National exposure of Wichita’s BTK serial murder case could be key to solving it, a Wichita State University professor said. The case drew a new infusion of national media attention Thursday after word spread that Wichita police, acting on a BTK-investigation tip, arrested a man on outstanding misdemeanor warrants.
What made the situation unusual is that police put the man’s south Wichita house under daylong surveillance Wednesday, the Kansas Bureau Investigation tested DNA taken using a search warrant and homicide detectives were involved. Police noted that the man was arrested only on the outstanding warrants — not in connection with the BTK case. He was released on a relatively small bond.
Late Friday, Wichita lawyer Dan Monnat released a statement saying that the man who was arrested “is not BTK.”
“The WPD has now confirmed that DNA testing has excluded him as a suspect in the BTK investigation,” Monnat’s statement reads. When contacted Friday night, Monnat said his office was notified by Lt. Ken Landwehr about the DNA results.
Wichita police spokeswoman Janet Johnson would not comment on Monnat’s statement. It is department policy, she said, not to discuss the results of forensic testing such as DNA analysis. Still, the developments drew national media. Network TV satellite trucks lined up outside Wichita City Hall. Police received calls from papers across the country, including the New York Times.
The wider exposure should help increase the chances of drawing a key tip, said Brian Withrow, an assistant professor of criminal justice at WSU and a former Texas State Police inspector. On Tuesday, Wichita police released information about BTK’s background, details they say the killer has claimed to be true in letters he has written.
The information released by police doesn’t say whether the killer claims to be from Wichita or Kansas. However, “based upon the investigation to date,” police said they think that BTK frequented the WSU campus in the early 1970s and that he was acquainted with a professor there. He claimed at least eight victims in Wichita from 1974 to 1986.
If BTK is from another state, the national exposure could help, Withrow said. The exposure also could bring the information released by police to the attention of someone who knew BTK years ago but moved from Kansas and lost touch with the case, he said.
“It’s almost always better to spread that information out as far as you can, particularly as transient as our culture is,” he said. It takes only one tip to solve the mystery. “Big, big cases have been broken on little-bitty tips,” Withrow said. “It happens every day.”
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The Wichita Eagle – By Tim Potter