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Kansas Cops Eye Unsolved Slayings

Police are reviewing unsolved slayings of women killed since 1974 following the reemergence of a serial killer who terrorized the city in the 1970s and recently claimed responsibility for a 1986 killing.

Police won't identify specific cases or talk in detail about their investigation of the killer known as the BTK Strangler. But a letter received last month, which police believe was sent by the serial killer, has fanned fears that BTK may be responsible for more than the eight deaths the killer has claimed responsibility for.

"I wouldn't say for certain that there aren't any more bodies out there," said retired Wichita police Lt. Mike McKenna, who oversaw the department's homicide investigations during the mid-1980s.

McKenna said he does not recall any specific cases that had the earmarks of a BTK killing.

Between 1974 and 1978, the killer known as BTK - the initials stand for "Bind, Torture, Kill" - killed at least seven people. Last month, BTK sent a letter to The Wichita Eagle claiming responsibility for a 1986 killing.

It was the first communication from the killer in more than two decades. Police have said the recent letter, which contained a photocopy of photos of the victim and her driver's license, is authentic.

Bernita Autry is certain the death of her best friend in 1974 is related to the BTK killings. Sherry Baker was 23 when she was gagged with a pair of underwear, tied up with a telephone cord and stabbed more than 70 times. No charges were filed, and police have said the case is not tied to other slayings.

"I have a gut feeling," she said.

Bob Beattie, a Wichita lawyer who is writing a book about BTK, said the Baker case and at least two others could also be related to the killer.