We lived in Wichita, Kansas, from 1974 to 1984.
The killer who came to be known as BTK claimed his first victims before we moved to Wichita and had gone into a dormant period by the time we left.
Since his capture, I’ve been reading books and watching TV shows about him.Â I think it’s my way of trying to go back in time and reassure the myself-that-was, that I was going to make it through.
It’s impossible to describe how profoundly frightened I was during our years in Wichita.Â I was a young woman who was often alone.Â For a while I worked nights on the WSU campus, where BTK was known to make copies of the letters he wrote.Â Later on I was the full-time parent of two small children and was home alone with them all day. Â I had no car during the daytime, no money, and no place to go other than the public library.
Where, of course, BTK was leaving letters.Â Â I probably saw him there.Â Thank goodness I didn’t attract his attention.Â As far as I know.Â Apparently he stalked many women whom he eventually left alone.
We finally made it out of Wichita, only to arrive in Los Angeles during the middle of the Night Stalker’s killing spree.Â It seemed like our “promised land” wasn’t such a great place after all.
Nearly 20 years later, I put “BTK” into a Google search and was astonished to find that he’d never been caught.Â I thought perhaps they’d finally found him but the news hadn’t made its way to LA.Â Like many, when I saw that he was still out there somewhere, I figured he’d probably died or moved somewhere else.Â When BTK hit the national news a few years later I watched with great interest.Â I felt a profound sense of relief when Dennis Rader was finally caught, even though I hadn’t set foot anywhere near Wichita since the day we left it.
Now it seems I can’t seem to stop re-living those days.Â I want to find out what was going on that the entire town didn’t know about.Â It wasn’t till I read Unholy Messenger that I found out that Dennis Rader neither knew nor cared that he was scaring the bejeezus out of an entire city.Â Â Nor that he ruined so many people’s lives.Â I watched “48 Hours: Hard Evidence” the other night and my heart broke for poor Steve Relford, who can’t help thinking he was responsible for what happened to his mother because he opened the door.Â He was only five years old.
Steve’s house was half a block from the grocery store we always shopped at.
There’s another BTK book coming out, written by the reporters at the newspaper in cooperation with the police and some of the victims’ families.Â I wonder what it will add to the other books, articles, web sites, and so on.Â I probably won’t buy it.Â But I’ll keep my eye out for a copy at the public library.
Maybe it’llÂ help me work this all out.Â I hope so.