BTK – Birth of a Serial Killer
Wichita is the largest city in Kansas and recognized as one of the major mid-sized cities in the nation. Founded in 1868, the city enshrined the name of Wichita Indians, who had made that area their home.
The people of Wichita take great pride in their community, a fact which has earned the city the national distinction of “All American City” not once, but three times. Home to Boeing, Cessna, Learjet and Ratheon, the city has also been nicknamed the ”Air Capital of the World.”
In this booming city with one of the best economies in the nation, something terrible was born. It’s hard to say just when it happened and how long it took to reach maturity. No doubt it began as a fantasy, an angry internal cauldron of hate and frustration. Slowly, the fantasy became an obsession that demanded fulfilment. The planning and execution of this seminal event took over his conscious thought. Just once, he told himself, and then he would be free of this overwhelming need. It wouldn’t be necessary to ever risk doing it again.
But he was deluding himself. The trophies, the photos, and the memories were poor substitutes for the electrifying thrill and release of the act itself. The power he felt when he held a life in his hands was unparalleled. There just had to be some way to continue what he was doing without getting caught. Stopping was not exactly an option he had to consider.
Of course there was a way. For someone with his intellect, there was always a way. Cops are stupid, he knew that. No match for him. No Harvard graduates there on the Wichita police force. If he was careful, there was no reason for him not to indulge himself as many times as he wished. Truth be told, that element of danger added to his excitement and kept him on his guard.
On January 15, 1974, a chilly winter day, 15-year-old Charlie Otero began his afternoon walk home from school. Charlie, his parents, and four siblings had recently moved into a quiet peaceful suburban neighborhood in a small frame house located at 803 North Edgemoor Street.
Charlie, happy that another school day had come to an end, walked gingerly up the side walk towards his home. As he opened the front door and walked into the living room, nothing immediately seemed out of the ordinary. “Hello, is anyone home?” he called out into the quiet house. There was no response. Not even a bark from his dog. Such quiet was unusual. With some trepidation, Charlie walked toward his parents’ bedroom. A strange feeling of dread welled up inside him.
Charlie’s father, Joseph, 38, was lying face down on the floor at the foot of his bed; his wrists and ankles had been bound. His mother, Julie, 34, lay on the bed bound in similar fashion, only she had been gagged. For a few seconds, Charlie could not move, he didn’t know what to do. Moments later his senses came back to him and he rushed out in desperation to get help for his parents, not realizing that he had experienced only a portion of the horror that the house had in store.
A neighbor who came over to the house to help realized that when he tried to call the police, the phone lines had been severed.
Joseph Otero II
As the police searched the house, they were shocked to find nine-year-old Joseph II in his bedroom face down on the floor at the foot of his bed. His wrists and ankles were also bound, the only difference being that over his head was a hood – and according to one reporter, he had three hoods covering his head.
The worst was yet to come. Downstairs in the basement, Charlie’s eleven-year-old sister, Josephine, was discovered hanging by her neck from a pipe; she was partially nude, dressed only in a sweatshirt and socks, and she had been gagged.
Investigators were stunned at this daytime execution-style multiple murder in such a quiet neighborhood.
From the very beginning of this case, police have been very cautious about revealing the details of the murders. What they did say was that all four of the victims had been strangled with lengths of cord cut from a Venetian blind. There were no cords like that in he house, so the killer had brought the cords, hoods, tape, wire cutters and possibly a gun with him.
According to Capt. Paul Dotson of the Wichita Police Department, semen was found throughout the house, and it appeared as though the killer had masturbated on some of the victims, although none had been sexually assaulted. Joseph Otero’s watch was missing from the scene and has never been recovered. Aside from Julie Otero’s purse being dumped and the missing watch, there was no real evidence of forced entry, robbery, or a struggle.
The coroner determined that all four murders occurred well before noon and very likely around 8 or nine in the morning. Police theorized that while Joseph Otero was driving the older three children to school that the murderer gained entry into the house where Julie and her two younger children were by themselves. Once the killer subdued and bound the three of them, he waited for Joseph to come home to take the younger two children to school and caught him by surprise. Someone had put the Oteros’ notoriously unfriendly large dog out in back of the house.
The killer hung around for about an hour an a half, then took the Otero family car and left it parked near Dillons grocery not far away. Otero’s neighbors noticed a man, possibly with a dark complexion, leaving Otero’s home in their car.
The Otero’s car was discovered in Oliver Square’s parking lot
Police initially wondered just who these Oteros were and what they had done to warrant this brutal execution. Several things they learned suggested motives, but nothing conclusive.
Joseph Otero had been born in Puerto Rico and, after moving to the States, began a career in the military. Just before his death, he had retired from the Air Force where he was a flight instructor and mechanic. He was physically very fit and was an excellent boxer. His colleagues liked him and no one could voice a motive for his slaying.
The same type of report came back on Julie. She had recently been caught in a downsizing at Coleman Company, but she would have been rehired when business picked up again. She, too, was a friendly person and a very good mother. Like her husband, she was very accomplished in the art of self-defense. She had extensive training in judo.
A police sketch of the man believed to have been seen in the area
The Otero children were very good in school and were liked by the people who knew them. They, too, took up the family sport of judo and were well beyond the average when it came to self defense.So, what to make of this case? This brilliantly planned and orchestrated crime which required surveillance, perfect timing, and the ability to subdue a group of people who were normally more than capable to defending themselves. It had the hallmarks of a military operation, but then there were these nagging details that the police didn’t want to discuss. Police Chief Floyd Hannon told the Wichita Eagle in January of 1974 that ”the way in which family members were slain indicates a fetish on the part of the assailant.”
In October of 1974, just nine months after the Otero family murders, the Wichita Eagle’s Don Granger received an anonymous call, presumably from the Otero killer himself. The caller directed him to a mechanical engineering textbook in the Wichita Public Library. Inside the book, Granger found a letter claiming credit for the killings of the Joseph Otero family, and promising more victims. The authenticity of the letter was not in doubt since it contained details that only the police and killer knew.
The letter was addressed to the “Secret Witness Program” under which people with information about a crime could pass on that information to police through the newspaper and remain anonymous. Investigators immediately requested that the letter be withheld from the public in an attempt to prevent a string of false confessions. The Wichita Eagle complied with the police request.
However, Cathy Henkel, a reporter for a 2-month-old rival newspaper called the Wichita Sun, received a copy of the letter and printed part of it in an article she wrote on Dec 11, 1974, some 11 months after the crime had been committed.
The killer wrote that the three individuals being questioned for the Otero murders were not involved. The following excerpts with their many misspellings and grammatical errors were printed in the Sun :
“I write this letter to you for the sake of the tax payer as well as your time. Those three dude you have in custody are just talking to get publicity for the Otero murders. They know nothing at all. I did it by myself and with no ones help. There has been no talk either. Let’s put this straight….” The killer provides details of the crimes and crime scene that were not published in the paper.
“I’m sorry this happen to society. They are the ones who suffer the most. It hard to control myself. You probably call me ‘psychotic with sexual perversion hang-up.’ When this monster enter my brain I will never know. But, it here to stay. How does one cure himself? If you ask for help, that you have killed four people they will laugh or hit the panic button and call the cops.
“I can’t stop it so the monster goes on, and hurt me as well as society. Society can be thankful that there are ways for people like me to relieve myself at time by day dreams of some victims being torture and being mine. It a big complicated game my friend of the monster play putting victims number down, follow them, checking up on them, waiting in the dark, waiting, waiting…. the pressure is great and sometimes he run the game to his liking. Maybe you can stop him. I can’t. He has already chosen his next victim or victims. I don’t know who they are yet. The next day after I read the paper, I will know, but it to late. Good luck hunting.
“YOURS, TRULY GUILTILY”
Although the letter was unsigned, it contained this postscript:
“P.S. Since sex criminals do not change their M.O. or by nature cannot do so, I will not change mine. The code word for me will be….Bind them, toture them, kill them, B.T.K., you see he at it again. They will be on the next victim.”
B.T.K., despite a few feeble attempts to appear to have a weak grip on the English language, is quite well educated and is a reasonably good speller when he is not trying to deceive his audience. He has no trouble with words like “psychotic,” “complicated,” and “perversion.” He has also done quite a bit of reading about the criminal psychology of that era. The famous letters from California’s Zodiac Killer and the Jack the Ripper letters were well known from newspapers and books. Interestingly, the Zodiac began his murder series on October 30, 1966 and wrote his first letter to the police almost one month later on November 29, 1966. Even more interesting is the fact that the Zodiac, after three years of silence, sent the first of a series of four letters to the San Francisco Chronicle on January 29, 1974. Chances are that B.T.K. had read about this in the newspaper and decided to open the lines of communication with the media and police.
The Wichita Eagle reported that on April 4, 1974, just three months after the Otero murders, Kathryn Bright, 20, and her brother Kevin, 19, went to her home at 3217 E. 13th Street at approximately 1 p.m. There was an intruder hiding in the house, waiting for her to return.
The intruder told them he needed money and a car to escape from the California police. At gun point, Kevin was forced to tie his sister to a chair and was then taken to another room where he to was tied up and gagged. A few minutes later, the man tried to stangle Kevin with a rope, but Kevin resisted and was shot twice in the head. He heard sounds of distress from his sister in the next room. Kevin managed to escape and get help for his sister, but she died five hours after being taken to the hospital with three stab wounds in her abdomen.
Police also noted that the Kathryn was partially undressed and that there was obvious ligature activity around her neck. Kevin assisted the police in sketching a likeness of the intruder, but he was not identified. Police did not associate B.T.K. with this crime at that point in time.
Three years later on March 17, 1977, Wichita police were dispatched to 1311 South Hydraulic Street. Upon arrival, police entered the home and discovered 26-year-old Shirley Vian dead. She lay on her bed partially undressed, hands and feet bound, a plastic bag draped over her head. Upon removing the bag investigators noted the BTK’s signature cord wrapped tightly around her neck. The armed intruder had locked Shirley’s three children in the closet. The children eventually managed to free themselves and call police.
Authorities remove Vian’s body from crime scene
Again, investigators believed that the crime was premeditated. The incident occurred during the daytime and there was no sign of forced entry. The killer had stopped one of the victim’s sons on the street that morning, and showed him photographs of a woman and child, purportedly seeking directions to their home.
Different Worlds Collide
The town of Wichita was by now in a blind panic. Hundreds of people coming home for the evening would regularly check to see if their telephone lines had been cut (a BTK trademark). Working women hurried home and locked their doors. BTK was quickly becoming a ghost story told to newcomers at parties and bars.
On Dec. 8, 1977, BTK placed a call to the emergency hotline “Go to this address,” he told an emergency dispatcher, “You will find a homicide – Nancy Fox.” Investigators were able to quickly trace the call to a downtown phone booth, where witnesses indistinctly recalled a blond man, approximately six feet tall, using the phone booth moments earlier. Unfortunately, the quality of the recording was too poor for investigators to perform any type of voice analysis.Following the caller’s instructions, officers rushed to 843 S. Pershing. Upon arrival, investigators immediately noticed that a window had been broken, allowing entry to the home. Upon entering the apartment house, officers discovered 25-year-old Nancy Jo Fox dead in her bedroom, a nylon stocking twisted around her neck. Unlike previous victims, she was fully clothed. Fox’s driver’s license (like Joseph Otero’s watch) was missing from the scene. Again, investigators theorized that the killer took the license as a memento of the crime. The murder had occurred at night, semen was found at the scene, but an autopsy later revealed that Fox had not been sexually assaulted.
As abruptly as they started, the killings appeared to have ended in 1977. It seemed as though BTK had vanished. Or had he?
Eula West, a receptionist at the Sedgwick County Courthouse, recalls, “I was taking all precautions, and everybody I heard talking about it did too.” Many people refused to go outside at night for weeks. Some people bought firearms.
On January 31, 1978, BTK mailed a letter to the Wichita Eagle-Beacon. Within the letter was a short poem about Shirley Vian, who was murdered in March 1977. However, it was accidentally routed to the advertising department by mistake and it went overlooked for days.
“It seemed as though every day we were waiting to see what would happen next,” said Rose Stanley, who began work at a Wichita TV station just before the killings began. “He would choke the person almost to the point of death. Then he would let them come back. Then he would strangle them to death.”
The Wichita Eagle Newspaper building
Distraught at the lack of publicity, BTK wrote another letter on February 10, 1978 to a local television station. “How many do I have to kill,” he wrote, “before I get my name in the paper or some national attention?” In this latest letter, the strangler claimed to have murdered seven victims, naming Nancy Jo Fox as the latest. Number seven remained nameless, adding, “You guess the motive and the victims.” According to The Wichita Eagle newspaper, even though investigators were unable to document the killer’s claim, they took his word – announced acceptance of the body count – and assumed that the seventh unnamed victim was Kathryn Bright. In addition to these claims, the killer blamed his crimes on “a demon” and a mysterious “factor X”, he compared his work with that of Jack the Ripper, the Hillside Stranglers, and Son of Sam.
He claimed that he was sorry for the murders and that a monster had entered his brain. He also warned that he had chosen his next victim.
Until March of 2004, the last confirmed BTK incident took place on April 28, 1979, when he waited inside a house in the 600 block of South Pinecrest for the 63-year-old owner to come home. When she did not show up, BTK became angry and sent the woman a note along with one of her scarves. “Be glad you weren’t here,” he wrote, “because I was.”
”I think people were really scared, especially if you were a woman living alone, which I was at the time,” said Kathy Page-Hauptman, director of performing arts at the Wichita Center for the Arts.
The BTK investigation was dormant through most of the early 1980s with no new leads or tips.
In 1983 two teams of detectives were assigned to reinvestigate the murders. They set out on a cross-country trip, collecting saliva and blood samples from over 200 people that had been flagged by their computer as prime suspects in the case. The samples collected were all voluntary, only five of the men refused. The blood tests ultimately eliminated all but 12 of the names on the list (including the five who refused the tests).
In July of 1984, investigators, set up a task force, nicknamed “The Ghostbusters” and hired a computer consultant to work with them in an attempt to try and discover the identity of BTK. After assembling their massive collection of DNA evidence, seven years after the last murder, investigators finished entering their data into an IBM computer, and a list of suspects began to spew out.
“The Ghostbusters” task force discovered some of the most promising evidence during their investigation. One of the most startling clues was the revelation of one similarity, all of the murders occurred within 3 1/2 miles of one another. This led investigators to believe that the BTK strangler only felt comfortable killing in areas that were familiar to him.
During the fall of 1984, one of the task force investigators took the February 10, 1978 BTK letter to Xerox headquarters in Syracuse, New York. There a lab technician concluded that the letter was a fifth-generation copy of the original, which would make it virtually impossible to trace. In addition, the technician went on to state that the machine used to generate the copy was located at the Wichita State University library.
During the investigation into the letters, the contents of the poems were also regarded as clues. It was soon discovered that the Vian poem was patterned after a “Curly Locks” nursery rhyme that had only just appeared in Games, a puzzle magazine. After making this startling discovery, investigators obtained a list of all the subscribers to the magazine in question.
The Fox poem, titled “Oh Death to Nancy,” had been patterned after a poem entitled Oh Death which had been published in a Wichita State University textbook. The book had previously been used in an American folklore class; hence, investigators obtained a copy of the class roster.
Law enforcement officials have not yet released BTK’s letters to the public. When asked to typify them, Capt. Paul Dotson stated, “Here I am. Pay attention.”
Using all of the available evidence obtained, investigators soon began to assemble lists of every white male that lived within a quarter-mile of the Oteros’ house in or around January 1974. Investigators also made similar lists for the Vian, Fox and Bright homes. In addition, task force investigators compiled lists of men living within 1 1/4 miles of each of the victim’s homes; they also assembled lists of white male students who attended Wichita state University between 1974 and 1979. The smallest list contained the names of eight people who had checked out the mechanical engineering textbook from the library where the Otero letter was found.
Detectives decided that the most significant of all were the address lists. ”The main crux of our search always was geographical,” said Lt. Kenneth Landwehr of the Wichita Police Department. “According to the behavioral scientists, the individual lived close to where he was striking.”
Lt. Kenneth Landwehr at a press conference
Once the lists were completed, investigators used their computer to try to come up with a more precise list of suspects. The computer gave them 225 possible suspects, most of whom no longer resided in Wichita. One by one, the detectives set out to eliminate each of the 225 possible suspects.
One of the key pieces of evidence that the killer left behind was his semen. Lab technicians were able to determine that it was a type of semen found in fewer than 6 percent of all males. Police will not comment as to the type, citing their rules of evidence.
The Next Step
Although the two-year investigation ended without an arrest, the knowledge gained and some of the samples collected formed the of the basis for the work of the squad.
”We tried a hundred thousand theories,” now retired Lt. Al Stewart said. “We checked house numbers, the victims’ length of residency, the phases of the moon, we read books, looking for arcane connections to mythology, witchcraft and demonology.”
On Oct. 31, 1987, the body of 15-year-old Shannon Olson was found dumped in a pond in an industrial area, partially disrobed and stabbed numerous times. Her hands and feet were bound. The murder sparked off an outbreak of letters to the police and media suggesting the BTK Strangler committed the crime.
On Dec. 31, 1987, Mary Fager, the married mother of two daughters, returned to her Wichita home after spending 2 1/2 days out of town. Upon entering her house, she discovered her husband, Phillip Fager, dead; he had been shot twice in the back. Her two daughters, 16-year-old Kelli and 10-year-old Sherri, were both found strangled in the hot tub situated in the basement of the home. Sherri’s hands and feet were bound with black electrical tape, which later washed loose. Kelli Fager was nude.
Soon after the Fager murders, someone wrote a letter to Mary Fager, claiming to be the BTK Strangler. The letter declared that while he had not committed the murders he was a fan of whoever had. FBI experts said they cannot irrefutably say that the letter came from BTK, but one source involved in the investigation who saw the letter himself, states that there is no doubt in his mind that it was authentic. “It made the hair stand up on the back of my neck,” the source stated.
According to Lt. Landwehr, a local contractor stated to police that he went to the Fager house, where he was doing construction work, and discovered the father’s body. He went on to claim that he had heard some noise in the house and fled in the family’s car. The contractor was arrested in Florida four days later. According to Landwehr, the man claimed he had a total blank of the events that had occurred.
The contractor was arrested and subsequently charged with the Fager murders. However, a jury acquitted him of all charges.
Lt. Landwehr said they have closed the Fager case because they are confident that the contractor was the killer.
Cold Case Squad
In 1991, the Wichita Police Department assembled a cold case squad when police received a new lead in the BTK murders. Although the lead fizzled, Capt. Paul Dotson will not disclose the nature of the tip.
“I believe he is still probably in this community,” Mike McKenna, a former Wichita police detective, said.
In 1997, Robert Ressler, a former FBI veteran who first applied the term “serial killer”, helped outline a profile of BTK. Ressler said the man was probably a graduate student or a professor in the criminal justice field at WSU in Kansas, was most likely in his mid-to-late-20s at the time of the killings and was an avid reader of books and newspaper stories concerning serial murders. Additionally, because his pattern of killings has not been seen in Wichita since the ’70s, he has “left the area, died or is in a mental institution or prison,” Ressler said.
Robert K. Ressler
“I’ve learned that if man gets the opportunity, he will do devious things,” Ressler said. “He has a dark side, whether it’s poisoning his neighbor’s roses or killing his neighbor.”
In February of 1998, Police Chief Richard LaMunyon said in an interview that a “typewritten, rambling communiqué, which purports to be from BTK” received by police about a week after the Fager murders has no connection to the Dec. 30 murders of Phillip Fager, and his daughters. LaMunyon said a continuing investigation has not yet confirmed whether the serial killer sent the letter. LaMunyon went on to say that the department does sporadically receive bogus letters from people claiming to be the BTK strangler.
As 1988 came to a close, a former BTK task force detective, Al Thimmesch, retired. Al says he regrets never solving the murders. ”One of the things that bugged me was BTK,” he said. “It was one that I worked on for a long time.”
Investigators call BTK fastidious, calculating and meticulous; with a strong possibility that he may be heard from again. “This type of personality doesn’t stop voluntarily,” said Wichita Police Capt. Paul Dotson. “This type of person continues to kill.”
Sedgwick County Sheriff Mike Hill, who worked on the 1978 probe, said, “It’s sad to say the only way that we’ll ever find out who this individual is will be we’ll have to have a victim.” Nevertheless, Stewart hopes that some day a beat cop will stumble onto the BTK still savoring his press clippings or souvenirs.
Obsession by John Douglas
FBI Profiler John Douglas in the book Obsession has a chapter on the BTK strangler. It is the chapter called “Motivation X”. Within the book, Douglas states that there were no defensive wounds found on any of the victims, assuming that the killer used a gun to control them. He further stated that the killer’s letters to the police had so much detail that he is convinced that the perpetrator had taken his own crime scene photos in order to have a keepsake of the crime to fantasize about later.
Douglas states that the killer used police lingo in his letters – Douglas thinks he may actually be a cop, or may impersonate a cop – he probably reads detective magazines and may have even bought a police badge. He would attempt to insert himself in the investigation. He would be tempted to brag or leave hints about what he had done.
Douglas states that the killer was in all probability a loner, inadequate, in his 20s or 30s, might possibly have an arrest record for break-ins or voyeurism, but probably no actual rapes.
Douglas further states that the perpetrator may have stopped killing because he is in jail for something else, or a mental hospital, may have died, or maybe he injected himself so closely into the investigation, he got scared. It is even a possibility that the memories and photographs are enough for him to contain his obsession.
On August 4, 2000, David Lohr contacted Dr. Deborah Schurman-Kauflin, President of the Violent Crimes Institute, and asked her to draw up a profile of the killer based on the information at hand. The profile read as follows:
“From the information provided to me which is limited (no crimes scene photos, police report, etc), I have constructed the most likely type of person to have committed the murders in the 1970s. I do not believe the murders from the 80s were connected.”
- Single, white male 28-30
- Resided near Oteros or spent time in the area to form fantasy about Josephine (this was his main target). Lived in a house, not apartment.
- Over 6’1, tall and trim. Neat in appearance with short hair. Clothes darker by choice.
- Considered quiet and conservative by those who would know him.
Modest. I believe people would mistake him as kind because of his quiet
demeanor. But he suffers from extreme pathology — psychopath.There are
no voices or demons. This man knew exactly what he was doing.
He was and, if alive, still would be an extremely sad individual. Sad for himself and his pain. Completely self-absorbed.
Because I did not have access to the letters, his job status is questionable to me. I do feel that his job was very secondary to him. Money was not important either. His compulsion to kill was and ALWAYS would be number 1. He would not be satisfied with fantasy. He would be forced to act. Therefore, I find it hard to believe that he did not kill between 1974 and 1977. If there were no murders in Kansas at that time, he was someplace else.
He was very immature — the games, magazines, choice of child target. The fact that he did not sexually assault lends credence to this. He masturbated on the victims but did not rape.
At the same time, he is very patient in his crimes, stalking and killing without detection. This makes him a paradox, which in and of itself would be disturbing even to him.
I do feel like he is very comfortable with books and would have many of them in his home. Not just a few, many, many books. True crime as well as books, which feed his fantasies. I feel as if they would be found all over his house. He was smart, highly intelligent.
This is not someone who is heavily into drugs/alcohol. They do not cause his crimes. He may drink at times, but that would not be an excuse for the murders.
- He had a car, which would have been dark in color as well. However, this is a person who would enjoy walking around neighborhoods looking at people and victims.
- Due to his immaturity, he would be comfortable with people much younger than him. He would not have many friends, only acquaintances who really do not know him. All of his relationships would be superficial. He would not be married, and any history with women would be short-lived and meaningless.
This is not a person who would stop killing on his own. There are 3 reasons to stop:
- Too disabled or sick to kill
Period. This is a compulsive psychopath who enjoyed killing and wouldn’t give it up.
I generally give more detailed analyses but due to limited information, this is what I can provide.”
Dr. Deborah Schurman-Kauflin
Violent Crimes Institute President
Violent Crimes Institute President
Although Wichita police invested 100,000 hours in at least a half-dozen investigations from 1974 until 1991, BTK was not caught. The FBI called the case one of its top unsolved mysteries.
The search for the “BTK Strangler” had been scaled down to one detective. The remaining detective on the BTK case, Lt. Kenneth Landwehr, stated that the case files were not just sitting around collecting dust: “I’ve been told by the chief that this investigation will stay open until we have no more (reasonable) leads to follow”, adding: “that can almost be to infinity.”
The investigation has involved thousands of suspects and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in man-hours, travel expenses and telephone bills.
The Otero home, undated photo
Over twenty-five years later, the Otero house has changed hands a half-dozen times. Charlie Otero and two siblings have since moved to Albuquerque but have not been heard from since the Ghostbusters investigation.
Suddenly in 2004, after so many years, BTK investigation was re-launched after the killer sent a letter to The Wichita Eagle that claimed responsibility for the 1986 murder of Vicki Wegerle, who was strangled in her home at 2404 W. 13th. BTK provided some very convincing evidence of the letter’s authenticity by including crime scene photos and Wegerle’s driver’s license. She was the mother of two children, one of whom was home at the time of the murder.
Vicki Wegerle, victim
After nearly 30 years of silence, BTK once again terrorized the city of Wichita. The killer resurfaced on March 19, 2004, when he sent a letter to The Wichita Eagle newsroom.
The residence of Vicki Wegerle
According to reports in the Eagle, the letter suggested the killer was taking responsibility for the September 16, 1986, unsolved death of Vicki Wegerle, who was found in her home at 2404 W. 13th Street. Included with the letter were a photocopy of Wegerle’s driver’s license and three photos of her body.
Investigators are not yet releasing the contents of the letter, however it has been reported in the media that the return address on the letter was from “Bill Thomas Killman” (BTK) — 1684 South Oldmanor. Investigators have since determined the name to be fictitious and the address a vacant lot. Why he chose them is unknown, but many speculate there is a hiding meaning behind it.
A police officer inspects Wegerle’s car
On March 24, 2004, Lt. Ken Landwehr, who has been investigating the BTK case for over 20 years, confirmed that the letter was from BTK. The single fingerprint removed from the letter, he stated, would most likely come back to an employee from the newspaper and not from the killer.
Landwehr told Wichita news station Kake-10 that investigators were following leads from more than 290 telephone tips and requested that anyone with information should call the BTK hotline. It’s not traceable, so tipsters can remain anonymous.
On March 25, 2004, Gregg McCrary, a former FBI profiler, told The Wichita Eagle he felt BTK was bragging about his crimes and he craves the media attention: “‘Look at what I’ve done.’ He can’t resist doing that,” said McCrary. “Frightening the public is like playing God. It’s a heady, intoxicating experience, so they’re not afraid to make contact with you (the media) or police — that’s all a part of the game for a guy like this. He’s outwitted law enforcement and everybody else all these years.”
Psychologist Dr. Harold Brodsky spoke with KAKE-TV on March 28, 2004, and said giving BTK attention is a good thing. “Are we falling into his hands by showing him this attention? The reality is, if we don’t show him this attention, he’s going to do something diabolical,” said Brodsky. Regardless of where he has been and why he has suddenly come back, one thing is certain — he has once again brought panic to the city of Wichita. Investigators have surmised that the killer is living in the area. No one feels safe and practically everyone is taking steps to protect themselves. Sales of security systems, locks, guns, personal alarms, pepper spray and other security devices have sky rocketed. The case has drawn the attention of national news organizations and CNN, MSNBC and Good Morning America are covering it from all angles.
In the mean time everyone seems to have the same questions: Will he make contact again? Or more importantly: Will he kill again? Unfortunately, no one has an answer to either question and only time will tell if BTK strikes again.
“Will There (Be) More?”
On May 5, 2004, another letter suspected to be from BTK was sent to Kansas television station KAKE-TV. The letter was three pages. On the first page was typed “The BTK Story,” under which was a list of chapters taken from Court TV’s Crime Library story on the killer, Ron Sylvester reported in The Wichita Eagle. Intriguingly, some of the chapter titles were changed from those listed in Crime Library original story. For example, Chapter 7 originally titled “BTK- The Next Step” was changed to “PJ’s,” Chapter 4 titled “BTK- Different Worlds Collide” was altered to read “Fantasy World” and the chapter titled “BTK Cold Case Squad” was changed to “Will There (Be) More?”
Wichita Eagle logo
The second page of the letter was titled “Chapter 8″ and contained word puzzles with letters in vertical rows, Jeanene Kiesling reported in a May KAKE-TV article. On the last page were photocopies of business ID’s belonging to two men, one a former Southwestern Bell worker and the other a former employee of the Wichita public school district, the Associated Press reported in June. According to the article, the phone company employee was later contacted but he could not understand why a photocopy of his ID was in the letter. Upon further investigation, the school district employee listed on the card did not exist and the logo of the school used on the card had been discontinued. Interestingly, the three-page letter was different from the March letter sent to The Wichita Eagle in that the return address on the envelope bore the name Thomas B. King (TBK) instead of Bill Thomas Killman (BTK), Sylvester reported.
It didn’t take long for the FBI to authenticate the letter as a genuine BTK communication, believed to have been his third in a three-month period. The first known communication in 2004 was the March 19th letter sent to The Wichita Eagle. The second known communication allegedly by BTK was an anonymous letter sent to Wichita’s KSN-TV in April 2004, which purportedly contained a photo of an unidentified baby.
There was no doubt that the killer was back to his old habit of taunting police. However, it is likely that he was also providing them with vital clues to his identity and details regarding his past murders. It was suggested that the killer may have used the IDs represented in the letter to gain access to the victims’ homes. Moreover, police alleged that the chapter titled “PJ’s” could be a clue linking the killer to a faculty member at Wichita State University.
Many wondered why the killer chose this point in time to resurface. Some believed that the killer reemerged because he missed the media attention, which he seemed to crave. There is also a chance that his most recent communications were a warning that he might strike again in the near future. BTK’s new letters have re-ignited the investigation into the killer, as well as the community’s fears of more brutal murders. Many wonder whether the BTK killer can be captured before he gets a chance to kill again.
More Clues Revealed
On June 17, 2004 another letter was found in a mechanical engineering book in the drop box of the Wichita Public Library. The letter was immediately handed over to police, who later revealed that it was yet another genuine BTK communication. This time the letter detailed some of the events surrounding the 1974 Otero murders, among other things.
The entire letter’s contents have not yet been revealed by authorities. However, it is believed that there might have been more clues present in the letter, which linked the killer to Wichita State University. Initially, it was unclear why the hunt for BTK continuously led the police to the school campus. Yet, in August 2004 investigators finally revealed the significance of the university in their investigation.
Professor P.J. Wyatt, who taught an English literature class at the university between 1964 and 1986, was of interest to police because of a folksong she analyzed titled “Oh Death.” The song was of great significance to the BTK killer and inspired a poem he wrote called ”Oh! Death to Nancy” which was found in a 1978 letter. It was alleged that the altered poem referenced BTK’s murder of Nancy Fox in December 1977. Investigators looked for hidden meanings in the poem that might help them apprehend the killer but it turned out to be of little use. Unfortunately, the professor could not assist investigators in the case because she passed away in 1991 of cancer.
Nancy Fox, victim
More interesting than “Oh! Death to Nancy” is the poem that BTK wrote to Anna, an intended victim, who did not come home in time to be murdered by BTK. He waited in her home for her to return, but then became impatient and left. This poem, part of which is printed below, commemorates this event.
T’ was perfect plan of deviant pleasure so bold on that Spring niteWarn, wet with inner fear and rapture, my pleasure of entanglement,
My inner felling hot with propension of the new awakening season
My inner felling hot with propension of the new awakening season
like new vines at night
Finnegan’s Wake by James Joyce
The poem is in many ways remarkable because of the levels of meaning that BTK suggests in the words he uses. Reminiscent of James Joyce’s epic, Finnegan’s Wake, BTK uses words that suggest several meanings. Starting with the very first line in the poem, the T with the superscript 1 is used in scientific research to designate the beginning phase of a study. Subsequent phases would be T2, T3, etc. On another more ordinary level, the superscript 1 could be interpreted as an apostrophe to create “T’was” except that “T’was perfect plan” is missing a word, like “a” or “the.” It appears as though whatever BTK had in store for Anna was something “bold” and new.
“Felling,” for example, suggests the purposeful killing of a living tree, as well as the taking of Anna’s life. It also describes his feelings of excitement as he anticipates his meeting with her. Like Joyce, he creates words by juxtaposing parts of other words. “Propension” is not some mistake on BTK’s part, it is his creation of a new word to represent the anticipation of this new encounter. “Propension” may be a combination of other words like “propensity” or “property” or “possessions.”
What’s the point of these intellectual gymnastics? No doubt, BTK sees himself as an artist and gets pleasure in creating these poems and lyrics with multiple levels of meaning. There is almost certainly another motivation as well. BTK likes to demonstrate his considerable intelligence. He believes that he is a superior intellect and enjoys pointing out to authorities that he is still at large. In other words, he is smarter than all of them local experts, FBI profilers, amateur sleuths, psychics. Thus far, it appears that he is right.
The search for BTK has not only caught the attention of those in the United States but also that of millions around the world. The BTK case has even led to the production of a British documentary film concerning the murders and the ongoing investigation, Theresa Freed reported in a September 2004 KAKE-TV article. Freed reported that the “British film crew not only wants to tell the BTK story but (also) offer police new insight into the case.”
The new insight came in the form of a British psychic named Dennis McKenzie who traveled with the crew to Wichita. Freed said that McKenzie has successfully assisted in several high profile investigations, including the Soham murders. He was also able to contribute to the BTK investigation by producing an image of the killer with the help of a sketch artist, as well as other potentially valuable information concerning the murder cases, Freed stated. It is hoped that the new leads will result in the eventual apprehension of the BTK killer. Until that time, Wichita residents are left in a perpetual state of fear, wondering if there will be a new victim in the near future.
On October 22, 2004, a suspicious letter was left at a UPS drop box outside the OmniCenter building at 250 N. Kansas Street in Wichita, Kansas. Police suspected that the letter was written by BTK and have sent it to the FBI for verification three days after its discovery. Interestingly, the letter was discovered on the 30th anniversary of BTK’s first communication with the authorities. Chances are that the timing was no coincidence. The contents of the letter and the identity of the person who alerted police of its whereabouts still remain unclear.
Homicide Detective Kelly Otis of the Wichita Police, who is working on the BTK case, interviewed people who were in the immediate area of the office building and who worked there at the time the letter was allegedly placed at the scene. It was hoped that someone might have witnessed the person who left the letter in the UPS box. One person who was interviewed by Otis claimed to have seen a suspicious individual dropping a letter off at the UPS box on the same day the letter in question was purportedly left at the drop box.
On October 26, 2004, Beth Jett of KAKE-TV news quoted an unidentified man saying, “you could see the nervousness in his eyes…I was right around the corner (from the UPS drop box) and he looked back at me and that’s when he took off.” The man believed that the suspicious person he saw might have been the BTK killer. BTK is thought to be around 50-60 years old with graying hair and of medium stature.
In the meantime, the authorities continue pouring over clues left by the BTK killer. It is clear that the killer has gone to great effort to misguide and confuse the authorities by providing them with false information likely mixed with subtle truths. It is almost certain that he is highly educated or at least well read, judging by his use of statistical jargon and James Joyce-like style of writing. Moreover, his use of the name Thomas King in one of his letters is very possibly yet another clue to his choice of literature. There is a Canadian author of articles, stories and poems mostly about Native American life who bears the same name.
Both Thomas King and James Joyce are two of many famous authors whose works have been studied by literature students at Kansas State University. Could BTK have studied these authors at some point at the university? There seems to be many links between BTK and the school, especially with the now-deceased lecturer Professor P.J. Wyatt. With the mounting evidence, there is a good chance that BTK was once a student at the university or may have even worked there. However, it may also be another ploy used by the killer to mislead investigators.
Envelope of letter sent by BTK
If the names BTK used in his letters were in fact clues to his identity, many wonder what would be the significance of the name Bill Thomas Killman. Some believe the name is a puzzle in itself and if arranged properly might spell out a hidden message or meaning. However, the name could also be another sophisticated tool used to taunt police.
Return address on the envelope
Kenneth Thomas and Ralph Kilmann (with one “l” and two “n”s) devised a tool, known as the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument, which is used to help people handle conflict. The instrument is sometimes used by police departments to help officers deal with people who are aggressive or scared, which they often encounter in their line of work. When the killer used the name Bill Thomas Killman in his previous letters, could he have been indirectly referring to this conflict instrument and using it as a tool to mock the police? It is a question that may never be answered. Unfortunately, until the BTK killer is caught we can only speculate about his identity or motivation for his horrific crimes.
On Nov. 30, 2004, Wichita Police did a press release offering a great deal of background information supplied by BTK about his life. This is, indeed unique in the history of serial killers. Occasionally, the concept that serial killers “want to be caught” finds its way into the news. This is pure fiction. Serial killers are pyschopaths. They are entirely self-focused. They will not intentionally put themselves in harm’s way. Psychopaths are notorious liars and BTK is no exception.
So, now that BTK has supplied a number of supposedly true facts about himself, what are we to make of it? Are we now to believe this serial killer? Are we now to chase down and investigate his claims?
We would be foolish to do so. If BTK wanted to reveal his identity, he would walk into any police station and do so. But he does not because he is a psychopath who is enjoys taunting and playing with the police and engaging the huge public following that he has amassed. Now that he has “revealed” this biographical sketch, he can be assured that countless BTK amateur sleuths, as well as FBI and Wichita police, will be completely absorbed in it. What could be more gratifying to a dedicated narcissist?
It’s possible that some of the information that BTK has volunteered about himself may be true, but you can be assured that nothing factual that he has volunteered will trip him up. He’s just too smart for that. Keep in mind that he is very smart, potentially smarter than his pursuers. It’s more likely that everything that BTK has volunteered about his biography is false or misleading. He’s playing with us, his public. We shall see. The fact that BTK is pushing for attention based on details of his life, rather than recent murders, suggests that he is not in a position to operate freely without the threat of discovery.
Throughout the fall of 2004, police continued their intense search for BTK, this time looking to their own ranks. BTK is believed to have what some might consider “inside knowledge” of police activity or law enforcement training. For practical reasons, many serial killers are focused on the investigation into their crimes. Some, like the notorious South Carolina serial killer, Pee Wee Gaskins, and Dr. Frank Sweeney, Cleveland’s Kingsbury Run murderer, have even cultivated police sources by hanging around taverns where cops visit and luring them into conversations about the investigation.
Serial killers are also attracted to law enforcement because it represents power, the ingredient that the serial killer lacks in his everyday life. Kenneth Bianchi, one of the Hillside Stranglers, took courses in police science and posed as a psychologist so that he could pal around with investigators working on his case. It was more than just a practical activity to avoid becoming a suspect himself, it was the vicarious thrill of outsmarting the police and exerting power over them.
Dr. Frank Sweeney did the same type of thing while decapitating 13 or more victims in the 1930s. The famed Eliot Ness was head of law enforcement in Cleveland at that time. When Eliot Ness focused his attentions on Sweeney, Sweeney reciprocated by sending Ness taunting post cards and even a papier maché torso. Sweeney got tremendous pleasure from outsmarting the very smart Eliot Ness.
This is what is happening here with BTK. Instead of exerting power over his victims as he tortured and killed them a couple of decades ago, he is now exerting power over the police. His games, his letters, his packages are putting enormous pressure on them to produce an arrest. Not only that, BTK has found a way to hold power over thousands of fascinated amateur sleuths who flock to the chat rooms and message boards to theorize and analyze BTK’s every word. With the Laci Peterson circus finally coming to a close, BTK is making a bid to be the next televised obsession. He has become a celebrity.
Was BTK ever a Wichita cop? It’s not likely, although he may have experience in the military police. Just to be on the safe side in case BTK turns out to be another Gerard Schafer, Wichita police called on retired police officers in mid-November to volunteer to have the inside of their mouths swabbed for DNA samples so they could be eliminated as potential suspects. However, investigators ran into unexpected difficulty when at least one police officer refused to participate in the ongoing investigation.
According to Roy Wenzl’s November 21, 2004 article in the Wichita Eagle, retired Det. Frank Cummins was skeptical of the DNA tests because of long-term privacy concerns. Wenzl reported that “because of the nature of DNA, because it can show genetic family relationships, it would be like handing the police department a permanent set of fingerprints, without permission from every person genetically related to him.” Moreover, Cummins believed that the tests were a waste of money and he distrusted how the police would utilize the samples. Consequently, he decided not to voluntarily provide DNA samples. He would not be the last person to refuse police testing.
Too Many Clues
In November, 2004, police publicly revealed for the first time information that BTK revealed about himself in a letter. The personal information was released in the hopes that someone might recognize the killer’s description and come forward with even more information about his identity or whereabouts. It is likely that these “revelations” are simply disinformation provided by BTK to throw the police off his trail. Jeanene Kiesling of KAKE-TV gave out these new details on November 30, 2004:
- BTK claims he was born in 1939, which would make him 64 or 65 years old.
- His father died in World War II. His mother and grandparents raised him.
- He has a fascination with railroads and between 1950 to 1955, his mother dated a detective with the railroad.
- In the early 1950s he built and operated a ham radio. He also has knowledge of photography and can develop and print pictures.
- He also likes to hunt, fish and camp.
- In 1960, BTK claims he went to tech school and then joined the military for active duty and was discharged in 1966 at which time he says he moved back in with his mother.
- He worked repairing copiers and business equipment.
- He admits to soliciting prostitutes.
BTK is now playing to an ever increasingly devoted audience and needs to keep their interest alive. So one can expect to see many more communications from him as he discards incriminating evidence.
In the meantime, there are also old theories re-emerging that BTK might have served in the U.S. Air Force. BTK’s first victim, Joseph Otero, was known to have served in the Air Force and at the time of his death worked at Rose Hill Airport. Some believe that BTK may also stand for “Born to Kill” the name and initials of several Air Force squadrons.
In mid-December, 2004, an unidentified man found a suspicious white plastic bag wrapped in rubber bands in Murdock Park. The man took the bag home and looked inside it, when to his surprise he noticed items that may have belonged to some of BTK’s victims.
Investigators examined the bag’s contents and found a driver’s license belonging to Nancy Fox and a letter, along with other objects. The letter was similar to one found earlier in May 2004, which displayed a list of chapters taken from this Crime Library story. However, some of the chapter titles were listed differently.
In the most recent letter chapter 13 was changed from “Will There More?” to “Will There Be More?” The chapter originally had a different title. Yet, after the May letter, the title was changed to “Will there (Be) More.” In BTK’s latest communication it is clear that he made a concerted effort to correct his grammatical errors. It also appears that he is an avid true crime reader.
Furthermore, in the letter found in the bag, chapters one, two and eight were left blank unlike those in the May letter. In an interview with Larry Hatteberg of KAKE TV, he theorized that the empty chapters might have been directly linked to Nancy Fox’s murder date in 1977. He stated that “the chapters BTK left out, if put together in a specific sequence, would mark the date Nancy Fox was killed,” 12-8 or December 8th. If this were the case, it would be a vital clue that might provide insight into BTK and the way in which he communicates.
The plastic bag was eventually handed over to the FBI. Information concerning the remainder of the bag’s contents has since been withheld from the public in an effort to maintain the continuity of the ongoing investigation.
BTK Suspect Arrested
Monday, Feb 28 12 p.m. update
Law enforcement in Wichita are 99.9% sure that the suspect they have in custody, 59-year-old Dennis Rader, is the BTK killer, but while the tone of the February 26 news conference morning was confident, very few details of the investigation were divulged.
The 46 minutes of news conference self congratulations on “catching” BTK seems a bit misplaced considering that after 30 years of so-called investigation, police were not even able to tie three victims (Wegerle, Hedge and Davis) to BTK. Let’s also not forget that had it not been for his daughter, Kerri Rader, cooperating with the police before the arrest, there probably would have been no arrest. It’s hard to understand how so much investigative effort on the part of Wichita police and the FBI failed to respond to the obvious clues in Rader’s past that tied in with the profile that had been developed for BTK:
- He went to Wichita State University, where one BTK letter was photocopied and a Professor P.J. Wyatt had exposed in her classes the poem “Oh, Death” from which BTK created one of his poems.
- He was in the Air Force. It was long speculated that BTK got the letters from “Born To Kill,” a USAF squadron term. He may have met BTK victim Joseph Otero, also in the Air Force at that time.
- He worked at Coleman’s, where two other victims worked
- He is an odd guy with a need to exert power and control as evidenced by the code compliance position he held with the Park City government. Several of his neighbors have gone on the record calling him a bureaucratic “bully.” This type of behavior is consistent with a sadistic serial killer and should have been a red flag to investigators.
- He lived nearby some victims, even on the same street as one of them.
It will be interesting to know if Rader was on any of the lists of suspects that police had collected over the past 30 years and, if so, why did they not collect any DNA from him?
It would be very surprising if some other cold cases don’t turn out to be BTK victims as well. To name a few that have been listed by Wichita residents on Internet bulletin boards
- “Nov. 12, 1974: Sherry Baker, a Wichita State University student
stabbed in her apartment. Hands tied behind back (with a coiled telephone cord)
No sign of forced entry.
- June 29, 1985: Linda Shawn Casey, a Wichita State University student
found dead on the bedroom floor of her home bound, beaten, sexually assaulted, tabbed repeatedly. No sign of forced entry. At the time, BTK was mentioned as a possibility but discounted due to the length of time since his last known victim.
- Nov, 12, 1999: Tina Frederick, lived a few blocks from BTK victim Shirley Vian.
Found shot to death in her apartment – lying on a bedroom floor.”
Also, it’s likely that there are even other BTK victims. Serial killers can’t stop, they just become more imaginative about hiding their crimes.
District Attorney Nola Foulston said there is no statute of limitations on murder. However, the dealth penalty was not approved in Kansas until 1994. No death penalty applies to murder cases committed before 1994. In other words, the BTK case may not a capital case, unless they can tie him to new murders that occurred in 1994 or later.
Prosecutors will not be discussing the case publically after any charges are filed, Foulston said, to ensure that information released does not harm the trial.
Dennis Rader, suspect
Two new victims have been uncovered in the investigation, bringing the number of BTK victims from eight to ten.
Marine Hedge, victim
The two victims most recently attributed to Rader have been identified as Marine Hedge, 53, and Delores “Dee” Davis, 62. The Wichita Eagle reported that Hedge was abducted from her home on Independence Street in Park City on April 27, 1985. She had been strangled by a pair of pantyhose and found eight days later on a rural dirt road near 143rd East and 37th North Street. The article stated that the case bore marked similarities to several other BTK murders in that, “the phone line at Hedge’s home was cut” and her car had been driven from the crime scene to another location. Roxana Hegeman of The Associated Press claimed that Rader actually lived on the same street as Hedge.
Delores Davis, victim
Delores Davis was abducted from her home on January 19, 1991 and found 13 days later under a bridge on 117th Street North near Meridian, Kansas. Her hands and feet had been bound with the pantyhose that were used to strangle her. According to the Wichita Eagle, her murderer cut the phone line at her home and “then threw a brick through a glass door at the rear of her home to get inside.” After disposing of Davis’ body, the killer drove her car to another location and abandoned it. Davis’ murder remained unsolved for more than a decade.
In 2004, there was a great deal of excitement when police arrested a man that the media believed was connected to the BTK case. At around 7:30 in the evening on December 1, 2004 after a day of heavy surveillance, police arrested a 64-year-old man at his south Wichita residence. It was initially reported that the arrest was made in connection with the BTK case and was prompted by a tip off from an unidentified caller into the BTK information hotline. However, investigators later denied that the man arrested was in any way linked to the murder investigation.
Who is Dennis Rader?
Monday, Feb. 28 8:50 a.m. update
Dennis Rader, Mugshot
After 31-years, the identity of Wichita, Kansas’ most notorious serial killer, known as BTK, was made public after the suspect’s arrest on February 26, 2005. Dennis L. Rader, 59, of Park City, Kansas was taken into custody after having been stopped at a traffic light near his home on East Kechi Road shortly after noon that day. Even though formal charges have not yet been filed, the authorities said, “they would ask prosecutors to file 10 counts of first degree murder against Rader, including two murders in Park City that had not previously been attributed to the BTK killer,” it was reported in a February 26th MSNBC article.
Police Chief Norman Williams
The question now on everyone’s lips is, “Who is Dennis L. Rader?” Relatively little is know about him, especially since prosecutors are reluctant to divulge too much information, which could harm the up-coming trial. What is certain is that Rader spent most of his life in Park City.
Rader was born in 1945 and grew up in Wichita along with three brothers, all of whom graduated from Heights High School in Wichita.
Rader was in the Air Force in Viertnam from 1965 to 1969. Joseph Otero, BTK’s victim, was also in the Air Force at the same time.
Rader worked in the meat department for a Park City grocery store and then as an assembler at the Coleman camping gear firm between 1971 and 1973, where he met two of his earlier victims, Mike Brunker reported in a MSNBC article.
He worked at ADT Security Services from 1974 through 1989. In 1989, he also worked for the U.S. Census bureau going door-to-door collecting information. While working in both positions, Rader had access to many area residents’ homes. It is believed that he might have initially encountered some of his victims while on the job.
At some point in the 1970s, Rader married and he and his wife Paula had two children, a boy and girl. At around the same time, he attended Wichita State University and in 1979 graduated with a degree in Administration of Justice. According to Fox News, Rader “never became an officer but instead went “into code enforcement, or what one critic called “a glorified dog catcher.”
In his spare time, Rader lead a Cub Scouts group and was active in his church. No one imagined he was capable of doing any harm to anybody. Many referred to him as a kind of guy who wasn’t very noticeable, one who never really stood out from others. In fact, it was his ability to “blend in” that allowed him to go undetected for so many years.
Tuesday, March 1 12:05 PM
Ron Sylvester of The Wichita Eagle and Frank Witsil of the Detroit Free Press reported today that ‘A Michigan law enforcement official said Monday that federal agents went to the home of Dennis Rader’s daughter to take a DNA sample shortly after his arrest Friday.’
Monday, Feb 28 1:20 p.m. update
Ron Sylvester reported in a February 28, 2005 AP article that investigators believed Dennis Rader was responsible for 13 murders, although the authorities vehemently deny this. The article further suggested that at least one of the additional murders is believed to have occurred after 1994, when the death penalty was re-instated in the state of Kansas. If police can prove that a previously unknown victim of BTK was murdered after 1994, prosecutors can make a good case for seeking the death penalty in this case, something for which many of the victim’s families are hoping.
Associated Press reported Sunday that a source close to the investigation that police believed that BTK may have been responsible for the deaths of two Wichita State University students and a woman who lived down the street from another BTK victim. After Wichita Police Chief Norman Williams threatened legal action against anyone who spread erroneous information, AP modified its report to say that investigators are “looking into” whether BTK was responsible for another three killings.
Sedwick County D.A. Nola Foulston insisted that the information in the modified A.P report is false. However, if the three cases below are not being investigated by police, perhaps they should be. After all, the public has learned of three new BTK victims in the past year: Vicki Wegerle, Marine Hedge, and Dolores Davis.
Three cases have been posted on Internet bulletin boards which seem to fit the description of the victims in the Associated Press article.
- “Nov. 12, 1974: Sherry Baker, a Wichita State University student
stabbed in her apartment. Hands tied behind back (with a coiled telephone cord)
No sign of forced entry.
- June 29, 1985: Linda Shawn Casey, a Wichita State University student
found dead on the bedroom floor of her home bound, beaten, sexually assaulted, tabbed repeatedly. No sign of forced entry. At the time, BTK was mentioned as a possibility but discounted due to the length of time since his last known victim.
- Nov, 12, 1999: Tina Frederick, lived a few blocks from BTK victim Shirley Vian.
Found shot to death in her apartment – lying on a bedroom floor.”
It has also been revealed that at the time Rader worked for the security company ADT between 1974 and 1989, he “held positions that allowed him access to customers’ homes, including a role as an installation manager,” the Associated Press reported on February 27th. A majority of the murders attributed to BTK have occurred during the period that Rader was employed by the company. Thus, it is possible that he used his position to seek out potential victims.
The Wichita Eagle wrote that ”Rader worked at ADT Security Services. Nobody who worked with Rader during his 15 years with the company could stand him, according to several former co-workers.”
Dennis Rader is a very polarizing figure: they either hated him or like him. As the Wichita Eagle reported, some people saw him as “arrogant, by-the-numbers, rude and confrontational. Others said he is efficient, nice, friendly and a regular guy.”
Rader’s bail has been set at a whopping $10 million, which will be set or changed during his next court hearing scheduled in the upcoming days. At that time, the 10 first-degree murder charges against him will be formally filed. Since there has been no indication, as of yet, that Rader has hired or asked for a lawyer, there is a chance that the court will have to appoint him one. Regardless, the lawyer will need time to review the case, which will likely prolong the hearing date, the Associated Press reported.
Fox News reported that the suspect’s daughter Kerri Rader, 26, provided the DNA samples that allegedly linked Rader to eight murders attributed to BTK between 1974 and 1986. The Wichita Eagle reported on Feb. 28 that Wichita Mayor Carlos Mayans confirmed that Kerri Rader’s DNA was linked to the BTK victims.
Initially broadcast reports indicated that not only did Kerri Rader provide DNA samples to investigators, she had actually gone to the police to voice suspicions about her father being BTK. This allegation is denied by the Rader family and police. This ordeal has had a devastating effect on the Rader family, which is reportedly out of state in seclusion.
According to the Wichita Eagle, BTK’s most recent communication was sent to the Fox News Wichita affiliate in mid February. Inside the package was a necklace, computer disk, and a copy of the cover of the 1989 John Sandford novel entitled “Rules of Prey.” The story is about a serial killer called “the maddog.”
Exercising Power and Control
Tuesday, Mar. 03 7:50 a.m. update
Rader was a Compliance Supervisor in Park City
In most cases, serial killers are primarily motivated by the need for power and control. Rader was no different and often flaunted his self-perceived supremacy in his work and in everyday activities. At the time of Rader’s arrest, he was employed by Park City as a compliance supervisor, which involved “animal control, inoperable vehicles, general code compliance and nuisances.” However, if there was anyone a nuisance, Rader’s neighbors claimed it was he.
Fox News said that Rader was often referred to as a “bureaucratic bully” who would go “out of his way to find reasons to give people citations.” It was further reported that he would go around filming his neighbors in the hopes of catching them committing some minor transgression. He even measured the grass of one woman he disliked, in order to catch her in violation of a city ordinance.
According to Fred Mann and Les Anderson’s article in the Wichita Eagle, two Park City residents, Sarah Gordon and her sister Hearther Herrera, had a “run-in” with Rader at their garage sale in the summer of 2004 because they didn’t have a license for it. Rader reportedly told the women, “You don’t want to mess with me. I’m nobody to mess with.” He wasn’t kidding.
ABC News reported that Donna Barry, a neighbor of Rader’s who has known him and his family since she was a child, had seen a darker side of Rader.
“Barry said she and her children were out on their front lawn one day, and a neighbor from across the street was outside with his dog. In his capacity as a dog catcher and ordinance officer, Barry said Rader approached the dog and allegedly tried to mace it.
“But, according to Barry, the ‘wind blew the mace back in his face.’ She says Rader groped for his tranquilizer gun, but couldn’t get to it. That’s when he allegedly pulled out a gun and shot the dog.”
Other than the dog incident, “He was generally a really nice gentleman,” she said. “I’ve known him since I was probably four or five years old. You know, he was the kind of neighbor that you could go down the road and he would stay up and talk to you and open the door for you and hold a conversation.”
The Wichita Eagle reported that “several Park City residents and former co-workers described Rader as egotistical and arrogant – a by-the-book person who pays attention to detail. The descriptions in many ways matched those offered by criminal profilers who have studied BTK. Charlie Otero, whose parents and sister were BTK’s first known victims, believes that if Rader is BTK, he should get the death penalty.
Rader Court Hearing
Tuesday, Mar. 03 3:50 p.m. update
Rader on closed-circuit TV, being informed of the charges against him
On March 1, 2005, BTK suspect, Dennis L. Rader, appeared on a closed-circuit television in Sedgwick County’s District Court to hear the 10 first-degree murder charges filed against him in the murders attributed to the BTK Strangler. Public Defender Steve Osburn, Public Defender Jama Mitchell and Assistant Public Defender Sarah McKinno were the court-appointed lawyers that Judge Greg Waller assigned to represent Dennis Rader during the hearing, the Wichita Eagle reported. The prosecution team will consist of attorneys Kevin O’Connor, Kim Parker and Aaron Smith. Even though the preliminary hearing has been set for mid-March, the Rader defense team will likely need more time to prepare for the case. Thus, the hearing might be pushed up to a later date.
Wichita’s KAKE-TV reported that Dennis Rader confessed to some but not all of the crimes, yet the report has not yet been substantiated. In the days following Dennis Rader’s arrest, there was a great deal of controversy concerning whether Rader’s daughter played a role in his capture. Previously it was widely reported that Kerri Rader, 26, turned her father in and supplied the authorities with DNA samples in mid-February, which allegedly led to her father’s arrest. However, according to Sylvester and Witsel’s more recent article in the Wichita Eagle, Farmington, Michigan Police Chief Charles Nebus revealed that Kerri Rader actually supplied FBI agents with her DNA after her father had already been arrested, which makes it less likely that she played a direct role, if any, in her father’s capture.
Interestingly, David Twiddy reported that Nebus “told The Associated Press that he didn’t tell the newspapers a DNA test was being conducted.” Even more intriguing is on a March 2nd Fox News interviewed KAKE-TV anchor Larry Hatteberg who said that a credible source told him that Kerri Rader’s DNA was collected when her father was under surveillance and that the results of the test were instrumental in Rader’s arrest. To date, the facts remain unclear whether the DNA was obtained prior to or after Dennis Rader was taken into custody.
The police claimed that it wasn’t Kerri Rader that led to his arrest but a computer disk that he mailed in a package along with other items to the Wichita television station KSAS. CNN reported that the computer disk was scrutinized by investigators and traced to the Lutheran church, where Dennis Rader presided over the assembly. Police technicians were able to “electronically peel back” information that was thought to have been erased, leading to the discovery of Dennis Rader’s name, it was further reported.
To date, the authorities continue to search for evidence that could be used in the case against Rader. Dennis Rader’s house has since been searched and several items confiscated, including his computer. Sylvester and Witsel said that metal detectors and shovels are also being used to search areas near Rader’s house in the hopes of finding even more evidence. Hatteberg said during the Fox News interview that Wichita’s sheriff has actually found new evidence that might be linked to the Dennis Rader BTK case but it is unclear what exactly has been discovered.
On March 1, 2005, Wichita television station KAKE-TV released information, previously withheld by the police request, concerning the white trash bag BTK left in Murdock Park in December 2004. According to KAKE-TV, the bag’s contents contained, a Barbie brand doll known as “PJ,” which had a bag over its head, its hands tied behind its back and the feet bound by panty hose. The manner in which the doll was bound was similar to the way BTK tied up his victims before murdering them.
The name of the doll he chose was significant because its initials were that of Wichita State University English literature professor P.J. Wyatt, whom he referred to in earlier communications. At the time the bag was found it was revealed that Nancy Fox’s driver license was in it, as well as a list of “BTK” chapters based on the Crime Library story on the BTK killings. Dana Strongin reported in the Wichita Eagle that “the police asked KAKE-TV to keep the doll secret” for fear that it might incite BTK to commit more murders.
KAKE-TV also revealed a puzzle BTK sent in a May 2004 communication that contained some 40 words and strings of numbers. According to the television station, some of the words hidden in the puzzle included, prowl, fantasies, spot victims, steam builds, go for it, Wichita spelled backwards, help, handyman and lost pet. What is most interesting is that BTK may have left important clues to his identity. KAKE-TV said that Rader’s house number “6220″ and his name “D Rader” appeared in the puzzle.
BTK Messages Revealed
In 2005, there were several other BTK communications discovered. On January 25, 2005 a tip off to KAKE-TV led to the detection of “a suspicious package” on “a dirt road that runs between 69th and 77th Street North,” the television station revealed in an article on the BTK serial killer case. The package, which was sent by BTK, contained a Post Toasties cereal box with several items of jewelry were eventually turned over to the FBI. The FBI later confirmed that the package was indeed from the Wichita serial killer known as BTK.
Earlier in January and again in February a postcard was sent by BTK to the television station. Jeanene Kiesling reported in her KAKE-TV article that the two BTK postcards were similar in layout and directed the reader to the Post Toasties cereal box that was found on January 25th. BTK then sent KAKE-TV another post card, which thanked them for their quick response and also asked them to relate some information to the Wichita Police Department, the report further stated.
Then several weeks later in February, Fox News’ KSAS-TV affliate received a padded manila envelope sent by BTK, which contained a necklace, a letter and another unidentified item inside, Fox 4 News reported. It is believed that the necklace belonged to one of BTK’s victims but it is not clear which one. The package, which was BTK’s seventh communication, was handed over to the police for analysis.
BTK’s choice of MO-ID-RUSE probably relates to his use of fake IDs, such as the telephone company employee ID he sent in previous communications, as his MO modus operandi. In previous messages BTK used the terminology MO. In all probability, BTK used the fake IDs to obtain entrance to his victims’ homes.
Interestingly, in Dennis Rader’s capacity as a compliance officer for Park City and an installer for a security alarm company, Rader, if he is BTK, may have used his business cards in those two roles to gain admission to victims’ homes.
Kerri Rader’s DNA
Seldom in recent history has a story been so convoluted and controversial.
At first, media sources reported that Kerri Rader, Dennis Rader’s 26-year-old daughter, had grave suspicions about her father and had gone to the police with them.
Then, other sources said that Kerri Rader was approached by federal agents in Michigan, where Kerri Rader lives, to provide a DNA sample after Dennis Rader’s arrest. Later, other sources said that she provided the DNA sample before the arrest of her father.
Now comes an entirely new twist from Tim Potter of the Wichita Eagle: he reports that Kansas tissue samples of Kerri Rader were subpoenaed for her DNA without her knowledge.
Allegedly, according to Rev. Michael Clark, the pastor of Dennis Rader’s church, Kerri Rader “gave the DNA for the purpose of clearing her dad.” Clark understood Kerri Rader to be very upset that she was somehow caught in the middle of all of this controversy.
It’s increasingly difficult to know what story, if any, is true.
Typically, D.A. Nora Foulston has declined to comment on this report. Foulston, who had promised to be forthcoming with information, has not fulfilled her obligation.
For as long as computers have been around, so has the science of computer forensics. It is a science that has been used for various purposes, especially compiling electronic evidence for use in criminal investigations. The BTK case is no different. Investigators in the case have claimed that the use of computer forensics is one of the methods used to bring BTK suspect Dennis Rader to justice.
Many believe that when they erase a document from their computer or floppy disk the evidence is lost forever. This is usually not the case. In fact, David Stenhouse, a computer investigator at Seattle’s University of Washington said that, “a savvy investigator with the right tools can fairly easily reconstruct information that the user thought had been deleted,” Dion Lefler of the Wichita Eagle reported.
According to an article by Joan Feldman and Roger Kohn of Computer Forensics Inc., computer-based evidence that has been recently deleted (residual data) can be recovered up until the time it is “overwritten with data from a newly saved file or until it is ‘wiped’ by specialized programs.” In the case of the diskette and church computer allegedly used by Rader, this was not the case. Investigators were able to recover, at least partially, the digital footprints left behind when he purportedly wrote a message to Wichita Fox News affiliate station KSAS on February 16, 2005. When they recovered the data and contacted the church whose name was on the disk, Rader’s name is purported to have popped up, leading to his arrest as key suspect in the BTK case. It is believed that their case was further strengthened by DNA evidence obtained either prior to or after Rader’s arrest.
The precise evidence compiled against Rader, which eventually lead to his arrest is vague and the various theories surrounding it unsubstantiated. It is likely to remain that way for some time, at least until the case goes to trial. Lefler stated in another Wichita Eagle article that District Judge Greg Waller who is presiding over the BTK case has “issued a pair of orders” sealing the files that explain why Rader was arrested. The reason why the judge has issued the orders has been publicly withheld but the report stated that one reason is to prevent such disclosure from damaging the ongoing case against Rader.
District Judge Greg Waller
The order to keep Rader’s files closed has left many, especially the media, in an uproar. At present, information concerning the case has been wrought with inaccuracies and false reports. The Wichita Eagle, who has requested more information into Rader’s arrest in an open letter to the judge, believes that the release of data might “quell much of the rumor and speculation that is currently running rampant.”
Undoubtedly, BTK didn’t want anyone to take the credit for the murders he committed. He was actually proud of his horrific actions. No where was it more evident then when he arrogantly signed his initials to many of the communications that were sent to Wichita media outlets.
According to Tim Potter’s Kansas City Star article, only a select few working on the investigation ever knew that BTK signed his name in a “sexually suggestive configuration” in which he “stacked the ‘B,’ ‘T’ and ‘K’ from top to bottom with the ‘B’ shaped to look like a woman’s breasts.” The signature was deliberately kept from the public so that investigators could weed out possible copycat letters from authentic BTK communications, the report further suggested. Even though a large majority of the letters bore the BTK symbol, some of the communications did not.
BTK signature, image re-created
Potter stated that the communications were evaluated by asking three specific questions and if most of the criteria were met then chances were high that the letter was from the murderer:
- ·Do the contents reveal knowledge only the killer would possess?
- Do the messages show a continuity, where each communication builds on past ones?
- Do they repeatedly use certain words or symbols, including a logo or signature (such as the BTK signature)?
Investigators realized that the more communication they could establish with BTK, the more likely it would be that he would slip up and provide them with valuable information concerning his identity. Sometimes, investigators actually initiated contact by placing an advertisement in the newspaper.
In 1974, the police put an ad in the Wichita Eagle that read “B.T.K. Help is available,” Stan Finger and Tim Potter reported 29 years later in the same paper. There was no known response to the police statement but in 1986 there was a suspicious ad that read, “Relief from Factor X is available at: P.O. Box 48265,” the report stated. Interestingly, in a 1978 communication sent from BTK to KAKE-News, he wrote that he was driven by “Factor X” to commit the murders. Thus, it is highly likely that BTK used the ads as another means of communicating to the public.
Those Who Remain
It was the day they waited for ever since their loved ones were brutally torn from them years earlier by the hands of a ruthless serial killer. The arrest of BTK suspect Dennis Rader finally allowed the victims’ families to put a face on their source of anger and pain but has done little to alleviate the loss that they all feel on a daily basis. The victims’ families have experienced a mixture of anguish and joy, although most have cautiously suspended their relief and continue to hold out for justice, which still has yet to be served.
For Deloris Davis’ son, Jeff, relief and justice are emotions he won’t ascribe to Rader’s capture. He was quoted by Eyewitnesses News in Memphis, Tennessee saying, “I don’t use the word relief because it’s notI don’t use the word justice because it’s neither until he (Rader) rots in hell.” His chief emotion is anger, quickly followed by a thirst for revenge. He was further quoted saying, “I’m going to enjoy every step of the road that he takes before they crucify him.” Many of the victims’ family members share Jeff’s feelings of outrage and hostility.
Most of the victims’ surviving children have had difficulty moving past the trauma that abruptly altered their lives forever despite Rader’s capture. Steve Relford, the son of Shirley Vian, suggested that he’s only somewhat relieved by the arrest of his mother’s alleged murderer because he still has yet to be brought to justice, CNN reported. According to the article on March 17, 1977, Steve, then 5 years old unknowingly let the killer into the family home. He watched in horror from the bathroom where he and his two siblings were held prisoner as his mother was tied up and strangled to death. “Nearly 28 years later he is still haunted by what happened” but since Rader’s arrest Steve has been able to finally visit the home where his mother was murdered for the first time. It’s at least one step forward in a lengthy healing process.
Charlie Otero and his sister, Carmen, were overjoyed at Rader’s arrest more than 30 years after their brother, sister and parents’ vicious murder. Wichita television station KSNW quoted Carmen saying, “Thirty years is a long time. I’m pretty relieved—a lot of mixed emotions.” Charlie said Rader’s capture was “a bittersweet victory” for the family that has been long overdue, it was reported.
Even though some the emotional scars are just beginning to heal, the physical scars still remain with Kevin Bright. In 1974, he and his sister Kathryn came home to find BTK waiting for them. A man who resembled Rader bound Kathryn, 21, with cord, stabbed then strangled her to death and then shot Kevin, then 19, twice. Miraculously, Kevin survived but he continues to suffer from nerve damage, CNN reported.
Moreover, he feels anguish and is not relieved by Rader’s arrest because he’s never claimed responsibility for her murder. The Kansas City Star quoted Kevin as saying, “I don’t have closure. I won’t unless he’s (Rader) admitted to the police, unless he said he killed my sister.” Yet then again, even if he did admit to hers or other murders it will never bring them back.
Piecing Together the Puzzle
The moment he found his parents murdered in their bed on January 15, 1974, Charlie Otero, then 15, had a sneaking suspicion that his father crossed paths with the murderer at some earlier point in time. In fact, he “suspected the killings had something to do with his father’s military past,” Tim Potter reported in an August 2004 Wichita Eagle article. Charlie’s father, Joseph Otero, served 21 years in the Air Force (between 1952 and 1973) before retiring and finding work at Wichita’s Rose Hill Airport as an airplane technician and flight instructor.
There is no telling if Joseph Otero and his killer ever served together. Yet, what is certain is that BTK suspect Dennis Rader also served in the Air Force. The two men’s’ careers actually overlapped during a four-year period, lasting between 1966 and 1970. However, there is no evidence that they were ever stationed at the same base together or even crossed paths, Potter suggested in a March 2005 Wichita Eagle article. According to the report, Otero spent most of his time stationed in Panama and Puerto Rico, whereas Rader was based in San Antonio, Texas, Mobile, Alabama and Okinawa, Japan.
Even though there is little evidence to support his theory, Charlie Otero continues to believe that the BTK killer and his father shared a military past because of a series of events that occurred days prior to the murders. A December 2004 Associated Press article quoted him saying that at “one time the power went out” and his father made the family hide in the closet. Moreover, Joseph tried to give him his ring in case something happened to him. The report further suggested that Charlie overheard a telephone conversation that led him to believe that his father’s murder was directly connected to his military career.
Based on Charlie’s account, it was clear that immediately prior to the murders, Joseph was terrified that something dreadful might happen and likely by someone he knew. To date, investigators are continuing to look for evidence that might link Rader to Otero during the overlapping period of time they served in the Air Force. At several police stations near where Rader was stationed, investigators are searching for murders that might resemble other BTK crimes. Investigators hope to obtain more insight into whether BTK’s victims were chosen at random or deliberately targeted. Furthermore, they hope to determine whether BTK might have committed earlier murders in other locations prior to 1974.
Nightmare in Wichita
By Marilyn Bardsley
Attorney Robert Beattie’s book Nightmare in Wichita: The Hunt for the BTK Strangler has strengths and weaknesses.
Its greatest strength is a very detailed accounting of the individual known BTK murders that began with the Otero family in 1974. From interviews with police, victim family members and associates, and journalists, Beattie has gleaned quite a bit of detail that never got into the newspapers.
Nightmare in Wichita, by Robert Beattie
For example, he learned of some twelve BTK suspects that the police had at one time under surveillance: among them were a couple of former police officers, a journalist who allegedly practiced bondage, an emotionally disturbed Vietnam veteran, and a former fireman who was said to have bound and tortured a prostitute. All of the twelve, who remain unnamed in his book, were cleared, mostly by DNA.
The book starts out strong with a very comprehensive examination of the Otero family murders, dispelling some of the myths that have floated around various Internet bulletin boards, such as there was semen all over the Otero house. Beattie clarifies that semen was only found at the scene of Josie Otero’s murder, on her leg and on pipes behind her hanging body.
Despite the grim subject matter, Beattie inserts some humor when Wichita officials travel to Puerto Rico to investigate the Otero case and are stopped by customs officials because of the horrific crime scene photos in their possession.
The further one gets into the chronology of the case, the less appealing the book becomes. Beattie fills up many, many pages with his meetings with various individuals that clearly interested Beattie, but are likely to bore readers. His excitement about suddenly being interviewed as an expert after BTK resurfaced in March, 2004, is given much more coverage than the reader really needs. One gets the feeling that he’s using filler to get to whatever number of pages he promised.
The most serious weakness in Beattie’s book is the rush to publish and cash in while the case is so much in the forefront of public consciousness. The result is that the most interesting aspect of the case in recent times — the character, culpability and motivations of suspect Dennis Rader — are barely addressed. Rader’s personality and his interactions with the community have been addressed more thoroughly on cable news than the few pages of information that Beattie has stuck on to the end of his book. As a reader, I wished that Beattie had published a bit later after more is learned about the man police have called the BTK Strangler.
This problem is not entirely Beattie’s but rather the problem created for book authors by Internet sites that can publish, update and distribute the news around the world in the speed of light.
Not Guilty — New Chapter
When BTK suspect, Dennis Rader, waived a preliminary hearing on April 19, 2005, in essence he was conceding that prosecutors have sufficient evidence to proceed with a full trial.
On May 3 Dennis Rader, dressed in a dark suit, pleaded not guilty to the charge of murdering ten people in the BTK serial killings.
Associated Press reported that Rader chose to stand mute during the brief arraignment and asked District Court Judge Gregory Waller to enter the plea for him. Waller entered the not guilty plea and set a trial date for June 27, although most expect the trial date to eventually be pushed back.
Although DA Nola Foulston indicted she would like to see the trial begin in the fall of 2005, the trial may not begin until 2006 because of the preparation time needed by the prosecution and defense.
Beefed-up security measures had been taken for Dennis Rader’s May 3 arraignment and Rader had been offered a bullet-proof vest. Once again media organizations from all over the country converged on Wichita for this event. Victims family members, such as Charlie Otero, came to hear the proceedings.
The Wichita Eagle reported that Foulston “will seek the Hard 40 penalty against Rader on one of the 10 counts against him. That means if convicted of that murder charge, Rader would serve at least 40 years before being eligible for parole. Rader is 60.” One the victims, Dolores Davis, was killed in 1991 when the Hard 40 was still in effect in Kansas.
Judge Gregory Waller
The astonishing amount of controversial secrecy by Wichita law enforcement through the decades in which the BTK case spanned was briefly continued in the courts with the sealing of key documents. On April 29, 2005, Sedgwick County District Court Judge Gregory Waller responded to papers filed by six media organizations petitioning the court to unseal documents in the BTK case.
In Kansas, the decision to seal those documents was supposed to have been made after a hearing. No hearing was held. DA Nola Foulston and Rader’s legal team had requested that the documents be sealed so that pretrial publicity did not compromise any future trial. Judge Waller released all but the probable cause affidavit April 29.
One of the documents that was unsealed was the prosecution’s list of 247 names of individuals who may be called to testify if Rader goes to trial. The list included investigators, people who knew Rader, relatives of the victims, and even journalists. Consistent with the quality of the law enforcement establishment that we have seen thus far in the 30-year-old case, the list of witnesses included at least five people who, according to the Wichita Eagle, are dead.
Dennis Rader Uncovered
Many Park City residents have complained that Dennis Rader used his position as a city compliance officer to try and assert authority and control over them. Some complained that he went so far as to harass them. See Chapter 20 “Excercising Power and Control” for more details.
A former Park City resident and mother of two, Misty King, was one such person who lived in fear of Rader’s strange behavior.
According to a KAKE-TV article by Susan Peters, Rader began stalking King after she divorced from her husband and when another male friend took up residence with her. Rader became increasingly irritated. He came to her house on a continuous basis and bombarded her with numerous citations for not complying with trivial Park City code regulations, such as keeping her grass under a certain height, putting a tarp on the car, stacking a woodpile in her backyard and having an inoperable vehicle in her driveway, the report stated.
Rader listens to Attorney Sarah McKinnon
Peters quoted King who said that when she asked Rader what she did that was so wrong, he purportedly responded “Get rid of the boyfriend and everything will go back to the way it was.”
Matters got worse when he allegedly started peeping into her windows on occasion and banging on her door wanting to speak with her. King also suggested in the article that Rader could have even attempted to gain entry to her house. Yet the pinnacle was when Rader confiscated the family dog and put him to sleep, which prompted her to flee Park City with her family.
Rader’s boss told Peters “‘I don’t know why I was never notified of the situation…I would have taken it very seriously.’”
King did notify the police when she caught Rader peeping, but the police dismissed her complaint. She told Peters “‘I’m angry because they allowed it to happen. They believed ‘if you work for the city, you can do no wrong.’”
Creating an Insanity Plea?
During the first week of May 2005, KAKE TV made public a letter containing two poems which were allegedly written by Dennis Rader while in prison. The documents were handed over by a fellow inmate who claimed that he asked Rader to write them for him so that he could give them to his girlfriend. One of the poems entitled “Tis’ Spring Out There” was signed “Rader” and the second poem, titled “Black Friday” was signed “The Suspect.”
The documents bore marked similarities with previous BTK communications, in that they were written in the same style and contained “many of his handwriting quirks,” KAKE TV reported. Rader’s defense attorney Warner Eisenbise said in another KAKE TV article that “if the poems are from Rader this could be a calculated move to set up an insanity defense” because he tried to portray two different personalities by signing the documents differently. To date, the defense has not filed any motion relating to an insanity defense but that could, of course, change.
Tis’ Spring Out There
oh, to walk among the new season,
to heard a robin voice,
to see a dandelion bright,
to watch a butterfly flight,
to smell a simple flower bud,
oh spring these are the many reasons.
Just a quick glance and I knew all was lost.
I saw in real life…now a on going mind view, the black and white, were now my new boss.
I saw my life as I know quickly fade away.
I saw my love ones, in mind and thoughts that I would never be able to touch, hold, communicate closely with and kiss with care will now be at bay.
I saw the Black Side of me, was now caught and others would not suffer from my lots,
But then it dawn on me, it was not as I thought.
Yes the other in me will cause no suffering.
The living remained, the Mother, Brother, Sisters, Children, Close Friends and wife will suffer.
Ands the real me of blood, flesh and mind will suffer.
The documents will likely be revealed at trial, along with other evidence compiled over the last 31 years. According to Ron Sylvester of The Wichita Eagle, the state has recently shared with the defense at least 45 discs containing vital information about Rader and the murders he is alleged to have committed. They are hoping that his attorneys will also hand over any evidence they might have, such as “copies of expert reports and mental exams” so that they can use it to further their case, Sylvester reported. It is not known when the trial will commence but it is expected to take place sometime between the fall of 2005 and mid-year 2006.
Surprise Confession Otero Murders
Dennis Rader in court
On Monday, June 27, to everyone’s surprise, Dennis Rader confessed in court to the murder of ten people. It had been expected that he would plead guilty once his lawyers had ruled out defense on the basis of insanity.
Rader’s chillingly graphic testimony was prompted by particularly pointed questions by Judge Waller, beginning with the murders of the four Oteros. Rader said he went to their home early in the morning, between 7 and 7:30. He claims that he did not know them, but that he had selected Mrs. Otero and her daughter Josephine to be participants in his sexual fantasy. He had planned the timing expecting that only Mrs. Otero and the two youngest children would be in the house. He never expected Mr. Otero to be there and it caused him to panic and “lose control.”
That morning, he cut the phone lines and waited at the back door. He claimed he was having second thoughts about aborting the whole plan when Joseph Otero Jr. opened the back door to let the dog out, but then he went on to say that he went in the back door, pulled a pistol on the family. The dog didn’t take kindly to him and so he insisted that the dog be put out side.
Rader told them that he was wanted by the police and needed food and a car. Otero offered him a car.
At this point in his confession, Dennis Rader made a very unusual statement: “There I realized that, you know, I didn’t have a mask on or anything, that they could ID me, so I made a decision to go ahead and put ‘em down, I guess, or strangle them.” What he is suggesting is that his intent was to engage in some type of sexual assault and then leave with the victims alive. It is incredible that someone as intelligent as Dennis Rader is and the amount of preparation he made for this attack that he didn’t realize in advance that they could identify him, forcing him to casually decide to “put ‘em down.” The word choice, “put ‘em down,” is used for euthanizing animals and that’s all they were to a man like Dennis Rader.
First he put a plastic bag over Joseph Otero’s head and tightened it with cords — which he brought along with him for this purpose, but Otero did not die right away.
By that time, the whole family, had panicked.
Then came another telling statement: “Rader: After that I did Mrs. Otero… I had never strangled anyone before, so I really didn’t know how much pressure you have to put on a person or how long it would take…” Again, Rader gives himself away in his choice of words — “.did Mrs. Otero” — as though it was a routine exercise.
Joseph Otero began to put up a fight and tore a hole in the plastic bag, so Rader put another couple bags and some clothing over his head and tightened the cords. After that, Rader said he “worked pretty quick.” “Well, I mean I strangled Mrs. Otero… she went out, passed out and I thought she was dead. I strangled Josephine and she passed out… I thought she was dead and then I went over and put a bag on Jr.’ s head and then if I remember right, Mrs. Otero came back… she came back, and I went back and strangled her again, it finally killed her at that time.”
When Judge Waller asked for clarification in the sequence of events, Rader replied: “First of all, Mr. Otero was strangled… a bag put over his head and strangled him. Then, I thought he was going down. Then I went over and strangled Mrs. Otero, and I thought she was down. Then I strangled Josephine and she was down and then I went over to Jr. and put the bag on his head. After that, Mrs. Otero woke back up and you know, she was pretty upset with what’s going on and at that point in time, I strangled her… the death strangle at that time.” But before Rader strangled Mrs. Otero again, she pleaded with him to save her son.
Joseph Otero Jr.
Rader went on to say “.so I actually had taken the bag off. I was really upset at that point in time. So basically, Mr. Otero was down, Mrs. Otero was down, then I went ahead and took Junior, I put another bag over his head and took him into the other bedroom. Put a bag over his head, put a cloth over his head, a T-shirt and bag so he couldn’t tear a hole in it. He subsequently died from that. I went back up, Josephine had woke back up ”He then took Josephine to the basement and “hung her.” He told the judge that after she was hung, he had some sexual fantasies — he masturbated on her body.
The judge asked Rader what he did next and Rader made another telling statement: “I went through the house, kinda cleaned it up: It’s called the right-hand rule, you go from room to room clean things up. I think I took Mr. Otero’s watch. I guess I took a radio. I had forgot about that but apparently took a radio.” Very efficient, procedural and premeditated. Perhaps Rader practiced the right-hand rule in the Air Force. Finally, after he had cleaned up, Rader took the Otero’s car and parked it at Dillons and walked back to his car.
Confession: Kathryn Bright
After the Oteros, came the April 4, 1974, murder of Kathryn Bright. When the judge asked how Rader selected her, he explained to the court that he had a number of “projects, different people I followed, watched. Kathryn Bright was one of the next targetsWell, I was just driving by one day and saw her go into the house with somebody else and I thought that was a possibility — there was many places in the area, College Hill, they are all over Wichita — but anyway, it was just basically a selection process, work toward it, if it didn’t work, I just move on to something else. But in my kind of person — stalking and trolling — you go through the trolling stage and then stalking stage. She was in the stalking stage when this happened.”
He broke into the house and waited for her to come home, not expecting her to have a man with her. He pulled a handgun on them and used the same excuse he used on the Oteros —he was a wanted man, needed a car. He recalled that he had Kevin Bright, Kathryn’s brother, tie her up and then Rader tied up Kevin’s feet to the bedpost.
Then, Rader described what would be almost a comedy of errors had the situation not been fatal. Rader moved Kathryn to another bedroom and then went back to strangle Kevin but Kevin had loosened some of his bonds and started to struggle with Rader. Rader shot him and assumed he was dead. He then went back to strangle Kathryn, but she had not been tied up well and struggled with Rader too. Just as he thought he had Kathryn subdued, he heard Kevin in the other bedroom. When Rader tried to restrangle Kevin, the struggle started again. Kevin tried to get one of the two handguns Rader had with him and almost succeeded, but Rader took the other handgun and shot Kevin again. Believing that Kevin was finally “down for good that time,” he went back to “finish the job on Kathryn. She continued to struggle so Rader stabbed her several times underneath the ribs.
At the same time, he heard Kevin escaping: ”all of a sudden the front door of the house was open and he was gone, and oh, I tell you what I thought: I thought the police were coming at that time, that was it. I stepped out there; I could see him running down the street, so I quickly cleaned up everything that I could and left.”
Rader’s troubles didn’t end there: “I already had the keys to the cars. I thought I had the right keys to the right car. I ran out to their car. I think it was a pickup out there, I tried it… it didn’t work. At that point in time he was gone, running down the street and I thought, ‘Well, I am in trouble,’ so I tried it, it didn’t work, so I just took off, ran, went east, and worked back towards the WSU campus where my car was parked.”
Judge Waller made a point of asking Rader if he had brought a mask to Kathryn Bright’s home. Rader said he did not. With this question, the judge highlights Rader’s premeditated intent to kill Kathryn Bright.
Confession: Shirley Vian Relford
Shirley Vian Relford
Dennis Rader claimed that the selection of Shirley Vian Relford on March 17, 1977 “was completely random. There was actually someone across from Dillons that was a potential target. It was called project Green, I thinkThat particular day I drove over to Dillons and parked in the parking lot and watched this particular residence and then got out of the car and walked over to it. I knocked and no one answered it.”
Rader says he was “all keyed up” and so he walked around the neighborhood until he met a young boy, Shirley Relford’s son, and asked him to identify some photos. Then Rader went to another address, knocked on the door, but nobody answered, so he went to the house where the boy went.
Judge Waller asked if Rader’s so-called projects were sexual fantasies also.
Rader answered: “Potential hits. In my world, that is what I call them. Project — hitsI had a lot of them, so if one didn’t work out, I just moved to another one.
When Relford or one of her children answered the door, Rader said he was a private detective. He showed the photograph that I had just showed the boy. Then with his pistol, he forced his way in the door.
He told Relford that he had a problem with sexual fantasies and was going to tie her up and maybe her kids too. She was extremely nervous. Rader then described what he did to her and the children: “I explained that I had done this before and at that point in time, I think she was sick. She had her night robe on. If I can remember right, she had been sick and I think she came out of the bedroom when I went in the house. So we went to back to her bedroom and I proceeded to tie the kids up. They started crying and got real upset. So I knew this was not going to work. So we moved them to the bathroom —she helped me — and I tied the doors shut. We put some toys and blankets, odds and ends, in there for the kids, make them as comfortable as we could. We tied one of the bathroom doors shut so they couldn’t open it, and she went back and helped me shove the bed against the other bathroom door. I proceed to tie her up. She got sick, threw up. I got her a glass of water, comforted her a little bit and then went ahead and tied her up and put a bag over her head and strangled her. I had tied her legs to the bedpost and worked my way up and what I had left over [rope] and I think I looped it over her neck.
Rader said the children were making a lot of noise and then the phone rang. The children had mentioned that a neighbor was going to look in on them, so Rader put his tape, cords and other items back in his briefcase, which he called his “hit kit,” and went back to his car in the Dillons parking lot.
Confession: Nancy Fox
When Rader got to the murder of Nancy Fox on December 8, 1977, he admitted that she had been one of his “projects.” He explained to the judge that serial killers go through phases: first trolling, where they are looking for victims, and then stalking when they “lock in on a certain person.”
Rader then described his serial killer methodology: “First, she was spotted. I did a little homework. I dropped by once to check her mailbox, to see what her name was. Found out where she worked, stopped by there once, Helzbergs. Sized her up. The more I knew about a person, the more I felt comfortable. So I did that a couple of times. Then, I just selected a night, which was this particular night, to try it and it worked out.”
Rader knew what time she normally came home from work, so after he ascertained that no one was in her apartment, he cut the phone lines and broke in the back of her home. He waited for her in the kitchen.
Rader said that when she came home, ” I confronted her, told her I had a problem, sexual problem, that I would have to tie her up and have sex with her. She was a little upset and we talked awhile and she smoked a cigarette. While we smoked a cigarette, I went through her purse identifying some stuff, and she finally said, well let’s get this over with so I can call the police. So I said OK. She said, can I go to the bathroom. I said yes. She went to the bathroom. And I told her when she came out, make sure she was undressed. When she came out I handcuffed her, had her lay on the bed and I tied her feet. I was also undressed to a certain degree and then I got on top of her and I reached over, took either her feet were tied or not tied but I think I had a belt. Anyway, I took the belt and strangled her at that time.
Rader: After I strangled her with the belt, I took the belt off and retied that with panty hose, real tight, removed the handcuffs and tied those with pantyhose. I can’t remember the colors right now. I think I may have retied her feet. They were probably already tied, her feet were. And then at that time, I masturbated.
Afterwards, Rader took some personal items of hers, cleaned up any evidence he might have left and went to his car that he had parked several blocks away.
Confession: Marine Hedge
Marine Hedge lived down the street from Dennis Rader and once he selected her as a potential victim, it was easy for him to keep tabs on her. They knew each other in a very casual way. She worked in her yard a great deal and he would say “hello” when he walked by.
On the night of her murder, he quietly broke into her house and waited for her to return. When she came home, she had a man with her who stayed about an hour. Rader says: “I waited until the wee hours of the morning and then proceeded to sneak into her bedroom and flip the lights on real quick like, I think the bathroom lights. I didn’t want to flip her lights on. She screamed. I jumped on the bed and strangled her manually.
“After that, since I was still in the sexual fantasy, I went ahead and stripped her. I am not sure if I tied her up at that point in time, but she was nude. I put her on a blanket, went through her purse, and personal items in the house. I figured out how I was going to get her out of there. Eventually, I moved her to the trunk of the car—the trunk of her car—and took the car over to Christ Lutheran Church, this was the older church, and took some pictures of herin different forms of bondage and that is what probably got me in trouble is the bondage thing. But anyway then I moved her back out to her car.”
He thought about where he was going to dump her body and found a ditch around 53rd between Webb and Greenwich where he hid her body with some trees and brush over it.
Confession: Vicki Wegerle
Vicki Wegerle was another of Dennis Rader’s “projects.” He planned to tell her he was a telephone repair man as a ruse to get into the house, so he changed into what he called his “hit clothes”:
“Basically things I would need to get rid of later. Not the same kind of clothes I had on. I don’t know what better word to use, crime clothes, I just call them hit clothes. I walked from my car as a telephone repairman. As I walked there, I donned a telephone helmet, I had a briefcase — I went to one other address just to kind of size up the house. I had walked by it a couple of times, but I wanted to size it up more. As I approached it, I could hear a piano sound and I went to this other door and knocked on it and told them that we were recently working on telephone repairs in the area. Went to hers, knocked on the door, asked her if I could come check her telephone lines inside.
“I went over and found out where the telephone was and simulated that I was checking the telephone. I had a make-believe instrument. And after she was looking away, I drew a pistol on her.”
Rader told her to go back to the bedroom where he was going to tie her up. He used some fabric in her bedroom to tie her hands, but they came loose and she tried to fight him off. He grabbed one of her stockings and strangled her with it until she stopped moving. When he thought she was dead, he rearranged her clothes and took several photos of her.
Again, Rader had to make a hasty retreat:
“There was a lot of commotion. She had mentioned something about her husband coming home, so I got out of there pretty quick. The dogs were raising a lot of Cain in the back, the doors and windows were all open in the house, and a lot of noise when we were fighting. So I left pretty quick after that, put everything in the briefcase, and I had already gone through her purse and got the keys to the car and used it.”
Vicki Wegerle was fatally injured from the strangling but was not yet dead when Rader left her home.
Confession: Dolores Davis
Dennis Rader chose a very noisy way to get into the house of Dolores Davis. He threw a concrete block through her plate glass window to get in:
“She came out of the bedroom and thought a car had hit her house. I told her that I was, uh, I used the ruse of that I was wanted, on the run. That I needed food, car, warmth and I asked her, I handcuffed her, I told her I would like to get some food, the keys to her car, talked with her a little bit, calmed her down a little bit, and eventually I checked… I think she was still handcuffed. I went back and checked out where the car was, simulated getting some food, odds and ends in the house like I was leaving, went back, removed her handcuffs, then tied her up, and then eventually strangled her.”
Like in most of the other murders, he took some personal items from her bedroom. He put her in a blanket and dragged her to the trunk of her car and hoisted her into the trunk and moved her to one place and then took his “hit” equipment to another place. This time, Rader’s own commitments rushed him and he left one of his guns in her house, so he took her car back to her house, collected his gun, and walked back to his car. He then picked up Davis’ body and dumped it under a bridge.
At the end of his confession, Judge Waller asked him: So, all of these incidents, these 10 counts occurred because you wanted to satisfy sexual fantasies. Is that correct?
Rader answered yes.
The Psychopathic Mind
When Dennis Rader made his unexpected confession in court, he unintentionally revealed to the world his true psychopathic nature. While the nature and delivery of his testimony would not surprise most medical and law enforcement professionals, the rest of the world was shocked.
Psychopaths do not feel emotions the way normal people do. Consequently, when their guard is down, they may say or do things that reveal their lack of concern for others and their absence of conscience. This was the case when Rader described his victims as “projects” and calmly explained how he selected a victim, gave the “project” a code name and then researched and stalked her until he found the right opportunity to attack.
Rader is a very accomplished psychopath: his ability to carry on two very different lives attests to it. “I was pretty cold. I shot from the hip very quickly,” he told Larry Hatteberg of KAKE-TV. “Very compartmentalized. I can wear many hats; I can switch gears very rapidly. I can become emotionally involved. Be cold at it.” This sounds a bit like a resume.
Some psychopaths, because they are narcissists and self-centered, become very successful in business, government and academia. A much smaller group — for lack of intelligence and/or self-control — become criminals. Of those criminal psychopaths, some become serial killers.
When professor of criminal justice at Seattle University Jacqueline Helfgott was asked how one could tell if a psychopath lived next door, Fox News reported Helfgott’s response: “You wouldn’t. You would have to know every segment of their life and be able to tie it all together.
Dr. Jack Levin, an expert on serial killers, told WebMD: The most essential characteristic is an excessive need for power and control, and we see this in most sexually-oriented serial killers….For a person with a conscience, Rader’s crimes seem hideous, but from his point of view, these are his greatest accomplishments and he is anxious to share all the wonderful things he has done.”
Dr. Michael Welner
Dr. Michael Welner, creator of the depravity scale, a tool for jurors and judges that helps develop appropriate sentencing for criminals, considers Dennis Rader to be the “worst of the worst.”
“In cases like BTK, based on what he said, it’s clear that he intended to emotionally traumatize victims and cause gross suffering. It was clear in the way he communicated with the media that he intended to terrorize the community and clear that he got a thrill.”
Dennis Rader Speaks
One must be very cautious in interpreting whatever Dennis Rader says after his frightening confession. It’s always worthwhile to keep Dr. Michael Welner’s words in mind when he describes psychopaths: “If they exhibit emotion, it’s an effort to create an impression.”
With that in mind, let’s examine what Dennis Rader told KAKE-TV’s Larry Hatteberg about his thoughts to express “remorse” for his crimes:
“Well, at the sentencing, it’s going to be very remorseful, apologetic to them [victims' families]. I will be working on that. That’s one of the things that I am working on is a speech prepared for that. I think sentencing will be a pretty emotional day, probably have to have a box of Kleenex that day.”
Hopefully, Rader himself has now put to bed forever this fanciful notion that Rader wanted to get caught. Psychopaths do risky things because they believe they are superior to the police and much too smart to get caught. “No, I was not trying to be caught,” Rader told Larry Hatteberg. “I just played cat and mouse too long with the police and they finally figured it out.”
Dennis Rader had other “projects”(victims) selected. The police claim to know who these individuals were, but are not releasing their names.
Rader told Larry Hatteberg, “I know it is a dark side that controls me. I personally think, and I know it’s not very Christian, that it’s demons within me, at some point when I was young that controlled me.”
That’s comforting to know: the devil made him do it. Whew! For awhile, we thought Dennis Rader was responsible, but no, it’s not his fault that he’s a serial killer. It’s demons. Well, at least he’s not blaming his mother. With a little therapy and an exorcism or two, perhaps Kansas prison psychologists will give him a clean bill of health. Even if you don’t believe the demon defense, there is somebody on a state parole board and someone in a state prison psychology department that does. There a many innocents who died because of this belief.
Legal Matters: Dennis Rader Update
By Rachael Bell
The 34-year-long marriage between Dennis Rader and Paula Dietz came to an abrupt end on July 26, 2005 several months after she learned that her husband was the BTK serial killer. Sedgwick County District Judge Eric Yost decided not to enforce the standard 60-day waiting period and instead granted Paula a speedy emergency divorce within a day. Not surprisingly, Paula cited in the divorce papers that she suffered emotional stress after learning about the true character of her husband, Ron Sylvester reported in The Wichita Eagle. Based on the judge’s quick response, he was likely sympathetic to her nightmarish situation and her desire to escape the marriage as soon as possible.
In a another surprising event, Rader has waived his right to legal representation and has decided to defend himself in “a series of wrongful death lawsuits filed against him by several relatives of his 10 murder victims,” Hurst Laviana said in a Wichita Eagle article. Mark Hutton, the victims’ attorney suggested that Rader was either getting legal advice or “going to law school at night” because the legal paperwork he filed was so professionally done. Interestingly, Rader’s desire to represent himself in court is highly reminiscent of narcissistic serial killer Ted Bundy who also defended himself during the 1979 Chi Omega sorority sisters murder trial.
Bundy meeting in court with lawyers
However, Bundy was unsuccessful in his endeavor, which resulted in his subsequent execution. Many wonder just how successful Rader will be and if his grandstanding will do more harm then good. We can only wait and see.
The BTK Tapes
By Rachael Bell
In August 2005, Sedgwick County prosecutors made a startling discovery, one that could have significant impact on serial killer Dennis Rader’s sentencing hearing. They learned that Harvard neuropsychologist Dr. Robert Mendoza, who was hired by the defense team to evaluate Rader, taped the interview with the self-confessed killer at Sedgwick County Courthouse jail just days before he confessed to the murders in June. Prosecutors only learned about the tapes when NBC began advertising that they were going to publicly air portions of the tapes on August 12th during the television station’s popular nighttime news program Dateline NBC. According to Hurst Laviana of the Wichita Eagle, the network has been promoting the interview as “the first exclusive look inside the mind of the man.”
Prosecutors have since filed a motion with the county court to be granted access to the tapes, if they could get them, in order to evaluate their content before Rader’s sentencing hearing on August 17th. Attorneys for the defense suggested during court proceedings that they also were interested in evaluating the tapes that they supposedly never saw. No one seemed to know for certain exactly how NBC obtained copies of the tapes and the network was unwilling to reveal their source. What was certain was that the tapes held valuable information that could significantly influence Rader’s sentencing.
Laviana stated that new information also surfaced concerning a “copy of a release signed by Rader on the day of the interview, which “allows Mendoza and his company to have full use of any materials obtained during the evaluation.” The information has led some to question whether Mendoza and the company for which he works handed the tapes over to NBC and if they did, whether they profited financially from the transaction. Thus far, the rumors have been unsubstantiated and Mendoza has not come forward with any information concerning the tapes.
In Rader’s Own Words
NBC released some excerpts from the taped interview aired on August 12, 2005 (Dateline NBC’s, “Secret Confessions of BTK”):
On the “B” in Bind, Torture and Kill
Rader: You have to have the control, which is the bonding. That’s been a big thing with me. My sexual fantasy is … if I’m going to kill a victim or do something to the victim, is having them bound and tied. In my dreams, I had what they called torture chambers. And to relieve your sexual fantasies you have to go to the kill.
On how he saw his victims as objects
Rader: I don’t think it was actually the person that I was after, I think it was the dream. I know that’s not really nice to say about a person, but they were basically an object. They were just an object. That’s all they were. I had more satisfaction building up to it and afterwards than I did the actual killing of the person.
On the “Factor X” and what caused him to kill
Rader: Factor X is probably something I’ll never know. I actually think it may be possessed with demons. Uh, I was dropped on my head when I was a kid…
Mendoza: You can’t stop it.
Rader:I can’t stop it…it controls me, you know, it’s like in the driver’s seat. That’s probably the reason we’re sitting here. You know, if I could just say, “No, I don’t want to do this, and go crawl into a hole.” But it’s driving me.
During an August 12th airing of the Today Show, Dateline NBC’s Edie Magnus revealed more insight into Dennis Rader’s murderous behavior, which included excerpts from the exclusive two-hour interview that was to be shown later that evening. During Mendoza’s taped interview, Rader claimed, “I’m BTK, I’m the guy they’re after, 100%.” Rader confessed that the fantasies he described as having were “almost like a picture show,” one, which he said he wanted to “produce,” “direct” and go through with “no matter what the costs or the consequences.”
Magnus said that Rader would often dismiss his victims as “a project,” one, which began by stalking. Rader said during the taped interview that, “the stalking stage is when you start learning more about your victims (or) potential victims.” He said, “I went to the library and looked up their names, address, cross reference and called them a couple of times, drove by there whenever I could.” When he was ready to make his move Rader came armed with what he called his “hit kit,” which included “plastic bags, rope, tape, knife, gun.” It was the very tools he claimed he used to murder his victims.
If all goes well on August 17th, Rader will never get the chance to destroy lives again. It is expected that he will be sentenced to life behind bars. At least, that is what the families of his victims hope.
Otero Murders Evidence
By Rachael Bell
On August 17, 2005, families of the victims murdered by Dennis Rader listened with heavy hearts to testimony concerning the Otero family murders, which occurred more than three decades earlier. According to Lori O’Toole Buselt of the Wichita Eagle, KBI assistant director Larry Thomas testified that Josephine Otero, 11, screamed for her mother as she struggled from the noose from which she hung in the basement of her home. The court heard that Rader derived sexual gratification while watching Josephine’s death struggle as he tortured her. She was the last of four family members murdered that day, including her brother and parents. Heart-wrenching crime scene photographs of the family were also shown to the court depicting the events of that fateful day.
Other evidence presented in court revealed that Josephine was Rader’s primary target and her mother his secondary target. He stalked the little girl and her mother for around two months after seeing them one day as he drove down the street where they lived. According to testimony heard in court, Rader told investigators that her was ‘turned on’ by Mrs. Otero and Josephine, stating that he was “attracted to Hispanic-looking women,’ Buselt reported. The article further quoted Rader who told investigators that he ‘always had a sexual desire for younger women.”
During the court proceedings, evidence revealed that Rader lied to the Oteros after breaking into their house with a gun. He claimed that he wouldn’t harm them and that he was on the run from the law and only wanted some food and money to see him through to his next destination. Edie Magnus reported in an NBC Dateline special on the Secret Confessions of BTK that the Otero family “bought his lie about being on the run from the law and not wanting to hurt them,” so they allowed Rader to tie them up without any struggle. It was only when Rader began to strangle Mr. Otero that the children and Mrs. Otero realized that they were likely going to die.
Other evidence presented included photographs of Rader wearing pantyhose and a bra practicing bondage on himself, as well as a knife and mouth gag used on Mrs. Otero at the time of the murders, Buselt reported. The prosecution is expected to show the court other evidence taken from Rader’s home, including dolls he allegedly practiced bondage with, which were bound with rope and handcuffed. It was clear that they wanted to impress on the judge that Rader was a sadistic and evil man with no limits or regard for human life.
By Rachael Bell
Dennis Rader in Court listening to evidence presented during the sentencing phase of his trial
On August 17th, the court heard more evidence, concerning Rader’s narcissistic and psychopathic sexual fantasies. According to testimony, Rader believed that in the afterlife the Otero family would serve him as slaves. Lori O’Toole Buselt reported that Rader hoped that Joseph Otero would be his bodyguard, Julie his bathroom servant, their son Joey his “sex toy and boy servant” and Josephine he would “teach sex and bondage to.”
Kansas Bureau of Investigation’s (KBI) Assistant Dir. Larry Thomas testified that Rader sat in a chair next to Joey and watched him die as he strangled him with a rope. KWCH 12 Eyewitness News correspondent Liz Collins reported that Rader “told Thomas that it was extremely hard to kill someone by strangulation and that he’d never done it before on a person but he had strangled cats and dogs before.” Other evidence introduced from the Otero case included a Barbie-like doll with pubic hair and eyelashes drawn on it, which prosecutors claimed Rader altered to look like Josephine, Buselt reported. The doll was bound much like Josephine had been prior to her murder.
Wichita Police Department Detective Clint Snyder also testified, providing details concerning the murder of Kathryn Bright, 21, who Rader randomly selected to be his victim in the spring of 1974. Rader told Snyder that he gained entry to Kathryn’s home when he knocked on her door asking for her help finding a neighbor’s house. He didn’t expect Kathryn’s brother Kevin would be at her home with her but he didn’t let that deter him. Rader tied them both up in separate bedrooms. When Kevin struggled, Rader shot him twice in the head. He then turned his attention to Kathryn.
Rader told Snyder that Kathryn fought, “like a hell cat,” making it almost impossible for him to do what “he wanted to do with her,” Collins reported. Fed up with the struggle, Rader decided to “put her down” by stabbing her 11 times. Rader told Snyder that he was surprised by the amount of blood and the mess it made. Rader quickly left the scene after he killed Kathryn because Kevin managed to make a daring escape, despite his wounds. Astoundingly, Kevin survived but his sister wasn’t so lucky.
Shirley Vian Relford Case Evidence
By Rachael Bell
Wichita Police Department Detective Dana Gouge testified on August 17th about Shirley Vian Relford’s murder. Rader told her that he initially approached Relford’s son on March 17, 1977, asking him if he knew who the people were in a picture he held out to the boy. Rader told Gouge that the people in the picture were actually his own wife and son. The lure worked and the young boy unknowingly led the killer to his home. While there, Rader told Gouge that he promised Relford that he wouldn’t hurt them but that he just wanted to tie her up and take some pictures of her, Liz Collins reported for KWCH 12 Eyewitness News.
As Rader previously confessed in June 2005, he locked up Relford’s three young children, aged 4, 6 and 8 in the bathroom with toys and a blanket. Gouge said that one of the kids threatened to break out of the bathroom but Rader said he would blow the kids heads off if he did. In the meantime, he tied Relford up, put a plastic bag around her neck and strangled her. He hoped to also make her a servant in his afterlife, much like he planned with the Otero’s.
During the court proceedings, autopsy photos of Relford were shown to the court. The photos prompted the first emotional response from Rader since the beginning of the hearings. Buselt stated that he, “looked away, rubbed his forehead and let out a sigh.” Steve Relford, who had been one of the children locked in the bathroom that managed to escape, stared contemptuously at Rader as evidence was being presented in court. At one point, when crime scene photos were shown, Steven Relford “frowned and looked away,” Buselt further reported. It was simply too painful.
Dennis Rader (r) sits with counsel during the sentencing phase of his trial
Rader told Gouge that if the kids hadn’t fled from the house through a window in the bathroom, he would have killed them too. He was quoted as saying, “I probably would have hung the little girl. Like I said, I’m pretty mean or could be. But on the other hand I’m very – you know, I’m a nice guy.”
Nancy Fox and Marine Hedge Case Evidence
By Rachael Bell
Rader stalked Nancy Fox, 25, for months before he murdered her, it was revealed in court on August 17th. According to testimony by Wichita Police Detective Tim Relph, Rader told him that Fox sexually appealed to him and that he had an “attachment with her,” especially since she, “dressed nice” and was a “nice family girl,” Buselt stated in The Wichita Eagle. Rader even went so far as to tell detectives that she was “one of the more- -more enjoyable kills,” it was further reported.
Fox’s murder was one of the few Rader committed where he experienced no interruptions and where he was able to exercise complete control over his victim. Rader called it a “perfect hit,” Relph said during testimony. Like his other victims, Rader strangled and tortured Fox in the hopes that he would make her his bondage slave in his heavily fantasized afterlife.
Later during the court proceedings, Sedgwick County sheriff’s Sgt. Tom Lee took the stand. He testified about Rader’s confessions concerning Marine Hedge’s murder. Lee said that Rader found the killing of Hedge to be “his most complicated hit” because he actually moved her body to different locations, consciously changing his MO in an effort to throw off police. Lee suggested that Rader seemed pleased with himself that he was able to get away with her murder and body disposal and avoid detection. However, Rader admitted it was a bad idea that he took such a risk to murder in his “own habitat.”
According to Lee, after Rader strangled Hedge he stripped her body, wrapped her in blankets and put her in the trunk of his car. He took the body to the church and carried it into the basement. He had the key to the building because he was a congregation leader. Lee said that Rader had earlier hid plastic in the church so he could act out his bondage fantasy with Hedge that night. Rader posed the body in sexually explicit ways using the plastic and then took pictures, Buslet said. Years later, investigators found pictures in Rader’s home, which depicted him wrapped in plastic, similar to how Hedge was posed in the pictures. The photographs supported the prosecution’s argument that Rader saw his victims only as objects, which he used for the sole purpose of acting out his sick fantasies.
Vicki Wegerle and Dolores Davis Case Evidence
By Rachael Bell
Wichita Police Detective Kelly Otis was the seventh witness to be heard on August 17th. He testified about what Rader told him concerning Vicki Wegerle’s murder. Rader told Otis that he dressed as a Southwestern Bell employee, wearing a yellow hard hat and carrying a company manual and fake identification, Buselt reported. His disguise was used to gain entry to Wegerle’s home.
Wegerle, 29, was alone with her two-year old son, when Rader pulled a gun on her and made go to a back bedroom where he tied her up with leather shoelaces. Rader told Otis that she, like Kathryn Bright, “fought like a hell cat” while he was trying to “take her down.” Buselt reported that DNA found beneath Wegerle’s fingernail matched that of Dennis Rader.
The last testimony to be heard that day concerned the murder of Dolores “Dee” Davis, who was killed in January 1991. She was Rader’s last known victim. Rader told Sedgwick County sheriff’s Capt. Sam Houston that he waited for Davis to fall asleep before he broke through her sliding glass door with a cinderblock. According to Rader, Davis told him he couldn’t be in her home but he quieted her when he threatened her with a gun, knife and club. Houston claimed that Rader bragged saying, “That’s the control factor…you start to control them a little bit, you ease them a little bit. Just like you guys come in here and you buddy me, you try to make me feel at ease like it’s going to be okay,” Buselt reported.
Houston testified that Rader killed Davis, hoping to also make her one of his bondage slave women in his dreamed up fantasy afterlife. In the middle of the Captain’s testimony, the proceedings were stopped, set to resume the next day. It would undoubtedly be one of many sleepless nights that the families of the victims would have to endure.
By Rachael Bell
During the second day of the sentencing proceedings, Capt. Sam Houston revealed more information concerning Rader’s murder of Dolores Davis. According to testimony, Rader told Houston that while he tortured her he placed a thin painted plastic mask on her face to “pretty her up a little bit” and make her look “more feminine.” The mask had been painted flesh tone with red lips and darkened eyebrows to make it look more lifelike in appearance. He was so wrapped up in his fantasy when he was torturing Davis that he ignored her pleas when she begged him to spare her life.
Rader admitted to Houston that after he killed Davis, he wore some of her clothes that he had stolen, along with a similar looking mask and a wig. When Rader dressed up as a woman, he posed himself in various bondage positions and took pictures of himself with a remote snap camera. In the pictures he appeared markedly distressed as if he were the actual victim. The pictures were used specifically to fuel his perverted fantasies and he kept them in a huge stash he referred to as “the mother load.” Most of Rader’s stash was hidden in his house and office and included such items as binders with cut out pictures of models and starlets, such as Meg Ryan, index cards with child swimsuit models on them and sexual fantasies written on the backside, jewelry and clothing from his victims, newspaper clippings, a doll collection and his “hit kit,” among other things, Buselt reported in The Wichita Eagle. None of his colleagues or his wife knew his hoard of pictures and other sexual paraphernalia ever existed.
Just when Houston’s testimony about Rader couldn’t get anymore shocking or bizarre, it did. He told the court that other photographs were found that included pictures Rader took of himself wearing a made-up mask and lying partially covered in a dug out grave that was initially intended for Davis. Davis was never buried there because Rader simply didn’t have the time to do it. He claimed that at that time he was already late for a Boy Scout event. Instead of burying her he dumped Davis’s body and the mask under the bridge and decided to revisit his “kill” the next day. When he did, he claimed that he was “creeped out” by the site of her body because animals had ravaged her remains.
After Houston stepped down, Wichita Police Lt. Ken Landwehr took the stand. He testified that Rader’s case was different from other serial killers because of the length of time between each murder. Other than that, he was later quoted as saying that there was “nothing special” about him.
Rader was like most other serial killers, especially in his aversion to taking responsibility for his savage crimes. Rader found it easier to blame his blood lust on his “compartmentalized personalities,” one side of himself that he claimed he showed to his family and the church and the other dominated by “Factor X”- the killer. Lt. Landwehr told the court that Rader described himself in these terms on several occasions. The families of the victims were set to describe Rader in other terms, when they got their chance to say their piece following the court recess.
By Rachael Bell
On August 18, 2005, family members of the victims courageously stood before the man who murdered their loved ones and for the first time told him what they thought of him and his horrendous actions. Rader was repeatedly called a monster and a coward by most of the family members who asked the judge for the harshest sentence possible. Some of the family members were so overcome with emotion that they were unable to say what they felt. Rader’s evil was beyond comprehension or words. During the statements, Rader showed signs of emotion, wiping his eyes periodically as if he were overcome with grief for what he had done. Many likely wondered why he never showed such “remorse” while he was murdering innocent people.
After the court heard from the families, Rader stood up and gave a 20-minute long rambling statement that the District Attorney Nola Foulston later likened to an awards ceremony speech. Rader said that what he’d done was selfish and narcissistic. He also tearfully thanked the defense, members of the jail staff, his social worker and pastor whom he called his “main man.” Shockingly, Rader unashamedly compared himself to his victims, as if they were “peas of a pod.” It was his final assault on the victims and their families. Yet, many of them weren’t there to hear Rader because they got up and left the courtroom seconds into his speech.
In Rader’s final struggle for power and control, he listed a series of complaints he had about alleged errors the DA and investigators made in their presentation of the case. It was clear during Rader’s statements that he reveled in the attention. It was what he longed for. At the end of his speech Rader made a brief apology to the victims’ families
When Rader finally concluded his speech, Foulston said that Rader cried “crocodile tears” and suggested he had no real remorse for the victims or their families. She asked once again that Judge Waller take into consideration the harshest possible penalty when sentencing Rader. She also asked that he impose additional restrictions on him, including limits against his having access to pictures of humans or animals or even having writing materials, which she suggested he could use to continue acting out his perverted fantasies.
Finally, the long anticipated sentencing of Rader commenced. Judge Waller sentenced him to a total of 175 years, to be served consecutively. Specifically, he sentenced him to “nine life terms and gave him the Hard 40 sentence—40 years in prison with no chance of parole—for the Dee Davis murder, KAKE News reported. Judge Waller also ordered that he pay restitution to the families of his victims as well as court costs. It was the harshest sentence that he could give Rader under Kansas state law.