Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The BTK Story

Name Games

On October 22, 2004, a suspicious letter was left at a UPS drop box outside the OmniCenter building at 250 N. Kansas Street in Wichita, Kansas. Police suspected that the letter was written by BTK and have sent it to the FBI for verification three days after its discovery. Interestingly, the letter was discovered on the 30th anniversary of BTK's first communication with the authorities. Chances are that the timing was no coincidence. The contents of the letter and the identity of the person who alerted police of its whereabouts still remain unclear. 

Homicide Detective Kelly Otis of the Wichita Police, who is working on the BTK case, interviewed people who were in the immediate area of the office building and who worked there at the time the letter was allegedly placed at the scene. It was hoped that someone might have witnessed the person who left the letter in the UPS box. One person who was interviewed by Otis claimed to have seen a suspicious individual dropping a letter off at the UPS box on the same day the letter in question was purportedly left at the drop box.

On October 26, 2004, Beth Jett of KAKE-TV news quoted an unidentified man saying, "you could see the nervousness in his eyes...I was right around the corner (from the UPS drop box) and he looked back at me and that's when he took off." The man believed that the suspicious person he saw might have been the BTK killer. BTK is thought to be around 50-60 years old with graying hair and of medium stature. 

In the meantime, the authorities continue pouring over clues left by the BTK killer. It is clear that the killer has gone to great effort to misguide and confuse the authorities by providing them with false information likely mixed with subtle truths. It is almost certain that he is highly educated or at least well read, judging by his use of statistical jargon and James Joyce-like style of writing. Moreover, his use of the name Thomas King in one of his letters is very possibly yet another clue to his choice of literature. There is a Canadian author of articles, stories and poems mostly about Native American life who bears the same name.

Both Thomas King and James Joyce are two of many famous authors whose works have been studied by literature students at Kansas State University. Could BTK have studied these authors at some point at the university? There seems to be many links between BTK and the school, especially with the now-deceased lecturer Professor P.J. Wyatt. With the mounting evidence, there is a good chance that BTK was once a student at the university or may have even worked there. However, it may also be another ploy used by the killer to mislead investigators.     

Envelope of letter sent by BTK
Envelope of letter sent by BTK

If the names BTK used in his letters were in fact clues to his identity, many wonder what would be the significance of the name Bill Thomas Killman. Some believe the name is a puzzle in itself and if arranged properly might spell out a hidden message or meaning. However, the name could also be another sophisticated tool used to taunt police.

Return address on the envelope
Return address on the envelope

Kenneth Thomas and Ralph Kilmann (with one "l" and two "n"s) devised a tool, known as the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument, which is used to help people handle conflict. The instrument is sometimes used by police departments to help officers deal with people who are aggressive or scared, which they often encounter in their line of work. When the killer used the name Bill Thomas Killman in his previous letters, could he have been indirectly referring to this conflict instrument and using it as a tool to mock the police? It is a question that may never be answered. Unfortunately, until the BTK killer is caught we can only speculate about his identity or motivation for his horrific crimes.



On Nov. 30, 2004, Wichita Police did a press release offering a great deal of background information supplied by BTK about his life. This is, indeed unique in the history of serial killers. Occasionally, the concept that serial killers "want to be caught" finds its way into the news. This is pure fiction. Serial killers are pyschopaths. They are entirely self-focused. They will not intentionally put themselves in harm's way. Psychopaths are notorious liars and BTK is no exception.

So, now that BTK has supplied a number of supposedly true facts about himself, what are we to make of it?  Are we now to believe this serial killer? Are we now to chase down and investigate his claims?

We would be foolish to do so. If BTK wanted to reveal his identity, he would walk into any police station and do so. But he does not because he is a psychopath who is enjoys taunting and playing with the police and engaging the huge public following that he has amassed. Now that he has "revealed" this biographical sketch, he can be assured that countless BTK amateur sleuths, as well as FBI and Wichita police, will be completely absorbed in it. What could be more gratifying to a dedicated narcissist?

It's possible that some of the information that BTK has volunteered about himself may be true, but you can be assured that nothing factual that he has volunteered will trip him up. He's just too smart for that. Keep in mind that he is very smart, potentially smarter than his pursuers. It's more likely that everything that BTK has volunteered about his biography is false or misleading. He's playing with us, his public.  We shall see. The fact that BTK is pushing for attention based on details of his life, rather than recent murders, suggests that he is not in a position to operate freely without the threat of discovery.

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