Chief’s link to BTK brings camera crews
Mike McKenna has been asked just about every question there is to ask about Wichita's famed BTK case, the one he worked on for decades before becoming Baldwin City Police Chief.
The case resurfaced this year after being dormant for years. BTK, which stands for Bind, Torture and Kill, killed at least eight people in Wichita over a span of years beginning in the mid 1970s. When BTK began contacting the media again this year, the case took off and McKenna has been a constant source of information.
"I know I've been contacted by many of the major newspapers in the country," said McKenna, giving as examples the New York Times, Washington Post and Los Angeles Times. "I've been contacted by all of the major television networks and foreign networks as well.
"These fellows from England are in the process of making a documentary that they're hoping to sell to a company to make a movie of it," he said of the most recent film crew in Baldwin. "Over Christmas break I'm meeting with another film company out of Los Angeles."
It makes good television. Just recently, the case was documented on "America's Most Wanted." Channel 4, the Fox affiliate in Kansas City where the show aired, interviewed McKenna for a local follow to the show the same night. That crew was here the same time as the group from England. Is McKenna tired of TV?
"Yes. It's something that happened years ago and a lot of people like to leave things in the past," he said. "I'd like to see the case solved, but it's caused me to revisit a lot of things from back then and try to remember if you did everything you should have done at the time. It causes you to second guess yourself."
While BTK is a Wichita case, it has brought the bright lights of TV and Hollywood to Baldwin.
"I'd think it would be a fair statement to say that has occurred," said McKenna. "I'd say Baldwin City has become pretty well known around the country. I was talking to someone from ABC the other day about his intentions to come see me. I was giving him directions to Baldwin City and told him that it would be easier to get around in than New York City."
When the Baldwin City Police Chief is interviewed on TV, that's how he's identified. It's possible that people are confused by that, but he doesn't believe people will think the crimes occurred here.
"Well, I hope not," he said. "One of the things I love about Baldwin are the people here. I always make a point to tell the journalists what a fine community we have here in Baldwin and we've never had such happenings in Baldwin City and hope we never do."
McKenna has learned over the years how to deal with journalists and he never tires of the questions.
"No, I understand a journalist's job and I just ask that journalists understand my job," he said. "There are questions that I've been asked that I can't answer. These are still cases that can go before a court of law and there is information that can't be divulged until the case is presented before the court.
"A frequently asked question is if this is the one case you'd always hoped to get solved," said McKenna. "It certainly was, but there are other cases where the murder was as important to me as these were. From my perspective, I don't see how this person's death was more important than that person's death."
While he feels that way, he understands that it's BTK that grabs the headlines.
"That's right. This is the one that gets the attention," he said. "I've worked other sexually motivated cases that were just as horrific as this one, but this one gets the attention because of the continuing affair the murderer carries on with the media."
BTK has made a point of sending letters to newspapers and television stations to spark interest. The latest move was to leave a box of items in a trash bag in a park in Wichita. One of the items in the box was the driver's license of Nancy Fox, one of BTK's victims. That happened just last week and reignited the interest.
"There hasn't been much learned about it except he's given up a trophy from one of his many murders," McKenna said of the latest BTK development. "This bothers me. It's one less way to link the murderer to the crime.
"We have felt for years and our instincts told us that the man kept the different items from each of his victims," he said. "The items in turn help him relive the murders, if you will. By removing the property, it reduces the possibility of a search warrant to someone's property and find a direct connection with the victims."