Saturday, 7 December 2013

Dennis Rader - The BTK Killer

Between the years of 1974 and 2005, a seemingly unremarkable family man terrorized the residents of Witchita, Kansas with a series of brutal murders. He started out by massacring an entire family - father, mother, son, and daughter - using a combination of strangulation, asphixiation, and hanging. Over the next 17 years, he would take another 6 lives, managing to evade capture largely due to the meticulousness with which he planned each crime.

During these 17 years, the killer sent numerous letters to the police, taunting them for their inability to catch him. In one of the letters, the killer suggests a name for himself - BTK, standing for Bind, Torture, Kill, a perfect description of his modus operandi. The name sticks. Gun sales skyrocket and everyone seems to want alarms and extra security fitted to their homes (BTK tended to break into people's homes and surprise them when they returned).

But, if you were a resident of Witchita, Kansas and you wanted an alarm fitted between the years of 1974 and 1988, chances are that it would be installed by the very person you were trying to keep out. An apparently ordinary family man would arrive to make your home safer. You might offer him a cup of tea. You might talk about sports or the weather. At no point would you realise that this intelligent family man was actually a ruthless killer. But beneath the facade lies a terrifying secret. This man's name is Dennis Rader, and he is the BTK Killer.

Dennis Rader was born on March 9, 1945 to Dorothea and William Rader in Pittsburgh, Kansas. As a child, Dennis Rader used to enjoy torturing and killing animals, one of the classic early warning signs exhibited by soon-to-be serial killers in their childhoods. He also started to develop a fetish for women's underwear, as well as a strong interest in bondage and sadomasochistic activities. One day, his teacher embarrassed him in front of his class. He went round to her house that evening and watched her without her knowledge. Whilst doing so, he had an orgasm. Voyeurism is another classic behaviour exhibited by a large number of fledgling serial killers (Ted Bundy, for example used to go out at night, get drunk, and spy on women; Richard Trenton Chase would go out at night with his uncle-in-law for the same purpose).

As he got older, Rader's fantasies grew stronger. He would venture into the wild and take pictures of himself in bondage positions, wearing women's underwear. Once, he even dug a grave, dressed up in women's underwear, tied himself up, and jumped in. He would later claim that he knew from a young age what he would grow up to become.

But, on the surface, Rader managed to play the part of a balanced, functional member of society. He served as a mechanic in the US Air Force between 1966 and 1970. Returning home, he began studying for an associate's degree in electronics, before moving on to Witchita State University to study for a bachelor's degree in Administration of Justice via night school. He graduated from the university in 1979. Rader also became heavily involved in the local Christ Lutheran Church, even being elected president of the church council. On top of that, he was a cub scout leader.

Rader killed the last of his 10 victims in 1991. Then he went quiet, and the case went cold for 13 years. He resurfaced in 2004, sending the police taunting messages, apparently because he was bored and wanted the opportunity to tell his story his way. Panic spread across the community of Witchita, Kansas once more. Was the BTK Killer about to strike again?

One of the letters Rader sent to the police asked whether a floppy disk could be traced back to him if he were to send one. The police lied and said that no, it could not. For some reason, he took their word on it and sent the disk. Computer experts promptly examined the metadata of the disk's only document and found that it had been created using software registered to the Christ Lutheran Church. The metadata also showed that the document had been last modified by someone logged in as 'Dennis'. A quick internet search for 'Christ Lutheran Church Dennis' brought up Rader's name. He was arrested shortly afterwards and received 10 consecutive life sentences (the death penalty was not in force in Kansas at the time Rader committed his infamous series of murders).

Dennis Rader never tried to deny his crimes. For him, they were something to be proud of. He had killed 10 people and eluded capture for more than 30 years. Today, Rader is held in solitary confinement at the El Dorado Correctional Facility in Kansas. He is allowed out for 1 hour of exercise per day, and has access to the showers 3 times a week.

You might also be interested in:
The Six Motivations of a Serial Killer, Ted Bundy - The Charismatic Killer, John Wayne Gacy - The Killer Clown

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