Dennis Lynn Rader (born March 9, 1945) is an American serial killer who murdered at least 10 people in Sedgwick County (in and around Wichita), Kansas, between 1974 and 1991. He was known as the BTK killer (or strangler), which stands for Bind, Torture, and Kill, an apt description of his modus operandi. Letters were written soon after the killings to police and to local news outlets, boasting of the crimes and knowledge of details. After a long hiatus, these letters resumed in 2004.
Dennis Lynn Rader was born on March 9, 1945, the 1st of 4 brothers. He was the son of William E. Rader and his wife, the former Dorothea M. Cook. He grew up in Wichita and graduated from Riverview School and later Wichita Heights High School. Rader attended Kansas Wesleyan University in 1965–66 and then spent 4 years from 1966 to 1970 in the U.S. Air Force, including time in Texas, Alabama, Okinawa, South Korea, Greece and Turkey.
When he returned to the United States, he moved to Park City, a suburb located 7 miles north of Wichita. He worked for a time in the meat department of Leekers IGA supermarket in Park City where his mother was also a bookkeeper. He married Paula Dietz on May 22, 1971. He attended Butler County Community College in El Dorado, earning an Associate's Degree in Electronics in 1973. He enrolled at Wichita State University that same fall. There he graduated in 1979 with a bachelor's degree inAdministration of Justice.
From 1972 to 1973, Rader worked as an assembler for the Coleman Company, a camping gear firm, as had 2 of BTK's early victims. From November 1974 until being fired in July 1988, Rader worked at a Wichita-based office of ADT Security Services, a company which sold and installed alarm system for commercial businesses during Rader's years there. He held several positions, including installation manager.
Rader was a census field operations supervisor for the Wichita area in 1989 for three months, prior to the 1990 federal census.
Rader had worked since 1991 as a supervisor of the Compliance Department at Park City, a two-employee, multi-functional department in charge of "animal control, housing problems, zoning, general permit enforcement and a variety of nuisance cases." In this position, neighbors recalled him as sometimes overzealous and extremely strict; one neighbor complained that he euthanized her dog for no reason. On March 2, 2005, the Park City council terminated Rader's employment for failure to report to work or to call in.
Rader served on both the Sedgwick County's Board of Zoning Appeals and the Animal Control Advisory Board (appointed in 1996 and resigned in 1998). He was also a member of Christ Lutheran Church, a Lutheran congregation of about 200 people. He had been a member for about 30 years and had been elected president of the Congregation Council. He was also a Cub Scout leader.
Rader and his wife are the parents of 2 adult children, Brian and Kerri. Both were born after the BTK murders started.
On July 27, 2005, Sedgwick County District Judge Eric Yost waived the usual 60-day waiting period and granted an immediate divorce for Paula Rader, agreeing that her mental health was in danger. Rader didn't contest the divorce, and the 34-year marriage was ended. Paula Rader said in her divorce petition that her mental and physical condition has been adversely affected by the marriage. She also contended that the couple was incompatible and that he had failed to perform material marital duties and obligations—possibly due to his incarceration.
Arrest and conviction
On Friday, February 25, 2005, Rader was detained near his home at 6220 61st and Independence in Park City, Kansas and accused of the BTK killings. At a press conference the next morning, Wichita Police Chief Norman Williams flatly asserted, "the bottom line is that BTK has been arrested." Rader pled guilty to his crimes on June 27, 2005, giving a graphic, almost surreal account of his crimes in court. He was sentenced to serve 10 consecutive life sentences (one life sentence per victim), without possibility of parole for 175 years, on August 18, 2005. This includes nine life sentences each without the possibility for parole for 15 years, and one life sentence without the possibility for parole for 40 years.
Using personal jargon for his killing equipment, Rader casually described his victims as his "projects" and at one point likened the murders of his victims to killing animals by saying he "put them down."
Rader created what he called a "hit kit," a briefcase or bowling bag containing the items he would use during murders: guns, tape, rope and handcuffs. He also packed what he called "hit clothes" that he would wear for the crimes and then dispose of.
Rader developed a pattern for his murders. He would wander the city until he found a potential victim. At that point, he would stalk the person until he knew the pattern of their lives and when would be the best time to strike. Rader often would stalk multiple victims at a time, so he could continue the hunt if one victim didn't work out. At the time of the murder, Rader would break into the house, cut the phone lines, and hide until his victim came home.
Rader would often calm his victims by pretending to be a rapist who needed to work out some sexual fantasies on them. This caused many of his victims to be more cooperative and even help him, thinking that once the rape was over, he would leave them alone. Instead, Rader would kill them.
The name BTK, chosen by Rader for himself, also dictated his methods. Rader bound, tortured, and killed his victims. Rader would strangle his victims until they lost consciousness, then let them revive, then strangle them again. He would repeat the pattern over and over again, forcing them to experience near-death, becoming sexually aroused at the sight of their struggles. Finally, Rader would strangle them to death and masturbate to ejaculation onto the corpse.
Rader's victims include:
- 1974: Four members of one family (Joseph Otero, his wife Julie Otero, and two of their five children: Joseph Otero II and Josephine Otero)
- 1974: Kathryn Bright
- 1977: Shirley Vian
- 1977: Nancy Fox
- 1985: Marine Hedge
- 1986: Vicki Wegerle
- 1991: Delores Davis
Police officials say there is no reason to believe Rader was responsible for any other murders. He collected items from the scenes of the murders he committed and, reportedly, he had no items that were related to any other killings. Nonetheless, Rader cannot necessarily be ruled out as a suspect in other cases.
Rader was particularly known for sending taunting letters to police and newspapers. There were several communications from BTK during 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. 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". In 1979 he 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 Anna's home. Apparently, Rader had waited for several hours inside the home of Anna Williams on the 600 block of South Pinecrest. Not realizing that she had gone to her sister's house for the evening, he eventually got tired of the long wait and left.
All of Rader's communications were poorly written with many misspellings and incorrect grammar usage. It was theorized at times that the writing style was a ruse to conceal his intelligence, but it turns out Rader really does write that way in his everyday life even though he earned a college degree in 1979.
In 1988, after the murders of three members of the Fager family in Wichita, a letter was received from someone claiming to be BTK in which he denied being the perpetrator of this crime. He did credit the killer with having done admirable work. It was never proven until 2005 that this letter was a genuine BTK communication, although BTK is not considered by police to have committed this crime.
In March 2004, he began the series of eleven communications from BTK that led directly to his arrest in February 2005. The Wichita Eagle newspaper received a letter from someone using the return address Bill Thomas Killman. The writer claimed that he murdered Vicki Wegerle on September 16, 1986, and enclosed photographs of the crime scene and a photocopy of her driver's license, which had been stolen at the time of the crime. In May 2004 a word puzzle was received by KAKE. In June a package was found taped to a stop sign in Wichita containing graphic descriptions of the Otero murders. In July a package was dropped into the return slot at the downtown public library containing more bizarre material, including the claim that he, BTK, was responsible for the death of 19-year-old Jake Allen in Argonia, Kansas earlier that same month. This claim was found to be false and the death remains ruled as a suicide. In October 2004, a manila envelope was dropped into a UPS box in Wichita containing a series of cards with images of terror and bondage of children pasted on them. Also included was a poem threatening the life of lead investigator Lt. Ken Landwehr and a false autobiography giving many details about his life. These details were later released to the public as though possibly factual, but the police were mostly trying to encourage the killer to continue to communicate until making a major mistake.
In December 2004, Wichita police received another package from the BTK killer. This time the package was found in Wichita's Murdock Park. It contained the driver's license of Nancy Fox, which was noted as stolen at the scene of crime, as well as a doll that was symbolically bound at the hands and feet with a plastic bag tied over its head. In January 2005, Rader attempted to leave a cereal box in the bed of a pickup truck at a Home Depot in Wichita, but the box was at first discarded by the owner. It was later retrieved from the trash after Rader himself asked what had become of it in a later message. Surveillance tape of the parking lot from that date revealed a distant figure driving a black Jeep Cherokee leaving the box in the pickup. In February there were postcards to KAKE, and another cereal box left at a rural location that contained another bound doll symbolizing the murder of 11-year-old Josephine Otero. Rader asked the police that if he put his writings onto a floppy disk if the disk could be traced or not. He received his answer in a newspaper ad posted in the Wichita Eagle saying it would be OK. On February 16, 2005 he sent a floppy disk to Fox TV station KSAS in Wichita. Forensic analysis quickly determined that the disk had been used by the Christ Lutheran Church in Wichita, plus the name Dennis. An internet search determined that Rader was president of this church. He was arrested on February 25.
After his arrest, Rader stated he chose to resurface in 2004 for various reasons, including 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.
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 ISBN 0425195198) and a gold-colored necklace with a large medallion. Police found metadata embedded in a Microsoft Word document on the disk that pointed to 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 immediately began surveillance of Rader
Sometime during this period, police obtained a warrant for the medical records of Rader's daughter, Kerri. A tissue sample seized at this time was tested for DNA and provided a familial match with semen at an earlier BTK crime scene. This, along with other evidence gathered prior to and during the surveillance, gave police probable cause for an arrest.
Rader was stopped while driving near his home and taken into custody shortly after noon on February 25, 2005. Immediately after, law enforcement officials—including a Wichita Police bomb unit truck, two SWAT trucks, and FBI and ATF agents—converged on Rader's residence near the intersection of I-135 and 61st Street North. Rader's home and vehicle were searched, and evidence—including computer equipment, a pair of black pantyhose retrieved from a shed, and a cylindrical container—was collected. The church he attended, his office at City Hall and the main branch of the Park City library were also searched that day. Officers were seen removing a computer from his City Hall office, but it is unclear if any evidence was found at these locations.
Rader talked to them for hours. He confessed right away. They filled up twelve DVDs with his confession.
On February 26, 2005, The Wichita Police Department announced that they were holding Dennis Lynn Rader as the prime suspect in the BTK killings in a press conference. (transcript via The Wichita Eagle )
Rader was officially arrested on February 28, 2005.
Kansas reinstated the death penalty in 1994. The last known BTK killing was in 1991, making all known BTK murders ineligible for the death penalty. Even if later murders are linked to the BTK killer, it was originally unclear whether the death penalty would come into play, as the Kansas Supreme Court declared the state's capital punishment law unconstitutional on December 17, 2004. The Sunday after his arrest, Associated Press reports cited an anonymous source that Rader had confessed to other killings in addition to the ones with which he was already connected. Sedgwick County District Attorney Nola Foulston called these reports "patently false."  On March 5, news sources claimed to have verified by multiple sources that Rader had confessed to the ten murders he is charged with, but no additional ones. 
On March 1, Rader was formally charged with ten counts of first degree murder (AP via The Wichita Eagle ). He made his first appearance via videoconference from jail. He was represented by a public defender. Bail was continued at $10 million.
On May 3, District Court Judge Gregory Waller entered not guilty pleas to the ten charges on Rader's behalf as Rader did not speak at his arraignment.
On June 27, the scheduled trial date, Dennis Rader changed his plea to guilty. In a very calm manner he described, in detail, the killings. He made no apologies. (Rader's Pleas online in RealMedia format courtesy KWCH-TV .)
On August 18, Dennis Rader faced sentencing. The victims' families made statements, followed by Rader, who apologized for the crimes. He was sentenced to ten consecutive life terms, which requires a minimum of 175 years without a chance of parole. Kansas had no death penalty at the time the killings were committed so this was the maximum sentence allowed. 
On August 19, Rader was moved from the Sedgwick County Jail to the El Dorado Correctional Facility, a Kansas state prison, to begin serving his life sentence as inmate #0083707 with an earliest possible release date of February 26, 2180.While going there, Rader talked about the weather. But when Victims Families Statements from a day before at his sentence hearing came on the radio, Rader began to cry.
From April 23, Rader has been allowed to watch television, listen to radio, read magazines and have other privileges for good behavior. The victims' families disagreed with this decision on the grounds that he had previously used those media to explore sexual fantasies.
According to Rader's record in the Kansas Department of Corrections database, he had a disciplinary report concerning mail on April 10, 2006.
Evidence pertaining to the murders
Because Rader did not contest his guilt, most evidence was not tested in court. However, physical and circumstantial facts that would have corroborated Rader as the BTK killer include:
- DNA analysis of BTK's semen and material taken from underneath the fingernails of victim Vicki Wegerle match the DNA profile of Dennis Rader.
- Rader's grammar and writing style matches letters and poems received from BTK, though none of his communications were handwritten, but typed, stenciled, stamped with a stamp set or computer generated.
- ADT Security was located a few blocks from a pay phone that the killer used to report a murder in 1977.
- Rader had attended Wichita State University in the 1970s. Wichita Police Detective Arlyn G. Smith II and his partner George Scantlin painstakingly traced BTK's photocopied communications to two copy machines, one at Wichita State University and a second copier at the Wichita Public Library. BTK murder victim Kathryn Bright's brother Kevin, who was shot twice by BTK, reported that the killer had asked him if he had seen him at the university. A poem in one of the killer's letters was similar to a folk song taught by a professor on that campus in that time period, though Rader himself dismissed any connection.
- Rader lived on the same street as Marine Hedge, just houses away. The BTK killer's other victims were in and around central Wichita, except for his final victim Dolores (Dee) Davis, who lived a half-mile east of Park City.
- Two of the victims (Julie Otero and Kathryn Bright) worked at the Coleman Company, though not during the same period that Rader worked there. Rader worked at Coleman only a short time and not at the same location as the victims.
- Semen found on Josephine Otero or near the bodies of his victims Josephine Otero, Shirley Vian and Nancy Fox was critical evidence linking Rader to the crimes, and DNA obtained from fingernail scrapings of Vicki Wegerle's left hand matched Rader's DNA, eliminating any doubt that he was her murderer. Rader also sent trophies to police in his letters, and others were discovered in his office. Other cold cases in Kansas were reopened  to see if Rader's DNA matched crime scenes, but Rader's confession was limited to the ten known victims and police and prosecutors do not believe there were any more victims because of the extensive records and memorabilia he kept on each of his victims.
- Rader and Joseph Otero, one of the first victims, both worked as Air Force mechanics, but at different times and different locations. This is thought to be a coincidence and not relevant to the murder.
Notoriety and profit
- On July 22, 2005, a controversy erupted on CNN's Nancy Grace show over a poem that Dennis Rader had written that was passed on to someone who then sold it on an auction site that specializes in serial killer memorabilia. The poem was titled "Black Friday," an ode to the day he was arrested. The poem expressed a point that Dennis Rader was not happy about being caught, with one of the verses proclaiming, "The dark side of me has been exposed."
- NBC aired 'Confessions of BTK'. Robert Mendoza interviewed Rader after he pleaded guilty on June 27. They claimed on the program that Rader knew the interview might be on TV but that was a false statement according to Sedgwick County Police. They thought it was strange Mendoza recorded the interview with a camera. The interview filming was conducted by a company owned by Omarosa Manigault-Stallworth, a contestant on the NBC reality show The Apprentice. Rader mentioned the interview during his sentencing statement. On October 25, 2005, the Kansas Attorney General filed a petition to sue Robert Mendoza and Tali Waters, co-owners of Cambridge Forensic Consultants, LLC, for breach of contract claiming they intended to benefit financially from the use of information obtained from involvement in Rader’s defense.
CBS aired The Hunt for the BTK Killer made for TV movie October 9, 2005, starring Robert Forster as the lead detective and Gregg Henry as Dennis Rader. It had 9 million viewers.
A direct-to-video movie, entitled B.T.K. Killer was released in May, 2006. Critics point to several inaccuracies in the film - including incorrect timelines (the movie shows the BTK murders happening in the 1960s, not the 1970s), and changed premises (the movie shows Dennis Rader using animals and raw meat to torture his victims, which investigators say never happened).
A LAw and Order SVU episode based on BTK (where the killer is renamed RDK) premiered the same week the real BTK was caught. BTK is said to have been insired from the Thomas Harris chaecter in Red Dragon and SLience of the Lambs. 
The following is a 1978 letter: "I find the newspaper not writing about the poem on Vain unamusing. A little paragraph would have enough. Iknow it not the media fault. The Police Chief he keep things quiet, and doesn't let the public know there a psycho running around lose strangling mostly women, there 7 in the ground; who will be next?"
"How many do I have to Kill before I get a name in the paper or some national attention. Do the cop think that all those deaths are not related? Golly -gee, yes the M.O. is different in each, but look a pattern is developing. The victims are tie up-most have been women-phone cut- bring some bondage mater sadist tendencies-no struggle, outside the death spot-no wintness except the Vain's Kids. They were very lucky; a phone call save them. I was go-ng to tape the boys and put plastics bag over there head like I did Joseph, and Shirley. And then hang the girl. God-oh God what a beautiful sexual relief that would been. Josephine, when I hung her really turn me on; her pleading for mercy then the rope took whole, she helpless; staring at me with wide terror fill eyes the rope getting tighter-tighter. You don't understand these things because your not underthe influence of factor x). The same thing that made Son of Sam, Jack the Ripper, Havery Glatman, Boston Strangler, Dr. H.H. Holmes Panty Hose Strangler OF Florida, Hillside Strangler, Ted of the West Coast and many more infamous character kill. Which seem s senseless, but we cannot help it. There is no help, no cure, except death or being caught and put away. It a terrible nightmarebut, you see I don't lose any sleep over it. After a thing like Fox I ccome home and go about life like anyone else. And I will be like that until the urge hit me again. It not continuous and I don;t have a lot of time. It take time to set a kill, one mistake and it all over. Since I about blew it on the phone-handwriting is out-letter guide is to long and typewriter can be traced too,.My short poem of death and maybe a drawing;later on real picture and maybe a tape of the sound will come your way. How will you know me. Before a murder or murders you will receive a copy of the initials B.T.K. , you keep that copy the original will show up some day on guess who?
"May you not be the unluck one! P.S. How about some name for me, its time: 7 down and many more to go. I like the following How about you?
"'THE B.T.K. STRANGLER', WICHITA STRANGLER', 'POETIC STRANGLER', 'THE BOND AGE STRANGLER' OR PSYCHO' THE WICHITA HANGMAN THE WICHITA EXECUTIONER, 'THE GAROTE PHATHOM', 'THE ASPHIXIATER'. B.T.K" 
↑ Twiddy, David. "BTK suspect's career in security probed." Associated Press. February 28, 2005. 
↑ Williams, Sarah T. "Camp novel crops up in the BTK case." Minneapolis Star-Tribune. March 3, 2005.  
- Davis, Jeffrey M. The Shadow of Evil: Where Is God in a Violent World? Kendall/Hunt Publishing Company, 1996. (ISBN 0787219819) - Davis is the son of BTK victim Dolores Davis.
- Beattie, Robert Nightmare In Wichita: The Hunt for the BTK Strangler New American Library, March 30, 2005. (ISBN 0451217381)
- Smith, Carlton The BTK Murders : Inside the "Bind Torture Kill" Case that Terrified America's Heartland St. Martin's True Crime, March 7, 2006. (ISBN 0312939051)
- Singular, Stephen Unholy Messenger : The Life and Crimes of the BTK Serial Killer Scribner Book Company, April 4, 2006. (ISBN 0743291247)
- Douglas, John E. Inside the Mind of BTK: Portrait of a Serial Killer Jossey Bass Wiley, February 2, 2007 (ISBN 0787984841)
- Sedgwick County 18th Judicial District collection of legal documents on the Rader case
- The Wichita Eagle Collection of articles and videos about BTK
- KSN Collection of Articles and Videos on BTK
- KAKE Collection of articles and videos on BTK
- Bind Torture Kill Strangler – The Crime Library
- WSU crime expert says if authentic, latest BTK package is significant. KWCH News.
- Authorities Examining Suspected 'BTK' Serial Killer Package (December 15 2004). ABC News.