The Otero

JOSEPH OTERO JR. AND HIS WIFE JULIE lived in Camden in the 1950s and 1960s. He was born in Puerto Rico, coming to Camden in the late 1940s or early 1950s. The family operated a candy store at 247 Clinton Street, the corner of South 4th and Clinton Street, which had been previously been run by his parents. 

Joseph Otero Jr. joined the United States Air Force at the age of 18. He moved his wife and children out of Camden shortly after the 1967 riot. They resided in Panama and Puerto Rico before returning to the United States. He retired as a master sergeant from the Air Force in 1973. The family settled in Wichita KS in the fall of that year. Joseph Otero took a job as a mechanic and flight instructor at nearby Cook Airfield, while Julie found work with the Coleman Corporation, manufacturers of camping equipment. The resided in Wichita until a horrible tragedy occurred, on January 15, 1974.

The Otero family resided in a single family home at 803 N. Edgemoor, located in a predominately White, blue collar, middle class neighborhood.  Some time between 8 a.m. and 3:40 p.m. on January 15, 1974, the suspect entered the Otero home and murdered the four family members who were at home.

The three surviving Otero children, sons Charlie and Danny, and daughter Carmen, returned home from school to find their family members strangled- father Joseph Otero, aged 38; mother Julie Otero, 34 years old; daughter Josephine, age 11; and son Joseph II, age nine. The killings were the work of a serial killer known as BTK, the initials standing for Bind, Torture, and Kill, the murderer's modus operandi. 

David Rader was arrested in connection for this crime and other murders in February 1974.

Camden Courier-Post - February 3, 2005

BTK Victims Fondly Recalled
4 Slain Members of Otero Family Lived in Camden in late 1960s


It's a long way to Wichita, Kan., from Elia Aguilar's Clinton Street row house.

For Aguilar and many of her neighbors, however, Wichita has been burned into their memories for the past 31 years.

Joseph Otero Jr. and his wife, Julie, lived on Clinton Street in the late 1960s. The couple and two of their children were brutally murdered in their Wichita home on Jan. 15, 1974, in what would be the first of 10 murders by the BTK (bind, torture, kill) killer.

JOHN ZIOMEK/Courier-Post
Elia Aguilar (left) and Mandy Alvarado, both of Camden, share their memories of their former neighbors, the Otero family, four of whom were the first victims of the BTK serial killer in Wichita, Kan

 The couple's short stay in Camden left an indelible mark on their former neighbors. Last week, when authorities arrested 59-year-old Dennis L. Rader, the man they believe is the BTK killer, Aguilar said the news was as vivid as the day she read about the murders in the newspaper in 1974.

We have always thought about it here," said Aguilar, 79. "It was always that same feeling, the kind that never goes away. They were wonderful people and they didn't deserve to die like that."

When Aguilar moved to Camden from San Antonio, Texas, in 1957, members of the Otero family were already living in the neighborhood. The Otero family owned a convenience store on the corner of 4th and Clinton streets, which Joe and Julie eventually took over.

"They always helped everybody. They would not keep track if you were short of money," Aguilar said.

Aguilar remembers Joe Otero as a short, muscular and friendly man who adored his wife and children.

"She was very thin with long, beautiful hair. She was very pretty," said Aguilar.

Aguilar said the FBI came to her home to interview her daughter, who had corresponded with the Oteros for years after they left Camden.

Joe Otero worked at Fort Dix every day, said resident Maria Feliciano, possibly as an airplane mechanic. According to reports in the Wichita Eagle, Joe Otero was a champion boxer who retired from the Air Force as a master sergeant. Julie Otero knew judo and had also taught her children self-defense, the newspaper reported.

Charlie Otero, then 15, arrived home from school to find his parents, along with siblings Josephine, 11, and Joseph II, 9, dead. Authorities said all four had been strangled.

Two other siblings were out of the house that day, Danny, 15, and Carmen, 13.

Rader, 59, was arraigned Tuesday and charged with 10 counts of first-degree murder in the serial killings that have haunted Wichita for three decades.

In an interview he gave with KWCH 12 Eyewitness News of Wichita, Charlie Otero, now 46 and a resident of a New Mexico halfway house, said he remembered his family as tough, close-knit and charitable.

"In Camden, N.J., we lived through the riots. We had a candy store. My father turned the store into a triage taking care of wounded people: gunshots, stabbings, burned people," Otero told the station in July 2004.

After leaving Camden, the Wichita Eagle reported, the Otero family lived in Panama and Puerto Rico before moving to Wichita.

Mandy Alvarado doesn't remember exactly when the Oteros left Camden, but she remembered Joe Otero told her he wouldn't be able to make it to her wedding in 1971.

"I just remember seeing their faces on television," said Alvarado, 53. "That, you can never forget."

Alvarado's brother now lives in the home where the Otero family lived on the 400 block of Clinton Street.

"They were great neighbors. I remember the children. The little girl was just like her mother, very pretty and prissy," said Alvarado.

Alvarado said she remembers buying candy from the couple at the corner store, now the T & C Food Market.

"Every child in the neighborhood enjoyed them," she said.

Feliciano, whose Spanish was translated by Alvarado, said the memory of her neighbors remains vivid.

"I've dreamt about them often," said Feliciano, 67. "Joe and Julie will finally have their peace."

Charlie Otero could not be reached for comment.