Victim Studies 023: Dennis Rader

on October 2, 2012 in Serial Killers, Victim Studies, Victimology by

Denis Rader, otherwise known as The BTK Killer, began his murder series in 1974, at the age of 28, and ended in 1991, in Kansas, United States. In 2005, he was found guilty for the murders of ten people and was sentenced to ten consecutive life terms in prison.

Before Rader began his murder series he was known to have tortured small animals, which is very common for many serial killers. Rader also confessed that from a young age he had a sexual fetish for women’s underwear and during his murder series would often steal his victims’ lingerie to wear at a later point in time. Rader graduated from high school and enlisted into the United States Air Force as a mechanic at the age of 21. When he finished his reserve duty in 1972, at the age of 27, he began to work in the meat department in IGA and then eventually began to work for ADT Security Systems and for the U.S. Census bureau. While working in with ADT, Rader was able to enter the homes of his unsuspecting victims. After leaving ADT Rader became a dogcatcher and was known to abuse his position and euthanized a dog for no reason. During his spare time Rader was a Cub Scouts leader and was very active in his church. It is believed that through the combination of his seemingly normal life and his ability to blend in that he was able to elude the police for so long.

Each murder that was committed by Rader was premeditated and planned. Rader believed that he was more intelligent than the police, and so he felt that he could commit as many murders as he desired without being caught. He enjoyed the thrill of the hunt. Some of the murders occurred in the middle of the day, which demonstrated just how confident and coordinated Rader was. His first victims, four members of the Otero family, required Rader to be organized. They were murdered in the span of approximately 2 hours, around 8 am until 10 am. Each victim was tied, tortured and then strangled.

Each of Rader’s victims were stalked prior to their murders. He would stalk the victims to know when they arrived or left their home or who else occupied the home. Rader typically cut the phone lines in the homes to prevent his victims from calling for help. He would break into the home and wait for the victim to arrive. Once the victims arrived at their home, Rader would bind, torture and kill them. Rader preferred to strangle his victims, but would also sometimes use a gun or a knife in order to gain control of the victim. Rader would occasionally bring duct tape, lengths of rope or a screwdriver, but typically used items that he found in the victims’ homes. He planned and named the murders as if they were military operations, for instance one invasion was named “Project Lights Out”.

Although Rader preferred to target and murder women, he would also murder men and children. Unlike many serial killers, the female victims were not sexually assaulted or raped. The presence of children did not deter Rader from committing murder and on one occasion he was known to have locked children in a closet while he murdered their mother. Rader murdered 2 males and 8 females throughout his murder series. His victims were Hispanic or Caucasian and were between the ages of 9 and 62. His victims were not mutilated or molested after their death, but there was semen found on or around some of the victims. Rader was known to take totems from each of the crime scenes. He preferred to take jewelry, photos and lingerie from the victims’ homes.

There was no attempt to hide the bodies after the murder had been committed. Rader would leave the remains of his victims at the crime scene and would often write letters in order to give police or the media information regarding the location of his latest victims. Rader gave himself the code name B.T.K. in a letter, which stood for bind them, torture them, kill them. In these notes he attempted to make himself look uneducated by purposely making spelling mistakes, but would often make these mistakes while spelling simple words, not the more complicated words. Rader was known to have called an emergency hotline to notify the police of his crimes and lead the police to the victim. Even when Rader had a cooling off period from his murder series, he was known to have mailed a letter in January of 1978, to the Wichita Eagle-Beacon about one of his victims. In this particular letter Rader described how he would strangle his victims almost to the point of death, let them regain consciousness and then murder them. The letter did not get enough publicity, so in April of 1978, Rader wrote another letter in which he stated that he had murdered 7 people and asked how many people he had to murder before his name would appear in the paper. He also claimed that he was sorry for the murders, but that he had already picked his next victim. However, the person that Rader had stalked and selected as his next victim arrived home late and received a letter stating, “Be glad you weren’t here, because I was.”

During his murder series Rader was known to have had a number of cooling off periods. He did not commit any murders between April 5, 1974 and March 16, 1977, December 9, 1977 and April 26, 1985, September 17, 1986 and January 18, 1991 or after January 20, 1991. A cooling off period is typically when a serial killer returns to normalcy with their jobs, family or friends. The cooling off period between murders is what makes the profile of a serial killer. Their desire to murder is only satisfied for so long before they begin to select their next victims.

In March of 2004, Rader wrote another letter as B.T.K. to the police and took responsibility for the murder of Vicki Wegerie. He continued to write letters and send floppy disks, which is what led to his arrest. A floppy disk that Rader sent to the media on February 16, 2005 had metadata that contained a deleted Microsoft Word document from the Christ Lutheran Church, which had been edited by a man named “Dennis”. After searching the church website and discovering that a man named Dennis Rader was the president, police were able to begin surveillance on Rader and obtain a warrant for DNA from Rader’s daughter. The evidence gathered during surveillance allowed for police to have probable cause and he was arrested. He was formally charged for the BTK killings on February 28, 2005. He was sentenced to 10 consecutive life terms on August 18, 2005.

Sources:
Dennis Rader on Wikipedia
Serial Killer on Wikipedia
Dennis Rader – BTK Killer – A Biography
The BTK Story by Marilyn Bardsley, Rachael Bell and David Lohr on TrueTV.com
Dennis L. Rader on Radford.edu’s Serial Killer Timelines
Dennis Rader on Criminal Minds Wkiia

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