KSN calls the Wichita detective to bolster its defense in the defamation case. Detective Dana Gouge told a jury Thursday that Wichita police obtained a warrant to take the DNA of Roger Valadez because he was a BTK suspect.

KSN-TV’s lawyer called Gouge to the witness stand in its defense against Valadez’s lawsuit, which claims the NBC affiliate invaded his privacy and defamed him by suggesting he could be Wichita’s notorious serial killer.

Lawyer Bernie Rhodes, representing KSN, sought to show that Channel 3 provided its viewers with accurate information after police took Valadez into custody on Dec. 1, 2004. Valadez’s lawyer, Craig Shultz, portrayed KSN as being lucky in its accuracy.

Shultz asked Gouge whether he or any other members of the BTK Task Force provided information to news reporters, including KSN, about police suspicions.

“Absolutely not,” Gouge said.

Gouge’s testimony about what happened that day was similar to what television crews across Wichita reported. KSN was the only station to use Valadez’s name. That has the station facing the first defamation trial against a media outlet in Sedgwick County in decades — the first in Kansas in 10 years.

During testimony spanning three days, KSN news director Todd Spessard said Valadez’s name was publicly available on jail logs. Spessard also said the details KSN reported were true. Gouge testified that he received a tip at 7:50a.m. Dec. 1, convincing him that Valadez fit a profile of the serial killer that police had released the day before, Nov. 30.

“There was a strong likelihood he was BTK,” Gouge said.

Police watched Valadez’s home most of that day. Although they got no answer at the door, they knew he was home. Valadez, who took the stand briefly Thursday, said he’d been in bed sick for three days and didn’t hear the knocking.At about 7:30 p.m., police went into the house, guns drawn. Valadez said he was startled. Police took a swab from Valadez’s mouth and took him from his home.

Valadez spent the night and most of Dec. 2 in jail, as police rushed his swab to the Kansas Bureau of Investigation’s DNA testing lab in Topeka. Valadez was held on years-old misdemeanor warrants on 10 times the cash bond typical for such minor charges.

“I could not eliminate him as a suspect until I had the DNA results later that day,” Gouge said.

Those results cleared Valadez.

Valadez got out of jail about 5:30 p.m. Dec. 2, 2004. He met his family at the office of Dan Monnat, the lawyer his three children hired in time to hear his name linked to BTK on KSN’s 6 p.m. news. Daughter Melanie Valadez testified Thursday that she’d never seen her father cry as he did at that moment.

More than two months later, Dennis Rader was arrested. He pleaded guilty to 10 murders as BTK and is serving a life prison sentence. 

All content © 2006 THE WICHITA EAGLE and may not be republished without permission.

The Wichita Eagle – By Ron Sylvester