Serial killer from kansas

Rader details how he killed 10 people

Killer had ‘sexual fantasies’ while picking victims

Dennis Rader answers questions from the judge Monday about how he killed his victims.

RELATED

Timeline: BTK killings and investigation

• Transcript: What Rader said in court

• Rader complains about lawyers

• BTK-related cases

• Kansas v. Dennis Rader (From FindLaw)

YOUR E-MAIL ALERTS

WICHITA, Kansas (CNN) — Dennis Rader, the BTK serial killer who terrorized the Wichita area from the 1970s to the 1990s, pleaded guilty Monday and described in cool and dispassionate detail how he killed 10 people to satisfy his sexual fantasies.

Rader, 60, entered the plea on what was supposed to be the first day of his jury trial, saying a long and drawn out trial would only result in his guilt at the end.

He listened matter-of-factly as Sedgwick County District Judge Greg Waller read him each charge and asked if understood, even stopping Waller to correct him when the judge misread a date from the charge sheet.

At Waller’s direction, Rader went down the list of charges, explaining in a calm, dispassionate voice how he carried out each of the killings.

Rader said he broke into the home of Joseph and Julie Otero and tied them up along with two of their children. He said he told them that he was wanted and just needed a car and some food. He put a pillow under Joseph Otero’s head to make him more comfortable.

Rader described how he killed each member of the Otero family, but he said they did not die right away.

“I had never strangled anyone before, so I really didn’t know how much pressure you had to put on a person or how long it would take,” he said.

“BTK” was the killer’s self-named reference to his preference to “bind, torture and kill” his victims in the string of murders from 1974 to 1991.

Packed hit kit, Polaroid pictures

Rader explained how, in most of his cases, he chose and then stalked several people at a time — referring to them as “projects” or “potential hits.”

“If one didn’t work out, I just moved to another one,” Rader said.

Rader told the court he selected his victims as he played out fantasies. Asked what kinds of fantasies he was having, Rader said “sexual fantasies.”

“If you’ve read much about serial killers, they go through what they call different phases. In the trolling stage, basically, you’re looking for a victim at that time. You can be trolling for months or years, but once you lock in on a certain person, you become a stalker. There might be several of them, but you really hone in on one person. They basically become the … victim. Or, at least that’s what you want it to be,” Rader said.

He told the judge he had prepared a “hit kit,” equipment he used in the killings, as well as “hit clothes” that he wore and later got rid of.

Rader said he chose Shirley Vian, 26, at random and forced his way into her apartment with a .357-caliber Magnum handgun on March 17, 1977. Her children “got real upset,” so Rader had her lock them in a bathroom before covering her head with a bag and strangling her.

In more than one case, Rader said he took Polaroid photos of his victims. After killing Marine Hedge in April 1985, Rader said, he stripped his victim, tied her up, took her to another location, then took photos depicting “different forms of bondage” before hiding her body in a ditch.

After hearing descriptions of each of the 10 killings, Waller found Rader guilty of all charges. Rader also waived his right to a jury trial on the sentencing.

Under Kansas law, Rader can be sentenced to life in prison for each charge, but could become eligible for parole.

Consecutive terms to be sought

Sedgwick County District Attorney Nola Foulston said she will ask the maximum sentence possible — for each of those sentences to be served consecutively. “He should serve 175 years to life,” said Foulston, who said she plans to present evidence on every killing at Rader’s sentencing hearing.

The last BTK killing occurred in 1991 after Kansas stiffened its murder statutes, which means Rader could be sentenced to a minimum 40 years in prison without a chance of parole on that count.

Waller set August 17 as the sentencing date.

Rader cannot face the death penalty because Kansas did not reinstate the death penalty until 1994, three years after his last killing.

Rader’s attorney, Steve Osburn, said all defenses were considered, including insanity, but after experts were called in it became apparent “there was no viable insanity defense.”

Osburn said that based on evidence the prosecution had, including a confession and DNA evidence, it was apparent there was “a very solid case for the state.”

Osburn said the detailed account that Waller asked for and got from Rader for each of the crimes was a complete surprise. He said he hoped that it provided closure to the families of the victims.

Killer a church president

Rader, who had been the president of his Lutheran church council, taunted authorities and the media with letters and packages he sent them over several years, some with before-and-after photos of the victims.

Christ Lutheran Church pastor Michael Clark said Rader, also a former Boy Scout leader, had been involved in church leadership for 30 years and was elected church council president just before his arrest.

Rader was arrested in what authorities said was a routine traffic stop. He worked for the Wichita suburb of Park City as a compliance supervisor in charge of animal control, nuisances, inoperable vehicles and general code compliance.

Authorities initially linked him to eight deaths, but added two more after his arrest.

Story Tools

CNN.com gives you the latest stories and video from the around the world, with in-depth coverage of U.S. news, politics, entertainment, health, crime, tech and more.

Get up-to-the minute news from CNN

CNN.com gives you the latest stories and video from the around the world, with in-depth coverage of U.S. news, politics, entertainment, health, crime, tech and more.

Get up-to-the minute news from CNN

Dennis Rader: The BTK Killer

The police investigate and find that right up to the point of death, none of the Otero family resisted as there are no defensive marks. It’s as if the killer had persuaded them that murder wasn’t his intention. How Rader might have persuaded his victims is answered by a survivor of his next attack. Four months after the Otero massacre, Rader enters the house of brother and sister, Kevin and Kathryn Bright. When they return home at around 1pm, they find a man wearing a ski mask and pointing a gun at them. He says that he’s a fugitive looking for a car and that he won’t harm them if they provide him with food and money. (This is the story he used so effectively on the Otero family.) The 21 year old sister is tied up first and then Kevin is tied and gagged in another room. He shoots Kevin twice in the head. He goes back to Kathryn, strangles her to excite himself but she struggles so much that he stabs her eleven times in the stomach to stop her. The amount of blood surprises him. It takes her five hours to bleed out. Somehow, Kevin survives.
In October, Rader writes his first BTK letter for the Wichita Eagle-Beacon newspaper. He places it in a book in a library and rings a reporter with its name and location. The letter seeks to both claim responsibility and acknowledge the evil of the murders whilst at the same time seeking to blame them on a ‘monster’ in the murderer’s mind. The letter ends, ‘Yours, truly guiltily’ and is signed off ‘The code word for me will be…Bind them, torture them, kill them, B.T.K’ This communication will be the first of many and it’s this need for public recognition and respect from his pursuers, the police, that will eventually lead to arrest, trial and imprisonment.
By his third kill, Rader has developed a signature, attacking during the day, cutting telephone lines, and then executing his murderous MO according to his acronym. On 17 March 1977, he tries to put into operation ‘Project Green’. But his intended target’s away. Ready to kill but frustrated, he wanders the streets and comes across a child returning home. He first shows a photo of his own wife to the child asking if he knew who she was as if he was a private detective seeking information. The boy shakes his head and continues home. Rader watches where the boy goes, follows, knocks on the door, and persuades the boy to allow him in. He enters the home of Shirley Vian, a mother of three in her mid-20s. Once in, he drops any pretence and pulls out a pistol. His story this time is that he has a sexual dysfunction and that tying her up is the only way he can achieve gratification. Shirley believes that if she complies, she will live. She helps him confine her children, aged 4, 6 and 8 in the bathroom with toys and a blanket. It’s partly sheer terror that causes her then to repeatedly vomit. Rader gives her a glass of water and tries to calm her. He then binds her wrists and ankles. She expects rape. Instead, he strangles her. The children can see what is happening through a gap in the door. Rader intends to do the same to them when the telephone rings. (He has not had time to do his usual preparations) He quickly exits.
On 8 December 1977, Rader breaks form by one, breaking a window to enter, and two, by attacking during the night. This time his target is 25 year old Nancy Fox, who he’s had under surveillance for months. He has focused in on her over the last few weeks, discovering her name, and following the jewellery store worker to her workplace. He uses the same sexual story he’d used on Shirley. Rader shares a cigarette with Nancy. She prepares herself to be restrained and raped. Rader handcuffs her and lies her face down on her bed. He then strangles her with a nylon stocking. After she’s dead, he masturbates and ejaculates. His memento from the evening is her driving license. Later, he calls the police from a phone box to tell them what he’s done. With no interruptions or mistakes, Nancy is his ‘perfect hit’.

At this point, you might know him best as the “ADT Serviceman,” but trust: that creepy guy in all those Mindhunter vignettes is 100% based on a real person. Meet the BTK Killer (aka Dennis Rader), one of the most notorious serial murderers of our time. And when I say “our time,” I mean he was literally *just* caught in 2005, after years evading the law and trolling police.

The BTK Killer is an especially ~interesting~ subject for Mindhunter (and all your true-crime deep-dives) because he essentially lived a double life. During the height of his heinous criminal activity, he was busy being a leader in his church and running a local Cub Scouts program. Chills, right? So before we get into everything you’d ever want to know about the BTK Killer, I want to issue a quick warning: This article contains disturbing details about Rader’s violent criminal history. Proceed with caution.

Real Quick: What Does BTK Stand For?

Bind, Torture, Kill.

Upsetting, I know. But this is how Rader signed his letters to the police, and the nickname stuck.

PoolGetty Images

His Murder Spree Occurred in the 1970s

Rader, who had a fetish for women’s underwear because of-freakin-course, started killing people in 1974. It all began with the Otero family—a mother, father, and two children—who were found dead in their home by their eldest son Charlie. He’s since been the subject of a documentary, I Survived BTK.

In 1978, Rader sent a letter (obviously not using his real name) to a local TV station claiming responsibility for the Otero killings, as well as the murders of three women: Kathryn Bright, Shirley Vian, and Nancy Fox. He then went on to kill a woman named Marine Hedge, and photographed her body in his local church. Like…MAYBE LEAVE YOUR CHURCH OUT OF THIS, FFS.

After taking a “break,” Rader killed a woman named named Dolores E. Davis in 1991. We won’t get into the creepy details of his crimes, but suffice to say they were awful and often involved props:

PoolGetty Images

He Was Married…with Children

Rader married Paula Dietz in 1971 and they had two kids. What’s crazy is that no one in his immediate family had any idea he was a serial killer until 2005. Since his arrest, Rader’s daughter Kerri has been super vocal about what it was like to learn of her dad’s double life:

It’s not like all of a sudden ‘my dad’s a serial killer.’ You’re told it, you’re running these things through your head. You’re seeing these violent images online, you’re reading about these violent things that took place. It doesn’t add up. Those little things kinda click in place and that reality starts hitting. You don’t want to accept it.

Kerri recently came out with a book called A Serial Killer’s Daughter, and Rader responded to the news of its publication in a letter to local station KCTV5, saying, “I’m not sure how the book is written or how far she shows me under the ‘bus.’ I broke her heart and the other family members, co-workers, friends, relatives and others. She certainly has that right.”

A Serial Killer’s Daughter: My Story of Faith, Love, and Overcoming HarperCollins Christian Pub. amazon.com $22.99 $12.62 (45% off)

He Masqueraded as a “Normal Guy”

Rader worked for the ADT Security Services throughout his killing spree—hence his nickname in Mindhunter. By all accounts, he was just a regular dude living in suburbia with his wife and kids, spending his days as a Cub Scout leader and a super active member of the Christ Lutheran Church, where he was president of the church council.

Orjan F. EllingvagGetty Images

He Was Known for Trolling the Police

Rader took a 10-year hiatus from killing, and started trolling the Wichita police with letters in 2004. It started in March, when The Wichita Eagle received a letter from someone using the return address Bill Thomas Killman. Wow, Dennis, real subtle! BTK confessed to killing a woman named Vicki Wegerle in the letter, and included pictures from the crime scene. In June, he taped a package to a stop sign containing details about the Otero murders and a creepy sketch labeled “the Sexual Thrill is my Bill.” (He described this as “a BTK epigram.”)

These packages and letters continued until 2005 when….

Technology F*cked Him Over

Rader asked the police via letter if a floppy disk of his writings would be traceable, and they responded in a newspaper ad saying no. He believed them (um, okay, wow…) and promptly sent a disk over to a Fox affiliate news station. Police were able to find identifying data in a Microsoft Word document, which contained the words “Christ Lutheran Church,” and the name “Dennis.” A quick internet search was all it took to realize that “Dennis Rader” was the man in question. They obtained a warrant to test the DNA on a pap smear from his daughter, which matched a DNA sample he’d left on a victim.

Getty ImagesGetty Images

Rader pleaded guilty to killing ten people and was sentenced to 10 consecutive life sentences. The coldness of his demeanor at court was highly disturbing, and even his attorney Steve Osburn said, “I’ve never had this experience, and I hope to never have it again.

His full confession is below, and again, it’s not the most pleasant thing to watch so click with caution:

So, Where Is Dennis Rader Now?

In jail. Rader was put in solitary confinement for his own protection, and in 2006, he was allowed access to television, radio and—most alarmingly—drawing supplies. This was a controversial move because District Judge Greg Waller recommended that he not be allowed to “possess, receive or create any visual images of human beings or animals, including drawings.” But his attorney said denying Rader written and visual materials could push him further into a fantasy world, so here we are.

Related Story Mehera Bonner Mehera Bonner is a news writer who focuses on celebrities and royals—follow her on Instagram.

Warning: This article has graphic content that may be disturbing to some viewers.

From 1974 to 1991, serial killer Dennis Rader murdered 10 people under the moniker BTK Killer, standing for “Bind, Torture, Kill.” Around his hometown of Wichita, Kansas, Rader was known as a family man and church leader, and no one suspected he was the man sending taunting letters to police and media detailing his brutal, twisted crimes.

After his final murder, Rader took a 13-year hiatus, and by 2004, the BTK killings were considered a cold case. It wasn’t until a local newspaper ran an anniversary story about the Otero family murders — Rader’s first killings — that he reopened communication with media. His letters and packages ultimately led to his arrest in 2005, and police were able to unearth hundreds of disturbing crime scene photos from Rader’s “hidey holes” scattered throughout Wichita.

Several of these photos — featured in Oxygen’s “Snapped: Notorious BTK Killer” — were able to shed light on the serial killer who went unnoticed in the city he terrorized for more than 30 years. Scroll down to see what authorities uncovered.

The Otero family murders. On the morning of January 15, 1974, Rader forced his way inside the Otero family home and murdered 33-year-old Julie Otero, her husband Joseph, 38, and their 9-year-old son, Joseph Jr., and 11-year-old daughter, Josephine.

Julie Otero. Rader later told investigators that he held the family at gunpoint, tied them up and strangled them one by one.

Sketch of BTK Killer. On April 4, 1974, Rader broke into 21-year-old Kathryn Bright’s home while she was out. When she returned with her 19-year-old brother Kevin, Rader held them at gunpoint and had them tie each other up. Both Bright siblings tried to fight off their attacker. He ended up shooting Kevin, who got away and survived, and fatally stabbed Kathryn 11 times in the torso and back. Kevin was able to describe their attacker to police, who created a suspect sketch.

The first letter. In October 1974, Rader left his first letter to the media inside an engineering textbook at the Wichita Public Library. It described the Otero family murders in graphic detail and was signed, “YOURS, TRULY GUILTILY.” In its post-script, he wrote, “The code words for me will be… Bind them, Torture them, Kill them, B.T.K., you see be at it again. They will be on the next victim.”

Shirley Vian. On March 17, 1977, Rader forced his way inside the home of 24-year-old Shirley Vian, tied her up, put a plastic bag over her head and strangled her with a rope.

Vian’s bathroom. Vian’s three young children were home at the time of her murder, and Rader locked them in the bathroom.

Payphone where Rader called police. On December 8, 1977, Rader broke into the apartment of 25-year-old Nancy Fox after cutting her phone lines. He strangled Fox with a belt and later called police to report the murder from a downtown payphone. Police were able to track the location, but they could not identify a suspect.

BTK’s letter to media. In February 1978, Rader sent a two-page letter to KAKE-TV, claiming responsibility for the BTK murders, including Vian and Fox.

Marine Hedge. Rader targeted Marine Hedge, 53, who lived just up the street from the Rader family, on April 27, 1985. He broke into her home and strangled her. Rader then took Hedge’s nude body to Christ Lutheran Church, where he posed her in various bondage positions and took photographs of her before hastily burying her in a ditch.

Drawing of Hedge’s home. Since they were neighbors, Hedge’s house had a similar layout the Rader family’s home. Rader drew a map of her home while planning the attack.

Photos of Vicki Wegerle that Rader sent to media in 2004. On September 16, 1986, Rader dressed up as a telephone repairman and knocked on the door of 28-year-old Vicki Wegerle. He choked her with a nylon stocking before taking photographs of her corpse and stealing her car.

Mask found with Dolores Davis. The BTK Killer’s tenth and final victim was 62-year-old Dolores Davis. Rader threw a concrete block through a plate glass window to gain entry to her home on January 19, 1991. After tying her up, he strangled her with a pair of pantyhose. He later placed a mask on her face and hid her body underneath a bridge.

BTK’s Barbie doll. In December 2004, a viewer of KAKE-TV called the station to report a suspicious package in a local park. They recovered a box containing a bound Barbie doll made to mimic the murder of Josephine Otero (she had been hanged from a basement pipe) and Nancy Fox’s driver’s license.

Cereal box from BTK. On January 25, 2005, KAKE-TV received a postcard from the BTK Killer listing the location of a cereal box. Inside the box, he left a note asking, “Can I communicate with Floppy and not be traced to a computer. Be honest.” If so, Rader asked them to run a message in the paper saying, “Rex, it will be OK.”

The Floppy disk. Police responded as Rader asked, placing an ad saying, “Rex, it will be OK.” On the floppy disk, which Rader sent to Wichita’s KSAS-TV, police were able to retrieve metadata from a deleted document that tied him to the murders.

Evidence found at Rader’s property. Rader eventually confessed to being the BTK Killer, sharing details of the killings and telling detectives where they could find evidence in his “hidey holes,” scattered throughout Wichita.

Rader’s bondage selfies. Police also found several photographs Rader had taken of himself in bondage. According to CBS News, Rader would often relive “the ecstasy of the murder” by taking photographs of himself in the victims’ clothing and recreating the murders.

To hear more about the BTK Killer, watch “Snapped: Notorious BTK Killer” on Oxygen.

These are the crime scene pictures that I have of Dennis Rader, also known as the BTK killer. The pictures below are from several different victims. This was a famous case for a long time.
Kathryn Bright, one of five children, loved singing in the church with her sister and friend. After she graduated from high school in 1971 she worked for Coleman. At age 21, Kathryn was a smart, popular, and funny college student.
Dennis Rader claims his memory is not clear on the events of this crime. One day he saw Kathryn and a friend going into her house as he drove by.
He referred to Kathryn as a “sweet kid” and “trolled” for her many times, calling her “Project Lights Out.”
On April 4, 1974, Rader busted through her screen door wearing a stocking cap, carrying a Magnum and a .22 but was stunned to find her 5’6,” 115-pound brother, 19 year old brother, Kevin, was with her.
“I didn’t have any idea she had a brother.”
Rader knew something needed to be done about Kevin before he could fulfill his sexual fantasies with Kathryn.
He could not recall if he brought his own tools but he told them he needed a car to get away because he was wanted in California.
“… if I had brought my stuff and used my stuff, Kevin would probably be dead today … I am not bragging on that, it is just a matter of fact …”
First, he made Kevin tie up Kathryn.
Both Kevin and Kathryn broke out of Rader’s bonds. “… They got out of hand.”
Rader tied Kevin by his feet to the bedposts before he moved Kathryn to another bedroom to tie her down. When Kevin put up a strong fight; Rader shot him in the head with his .22 and figured he was down.
“Well, when I started to strangle him, he broke his bonds and he jumped up.
So I pulled my gun and shot him. I hit him in the head. He fell over. I could see the blood. As far as I was concerned I thought he was down and was out. And then I started to strangle Kathryn.”
“I just did one of those John Wayne things.”
When he began to strangle Kathryn, she put a strong fight.
“She fought like a hellcat.”
After he believed she was dead he heard noises from Kevin in the other bedroom. While attempting to strangle Kevin, Rader was worried Kevin would grab his Magnum from the shoulder holster.
Rader stuck his finger in the weapon to jam it. He either bit or hit Kevin, and then shot him with again a .22 and again believed Kevin was down.
He returned to finish off Kathryn who was still fighting back hard. Unable to strangle her to death, he stabbed her with a knife in the lower back and under her ribs in the abdomen and left her for dead.
Rader checked back in on Kevin expecting to find him dead, but he was running down the street.
He quickly cleaned up the mess and attempted to steal their pickup but even though he had keys he couldn’t get it started.
He ran 4-5 blocks to the Wichita State University campus where his car was parked.
Kevin survived being shot twice.
Bleeding, Kathryn crawled to the living room phone. She told the police she didn’t know who did this before she died from numerous stab wounds.
Over 30 years later when Rader was arrested, the Boy Scout knife used to kill Kathryn was still in his kitchen pantry. He intentionally changed his MO so police wouldn’t link the Bright murder with the Otero murders.
Her role in the afterlife would be “his personal sex/bondage girl.”

Officer shaken by crime scenes | The Wichita Eagle

There are 247 names on the alphabetized witness list unsealed by a judge on Friday. The name Joseph R. Thomas is 218th from the top.

Joe Thomas said Friday that he didn’t mind talking about what he witnessed, and what it did to him.

As he put it, “There are a jillion or so retired police officers on that list who are just tickled to death that they caught somebody for the BTK murders — and I’m one of them.”

Thomas was a Wichita police sergeant who drew two grim duties: He was the scene supervisor at the house where four members of the Otero family were murdered in 1974, and at the house where Shirley Vian was strangled in 1977.

Local News at Your Fingertips

Get unlimited digital access for just $3.99 a month to #ReadLocal anytime, on any device.

GET OFFER

What that meant was that he was one of the first uniformed officers to show up after the first call and was in charge of keeping the evidence at the scene from being disturbed, including by other officers.

He had seen homicides before, but the Otero house disturbed him a good deal. On the telephone on Friday night, he tried to tell an Eagle reporter that looking inside the Otero house was more or less business as usual for a police officer. But his wife, Hanky, called out to interrupt him: “You were really upset when you got home.”

“Yes, I was,” Thomas said.

“I wanted to hunt that guy down and do him in myself.”

He walked in the house only long enough to see each body.

He saw a little boy, strangled in his own bedroom. He saw an 11-year-old girl, hanging partially nude from the basement ceiling.

Thomas stayed in the basement only 30 seconds or so, to look it over, then walked back up and outside. He’d seen enough. He kept the place secure until detectives came and went to work.

Three years later, he did the same job at Shirley Vian’s house. He saw a woman lying on her back on her bed, strangled. At the time, no one knew for sure that the same man who killed the Oteros had killed her. But Thomas remembers looking down at her and thinking it could be the same guy.

He retired that same year, 1977.

After the Otero killings in 1974, he changed a good deal about his life. He formed habits that stay with him to this day. When he enters his house, he always looks around, then checks the phone to see if it works.

He bought door props to keep doors secure from break-ins.

He takes one with him outside, early every dark morning, to pick up his Wichita Eagle newspaper. He looks around at home in the dark, a habit he developed not because he was scared, but because if BTK was stupid enough to try to mess with him, “I wanted to be ready to run that rascal down and tackle him good.”

He’s 75 now, with seven grandchildren. He grew up in Arkansas and spent 21 years serving the Wichita police.

He said his one regret is that there are a whole lot of police officers from his day who wanted to run BTK to the ground and catch him, but they died before the arrest came. On their behalf, he wants to sit back and watch the rest of the story come out.

“I’m tickled that it might come out,” he said. “I’m sure those guys would feel the same way I do.”

Who is Dennis Rader aka the BTK serial killer? | The Wichita Eagle

Dennis Rader is a serial killer who terrorized Wichita residents for decades, from 1974 to 1991. He gave himself the nickname of BTK, which he said is what he would do: Bind, torture and kill his victims.

Dennis Rader was arrested Feb. 26, 2005, in Park City, Kansas, and booked on suspicion of 10 counts of first-degree murder for the killings of Joseph Otero, Julie Otero, Josephine Otero, Joseph Otero Jr., Kathryn Bright, Shirley Vian Relford, Nancy Fox, Vicki Wegerle, Marine Hedge and Dolores Davis.

Rader worked for Park City as a compliance supervisor, in charge of animal control and general code enforcement. He was married with two grown children; a leader in his church, Christ Lutheran Church; a former Boy Scout leader; an Air Force veteran; and a 1979 Wichita State University graduate.

Rader went to work for the city three years after he left his job at the Wichita office of a national security company. Officials for ADT Security, based in Boca Raton, Fla., said Rader worked for the Wichita office from November 1974 to July 1988.

Get unlimited digital access for just $3.99 a month to #ReadLocal anytime, on any device.

GET OFFER

Those who knew Rader said he paid attention to detail and appreciated neatness. At his church, he passed out church bulletins and welcomed new members. He was so well thought of, he became president of the church congregation.

He was called by others a control freak. As a compliance officer for Park City, he issued threats and spied on people. He was described as cruel and arrogant, on a power trip.

BTK communications

BTK sent several taunting letters to police, the media and crime victims in the 1970s, when he claimed responsibility for seven killings and suggested he be called BTK for “bind them, torture them, kill them.” The letters stopped in 1979.

Some of the letters and packages that he sent to police and media contained information about the killings that were never made public. Some included pictures of his victims, both as they lived and died, and souvenirs he had taken from crime scenes.

BTK would describe the sexual thrill he got from torturing victims. He wrote that he brought some victims to the brink of death. Then he gave them some air. Then he strangled them again.

Rader’s undoing, perhaps, was a letter he sent to the Wichita Eagle newspaper in March 2004. The letter came 25 years after BTK’s last communication and two months after The Eagle published a story about the 30th anniversary of the first killings — the murders of four members of the Otero family.

Letter sent from BTK to the Wichita Eagle, received Friday, March 19, 2004 and forwarded to the Wichita Police Department. File photo

The story that brought BTK back

On the 30th anniversary of the first BTK killings, Wichita Eagle reporter Hurst Laviana wrote a story that ran in the newspaper on Jan. 17, 2004. Here is an excerpt from that story:

“I don’t think people today realize the kind of tension there was in Wichita at that time,” said lawyer Robert Beattie, who was a West High School student at the time. . . .

Although the killings remain firmly implanted in the minds of those who lived through them, Beattie said many Wichitans probably have never heard of BTK.

He said he used the BTK case during a segment of his class last year and was surprised at the reaction.

“I had zero recognition from the students,” he said. “Not one of them had heard of it.”

Rader found the story outrageous and impossible to ignore.

Did they not remember him? Did they no longer feel the fear?

He would show them.

In his March 2004 letter to The Eagle, BTK took credit for the killing of Vicki Wegerle, an unsolved 1986 cold case that was never publicly attributed to BTK.

Surrounded by reporters and police officials, Wichita police homicide Lt. Ken Landwehr reads a statement during a news conference, describing information provided in recent letters from serial killer BTK of people and events in his past. (November 30, 2004) File photo Wichita Eagle

Police investigation and arrest of Dennis Rader

During their investigation and in their interview of Rader after his arrest, police learned answers to questions large and small that had puzzled BTK investigators and amateur BTK sleuths.

His communications always contained misspellings, typos. People wondered: Was it intentional, or was he trying to make people think he was sloppy or uneducated? Was English not his native language?

“The fact is that Mr. Rader is a very bad speller. He doesn’t know how to write,” Wichita Police Lt. Ken Landwehr said.

DNA played a key role in finally making an arrest.

In 2000, four years before BTK ended his silence, the cold case became hot. Wichita police detectives Kelly Otis and Dana Gouge were assigned to work on the unsolved 1986 killing of 28-year-old Vicki Wegerle, a wife and mother found bound and strangled in her home on West 13th.

Police had found a man’s DNA under her fingernails. In 2003, the profile was entered into a newly developed national database of criminals.

But there was no match.

However, DNA tests showed that the same killer had been in the homes where BTK strangled four members of Otero family in 1974, and Nancy Fox in 1977.

After Wegerle was killed, though, there had been no BTK letters. No taunts. No threats. No communication.

Until March 2004, when BTK re-emerged with a mailing to The Eagle: a photocopy of three pictures the killer had taken of Wegerle, lying on the floor, plus a copy of her missing driver’s license.

The photocopy also had a signature the killer had used in his communications over the years: an odd configuration of “B,” “T” and “K,” sometimes with the “B” drawn to resemble breasts.

Once police saw the photocopy, the hunt was on.

DNA and BTK’s daughter

Investigators, without the knowledge of Kerri Rawson, Rader’s daughter, used a subpoena to gain a DNA sample from her medical records.

Her DNA told them that her father was BTK.

The FBI man knocked on Rawson’s door on Feb. 25.

She looked out from her tiny apartment near Detroit. He was holding an FBI badge.

She almost didn’t answer. Her father, a code compliance officer in the Wichita suburb of Park City, had taught her to be wary of strangers, and this one had sat in his car next to her trash dumpster for an hour. She’d called her husband.

But after the FBI guy knocked, she let him into her kitchen, where she’d made chocolate bundt cake. From now on, the smell of chocolate cake would make her queasy.

He asked whether she knew who BTK was.

Yes. BTK – Bind. Torture. Kill. – was the serial killer who scared her mom decades ago. The FBI guy was her dad’s age – late 50s, wearing glasses and a necktie, nervous. She was a substitute teacher taking a day off, still wearing mint-green pajamas, though it was past noon.

Her dad had been arrested as a BTK suspect, the man said.

He needed to swab her cheek for DNA.

Dennis Rader sits in a Sedgwick County courtroom during the first day of testimony in his sentencing phase on August 17, 2005. Rader, also known as BTK, has pled guilty to killing 10 people during a spree spanning 30 years in the Wichita, Kansas area. Bo Rader File photo

After Dennis Rader’s arrest, BTK’s trial

After police arrested Rader, they found the original Wegerle photos and driver’s license taped to a sheet in a locked file cabinet at his work office. He worked as a Park City compliance officer from 1991 until his firing a few days after his arrest.

Rader was so detail-oriented, he kept binders to hold his communications.

Rader had hidden some evidence in his home, including something Lt. Ken Landwehr called a “Vian package.” But most of his communications were either in the locked work cabinet or on the work computer.

One question that lingers is whether Rader killed more than the 10 people. “I’ll never say never,” Landwehr said. But investigators don’t think there are more BTK murders, he said.

After his arrest on Feb. 25, 2005, Rader was held in the Sedgwick County Adult Detention facility on $10 million bond.

His first court appearance was March 1, 2005, before Sedgwick County District Judge Greg Waller. He appeared on closed-circuit television from the jail, standard practice for the initial court hearing for prisoners in custody in Sedgwick County.

He spoke fewer than two dozen words during the hearing.

A high-profile case such as Rader’s, covering 31 years, 10 victims and seven different homicide scenes, was estimated by legal experts to cost the state of Kansas millions of dollars.

News organizations from around the world followed the case; the Sedgwick County Courthouse had to make accommodations for broadcast and print news media to disseminate information across the globe.

Court documents, sealed by Judge Waller, left the public and media wondering what evidence and proof authorities had that led to the arrest of Rader that fateful February day.

Rader waived his preliminary hearing on April 19, and asked to postpone his plea for 10 days. After the Wichita Eagle and five other news organizations asked a judge to open the court files in the BTK case, Judge Waller lifted seals on nearly all the motions and orders in the multiple murder case.

At Rader’s brief arraignment, May 2, 2005, the charges were formally read. He stood silent while District Judge Greg Waller entered a not-guilty plea on his behalf. At that time, District Attorney Nola Foulston served notice that she intended to pursue a Hard 40 prison sentence.

On June 27, 2005, Dennis Rader, the former church leader and Boy Scout leader, pleaded guilty as Wichita’s notorious BTK serial killer. He then gave a detailed recount of how he selected, stalked and strangled 10 people.

In the courtroom, family members of victims could only listen in silence as they heard what happened to their loved ones.

“I called them projects,” Rader said of the 10 murders.

He divided each into steps.

“If you’ve read much about serial killers, you know they go through phases,” Rader told Judge Waller. “Trolling is one of the phases they go through, looking for victims.”

For Rader, they were women, for whom he harbored violent sexual fantasies.

After Rader finished, Waller set sentencing for Aug. 17.

At his sentencing, Foulston, who had a reputation as a thorough trial lawyer, wanted to make a complete record of the way Rader “bound, tortured and killed” 10 people from 1974 to 1991. She wanted the record to be accurate in case of a review by higher courts.

Information she presented included graphic testimony and photographs of the torture Rader inflicted.

Coverage of the sentencing

“Rader’s evil for all to see,” Aug. 17, 2005 – https://www.kansas.com/news/special-reports/btk/article1003771.html

“Families Confront BTK in Court,” Aug. 18, 2005 – https://www.cbsnews.com/news/families-confront-btk-in-court/

DA Nola Foulston interview with CNN, Aug. 18, 2005 – http://www.cnn.com/2005/LAW/08/18/cnna.foulston/

BTK sentenced to 10 life terms, CNN, Aug. 18, 2005 – http://www.cnn.com/2005/LAW/08/18/btk.killings/

Convicted serial killer Dennis Rader, known as the BTK strangler walks into the El Dorado Correctional Facility with two Sedgwick County sheriff’s deputies on Friday, August 19, 2005, in El Dorado, Kansas. Rader was convicted of killing 10 people in a 30-year span and sentenced to 10 consecutive life terms. File photo

Where is Dennis Rader now?

He is incarcerated in El Dorado Correctional Facility in south-central Kansas.

The Kansas Department of Corrections lists a parole eligibility date for Rader of Feb. 26, 2180 – 175 years from the date of his arrest. According to the KDOC website, Rader’s custody level is “Special Management,” which means he is segregated from the general prison population.

He is not eligible for the death penalty. Kansas didn’t have a death penalty on the books between 1972 and 1994. Rader committed his first four murders, of the Joseph Otero family, in 1974 and his final one in 1991.

Books written about BTK:

▪ “Bind, Torture, Kill: The Inside Story of the Serial Killer Next Door,” May 31, 2007, written by Hurst Laviana, Roy Wenzl, Tim Potter, L. Kelly

▪ Robert Beattie, Wichita lawyer, “Nightmare in Wichita: The Hunt for the BTK Strangler” – came out in March 2005

Two things drove BTK, a detective said: the perversions that led to the murders, and the hunger for attention that prompted him to send letters to the media.

Learning of Beattie’s book prompted Rader to resurface, after years of silence. Police have no doubt that Rader’s resurfacing, ultimately led to his arrest.

▪ “Confession of a Serial Killer: The Untold Story of Dennis Rader, the BTK Killer,” written by Katherine Ramsland

TV specials

“Dateline NBC” – Aug. 12, 2005, an interview with Rader, conducted by Harvard neuropsychologist Robert Mendoza

“BTK: Out Of the Shadows,” an interview with the Wegerle family, CBS 48 Hours, Sept. 29, 2005

“The Hunt for the BTK Killer” – CBS movie, Oct. 9, 2005

“My father BTK” – 2020 News Special, Feb. 1, 2019

Eight of the 10 people whose deaths have been linked by authorities to the BTK serial killer, top row from left: Joseph Otero and his wife, Julie Otero; Kathryn Bright; and Shirley Vian. Bottom row from left: Nancy Fox, Marine Hedge, Vicki Wegerle and Dolores Davis. Dennis Rader was convicted in their deaths. File photo

Victim biographies

Kathryn Bright

Kathryn was a member of the Valley Center Class of 1971. She went to the University of Kansas for a semester, then returned to Wichita, where she got a job at Coleman. She was 21 when she was killed.

There were five kids in the Bright family, and 18 cousins who would gather often. It was a close family, her cousin Marcia Brown said.

Kathryn was joyful, beautiful, memorable, Brown said. She would have made a great mom.

“If she wasn’t making me laugh, she was laughing herself. She was such a free spirit.”

Dolores Davis

Amy Davis remembers the nutty things Grandma did.

The way she carried wet wipes everywhere to scrub any surface – faces included – that might possibly be germy.

The way she “hid” matches on top of the fridge, even after her children were grown.

The way she rolled the car windows down just an inch or two, no more, for fear her grandkids might get sucked out by the vacuum.

“Roll it down, Grandma!” the kids would yell from the back seat. “Can you roll it down some more?”

“No, that’s enough,” she’d say. Then she’d hum a tune and keep driving.

Dolores “Dee” Davis was funny that way, Amy said.

Davis was born June 6, 1928, in Stella, Neb., and grew up on a farm.

Dee worked more than 25 years as a secretary for Lario Oil & Gas Co. She retired in 1990, just months before she died.

She also sold Mary Kay cosmetics. She liked that the company didn’t test its products on animals, Amy said.

Nancy Fox

Most people who knew Nancy Fox from South High School recalled she was smart, but she also liked to crack jokes.

She was a hard worker. She held a job as a full-time secretary at The Law Co. construction business, and also worked two nights a week and some Saturday’s at Helzberg Jewelers in the Wichita Mall.

At the store, she worked in the office alongside Cindy Duckett, filling out paperwork to resize rings and watches or put items on layaway. Duckett recalls Fox was professional, and always wanted to work even more hours.

“She smiled a lot, she joked a lot,” Duckett said. “She did have worries. She had bills to pay, and she was responsible for herself. She was more mature than the rest of the girls.”

Marine Hedge

In a sweet Southern voice reminiscent of her Arkansas roots, Marine Hedge always prefaced each sentence with “says well.”

“And then she’d just start talking,” her daughter-in-law, Phyllis Hedge, said. “She talked like Dolly Parton. She was amazingly sweet.”

A petite woman, Hedge loved shopping and jewelry. She was always meticulously dressed, her shoes matching her clothes.

“She was very stylish,” said Phyllis Hedge, who knew her for 18 years. “Just a perfect, meticulous little person. She was under five feet tall.”

Hedge, whose maiden name was Wallace, moved with her husband to Kansas from Arkansas. He worked for Beechcraft. She worked as a second-shift supervisor at the Wesley Medical Center coffee shop for more than a dozen years.

They lived at 6254 Independence Street in Park City. They had one son and three daughters together, in addition to grandchildren.

Her husband died a year before she did. At the time of her death, neighbors recalled she enjoyed bingo, working in her yard and attending the Park City Baptist Church.

Joseph Otero

There was Joseph Otero the dad – sometimes stern with high expectations for his five children. Report cards with B’s required explanations.

Then, there was Joseph Otero the man – obsessed with aviation and cars, a talented bongo player, a flirt, a cut-up.

Charlie Otero remembers both sides of his father. As a 15-year-old, he was just beginning to bond with his dad when Joseph died in 1974 at the age of 38.

“He was the life of the party,” Charlie said. “If there were 20 guys in a room, he’d be in the middle making them all laugh, telling stories, joshing with people, flirting with girls. He was not a shy person.”

Born in Puerto Rico, Otero immigrated to the United States as a boy.

He grew up in New York City’s Spanish Harlem, where he became a champion boxer and fell in love with Julie, a girl from the neighborhood and another Puerto Rican transplant.

As soon as he was old enough, Otero joined the Air Force, where he served for 20 years. He retired as a master sergeant just before moving his family to Wichita in the fall of 1973.

Julie Otero

Julie Otero, a 34-year-old mother of five, was petite, weighing in at only about 100 pounds. And she was as sweet as an angel, her son Charlie said.

But her angelic exterior hid an inner fighter – literally.

A longtime Air Force wife, Julie Otero signed her entire family up for summer judo classes being offered on the base. She saw the classes as something she and her kids could do together.

In no time, Julie was a brown belt and her children were winning trophy after trophy.

“But she was a lady all the way.”

Born in Puerto Rico, Julie came to the United States on a banana boat as a child, her son said.

Outgoing, social and popular, she quickly caught the eye of Joseph Otero, who chased her for years. The two were married in a big church wedding in New York City, and Charlie was born “almost nine months later to the day.”

When the family moved to Wichita, Julie took a job on the assembly line at Coleman. She was laid off about a month later in a labor force reduction. She was recommended for rehire.

Josephine Otero

Eleven-year-old Josephine Otero was known as “the new girl” among her sixth-grade peers at Adams Elementary School in the fall of 1973.

She started school after the term had begun – something that tends to draw attention from a room full of 11- and 12-year-olds.

They called her Josie.

Josie was quiet and shy, but easygoing, remembers classmate Bill Partridge.

She would just laugh when some of the other kids would sing her the theme song from the “Josie and the Pussycats” cartoon, which was popular at the time.

Charlie Otero remembers his younger sister as pretty and thin with long dark hair.

She was the best student in the family. Despite holding a yellow belt in judo, she was deeply entrenched in her “girlie life.” She liked her Barbie dolls. She wrote poetry. She painted and drew.

She was inseparable from her older sister, Carmen, the only other girl in the family.

Joseph Otero II

Joseph Otero II was the baby of the family, but he wasn’t babied.

Known as Joey, he was rarely left alone by his four older siblings.

“Joey was the darling of the family,” his brother Charlie remembers. “Everybody played with Joey, used him for judo practice. We’d make the dog drag him around the house. But it was all in love.”

At age 9, Joey quickly became one of the most popular boys in his fourth-grade class at Adams Elementary.

He started the school year late, and the girls in his class immediately became enamored of him.

“He was good looking – Hollywood good looking,” said Charlie, six years Joey’s senior. “He had all kinds of girlfriends already. He had droves of them following him around.”

The family dog, Lucky, was a gift to Joey on his fifth birthday. Though the shepherd mix could be ferocious to strangers, Joey loved him.

“All we had to do was sic Lucky on Joey,” Charlie said, “and he’d grab him by the pant leg and drag him all over the house.”

Shirley Vian

What Shirley Vian’s son Steven Relford remembers about his mother is that she sang in a church choir. She liked to sing.

“She was a good mother,” said Relford, who was just 5 when she died. “She always seemed happy.”

Vian had three children, Bud, Steven and Stephanie.

Vicki Wegerle

Vicki Wegerle loved children – her own as well as others – say those who knew her.

Vicki Wegerle volunteered as a baby sitter both at St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church, which she regularly attended, and at Asbury United Methodist Church, which was in her neighborhood.

The Rev. Arno Meyer was pastor of St. Andrew’s in 1986, when Wegerle was killed.

“She was a wonderful woman,” said Meyer, now retired and living in Topeka. “She was just a mild-mannered mother, quiet and loving.”

The signature

For 31 years, it remained one of the most closely guarded secrets in the BTK serial murder case.

Wichita police used it to help verify that communications sent to the police and media actually came from the killer. They kept it secret so it wouldn’t be used in hoaxes.

It was the serial killer’s signature – a sexually suggestive configuration of the letters “B,” “T” and “K” still etched into the memories of some former detectives.

Instead of writing the letters in a line from left to right, the killer stacked the “B,” “T” and “K” from top to bottom, with the “B” shaped to look like a woman’s breasts.

Tony Ruark, a Wichita psychologist who consulted with police on the BTK case from 1979 to 1981, recalls that he was told to keep the unique signature a secret.

“This is the one thing that couldn’t get out,” he said.

Only a limited number of detectives laid their eyes on it.

“I’ve never ever described that to anybody,” he said.

The signature appeared in two of five known communications from the killer from 1974 to 1979, according to research by Robert Beattie, the Wichita man who has written a book about the case.

The signature also showed up on a letter that arrived at The Wichita Eagle in March 2004.

At the request of Wichita police, The Eagle agreed at the time not to describe the signature. If it became public, police said, it would be much harder to weed out copy-cat letters.

BTK TIMELINE

Jan. 15, 1974 – Joseph and Julie Otero are strangled in their home at 803 N. Edgemoor along with two of their children, Josephine, 11, and Joseph II, 9. The family car is later found at the Dillons store at Central and Oliver.

April 4, 1974 – Kathryn Bright, 21, is found stabbed to death in her home at 3217 E. 13th St. Police later conclude she was a BTK victim.

October 1974 – The Wichita Eagle-Beacon receives a letter from a person claiming to have killed the Oteros. The letter included details of the crime scene that only the killer could have known.

March 17, 1977 – Shirley Vian, 26, is found tied up and strangled in her house at 1311 S. Hydraulic.

Dec. 8, 1977 – Nancy Fox, 25, is found tied up and strangled in her home at 843 S. Pershing. BTK’s voice is captured on tape when he calls a dispatcher to report the homicide.

Jan. 31, 1978 – A poem written with a child’s printing set on an index card arrives at The Wichita Eagle-Beacon. The poem, which is patterned after a “Curley Locks” nursery rhyme, refers to the Vian homicide.

Feb. 10, 1978 – A letter from BTK arrives at KAKE claiming responsibility for the deaths of Vian and Fox, as well as another unnamed victim. At a hastily arranged news conference, Police Chief Richard LaMunyon announces that a serial killer is at large and has threatened to strike again.

April 28, 1979 – The killer waits inside a home in the 600 block of South Pinecrest, but leaves before the 63-year-old woman homeowner returns. He later sends the woman a letter letting her know he was there. Police think the killer was targeting the woman’s daughter.

Aug. 15, 1979 – Wichitans listen to repeated radio and television broadcasts of the voice of the BTK strangler from the 1977 phone call. Police receive 110 tips during the first day the broadcasts air.

Mid-1980s – A new BTK investigation is opened by a group known as “The Ghostbusters,” who spend three years employing new techniques including DNA testing, computer database searches and psychological profiles.

April 27, 1985 – Marine Hedge, who lived just down Independence Street from Dennis Rader in Park City, is tied up and killed in her home.

Sept. 16, 1986 – Vicki Wegerle, 28, is strangled in her home at 2404 W. 13th St. The family car is found two blocks away in the 1300 block of North Edwards.

January 1988 – The wife of murder victim Phillip Fager receives a letter from a man claiming to be BTK. The letter talked about the killing of Fager and his two daughters, but BTK experts disagree whether it actually was from BTK.

Jan. 19, 1991 – Rader kills Dolores “Dee” Davis and leaves her body in a ditch

March 19, 2004 – A letter arrives at The Wichita Eagle containing a photocopy of Wegerle’s driver’s license and three pictures that apparently were taken by the killer. Relatives say the license was the only thing missing from Wegerle’s home.

LINKS TO PAST COVERAGE

Special online Eagle section: https://www.kansas.com/news/special-reports/btk/

BTK case unsolved, 30 years later: https://www.kansas.com/news/special-reports/btk/article1003802.html

Exclusive interview with BTK’s daughter: https://www.kansas.com/news/special-reports/btk/article10809929.html

Transcript of BTK’s testimony: https://www.kansas.com/news/special-reports/btk/article225087595.html

Book by daughter of BTK to be published: https://www.kansas.com/news/special-reports/btk/article202592224.html

Historic photos of the BTK murders and the trial: https://www.kansas.com/news/special-reports/btk/article10767731.html

During season one of “Mindhunter,” we got our first glimpse at Sonny Valicenti’s portrayal of Dennis Rader, a onetime ADT Security Services employee who terrorized Wichita, Kansas, for almost 20 years as the BTK serial killer.

Shown through several introductory episodic vignettes that take place in Wichita and Park City, Kansas, we witness Rader staking out a neighborhood, mailing a letter, tying a rope into a knot, and gathering a kill kit containing tape, rubber gloves, a heavy parka, and a gun.

While Rader’s life seems to run unnoticed and parallel to the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit’s study on serial killers — founded by agents Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff) and Bill Tench (Holt McCallany), and psychologist Wendy Carr (Anna Torv) — this all changes in season two.

At the beginning of the second episode, Tench travels to Kansas to interview Kevin Bright, the only surviving victim of BTK (the nickname Rader has, standing for Bind, Torture, Kill). Kevin Bright is a real person – he did, in fact, come face to face with Rader and live.

On April 4, 1974, Rader broke into the home of 21-year-old Kathryn Bright while she was out and waited for her to return.

When she did, however, she was with her 19-year-old brother, Kevin. While Rader held them at gunpoint, he had Kevin tie up Kathryn, and then Rader took him to another room and restrained him with rope, reported CNN. He ended up shooting Kevin, who was able to escape, and then strangled and fatally stabbed Kathryn several times in the abdomen.

Netflix, Getty Images

“Mindhunter” season two also dives deeper into Rader’s twisted psyche and consuming sexual obsession with autoerotic asphyxiation. In the opening scene, Rader’s wife, Joanne (Katherine Banks), catches him in the bathroom wearing a woman’s mask with a rope around his neck. This act is mirrored in the finale, when Rader, dressed in women’s clothing, puts on the mask, ties a rope around his neck, and chokes himself inside a motel room. Trophies from his victims are spread across the bed, and a tripod and camera are set up nearby.

Rader did admit to taking several photographs of himself in a state of “autoerotic activity,” which involved Rader limiting his own oxygen supply to experience “a heightened feeling of euphoria during sexual release,” according to CNN.

Rader would often relive “the ecstasy of the murder” by taking photographs of himself in the victims’ clothing, reported CBS News, allowing him to “live in that moment for years.”

Although season two ends in 1981, Rader’s murders continued until 1991, when he strangled his 10th and final victim, 62-year-old Dolores E. Davis. However, Rader wouldn’t be caught for another decade: Rader often sent taunting letters and messages to local media, and he was captured in 2005 after he sent a floppy disk — which contained metadata from a deleted document that tied him to the murders — to Wichita’s KSAS-TV.

Rader eventually confessed to being BTK, sharing details of the killings and telling detectives where they could find evidence in his “hidey holes,” scattered throughout Wichita. On June 27, 2005, Dennis Rader pleaded guilty to 10 counts of first-degree murder and he later received the maximum sentence of 10 consecutive life terms.

He is currently incarcerated at the maximum-security El Dorado Correctional Facility near Wichita, where he is being held in solitary confinement for his own safety.

Daughter of Wichita serial killer BTK: Stephen King ‘exploiting my father’s 10 victims’ | The Kansas City Star

Kerri Rawson, the daughter of Wichita, Kansas, BTK serial killer Dennis Rader, broke the family’s nine-year silence Thursday and talked about her father’s 10 murders.

An interview by writer Stephen King about the upcoming movie “A Good Marriage” prompted her to break the self-imposed silence, she said.

The movie, adapted from one of King’s short stories, is about a wife who suddenly discovers her husband is a serial killer.

Rawson, 36, learned on Wednesday that the movie was inspired by her father and her family.

Get unlimited digital access for just $3.99 a month to #ReadLocal anytime, on any device.

GET OFFER

“He’s exploiting my father’s 10 victims and their families,” she said.

She said she, her brother and her mother didn’t know that her father was BTK until the FBI told her in February 2005, shortly after Dennis Rader’s arrest.

She said her father is where he belongs, in prison. She has never visited him there. “I haven’t been brave enough for that yet,” she said.

“He has said he is sorry, but that means nothing,” she said of her father. “He is not worth all the books and the news stories and all the attention.”

And she criticized King, who gave interviews in recent days saying the novella and movie were inspired by the BTK murders, and how the killer lived for years with a family who had no idea what he was doing. “A Good Marriage” is a story in the collection “Full Dark, No Stars,” which was published in 2010.

King until Wednesday was one of her favorite writers, she said.

“He’s just going to give my father a big head, and he absolutely does not need that,” she said. “Great – now Stephen King is giving my father a big head. Thanks for that. That’s the last thing my dad should get.”

She said King will make money, as she said he always does, only this time from the grief of all the victim families. “How many millions does he already have?” she said.

“Any money King makes off this story should go either to abused children, battered wives, or police,” Rawson said.

She said she’s read at least a dozen Stephen King novels and loved them all but won’t read another. She said her father was also a huge King fan – she worries that King’s books might have influenced some of the bad things her father did in some of his later murders.

“We feel exploited,” she said of her family. “We consider ourselves the 11th victim family. Stephen King has the right to tell a story, but why bring us into it? Why couldn’t he just find inspiration for another good story, but leave out where it all came from?”

‘They never knew’

Rawson lives in Michigan; she married her husband, Darian, 11 years ago, with Dennis Rader giving her away at the wedding.

She is a stay-at-home mother and a former elementary school teacher; she has two young children, a boy and girl. Dennis Rader knows he has grandchildren, she said, but she has never sent him pictures.

She and her family were hounded by the media after her father’s arrest. They hid, and talked through doors, asking people to go away.

“Oprah called. Diane Sawyer called. I saw my father’s picture on CNN. It was insane,” Rawson said.

She said it hurt to hear that Ken Landwehr died of kidney cancer earlier this year. Landwehr was the Wichita police homicide unit commander who devised the strategy to capture her father after the serial killer resurfaced with taunting messages sent to police and the media in 2004.

Landwehr “and Kelly Otis (a police detective on the BTK task force) were very kind to me and my family,” Rawson said. “They helped us get through it, talked to us with a lot of kindness. I am sure they kept a lot of media crap away from us afterward. And there was a lot of that.”

She’s grateful to Landwehr for two other reasons.

He and his task force removed a serial killer from freedom. And they publicly defended the rest of the family, saying in interviews that they were sure the other Raders, including her mother, Paula, did not know what Dennis was doing in the 31 years that he stalked women, killed 10 people and remained free.

In the nine years since her father’s capture in February 2005, a statement she and her mother Paula have heard repeatedly was that Paula knew all along.

“No way could she have known,” Rawson said. “She wouldn’t have raised us with him.”

Otis said she’s right.

“It’s absolutely true; they never knew about it,” Otis said.

Otis, now chief of investigations for the Sedgwick County district attorney, said he thinks it is unfortunate that King is basing the short story on the BTK story.

“Dennis Rader got sexually aroused every time he relived what he did to those victims,” Otis said. “I can absolutely guarantee that that’s what he will do now that he’ll know that King is basing this story on him.”

King’s inspiration

Katherine Monoghan, a publicist for King, who is scheduled to speak in Wichita on Nov. 14, said King was traveling by air on Thursday and wasn’t available to respond to Rawson’s comments.

But on King’s website he wrote this about the inspiration for his short story, “A Good Marriage”:

“This story came to my mind after reading an article about Dennis Rader, the infamous BTK (bind, torture, and kill) murderer who took the lives of ten people – mostly women, but two of his victims were children – over a period of roughly sixteen years.

“In many cases, he mailed pieces of his victims’ identification to the police. Paula Rader was married to this monster for thirty-four years, and many in the Wichita area, where Rader claimed his victims, refuse to believe that she could live with him and not know what he was doing.

“I did believe – I do believe – and I wrote this story to explore what might happen in such a case if the wife suddenly found out about her husband’s awful hobby.

“I also wrote it to explore the idea that it’s impossible to fully know anyone, even those we love the most.”

A synopsis of King’s story on the website says: “Darcy Anderson learns more about her husband of over twenty years than she would have liked to know when she stumbles literally upon a box under a worktable in their garage.”

‘He was confessing’

Dennis Rader remains in “special management” at El Dorado Correctional Facility, prison records show.

He has been held there since Aug. 19, 2005, according to Kansas Department of Corrections records. His “earliest possible release date” is listed as Feb. 26, 2180, long beyond a human lifetime.

He has received only one disciplinary report in those nine years, for a mail-related violation.

His latest prison mug shot, taken in early 2013, shows a man who looks noticeably older, with a deeply creased forehead and disheveled hair on both sides of the bald top of his head.

Her father is now 69, Rawson said. Her mother is 66, and retired.

Rawson said the FBI came to her door in Michigan in February 2005.

“At first I tried to argue,” she said. “I get a knock on my door at noon (in Michigan). The FBI is telling me my dad is this other person. I didn’t believe it and tried to alibi my dad: ‘What dates are you talking about?’ ‘What time periods are we talking about here?’ I tried, but then quickly found out … there was no other way around it, it was true.

“He was confessing.”

The media hounded her mother, her grandmother, the rest of her family in Wichita. They hounded her in Michigan, she said. They offered friends and relatives money to talk. “It was awful,” she said. “I think my mother and I both suffer from some PTSD from what happened.”

It shattered her and her brother’s lives and emotions, she said. Both were bright children. Her brother, Brian, had been an Eagle scout and was in training to serve in U.S. Navy submarines when Dennis Rader was arrested, she said, noting that “you can’t do anything like that unless you’re really bright.”

Her brother served on Navy submarines from 2004 to 2009, she said. He’s going to college on the GI Bill, she said. She worries that he is struggling.

“He doesn’t have the kids and the family that I have,” she said. “And that’s really all I should say about him.”

She has two degrees, one in education, one in life sciences, from Kansas State University, she said. But they all had to go into hiding. She and her mother sought counseling.

“The hardest thing: Once you find out this horrible stuff about someone you loved and live with, you had to really work through it,” Rawson said.

She said she would never have made it without the strength of her husband, her mother and her Christian faith. “You just decide this is what life gave you,” Rawson said. “And you decide to go on.”

Her mother, who still lives in the Wichita area, is one of her heroes. “She held her head up, kept her life quiet, kept going to church – she is amazing,” she said.

Her own daughter, a child, has begun to ask questions. “She’s realized she’s got these two grandmothers – but where is her grandfather?” Rawson said. “She’s seen our wedding video. My father gave me away at the wedding. What father wouldn’t do that?”

“I didn’t want to lie,” Rawson said. “So I’ve told my daughter he’s in prison. I have not told her why. I told her that her grandpa did bad things. And because it’s sometimes really hard to get through a day, I sometimes tell her that her mom is having a really bad day.

“I know it’s all crazy. Anybody who met my dad, who knew him – to hear that he’s this other thing, this killer. … It is very hard for everyone who knew him to wrap their heads around it.’

‘He was my dad’

The last time she saw her father: Christmas 2004. BTK had resurfaced the previous March. He would be caught two months later, in February 2005.

She can’t bring herself to go see him in prison, she said. But she has written occasionally, “Is it true?”

And her father has occasionally written back.

She accepts none of his explanations for what he did.

In her home, growing up, she loved him.

“He was everything,” Rawson said. “He was just a dad. He taught us about nature. How to fish. How to go camping. How to garden. He taught me a ton. He took us on good vacations. He was pretty Boy Scouty – no swearing.”

In her home in Park City as a child, she said, their father disciplined her and her brother for mistakes – for not picking up their shoes, or for swearing, or for sitting in his favorite chair at the kitchen table. “But,” she said, “he never abused us in any way.”

“He’s just this guy.

“I have never hated him. I was extremely hurt by him I loved him, after all. He was my dad. So I was extremely angry and hurt.

“One of the worst parts: wondering, did he really love us?

“Or was it just a facade?”

‘I’m glad they caught him’

In 2012, she said, she stood up in her church (“I am a non-denominational evangelical Christian,” she said). “I told my story to 200 women,” she said.

That brought a measure of relief, though she told the women she’d never forgive her father.

But some time after that, at Christmas time, on the way home from a movie, she decided to forgive her father – to bring some peace to herself, though not necessarily for him. “God gave me that forgiveness,” she said. “My faith is my rock under me.”

She wrote a six-page letter to her dad, explaining that her forgiveness comes with caveats: That she will never understand what he did, or why. That what he did makes no sense.

“No matter what the books or the stories have said, he’s not a monster,” she said. “He’s just a guy who did the worst thing possible, 10 times in 17 years.

“He belongs in prison.

“I’m glad they caught him.

“I cannot imagine being one of the victim families and to endure what they must have gone through.”

<hr>

Letter from Dennis Rader’s daughter

On Thursday, Kerri Rawson sent a letter titled: “A letter to Stephen King, the media from Dennis Rader’s daughter.”

She included her phone number and e-mail.

The letter from her reads as follows:

To The Eagle, The Wichita TV Media & Mr. Stephen King. My family is done, we are tired. We are not news, we are not a story to be exploited & profited on, to be twisted & retold to your liking whenever you want. Leave us, the families & the community out of it.

My dad is not a monster, that’s elevating him. He’s just a man, who choose to do some of the most horrible things a person can do. Not a monster, a man. A man who took 10 precious lives & tried to destroy countless others. He’s not worth the attention.

My mom is the strongest & bravest woman I know. She doesn’t need her life re-spun in a story or on the big screen. Her life is a true testament of all that is good & right in this world.

My family has tried hard to fight the good fight, to stand on our faith & live out a peaceful life. So let us live that life & please, leave us out of it. Out of the noise & chaos & the ugly & the awful.

Kerri (Rader) Rawson

That creepy ADT guy on ‘Mindhunter’? He’s based on a Kansas serial killer | The Wichita Eagle

If you spent any time checking out Netflix’s new “Mindhunter” television series over the weekend and you’re from Wichita, you might have gotten an eerie feeling from the ADT serviceman who showed up in Episode Two.

The uniform. The glasses. The mustache. His strictness about office supplies.

The fact that he’s from Kansas.

It all seems a little too familiar, right? Warning: Spoilers ahead.

Get unlimited digital access for just $3.99 a month to #ReadLocal anytime, on any device.

GET OFFER

That’s because the ADT guy is based on Dennis Rader, the BTK serial killer who terrorized the Wichita area for more than 30 years.

The 10-episode series is based on the book “Mind Hunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit” co-written by former FBI Special Agent John Douglas, who pursued some of the country’s most notorious serial killers. Douglas is the real-life inspiration for Jack Crawford, the FBI agent-in-charge in “The Silence of the Lambs” and Thomas Harris’ other Hannibal Lecter novels.

“Mindhunter” premiered Friday on Netflix.

The series is set in 1977, after Rader had already murdered seven of his 10 victims – many of whom he stalked and strangled. Rader, who called himself BTK — for Bind Torture Kill — worked as an ADT Security Services installer from 1974 to 1988 in Wichita.

He lived in Park City until his arrest in 2005. His murder spree stretched from 1974 to 1991.

Mindhunter’s ADT serviceman first appears in the opening scene of Episode Two and continues making appearances throughout the show, including scenes where he’s shown mailing a letter and practicing tying a knot, according to reports about the show. (Rader sent graphic letters and riddles to Wichita news organizations and police while he evaded capture and used ropes to bind some of his victims.)

The series finale closes in Park City with the ADT serviceman tossing sketches of what appear to be bound victims into a burning barrel outside of a house.

Rader, who is now serving 10 consecutive life sentences in El Dorado Correctional Facility, kept souvenirs from his victims and is known to have a fondness for drawing.

There’s no official word yet on whether the character based on Rader will appear in a second season.

Amy Renee Leiker: 316-268-6644, @amyreneeleiker

Note: The following article contains discussion of sexual assault that some readers may find upsetting.

To a collective global shriek of “NOOOOOOOO!” the news was received on 15 Jan 2020 that Netflix had released the cast of Mindhunter from their contracts. It doesn’t mean there *definitely* won’t be a third season, but it does make it unlikely, and if it ever happens it certainly won’t be any time soon.

At the end of Mindhunter season two, the status of the Atlanta child murders investigation was downgraded to “inactive” following the conviction of Wayne Williams, who was found guilty of the murders of two adult men and not, as you might have expected, the murders of the young, black, predominantly male victims.

We were also told that none of the remaining 27 cases have been prosecuted, and Williams himself continues to insist that he is innocent.

Netflix

Related: Atlanta Child Murders – What Mindhunter didn’t tell you about the controversial case

But things didn’t end there.

Before the credits rolled, we were taken to a motel in Junction City, Kansas, where the BTK killer (bind, torture, kill) who we saw in bookending scenes since season one, could be seen admiring himself in a bathroom mirror. He was wearing a white satin slip with lace detail and a printed scarf around his neck. He then took the plastic mask depicting a woman’s face, which we have previously seen him wear, and placed it over his own.

In the room, he had a camera placed on a tripod and souvenirs he had stolen from his victims laid out on the bed, including a newspaper clipping about the Otero family, his first victims. Parents Joseph and Julie, along with two of their children Joseph Jr and Josephine, were murdered in 1974. The bodies were discovered by their eldest son Charlie when he returned home from school.

Netflix

Newspaper clippings about Shirley Vian, who was killed in 1977, and Nancy Fox, who was murdered almost nine months later, were also on the bed, along with jewellery, a driving licence, Polaroids, a pair of shoes and other items of clothing.

He then tied a rope around his neck and engaged in autoerotic asphyxiation, just as he did in season two, episode one, when his wife discovered him in their bathroom at home.

The credits rolled as Peter Gabriel’s ‘Intruder’ played.

Netflix

So now that this story is unlikely to be concluded in Mindhunter, you may be left wondering what actually happened.

Well allow us to fill you in on the – frankly unpleasant – details.

The BTK killer was later identified as Dennis Rader, who was born in Pittsburg, Kansas, but grew up in Wichita.

We’re not told how much time has passed when we see Rader at the end of the series following the Atlanta investigation. But if it does pick up shortly after, his reign of terror continued for another eight or nine years – his last victim, Dolores Davis, was murdered in 1991.

POOL

You might be surprised to learn that across a period that spanned more than 17 years, Rader killed only 10 people. Following the Otero murders and that of Kathryn Bright in 1974, there were Vian and Fox in 1977. But it wasn’t until 1985 when he strangled Marine Hedge, followed by Vicki Wegerle in 1986, and then Davis in 1991.

Scott Bonn, PhD, a criminologist who spoke with Rader himself and also wrote the book Why We Love Serial Killers: The Curious Appeal of the World’s Most Savage Murders, told Oxygen: “His pattern is very a-typical. Most serial killers don’t have these lengthy, extensive periods between their killings. Most of them really, really escalate and often times, that is what leads to their undoing.”

Katherine Ramsland, a forensic psychology professor at DeSales University, who wrote Confession of a Serial Killer: The Untold Story of Dennis Rader, the BTK Killer, explained to Oxygen that Rader had commitments which prevented him from going on sprees similar to that of Ted Bundy or Rodney Alcala. Not only did he have a job (he was employed by ADT Security Services to fit security alarms), he also had a wife and a child.

“He had to do this carefully and it had to be when he had pockets of opportunity that allowed him to pretend he was doing something else, like library research for a course he was taking or being out of town or going overnight on a Boy Scouts camping trip,” said Ramsland. “He always had to have a cover story.”

Sonny Valicenti in Mindhunter Netflix

But during his quieter moments, Rader was planning and fantasising. He told Ramsland that he had identified 55 potential victims, which he referred to as “projects”.

“He was always looking,” she added. “They were detailed lists with names of the projects, dates, locations, circumstances, things that would have happened to people had he had the full amount of time that he needed and they were home.

“It’s not like he was inactive during those periods of time, it’s that he didn’t have all the right circumstances to go forward with something.”

In 2004, a local paper ran a story on the 30th anniversary of his very first killing with the headline: “BTK case unsolved, 30 years later.” During an ABC News report, one journalist recalled that in the article, they wrote that “nobody remembered him, which invoked his ire”.

Rader started sending packages with trophies from his kills to the press, including a letter to the Wichita Eagle signed by ‘Bill Thomas Killman’, in which he confessed to killing Wegerle, complete with a photograph from the scene of the crime.

Getty Images

It was a line of communication that he had used previously. In 1974, he had called Don Granger from the Eagle.

During the anonymous phone call, Rader told Granger to go to the Wichita Public Library and find a particular mechanical engineering textbook. Inside was a letter addressed to the Secret Witness Program, which discussed the murder of the Otero family in extensive detail, as well as threatening more murders.

But it was the contents of a package sent in 2004 which was Rader’s undoing. Astonishingly, he had asked the police if a floppy disk could be traced back to him, and they lied and said no.

He sent them one, believing he would still be anonymous, and they traced it back to a computer at the Christ Lutheran Church in Park City, Kansas, where he was president at the time. The computer was registered in Rader’s name. Crucially, the police also had an old DNA sample from the first crime scene.

(It should be noted that some reports suggest that it was always Rader’s intention to reveal his identity, littering certain letters with information about his background.)

He was subsequently arrested.

Sonny Valicenti in Mindhunter Netflix

According to the Wichita Eagle, Rader revealed during police interviews that he had caught stray animals when he was a boy and strangled them to death, as well as watching pornography which featured bondage, domination and sadomasochism. He was also a “peeper” and would “break in and steal underclothes” for his “private collection”.

That fascination with domination, hinted at from the type of porn he was using at a young age, was also discussed by Bonn.

“It was all about the process of killing and it was almost like foreplay for sex, where it would lead up to the ultimate moment where he would kill them, but that’s not really what he lived for,” he said. “What he lived for was the process.”

Rader later worked as a dog catcher and a compliance offer, and those roles also allowed him to exert a type of control that aligned with his profile: “He was getting the fix that he needed to scratch his itch for power and control. I think that’s one of the things that allowed him to de-escalate and have long periods between his killings because it gave him an outlet.”

During a documentary on Wichita’s KAKE-TV, Rader revealed that his father worked long hours, but his mother, despite being around, wasn’t particularly interested in spending time with him.

PoolGetty Images

He then admitted that when he was younger, one of his mother’s rings caught in a couch spring and she couldn’t get her hand free. Rader said he felt excited watching her “looking to him in terror”.

He continued: “I would say probably even when I was in grade school, I sort of had some problems. Sexual fantasies. Probably more than normal. All males probably go through some kind of sexual fantasy. Mine was probably just weirder than other people.”

Rader also said that during his early ’30s, he engaged in bondage with prostitutes. Some of the women refused to meet with him again because he was “too scary”.

“I was getting the feeling again and it was bad this time,” he said during the ages of 32 and 34.

Following his arrest, Rader confirmed that he was the BTK killer. In June 2005, the 60-year-old pleaded guilty to all 10 murders and was sentenced to 10 consecutive life terms.

“How could a guy like me, church member, raised a family, go out and do those sorts of things?” he asked reporter Larry Hatteberg from KAKE-TV.

“I want the people of Sedgwick County, the United States and the world to know that I am a serial killer… It’s a dark side of me.”

Want up-to-the-minute entertainment news and features? Just hit ‘Like’ on our Digital Spy Facebook page and ‘Follow’ on our @digitalspy Instagram and Twitter account.

Image Sources: Getty, NetflixThe BTK killer Dennis Rader, and the actor who plays him, Sonny Valicenti.

David Fincher’s harrowing Netflix drama Mindhunter has returned for season two, and its subject matter is just as creepy as ever. While the crime drama digs into the lives and crimes of numerous serial killers interviewed by FBI agents Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff) and Bill Tench (Holt McCallany) as usual, it continues tugging on the thread of the BTK killer, who’s subtly introduced through brief scenes scattered throughout season one (in which he’s never outright named by his BTK moniker, only shown in his telling ADT uniform). But in the new episodes, Mindhunter makes it clear who he is from the get-go, and spotlights some particularly harrowing details of his murders and his victims.

The BTK (which stands for “bind, torture, kill”) Killer — aka Dennis Rader, who’s portrayed in the show by actor Sonny Valicenti — murdered 10 people in Kansas between the years of 1974 and 1991. Mindhunter’s first season takes place in 1977, when the BTK Killer had already killed five people, though we’re not privy to the details of those crimes until season two. That’s when Tench is introduced to a detective investigating the case in Kansas, who fills him in on the 1974 murders of the Otero family in Wichita that January: father Joseph Otero (38), mother Julie Otero (33), son Joseph Otero Jr. (9), and daughter Josephine Otero (11). A few months later, in April of that same year, he also murdered Kathryn Bright (whom he stabbed and strangled) and attempted to kill her brother.

ADVERTISEMENT

The case of Kathy Bright is discussed in great detail in the season’s second episode when Bill meets up with her brother, Kevin Bright. He was present during the time of his sister’s murder and was nearly killed himself when the BTK killer shot him twice in the face, leaving him with severe nerve damage. He viscerally describes the attack on him and his sister at her home that April, giving viewers a full picture of how disturbing and horrific Rader’s murders really were. Unfortunately, Kathy was far from the last person he killed.

Image Source: NetflixAgent Tench speaking with Kevin Bright in season two.

In 1977, Rader strangled two more women to death: Shirley Vian and Nancy Fox. Not long after the death of the latter, in early 1978, he sent a letter to Wichita TV station KAKE to claim responsibility for the murders of Fox, Vian, Bright, and the Orteros. It was in this letter that he attempted to make himself in the image of other notorious serial killers like the “Son of Sam” (aka David Richard Berkowitz, who also appears in season two) by suggesting multiple names for himself.

“He’s studying them. Modeling himself after them,” Ford tells Tench in episode two of the new season after reading Rader’s letter. “He’s christening himself for the media.”

Nevertheless, newspapers and TV networks ran with the “BTK” abbreviation, and Wichita was forced to accept that a serial killer was indeed on the loose. His next attempted murder was of Anna Williams, aged 63, in 1979, but she was spared since she arrived home much later than usual (Rader explained in his confession that he got tired of waiting for her). Nearly six years later, in April 1985, he killed Marine Hedge, aged 53. Her body was found in May in a ditch after Rader had photographed her corpse in bondage positions at the Christ Lutheran Church where he served as president of the church council.

Although he was initially thought to have killed three members of the Fager family in Wichita in 1988, police do not believe he was actually responsible. Instead his next (and last) murder was of Dolores E. Davis, who was found on Feb. 1, 1991 in Park City, Kansas. She had been killed by Rader a few weeks earlier in January.

Image Source: Netflix

The BTK Killer famously liked to send communications to law enforcement as well as news outlets, taunting them and providing evidence that he committed various crimes. It was through one of these communications that he was identified and arrested, when a floppy disk was found to contain metadata that led law enforcement to Rader. In August 2005, Rader was finally caught and sentenced to 10 consecutive life sentences.

Given Mindhunter’s current timeline, it will be interesting to see if the show ever shows us a glimpse of Rader being caught and imprisoned. Perhaps that will be something explored in season three, if Netflix decides to renew the series.

Image Source: Netflix