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Law

Son of BTK victim still haunted

Man says he witnessed mother's slaying as a 5-year-old


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Steve Relford says he is still haunted after witnessing his mother's slaying 28 years ago.
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As a young boy Steve Relford watched BTK kill his mother.

Police say BTK suspect Dennis Rader lived a double life for decades.

A friend of one of the BTK victims says fear gripped Wichita.

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WICHITA, Kansas (CNN) -- "I let the BTK in my house."

Those are the words of Steve Relford who, when he was just 5 years old, unknowingly let the wanted killer into his home on March 17, 1977.

His mother, Shirley Vian, 26, was then bound and killed as he watched -- locked in a bathroom with his two siblings.

Nearly 28 years later, he is still haunted by what happened.

When he thinks about that day, Relford sees "my mother laying face down with a plastic bag over her head, a rope tied around her neck, all the fingers in her hand broken, her hands taped behind her back. That's what I remember."

Police arrested 59-year-old Dennis Rader -- a compliance officer for suburban Park City -- on Friday in connection with the BTK killings.

Rader is scheduled to make his first court appearance at 11 a.m. (noon ET)Tuesday, where he will hear 10 charges against him, the Sedgwick County district attorney's office said. The appearance will likely take place by video from the Sedgwick County Jail where he's being held on $10 million bond, officials said. (Full story)

In an interview with CNN's Paula Zahn on Monday, Relford said that after the arrest, he returned to the home where his mother was killed for the first time.

He said he went there "just to reassure in my mind and re-picture Dennis Rader's face -- and I did."

"It was very difficult, very hard to deal with, but I had to do it for me and my mother -- to satisfy my own curiosity, if I remembered what I thought I remembered. And I did."

He added, "There is no doubt in my mind. Dennis Rader is the BTK, as far as I'm concerned."

Rader, a scoutmaster who is president of his Lutheran church congregation, has not made a public statement. (Profile)

Wichita Police Chief Norman Williams told CNN Rader does not yet have an attorney. "He'll probably have one appointed to him [Tuesday]," Williams said on "Larry King Live."

Relford's nightmare began the afternoon of March 17, 1977, when his mother, who was not feeling well, sent him to the store to get her some soup. As the young boy was returning, he was approached by a man on the street who showed him a picture of a woman and her young child and asked if he knew them.

"I told him, 'No, sir.'

"He said, 'Are you sure? Look at it again.'

"I told him, 'No, sir.' I didn't know who it was."

The man then went to a neighbor's house and Relford went home. A few minutes later, there was a knock at the door, and Relford raced his brother to answer it. Relford opened the door.

Once inside, the man "immediately starts pulling blinds, turns off the TV, reaches in his shoulder holster and pulls out a pistol," Relford said.

His mother then stepped out of her bedroom door. "About that time, the phone rang," Relford said. "I asked Mom, 'Do you want me to answer it?' 'No, leave it alone,' he said. And I asked Mom. She said, 'No, leave it alone. Do as he says.'

"So, I did."

The man then told her to start putting toys and blankets in the bathroom for Relford, his brother and sister.

"After that, he took a rope, tied one of the doors shut -- the doorknob tied to the sink. He pushed a bed up against the other door, stripped my mother, taped her hands behind her back, a plastic bag over her head and rope tied around her neck."

Relford said he was standing on the bathtub, peeking over the top of the door to see what was happening to his mother. His brother and sister, who were locked in the bathroom with him, were "tripping out."

At one point, Relford said he shouted to the man that he was going to "untie the rope from underneath the sink."

"He told me if I did, he'd blow my [expletive] head off."

Three decades later, Relford said he feels relieved following Rader's arrest, but only somewhat.

"The reason I say that is because he is not convicted," he said.

Asked if he knows who was in the picture that the killer showed him, Relford said it was his mother and himself -- something he learned about six years later, when he saw the same photo in his grandparents' home.

"I told my grandparents, 'That's the picture that that man showed me,'" he said.

Relford said he would like to ask Rader how he got that picture and "what possessed him to kill my mother and these other innocent folks out here. He had no right."

"It made me rebel against everything I ever believed in," he said. Relford has struggled with drug and alcohol use -- which he called a result of the heinous crime. "I would never have been like this if my mother was living," he said.


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