We do not hear much about the Kansas Bureau of Investigation (KBI) from one day to the next but we do know that it is out there because from time to time, the organization is involved some headline grabbing case. Hence, the subtitle of “Beyond Cold Blood,” is “From Ma Barker to BTK.”
Larry Welch, director of the KBI from 1994 to 2007 tells the story of its founding, growth and changing missions in relation to the stories of several cases it has been involved in over the years.
The Kansas Legislature founded the KBI in 1939 as a part of the Attorney General’s office to deal with crimes that had statewide application. It aimed to help and cooperate with other Kansas law enforcement agencies at their request.
Originally, the KBI’s mission was to deal with bank robbers, cattle rustlers, homicides, gangsters and narcotics. Its mission changed over the years; before Sept. 11, 2001, it was to deal with white collar crimes, violent crimes, national and foreign intelligence, organized crime - especially as it related to drugs - domestic terrorism, computer crimes and civil rights. After Sept. 11, emphasis went to terrorism and national security.
These other issues were given less importance. However, things have changed since then and now the emphasis is on narcotics, especially meth; violent crimes, such as homicide and rape; and cyber crime, including child pornography and identity theft.
Welch emphasizes that throughout its entire existence, the KBI has made a point of never getting into political matters, particularly partisan ones. In this way, they are able to focus on crime in the way they see it as lawmen and do not have to please any particular outside person.
Another point he makes most definitely is that the agency works with local law enforcement only when asked.
In doing what it needs to do the KBI lets the local people take credit for solving the crime. In that way, local officials keep their constituents happy and everybody avoids ego problems.
When created, all nine agents and one secretary of the KBI were officed in the basement of the Capitol in Topeka. Over the years, their authorized number has been increased. Today they have their own offices in Topeka, Overland Park, Wichita, Pittsburg and Great Bend. All agents must be experienced lawmen before they are hired and many today have college degrees in criminology related fields.In addition to agents who work in the field investigating crimes, the KBI has forensic scientists with various specialties working in accredited laboratories in Topeka, Kansas City, Pittsburg and Great Bend.
While Welch tells us all of these things and more about the KBI, he also tells us of important and difficult crimes that they have solved over the years.
Two things make these stories interesting and enjoyable. They are difficult cases that illustrate the points he has made. These stories are told in case style from the point of view of the investigator who has to find clues and decide what they mean. These cases make what could be dry narrative about the agency come to life.
Three cases that the reader may remember are as follows. The 1959 Clutter murders made famous by Truman Capote in his 1965 book, “In Cold Blood.” The KBI still gets letters from people all over asking about it; it will not die.
The 1993 murder of Stephanie Rene Schmidt, a nineteen-year-old student at Pittsburg State University, who was killed by sex offender, Donald Ray Gideon. The Kansas legislature passed the Stephanie Schmidt Sexual Predators Act, called “Stephanie’s Law,” during Gideon’s time in Lansing Prison.The serial murders date from 1974. The killer known as “BTK” for “bind, torture, kill” became known internationally.
He stopped killing for twenty-five years then resumed in 2004 after the “Wichita Eagle” published an article about him. In all, he killed ten people before he was captured. BTK very much wanted and enjoyed the publicity his killings generated. The police and the KBI put in innumerable hours trying to figure out his identity without any success.
The killer finally made an ignorant computer mistake and they nailed him in 2005.
Because of all of the names Welch mentions, by the time you finish reading the book, you feel like you have met every KBI director, agent and many Kansas lawmen. Accordingly, its index is organized by the names of people mentioned, not by topic.
The author also provides twenty pages of photos of KBI directors and agents, murderers, victims and other persons of interest.
Larry Welch clearly has done a lot of research in the writing of this book and knows what he is talking about. Read his “Beyond Cold Blood” to learn more about the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, the three murders mentioned above and several other interesting cases.