Who was BTK?

BTK short for “bind, torture and kill”, later known as Dennis Rader, murdered 10 people near Sedgwick County, Kansas, between 1974 and 1991.

This is him, during his trial, if you are curious:


BTK Denis Rader

Born in Pittsburg  in 1945, Kansas, Dennis Rader was the oldest of four sons of  Dorothea Mae Rader and William Elvin Rader. Though born there he spent his childhood in Wichita. At a young age, according to his own confessions, he enjoyed torturing animals. later on he developed a fetish for women’s underwear.

Between 1966 and 1970, Rader served in the United States Air Force. After discharge, he moved to Park City.

There, in 1971, he married Paula Dietz and had two children together.

Young BTK (Dennis Rader)           BTK Dennis Rader

Between 1974 and 1988 he worked for a security company, installing alarm systems. After that, in 1989 he became a dog catcher in Park City and was also a compliance officer. People knowing him at that time, complained that he was overzealos, in one case euthanizing a woman’s dog for no reason.

How the killings started

The year he started working at the security company, Dennis Rader started his series of horrific killings.

in January 15, 1974 he broke into the Otero family home and murdered four members. Joseph and Julie Otero and two of their children, Josephine and Joseph Jr.died by strangulation. After murdering them, he took from the house a couple of items: a radio and a watch. Evidences showed that he left at the crime scene also semen. According to his own confessions, while speaking to forensic psychology professor Katherine Ramsland,  BTK thought that he will be caught. To his surprise, that didn’t happen. He even said that he left something behind and returned to get it and that’s when he thought he will be arrested.

His confidence grew

Seeing that he eluded the police, he became more confident and imagined he is invincible and invisible.

According to Ramsland, BTK considered that the first murder didn’t go as he planned. So he started looking for another victim. He apparently wanted to have pictures from the scene, but didn’t have a camera.

Early age showed tendencies of animal torture

BTK evolved gradually into a serial killer. Starting at an early age to torture animals, later on breaking into people’s homes, then stepping even further and committing the ultimate gesture of killing. He became “addicted”, always in search for a new victim.

A few months later BTK killed again. On April 4, 1974, Rader, broke into the house of Kathryn Bright and waited for her. He killed her by stabbing and strangling. But her brother was there and there was a struggle between them two.  Kevin was shot twice and survived. He described Rader as “an average-sized guy, bushy mustache, ‘psychotic’ eyes,” according to a TIME magazine article.

BTK was looking for fame

He didn’t stop here. Feeling powerful and invisible wasn’t good enough if it was not shared with the world. So BTK started looking for fame as well. In October 1974, after the first two murders, he left a letter in a public library book in which he took responsibility for the killings of the Otero family. The letter ended up at a local newspaper. Authorities then started to realize who they are dealing with.

BTK letter

In the letter Rader wrote: “It’s hard to control myself. You probably call me ‘psychotic with sexual perversion hang-up.'”  He asked to be called the “BTK Strangler,” explaining that BTK stands for “bind them, torture them, kill them.” He also blamed the murders on a monster inside him and that he can\t stop killing.

In March 1977, he strangled Shirley Vian while her children were locked in the bathroom. Then,  on December 8, 1977, he strangled Nancy Fox in her home. Hid need for fame led him to report this murder himself. Later on he also sent a poem to a newspaper about the killing Vian. Some weeks later, eager for attention he sent a letter to a local television station taking responsability for killing Vian, Fox, and another unknown victim.

He kept a quite life

Despite the vicious murders, he kept a quiet life. Rader was a family man with two kids and also continued his job at the security company, which gave him an advantage he used to break in the houses of his victims. Aside his killings, if we can even say that, he was a normal guy, one of his colleagues actually saying that during the BTK murders, she sometimes walked home with him and that she felt safe being with him.

Dennis Rader aka BTK

In April 1979, Rader broke into an elderly woman’s home, but she didn’t return home as expected, being out with some friends. Rader got bored and he left before she came home. He sent her a letter to let her know that the BTK Killer had been there.

The police not having more clues, released the phone call recording from 1977, hoping that someone might recognize the voice and a breakthrough would be found.

But BTK stopped killing. At least that was what it looked like.

On April 27, 1985, after several years without a known crime, BTK killed his neighbor Marine Hedge and he dumped her body on the side of the road. It was discovered days later.

A year later, in September 1986, he killed Vicki Wegerle. Five years later on Jabuary 19, 1991 he took the life of the last known victim, Dolores Davis, in her home.

Here is a map of the killings:

BTK killings map

Why did the murders stop?

No one knows exactly why BTK stopped killing. But according to the FBI, Rader said that he substituted his need of killing with auto-erotic activities.

In 1991, he took a job as a dog catcher in Park City. He enjoyed taking to the limits the power he felt he has over his neighbors. He used to chase stray animals and euthanize them. People were afraid of his strict ways, but no one suspected his true nature.

He even became an active member of his church.

The need of fame returned

Though he stopped killing, Rader couldn’t stay away from the idea of fame. He started sending letters again to the authorities, in 2004. Along with the letters he alsso sent items related to the murders, including a picture.

As if that wasn’t enough, he went much further and in 2005 he dropped of a computer disk. At that time, in 2005, technology was much more evolved and authorities looked for help in tracing down the origins of the computer disk. Along with the disk, cam this strange request:

BTK letter

Yes, he actually asked if the disk would be traceable.

While analyzing the disk, police managed to retrieve the original content, which was then traced down to Christ Lutheran Church in Wichita and the name Dennis popped up. After a brief search on the internet, they found the location of the search and the name of its president’s name Dennis Rader. Apparently BTK was unaware that previous information even if deleted, can be retrieved and he found the disk safe to be used.

Detectives quietly checked out Rader’s house in Park City and noted a black Jeep Cherokee parked there, which was confirmed to be seen on surveillance cameras at the drop off of some of the packages he sent. Rader was placed under surveillance while a subpoena was secretly obtained for a DNA sample of his daughter from medical records. The DNA was a match to DNA found from semen at BTK crime scenes and that was the final evidence needed to arrest him.

The arrest

On February 25, 2005 police arrested Dennis Rader for the BTK murders.

BTK arrest

Initially Rader refused to talk, but after being confronted with the DNA evidences he didn’t just start talking, but he didn’t stop for 3o hours, giving countless of details and rambling on and on about his killings putting pride in it.

The Sentence

After a long trial, with media covering every moment of the case,  on August 18 2005, Judge Waller sentenced Dennis Rader to the maximum sentence permitted by law, a minimum of 175 years to life in prison. He will not be eligible for parole until 2180.



Name Gender Age Date Method of killing Weapon used
Joseph Otero M 38 January 15, 1974 Suffocated Plastic bags
Julie Otero F 33 January 15, 1974 Strangled Rope
Joseph Otero, Jr. M 9 January 15, 1974 Suffocated Plastic bag
Josephine Otero F 11 January 15, 1974 Hanged from a drainage pipe Rope
Kathryn Bright F 21 April 4, 1974 Stabbed 11 times in torso and back Knife
Shirley Vian F 24 March 17, 1977 Strangled Rope
Nancy Fox F 25 December 8, 1977 Strangled Belt
Marine Hedge F 53 April 27, 1985 Strangled Hands
Vicki Wegerle F 28 September 16, 1986 Strangled Nylon stocking
Dolores E. Davis F 62 January 19, 1991 Strangled Pantyhose


The BTK confession

BTK was a “modern” serial killer. He combined his need of fame with the thrill he got from killing, yet keeping the appearances of a normal neighbor next door, highly involved in his local activities, even being the president of his local church. He haunted locals and authorities for over 3 decades, eluding them and taunting them with his letters.

However, what exactly drove him to start killing is up to debate and research. We also don’t fully understand why he stopped killing. He did say that he was actually wanted to kill again and he even started looking for new victims. According to forensic psychology professor Katherine Ramsland, he did have a list of over 50 potential victims. He also added that the one victim he didn’t kill, the one that didn’t return home while he was waiting for her in her home, was always something he didn’t let go and wanted to “finish” that.

We will never know if he was telling the truth and was planning to kill again. The chilling video of his confession shows that he as absolutely no remorse and no consideration for his victims. By possibly all definitions, he is a psychopath. His case proves that serial killers can stop killing voluntarily. How and why? We don’t y fully understand yet.


You can find the case summary here:

State’s Summary Of The Evidence – BTK case PDF document, 92 pages


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