Dennis Rader, in his own words, describes the murder of Kathryn Bright
WICHITA, Kansas — Judge Gregory Waller: Alright Mr. Rader we will now turn to count five. In that count, it is claimed that on or about the 4th day of April, 1974, in Sedgwick County Kansas, that you unlawfully killed Kathryn Bright, maliciously, willfully, deliberately and with premeditation by strangulation and stabbing, inflicting injuries in which she did die on April 4th, 1974. Can you tell me what occurred on that day?
Dennis Rader: (sighs) Well, the uh, I don’t know how to exactly say that — I had many, what I called them, projects. They were different people in the town that I followed, watched. Kathryn Bright was one of the next targets I guess that I would indicate.
Judge: How did you select her?
Rader: Just driving by one day and I saw her going into the house with somebody else and I thought ‘that’s a possibility’. There were many places in the area, College Hill, they’re all over Wichita but anyway, it’s just a selection process. I worked towards it. If it didn’t work I just moved on to something else. But in my kind of person, stalking and trolling, you go through the trolling stage and then a stalking stage. She was in the stalking stage when this happened.
Judge: Alright sir, so you identified Kathryn Bright as a potential victim?
Rader: Yes, sir.
Judge: What did you do then here in Sedgwick County?
Rader: On this particular day?
Rader: I broke into the house and waited for her to come home.
Judge: How did you break into the house?
Rader: Through the back door — east side.
Judge: Alright, so you waited for her to come home? Where did you wait?
Rader: In the house there. Probably close to the bedroom. I was trying to figure out where I’d be if they came through.
Judge: Alright. What happened then?
Rader: She and Kevin Bright came in. I wasn’t expecting him to be there. I come to find out, I guess, they were related. At the time I approached them and told them I was wanted in California and needed a car — basically the same thing I told the Otero’s — kind of eased them to make them feel better. And proceeded to… I think I had him tie her up first and then I tied him up or vice versa. I don’t remember right now.
Judge: Let me ask you. You indicated that you had some items to tie these people with. Did you bring these items both to the Oteros’ and to this location?
Rader: The Otero’s I did. I’m not really sure on the Bright’s. There was some — when I, in working with the police — there was some controversy on that. Probably more likely I did. If I had brought my stuff, used my stuff, Kevin would probably be dead today. I’m not bragging on that, it’s just a matter of fact. It’s the bonds that I tie can’t be broken so. It may be the same way with Katherine. It just got out of hand.
Judge: Alright now, you indicated that you believed that you had Kevin tie Katherine up. Tell me what happened.
Rader: Okay. Well, I really can’t remember, judge, whether I had her time him up or she tied him up but anyway I moved her to another bedroom and he was already secure there by the bed. I tied his feet to the bed posts so he couldn’t run. I kind of tied her to the other bedroom and then I came back to strangle him and at that time we had a fight.
Judge: Were you armed with a hand gun at that time also?
Rader: Yes, I had a hand gun.
Judge: What happened at that time?
Rader: Actually, I had two handguns. Well, when I started to strangle him, he broke his bonds and he jumped up. So I pulled my gun and shot him. I hit him in the head. He fell over. I could see the blood. As far as I was concerned I thought he was down and was out. And then I started to strangle Kathryn. Then we started fighting because the bonds weren’t very good and so back and forth we fought.
Judge: You and Kathryn?
Rader: Yeah we fought. And I got the best of her and I thought she was going down and then I could hear some movement in the other room. So I went back and Kevin… No, no… I thought she was going down and I went back to the other bedroom where Kevin was at and I tried to re-strangle him at that time and he jumped up and we fought and then he about, at that time, about shot me because he got the other pistol that was in my shoulder here. I had my magnum in my shoulder.
Judge: In your shoulder holster?
Rader: Yes I had my magnum in the shoulder holster. The other one was a .22. We fought at that point in time and I thought it was going to go off. I jammed the gun, stuck my finger in there and jammed it. And I think he thought that was the only gun I had because once I either bit his finger or hit him or something and got away, then I used the .22 and shot him one more time. And I thought he was down for good at that time.
Judge: Alright, so you shot him a second time.
Rader: Yes sir.
Judge: What happened then?
Rader: I went back to finish the job on Kathryn and she was fighting and that point in time I had been fighting her I just, and then I heard some… I don’t know whether I was, basically, losing control. The strangulation wasn’t working on her and I used a knife on her.
Judge: You say you used a knife on her? What did you do with the knife?
Rader: Yes, I stabbed her. I think I stabbed her either two or three times either here or here (pointing to sides).
Judge: You are pointing to your lower back.
Rader: Yea, underneath the ribs.
Judge: And your lower abdomen. So after you stabbed her, what happened?
Rader: Actually, I think that at point in time it was a total mess because I didn’t have control on it. She was bleeding. She went down. I think I just went back to check on Kevin or at that basically same time I heard him escape. It could be one of the two. All of a sudden the front door of the house was opened and he was gone. Oh, I’ll tell you what I thought. I thought the police were coming at that time. I heard the door open and I thought, you know, ‘that’s it’. Then I stepped out there and I could see him running down the streets so I quickly cleaned up everything that I could and left.
Judge: Alright now, Mr. Rader. You indicated that, at the Otero’s, you had a mask on. Did you have a mask on here?
Rader: No, no I didn’t.
Judge: Alright, so what happened then?
Rader: I tried… I already had the keys to the cars and I thought I had the right keys to the right car. I ran out to their car.. I think it was a pick-up out there. I tried it but it didn’t work. At that point in time, he was gone, he was down the street. I thought, ‘yeah, I’m in trouble’, so I tried it. It didn’t work so I just took off and ran. I went east and then went back towards the WSU campus where my car was parked.
Judge: Alright, so you had parked your car at the Wichita State University campus?
Rader: Yes, on the campus, uh-uh.
Judge: How far away was the Bright’s residence?
Rader: I parked at, what was it 13th? Let see, they were on 13th. What is it, 17th? Yea. I was just about one block south of 17th where the car was. There’s a park there. I parked at the park and then I walked to 13th, to the Bright’s residence. So I basically ran back.
Judge: Alright so, you were able to get to your car and get away?
Rader: Yes sir.
The body of Kathryn Bright, just 21 years old at the time, was found in her home on April 4, 1974. She was bound with cord, partially dressed and had been stabbed several times in the abdomen. She had also been strangled. Kathryn Bright was the second victim of Dennis Rader, the BTK killer.
You may also be interested in the murder of Shirley Vian, in the words of her killer, Dennis Rader, BTK.