Dennis Rader – Bind Torcher Kill – The BTK Killer – An American Serial Killer

Dennis Rader as a dog warden

♦ Dennis Rader

Dennis Lynn Rader was born on March 9, 1945 and is an American serial killer who murdered 10 people in Sedgwick County, in and around Wichita and Park City, Kansas. His murders took place between 1974 and 1991.

Dennis Rader named himself, and was so adopted afterwards by all, the BTK Strangler, which stands for “bind, torture, kill” and perfectly describes his modus operandi.

Dennis sent taunting letters, describing the details of his killings, to police and local news outlets during the period of time in which the murders took place. After a long hiatus in the 1990’s, Dennis Rader resumed sending these types of letters to the authorities in 2004, leading to his February 5, 2005 arrest and subsequent guilty plea and conviction.

Dennis Rader mug shotDennis was characterized as a sadist and fetishist. He is serving ten consecutive life sentences at El Dorado Correctional Facility in Prospect Township, Butler County, Kansas. He is eligible for parole after 175 years of his term. 

♣ In His Youth

Dennis was born the first of four boys to William and Dorothea (Cook) Rader. He grew up in Wichita, Kansas, graduating from Riverview School and later Wichita Heights High School. Dennis went on to attend Kansas Wesleyan University and afterward spent four years, 1966 t0 1970, in the U.S. Air Force.

After returning to the states, Dennis moved to Park City, a suburb located seven miles north of Wichita, and worked in the meat department of Leeker’s IGA, where his mother was a bookkeeper.

Dennis married Paula Dietz in May of 1971 and went on to earn an Associate’s Degree in Electronics in 1973 from the Butler County Community College in El Dorado. He enrolled at Wichita State University that fall and graduated in 1979 with a bachelor’s degree in Administration of Justice.

While attending school, Dennis Rader worked as an assembler, from 1972 to 1973, for the Coleman Company, a camping gear firm. (Consequently, so did two of his BTK early murder victims.)

From the winter of 1974, until he was eventually fired in the spring 1988, Dennis worked at the Wichita based office of ADT Security Services, a well known company that sold, and installed, security alarm systems for commercial businesses. Dennis held many positions inside the company, one of which was the ‘installation manager’.

After his firing from ADT, Dennis Rader went on to become a census filed operation supervisor for the Wichita area in 1989. In 1991, he moved on to ‘Supervisor of the Compliance Department’ at Park City, a two-employee, multi-functional department in charge of animal control, housing problems, zoning issues, general permit enforcement and nuisance cases. While in this position, neighbors recall Dennis as being extremely strict and overzealous in his authority. He was particularly rude and cruel to single women and appeared to take pleasure in openly harassing them. One neighbor even complained he euthanized her dog for no reason. On March 2, 2005, the Park City council fired Dennis for failure to report to work. (Little did they know at the time, Dennis Rader was being detained by the authorities on suspicion of murder!)

Dennis Rader behind bars♦ Arrest and Conviction 

On February 25, 2005, Dennis Rader was detained and accused of the BTK murders. He pled guilty to the crimes on June 27th, giving a graphic recount of his horrific deeds. On August 18th, he was sentenced to serve one life sentence for each of his ten victims, without the possibility of parole for 175 years.

Dennis was ineligible for the death penalty, because Kansas did not have a death penalty during the period of time in which he committed his crimes. Kansas reinstated death penalty laws in 1994.

♣ Modus Operandi

In court, Dennis Rader casually described his victims as ‘projects’ and likened their murders to the killing of animals by using the term ‘putting them down’. He described what he called his ‘hit kit’, a bowling bag or briefcase he would carry that contained items he deemed necessary for committing the murders. Such items were guns, ropes, handcuffs, tape and the like. He also packed his ‘hit clothes.’ This would be the apparel he would wear during the torcher and murder and then immediately dispose of.

Dennis Rader quickly developed a pattern for his murders. He would wander the city for a potential victim. Once that victim was selected, he would stalk that person until he knew the pattern of their day to day lives, and determine the best time for his strike. Dennis explained that he could, and would, stalk many potential victims at the same time, in case one ‘project’ did not work out in his favor.  Rader would then simply break into his victim’s home, cut the phone lines and lay in wait until his victim returned home.

Dennis described for the courts how he would calm his victims by pretending that he was a rapist, needing to work out some sexual fantasies on them. This caused many of his victims to be more cooperative, believing that once raped, the intruder would leave them and go away. But that was never in the plan of the BTK killer, Dennis Rader.

The name BTK, which Dennis gave himself, dictated his murderous methods. Bind them, torcher them, kill them. Dennis would first bind his victim then strangle them until they lost consciousness. He would then allow them to revive, in order to strangle them again and again, forcing them to repeat the near-death experience repeatedly, while becoming sexually aroused at the sight of this torcher. Finally Dennis would strangle his victim until dead and masturbate onto the corpse.

♣ The Infamous Letters of BTK

Dennis Rader was particularly known for sending taunting letters to police and newspapers. There were several communications from BTK from 1974 to 1979. The first was a letter that had been stashed in an engineering book in the Wichita Public Library in October 1974 that described in detail the killing of the Otero family in January of that year.

In early 1978, he sent another letter to television station KAKE in Wichita, claiming responsibility for the murders of the Oteros, Shirley Vian, Nancy Fox and another unidentified victim assumed to be Kathryn Bright (not identified because her brother survived and could have identified him). He suggested a number of possible names for himself, including the one that stuck: BTK. He demanded media attention in this second letter, and it was finally announced that Wichita did indeed have a serial killer at large. A poem was enclosed entitled “Oh! Death to Nancy,” a botched version of the lyrics of the American folk song “Oh Death.”

♠ Oh Anna

In 1979 Dennis sent two identical packages, one to an intended victim who was not at home when he broke into her house and the other to KAKE. These featured another poem, “Oh Anna Why Didn’t You Appear”, a drawing of what he had intended to do to his victim, as well as some small items he had pilfered from Williams’ home. Apparently, Rader had waited for several hours inside the home of Anna Williams, but left when she did not come home until later.

In 1988, after the murders of three members of the Fager family in Wichita, a letter was received from someone claiming to be the BTK killer in which he denied being the perpetrator of this crime. He did credit the killer with having done “admirable work”. It was not proven until 2005 that this letter was in fact written by the genuine BTK killer (Dennis Rader himself), although he is not considered by police to have committed this crime

In March 2004, a series of 11 communications from BTK (Rader) to the local media led directly to his arrest in February 2005. The Wichita Eagle received a letter from someone using the return address Bill Thomas Killman.

The author of the letter claimed that he had murdered Vicki Wegerle on September 16, 1986, and enclosed photographs of the crime scene and a photocopy of her driver’s license, which had been stolen at the time of the crime. Prior to this, it had not been definitively established that Wegerle was killed by BTK.

♣ A Puzzle

In May 2004, a word puzzle was received by KAKE. On June 9, 2004, a package was found taped to a stop sign at the corner of First and Kansas in Wichita, containing graphic descriptions of the Otero murders and a sketch labeled, “The Sexual Thrill Is My Bill.” Also enclosed was a chapter list for a proposed book entitled “The BTK Story,” which mimicked a story written in 1999 by Court TV (now truTV) crime writer David Lohr. Chapter One was entitled, “A Serial Killer Is Born.”.

In July, a package was dropped into the return slot at the downtown public library containing more bizarre material, including the claim that he was responsible for the death of 19-year-old Jake Allen in Argonia, Kansas earlier that same month. This claim was found to be false and the death has been ruled a suicide.

In October 2004, a manila envelope was dropped into a UPS box in Wichita containing a series of cards with images of terror and bondage of children pasted on them. Also included was a poem threatening the life of lead investigator Lt. Ken Landwehr and a false autobiography containing many details about Rader’s life. These details were later released to the public.

♠ The Doll

In December 2004, Wichita police received another package from the BTK killer. This time the package was found in Wichita’s Murdock Park. It contained the driver’s license of Nancy Fox, which was noted as stolen from the crime scene, as well as a doll that was symbolically bound at the hands and feet with a plastic bag tied over its head.

In January 2005, Dennis Rader attempted to leave a cereal box in the bed of a pickup truck at a Home Depot in Wichita, but the box was at first discarded by the owner. It was later retrieved from the trash after Rader himself asked what had become of it in a later message. Surveillance tape of the parking lot from that date revealed a distant figure driving a black Jeep Cherokee leaving the box in the pickup.

In February, more postcards were sent to KAKE, and another cereal box left at a rural location that contained another bound doll, apparently meant to symbolize the murder of 11-year-old Josephine Otero. In his letters to police, Rader asked if his writings, if put on a floppy disk, could be traced or not. The police answered his question via a newspaper ad posted in the Wichita Eagle saying it would be ‘OK’ to use the disk.

Dennis Rader arrested♦ Dennis Rader

The BTK killer’s last known communication with the media and police was a padded envelope which arrived at FOX affiliate KSAS-TV in Wichita on February 16, 2005. A purple, 1.44-MB Memorex floppy disk was enclosed in the package. Also enclosed were a letter, a photocopy of the cover of a 1989 novel about a serial killer (Rules of Prey) and a gold-colored necklace with a large medallion.

Police found metadata embedded in a deleted Microsoft Word document that was, unbeknownst to Dennis Rader, still on the disk. The metadata, recovered using the forensic software EnCase, contained “Christ Lutheran Church”, and the document was marked as last modified by “Dennis”. A search of the church website turned up Dennis Rader as president of the congregation council. Police began at once to surveil Dennis Lynn Rader.

Sometime during this period, police obtained a warrant for the medical records of Rader’s daughter. A tissue sample seized at this time was tested for DNA and provided a familial match with semen collected at an earlier BTK crime scene. This, along with other evidence gathered prior to and during the surveillance, gave police probable cause for an arrest.

book on BTK

Available on

♣ Suspicions

Rader was stopped while driving near his home and taken into custody shortly after noon on February 25, 2005. Immediately after, law enforcement officials, including a Wichita Police bomb unit truck, two SWAT trucks, and KBI, FBI and ATF agents, converged on Rader’s residence near the intersection of I-135 and 61st Street North.

Once in handcuffs, Dennis was asked by an officer, “Mr. Rader, do you know why you’re going downtown?” to which he replied, “Oh, I have my suspicions, why?” Police searched Rader’s home and vehicle collecting evidence, including: computer equipment, a pair of black pantyhose retrieved from a shed, and a cylindrical container. The church he attended, his office at City Hall and the main branch of the Park City library were also searched that day. Officers were seen removing a computer from his City Hall office, but it is unclear if any evidence was found at these locations.

After his arrest, Dennis talked to the police for several hours. He stated he chose to resurface in 2004 for various reasons, including David Lohr’s feature story on the case and the release of the book Nightmare in Wichita: The Hunt for the BTK Strangler by Robert Beattie. He wanted the opportunity to tell his story his own way. He also said he was bored because his children had grown up and he had more time on his hands.

On February 26, 2005, The Wichita Police Department announced in a press conference that they were holding Dennis Lynn Rader as the prime suspect in the BTK killings. He was formally charged with the murders on February 28, 2005.

♣ The Legal Proceedings

Kansas reinstated the death penalty in 1994. The last known BTK killing was in 1991, making all of BTK murders ineligible for the death penalty, even if later murders could be attributed to them.

The Sunday after Rader’s arrest, the Associated Press reported that Dennis had confessed to ten murders. On March 1st, he was formally charged with 10 counts of first degree murder. Bail was continued at $10 million.

On May 3, Judge Waller entered not guilty pleas to the ten charges on Rader’s behalf. On June 27th however, the scheduled trial date, Dennis Rader changed his plea to guilty on all counts and calmly, and in explicate detail, described the killings.

On August 18, Dennis Rader faced sentencing. He was sentenced to ten ‘consecutive’ life terms, which requires a minimum of 175 years without the chance of parole. At the time, it was the maximum the law would allow.

On August 19, Dennis was moved to the El Dorado Correctional Facility in Kansas to begin serving his life sentences as inmate #0083707.

credit: murderpedia

Dennis Rader in courtDennis Lynn Rader

a.k.a. The BTK Killer

American Serial Killer

Sadist – Fetishist

Born March 9, 1945

Zodiac Sign – Pisces

10 Victims: Joseph Otero, his wife Julie and two of their children; Joseph II age 9 and Josephine age 11. Kathryn Bright. Shirley Vian. Nancy Fox. Marine Hedge. Vicki Wegerle. Dolores Davis

Where is Dennis Rader today?

Dennis Lynn Rader, now nearly 76 years old, is still alive and resides in solitary confinement at El Dorado Correctional Facility in Butler County, Kansas.

You may also be interested in ‘The Otero Murders‘. They were the first four victims of the BTK killer, Dennis Rader.