Thursday, October 2, 2008

BTK - and The Redemption Of Charlie Otero # 5

BTK sent nine more notes and packages to the media and police over the following months. Two were decorated with New Mexico-themed postage stamps, which Charlie interpreted as directed at him. But the most astonishing communique’ came in December. It was a call to Charlie from a 16-year-old Wisconsin boy named Joseph.”This is your son,”said the voice on the phone.”I’m looking forward to meeting you.”

Charlie walked out of prison into a cold rain on January 3,2005, ready to make amends with the world. The first person he invited was his sister Carmen, now a mentor to at-risk kids in Albuquerque. He apologised to her for his years of estrangement, and the two spent the afternoon talking as they hadn’t since childhood. Later he called Danny, who was working working as a cable installer in Phoenix. Their conversation had the same tone of forgiveness, and they vowed to stay in closer touch. He got a room at a halfway house not far from Carmen’s place and found a job as day labourer.

He was clearing brush on a landscaping job next month when he got a call from Carmen.”They got him,” she said, and Charlie’s adrenaline pumped so intensely that he uprooted shrubs as they were dandelions.

DENNIS RADER, a 59-year-old Cub Scout leader and father of two, confessed to ten murders as the BTK killer. Radder was the complaince officer for a Wichita suburb and a president of the congregation at the Christ Lutheran Church. He had remained undetected for 31 years, until he sent police message on a flobby disk that was traceable to his church computer. Investigators also abtained a DNA sample from Radder and it showed a strong resemblance to samples taken at several BTK crime scenes.

Charlie and his sibling attened Rader’s trail, listening as he describedwithout remorse how he stalked their mother, Julie, and young josie, planning to torture them to death after getting rid of Joey, and how he’d clipped the phone line and wait by the back door for a chance to get in. Radder said he’d been surprised to find Joseph Sr. home that morning but had a pistol to keep the situation under control.

During Rader's testimony, Charlie kept himself calm by thinking of the people who cared for him, his long-lost family members and the hundreds of strangers who'd written to him after seeing him on TV.

" I want to kill him, " Charlie says of Rader, "but I didn'y want to hurt them."

At Rader's sentencing, Charlie, Danay, and Carmen cried as prosecutors showed photos from the crime scene inside their neat white house. BTK would soon be condemned to ten life terms. But for Charlie, any sense of resolution would have to wait.

During the lunch break, he got a call from his ex-girlfriend lynette: Their son Joseph, 17 years old, had been hit by a car while riding his bike near his Wisconsin home. He was in a coma, and the doctors didn't know if he'd live.

People rules forbade Charlie to travel without permission. He worked the phones, wrangling with the authorities to allow him to fly the next day to Wisconsin. But before leaving one tragedy behind for what could be the beginning of another, he planned to address the court.

The next morning, family members of the victims spke with restraint and dignity. When it was Charlie's turn, he stood ramrod straight. "Dennis Rader did not ruin my life," he said in a strong, clear voice. "He caught me to challenge my faith, separated me from my loved ones, and changed my future forever... ... ... but despute Dennis Rader's efforts to destroy my family, we survive."

Carmen spoke, too, mourning those she lost. Then the three siblings embraced, and Charlie boarded a plane to meet his son, Joseph Otero Shafer, for the first - he hoped not the last - time.

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