they receive from their murders.

Hopefully, this letter combined with other evidence I'm sure the police have but will not release will lead to his capture.
8 posted on 03/27/2004 10:15:17 PM PST by Brytani (Politics: n. from Greek; "poli"-many; "tics"-ugly, bloodsucking parasites.)
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To: BenLurkin
We may be looking for some character within 150 miles of Wichita area. A point to note...he kept in his possessions...these personal items from the victums. This would be unusual for a guy in prison. Usually, you talk a relative into holding your important stuff and then hope they would hold it for 25 odd years. To have been in prison for 25 years, he had some other major arrest record, which would have been hard for him to arrange his personal affects and ensure they were kept. And to return to Kansas? Why? He has unfinished business. This guy is probably in his 50s and still quiet capable of carrying on his work.
9 posted on 03/27/2004 10:25:13 PM PST by pepsionice
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To: Brytani
I agree with your impressions about 3 types of serial killers, and I also hope that this latest letter will be BTK's undoing.

Thanks for replying.
10 posted on 03/27/2004 11:47:29 PM PST by mjaneangels@aolcom
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To: rogueleader
Note to lurkers/posters:
John Douglas, former FBI profiler, has talked a bit about his involvement in
the BTK case a few times during the past couple of months on his "Mind Hunter" radio show.
He spent the last hour of his show tonight excitedly discussing the latest
developments in Wichita.

Douglas seems to think this new letter means there is renewed hope for identifying and
capturing BTK. And that given the DNA technology advances, DNA proof might be possible
on an identified suspect once taken into custody.

What gets me is that I grew up about 100 miles south of Wichita, but never heard of the
BTK serial killer case until I stumbled across it at the "crimelibrary" website a few
years ago. But I do faintly remember hearing of the first murder site in the BTK saga...
when Douglas described the murder of the Oteros (husband, wife, son and daughter),
I faintly remember hearing of it at the time (I was still a kid then), but never heard
of the cases connection to a serial killer.
Douglas has a website at the following URL; link to his Saturday evening radio show
is linked on the page:
http://www.johndouglasmindhunter.com/home.php
11 posted on 03/28/2004 12:13:36 AM PST by VOA
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To: mjaneangels@aolcom
He also called one of the radio or TV stations one time and basically announced
where a body could be found.


I think that was actually a call to either the police or 911. Former FBI profiler
mentinoed it while discussing the BTK cases on his radio show tonight.
IIRC, Douglas said that it was great that they were able to get a recording given
the short time of the call...but at the same time the audio quality of the recording
may not be all that helpful.

Fascinating case, isn't it. I grew up in Ponca City...just 100 miles away and
all I ever heard about BTK was just recollecting hearing about the initial
murders of the Otero family...before the conept of the BTK arrived on the scene.
A few months ago, I saw an article by some lawyer (professor?) in Wichita who
said that when he'd talked about the case in his classes (in Wichita!), very few>
of the students had ever heard of the case.
12 posted on 03/28/2004 12:19:55 AM PST by VOA
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To: VOA
I think that was actually a call to either the police or 911. Former FBI profiler
mentinoed it while discussing the BTK cases on his radio show tonight.
IIRC, Douglas said that it was great that they were able to get a recording given
the short time of the call...but at the same time the audio quality of the recording
may not be all that helpful.

Fascinating case, isn't it. I grew up in Ponca City...just 100 miles away and
all I ever heard about BTK was just recollecting hearing about the initial
murders of the Otero family...before the conept of the BTK arrived on the scene.
A few months ago, I saw an article by some lawyer (professor?) in Wichita who
said that when he'd talked about the case in his classes (in Wichita!), very few>
of the students had ever heard of the case."

First of all, you may be correct that the phone call was made to police. It has been a long time and I was not the most up-to-date person on this even though I am a Wichita native.

I am not entirely surprised that many college students today in Wichita have not heard of this case. The first murder was 30 years ago and the last known one before this new letter came out was in 1978 or 1979.

I tell you what is a little unnerving. I moved into an apartment in 1980 and 3 years later someone told me that Nancy Fox had lived next door. She was one of the victims.

13 posted on 03/28/2004 4:50:15 PM PST by mjaneangels@aolcom
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To: rogueleader
Do you have anything new on this story?

Is America's Most Wanted going to do a report on this?
14 posted on 03/29/2004 6:55:00 PM PST by Palladin (Proud to be a FReeper!)
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To: Palladin
http://www.kansas.com/mld/kansas/8294875.htm

If you want to post that to the front page, please be my guest.

One other thought. He sent the letter with a return address of "Bill Thomas Killman." As there is no such person, and "Killman" is obviously a little too convenient, it appears that the BTK strangler is very clever. BTK is an abbreviation, but for what?

May I suggest that BTK's initials might be B-T-K? How many B.T.K.'s have there been released from prison or mental hospitals lately? There can't be that many even if you look at the whole country.
15 posted on 03/29/2004 9:29:39 PM PST by rogueleader
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To: rogueleader
How many B.T.K.'s have there been released from prison or mental hospitals lately?
There can't be that many even if you look at the whole country.


Additionally, they should look into recent retirees from law enforcement agencies
(or affilitated professions).
John Douglas, the famed FBI profiler, has mentioned that BTK's correspondences
read like incident/crime-scene reports that a police officer would make.

(Not saying BTK is/was a cop...but might be close to the law/legal professions.)
16 posted on 03/30/2004 10:05:48 AM PST by VOA
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To: rogueleader
BTK is an abbreviation, but for what?

Bind, torture, kill. This freak gave himself the name in his first note to cops. IIRC, it was hidden in a textbook in a library; a newspaper editor caught the squeal and recovered the letter.

As for John Douglas being excited about this case: Wish he would have been as pumped when he dismissed a letter from the Green River Killer as bogus. Turns out Ridgeway wrote it.

17 posted on 03/30/2004 10:10:34 AM PST by rond
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To: rond; VOA
Great idea, VOA

BTK is an abbreviation, but for what?

"Bind, torture, kill"

Thanks. Memory failure. But BTK could also be the initials of his name.

18 posted on 03/30/2004 10:38:20 AM PST by rogueleader
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To: rogueleader
Thanks for the link. The article gives a pretty good profile.

What I want to know is why the Wichita cops have never released his writings to the public? That's how Kascinsky was caught. Someone somewhere would surely recognize the writing style, etc., of BTK if all his known writings were published. Wichita is missing the boat on this.

From article:

He sent messages years ago, complaining that California's "Zodiac Killer" seemed to be getting more publicity than BTK, McKenna said.

In the note he sent the community after the Otero murders, BTK wrote a detailed description of the crime scene, noting that Mr. Otero's wristwatch was missing: "I needed one so I took it," he wrote. "Runs good."

In his Otero note, he tends to be short of sentence, but long-winded. Like people in everyday life who equate braininess with overwriting, he buries his readers in detail. The Otero note goes on and on.

But it also shows a careful observer: minute description beyond the desire or memory of most people. He might even have taken notes over the bodies. He painstakingly describes body positions, items and colors of clothing, types of ropes and gags and cords and hoods employed for each victim.

He made spelling errors, typing mistakes and worded sentences awkwardly , but might be faking those.

"It was almost like English wasn't his first language," said Ken Stephens, a former Eagle reporter who covered BTK for years. "But I suspect nearly every clue he's ever given involves misdirection

*******
19 posted on 03/30/2004 6:31:47 PM PST by Palladin (Proud to be a FReeper!)
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To: VOA
You can go here to listen to the 911 call by BTK:

http://members.cox.net/~tessg/BTK.mp3
20 posted on 03/30/2004 6:34:41 PM PST by Palladin (Proud to be a FReeper!)
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To: Palladin
Hmm. American, midwestern accent.

But he pronounced "homicide"

HOME ih side

That's not the common midwestern pronunciation.

Is that a motorcycle in the background or is it just noise? Maybe he called from a pay phone.
21 posted on 03/30/2004 7:13:32 PM PST by rogueleader
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To: Brytani
"There's 50 things that can go wrong when you commit a crime. You're a genius if you think of 25 of them. And you ain't no genius." (the arsonist in "Body Heat")
22 posted on 03/30/2004 7:21:29 PM PST by 185JHP ( "And the pure in heart shall see god.")
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To: rogueleader
It was reported that he called from a phone booth. So that was traffic noise.

I did notice the odd pronunciation of homicide. Maybe English is his second language, as some detectives thought, from the letters.
23 posted on 03/30/2004 7:22:23 PM PST by Palladin (Proud to be a FReeper!)
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To: mjaneangels@aolcom
Wow. I lived on Crestway street in the same hundred block which is only 2 blocks over from where Nancy Fox was killed. Never realized it then. I lived in an apartment house (duplex) with the same floor plan as the one you (and victim Nancy Fox) lived in. Small World.
24 posted on 03/30/2004 10:26:35 PM PST by lmr (John Kerry, Favorite of World Leaders: Castro, Arafat, Kim Jong IL,Chavez and Bin Laden)
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To: rogueleader
He did call from a payphone. Police found the receiver still hanging when they got there.
25 posted on 03/30/2004 10:30:55 PM PST by lmr (John Kerry, Favorite of World Leaders: Castro, Arafat, Kim Jong IL,Chavez and Bin Laden)
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To: rogueleader
BTK is an abbreviation for "Bind-Torture-Kill", he gave this name to himself in his letters and communiques with Police. as he said "Bind Them, Torture Them, Kill Them"
26 posted on 03/30/2004 10:34:01 PM PST by lmr (John Kerry, Favorite of World Leaders: Castro, Arafat, Kim Jong IL,Chavez and Bin Laden)
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To: 185JHP
Let's hope the investigators working on this case have a stroke of genius before this guy kills again.
27 posted on 03/30/2004 10:42:54 PM PST by Brytani (Politics: n. from Greek; "poli"-many; "tics"-ugly, bloodsucking parasites.)
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To: Brytani
I did a search on the Kansas sex offender registry for everyone whose last name begins with "K".

There are no sex offenders currently registered with the State of Kansas who have the initials B.T.K.

Of course, sex offenders include only a small slice of the total incarcerated population.

I would search the entire Kansas offenders database for all offenders with the initials B.T.K. Then I would strike from the list anyone not old enough to have carried out the murders.

Then, I would match up who out of that remaining list served time during periods where BTK murders were not committed.

If anyone fits all of these descriptions, I would be very interested in pursuing that person as a suspect.
28 posted on 03/31/2004 12:29:29 PM PST by rogueleader
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To: rogueleader
I did a search on the Kansas sex offender registry for everyone whose last name begins with "K".

Given the world of computers, it might pay for investigators to hit the
sex-offender registries of adjacent states, especially Oklahoma as Wichita is only
about 50 miles from the Oklahoma-Kansas line. The low population density and
nice Interstate highways in fly-over country could let a nasty person like the BTK
easily do a "drive-by" killing in Wichita while living at a fair distance (like 100+ miles).

PS: The investigators shouldn't bother with the California sex-offenders registry...
the law-enforcement officials are allowed to be less-than-helpful when granting access...
and they've lost track of about 30% of the folks on the registry!
29 posted on 03/31/2004 1:47:23 PM PST by VOA
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To: rogueleader
I doubt this guy was in prison for an extended period of time. As another freeper brought up on this thread, what did he do with his souvenirs while incarcerated? It's obvious he's had them for at least twenty years considering he sent pictures and a drivers license of a victim.

Maybe that theory will be proven wrong, I just doubt someone would hold papers of someone for that long for someone in prison, then given them back to the guy, hear about this development and say nothing to the police.

I might be proven wrong though...it's been known to happen!!!
30 posted on 03/31/2004 9:30:49 PM PST by Brytani (Politics: n. from Greek; "poli"-many; "tics"-ugly, bloodsucking parasites.)
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To: Brytani
As another freeper brought up on this thread, what did he do with his souvenirs while incarcerated?

I'm not challenging that proposition...and I don't know that much about current
bank vault management...
but, in the past, folks have let items languish for decades in bank vault "lock-boxes".

I don't know if the banks ever (or are allowed legally/contractually) to
look through the lock-boxes...
but it might be that BTK left those momentos in a bank box and just made sure that
the fees were paid on time. Even if BTK was in jail for an extended vacation.

Besides, in the wide, mostly-empty expanses of fly-over country, material like
that could be hidden in an out-of-the-way place for a LONG time.
31 posted on 04/01/2004 1:18:56 PM PST by VOA
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To: VOA
Possible if he had the resources and ability to put the items into a bank vault, pay the fee's upfront.

Most prisons look at inmates outgoing mail, aside to that sent to their legal council. You'd think a monthly payment (quartely etc) would raise suspicion on a convict and someone at a prison would have forwarded this information to the police.

Who knows, maybe when this guy is caught these questions, and the many others we all have will be answered.
32 posted on 04/01/2004 11:01:48 PM PST by Brytani (Politics: n. from Greek; "poli"-many; "tics"-ugly, bloodsucking parasites.)
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To: Palladin
America's Most Wanted is indeed profiling the BTK killer. The show was just taped last week (on April 29) and the actors involved were told that it would air on May 8 or May 15. Don't miss it! They will show re-creations of some of the worst and most vicious aspects of these crimes in a serious effort to get this monster behind bars.
33 posted on 05/06/2004 8:55:22 AM PDT by irina65
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To: irina65
Thank you for the heads-up, Irina. I will be sure to watch this show. Hopefully, someone's memory will be jogged by it, and BTK will be turned in.

I saw on FOX today that the Kansas TV station has received a "suspicious" letter that they turned over to the police, who are analyzing it to see if it is really from BTK.
34 posted on 05/06/2004 8:21:03 PM PDT by Palladin (Proud to be a FReeper!)
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To: BenLurkin

Now that the FBI has checked release date from prisons how about checking mental institutions?


35 posted on 05/24/2004 1:24:17 PM PDT by psychstudent
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