Osage County, Okla. sheriff announces formation of BTK task force in cold-case investigation

The sheriff and Osage County district attorney are at odds over the investigation with both having differing opinions on how it should move forward.
Published: Sep. 12, 2023 at 9:39 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - Osage County County, Oklahoma Sheriff Eddie Virden on Tuesday announced the formation of a BTK task force. The task force would assist with the investigation into the 47-year-old cold case involving the disappearance of Cynthia Dawn Kinney, and other cold cases the sheriff said could be linked to Dennis Rader.

One person not on the list of members for the task force is the top prosecutor in Osage County, Mike Fisher, the district attorney whose jurisdiction includes Osage and Pawnee counties. Virden and Fisher are at odds over the investigation with both having differing opinions on how it should move forward.

Virden and Fisher made it clear this week that they don’t agree.

Fisher said not enough evidence has been compiled to file charges against Rader in the 1976 disappearance of then 16-year-old Kinney from Pawhuska, Okla.

He’s called for a formal investigation into the case and said he doesn’t consider Rader a prime suspect. Further, he said said that any suggestions otherwise, particularly from the Osage County Sheriff’s Office, are premature.

Fisher said there is a lead on another person possibly connected to the case of Kinney’s disappearance, but he declined to name that person, who is dead.

The district attorney also said the sheriff’s office’s handling of evidence and information has raised concerns, including a search of Rader’s former property in Park City, according.

“We want to be sure that the information that is being gathered in the investigation is being gathered appropriately. I’m not casting dispersions on sheriff’s office but there’s certain ways an investigation is handled and the things I have seen give me pause and concern,” said Fisher.

In response to Fisher, Sheriff Virner hosted a news conference Tuesday in which he defended hi investigation, emphasized BTK remains his prime suspect and called out the DA for his comments.

“If the district attorney had any concern at all, somebody with responsibility would have had their investigator come out and say, ‘Sheriff, we’ve got some concerns, can you show us what you’ve got,’ and not involve their selves in an investigation of a significant amount that could result in justice,” Virner said. “By statute, the district attorney is my representative. Is there anybody out there that would like for their representative to do what was done to me [Monday]? It’s absolutely unacceptable, will not be tolerated.”

The sheriff is accusing Fisher of obstructing his investigation. The DA was in attendance at Tuesday’s news conference.

Following the conference, Fisher also spoke out.

The DA reiterated his message from the day before. Fisher said he has concerns about how Virden is conducting the investigation, especially with taking items and sharing them with the press. And based on what he’s seen, the DA said there isn’t sufficient evidence to charge Rader in Kinney’s death. He said that is why he’s asked the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation to open its own investigation.

“Nothing to do with trying to trying to obstruct an investigation. It had nothing to do with trying to keep the sheriff from trying to interview Mr. Rader; he’s got the right to do that,” Fisher said. “I want an investigation, but I want an open and honest and complete investigation.”

The DA said he’s urging Sheriff Virden to work with the OSBI in the effort to solve the cold case and bring closure for Kinney’s family, friends and her community.