Lieutenant Kenneth Landweher
Wichita (KS) Police Department
Washington, DC—The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF) has announced the selection of Lieutenant Kenneth Landwehr of the Wichita (KS) Police Department as Officer of the Month for March 2006.
The citizens of Wichita, Kansas were paralyzed with fear due to a string of brutal homicides from early 1974 to 1978. A serial murderer nicknamed BTK, for Bind-Torture-Kill, was targeting women in the area. Many women were afraid to go home alone and would constantly check their phone line to see if it was dead; a tell tale sign of the killer. The killer’s case ran cold in the 1980’s and life returned to normal in Wichita. Almost thirty years later in March 2004, the Wichita Eagle, a local newspaper, received a manila envelope from someone claiming to be the BTK killer. The manila envelope contained a letter, three pictures of a crime scene, and the driver’s license of a BTK victim that was never recovered. Upon receiving the news of this envelope, Lieutenant Kenneth Landwehr, an investigator on the original BTK killer case, thought to himself, “We’re in a lot of trouble.”
Landwehr began his career with the Wichita (KS) Police Department 27 years ago. Landwehr was assigned to reexamine a cold case involving a serial killer who went by the name BTK. He was assigned with a captain, a lieutenant and five other investigators. This would be the first time Landwehr would begin to delve into the mind of one of the worst serial killers in the nation’s history. Three years later, he was assigned to investigate homicide cases full time and by 1992 he was promoted to Commander of the police homicide unit.
Landwehr became the department’s expert on the BTK killer case so it was to no one’s surprise when Wichita Police Department’s Chief of Police Norman D. Williams assigned Landwehr to head the BTK Task Force. “When I selected Lieutenant Landwehr to head the BTK Task Force, I had complete faith in his ability to get the job done,” Williams stated, “I could always count on Lieutenant Lanwehr to do what was best for the investigation, the department, and the community.” As head of the BTK Task Force, Lieutenant Landwehr organized and lead one of the largest task forces dedicated to one offender in recent history. Using his leadership, skills and sheer determination for apprehending an offender he had been chasing for the majority of his career, Lieutenant Landwehr allocated recourses, strategically released information to the media, and worked nonstop to lead the 11-month long investigation. During this period, the BTK Task Force received 10 more communications from BTK, followed up on over 5,600 tips from the public, collected almost 1,500 DNA samples and pursued hundreds of other investigative leads.
Lieutenant Landwehr and the BTK Task Force capitalized on BTK’s major mistake of sending a letter on a disk. With this evidence, they engineered a “flawless apprehension plan”, and arrested Dennis Rader, better known as the BTK killer. Landwehr obtained a full confession from Rader and secured enough evidence against him to ensure a conviction of 10 consecutive life sentences. Lieutenant Landwehr’s career long investigation of the BTK serial killer culminated on February 25, 2005 when Landwehr addressed the entire nation at a press conference with his opening statement; “It’s over.”
Recalling the prosecution of serial killer Richard Grissom Jr. in 1990, Johnson County District Attorney Paul Morrison states, “He eats, sleeps, and breathes cop work and is relentless. He’s also a great guy.” Lenexa (KS) Detective Pat Hinkle, who also worked on the Grissom case, described Landwehr as “by far the brightest and most competent detective I’ve ever been associated with.”
Having supervised over 450 homicide investigations in his career with the Wichita Police Department, Lieutenant Landwehr is considered an expert in his field. He currently teaches undergraduate and graduate level courses at the Wichita State University, as well as a Death Investigation course.
Lieutenant Landwehr will be the first to point out that he was not alone by any means on the BTK Task Force. “His humility is one of the traits that make him such a successful leader”, states Chief Williams, “He is a credit to the Wichita Police Department and has represented us, often at a national level, in an exemplary manner.” Lieutenant Landwehr has received countless awards for his hard work and dedication with the BTK killer. He was recently named Wichita Police Department 2005 Officer of the Year as well as the Law Enforcement Professional of the Year (2005) by the Wichita Crime Commission.
Lieutenant Landwehr continues to serve the community as the Commander of the Wichita Police Department Homicide Section and is the Director of the Mid-States Homicide Investigators Association. He enjoys his position within the department and believes “there are other cases to solve.”
The Police Unity Tour is the official sponsor of the Memorial Fund’s Officer of the Month Program.