Solved: The BTK Killer (1974-1991)

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Our next case everybody should know about or at least heard when Dennis Rader, the BTK Killer got arrested. He would Bind, Torture and Kill (Hint: the BTK killer name) his victims but he eventually got caught. Let us find out how he got away with it for decades.

Dennis Rader, better known as the BTK killer, was a family man, church council president and scout leader, but he led a double life. It was in Wichita, Kansas that a murderer, claiming 10 known victims between 1974 and 1991 that Dennis Radar raised havoc.

For decades, he captured, tormented police and media with letters that would describe his vicious attacks, but it wasn’t until 2005 just before the 30th anniversary of his first murder that Dennis Rader tormenting habits backfired and finally got himself arrested. Let’s look at his early life before we dig into his heinous crimes.

Dennis Rader was originally from Pittsburg, Kansas and but was raised in Wichita. He had 3 younger brothers. He later admitted that he tortured and killed animals as a young boy. Could you imagine how his family feels? Knowing they lived in the same house as one of the most notorious serial killers? I would be freaked out!

Dennis Rader also served 4 years in the US Air Force after high school before his discharge in 1970.

After being discharged, Dennis moved back to Wichita where in May of 1971 he married Paula Dietz who graduated from Wichita Heights High School. The couple settled down in Park City, a suburb of Wichita and started to build a life together.

In the fall of 1971, Dennis attended Butler County Community College studying electronics. He also worked the assembly line at Coleman Company, constructing heating and cooling units. After he graduated with his associates degree in 1973, he took classes at Wichita State University and can you guess his major? Administration of Justice, but behind all this, was what he truly was.

On the morning of January 15, 1974, Dennis Rader, murdered 4 members of the Otero family in their Wichita home. Joseph Otero, 38, who was a retired Air Force Officer, Julie Otero, 34, who was a former employee of Coleman, their son Joseph II, 9, and their daughter Josephine, 11. The son had been bound and strangled to death in an upstairs bedroom, and the daughter was found hanging from a pipe in the basement, but Dennis masturbated in the basement leaving behind his DNA that would 230 years later link him to the crime scene.

He stole a few items from the house and then left, their oldest child, Charlie, 15, returned home from school later that afternoon and found the bodies of his murdered family.

These brutal murders shocked the entire community in Wichita, before it could even calm down, Dennis Rader killed again.

April 4, 1974, he broke into the home of Kathryn Bright, another former Coleman employee, but to Dennis’s surprise, Kathryn brought somebody else home with her, her brother Kevin. Armed with a gun, Dennis told Kevin to tie up his sister and then took Kevin to a separate part of the room and bound and gagged him.

When Dennis went to the strangle Kevin, Kevin somehow broke free and fought back. In the midst of the struggle, Dennis shot Kevin twice, Kevin collapsed, and Dennis believed he had died, but Kevin played it smart and played dead and soon escaped the house to go and get help but it was too late, Dennis stabbed Kathryn multiple times in his stomach and then left the scene.

Kathryn later died from her injuries but amazingly Kevin survived. Making him the only known person to have survived a BTK attack.

Police in Wichita searched for clues after the murders of the Otero Family and Kathryn Bright. At first the 2 cases were not even really considered to be connected but then in October 1974, a letter came out. It was tucked inside a book at the Wichita’s Downtown public library, the letter made its way to the hands of the police and journalist.

The letter was typed and had many errors, the author of the letter took credit for the Otero family, revealing details only the killer and police could have known. He threatened that he was “waiting in the dark, waiting, and waiting,” and then he had already selected his next victim. The author then signed off his letter – “Yours, Truly Guiltily’ with the following postscript: “The code words for me will be Bind them, Torture Them, Killer them, BTK.”

It was the first of Dennis Rader’s taunts to the public and the first appearance of his nickname that he gave him and would eventually stick.

After killing 5 people in 1974, Dennis Rader went very quiet for 3 years, which so happens, him and his wife Paula, had their first child, a boy, in 1975. Dennis Rader also began work at ADT security Services, a security and alarms company that serviced homes in the Wichita area. Dennis would keep this job for well over a decade.

But the killing didn’t stop, in 1977, Dennis went back to killing. March 17th, he went into the home of Shirley Vian. Shirley’s children were in the home at the time. Dennis ordered the children into the bathroom and locked the door. He then bound their mother and strangled her death with a rope.

December 8, 1977, Dennis broke into the home of Nancy Fox and strangled her to death with her own belt, but this was new, Dennis called 911 himself right after the murder and reported the murder he just committed.

More taunting letters began to come in as well.

January 1978, The Wichita Eagle-Beacon received a poem after a nursery rhyme that referred to the murder of Shirley Vian.

February 1978, Wichita Station KAKE-TB received a letter from the BTK killer that included a poem called “Oh! Death to Nancy” and letter that claimed responsibility for the number of his murders and asked how many more people he’d have to kill before he received national attention.

The threat had a huge impact on everybody so on February 10, 1978 Wichita Police Chief, Richard LaMunyon, had a press conference and warned the public that a serial killer was on the loose in Wichita and the killer called himself the BTK and he was going to strike again.

Fear came through the community like a hurricane, the community began locking up the front doors when gone. People wouldn’t leave their houses and would peer through pulled curtains and didn’t sleep much as they worried about every little creak in their houses.

Not long after the police chief warned the public of the active serial killer and Dennis Rader welcomed their second child a girl in 1978. Then the following April Dennis broke into the home of Anna Williams, he had planned to murder the woman when she returned home but Williams didn’t come home when she normally did and stayed out later than normal. Dennis spent hours crouching in the darkness and eventually left. Afterward he sent a disturbing poem, “Oh, Anna, why didn’t you appear?” expressing his failed attempt.

After the failed attempt, BTK went cold again. The letters and the phone calls stopped. The murder spree as what the police and the community believed was finally over.

During his last cooling off period, Dennis completed his studies at Wichita State, and graduated with a degree in administration of justice. He served as a scout troop leader and was a very active member of the Christ Lutheran Church. But shortly after he killed 3 more people, Marine Hedge, 53, 1985, Vicki Wegerle, in 1986, and Dolores Davis in 1991.

The killings were happening but the taunting had stopped, after Vicki Wegerle’s murder, many assumed her husband had killed her and but the end of 1990’s the BTK case had gone completely cold.

January 2004, the 30th anniversary of the Otero family murders, The Wichita Eagle published a story about the BTK killer. For many, the case was a nightmare of the past and the article suggest that the killer may have moved or even so passed away.

2 months later, Dennis revealed to everybody that the BTK killer was alive by mailing to the media outlets proof that he had murdered Vicki Wegerle. What followed was correspondence that stretched through 2004 and into 2005. Dennis sent numerous envelopes packed with letters, drawings and puzzles. Other forms of communication took the form of packages that had been hidden throughout Wichita and contained items from the prior killings or dolls that had been arranged to mimic the victims in the state of the murder.

In 2005, Dennis Rader wanted to communicate securely using a floppy disk. He requested the police be completely honest in their response and would do so by using a classified ad in the local paper and police assured BTK could indeed sent out the disk.

In February 2005, a floppy disk arrived at the TV station KSAS-TV and once acquiring the disk, investigators began to search the disk for clues in the metadata. The disk pointed back to the Christ Lutheran Church and can you guess the last person to edit the document? You guessed right, Dennis. A quick search of the church’s website and it turned up the name of the church council president, Dennis Rader. The FBI obtained a warrant to access a DNA sample from Rader’s daughters medical file and then they could compare it to the DNA Collected from the BTK crime scenes and guess what….it was a match.

Dennis Rader was arrested on February 25, 2005 and was charged with 10 counts of first degree murder. On June 27, 2005, Dennis Rader entered a guilty plea to all of the charges and 2 months later was sentenced to 10 consecutive life sentences. As of today he sits in the El Dorado Correctional Facility where he will spend the rest of his life behind bars.

Once he was in prison, his wife filed for divorce and it was finalized in 2005. I mean could you blame the lady.


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