2005 BTK killer sends message On January 25, 2005, a Wichita, Kansas, television station receives a postcard from the BTK killer that leads police to discover a Post Toasties cereal box that had been altered to contain the letters BTK. This communication was one in a long line sent by the serial killer who terrorized Wichita for over 30 years, brutally murdering 10 people and taunting law enforcement and the local media. A month later, on February 25, Dennis Lynn Rader, a husband, father of two and compliance officer for Park City, Kansas, was taken into police custody and soon confessed to being the BTK killer. Rader (1945- ) committed his first murders in 1974, when he strangled four members of one family–a husband, wife and two of their children. Six more victims, all female, followed, the last one in 1991. Throughout the 1970s, the BTK killer, or BTK strangler, as he was also known, sent letters to the media in which he claimed knowledge of the crimes. Rader nicknamed himself BTK for his method of binding, torturing and killing his victims. Outwardly, Rader, a Cub Scout troop leader and church council president, appeared to be an ordinary, upstanding citizen. As a compliance officer, he was responsible for enforcing town ordinances. However, there were occasional complaints that he was overzealous in his work and harassed people for minor offenses. In 2004, the attention-seeking BTK killer began contacting the media again, sending notes and poems and packages that included some of his victims’ jewelry and driver’s licenses. In February 2005, Rader sent a floppy disk containing a BTK letter to a local TV station. The disk was eventually traced back to Rader’s church computer and he was identified. DNA evidence helped conclusively link Rader to the crimes. Rader was charged with 10 counts of murder. He initially pled not guilty and then switched his plea to guilty before his court trial began. Rader, who stalked many of his victims and referred to them as “projects,” said he strangled them as part of a sexual fantasy. In August 2005, he was sentenced to 10 consecutive life terms in prison. At his sentencing, Rader made a bizarre statement in which he listed things he had in common with his various victims, including an interest in drawing, gardening and writing poetry. Rader was ineligible for the death penalty because it didn’t exist in Kansas during the years he carried out his crimes. 1869 Pat Garrett leaves Louisiana Pat Garrett, both celebrated and despised as the man who killed Billy the Kid, abandons a life of luxury in Louisiana and heads west. Born into a wealthy southern farming family in 1850, Patrick Floyd Garrett grew up in a world of privilege on a large Louisiana plantation. When his parents died after the Civil War, a bitter estate feud erupted among the children, and Garrett received almost nothing. Like many other rootless post-war Southerners, Garrett decided to try his luck in the promised land of the West, and in 1869, he left Louisiana for Texas, where he worked for several years as a cowboy and buffalo hunter. After 10 years of drifting around Texas, in 1879 Garrett finally settled in Lincoln County, New Mexico, where he won election as sheriff the following year. A new sheriff could hardly have faced a more difficult time to try keeping the peace. Lincoln County was in the final days of a war between two powerful groups of ranchers and businessmen, both of which had hired former cowboys to become illegal soldiers and assassins. Although the war itself was winding down, some of these hired gunmen continued their crime sprees, including a young killer named Billy the Kid, who became Garrett’s public enemy number one. Following a failed attempt to ambush the Kid near Fort Sumner in December 1880, Garrett tracked him to a stone cabin near Stinking Springs, New Mexico, where he finally arrested the young gunslinger. A Lincoln County jury quickly found the Kid guilty of murder and sentenced him to hang, but while Garrett was out of town on April 28, 1881, Billy the Kid managed to kill two of his guards and escape. Garrett renewed the manhunt, and learned that the Kid was still foolishly hanging around Fort Sumner in order to be near his girlfriend. On the night of July 14, Garrett unexpectedly encountered the Kid in a darkened room and shot him dead without warning. When news of Billy the Kid’s death came out, some attacked Garrett for having violated the informal “code of the West,” arguing the sheriff should have given the Kid a fair chance to defend himself. Garrett responded that he had merely done what was necessary to bring a vicious killer to justice, later writing, “I, at no time, contemplated taking any chances [with Billy the Kid] which I could avoid with caution or cunning.” With Billy the Kid dead and the war all but over, Garrett turned to quieter pursuits. His 1882 ghost-written book, The Authentic Life of Billy the Kid, was not very authentic but it won Garrett enduring fame and cemented Billy the Kid’s place in the pantheon of legendary western gunslingers. After several more stints as a sheriff and an unsuccessful attempt at horse ranching, Garret was shot to death by a disgruntled business associate in 1908. 1961 Kennedy holds first live television news conference On this day in 1961, President John F. Kennedy becomes the first U.S. president to hold a live televised news conference. From a podium in the State Department auditorium, Kennedy read a prepared statement regarding the famine in the Congo, the release of two American aviators from Russian custody and impending negotiations for an atomic test ban treaty. He then opened the floor for questions from reporters, answering queries on a variety of topics including relations with Cuba, voting rights and food aid to impoverished Americans. Ever since his televised presidential debate with Richard Nixon in 1960, Kennedy had been aware of the media’s enormous power to sway public opinion. On that day, Kennedy had appeared rested, well-groomed and in control. Nixon, on the other hand, was not as telegenic as Kennedy and appeared sweaty and flustered. His five o’clock shadow created more of a stir than his responses to the moderator’s questions. Kennedy knew that, in a televised news conference, his appearance would count almost as much as what he said. On this day in 1961, the president exhibited a calm demeanor and responded to reporters’ questions with intelligence and decorum. When discussing the common practice of leaking official information to Cold War enemies, he admitted very ample information [is] given so that the enemy can make a determination as to our strength, but on matters which involve the security of the United Statesthe press and the Executive should attempt to reach a responsible decision. I do not believe that the stamp National Security’ should be put on mistakes of the administration. But I must say that I do not hold the view that all matters and all information which is available to the Executive should be made available at all times, and I don’t think any member of the press does. Kennedy’s ability to project charm, intelligence, strength and openness defined the presidential image in the age of mass media.