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Cold case files

Read our cold case file and see if you think the police can catch the killer…

- BY LOUISE BULGIN

THE CASE:

For years, a spate of unsolved violent strangulat­ions baffled the police and terrified the residents of Wichita, Kansas. And with no clues or firm suspects, those years stretched to decades…

It started on a snowy day in January in 1974, when the bodies of a young family were discovered. Joseph Otero and his wife Julie, then 34, were strangled in broad daylight along with children Josephine, 11, and nine-year-old Joseph Jr. Tragically, it was the couple’s 15-year-old son, Charlie, who discovered his parents’ bodies when he returned from school. ‘It felt like physically having your chest ripped open and your heart pulled out,’ he recalled years later. ‘Life changed instantly.’ Charlie and his younger siblings, Danny and Charlene, survived the massacre because they were at school. Three months later, as the police continued to investigat­e, the body of Kathryn Bright, 21, was found

– bound with cord, strangled and stabbed. Her brother, Kevin, had been shot, but miraculous­ly survived.

‘I played like I was dead and he left,’ he recalled.

Like the Oteros, there seemed to be no reason why the two siblings had been targeted in their home.

But the twisted murderer didn’t stop there. It fact, the killing spree was only just beginning…

In October, the murderer sent a letter to the authoritie­s.

‘It’s hard to control myself,’ he wrote. ‘You probably call me “psychotic with sexual perversion hang-up”. The code words for me will be “bind them, torture them, kill them, B.T.K.”’ And so, he became known as the BTK Killer…

In March 1977, another young mum-of-three, Shirley Vian Relford, was murdered in her home. She’d been strangled. Remarkably the children were unharmed. The killer had left

them alive but motherless.

Who could be committing these violent killings? The only clue the police had was that the perpetrato­r was removing items from the crime scene – most typically, a driving licence.

In December that same year, 25-year-old Nancy Fox was strangled to death with her belt in her own home.

Then, the trail went cold – for seven years…

In April 1985, Marine Hedge, 53, disappeare­d from her home, before being discovered along a dirt road eight days later.

Although the MO differed, as Marine wasn’t discovered at her home, she had been strangled and a pair of knotted tights were found near her body.

This was enough for the police to suspect her death was the work of the same killer…

The next victim, a woman named Vicki Wegerle, 28, was found strangled in her bed in September 1986 – again, her two-year-old son was left unharmed but motherless.

Her death had all the sickening hallmarks of the notorious serial killer.

In a renewed effort to finally catch the killer, the police investigat­ed each death, pored over the murder scenes and followed every lead, yet the killer still evaded justice…

In 1991, 62-yearold Dolores Davis was abducted from her home and her body was discovered 13 days later under a bridge. Her hands, feet and knees had been bound with tights and she’d been strangled…

Thirteen years passed, before a letter was sent to the local newspaper, The Wichita Eagle.

‘The only clue was that the killer was removing victims’ driving licences’

Chillingly, it included photos of Vicki’s murder, as well as a photocopy of her missing driver’s license.

BTK was taunting the police in a clear power game.

From then, the killer sent various correspond­ence – a poem, a letter, and even a box which he sent to a news channel that sickeningl­y included a Barbie doll acting out the murders and another victim’s driving licence.

The same news station also received a postcard that led them to a note reading: ‘Can I communicat­e with floppy [disk] and not be traced to a computer? Be honest.’

On 16 February 2005, the killer did indeed send a purple floppy disk to the police.

Within the metadata, investigat­ors were able to find two clues: the words ‘Dennis’ and the ‘Christ Lutheran Church council’. It didn’t take long to narrow down the search…

 ??  ?? The Victims (L-R): Joseph Otero, Julie Otero, Kathryn Bright, Shirley Vian Relford, Nancy Fox, Marine Hedge, Vickie Wegerle and Dolores Davis
The Victims (L-R): Joseph Otero, Julie Otero, Kathryn Bright, Shirley Vian Relford, Nancy Fox, Marine Hedge, Vickie Wegerle and Dolores Davis
 ??  ?? Four members of the Otero family were slaughtere­d
Four members of the Otero family were slaughtere­d
 ??  ??
 ??  ?? In 2004, BTK wrote to a newspaper
Metadata on a floppy disk was a huge clue
Police had been baffled in the Seventies
In 2004, BTK wrote to a newspaper Metadata on a floppy disk was a huge clue Police had been baffled in the Seventies

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