Dennis Lynn Rader

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Dennis Lynn Rader

Also Known As: "BTK"
Immediate Family:

Son of William Elvin Rader and Dorothea Mae Cooke
Ex-husband of <private> Dietz
Father of <private> Rader and <private> Rader
Brother of <private> Rader; <private> Rader and <private> Rader

Managed by: Bill Henry
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

    • <private> Dietz
    • <private> Rader
    • <private> Rader
    • <private> Rader
    • <private> Rader
    • <private> Rader

About Dennis Lynn Rader

Dennis Lynn Rader (born March 9, 1945) is an American serial killer and mass murderer who murdered ten people in Sedgwick County (in and around Wichita, Kansas), between 1974 and 1991.

He is known as the BTK killer (or the BTK strangler). "BTK" stands for "Bind, Torture, Kill", which was his infamous signature. He sent letters describing the details of the killings to police and local news outlets during the time period in which the murders took place.

After a long hiatus in the 1990s through early 2000s, Rader resumed sending letters in 2004, leading to his 2005 arrest and subsequent conviction. He is serving 10 consecutive life sentences at El Dorado Correctional Facility in Kansas, with an earliest possible release date of February 26, 2180.

Early life

Dennis Rader is the oldest of four sons, born to Dorothea Mae (née Cook) and William Elvin Rader. Though born in Pittsburg, Kansas, he grew up in Wichita. According to several reports, including his own confessions, as a child he tortured animals. He also harbored a sexual fetish for women's underwear and would later steal underpants from his victims and wear them himself.

Personal life

He spent four years (1966–1970) in the United States Air Force, then upon discharge, he moved to Park City, a suburb located seven miles north of Wichita. He worked for a time in the meat department of Leekers IGA supermarket in Park City alongside his mother, a bookkeeper for the store.

Rader attended Butler County Community College in El Dorado, earning an associate degree in electronics in 1973.He then enrolled at Wichita State University and graduated in 1979 with a bachelor's degree in administration of justice. He married Paula Dietz on May 22, 1971, and they had two children.

Rader worked as an assembler for Coleman camping gear and then, from 1974 until 1988, he worked at a Wichita-based office of ADT Security Services, a home security company. He installed alarms as a part of his job, and many of his clients had booked the company to stop BTK from ever entering their homes, unaware that BTK himself was installing them. Rader was a census field operations supervisor for the Wichita area in 1989, prior to the 1990 federal census. He then became a dogcatcher and supervisor in the Compliance Department at Park City. 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. He had been arrested for the murders five days earlier.

Rader was a member of Christ Lutheran Church and had been elected president of the Congregation Council. He was also a Cub Scout leader. On July 26, 2005, after Rader's arrest, Sedgwick County District Judge Eric Yost waived the usual 60-day waiting period and granted an immediate divorce for his wife, agreeing that her mental health was in danger. Rader did not 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.

All of his known crimes occurred in the state of Kansas. He collected items from the scenes of the murders he committed. He also intended to kill others, notably Anna Williams, 63, who in 1979 escaped death by returning home much later than he expected. Rader explained during his confession that he had become obsessed with Williams and was "absolutely livid" when she evaded him. Rader spent hours waiting in her home but became impatient and left when she did not return home from visiting friends. Rader had stalked two women in the 1980s and one in the mid-1990s. They filed restraining orders against him and one moved away.

Rader also admitted in his interrogation that he was planning to kill again. He had even set a date, October 2004, and was stalking his intended victim.


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 inside 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 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 titled "Oh! Death to Nancy", a botched version of the lyrics of the American folk song "O Death". 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 stolen from Williams's home. Apparently, Rader had waited for several hours inside the home of Anna Williams but left when she still had not returned hours 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 (Rader), and 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 (Rader). 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 titled "The BTK Story", which mimicked a story written in 1999 by Court TV (now truTV) crime writer David Lohr. Chapter One was titled "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 had 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.

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, 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 in a newspaper ad posted in the Wichita Eagle saying it would be safe to use the disk. 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, as well as a reference to the name "Dennis". An internet search determined that a "Dennis Rader" was president of the church council. He was arrested on February 25.


By 2004, the investigation of the BTK Killer had gone cold. Then, Rader sent an anonymous letter to the police, claiming responsibility for a killing that had previously not been attributed to him. DNA collected from under the fingernails of that victim provided police with previously unknown evidence. They then began DNA testing hundreds of men in an effort to find the serial killer. Altogether, over 1300 DNA samples were taken and later destroyed by court order.

The police corresponded with the BTK Killer (Rader) in an effort to gain his confidence. Then, in one of his communications with police, Rader asked them if it was possible to trace information from floppy disks. The police department replied that there was no way of knowing on what computer such a disk had been used, which was in fact not true. The BTK killer's last known communication with the media and police was a padded envelope that arrived at FOX affiliate KSAS-TV in Wichita on February 16, 2005. A blue 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 Rader, on the disk. The metadata contained "Christ Lutheran Church", and the document was marked as last modified by "Dennis". A search of the church web site turned up Dennis Rader as being president of the congregation council. Police began surveillance on Rader. The police also knew BTK owned a black Jeep Cherokee. When investigators drove by Rader's house, they noticed the black Jeep Cherokee parked outside.

The police now had strong circumstantial evidence against Rader, but they needed more direct evidence in order to detain him. They obtained a warrant to test the DNA of a Pap smear Rader's daughter had taken at the Kansas State University medical clinic while she was a student there. The DNA of the Pap smear was processed by the Kansas Bureau of Investigation at their laboratory in Topeka which provided a familial match to the DNA of the sample taken from the victim's fingernails, indicating that the killer was closely related to Rader's daughter. This was the evidence the police needed to make an arrest.

On February 25, 2005, Rader was detained near his home in Park City and accused of the BTK killings. At a press conference the next morning, Wichita Police Chief Norman Williams announced, "the bottom line ... BTK is arrested". Rader pled guilty to the murders on June 27, 2005, giving a graphic account of his crimes in court. On August 18, 2005, he was sentenced to serve 10 consecutive life sentences, one life sentence per murder victim. In total, Rader would be eligible for parole after 175 years of imprisonment, in 2180.


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, he was asked by an officer, "Mr. Rader, do you know why you're being arrested?" 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.

He stated [where] he chose to resurface in 2004 for various reasons, including David Lohr's feature story on the case, which was broadcast on Court TV (now Tru TV) Crime Library web site 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 Rader as the prime suspect in the BTK killings.

Rader was formally charged with the murders on February 28, 2005.

Legal proceedings

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. However, that ruling was reversed by the United States Supreme Court on June 26, 2006, in the case of Kansas v. Marsh, and the Kansas death penalty statute was upheld. The Sunday after his arrest, Associated Press cited an anonymous source that Rader had confessed to other murders in addition to the ones with which he was already connected. Asked about the reported confessions, Sedgwick County District Attorney Nola Foulston said, "Your information is patently false", but she refused to say whether Rader had made any confessions or whether investigators were looking into Rader's possible involvement in more unsolved killings. On March 5, news sources claimed to have verified by multiple sources that Rader had confessed to the 10 murders he was charged with, but no additional ones.

On February 28, 2005, Rader was formally charged with 10 counts of first degree murder. 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 10 charges on Rader's behalf, as Rader did not speak at his arraignment.

On June 27, the scheduled trial date, Rader changed his plea to guilty. He unemotionally described the murders in detail and made no apologies.

On August 18, Rader faced sentencing. Victims' families made statements, followed by Rader, who apologized for the crimes in a rambling, bizarre 30-minute monologue that District Attorney Nola Foulston likened to an Academy Awards thank you speech. He was sentenced to 10 consecutive life terms, which requires a minimum of 175 years without a chance of parole. Because Kansas had no death penalty at the time the murders were committed, life imprisonment was the maximum penalty allowed by law. 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 consecutive life sentences as Kansas Department of Corrections #0083707 with an earliest possible release date of February 26, 2180. According to witnesses, while traveling the 40-minute drive from Wichita to El Dorado, Rader talked about innocuous topics such as the weather, but began to cry when the victims' families' statements from the court proceedings came on the radio. Rader is now being held in the EDCF Special Management unit, also known as solitary confinement, for "the inmate's own protection", a designation he most likely will retain for the remainder of his incarceration. He is confined to the cell 23 hours a day with the exception of voluntary solo one-hour exercise yard time and access to the shower three times a week.

Beginning April 23, 2006, having reached "Incentive Level Two," Rader has been allowed to purchase and watch television, purchase and listen to the radio, receive and read magazines, and have other privileges for good behavior. The victims' families disagreed with this decision.

According to Rader's record in the Kansas Department of Corrections database, he had a Class Two disciplinary report concerning "mail" on April 10, 2006.

Further investigations

Police in Wichita, Park City, and several surrounding cities looked into unsolved cases before, during, and after 1974 and 1991 in cooperation with the state police and the FBI. In particular they were focusing on cases after 1994 when the death penalty was reinstated in Kansas. Police in surrounding states such as Nebraska, Missouri, Colorado, Oklahoma, and Texas also were thought to have investigated cold cases that fit Rader's pattern to one extent or another. The FBI, Civil Air Patrol, and local jurisdictions at Rader's former duty stations also checked into unsolved cases during Rader's time in the service. After exhaustive investigations, no other murders have been discovered by any of these, or other, agencies that can be attributed to Rader, confirming early suspicions that Rader would have admitted to, and taken credit for, any additional murders that he had committed. The 10 known murders are now believed to be the only murders that Rader is actually responsible for, although Wichita police are fairly certain that Rader stalked and researched a number of other potential future victims. This includes one person who was saved when Rader called off his planned attack upon his arrival near the target's home owing to road construction, and the presence of road crews, near her home. In his police interview, Rader stated that "there are a lot of lucky people", meaning that he had thought about, and developed various levels of planning, the murdering of other victims.

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:

Rader's grammar and writing style match letters and poems received from BTK, though none of his communications were handwritten, but typed, stenciled, stamped with a stamp set, or computer generated.

A pay phone that the killer used to report a murder in 1977 was located a few blocks from Rader's place of work (ADT Security) at the time.

Rader had attended Wichita State University in the 1970s. Wichita Police Detective Arlyn G. Smith II and his partner George Scantlin traced BTK's photocopied communications to two photocopy machines, one at Wichita State University and a second 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 10 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.

Post-arrest 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 Rader's unhappiness about being caught, with one of the verses proclaiming, "The dark side of me has been exposed".

On August 12, 2005, Dateline NBC aired Confessions of BTK.

Massachusetts psychologist Robert Mendoza, who had been hired by Rader's court-appointed public defenders to conduct the psychological evaluation earlier in the case to determine if an insanity-based defense might be viable, conducted an interview after Rader pled guilty on June 27. NBC claimed Rader knew the interview might be on TV, but that was a false statement according to the Sedgwick County Sheriff's Department. 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. On May 10, 2007, Mendoza settled the case for $30,000 with no admission of wrongdoing. The Kansas Attorney General's office arranged for the settlement money to be distributed to families of the victims.

The song "Bind Torture Kill" was released on the 2006 self-titled album by death metal band Suffocation.


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Dennis Lynn Rader's Timeline

March 9, 1945