The BTK Strangler Part 1

Focusing on the early days of the FBI’s criminal profiling division, the Netflix series Mindhunter offers viewers a glimpse into the minds of various serial killers. Throughout the series, the two lead investigators meet and analyze a number of known serial killers, but one killer in particular eludes them.

The BTK Killer is the name of a real person who stalked the streets of Wichita, Kansas, breaking into homes and killing 10 people for nearly two decades.

His self-imposed nickname, BTK, comes from his brutal tactics – Bind, Torture, Kill, which he lovingly signed the numerous taunting letters he sent to the media and the police.

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 were bound hand and foot and died by strangulation or slow asphyxiation.

What made the crime scene even 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, suggesting the killer had been masturbating when she choked.

Just three months later, in April, 21-year-old Kathryn Bright and her brother Kevin, 19, were attacked at their home. A man broke into the home at gunpoint and handcuffed the siblings 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 the chest and back, killing her.

Kevin described her attacker, but police considered him an unreliable witness due to his head injuries. And despite the fact that both Kathryn and the Oteros were similarly tied up, police have never connected the crimes.


A few months later, police announced that they had arrested three suspects in the Othero murders. A man then called the local newspaper, The Wichita Eagle, and stated that he had left a letter in a book in the Wichita Public Library that proved he was the actual killer.

In the letter, the killer wrote: “The code words for me will … bind, torture them, kill them, BTK, you see him doing it again (sic). You will be with the next victim.”

Despite the threat, the police had to wait another three years before he struck again.

In March 1977, a man broke into the home of 24-year-old mother Shirley and her three young children. He ordered the children, between the ages of eight and four, into the bathroom and locked the door so they could not escape.

The killer stripped her mother’s clothes and tied her hands and feet before smothering her with a plastic bag. Investigators later discovered his semen on the bed he left behind as he watched her die.

In December 1977, police received a call from a man who calmly told them they were “finding a murder” at a local address. Police found the naked body of 25-year-old Nancy Fox, who had been tied to her bed and strangled with a belt.

A few weeks later, local TV station KAKE received another letter from the killer, claiming 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 the media might use for him, including the acronym by which he would be known: BTK Strangler.

He asked frankly, “How many do I have to kill before I get a name in the newspaper or national recognition?”

Kevin Bright’s sketch of his attacker, but his statement was ignored by police

living in fear

The citizens of Wichita were appalled. The fact that the killer had attacked people in their homes and didn’t seem to care if there were families or multiple people in the home meant that no one was truly safe from his attacks.

But just as the fear reached its peak, the trail soon went cold, with no more victims or more communications from the killer. At least that’s what was assumed…

Continued in Part 2 The BTK Strangler Part 1

Tom Vazquez

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