The Wichita Police Department and Chief Norman Williams are clashing with The Wichita Eagle over speculative -- and possibly inaccurate -- reporting.

The local media in Wichita, Kan., have long been connected to the BTK murders. Now that a BTK suspect has been arrested, local law-enforcement officials are instead decrying the media. And the local paper is fighting back.

In an interview with The Wichita Eagle Monday, Wichita Police Chief Norman Williams said he was misquoted by CNN -- which reported Williams saying that BTK suspect Dennis L. Rader was cooperating with law enforcement -- and lambasted reports containing, he said, speculation and misinformation. At a media briefing that morning, the chief even threatened to sue those spreading it. ...

By Monday, Chief Williams suggested the press was no longer being so helpful. An example he gave of the recent distortions was the suggestion that Rader was being held for more than 10 killings. Not true, Williams said. "At this time, Dennis Rader has been connected to only 10," he told the press. The police department also refused to comment on reports that Rader's daughter [Kerri Rader] played in his arrest.

Not only do the police need to protect their information to aid a successful prosecution, but Chief Williams also has to be mindful of the fact that this case is his big chance in the limelight, and I'm sure he doesn't want to screw it up. Obviously I assume his top priority is punishing the killer, not promoting himself, but his own reputation is on the line and it's only natural that he be concerned with how the reporting of the investigation makes him look.

Meanwhile, the Eagle reports that Rader has made his first court appearance and been officially charged with ten counts of first-degree murder -- all before 1994, which makes Rader ineligible for the death penalty. If prosecutors had a murder they could tie him to from after 1994 I think they would have done it, because there's little point in having yet another trial to put him to death if they could do it now. They must have some other murders as backup, however, because prosecutors generally don't like to put all their eggs in one basket by trying all applicable murders in the same trial. If something goes wrong with the prosecution and Rader is acquitted, they want to have more charges to file against him immediately that won't be prohibited by double jeopardy protection.

In other reporting, it looks like Rader's ignorance of computers helped lead to his capture:

The Rev. Michael Clark, pastor of Christ Lutheran Church, said Tuesday that police searched the church and found that a 3.5-inch diskette containing what is alleged to be communication from BTK had once been used in the computer in the church office. ...

As president of the church council, Rader was responsible for printing the agenda for council meetings. The printer Rader used at home was broken, so he had saved the agenda on a floppy disk and brought it to the church to print it out, Clark said.

He said Rader didn't seem to know a great deal about computers.

"He didn't know how to fire it up until I showed him how," Clark said.

Other than that one time, "he didn't have any reason to use the computer," Clark said.

Retired Wichita police Lt. Charles Liles said sources of his within the department told him that the disk had been a major break for investigators.

He said he was told that the disk had been reformatted, but "the FBI took that disk and found information leading to the church, which led to him (Rader)."



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