Salute the Badge: Lead investigator in B.T.K. case reflects on career

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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Retired KBI investigator Larry Thomas played a major part in the take down of Kansas’ most notorious serial killer.

Today he teaches the next generation the ins and outs of criminal investigation, but his passion for law enforcement started long before the flashy technology that exists now.

“It's still the basics but all the different things you can do to support that prosecuting effort has been intensified I think through technology," Thomas explained.

A graduate of the FBI National Academy and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police College, Thomas served in almost too many roles to count in both law enforcement and the army.

His biggest role -- Assistant Director of Special Operations at the Kansas Bureau of Investigation where he worked until he retired in 2008.

Now teaches in the Criminal Justice Department at Washburn University.

"He's really cool, he knows everything like it just seems natural to him to talk about it, so it’s kind of nice and he has actual real-life experiences." Washburn University sophomore Isabel Huckins said.

During his 32 years in law enforcement he investigated some of the state’s most infamous crimes, including the arrest of serial killer Dennis Rader, known as B.T.K., who pleaded guilty to 10 killings between 1974 and 1991.

"Rader was wanting to communicate directly with police and in doing so he sent a floppy disc which we were able to examine and that gave us some keys as to who might be responsible for that disc, which led us to him, then of course he confessed." Thomas recalled.

It’s a case that has captivated many of his students.

"We haven't gotten completely to BTK yet, but he told us that he was one of like the first people to interview him,” Huckins explained. “He was stuck interviewing him for hours and hours.”

It was 32 hours, to be exact.

“People said he was dead and gone, and of course, serial killers have an ego and he didn't want people thinking he was dead and gone." Thomas said.

Thomas was also the one who spearheaded the KBI's Cold Case Squad which led to BTK’s February 2005 arrest, and received a commendation from the Kansas House for solving the case.

“It gave me the opportunity to work with a lot of victims and their families that maybe had lost hope that they ever get answers and that really was fulfilling to work with them.” Thomas reflected.

He's seen a lot of pain over three decades, but says it’s worth it.

"The biggest thing that keeps you going is knowing that you are helping people, that you are giving answers.” Thomas said. “I'll never use the word closure because I don't think you can ever close that hole in the heart, but you can get answers, and sometimes you can get justice for what's happened."

Besides teaching, Thomas also consults investigators nationwide and works as a consultant for the National Center for Missing or Exploited Children, whenever there is a missing child or Amber Alert in our area he gets called out to help.