Many serial killers want attention for what they do, sometimes they even require praise as they marvel at the atrocities they commit. Dennis Rader was no different; he even left clues at crime scenes to taunt the police...
Who is Dennis Rader?
Dennis Rader lived a double life; on one hand, he was a dedicated family and company man, on the other hand however, he was a killer who terrorised the Wichita and Kansas areas as the BTK killer, which stood for ‘bind them, torture them, kill them’.
Rader committed 10 murders and had brazen correspondence with authorities between 1974 and 1991. His alter ego resurfaced in 2004, however his penchant for leaving clues (unsurprisingly) led to his arrest and life imprisonment in 2005.
A regular upbringing
Dennis Rader was born on March 9th, 1945, in Pittsburg, Kansas, and grew up in Wichita. He is the oldest of four children and enjoyed a seemingly ordinary childhood; allegedly masking some distressing behaviour, like hanging stray animals.
Rader dropped out of college and joined the US Air Force in the mid 1960s. After returning to Wichita, he married his wife, Paula, in 1971. He worked for an outdoor-supply company for around a year. In 1974 he began a lengthy employment in ADT Security Services.
In January, 1974, Rader strangled four members of the Otero family to death in their Wichita home; parents Joseph and Julie, along with two of their children, Josephine and Joseph Jr., before leaving with a watch and radio.
Strangulation and souvenir-taking would become Rader’s pattern of behaviour. He also left semen at the crime scene, later stating that he derived sexual pleasure from killing. The family’s 15-year-old son, Charlie, came home later that day and found the bodies.
A few months later in April, 1974, Rader struck again. He waited in the apartment of a young woman, Katheryn Bright, before stabbing and strangling her when she arrived home. Rader also shot her brother, Kevin, twice; luckily, he survived.
Kevin later described his attacker as “an average-sized guy, bushy moustache, ‘psychotic’ eyes,” according to a TIME magazine article.
BTK goes public
In October, 1974, Rader left a letter in a public library, in which he took responsibility for killing the unfortunate Otero family. The letter ended up in a local paper; the poorly written note gave police a mild hint as to who they were dealing with.
The killer wrote, “It’s hard to control myself. You probably call me ‘psychotic with a sexual perversion hang-up’”. He warned that he would strike again and signed the note as the BTK killer, which stood for bind, torture, kill. The nickname and initials Rader gave himself stuck.
Rader’s next know crime was in 1977. In March of that year, he tied up and strangled Shirley Vian, after locking her kids in the bathroom. Another murder occurred in December the same year when Rader killed Nancy Fox, and in January the next year (1978), Rader sent a poem about the Vian killing to the local paper.
Some weeks later, Rader sent a letter to a local TV station stating that he was responsible for killing Vian, Fox, and another unknown victim.
Despite this cat-and-mouse game the killer was playing with authorities, Rader was still able to hide this dark and carnal side to him from everyone, including his wife, Paula whom he had two children with.
In 1979, Rader even graduated from Wichita State University, with a degree in administration of justice, of all things.
After a few years without a known crime, Rader killed his neighbour, Marine Hedge, in April of 1985. His final victim, Delores Davis, was taken from her home in January, 1991.
Arrest and imprisonment
Over the next several years, the BTK killer dropped off the map, as he wished to spend more time focusing on his work and family life. With so many stories surrounding the 30th anniversary of the Otero family murders, the BTK killer resurfaced in 2004, 14 years after he killed his previous victim.
Rader sent multiple items/clues to police, one of which being a computer disk which ultimately led authorities to Rader’s church. The police cemented their suspicions that Rader might be their man by obtaining a DNA sample of his daughter.
The BTK killer, Dennis Rader, was arrested in February 25th, 2005, and later charged with 10 counts of first-degree murder.
Rader pleaded guilty to all charges in June, 2005. As part of his plea, he gave horrifying details of his crimes in court.
Due to the fact that Rader committed his heinous crimes before the State’s 1994 reinstatement of the death penalty, he was sent to El Dorado Correctional Facility to serve his 10 life sentences.
Written by Melissa, who you can follow on Twitter @melissajournal
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