The Netflix series Mindhunter, which focuses on the beginnings of the FBI’s criminal profiling division, offers viewers a glimpse inside the minds of various serial killers. Throughout the series, the two lead investigators encounter and analyse a number of well-known serial killers, but one killer, in particular, eludes them.
The BTK Killer is the name given to a real-life individual who stalked the streets of Wichita, Kansas for almost two decades, breaking into homes and killing 10 people.
His self-imposed nickname BTK was taken from his brutal modus operandi – Bind, Torture, Kill which he used to lovingly signing off the numerous taunting letters to the media and police with.
The Nightmare Begins
In January 1974, when four members of the Otero family were found dead in their home. Parents Joseph, 38, and Julie, 33, and youngest son Joseph Jr, nine, were found in their bedrooms, while daughter Josephine, 11, was found in the basement. All had their hands and feet bound, and died by strangulation or slow suffocation.
What made the crime scene all the more horrific was the fact that young Josephine had also been stripped from the waist down, and semen was found on the floor near her feet, indicating the killer had been pleasuring himself as she choked to death.
Just three months later, in April, 21-year-old Kathryn Bright and her brother Kevin, 19, were attacked in their home. A man broke into the home at gunpoint, and tied the siblings up in separate rooms. The man shot Kevin in the head, which miraculously only knocked him unconscious.
He then went to Kathryn and stabbed her in her chest and back to kill her.
Kevin described their attacker, but police considered him an unreliable witness due to his head injuries. And despite the fact that both Kathryn and the Oteros were bound in a similar fashion, the police never connected the crimes.
I AM BTK
Several months later, police announced that they had arrested three suspects for the Othero murders. A man then called the local newspaper, The Wichita Eagle, and indicated that he had left a letter in a book at the Wichita Public Library proving that he was the actual killer.
In the letter, the killer wrote: “The code words for me will be...bind them, torture them, kill them, BTK, you see he at it again (sic). They will be on the next victim.”
Despite the threat, the police would have to wait another three years before he struck again.
In March 1977, a man forced his way into the home of 24-year-old mother Shirley and her three young children. He ordered the children, aged between eight and four, into the bathroom, tying up the door so they wouldn’t escape.
The killer stripped their mother and tied up her hands and feet, before suffocating her with a plastic bag. Investigators would later discover his semen on the bed, which he left as he watched her die.
In December 1977, the police received a phone call from a man who calmly informed them that they would “find a homicide” at a local address. Police found the naked body of 25-year-old Nancy Fox, who had been bound on her bed and strangled with a belt.
Several weeks later, the local television station KAKE received another letter from the killer, where he claimed credit for the deaths of the Oteros, Kathryn Bright, Shirley Vian and Nancy Fox.
He also included a poem celebrating his murder of Nancy, and even suggested nicknames that the media could use for him, including the acronym he would be known by: the BTK Strangler.
He openly asked: “How many do I have to kill before I get a name in the paper or some national recognition?”
Kevin Bright’s sketch of his attacker but his testimony was ignored by the police
Living in Fear
The citizens of Wichita were terrified. The fact that the killer had struck people in their homes, and apparently didn’t care if there were families or multiple people in the house, meant that no one was really safe from his attacks.
However, just as the fear reached fever pitch, the trail soon ran cold, with no further victims nor further communication from the killer. Or so it was assumed...
To be continued in Part 2