Childhood & Early Life
Dennis Lynn Rader was born on March 9, 1945, in Pittsburg, Kansas, U.S. to Dorothea Mae Rader (née Cook) and William Elvin Rader as one of their four sons. He was raised in Wichita. His father was a member of the US Marine Corps, who later worked for the electric utility KG&E.
He attended Riverview Elementary School. As a young boy, he was reserved and quiet. Even though he started developing some disturbing habits during his childhood, he managed to keep them hidden from the world.
As an adolescent, he fantasized of tying up and raping girls. Around this time, he also started killing animals like dogs and cats by torturing and hanging them. However, he was good at hiding his dark side and came across to the outside world as a polite and shy young man.
He graduated from Wichita Heights High School in 1963. He then worked for a few months before entering the Kansas Wesleyan College in 1965. He studied for only two semesters there and joined the US Air Force in 1966.
Dennis Rader spent four years on active duty in the Air Force. Over the course of his tenure he received the Air Force Good Conduct Medal, the Small Arms Expert Marksmanship Ribbon and the National Defense Service Medal. He was discharged from active duty in 1970. He would serve two more years in the reserves.
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Serial Killing Years
Upon his return to Wichita, Dennis Rader took up a job at the meat department of an IGA supermarket. He changed his job in 1972 and joined Coleman Co., a manufacturer of camping supplies.
Around this time, he also attended the Butler County Community College in El Dorado, and earned an Associate's degree in Electronics in 1973. The same year, he began his studies at Wichita State University.
In the early 1970s he worked in a string of jobs, never staying at one place for long. It is believed that he worked briefly for Cessna, the aircraft manufacturer, in late 1973 or early 1974. This job too did not last long and he was soon fired.
Finding himself unemployed and in a disturbed state of mind, he delved deeper into the dark fantasies that had haunted his mind from childhood. Around this time he became obsessed with a Hispanic woman, Julie Otero, and her daughter, Josephine, who lived in a nearby locality. He started trolling them, hanging out around their house, and fantasizing about binding and torturing them.
On January 15, 1974, Dennis Rader broke into the woman’s house with some tools and weapons. There were four people present inside: Julie Otero, her husband Joseph Otero, and two of their children, Joseph Jr. and Josephine. He killed all four of them and made good his escape.
On April 4, 1974, the killer struck again, killing 21-year-old Kathryn Bright by stabbing her multiple times. He also attacked her brother Kevin and shot him twice, but Kevin managed to survive.
The murders shook the Kansas police and the citizens alike. However, the police was unsuccessful in getting any meaningful clues about the killer. In October 1974, Rader started sending a series of chilling letters to the police, outlining the gruesome details of the murders he had committed and claimed to be the “BTK” aka “Bind, Torture, Kill” murderer.
In November 1974, Dennis Rader found a job with ADT Security, a company specializing in the installation of alarm systems. Married with children by now, he now focused more on his career and rose to the position of installation supervisor. With this promotion came more freedom, and once again he started killing.
In 1977, Dennis Rader struck twice. In March, he strangled Shirley Vian to death and later that year, he murdered Nancy Fox. Once again he sent letters to the police claiming responsibility for the killings, signing off as “the BTK killer.”
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The 1977 murders sent shock waves once again throughout Kansas and the police issued a public warning to the citizens, advising them to be more cautious as a serial killer was on the prowl. The increased police vigilance made Rader a bit wary and he did not kill again for a few years.
The late 1970s and the early 1980s marked a busy time for Dennis Rader. With a stable job and two children to raise, he did not find time to plan out more murders. However, he never stopped stalking potential victims or playing out murderous fantasies in his head.
In 1985, he struck again. The victim this time was someone Rader and his wife knew personally: his 53-year-old neighbor Marine Hedge. He broke into her home on April 27, 1985, killed her, undressed the body, and loaded it into her car. Then he drove to the church where he took some pictures with the dead body and eventually dumped the body in a road side culvert a few miles away from her house. Her body was found a few days later.
After more than one year, Dennis Rader killed again. His chosen victim was a young mother, Vicki Wegerle. He gained entry into her house posing as a telephone repairman and then strangled her to death. Then he escaped in Wegerle’s family car.
It would be a few more years before the BTK killer would strike again. On January 19, 1991, he broke into the house of an elderly lady, Dolores Davis, strangulated her to death, and then dumped the body under a bridge. This would be his last killing.
Dennis Rader was a very shrewd man, adept at living a double life. In the early 1990s, he became a dogcatcher and compliance officer in Park City. He was also a member of Christ Lutheran Church and had been elected president of the church council. Retired from his serial-killing days, he was living the life of a normal, respectable member of the society.
Arrest & Incarceration
By the 2000s, the public interest in the BTK killer had faded off to a great extent. It was believed that the killer was dead, or maybe institutionalized. This greatly agitated Dennis Rader, and being the narcissist that he was, he started sending a series of letters to the police once again to revive interest in the BTK murders.
After sending many letters to the police, Rader sent them a floppy disc. This proved to be his major mistake as the police was able to trace the source of the floppy disc to the church Rader frequented. Soon the detectives were able to pinpoint Rader as the suspected BTK killer and he was arrested on February 25, 2005.
Under interrogation, Dennis Rader confessed to being the BTK killer. He was convicted of ten murders and received ten consecutive life sentences. Currently, he is incarcerated at the El Dorado Correctional Facility in Kansas.