Archive for Thursday, March 3, 2005

BTK arrest brings relief, closure

March 3, 2005

It's finally over for thousands of people. Wichita's BTK has been charged with 10 brutal killings, ending three decades of terror.

Baldwin City Police Chief Mike McKenna, who worked the case for years while with the Wichita Police Department, is one of those pleased to finally see the day come.

"I'm tickled to death that they got him," said McKenna, who has done countless newspaper and television interviews during the past year as a result of his connection to the case. "You're just glad that people can have some closure with the nightmares they've had for these 30 years.

"It's a great time for everyone," he said. "Although my heart does go out to his family. I can't imagine a greater shock than to find out their family member is suspected of something like this -- unless it would be coming home to find a family member taken like he has done."

Just by chance, McKenna was in Wichita Friday when the arrest was made, the now infamous press conference announcing it was Saturday and the subsequent media frenzy that has ensued. Whether directly or indirectly through the fear he spread, Dennis Rader caused thousands of people to look at everyone differently, including a whole new generation from when the grisly murders began in the early 1970s.

"It is closure for everybody who has been involved with the case," said McKenna. "It's also closure for the city of Wichita. Not too long ago I had a discussion with a friend who has a 14-year-old daughter. He shared the fear his daughter had because BTK recontacted the media and what she'd heard about him.

"He asked me what can I do or tell her to help her cope with this," he said. "I told him several things he could say to reassure her. Someone like that, who was born after the fact, was worried about it because of him re-emerging."

McKenna also knows he's had enough of the media exposure that's put him on televisions, newspapers and Web sites across the country. He's tired of it and ready for it to stop.

"Yes, yes I am," he said with a smile Tuesday morning. "I talked to several yesterday and was on a radio-talk show Wednesday morning. Hopefully one of these days the name Mike McKenna will disappear and I can focus on my job here in Baldwin."

He's watching, too

The media frenzy that started -- again -- Friday in Wichita has borne hundreds of stories, reports, newscasts, etc. Like the rest of the country, McKenna is watching those, too.

He's been just as fascinated by the theories and alleged facts that are flying regarding the "Bind, Torture and Kill" suspect that is now behind bars with a $10 million bail -- a million dollars each for each of his 10 known victims from the 1970s and 1980s. Has Rader confessed to the crimes? Did DNA provided by his daughter drive one of the final nails?

McKenna isn't sure what to believe, but is confident that it will play out with convictions and the real story will come out.

"I had gone to Wichita earlier and I heard rumblings that something might be coming down," he said. "I knew Friday evening that they had made a good arrest on the case."

While the Saturday press conference has been ridiculed far and wide, the one-time Wichita detective doesn't think that matters and believes authorities are doing the right thing by staying closed-lipped on the case.

"They've been criticized for how they handled the press conference, but they did get him arrested and he was arraigned Tuesday at noon," said McKenna. "The fact remains it's their investigation. I'm sure when they feel it's proper, they will release how it came about. We'll just have to wait for that.

"Because he's charged in a case he's got to plead not guilty and I'm certain there will be a motion filed for a mental competency hearing and I would also imagine his defense attorney will file a motion for a change of venue because of all the attention there in Wichita," he said.

Oddly enough, after years investigating the various BTK crime scenes and the many suspects that were interviewed during those decades, Rader's name was new to McKenna.

"I don't have any recollection of hearing that name before Friday," he said.

He fit the profile

McKenna may have never heard of Rader, but that was a whole part of the profile that Wichita police, as well as Kansas Bureau of Investigation agents had come up with. He had jobs that gave him access -- in the home security field and later as a code inspector and dog catcher -- and he blended into the community as a church and Scout leader.

"Well, personally, that's pretty much what I expected," said McKenna. "These psychopaths will go out of their way to do those things because they know they have to blend in because they know that we'll find them.

"The jobs he took aided him in his concealment," he said. "For a long time we wondered how did this person get into these homes without any struggle. We knew he had to have some sort of identification."

McKenna pointed out that about 4 percent of the population has the capability to be a psychopath. While that's not always the case, it was with Rader.

"Just because they have the ability to be a psychopath doesn't mean they'll be a serial killer," he said, adding that's how it was with BTK. "I always thought he had a menial-task job and he did. One of his duties was putting dogs to sleep for the city of Park City. You would suspect that he got some satisfaction, some gratification out of destroying dogs.

"It's certainly one of the things you'd want to visit with him about," McKenna said.

That even brought the Baldwin police chief, who has been here for more than two years and just signed a new five-year contract, to be interested in one of the stories on TV that has developed with camera crews seeking anyone that's ever been in contact with Rader.

"On one of the many broadcasts this weekend, some woman said she'd gone to his house for a garage sale a couple of years ago and that he had about four boxes of dog collars from the dogs he had asphyxiated," he said. "I don't know if that's valid, but if it is, that would throw up a red flag."

McKenna didn't know if because of his dog killing job, that's maybe why BTK's rampage with human victims ended.

The end result

As speculation continues into the hows and whys of BTK, McKenna doesn't know if there will be more murders surface with him as a suspect. There is still much more to learn about BTK.

"I have no knowledge of any murders after the death-penalty time frame. There's been some pretty wild speculation down there from all angles," he said. "I've said for years he was someone I hoped I'd get a chance to interview. I'm sure at some point in time that FBI behavioral analysts will have a person interview him. There's a vast amount of knowledge to learn about people who are similar and may appear on the horizon."

As for what BTK deserves, there can be no doubt what the chief thinks and that's a pine box.

"That's the only way I feel he should ever leave an institution -- horizontally and in a box," said McKenna. "I guess that tells you how I feel about the death penalty."

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