Feb. 4, 2005 -- The apparent re-emergence of the elusive BTK -- Bind, Torture, Kill -- serial killer over the past year has aggravated a wound that may never heal in Stephen Relford. In March 1977, Relford, then 5, was locked in a bathroom as BTK allegedly killed his mother.
Now, Relford is speaking out for the first time about his horrific ordeal.
"I remember seeing my mama being stripped, her hands behind her back, plastic bag over her head, rope tied around her neck," Relford told ABC News affiliate KAKE-TV in Wichita, Kan.
Relford's mother, Shirley Vian, is believed to be BTK's fifth victim. BTK has been linked to eight unsolved homicides that occurred in Wichita between 1974 and 1986. The killer remained silent for 25 years until last March, when authorities believe he sent The Wichita Eagle a letter that detailed an unsolved 1986 slaying and contained the victim's driver's license and photos of her body. BTK has since sent various letters to police and the media that have been authenticated by the FBI.
BTK's apparent messages have given Relford hope that police will find the killer.
"It's been 28 years, and I hope to hell I meet this [expletive] face-to-face," Relford told KAKE-TV.
Haunted by BTK's Fatal Visit
Relford is haunted by his mother's killing, especially since he says he was the one who let BTK into their home. Relford and his two siblings were home, he said, when BTK knocked on their door and asked Relford if his parents were there. When Relford told BTK his mother was sick in bed, BTK came in and turned off the TV.
BTK, Relford said, then pulled down the blinds and pulled out a pistol. Then the phone rang, and Relford asked his mother if she wanted him to answer it. BTK told him not to, and his mother told him to do as BTK said.
BTK then told Vian to put blankets and toys in the bathroom, Relford said.
"Then he told her to put us three kids in there, tied a rope around one door to the bathroom sink," Relford says. "Then, put the bed against the other door. I stood on something in the bathroom, looking over the door. I don't remember what I stood on."
Relford saw BTK tying his mother up. He said he called out to the killer and said he was going to untie the rope. But BTK then threatened him.
"He said, 'You better not … I'll blow your [expletive] head off,'" Relford says.
Relford estimates BTK was in his home for 40 minutes. His brother broke through the bathroom window, but Relford and his other sibling could not get out. Relford said he ultimately broke open the bathroom door. By that time, BTK was gone and his mother was dead.
The ordeal traumatized Relford.
"I went silent for about two years, couldn't talk," Relford says. "I was terrified."
An Alleged New Message
Relford's is speaking out as KAKE-TV has received another message allegedly from BTK.
On Thursday, KAKE-TV received a postcard purportedly from BTK. Postmarked Feb. 2, it was the second message KAKE had received in a week. Last week, KAKE-TV received a postcard that had directions to a Post Toasties cereal box propped up against a sign on a rural road in Sedgwick County. The letters BTK were on the front of the cereal box.
The most recent postcard has the name Happ Kakemann and lists KAKE-TV's address as a return address. It also says, "Thank you for your quick response on #7 and 8. Thank [sic] to the news team for their efforts."
Last week's postcard had the name S. Killett and a return address of 803 N. Edgemoor -- the home of BTK's first victims, the Otero family. The sender referred to the postcard as communication No. 8 and asked station officials whether they had received his seventh message. KAKE-TV said it only knew of six messages supposedly sent by BTK.
Wichita police asked KAKE not to report other details of the message from Thursday's postcard. They have sent it to the FBI for analysis.
The postcard's sender revealed some details about the seventh communication, but police asked KAKE not to disclose the information. Wichita police are examining the postcard and cereal box and have not commented on the latest alleged message from BTK.
Authorities have asked people with information to call 1-866-765-8285, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to Cold Case, P.O. Box 9202, Wichita, KS 67277-0202. People can also call Crimestoppers at (316) 267-2111. Wichita police say they have received thousands of tips since BTK's return last spring but need more help.