IS THIS THE BTK STRANGLER?
PROFILE OF THE BTK STRANGLER
The BTK Strangler has committed a series of homicides during the 1970s and 1980s. There has been enough information to link him absolutely to enough murders to qualify him as a bona fide serial killer. Listed as his victims are Joseph Otero, Julie Otero, Joseph Otero, II, Josephine Otero (the family was slain on January 15, 1974), Kathryn Bright (April 4, 1974), Shirley Vian (March 17, 1977), Nancy Fox (December 8, 1977), and Vicki Wegerle (September 16, 1986).
There is one other known intended victim of the BTK Strangler: Anna Williams (April 28, 1979) with the poem about that attempt arriving later (June 14, 1979). Putting all of these dates together, BTK murdered, attempted to murder, or left communications in January and October of 1974, in March and December of 1977, January and February of 1978, April and June of 1979, September of 1986, and March and May of 2004. THESE are the important time frames to note. The BTK Strangler may have been living in Wichita continuously for the past three decades and the days preceding the crimes and communications indicate when BTK's life was in a downward spiral; when he had lost control and was striving to regain power. It is also possible that BTK was coming in and out of the Wichita area on or around the dates of the murders and communications. Down time between crimes may indicate when BTK was experiencing a more stable period of his life, time in prison, time in a mental institution, time in the military, or time in another state or country.
Because the BTK Strangler is showing little fear of being matched through a DNA databank, he is unlikely to have been a felon who was incarcerated in any state requiring felon DNA to be entered into the system. Another important time frame in his life would be right before his reappearance in March of 2004. He most likely experienced a life changing event: divorce, retirement, or a health issue. He is bored and restless and wanting attention again. Of course, with the publicity that had come out in the media concerning an upcoming book on BTK may have been just the thing to make him want to put his two cents in and make a reappearance.
The BTK Strangler was most likely in his mid twenties to mid thirties when he began his known serial homicides. The killing of the Otero family was too well planned, controlled, and executed to be accomplished by a teenager. The military style killings, the law enforcement knowledge, and the college level writing skills exhibited in the Otero murders and subsequent communications indicate the killer is likely to have been in the military, attended college, or received some kind of law enforcement training. Something in the BTK's life just prior to the murders of the Oteros in January of 1974 triggered his rage to the point of crossing the line to commit this extremely heinous crime.
Prior to this watershed moment, the BTK Strangler would have already exhibited psychopathic behavior in his life (manipulation, pathological lying, grandiose thinking, total narcissism, lack of true caring for others in his life, and a desire to have power and control over others to an extremely unreasonable degree), and a high level of sadism (cruel behavior towards others, physical and/or mental). He may have had legal outlets like the Viet Nam war to express his rage and sadistic tendencies and he may have spent a great deal of time reading about violence, watching violent movies, and talking about his love of torture and death. One particular phrase BTK used more than once in his first letter may have been something he enjoyed saying: "The old bag trick." "The old bag trick" refers to killing someone by placing a bag over his head. BTK may have developed the use of the phrase from the television series, "Get Smart" which aired from the 1965 to 1970. This would indicate that BTK would likely be school age (jr, highschool, or college) at that time.
The murders committed by the BTK Strangler exhibit someone who is NOT a rapist or a sex criminal in the usual sense. While BTK experiences a sexual release at his crime scenes, it is an excitement based on controlling life and death with the biggest thrill arising while watching the victims last moments of life being snuffed out. BTK does not get his kicks out of bloody, gory scenes of death; he enjoys the slow, controlled detention and dispatching of his victims in a military methodology of death. BTK will have a high level of interest in any depictions of real or fictional accounts of prison and military torture and executions. He may have a great deal of respect for cruel political and military leaders, believing them to be strong men who do their jobs well; leaders who "did what was necessary." BTK may have used or be interested in techniques of torture involving slow and agonizing methods such as electrocution, painful physical positions, and emotional wrenching situations such as listening to your loved ones scream or watching your loved ones die in front of you. BTK would prefer this less visible kind of torture to violent physical beating, whipping, stabbing, or raping.
The communications to law enforcement by BTK are to prove to himself and everyone else, especially the police, that he is smarter and more powerful than anybody else. Not only can he get away with murder, but he can get away with psychologically controlling the police and the population of Wichita. While many people believe BTK is leaving lots of clues in his communiqués such as a "catch me if you can" kind of challenge, there is little to support this.
Poetry is definitely part of the BTK's life. He is likely to have been a reader of poetry since his youth. He may have attempted to write poetry as a hobby. The poem "Curly Locks" may have been part of his childhood memories or he may have simply come across it at the time of the murder of Vian (possibly in Games Magazine). He may also have a connection to Indiana where the author of the poem has been made a state poet and received his own holiday. The "Oh Death" poem may have been read in high school or have been heard in song during the 1970s revival of the poem by Boggs and Seeger. He may have attended the rock festival in Newport during that time period. He may have been in P.J. Wyatt's English class or seminar at WSU or he may have had a friend or relative in the class. He may have run across the poem in a book in the library.
His poem, "Oh Anna", while using fancy words, is pathetically written. It is not an example of good English poetry. While BTK could be attempting once again to write slightly illiterately to confuse law enforcement, the poem could be be a translation from Spanish, French, or Portuguese (where the term "propension" is a part of the language). BTK may have borrowed a poem from a foreign poet and translated it using a dictionary. The other possibility is that the poem is a "remake" of a very old country/gospel song. The word "propension" is rarely used in the English language in the present era. However, BTK could be borrowing from earlier English/British poetry where the word is used on rare occassions. The poem is not about death at all. It could either be a romantic poem about meeting the object of one's desire or it could be a religious poem or song about meeting a religious entity (God, Allah, Jesus, Jehovah, etc.) and experiencing religious bliss. BTK most likely used some such poem, changed a few words and added a title.
The BTK Strangler has a very Midwestern accent as exhibited during his phone call. However, his "writing" uses a Spanish style of grammar. BTK is probably a Caucasian born in the Midwest but has a some familiarity or fluency in Spanish (through living overseas or associating with Hispanics in the United States) or the BTK is of Hispanic decent but has lived most or all of his life within the United States. It is also possible that BTK has spent much time in an area or at work where contact with a Hispanic population has enabled him at least to mimic the speech patterns of a native Spanish speaker's delivery of the English language.
The term BTK is worth looking at. Many times people will make up a name based on something that has already been part of their lives. For example, BTK stands for Born To Kill, a slogan used by the Marines in Viet Nam. BTK could be initials for a nickname like Billy the Kid. For that matter, it could be the killer's initials, but it is unlikely the BTK Strangler would tread that close to the line and risk capture. It is also possible BTK stands for Build The Kingdom, a terminology used by the Church of Latter Day Saints.
Regardless of his risk taking, the BTK Strangler does NOT want to get caught. He wants to continue enjoying himself as a free man. He does not think he will get caught and since he hasn't been caught in thirty some years, he has good reason to be arrogant. Of course, even if he is caught, by the time he gets to trial and to prison and then to execution (of which there has not been one in Kansas in the last three decades), he will probably have died of natural causes. So what has he got to lose even if he does slip up? Not a whole heck of a lot. He may have the Green River Killer as a good example of getting caught and not suffering too much because of it.
Along with psychopathic behaviors, the BTK Strangler exhibits other behaviors worth nothing. Many profilers will guess how the killer feels or what kind of childhood he had. This can only be purely speculation. From the crime scene, these details cannot be determined. However, we CAN determine behaviors. We know that the BTK Strangler is a sadist, he controlled his victims with good success, he kills, he writes poetry or at least attempts too, he is methodical, and he takes pictures of his "work". These behaviors will also be true of his "normal" life. He acts the same way at a crime scene as he will in the rest of his life. He will be a very domineering, sadistic, condescending, "intellectual", militaristic individual with a bent for law enforcement, poetry, and photography. Although he can exhibit good behaviors as well (all people can), his psychopathic personality and sadistic nature will have been a constant part of his behavior since he was a teenager.
My original profile of the BTK Strangler was based on limited public disclosure of the crimes attributed to the BTK Strangler. Having now visited Wichita and the crime scenes and having interviewed numerous people, I am fairly comfortable with the concept that the crimes claimed by the BTK Strangler are indeed linked. Likewise, the letters to the media and police are his work as well.
There are no noted similar crimes prior to the Otero killings. This would appear to be his first which is unusual for the level of risk we see in this crime. The Otero killer exhibits a great deal of control of his victims and the crime. He is well prepared, focused, and determined. He brings his kit and executes the crime with precision. He spends a good amount of time at the house, enjoying it fully. He is, however, careless with leaving evidence (semen) at the scene). The killer did not leave any notes at the scene nor did he make contact with the media after the crime or in the next nine months. It was only when two men were arrested for another crime and began bragging about the Otero homicides that the BTK Strangler became upset that someone else would get the credit for his masterpiece. Also, by this time, he pretty much figured out that the police were not on to him.
Indeed, the Oteros were the masterpiece because he was far more careless in subsequent crimes. It is possible that he simply got so lucky the first time around with his handling of the crime, his arrogance told him he would always get away with committing future crimes without any glitches. Perhaps, experience taught him a lesson or two. If the Bright homicide is a BTK crime (this is the one crime that he didn't claim and may not be his; there is a lack of control of his victims and the neighborhood is notably African American rather than the mostly Caucasian neighborhoods where the other crimes were committed) then it did not go so well. BTK stops killing (as far as we know) for three years. He then returns and attempts the same daytime crime with Shirley Vian. Her kids escape to witness against him. At this point he changes to the cover of night, breaking into homes and taking no chances with witnesses. He succeeds with Nancy Fox but then two years later the Anna Williams crime teaches him it is quite a chore to count on people showing up. There is another long down time and the murder of Vicki Wegerle is also a close call with the husband showing up. Then the murders stop. Clearly BTK is not dead; he either has moved to commit crimes in other places or he gave up the game of killing as it was getting far too risky for him.
The Otero crimes differ from the rest in that an older male is one of the victims of the killer. Joseph Otero is said to drive the children to school regularly and so his short trip that morning to the school and back home would be expected if one did any surveillance at all. It IS possible that BTK was familiar with the family and simply assumed when Mr. Otero left the house in the morning, he would not be back. It is interesting to note, however, that BTK refers to Joseph Otero, Sr twice as Joe in his letter indicating he either knew him before the murder or was close to the investigation afterwards. He is also aware that Joe Otero has a rib injury from a car accident a few weeks earlier. Again, he either learned this from contact with Joe Otero or from subsequent talk by investigators. As there is also evidence from the letter that refers to something that occurred at the scene AFTER he left, this would lead one to believe BTK had close contact with law enforcement, the Oteros, or news media.
The motive of this crime is something BTK has teased us about. You guess the motive! he says in his letter. Was it Mr. Otero? Did Joe do something or say something he didn't like? Did he want to punish the family? Did he plan to do it without Joe's presence but when Joe returned, he became a victim as well? Or did BTK know Joe was coming back and planned surprise for him.
Although a gun was necessary to control the scene, BTK did not want to use a firearm to kill the family. He also chose not to use a knife. There were likely two possible reasons for this. As it was daytime; noise would attract attention and flight would be difficult. Use of a knife would cause blood spatter and make it difficult for BTK to leave the scene without obvious evidence on his clothing. Strangulation, suffocation, and hanging do not make noise and are not messy. Also, these methods simply may have been the preferred method of killing for BTK as he may have enjoyed watching the struggle of the victims as they died.
BTK left the Otero scene in the Otero car. He drove just a short way to Dillons Grocery Store, ditched the keys and walked off in broad daylight. This is extremely interesting. It is extremely risky behavior to end up in so public a location. He could well have parked on a side street. He was also not out of gas as he claimed in the letter. Should he have put his foot on the gas pedal and gotten no response, he could not and would not have attempted to coast up a hill, turn left across traffic, go over a hump in the parking lot and pull nicely into a parking space. BTK intended to end up at that location. He may have felt he would not be recognized at that location because he did not actually live in that vicinity. He may have had his own car parked close by. This behavior indicates he had some link to that location or he could have parked farther away in perhaps a more secluded spot.
The letter writer describes himself as a serial killer in a fashion that seems concocted from reading about serial killers in the library rather than from true emotion. His take on serial killer behavior and his fantasy seems to be woven together from various accounts rather than personal experience. This may indeed indicate that the Otero homicides were his first and he is exploring the possibility of more now that he has enjoyed the experience.
The level of ability in the Otero crimes would be too advanced for that of a teenager. Also, the fact BTK refers to Mr. Otero as Joe indicates he considers himself a mature adult. BTK is likely to be in the twenty-five to thirty-five year range, which is pretty much the most popular age for serial killers to start murdering. This is a point in life where the frustration and failure level has reached a point where he really hates society and, by this age, has the experience and confidence to commit this kind of crime.
His interest in the actual death spot and the use of police/military style torture and killing methods and the lack of eroticism in his homicides, lead me to believe he is far more interested in the fantasy of police/military power than he is in sadistic sexual practices. It is interesting that he when he fantasized object insertion with Anna Williams in his drawing, the object was shaped like a police baton. He may have spent time in the military or in Viet Nam during the war, or spent much time watching movies showing this kind of treatment of prisoners. He may have attended military school as a teenager (perhaps to cure his concerning behaviors), or he may have grown up in a family with a strong military or religious background that employed abuse and mind control as a family discipline method. He may have a family connection to law enforcement. BTK may be involved in martial arts. His level of control at the crime scenes may come from areas where control, commands, and obedience are exhibited rather than from direct involvement in the military or any branch of law enforcement.
Because BTK might have a thing for military/police type stuff is not to say that BTK doesn't get a sexual charge off of the murders. He does. There is some VERY limited sexual activity at the scenes (although no rape that we know of). While most victims are dressed, some have partial clothes removal. He may have an issue with nakedness as he expressed in his poem. His childhood may have been very strict and sexuality a forbidden issue. BTK, however, may have experienced some form of sexual child abuse that causes him to suffer from these hypocritical behaviors and confused sexuality (especially that of sexual feelings related to control and power over people). He may be inadequate with women or has a lifestyle devoid of female romantic involvement. However, if there is more sexual activity at the scenes than has been released by law enforcement to date, he may exhibit more sadistic forms of sexual behavior in his relationships including bondage, power rape style sex, and asphyxiation.
BTK's inclusion of children in the crimes indicates he is comfortable around children. He may have worked in some capacity where he dealt with children and had knew how to handle them. He may have sexually abused his own children when they were preadolescent. It is interesting that BTK does not target teenagers. He probably does not like that teenagers would stand up to him. If he has had children, we will likely find that they rebelled against him at that age and their relationship with him deteriorated significantly.
It is interesting to note in a later letter, his grammar and spelling improves. Either he has improved his education or he may no longer be working to throw the police off so much. He also starts sending poems which may indicate he has had some college experience or he may be lurking around the college campus as a security guard or other employee. The fact that he is so clever to copy his letters over and over to limit useful evidence shows that he has some awareness of police operations and investigations. He either has that ability from actual education or from hanging around law enforcement.
The types of knots shown in the photos appear to be Buntline Hitch knots. This kind of knot was used in sailing ships, but is learned in boy scouts and is basically the same knot as one uses to tie a necktie or the belt tied around the waist in martial arts. The knot is intended to prevent any kind of slippage.
BTK's letters are devoid of emotion about the crimes (such as She was a bitch or He deserved it); he only reports details as one would in a police report. Also, while the killer may remember certain odd details (like the thermostat was turned down, the car was dirty, etc), these kind of observations are very common in investigative reports and therefore BTK could have gleaned this information after the commission of the crimes by having some access to police information. BTK is very obsessed with the police investigative side of the matter and BEING a serial killer. He wants to make a point and he gets his thrills out of the control of the crime scene, the death of his victims, and beating law enforcement at their own game.
Investigative Criminal Profiler
The Sexual Homicide Exchange
Profile first posted: August 29, 2004
Most recent update: December 13, 2004