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Even though they occurred ten years apart, the mysterious deaths of these two women bear some striking resemblances. The first case, Hattie Smith, bears great similarity to some other known BTK killings. She was bound and strangled, with no signs of forced entry in the home. Found in the bathtub, the cause of death was determined to be drowning. Ten years later Deanna Law was beaten and strangled, also found in the bathtub. A neighbor was unsuccessfully prosecuted for her murder, claiming his confession was false. There was no physical evidence to tie him to the crime. Both cases remain unsolved, with Hattie Smith's remaining among the most suspicious in the ongoing BTK investigation.
Planeview Woman Beaten, Drowned
The Wichita Eagle Eagle BTK Coverage
June 11, 1987
By Bill Hirschman
A Planeview woman was found bound, beaten, strangled, and drowned in the bathtub of her south Wichita home Wednesday, police said.
An autopsy late Wednesday showed that Hattie Smith, 54, of 3193 S Clifton, had been strangled by hand and suffocated when her head was forced underwater in the bathtub, police said.
Smiths body was discovered by her husband, Robert, when he returned home from work at 3:45 p.m., said Capt. John Dotson.
When Hattie Smiths body was found, her hands had been tied behind her back and her feet had been bound with materials taken from the house, Dotson said.
Police would not discuss whether Smith was clothed or had been sexually assaulted. The autopsy showed her face and the back of her head had been bruised, Dotson said.
Police had no suspects Wednesday night.
Police found no sign that the home had been broken into, but Dotson said there were signs the house had been searched.
Smith, a housewife, had been last seen by her husband when he left about 6:30 a.m. to go to work for Boeing Military Airplane Co., where he is a painter, police said.
None of the neighbors interviewed by police early Wednesday evening said they saw or heard anything unusual, Dotson said.
The Smith home is in the east half of a duplex on the south edge of Planeview, a neighborhood in south central Wichita that is a melting pot of ages, races and cultures.
Unlike many of their younger neighbors, the Smiths had lived in the house most of their adult lives. The couple has grown children.
The white clapboard house is surrounded by a Cyclone fence and is shielded from view from 31st Street by a high wooden fence. Inside the fence is a plaque with the Smiths names carved on it.
Wichita Police Lt. Mike McKenna said he had know the Smith family for many years. Its just really too bad, he said. They were good people. Really good people.
Jimmy and Cheryl Armstrong lived around the corner from the Smiths for several years.
They were just a real nice couple. Ive been seeing them around here for 15 years, Cheryl Armstrong said.
She was always out, keeping the yard mowed, Jimmy Armstrong said.
Barbara Turner, who lived across the street, said, Id just see them go fishing on weekends and to church on Sundays.
Police would not speculate on whether there was any resemblance between the Smith death and that of Vicki Wegerle. Wegerles bound body was found Sept 16. She had been strangled as her 2-year-old son slept in another room of their west Wichita house. That murder is unsolved
Police Seek Answers in Killing
The Wichita Eagle
June 12, 1987
By Bill Hirschman
Lita Estep worried about her friend Hattie Smith when she didnt come to Christian Womens Fellowship Wednesday morning.
It wasnt like Smith to miss the monthly meetings at Mount Olive Christian Church in Wichita.
She is always prompt and usually early, Estep said Thursday.
Estep repeatedly tried to reach Smith by telephone from when the meeting began at 9:30 until early afternoon.
Smiths nude body, bound hand and foot, was found Wednesday afternoon in her Planeview home, 3193 S. Clifton. She had been beaten, strangled and was drowned in the bathtub.
Her husband, Robert J. Smith, found the body when he returned home from work at 3:45 p.m.
Police did not know Thursday if Hattie Smith had been sexually assaulted and do not expect test results until next week, said Capt. John Dotson. The condition of the house showed that Smith had fought for her life, police said.
Several homicide and laboratory detectives spent Thursday trying to develop leads. Dotson said police had no suspects.
Police do not know if Hattie Smith let her killer into the duplex or if the killer came in through an unlocked door. There were no signs of forced entry. Neighbors and relatives said Smith was cautious and often locked the two doors to the house when she was alone.
The house had been ransacked, and some items were missing, but a full inventory hasnt been completed, Dotson said.
When Robert Smith came home from work at Boeing Military Airplane Co., where he is a painter, the front door to the house was locked, but the back door wasnt. The family pet, a large dog named Spoof, was in the fenced-in backyard.
Police are checking to see if the murder has nay connection to the Feb. 3 murder of Ernestine Hoist, 60, who was sexually assaulted and strangled in her apartment at 2727 N. Amidon. Her body was discovered partially undressed in less than an inch of water in the bathtub. The apartment had been ransacked. There was no sign of forced entry.
Police stressed that they do not know if the murders are connected, but that they will investigate the possibility because of the similarities.
Hattie Smith was recalled by friends and relatives as a bubbly, laughing woman with compassion for others, commitment to her church and devotion to her family.
A homemaker, she used her free time for aerobics classes; baby-sitting for her grandson, Joshua; and yard work.
On weekends, the Smiths went fishing and camping or met with the Boeing Square Dance Club.
She was the kind of person who never forgot a birthday, always sent a Valentines card, Easter card, anniversary. Everybody got something from their Aunt Hattie, a sister-in-law said. And if you needed her, she was always there. She was always caring and loving.
A large part of her life centered around the church where she sang in the choir and was to become study chairman of her womens group next month, said a friend, Maxine Longstaff.
Born to a Mennonite farm family in Moundridge, Smith moved to Wichita after her marriage in December 1955. The Smiths were described as very close.
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