200412.05
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Man Cleared In BTK Case

in Not BTK

The lead investigator in the BTK serial murder case confirmed Saturday that a man arrested last week following a BTK-related tip is no longer a subject of the investigation. Wichita police Lt. Ken Landwehr said the man, whom The Eagle has not named, has been “excluded from my investigation.” Landwehr would not say why the man was no longer a subject of the BTK investigation.

But Dan Monnat, the lawyer representing the man, said Saturday: “Our question to Lt. Landwehr was whether or not DNA testing had excluded our client as a suspect in the BTK investigation. His answer clearly indicated to us that DNA testing had excluded our client.” Authorities obtained a DNA sample from the man using a mouth swab “against his will,” Monnat said, declining to elaborate. Monnat also said his law firm hasn’t confirmed whether the swab was taken before or after the issuance of a search warrant.

Told of Monnat’s assertions, Landwehr would not comment. The Kansas Bureau of Investigation, which said Thursday it put a priority on testing the man’s DNA, could not be reached Saturday to discuss the test results. KBI spokesman Kyle Smith on Friday declined to say any more about the BTK investigation.

Wichita police arrested the man Wednesday night on outstanding misdemeanor warrants after conducting a daylong, undercover surveillance of his home that was monitored at times by homicide detectives, including some who have worked on the BTK case. Besides taking a DNA sample, authorities, including KBI agents, seized items from the man’s house.

Wichita Police Chief Norman Williams emphasized Thursday that the man had not been arrested in connection with the BTK case. Williams said police were only following up on a BTK-investigation tip involving the man and had no choice but to arrest him when they discovered he had outstanding warrants, one dating back about nine years.

The misdemeanor charges against the man allege housing-code violations at a rental property and involve a domestic-violence trespassing case. Monnat said the misdemeanor cases are pending. The man, who had been held on a bond that was reduced to $6,125, was released from jail Thursday. His arrest and the unusual circumstances surrounding it drew national media coverage.

The BTK case has haunted Wichita since 1974, when the killer bound and strangled four members of the Otero family, including two young children, in their home.

BTK — which he has said stands for bind, torture, kill — has claimed at least eight victims in Wichita. He became a household name again, after 25 years of silence, when in March he mailed a letter to The Eagle linking himself to the killing of Vicki Wegerle in her home in 1986.

In a statement Friday night that Monnat said was approved by his client, Monnat said: “We don’t believe his name ever should have been connected to the BTK investigation….” Monnat said his law firm is investigating how the man, who is 64 according to most public records, became the subject of a BTK-related tip.

The statement also said: “More than anything, the inaccurate linking of this man to the BTK investigation illustrates that, in our understandable haste to catch BTK, we must not leap to conclusions that trample the rights and lives of innocent people.”

Monnat said his client appreciates that police and some media didn’t release his name. Still, because of the attention, “he’s been unable to return to his home because of the risk of curious onlookers or crackpot vigilantism.” Monnat said he has been told that some, if not all, of the items authorities seized from the man’s home have been returned. The man hasn’t yet been able to completely confirm what has been returned, Monnat said.

“He’s anxious to get back home and resume a normal life.”

All content © 2004 THE WICHITA EAGLE and may not be republished without permission.

The Wichita Eagle – By Tim Potter