From the day the news broke of Wichita killer BTK’s existence more than 30 years ago, the news media have played a key role, the Los Angeles Times reports. Journalists passed on communications from the serial killer to authorities, often honoring police requests to suppress information. They served as a mouthpiece for BTK.
Now that a suspect has been charged, some journalists are examining the choices they made. “I have regrets for holding things back,” said Hurst Laviana, a staff writer at the Wichita Eagle. His story about the anniversary of the killings has been credited with BTK resurfacing after a quarter-century of silence. The killer called himself BTK to describe his method: bind, torture, kill. “I wonder now whether we did the right thing, of editing the evidence,” Laviana said. “Would the police have been able to find a suspect sooner? Did we do the public a disservice?” This week, the Eagle and KAKE-TV revealed communications they had kept hidden. The evidence BTK sent to news outlets included a doll with a bag over its head and its hands tied behind its back, postcards that seemed to refer to packages from the killer and a puzzle filled with clues. The puzzle was part of a package sent last year to KAKE. Hidden in it were the numbers “6220” and the letters “DRADER.” Suspect Dennis L. Rader’s address was 6220. Rader, 59, a church leader and father of two, has been charged with 10 counts of first-degree murder.