‘Wichita Eagle’ Reporters Pen BTK Killer Book

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By: Joe Strupp

Three reporters from The Wichita (Kan.) Eagle have written a book about the notorious BTK Killer, who murdered 10 people over 17 years and drew national interest for writing letters to the Eagle and other media outlets about the killings before he was caught.

The book, being published by Regan Books, is due for a May 2007 release, according to Eagle Editor Sherry Chisenhall. She said it is not a compilation of the newspaper’s many stories on the serial killer, but an overview of the investigation that includes interviews with many detectives who had not previously spoken at length.

“The primary people we could not talk to [in the past] were the investigators who could not talk about it while it was going on,” Chisenhall said. “They have given enormously of their time to this book.”

Police arrested Dennis Rader, 60, in February 2005. He eventually pleaded guilty to the crimes and was sentenced in August 2005 to 10 consecutive life sentences, with no chance for parole for 40 years.

Reporters Roy Wenzl, Tim Potter and Hurst Laviana, who co-authored the book, were among those who covered the killings in recent years, Chisenhall said. In an unusual arrangement, the reporters worked on the book nearly full-time for a year, while remaining on the paper’s payroll.

Unlike many book projects involving staff reporters who take a leave of absence, the newspaper was heavily involved in overseeing the compiling of information and the final manuscript. “They collaborated on different areas and different interviews,” Chisenhall said, noting that team leader L. Kelly oversaw the book’s editing. “They pulled different pieces together.”

Kelly said the reporters will receive none of the profits from the book, having been paid their salaries during the time they worked on it. The paper has arranged to donate a percentage of the book’s profits to the local Sedgwick County Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, which is collecting donations for a memorial to fallen officers, according to Kelly. She said the donation will be a minimum of $5,000 or 25% of profits, whichever is higher.

“We have put enormous costs into it,” Chisenhall said, referring to the salaries of the reporters involved. “But that was not the issue for us. The purpose was to get the book out. We may not end up making any money when you put in the salaries of the people involved.”

Although the paper could have produced a BTK-related book at anytime in the past decade or so, Chisenhall said the paper did not seek to get involved in such a project until the crime was solved. “The main reason to do it now is that there is a final chapter,” she said. “There is new material, there are people who have not had a chance to tell their story.”

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