Shirley Vian Relford, 26, always seemed happy and loved to sing in the church choir. She was a good mother to her three children, Bud, Steven and Stephanie. On March 17, 1977, she was found dead in her home. Her three children were home when she was murdered.
Dennis Rader saw himself as a James Bond type in his tweed jacket. He would later tell police is appearance was "spiffy." He was pursuing a target that ended up not being home when he randomly located Shirley.
“…I was all keyed up, so I just started going through the neighborhood."
While casing the neighborhood for a victim, as a ruse (or as Rader pronounced it “russ"), he asked a 5 year old boy returning from the store to bring his sick mother soup if he'd ID pictures. (He used a photo of his own wife and infant son.) Then he stalked the little boy.
“… I watched where he went …I went to the house where he went in, knocked on the door told him I was a private detective..."
He entered the home, turned off the television, closed the blinds, and pulled a 357 Magnum gun out from under his jacket, frightening the little boy. The mother who appeared ill came out of the bedroom in her robe to beg him not to harm the children.
"I'm not going to ..."
He started to tie up the oldest child, who was 8.
“I told Ms. Vian that I had a problem with sexual fantasies... that I was going to tie her up and that I might have to tie the kids up and if she would cooperate with us... We went back. She was extremely nervous. “
Rader took her to the back porch.
He needed their mother to help him move the three crying children from the bedroom to the bathroom to tie them up. They attempted to make the children comfortable with blankets and toys. He wedged the door to the bathroom shut, and tied the other door closed. Their mother pleaded with them to stay in the bathroom. They did.
Shirley vomited as Rader tied her down. He brought her a glass of water, and comforted her before he continued tying her legs to the bedpost, working his way up, he looped the rope around her neck, placed a plastic bag over her head, and strangled her with the rope.
The children screamed and banged as their mother being murdered through an opening in the door. Rader planned on executing the children, similar to the Otero murders. When the little boy threatened to go get help, he threatened him:
"I'll shoot you, blow your head off."
Afterwards he placed Shirley on her bed, taped her feet and ankles, and tied her up with her arms crossed under the small of her back.
"In the bondage world, that's really high stuff."
A ringing telephone interrupted Rader's sexual fantasies about killing the children, saving their lives. Instead, he put a plastic bag over Shirley's head and tied it with a pink nightgown. He quickly gathered his briefcase, tape, ropes and anything he brought. He stole her panties, on his way out. (He did this at several killings). He would wear them, himself. He left in his car.
The children unsuccessfully attempted to escape by breaking the window. By time they got out the door Rader was gone, and their mother was dead. Her young son tried to untie her hands.
Young Steven gave police an accurate description of the attacker, but they weren’t confident that a child was a reliable witness. After seeing and hearing Rader at his first court appearance, Steve Relford said Rader is BTK.
Rader wrote poetry about Shirley based on the nursery rhyme "Curley Locks" titled "Shirley Locks." A card made from an index card and a child's printing set, was received by The Wichita Eagle-Beacon on Jan. 31, 1978.
"I'm a nice guy. I'm a nice guy." Rader told police, as he recounted the crime.
In Rader's afterlife paradise, Shirley would clean his house.
In December 1977, Rader killed Nancy Fox, his seventh victim.