A jury ordered the Emmis station and its news director to pay a man $1.1 million for naming him two years ago as a possible suspect in the BTK serial killings. The station will appeal.
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A jury ordered a Wichita television station and its news director to pay a man $1.1 million for naming him two years ago as a possible suspect in the BTK serial killings.
Roger Valadez had sought up to $2 million from Emmis Communications, then-owner of KSNW-TV in Wichita, and news director Todd Spessard for its coverage of Valadez’s arrest on Dec. 1, 2004.
The jury found Friday that KSNW and Spessard defamed Valadez when the station used his name after his home was raided.
”We are pleased,” Valadez said after the trial. ”The jury found that it was wrong.”
The BTK killer—a self-coined nickname that stands for “Bind, Torture, Kill”—terrorized Wichita throughout the 1970s, taunting authorities with anonymous letters, and then resurfaced with new messages in 2004.
The case was finally cracked in late February 2005 with the arrest of Dennis Rader, who eventually pleaded guilty to killing 10 people between 1974 and 1991.
Less than three months before Rader’s arrest, Valadez had come to the attention of the BTK task force. Police raided his home and took a DNA sample from his mouth.
But Valadez was never charged in connection with the slayings. He was arrested only on minor outstanding warrants and released the next day, and his lawyer said he was quickly ruled out as a BTK suspect.
In his closing arguments Friday, KSNW’s attorney Bernard Rhodes pointed to evidence that showed police considered Valadez a suspect in the BTK killings at the time.
”I am sorry Roger Valadez was a suspect, but the fact is that he was,” Rhodes said.
Rhodes said he would appeal the verdict, calling it the ”wrong verdict based upon the wrong law.”
But Valadez’s attorney, Craig Shultz, noted that all the other media reporting the case withheld Valadez’s name.
”When they suggest he wasn’t hurt, that is absurd and they know it. … You know this was a shameful day,” Shultz told the jury.