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"I am BT. I’m the guy they’re after -- 100 percent."
BTK stands for "Bind, Torture and Kill," a style the killer used. He used the initials "BTK" in letters he sent to local media. This was a nickname the killer gave himself.
BTK is responsible for ten homicides from 1974 to 1991.
On March 9, 1945, Dennis L. Rader, the first of four sons, was born to William E. Rader, a firm but fair father, and a loving mother, Dorothea Rader. The clean cut boy was active in the Lutheran church family with the rest of his family. His brother states Dennis did not display traits that would indicate he had problems and that there was absolutely no abuse in the home.
As a young child, Dennis was aroused by his mother's spankings. As a boy, he secretly obtained S&M magazines, stole panties, and peeped in windows. He began strangling dogs and cats, as a child. He would bind strays with baling wire and hang them in a barn.
In grade school he sketched violent sexual fantasies of bondage.
He dressed in women's underwear in the basement of his parent's home, tied a rope around his neck, as if he were hanging and took pictures of himself.
He was a virgin when he graduated from high school in 1963. He received his sexual experience while in the military. He served in the Air Force from 1965 to 1970 in Turkey, Greece, South Korea, and Japan (from early 1968 through August 1970).
In 1971 he worked in the meat department of an IGA Grocery store where his mother was a bookkeeper. He has lived at the same residence in Wichita Kansas since 1971, not far from where he grew up. Coleman Company officials show Rader working in their heating and air division from June 1972 to July 1973.
Rader married Paula Dietz, a secretary at the VA Hospital in 1973. They have two children. Paula sang in the choir. Rader claimed they had a good marriage for over 30 years. After his arrest he began complaining that marriage cramped his lifestyle.
The 195 pound, 5-foot-11 college educated, family man in Park City, Kansas was president of the Lutheran church he attended for 30 years and a Boy Scout leader. He was described as an arrogant, rude, confrontational, control freak that enjoyed the power of his office. One neighbor saw him measure a neighbor's lawn with a ruler before calling the city to complain the lawn too high. Others described him as efficient, friendly, and a regular nice guy.
Rader accidentally left a disturbing poem at home about Shirley Vian Relford that frightened his wife. He claimed it was for justice classes at Wichita State University.
Shortly before her husband's arrest she told him he spelled "just like BTK."
BTK (Bind, Torture, Kill) stalked and trolled for vulnerable women he could catch alone.
An individual he honed in on or referred to as “projects," or "PJs," his term for a targeted victim. He used code words for their names.
Rader's biggest thrill was the anticipation before and the memories afterwards, not the actual murders. He fantasized about torturing and enslaving his victims after their death, in "after-life concepts of victims," or "AFLV." He took personal items as souvenirs from victims as time allowed.
Rader used a “hit kit."
The drawer in his City Hall office contained souvenirs from the killings, plus murder journals, sexual fantasy sketches, bondage, death, and torture chambers plans.
In his kitchen pantry he kept the scout knife used to stab Kathryn Bright.
In a home closet he kept bondage pictures of women in scrapbooks and "slick ads" of sexual content in a plastic storage box. His wife didn't go in that closet and never asked about it. He cut out ads of girls in lingerie or swimsuits that he glued on 3x5 index cards to carry in his pocket. There were hundreds of these with sexually explicit fantasies scrawled on the back.
He took Polaroid pictures of himself in bondage, wearing underwear he'd stolen from victims. In some photos he wore a mask.
He kept notes of his bondage fantasies. He planned to document his “mother lode" in a computer files kept in a safe-deposit box, under an alias, to be opened after his death because he didn’t want his family to find to the stuff.
The initial contact, a poorly typed, misspelled statement, taking responsibility for the Otero family slayings addressed to The Wichita Eagle and Beacon Secret Witness Program was received October 1974. Under the program, crime information reported to the newspaper without the witness divulging their identity. The statement said the three major suspects were not involved. After divulging details only known to someone at the scene, the letter stated:
No further communications were received.
The police flashed a subliminal message created by profilers on KAKE-TV evening news. The subliminal message appeared as a flash of light but said, “Now call the chief." There was no response.
Using the letter, experts compiled a personality profile revealing a disturbed male with a fetish for bondage. His sexual release was to be bound by and to bind others.
Wichita psychologist, Tony Ruark, described him as a sociopath with severe anti-social personality disorder rendering him unable to feel:
Rader rambles about his sickness...
In 1974 Rader was employed by ADT Home Security Company where he worked until 1989, when most victims were killed. According to ADT co-workers nobody liked him. A co-worker recalled him beating a company truck as he confronted an employee.
His position with ADT allowed him inside homes. He rigged an alarm so he could get back into a woman's home.
On February 10, 1978 a two-page, single-spaced letter from BTK arrived at KAKE-TV, claiming responsibility for the deaths of Shirley Vian Relford, Nancy Fox, and an unnamed victim. He compared himself to numerous infamous serial killers, including Son of Sam, Jack the Ripper, and the Hillside Strangler, claiming they were driven by "Factor X."
Wichita police denied BTK publicity after profilers theorized he was killing for attention, and would continue to kill if he got it, but BTK kept killing anyway.
In 1979 Rader graduated with a degree in administrative justice from Wichita State University but none of his instructors from the small department recall him. One letter sent by BTK was traced to a Wichita State University photocopier.
He applied for a job as a Wichita police officer but his application was rejected.
On Aug. 15, 1979, a 1977 phone call was broadcast. Police received 110 tips the first day. They captured his voice when he called 911 to brag about murdering Nancy Fox. The police enhanced the technical quality repeatedly before broadcast broadcasting it. Nobody recognized the voice. After his arrest Rader said he enjoyed hearing his voice played over and over again.
In 1979 he quit communicating for years. By the mid-80's BTK was a cold case and the police unit dedicated to the case was abandoned.
In 1989 Rader left ADT. While working for the US Census Bureau in 1989 as a census field operations supervisor in Wichita, verifying home addresses, which gave him access to homes.
Around 1990 he became a compliance supervisor of animal control, nuisances, inoperable vehicles, and codes but did not work for the police department. When women complained about harassment by Rader they were told he was doing his job.
More than 200 DNA samples were taken from men living near the victims to compare with semen from several of the crime scenes. No matches were found.
On April 10, 1996, Rader was appointed to the Sedgwick County Animal Control Advisory Board on the recommendation of County Commissioner Betsy Gwin. He resigned in 1998. Park City Mayor Emil Bergquist presented Rader with an award for 10 years of service on October 2001.
On January 17, 2004, the 30th anniversary of the Otero killings, The Wichita Eagle published a story.
The news was out that a local attorney was writing a book on the case.
March 17, 2004, an envelope arrived at The Wichita Eagle containing a photocopy of Vicki Wegerle's driver's license and photocopies of three Polaroid crime scene photographs of Vicki taken by the killer. Until this evidence was received Vicki's murder was not attributed to BTK.
On May 2004, KAKE received correspondence containing chapter headings for the "BTK Story," with fake IDs and a handmade word puzzle containing letters spelling D. Rader and the numbers of his address. The police received a letter on June 2004. On July 17, 2004 a package was found at Wichita Public Library. A package was found at a UPS drop box on October 22, 2004. A package with Nancy Fox's driver's license and a bound doll were found in a park on December 14, 2004.
A postcard received by KAKE on January 25, 2005, mentioned a package at the east-side Home Depot store. Security cameras captured Rader’s vehicle repeatedly driving through the parking lot.
KAKE received a postcard on February 3, 2005, but police request suppress the information until March 1.Rader communicated with police through classified ads in The Eagle. On February 16, 2005 he sent a message to Wichita's Fox affiliate on a floppy disk. A forensic examination showed a valid file titled 'Test A.RTF.' The document stated:
The index card included instructions for future communications through the classified ads.
Examination of the disk “properties" revealed the words “Dennis" and “Christ Lutheran Church." An Internet search for “Christ Lutheran Church" revealed that Rader was the president of their congregation.
To get a DNA match authorities obtained a warrant for a tissue sample from Rader’s daughter on file at a Kansas medical clinic without her permission. Tests showed it was a close match to the evidence from the crime scenes.
February 25, 2005, Rader was arrested within blocks of his home at approximately 12:15 PM while going home for lunch from work.
Police announced the arrest on the following day.
Rader was planning to murder for the first time since 1991.
Rader gave investigators so many details; they filled 17 DVDs. Rader told police the killings fulfilled sexual fantasies. Proud of his "kills" he intended to terrorize the community with his messages. He bragged that he saw himself as a John Wayne or James Bond, from the way he drew his gun to his style of dress for home invasions.
He admitted to "trolling" in other cities. When he was staying outside Wichita installing an alarm system in an adjoining city he broke into a woman's home.
Although he admitted to murdering 10 people -- no more -- He had hundreds of potential victims.
Rader was charged with 10 counts of first-degree murder and bond was set at $10 million. March 1, 2005 three public defenders were assigned to his case.
The Rev. Michael Clark, the pastor of Christ Lutheran Church, which Rader attended for more than 30 years, meets with Rader twice a week to pray with him.
Rader told psychologist, Robert Mendoza that he believes in God.
When asked what he prayed for, Rader responded:
During this interview he expressed disdain for the local law enforcement.
Investigators interviewed his wife for days but concluded she knew of her husband's crimes. Neither she nor their children visit him. A younger brother has. Rader's father is deceased and his mother remains in seclusion.
Paula was awarded the family house in an emergency divorce. The house sold at an auction for $90,000 to the owner of an exotic dance club, Michelle Borin. She wants the proceeds to go to Paula.
In court Rader recounted how he lived out his fantasies by torturing, binding, and killing victims he chose carefully. He licked his lips while viewing crime scene and autopsy photos considered too appalling for the live television.
He addressed the court in a 25 minute speech to thank people and to take responsibility for his actions.
The ten victims' family members, seated outside the courtroom, mocked his mispronunciations and laughed at the stupidity of his statements. Danny, Charlie and Carmen Otero wiped their tears.
On August 17, 2005, at age 60, Rader received 10 consecutive life sentences, 175 years before being eligible for parole, the maximum sentence possible. On the way to the El Dorado Correctional Facility he visited casually about the scenery and the media coverage of his case.
“Dateline" interview by Harvard psychologist, Robert Mendoza, who was hired by defense to assess Rader’s sanity. Mendoza performs more than a hundred evaluations for criminal and civil cases each year.
Transcript: Rader's own words
Bob Costas in for Larry King Panel: Kevin Bright, the only known BTK survivor, Kathryn Bright, his 21 year old sister, was murdered in April of 1974 in her home. Attorney and author Robert Beattie of "Nightmare in Wichita: the Hunt for the BTK Strangler." Richard Lamunyon, former Wichita police chief from 1976 through 1989 and Larry Hatteberg, KAKE TV Wichita anchor.
June 26, 2006
Copyright Kari Sable 1994-2006