Dennis Lynn Rader (born March 9, 1945) is an serial killer who murdered 10 people in and around Wichita, Kansas, between 1974 and 1991. He was known as the BTK killer which stands for
"bind, torture and kill" and describes his modus operandi. He sent boastful letters describing the details of the killings to police and to local news outlets during the period of time in which the
murders took place. After a long hiatus in the 1990s, he resumed sending letters in 2004, leading to his 2005 arrest and subsequent conviction.
According to several reports, including his own confessions, as a child he tortured animals, one of the warning signs in the MacDonald triad. He also harbored a sexual fetish for women's
underwear; he would later steal panties from his victims and wear them himself. Rader attended Kansas Wesleyan University from 1965 to 1966. He subsequently spent four years
(1966-1970) in the U.S. Air Force, stationed in Texas, Alabama, Okinawa, South Korea, Greece and Turkey.
When he returned to the United States, he moved to Park City, a suburb located seven miles north of Wichita. He worked for a time in the meat department of Leekers IGA supermarket in
Park City alongside his mother, a bookkeeper for the store.
Rader attended Butler County Community College in El Dorado, earning an associate's degree in Electronics in 1973. He enrolled at Wichita
State University that same fall. He graduated from there in 1979 with a bachelor's degree in Administration of Justice. He married Paula
From 1972 to 1973, Rader worked as an assembler for the Coleman Company, a camping gear firm, as had two of his early victims. He then
worked for a short time for Cessna, in 1973. From November 1974 until being fired in July 1988, Rader worked at a Wichita-based office of
ADT Security Services, a company that sold and installed alarm systems for commercial businesses during Rader's years there. He held
several positions, including installation manager. It was believed that he learned how to carefully defeat home security systems while there.
Rader was a census field operations supervisor for the Wichita area in 1989, prior to the 1990 federal census.
In 1991 Rader was hired to be supervisor of the Compliance Department at Park City, a two-employee, multi-functional department in charge
of "animal control, housing problems, zoning, general permit enforcement and a variety of nuisance cases." In this position, neighbors
recalled him as sometimes overzealous and extremely strict; one neighbor complained that he euthanized her dog for no reason. On March 2,
2005, the Park City council terminated Rader's employment for failure to report to work or to call in; he had been arrested for the murders five
* January 15, 1974: Four members of the Otero family
* Joseph Otero
* Julie Otero, Joseph's wife
* Joseph Otero II, son
* Josephine Otero, daughter
* April 4, 1974: Kathryn Bright (he also shot Bright's brother, Kevin, twice, but he survived)
* March 17, 1977: Shirley Vian
* December 8, 1977: Nancy Fox
* April 27, 1985: Marine Hedge
* September 16, 1986: Vicki Wegerle
* January 19, 1991: Dolores Davis
He collected items from the scenes of the murders he committed and, reportedly, he had no items that were related to any other killings. He did have other intended victims, notably Anna
Williams, 63, who in 1979 escaped death by returning home much later than he expected. Rader explained during his confession that he had become obsessed with Williams and was
"absolutely livid" when she evaded him. Rader spent hours waiting in her home but became impatient and left when she did not return home from visiting friends.
Rader had stalked two women in the 1980s and one in the mid-1990s. They filed restraining orders against him and one moved away.
Rader also admitted in his interrogation that he was planning to kill again. He had even set a date, October 2004, and was stalking his intended victim.
Arrest and conviction
By 2004, the investigation of the BTK Killer had gone cold. Then, Rader sent a letter to the police, claiming responsibility for a killing that had previously not been attributed to him. DNA collected
from under the fingernails of that victim provided police with previously unknown evidence. They then began DNA testing hundreds of men in an effort to find the serial killer. Altogether, some
1100 DNA samples would be taken.
The police corresponded with the BTK Killer (Rader) in an effort to gain his confidence. Then, in one of his communications with police, Rader asked
them if it was possible to trace information from floppy disks. The police department replied that there was no way of knowing what computer such a
disk had been used on, when in fact such ways existed. Rader then sent his message and floppy to the police disks. The police department replied that
there was no way of knowing what computer such a disk had been used on, when in fact such ways existed. Rader then sent his message and floppy
to the police link to they found his family name, and were able to identify a suspect: Dennis Rader, a Lutheran department, which quickly checked the
metadata of the Microsoft Word document. In the metadata, Deacon. The police also knew BTK owned a black Jeep Cherokee. When investigators
drove by Rader's house they noticed a black Jeep Cherokee parked outside.
The police now had strong circumstantial evidence against Rader, but they needed more direct evidence in order to detain him. They controversially
obtained a warrant to test the DNA of a Pap smear evidence in order to detain him. They controversially obtained a warrant to test the DNA of a Pap
smear The DNA of the Pap smear was a near match to the DNA of the sample taken from the victim's Rader's daughter had taken at the University of
Kansas medical clinic while she was a student there. fingernails indicating that the killer was closely related to Rader's daughter. This was the evidence
the police needed to make an arrest. On February 25, 2005, Rader was detained near his home in Park City and accused of the BTK killings. At a press
conference the next morning, Wichita Police Chief Norman Williams announced, "the bottom line... BTK is arrested." Rader pleaded guilty to the murders
on June 27, 2005, giving a graphic account of his crimes in court. On August 18, 2005, he was sentenced to serve 10 consecutive life sentences, one
life sentence per murder victim. This included nine life
sentences that each had possibility of parole after 15 years, and one life sentence with the possibility of parole after 40 years. It meant that, in total,
Rader would be eligible for parole after 175 years of imprisonment. This result guaranteed that Rader would spend the rest of his life in prison, without
any possibility of parole.
Rader was particularly known for sending taunting letters to police and newspapers. There were several communications from BTK from 1974 to responsibility for the murders of the Oteros,
Shirley Vian, Nancy Fox and another unidentified victim assumed to be Kathryn Bright (not identified because her brother survived and could have identified him). He suggested a number of
possible names for himself, including the one that stuck: BTK. He demanded media attention in this second letter, and it was finally announced that Wichita did indeed have a serial killer at
large. A poem was enclosed entitled "Oh! Death to Nancy," a botched version of the lyrics of the American folk song "Oh Death." In 1979 he sent two another poem, "Oh Anna Why Didn't You
Appear", a drawing of what he had intended to do to his victim, as well as some small items he had pilfered from Williams' home. Apparently, Rader had waited for several hours inside the
home of Anna Williams, but left when she did not come home until later.
In 1988, after the murders of three members of the Fager family in Wichita, a letter was received from someone claiming to be the BTK killer in that this letter was in fact written by the
genuine BTK killer (Rader), although he is not considered by police to have committed this crime.
In March 2004, a series of 11 communications from BTK (Rader) to the local media led directly to his arrest in February 2005. The Wichita Eagle received a letter from someone using the return
address Bill Thomas Killman. The author of the letter claimed that he had murdered Vicki Wegerle on September 16, 1986, and enclosed photographs of the crime scene and a photocopy of
her driver's license, which had been stolen at the time of the crime. Prior to this, it had not been definitively established that Wegerle was killed by BTK (Rader). In May 2004, a word puzzle
was received by KAKE. On June 9, 2004, a package was found taped to a stop sign at the corner of First and Kansas in Wichita, containing graphic descriptions of the Otero murders and a
sketch labeled, "The Sexual Thrill Is My Bill." Also enclosed was a chapter list for a proposed book entitled "The BTK Story," which mimicked a story written in 1999 by Court TV (now truTV)
crime writer David Lohr. Chapter One was entitled, "A Serial Killer Is Born.". In July, a package was dropped into the return slot at the downtown public library containing more bizarre
material, including the claim that he was responsible for the death of 19-year-old Jake Allen in Argonia, Kansas earlier that same month. This claim was found to be false and the death has
been ruled a suicide. In October 2004, a manila envelope was dropped into a UPS box in Wichita containing a series of cards with images of terror and bondage of children pasted on them.
Also included was a poem threatening the life of lead investigator Lt. Ken Landwehr and a false autobiography containing many details about Rader's life. These details were later released to
In December 2004, Wichita police received another package from the BTK killer. This time the package was found in Wichita's Murdock Park. It contained the driver's license of Nancy Fox,
which was noted as stolen from the crime scene, as well as a doll that was symbolically bound at the hands and feet with a plastic bag tied over its head. In January 2005, Rader attempted
to leave a cereal box in the bed of a pickup truck at a Home Depot in Wichita, but the box was at first discarded by the owner. It was later retrieved from the trash after Rader himself asked
what had become of it in a later message. Surveillance tape of the parking lot from that date revealed a distant figure driving a black Jeep Cherokee leaving the box in the pickup. In February,
more postcards were sent to KAKE, and another cereal box left at a rural location that contained another bound doll, apparently meant to symbolize the murder of 11-year-old Josephine
Otero. In his letters to police, Rader asked if his writings, if put on a floppy disk, could be traced or not. The police answered his question via a newspaper ad posted in the Wichita Eagle
saying it would be OK to use the disk. On February 16, 2005 he sent a floppy disk to Fox TV station KSAS in Wichita. Forensic analysis quickly determined that the disk had been used by the
Christ Lutheran Church in Wichita, as well as a reference to the name "Dennis". An internet search determined that a "Dennis Rader" was president of the church council. He was arrested on
The following is reportedly the text of a 1978 letter, including spelling and grammatical errors:
strangling mostly women, there 7 in the ground; who will be next?
How many do I have to Kill before I get a name in the paper or some national attention. Do the cop think that all those deaths are not related? Golly -gee,
yes the M.O. is different in each, but look a pattern is developing. The victims are tie up-most except the Vain's Kids. They were very lucky; a phone call
save them. I was go-ng to tape the boys and put plastics bag over there head like I did Joseph, and Shirley. And then hang the girl. God-oh God what a
beautiful sexual relief that would been. Josephine,when I hung her really turn me on; her pleading for mercy then the rope took whole, she helpless;
staring at me with factor x). The same thing that made Son of Sam, Jack the Ripper, Havery Glatman, Boston Strangler, Dr. H. H. Holmes Panty wide terror fill
eyes the rope getting tighter-tighter. You don't understand these things because your not underthe influence of Hose Strangler OF Florida, Hillside
Strangler, Ted of the West Coast and many more infamous character kill. Which seem s senseless, but we cannot help it. There is no help, no cure, except
death or being caught and put away. It a terrible nightmarebut, you see I don't lose any sleep over it. After a thing like Fox I ccome home and go about life
like anyone else. And I will be like that until the urge hit me again. It not continuous and I don;t have a lot of time. It take time to set a kill, one mistake and
it all over. Since I about blew it on the phone-handwriting is out-letter guide is to long and typewriter can be traced too,.My short poem of death and
maybe a drawing;later on real picture and maybe a tape of the sound will come your way. How will you know me. Before a murder or murders you will
receive a copy of the initials B.T.K. , you keep that copy the original will show up some day on guess who? May you not be the unluck one!
How about some name for me, its time: 7 down and many more to go. I like the following How about you? 'THE B.T.K. STRANGLER', WICHITA STRANGLER',
'POETIC STRANGLER', 'THE BOND AGE STRANGLER' OR PSYCHO' THE WICHITA HANGMAN THE WICHITA EXECUTIONER, 'THE GAROTE PHATHOM', 'THE
The BTK killer's last known communication with the media and police was a padded envelope which arrived at FOX affiliate KSAS-TV in Wichita on February 16, 2005. A purple, 1.44-MB
Memorex floppy disk was enclosed in the package. Also enclosed were a letter, a photocopy of the cover of a 1989 novel about a serial killer (Rules of Prey) and a gold-colored necklace with a
Police found metadata embedded in a deleted Microsoft Word document that was, unbeknownst to Rader, still on the disk. The metadata, "Dennis". A search of the church website turned up
Dennis Rader as president of the congregation council. Police began surveillance of Rader.
Sometime during this period, police obtained a warrant for the medical records of Rader's daughter. A tissue sample seized at this time was tested for
DNA and provided a familial match with semen collected at an earlier BTK crime scene. This, along with other evidence gathered prior to and during the
surveillance, gave police
Rader was stopped while driving near his home and taken into custody shortly after noon on February 25, 2005. Immediately after, law enforcement
officials, including a Wichita Police bomb unit truck, two SWAT trucks, and KBI, FBI and ATF agents, converged on Rader's residence near the intersection of
I-135 and 61st Street North. Once in handcuffs, he was asked by an officer, "Mr. Rader, do you know why you're going downtown?" to which he replied,
"Oh, I have my suspicions, why?" Police searched Rader's home and vehicle collecting evidence, including: computer equipment, a pair of black pantyhose
retrieved from a shed, and a cylindrical container. The church he attended, his office at City Hall and the main branch of the Park City library were also
searched that day. Officers were seen removing a computer from his City Hall office, but it is unclear if any evidence was found at these locations. After his
arrest, Rader talked to the police for several hours. He stated he chose to resurface in 2004 for various reasons, including David Lohr's feature story on
the case and the release of the book Nightmare in Wichita: The Hunt for the BTK Strangler by Robert Beattie. He wanted the opportunity to tell his story
his own way. He also said he was bored because his children had grown up and he had more time on his hands.
On February 26, 2005, The Wichita Police Department announced in a press conference that they were holding Rader as the prime suspect in the BTK
Rader was formally charged with the murders on February 28, 2005.
Kansas reinstated the death penalty in 1994. The last known BTK killing was in 1991, making all known BTK murders ineligible for the death penalty. Even if later murders are linked to the BTK
killer, it was originally unclear whether the death penalty would come into play, as the Supreme Court, however, was reversed by the United States Supreme Court on June 26, 2006 in the
case of Kansas v. Marsh, and the confessed to other murders in addition to the ones with which he was already connected. When asked about the reported confessions, Sedgwick County
District Attorney Nola Foulston said "Your information is patently false", but she refused to say whether Rader had made any confessions or whether investigators were looking into Rader's
possible involvement in more unsolved killings. On March 5, news sources claimed to have verified by multiple sources that Rader had confessed to the 10 murders he was charged with, but
no additional ones.
On February 28, 2005, Rader was formally charged with 10 counts of first degree murder He made his first appearance via videoconference from jail. He was represented by a public defender.
Bail was continued at $10 million. On May 3, District Court Judge Gregory Waller entered not guilty pleas to the 10 charges on Rader's behalf, as Rader did not speak at his arraignment.
On June 27, the scheduled trial date, Rader changed his plea to guilty. He unemotionally described the murders in detail, and made no apologies.
On August 18, Rader faced sentencing. Victims' families made statements, followed by Rader, who apologized for the crimes. He was
sentenced to 10 consecutive life terms, which requires a minimum of 175 years without a chance of parole. Because Kansas had no death
penalty at the time the murders were committed, life imprisonment was the maximum penalty allowed by law.
On August 19, Rader was moved from the Sedgwick County Jail to the El Dorado Correctional Facility, a Kansas state prison, to begin serving
his life sentence as inmate #0083707 with an earliest possible release date of February 26, 2180. According to witnesses, while travelling
the 40-minute drive from Wichita to El Dorado, Rader talked about innocuous topics such as the weather, but began to cry when the victims'
families' statements from the court proceedings came on the radio. Rader is now being held in the EDCF Special Management unit, also
known as solitary confinement, for "the inmate's own protection", a designation he most likely will retain for the remainder of his
incarceration. He is confined to the cell 23 hours a day with the exception of voluntary solo one-hour exercise yard time, and access to the
shower three times per week.
Beginning April 23, 2006, having reached "Incentive Level Two", Rader has been allowed to purchase and watch television, purchase and listen
to the radio, receive and read magazines, and have other privileges for good behavior. The victims' families disagreed with this decision.
According to Rader's record in the Kansas Department of Corrections database, he had a Class Two disciplinary report concerning "mail" on
April 10, 2006.
Rader served on both the Sedgwick County's Board of Zoning Appeals and the Animal Control Advisory Board (appointed in 1996 and resigned in 1998). He was also a member of Christ
Lutheran Church, a Lutheran congregation of about 200 people, near his former high school. He had been a member for about 30 years and had been elected president of the Congregation
Council. He was also a Cub Scout leader. His son became an Eagle Scout. On July 27, 2005, after Rader's arrest, Sedgwick County District Judge Eric Yost waived the usual 60-day waiting
period and granted an immediate divorce for his wife, agreeing that her mental health was in danger. Rader did not contest the divorce, and the 33-year marriage was ended. Paula Rader said
in her divorce petition that her mental and physical condition has been adversely affected by the marriage.
Rader was ineligible for the death penalty, because Kansas did not have a death penalty during the period of time in which he committed his crimes. Kansas reinstated death penalty in 1994.
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