Rader's mugshot at the El Dorado Correctional Facility
|Born||Dennis Lynn Rader
March 9, 1945
Pittsburg, Kansas, U.S.
|Other names||The BTK Killer, The BTK Strangler|
|Life imprisonment with no parole for 175 years
(10 consecutive life sentences)
Span of killings
|February 25, 2005|
He is known as the BTK killer (or the BTK strangler). "BTK" stands for "Bind, Torture, Kill", which was his infamous signature. He sent letters describing the details of the killings to police and local news outlets during the time period in which the murders took place.
After a long hiatus in the 1990s through early 2000s, Rader resumed sending letters in 2004, leading to his 2005 arrest and subsequent guilty plea. He is currently serving 10 consecutive life sentences at El Dorado Correctional Facility in Kansas.
Dennis Rader is the oldest of four sons, born to Dorothea Mae Rader (née Cook) and William Elvin Rader. Though born in Pittsburg, Kansas, he grew up in Wichita. According to several reports, including his own confessions, as a child he tortured animals. He also harbored a sexual fetish for women's underwear and would steal underpants from his victims and wear them himself.
Rader spent four years (1966–1970) in the United States Air Force. Upon discharge, he moved to Park City, a suburb located seven miles north of Wichita. He worked for a time in the meat department of Leekers IGA supermarket in Park City alongside his mother, a bookkeeper for the store.
Rader attended Butler County Community College in El Dorado, earning an associate degree in electronics in 1973. He then enrolled at Wichita State University and graduated in 1979 with a bachelor's degree in administration of justice. He married Paula Dietz on May 22, 1971, and they had two children.
Rader worked as an assembler for Coleman Company, an outdoor supply company, and then, from 1974 until 1988, worked at the Wichita-based office of ADT Security Services, a home security company. He installed security alarms as a part of his job; many of his clients booked the company to stop BTK from entering their homes, unaware that BTK himself was installing them. Rader was a census field operations supervisor for the Wichita area in 1989, prior to the 1990 federal census. He then became a dogcatcher and compliance officer in Park City. In this position, neighbors recalled him as being sometimes overzealous and extremely strict; one neighbor complained that he euthanized her dog for no reason. On March 2, 2005, the Park City council terminated Rader's employment for failure to report to work or to call in. He had been arrested for the murders five days earlier.
Rader was a member of Christ Lutheran Church and had been elected president of the church council. He was also a Cub Scout leader. On July 26, 2005, after Rader's arrest, Sedgwick County District Judge Eric Yost waived the usual 60-day waiting period and granted an immediate divorce for his wife, agreeing that her mental health was in danger. Rader did not contest the divorce, and the 34-year marriage was ended. Paula Rader said in her divorce petition that her mental and physical condition had been adversely affected by the marriage.
All of Rader's known crimes occurred within the state of Kansas. He killed ten people in total and collected items from each murder scene. He also intended to kill others, notably Anna Williams, 63, who in 1979 escaped death by returning home much later than he expected. Rader explained during his confession that he had become obsessed with Williams and was "absolutely livid" when she evaded him. Rader spent hours waiting in her home but became impatient and left when she did not return home from visiting friends. Two of the women Rader had stalked in the 1980s and one he had stalked in the mid-1990s filed restraining orders against him; one of them also moved away.
Rader admitted in his interrogation that he had been planning to kill again. He had set a date, October 2004, and was stalking his intended victim.
|#||Name||Sex||Age||Date of Death||Place of Death||Cause of Death||Weapon Used||Date Body Found||Place Body Found|
|1||Joseph Otero||M||38||January 15, 1974||803 North Edgemoor Street, Wichita||Suffocated||Plastic bags||January 15, 1974||803 North Edgemoor Street, Wichita|
|2||Julie Otero||F||33||January 15, 1974||803 North Edgemoor Street, Wichita||Strangled||Rope||January 15, 1974||803 North Edgemoor Street, Wichita|
|3||Joseph Otero, Jr.||M||9||January 15, 1974||803 North Edgemoor Street, Wichita||Suffocated||Plastic bag||January 15, 1974||803 North Edgemoor Street, Wichita|
|4||Josephine Otero||F||11||January 15, 1974||803 North Edgemoor Street, Wichita||Hanged from a drainage pipe||Rope||January 15, 1974||803 North Edgemoor Street, Wichita|
|5||Kathryn Bright||F||21||April 4, 1974||3217 East 13th Street North, Wichita||Stabbed once in back and lower abdomen||Knife||April 4, 1974||3217 East 13th Street North, Wichita|
|6||Shirley Vian||F||24||March 17, 1977||1311 South Hydraulic Street, Wichita||Strangled||Rope||March 17, 1977||1311 South Hydraulic Street, Wichita|
|7||Nancy Fox||F||25||December 8, 1977||843 South Pershing Street, Wichita||Strangled||Belt||December 8, 1977||843 South Pershing Street, Wichita|
|8||Marine Hedge||F||53||April 27, 1985||6254 North Independence Street, Park City||Strangled||Hand(s)||May 5, 1985||East 53rd Street North between North Webb Road and North Greenwich Road, Wichita|
|9||Vicki Wegerle||F||28||September 16, 1986||2404 West 13th Street North, Wichita||Strangled||Nylon stocking||September 16, 1986||2404 West 13th Street North, Wichita|
|10||Dolores E. Davis||F||62||January 19, 1991||6226 North Hillside Street, Wichita||Strangled||Pantyhose||February 1, 1991||West 117th Street North and North Meridian Street, Sedgwick|
Rader was particularly known for sending taunting letters to police and newspapers. He authored several communications from 1974 to 1979. The first was a letter that had been stashed inside an engineering book in the Wichita Public Library in October 1974 that described, in detail, the killing of the Otero family in January of that year. In early 1978, he sent another letter to television station KAKE in Wichita, claiming responsibility for the murders of the Oteros, Shirley Vian, Nancy Fox, and Kathryn Bright. He suggested a number of possible names for himself, including the one that stuck: BTK. He demanded media attention in this second letter, and it was finally announced that Wichita did indeed have a serial killer at large. A poem was enclosed titled "Oh! Death to Nancy", a botched version of the lyrics to the American folk song "O Death".
In 1988, after the murders of three members of the Fager family in Wichita, a letter was received from someone claiming to be the BTK killer in which he denied being the perpetrator of this crime. He did credit the killer with having done "admirable work". It was not proven until 2005 that this letter was in fact written by Rader, and he is not considered by police to have committed this crime.
By 2004, the investigation of the BTK Killer had gone cold. Then, Rader began a series of 11 communications to the local media that led directly to his arrest in February 2005. In March 2004, The Wichita Eagle received a letter from someone using the return address Bill Thomas Killman. The author of the letter claimed that he had murdered Vicki Wegerle on September 16, 1986, and enclosed photographs of the crime scene and a photocopy of her driver's license, which had been stolen at the time of the crime. Prior to this, it had not been definitively established that Wegerle had been killed by BTK. DNA collected from under Wegerle's fingernails provided police with previously unknown evidence. They then began DNA testing hundreds of men in an effort to find the serial killer. All together, over 1300 DNA samples were taken and later destroyed by court order.
In May 2004, a letter containing chapter headings for the "BTK Story", fake IDs and a word puzzle were received by KAKE. On June 9, 2004, a package was found taped to a stop sign at the corner of First and Kansas in Wichita. It contained graphic descriptions of the Otero murders and a sketch labeled "The Sexual Thrill Is My Bill". Also enclosed was a chapter list for a proposed book titled "The BTK Story", which mimicked a story written in 1999 by Court TV crime writer David Lohr. Chapter One was titled "A Serial Killer Is Born". In July, a package was dropped into the return slot at the downtown public library containing more bizarre material, including the claim that he was responsible for the death of 19-year-old Jake Allen in Argonia, Kansas earlier that month. This claim was found to be false and the death was ruled a suicide. In October 2004, a manila envelope was dropped into a UPS box in Wichita. It contained a series of cards with images of terror and bondage of children pasted on them, a poem threatening the life of lead investigator Lt. Ken Landwehr and a false autobiography containing many details about Rader's life. These details were later released to the public.
In December 2004, Wichita police received another package from the BTK killer. This time, the package was found in Wichita's Murdock Park. It contained the driver's license of Nancy Fox, which was noted as stolen from the crime scene, as well as a doll that was symbolically bound at the hands and feet and had a plastic bag tied over its head. In January 2005, Rader attempted to leave a cereal box in the bed of a pickup truck at a Home Depot in Wichita, but the box was discarded by the truck's owner. It was later retrieved from the trash after Rader asked what had become of it in a later message. Surveillance tape of the parking lot from that date revealed a distant figure driving a black Jeep Cherokee leaving the box in the pickup. In February, more postcards were sent to KAKE, and another cereal box left at a rural location was found to contain another bound doll, apparently meant to symbolize the murder of 11-year-old Josephine Otero.
In his letters to police, Rader asked if his writings, if put on a floppy disk, could be traced or not. The police answered his question in a newspaper ad posted in the Wichita Eagle saying it would be safe to use the disk. On February 16, 2005, Rader sent a purple 1.44-MB Memorex floppy disk to Fox TV affiliate KSAS-TV in Wichita. Also enclosed were a letter, a gold-colored necklace with a large medallion, and a photocopy of the cover of a 1989 novel about a serial killer (Rules of Prey). Police found metadata embedded in a deleted Microsoft Word document that was, unbeknownst to Rader, on the floppy disk. The metadata contained "Christ Lutheran Church", and the document was marked as last modified by "Dennis". An internet search determined that a "Dennis Rader" was president of the church council. From the Home Depot incident, the police also knew BTK owned a black Jeep Cherokee. When investigators drove by Rader's house, they noticed a black Jeep Cherokee parked outside.
The police now had strong circumstantial evidence against Rader, but they needed more direct evidence in order to detain him. They obtained a warrant to test the DNA of a pap smear Rader's daughter had taken at the Kansas State University medical clinic while she was a student there. The DNA of the pap smear was processed by the Kansas Bureau of Investigation at their laboratory in Topeka and demonstrated a familial match to the DNA of the sample taken from the victim Vicki Wegerle's fingernails. This indicated that the killer was closely related to Rader's daughter, and was the evidence the police needed to make an arrest.
Rader was stopped while driving near his home in Park City and taken into custody shortly after noon on February 25, 2005. Once in handcuffs, Rader was asked by an officer, "Mr. Rader, do you know why you're going downtown?" to which he replied, "Oh, I have suspicions why." Immediately after, law enforcement officials, including a Wichita Police bomb unit truck, two SWAT trucks, and KBI, FBI, and ATF agents, converged on Rader's residence near the intersection of I-135 and 61st Street North. Police searched Rader's home and vehicle, collecting evidence, including computer equipment, a pair of black pantyhose retrieved from a shed, and a cylindrical container. The church he attended, his office at City Hall, and the main branch of the Park City library were also searched that day. Officers were seen removing a computer from his City Hall office, but it is unclear if any evidence was found at these locations. At a press conference the next morning, Wichita Police Chief Norman Williams announced, "the bottom line: BTK is arrested".
On February 28, 2005, Rader was formally charged with 10 counts of first degree murder. The Sunday after his arrest, the Associated Press cited an anonymous source alleging that Rader had confessed to other murders in addition to the ones to which he had already been connected. When asked about the reported confessions, Sedgwick County District Attorney Nola Foulston said, "Your information is patently false", but refused to say whether Rader had made any confessions or whether investigators were looking into Rader's possible involvement in more unsolved killings. On March 5, news sources claimed to have verified by multiple sources that Rader had confessed to the 10 murders he was charged with, but no additional ones.
He made his first court appearance via video conference on March 1, 2005, from jail. District Judge Greg Waller Tuesday set his bail at $10 million and appointed a public defender to represent him at a preliminary hearing on March 15. On May 3, Waller entered "not guilty" pleas to the 10 charges on Rader's behalf, as Rader did not speak at his arraignment. On June 27, the scheduled trial date, Rader changed his plea to "guilty". He described the murders in detail and made no apologies.
He faced sentencing on August 18, 2005. Victims' families made statements and were followed by Rader, who apologized for his crimes in a rambling, bizarre 30-minute monologue that District Attorney Nola Foulston likened to an Academy Awards acceptance speech. He was sentenced to serve 10 consecutive life sentences, one life sentence per murder victim. In total, Rader would be eligible for parole after 175 years of imprisonment, in 2180. Because Kansas had no death penalty at the time the murders were committed, life imprisonment was the maximum penalty allowed by law.
On August 19, Rader was moved from the Sedgwick County Jail to the El Dorado Correctional Facility, a Kansas state prison, to begin serving his consecutive life sentences as Kansas Department of Corrections #0083707. His earliest possible release date is February 26, 2180. According to witnesses, Rader talked about innocuous topics such as the weather during the 40-minute drive from Wichita to El Dorado, but began to cry when the victims' families' statements from the court proceedings came on the radio. Rader is now being held in the EDCF "Special Management" unit, also known as solitary confinement, for "the inmate's own protection". This is a designation he will most likely retain for the remainder of his incarceration. He is confined to his cell for 23 hours a day with the exception of voluntary solo one-hour exercise yard time and access to the shower three times a week. Beginning April 23, 2006, Rader reached "Incentive Level Two" and has been allowed to purchase and watch television, purchase and listen to the radio, receive and read magazines, and receive other privileges for good behavior. The victims' families disagreed with this decision. According to Rader's record in the Kansas Department of Corrections database, he had a Class Two disciplinary report concerning "mail" on April 10, 2006.
Following Rader's arrest, police in Wichita, Park City, and several surrounding cities looked into unsolved cases with the cooperation of the state police and the FBI. They particularly focused on cases after 1994, when the death penalty was reinstated in Kansas. Police in surrounding states such as Nebraska, Missouri, Colorado, Oklahoma, and Texas also investigated cold cases that fit Rader's pattern to some extent. The FBI, Civil Air Patrol, and local jurisdictions at Rader's former duty stations checked into unsolved cases during Rader's time in the service.
After exhaustive investigations, none of these agencies discovered any further murders attributable to Rader, confirming early suspicions that Rader would have taken credit for any additional murders that he had committed. The 10 known murders are now believed to be the only murders that Rader is actually responsible for, although Wichita police are fairly certain that Rader stalked and researched a number of other potential future victims. This includes one person who was saved when Rader called off his planned attack upon his arrival near the target's home due to the presence of construction and road crews near her home. In his police interview, Rader stated that "there are a lot of lucky people", meaning that he had thought about and developed various levels of murder plans for other victims.
Massachusetts psychologist Robert Mendoza was hired by Rader's court-appointed public defenders to conduct a psychological evaluation for Rader and determine if an insanity-based defense might be viable. He conducted an interview after Rader pled guilty on June 27. NBC claimed Rader knew the interview might be on TV, but this was false according to the Sedgwick County Sheriff's Department. Rader mentioned the interview during his sentencing statement. On October 25, 2005, the Kansas attorney general filed a petition to sue Mendoza and Tali Waters, co-owners of Cambridge Forensic Consultants, LLC, for breach of contract, claiming that they intended to benefit financially from the use of information obtained through involvement in Rader's defense. On May 10, 2007, Mendoza settled the case for $30,000 with no admission of wrongdoing.
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The trait served Rader well in his next job, as a compliance officer for Park City, a Wichita suburb—but his nit-picking won him few friends.
- Interview with Misty King; A&E Documentary Special—The BTK Killer Speaks
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- "Transcription of poem "Oh! Death to Nancy"" (PDF). City of Wichita. Retrieved August 9, 2011.
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- BTK suspect silent in court 05/04/05
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- Beattie, Robert (2005). Nightmare in Wichita: The Hunt For The BTK Strangler. Penguin Books. p. 138. ISBN 9781101219928. Retrieved January 12, 2013.
- The book Bind, Torture, Kill: The Inside Story of BTK, the Serial Killer Next Door By Roy Wenzl, Tim Potter, L. Kelly and Hurst Laviana.
- "BTK Psychologist to Pay State". WIBW. Associated Press. May 10, 2007. Retrieved February 10, 2015.
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- The Raven that Refused to Sing – Concert Review
- Beattie, Robert. Nightmare In Wichita: The Hunt for the BTK Strangler. New American Library, 2005. ISBN 0-451-21738-1.
- Davis, Jeffrey M. The Shadow of Evil: Where Is God in a Violent World?. Kendall/Hunt Publishing Company, 1996. ISBN 0-7872-1981-9. (Davis is the son of BTK victim Dolores Davis.)
- Douglas, John E. Inside the Mind of BTK: The True Story Behind Thirty Years of Hunting for the Wichita Serial Killer. Jossey Bass Wiley, 2007. ISBN 978-0-7879-8484-7.
- Singular, Stephen. Unholy Messenger: The Life and Crimes of the BTK Serial Killer. Scribner Book Company, 2006. ISBN 1-4001-5252-6.
- Smith, Carlton. The BTK Murders: Inside the "Bind Torture Kill" Case that Terrified America's Heartland. St. Martin's True Crime, 2006. ISBN 0-312-93905-1.
- Wenzl, Roy; Potter, Tim; Laviana, Hurst; Kelly, L. Bind, Torture, Kill: The Inside Story of the Serial Killer Next Door. HC an imprint of HarperCollins, 2007. ISBN 978-0-06-124650-0.
- Welch, Larry. Beyond Cold Blood: The KBI from Ma Barker to BTK. Univ Pr of Kansas, 2012. ISBN 978-0700618859.
|Wikinews has related news: Suspect in BTK killings arrested after 25 years in hiding|
- B.T.K. – The Worlds Most Elusive Serial Killer
- Sedgwick County 18th Judicial District collection of legal documents on the Rader case
- The Wichita Eagle Collection of articles and videos about BTK
- KAKE Collection of articles and videos on BTK
- Dennis Rader's listing on the Kansas Department of Corrections Kansas Adult Supervised Population Electronic Repository site, including current location and disciplinary actions.
- "Finding BTK" Investigation Discovery
- The Hunt for the BTK Killer (2005) at the Internet Movie Database
- B.T.K. Killer (2005) at the Internet Movie Database
- B.T.K. (2008) at the Internet Movie Database
- Feast of the Assumption: BTK and the Otero Family Murders (2010) at the Internet Movie Database