Survivor recalls serial killer's attack (2024)

Kevin Bright felt his life slipping away as a pair of gloved hands squeezed his throat. Then, he was shot twice in the face. He feigned death and the attacker left.

More than 30 years later, Bright, 49, is thought to be the only survivor of an attack by the BTK Strangler, a name derived from the killer's mode of operation: bind, torture and kill.

Wichita, Kan., police think BTK has resurfaced, rekindling haunting memories for Bright and a dogged police lieutenant, Bernie Drowatzky.

"I'm 71 years old, and I'd sure like to see them catch him before I check out just so I know they got him," said Drowatzky, who since 1988 has been the police chief in Kaw City, near Ponca City.

Not scared of death

When Bright and his 21-year-old sister, Kathryn, walked into her Wichita home April 4, 1974, they found a man wearing a stocking cap and gloves, with a gun in his hand. The man told the Brights that California authorities wanted him and all he needed was their car.

He choked Kevin Bright, who fought back. Then Bright was shot. He played dead, and moments later was able to escape undetected. Police arrived to find Kathryn Bright stabbed to death.

In March, after a 25-year silence, the killer sent The Wichita Eagle a photocopy of another dead woman's driver's license and three photos of her body, photos not taken by police.

The woman was killed in 1986 and until this year no suspect was identified. She's considered BTK's eighth victim.

Since his sister's death, Bright has moved several times and met his wife while living in Ponca City. He asked The Oklahoman not to print his current location.

"I'm not scared to die," Bright said.

Shut out

After the letter arrived recently at the Wichita newspaper, Bright called the lead investigator, who had an assistant return his call. The assistant, Bright said, told him they would talk only if he went to Wichita.

"I was surprised by that," Bright said. "I'd just like to know where they're going with the investigation. It wouldn't hurt to talk to somebody. But I can't second-guess what they're doing."

Wichita police spokeswoman Janet Johnson said the department is not commenting on the case.

Bright found a friend in Drowatzky, the former lead investigator in the BTK slayings. During the height of the BTK search, Drowatzky had 75 officers on the case.

He retired as a captain in 1986 and moved to Oklahoma, also serving as a peace officer for Blackwell, Ponca City and Kay County.

When Bright learned of BTK's supposed return, he called Drowatzky. The two, who met in the 1970s during the investigation, had kept each other informed.

Drowatzky said he has called Wichita to offer his help. But those calls have not been returned.

"With the new blood in it now, I'm hoping they'll pick up something we overlooked," Drowatzky said.

When the March letter arrived, Drowatzky started rummaging through his case files and the memories were rekindled.

"There's no doubt in my mind what they went through," Drowatzky said of the victims. "That's one of the reasons why they stay with you."

Drowatzky spends most days on Web sites devoted to BTK. At home, he regularly listens to BTK's voice, which was recorded during the '70s when the killer alerted authorities to another victim.

Drowatzky and his wife of 43 years, Dora Ann, often discuss the case with each other.

BTK's vanishing act, Drowatzky said, is the biggest regret of his 50- year law enforcement career.

"I think we probably have been pretty close to him," Drowatzky said. "It's not going to be some wild green-eyed monster that you're going to look at and say, 'Ooh.' I think once we find him we're going to be quite surprised of the type of person he is."

Drowatzky's team interviewed hundreds of people. While police never identified a suspect, Drowatzky thinks it's likely he interviewed the killer during the investigation.

Wichita police said in a news release that a letter received May 5 by KAKE-TV in Wichita may be from BTK.

Drowatzky isn't convinced the new letters alone will be the killer's downfall. Old-fashioned police work, combined with new DNA technology, will solve the case, he said.

'Domestic terrorist'

The chief has been interviewed for a BTK book being written by Robert Beattie, a Wichita attorney whose family lives in Oklahoma.

Beattie, 48, said the book could come out this year. Several movie producers are interested in his work. The book, he said, is dedicated to victims' families and detectives such as Drowatzky.

Psychologists told Beattie that BTK is a "biological mutant" with no conscience or anxiety-laced feelings. Beattie calls the killer a "domestic terrorist."

Bright said he has forgiven the killer. In fact, he said, he feels badly for him.

"I pray for that person," he said. "I pray that he'll see he's lost and he needs a savior and that he needs to be right for God and be right for mankind and give himself up.

"He may not get caught here, but one day he'll be standing in front of the Lord for judgment."

Bright said BTK deserves the death penalty.

"I'm not worried that he's not going to be caught," Bright said. "I have peace. I know where I'm going to go when I die."

Archive ID: 1865837

Survivor recalls serial killer's attack (2024)
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