Wichita Police on Tuesday incinerated 1,326 DNA samples taken to eliminate possible suspects in the BTK serial killer investigation, inviting the media to watch the event.
"There is a lot of discussion about the destruction of them. This was a visual way for people to see them destroyed," said Deputy Chief Robert Lee.
Dennis Rader, who called himself BTK for his preferred method to "bind, torture and kill" his victims, pleaded guilty last June to killing 10 people between 1974 and 1991. He was sentenced in August to 10 consecutive life prison terms. The judge also ordered the destruction of the DNA samples.
"We are just glad it is done. Get them out of here, get them destroyed and move on," Lee said.
About 25 people - all members of media or law enforcement - watched as white smoke billowed out of an incinerator that had been placed on the back of a trailer and hauled to the police bomb range on the outskirts of Wichita. The incinerator is more commonly used to destroy ammunition.
Among those watching from the crowd was Wichita Eagle reporter Hurst Laviana, one of several journalists whose DNA sample was taken during the long search for the BTK killer.
Laviana had just finished covering a routine police briefing in 2004 when a detective pulled him aside and told him five people had suggested him as a suspect in the BTK serial killings. Laviana allowed police to take the DNA swab.
Laviana said some people did not care if police had their DNA on file, while others consider it an invasion of privacy. Laviana said he fell in the first category.
"I don't have any feeling about it," Laviana said as he watched the burn.