Fox's 'Most Wanted' show tapes segment at WSU

5:00:51 PM CDT - Wednesday, December 08, 2004

By Amy Geiszler-Jones

"America's Most Wanted" host John Walsh doesn't consider himself a vigilante, even though the Fox TV show he hosts has caught more than 800 fugitives.

"I believe you change things through the system," he told the more than 100 WSU students Dec. 3 before the taping of a segment about Wichit's BTK serial killer case.

"Get your degrees and make a difference," he told the students, many of whom are taking criminal justice classes.

John Walsh

"America's Most Wanted" host John Walsh talks to WSU students on Friday, Dec. 3, in Hubbard Hall before the taping of a segment about Wichita's BTK serial killer case. Walsh called BTK a "coward" and a "bottom feeder."

Photo by Inside WSU

Several criminal justice professors had asked their students to fill the lecture hall so that they could see another way criminals are caught through television's longest-running reality show.

"It's a real good learning opportunity for students," said Jackie Williams, a former U.S. attorney who told students in his two classes they would earn extra credit for writing a two-page paper about the afternoon's experience. "I wish I would have had something like this when I was a student."

Williams, now a distinguished senior fellow at WSU, took advantage of seeing the show in action, watching and filming his own videotape of the television show's taping of a segment about BTK's possible WSU ties.

Walsh later taped a promotional spot of sorts with Williams, telling students to pay attention to what Williams has to share in class.

Students started lining up well before noon, hoping to get a spot for the 1:30 p.m. taping in Hubbard Hall, in the classroom where the late English professor P.J. Wyatt taught a folklore class in the 1970s.

In recent months, police released information about BTK that indicates he was familiar with material taught in the class. After one of the eight killings attributed to him, BTK mailed to police an adaptation of a rare, unusual folklore poem taught by Wyatt.

Criminal justice student Josh Gean literally had a front-row seat for the taping. While he didn't participate in what director Tony Zanelotti called "lecture aerobics" the repeated takes of students filing out of the classroom from one half of the room the Derby native relished the experience.

"It's awesome," he said between the takes. "I think i's great for the BTK investigation and great for the community of Wichita to get some publicity. I think it's great that 'America's Most Wanted' came out to help."

The fact that the taping attracted a crowd of  students isn't surprising. A criminal justice course on serial killers, taught by Wichita Police Lt. Ken Landwehr, the lead investigator on the BTK case, is one of the department's most popular, according to School of Community Affairs director Paul Cromwell.

"I think it has to do with the concept of serial killers that holds their fascination," Cromwell said. Cromwell, who taught a similar class while at the University of Miami, said he saw the topic become particularly popular following the 1991 movie "Silence of the Lambs" that featured a FBI serial killer profiler.

While Walsh and his show have focused on hundreds of criminals, catching killers whose victims include children seems particularly important to Walsh. He called BTK, who killed two children, "the lowest of bottom feeders, a child killer." Walsh's 9-year-old son was murdered in 1981; six years later he agreed to host the pilot of "America's Most Wanted" because it profiled a serial killer who had killed two children, Walsh shared with the students.

Before the cameras starting rolling for the WSU segment of the BTK story, Walsh told students, "You can say you participated in the show that caught that low-life coward"

The "America's Most Wanted" segment about BTK, which will include portions filmed at WSU, is scheduled to air at 8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 11, on KSAS, Fox Kansas 4/24.

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