Dennis Lynn Rader (born March 9, 1945) is an American serial killer who murdered 10 people in Sedgwick County (in and around Wichita, Kansas), between 1974 and 1991. He was known as the BTK killer (or the BTK strangler), which stands for "Bind, Torture and Kill," which describes his modus operandi. Letters were written soon after the killings to police and to local news outlets, boasting of the crimes and knowledge of details. After a long hiatus, these letters resumed in 2004, leading to his arrest in 2005 and subsequent conviction.
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 where his mother also worked as a bookkeeper.
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.
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 seven days earlier.
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. 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.
The police corresponded with Rader in an effort to gain his confidence. Then, in one of his communications with police, Rader asked them if it were 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 there was. Rader then sent his message and floppy to the police department, which quickly checked the metadata of the Microsoft Word document. In the metadata, they found that the document had been made by a man who called himself Dennis. They also found a link to the Lutheran Church. When the police searched on the Internet for 'Lutheran Church Wichita Dennis', they found his family name, and were able to identify a suspect: Dennis Rader, a Lutheran Deacon.
The police knew that BTK owned a black Jeep Cherokee. When investigators drove by Rader's house they noticed a black Jeep Cherokee parked outside. Unfortunately, this was indirect evidence, so they still had to find something direct before they could bring him in. They were able to obtain his daughter's DNA and compared it with the DNA samples found at the crime scenes. There was a familial match.
On February 25, 2005, Rader was detained near his home at 6220 North Independence 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 BTK 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 i.e. one life sentence per murder victim. This included nine life sentences that each had the 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 i.e. in 2180. This result guaranteed that Rader would spend the rest of his life in prison, without any possibility of parole.
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 reinstituted the penalty in 1994.
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 also admitted in his interrogation that he was planning to kill again. He had even set a date, October 2005, and was stalking his intended victim.
In 1988, after the murders of three members of the Fager family in Wichita, a letter was received from someone claiming to be the BTK killer in which he denied being the perpetrator of this crime. He did credit the killer with having done admirable work. It was not proven until 2005 that this letter was in fact written by the genuine BTK killer, Rader, and he is not considered by police to have committed this crime.
In March 2004, he began the series of 11 communications from BTK that led directly to his arrest in February 2005. The Wichita Eagle received a letter from someone using the return address Bill Thomas Killman. The writer claimed that he 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. 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 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, BTK, 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 giving many details about his life. These details were later released to the public.
In December 2004, Wichita police received another package from the BTK killer. This time the package was found in Wichita's Murdock Park. It contained the driver's license of Nancy Fox, which was noted as stolen at the scene of crime, 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 there were postcards to KAKE, and another cereal box left at a rural location that contained another bound doll symbolizing the murder of 11-year-old Josephine Otero. Rader asked the police if his writings, if put on a floppy disk, could be traced or not. He received his answer in a newspaper ad posted in the Wichita Eagle saying it would be OK. 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, plus they found the name Dennis. An internet search determined that a "Dennis Rader" was president of the church council. He was arrested on February 25.
I find the newspaper not writing about the poem on Vain unamusing. A little paragraph would have enough. Iknow it not the media fault. The Police Chief he keep things quiet, and doesn't let the public know there a psycho running around lose 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 have been women-phone cut- bring some bondage mater sadist tendencies-no struggle, outside the death spot-no wintness except the Vain's Kids. They were very lucky; a phone call save them. I was going 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 wide terror fill eyes the rope getting tighter-tighter. You don't understand these things because your not underthe influence of factor x). The same thing that made Son of Sam, Jack the Ripper, Havery Glatman, Boston Strangler, Dr. H.H. Holmes Panty Hose Strangler OF Florida, Hillside Strangler, Ted of the West Coast and many more infamous character kill. Which seem senseless, but we cannot help it. There is no help, no cure, except death or being caught and put away. It a terrible nightmare but, you see I don't lose any sleep over it. After a thing like Fox I come 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 is 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 unlucky one! P.S.2How 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 ASPHIXIATER'.
Police found metadata embedded in a deleted Microsoft Word document that was, unbeknownst to Rader, still on the disk. The metadata, recovered using forensic software (EnCase Forensic), contained "Christ Lutheran Church", and the document was marked as last modified by "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 at an earlier BTK crime scene. This, along with other evidence gathered prior to and during the surveillance, gave police probable cause for an arrest.
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 and 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?" Rader's home and vehicle were searched, and evidence, including computer equipment, a pair of black pantyhose retrieved from a shed, and a cylindrical container, was collected. 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 killings.
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 Kansas Supreme Court declared the state's capital punishment law unconstitutional on December 17, 2004. That ruling from the Kansas Supreme Court, however, was reversed by the United States Supreme Court on June 26, 2006 in the case of Kansas v. Marsh, and the Kansas death penalty statute was upheld. The Sunday after his arrest, Associated Press cited an anonymous source that Rader had 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 is 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, this was the maximum sentence allowed.
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.
The FBI, Air Patrol, and local jurisdictions at Rader's former duty stations are checking into unsolved cases during Rader's time in the service. As of September 2007 no other murders have been discovered that can be attributed to Rader.
Massachusetts psychologist Robert Mendoza was hired by Rader's court-appointed public defenders to conduct an interview after he pleaded guilty on June 27. NBC claimed Rader knew the interview might be on TV. but that was a false statement according to the Sedgwick County Sheriff's department. Rader mentioned the interview during his sentencing statement. On October 25, 2005, the Kansas Attorney General filed a petition to sue Robert Mendoza and Tali Waters, co-owners of Cambridge Forensic Consultants, LLC, for breach of contract, claiming they intended to benefit financially from the use of information obtained from involvement in Rader’s defense. On May 10, 2007, Mendoza settled the case for $30,000 with no admission of wrongdoing. The Kansas Attorney General's office arranged for the settlement money to be distributed to families of the victims.
Profile: Communities of Wichita and Park City, Kansas, react to the news that Dennis Rader has been charged with the BTK serial murders
Mar 01, 2005; ROBERT SIEGEL NPR All Things Considered 03-01-2005 Profile: Communities of Wichita and Park City, Kansas, react to the news that...