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Authorities search cold cases for BTK links

DNA samples from unsolved 1977 killing examined


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Suspect Dennis Rader is scheduled to have a preliminary hearing March 15.
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BTK suspect Dennis Rader appears in court via video.

There were two sides to Dennis Rader -- two very different sides.

As a young boy, Steve Relford watched BTK kill his mom.
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WICHITA, Kansas (CNN) -- Law enforcement officials in and around the largest city in Kansas are combing through their cold case files, trying to determine if there are any unsolved deaths that could be linked to the BTK killer suspect.

The suspect, Dennis Rader, made his first court appearance Tuesday via a video signal from the Sedgwick County Jail to hear the 10 counts of first-degree murder against him. He was arrested Friday near his home in suburban Park City.

Rader, 59, is accused of being the self-named BTK killer, a reference to his habit of binding, torturing and killing his victims in a string of homicides that spanned three decades. The earliest was in 1974; the last linked to BTK was in 1991.

Initially, eight killings were linked to BTK. But Sedgwick County Sheriff Gary Steed said last weekend that police also would file charges in connection with two previously unsolved killings in Park City.

Reno County Sheriff Randy Henderson said Wednesday that his office is re-examining the death of Gayle Sorensen, 23, who disappeared in 1977 while running an errand for her boss in Hutchinson, about 60 miles northwest of Wichita.

"We have some similarities in our case that they had in one of the instances in Wichita here, that being the kidnapping of a female and then her body being found a couple of days later along a river," Henderson said on CNN's "American Morning."

"We also have the close proximity of Wichita to Hutchinson ... also the viciousness of the crime."

Henderson has asked the Kansas Bureau of Investigation to compare DNA samples from the Sorensen case with those collected in the BTK investigation to see if there's any connection.

Larry Sorensen, Gayle's husband, said he fears being disappointed again if the case is not solved.

"After 28 years and a number of different leads that haven't worked out -- some came very close, we in fact -- a couple times ... in the last few years thought that it may come to closure, but it didn't work out," Sorensen told CNN.

"It's kind of hard to get your hopes up time after time ... only to have them dashed again after nearly 30 years."

Henderson, who has worked on the case since he joined the sheriff's department as a rookie, said he has to stay optimistic.

"In this line of work you know that you can get a break at any time, just like it sounds like Sedgwick County did in their alleged BTK incident," he said.

Meanwhile, Rader is scheduled to have a preliminary hearing March 15. He's being held on $10 million bond.

Rader, a city employee, has a degree from Wichita State University in justice administration and worked for a home security company from the mid-1970s to the late 1980s -- a job that involved going into people's homes. It was not known whether any homes Rader entered for work were the sites of killings linked to BTK.

Until his arrest Friday in what authorities said was a routine traffic stop, Rader worked as a compliance supervisor for Park City in charge of animal control, nuisances, inoperable vehicles and general code compliance. A scoutmaster, he is married with two grown children and is president of his Lutheran church council.

CNN's Bob Franken, David Mattingly and Matt Hoye contributed to this report.


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