Written By: Stephanie Pislis
Edited By: Grave Reviews Staff
Dennis Rader, better known as the BTK killer, is a serial killer known for the murder of ten people in Wichita, Kansas. His killings spread out over a span of 17 years. BTK is a name chosen by Rader hims Written By: Stephanie Pislis
Edited By: Grave Reviews Staff elf and is an acronym standing for “bind, torture and kill,” the way in which Rader’s murders would unfold.
The Early Years
Dennis Lynn Rader was born on March 9th, 1945 in Pittsburgh, Kansas and grew up in Wichita with his family and three younger siblings. Despite having been raised with a seemingly normal upbringing, Rader nonetheless displayed early signs of sadistic behaviour, behaviours and acts that are often shared amongst future serial killers. It is said that as a child Rader would capture and torture small animals in order to satiate his sadistic urges. As a teenager, Dennis developed an obsession with women’s underwear and would steal and wear the undergarments whenever the chance would arise. Once his crime spree begun, Rader would continue this habit of stealing and wearing the undergarments of his female victims.
The Otero Massacre
Rader’s first murder was a very elaborate crime that took place on January 15, 1974. Rather than a single murder, Rader’s first kill consisted of taking the lives of four family members of the Otero family. The victims consisted of Joseph Otero, 38, his wife, Julie Otero, 33 and their two children Joseph Jr and Josephine aged 9 and 11. Rader had sat outside the house in his car, watching the premise and waiting for the perfect opportunity to begin the massacre. Rader had cut the phone lines and, according to his detailed account of the crime, he considered walking away from the scene for he was unsure if he could go through with such a heinous deed. However, while waiting outside the home, Joseph Jr, the youngest son, had opened the front door to let the family dog out. Rader took advantage of this ideal opportunity to enter the home. He barged in and immediately drew out a pistol while forcing the four terrified victims into a bedroom.
BTK Killer – Bind, Torture and Kill
He proceeded to strangle the family members, starting first with the parents and then moving on to the youngest son. However, being an inexperienced murderer, Rader had miscalculated the amount of force, strength and time it takes in order to strangle someone to death. Even though one might pass out within seconds of asphyxiation, death from strangulation can actually take several minutes to occur. While Rader would move from family member to family member, the previously strangled victim would in turn wake up from the failed strangulation attempt. Frustrated, Rader then began experimenting with different methods of asphyxiation and placed plastic bags and t-shirts over the heads of his victims. Finally, after successfully strangulating three of the four family members, Rader took Josephine, the 11-year-old girl down to the basement where he hung her from a water pipe and proceeded to masturbate at the site of her lifeless body. The gruesome scene was later discovered by Charlie Otero, the family’s eldest son upon his arrival home from school.
His second murder took place less than 3 months after the Otero killings. Rader randomly selected his victim by stalking her and watching her from a distance. Kathyrn Bright and her brother Kevin Bright had returned home one evening and were greeted by the BTK killer who had broken into their home. At gunpoint, Kevin was instructed to tie his sister up. Rader shot Kevin twice before attempting to strangle Kathryn to death. However, seeing that his victim was putting up too much of a struggle, Rader stabbed the 21-year-old woman several times in the abdomen. Kathryn died instantly from her wounds. However, despite two gunshot wounds, Kevin miraculously managed to escape. His wounds were treated and despite giving the police a detailed description of the maniac, Rader managed to escape suspicion once again.
Three years passed before his next two killings would occur. Shirley Vian and Nancy Fox were both murdered by strangulation. After these murders, 8 years passed before the next murders, and finally his last murder took place in 1991. During this 17-year murder spree, Rader had continued to live a perfectly normal life. He was married with two children and had kept a decent job where he would, ironically, install home alarm systems in people’s homes. Rader was also an active member of his local church and was very good at keeping his malicious crimes a secret.
A Cry For Attention
In 2004, the year marking of the 30-year anniversary of the Otero killings, the local news stations and media sources were flooded with the grim memory of the Otero massacre. Rader, seeing this reminder on the news, began to experience a wicked sense of nostalgia. He decided to, once again, anonymously contact the media and police with not one, but eleven forms of communication. These pathetic cries for attention and fame included anonymously sending the police detailed accounts, pictures and even personal belongings from the scenes of his murders. He was essentially providing evidence for the crimes that he had committed. Rader gained great pleasure in taunting the police with the fact that he had successfully evaded their grasp for so many years. He continued to believe that he would eternally remain anonymous.
It wasn’t long after, in February of 2005, that the authorities managed to put the pieces together and arrested Rader as the infamous BTK killer. Video camera surveillance from his local church had managed to capture footage of the killer’s white van that police had associated him with. DNA samples from his daughter also aided in identifyiny and determining that Rader was in fact the real BTK killer. He was charged with 10 accounts of first-degree murder and is still, at the age of 74, serving ten consecutive life sentences in the El Dorado Correctional Facility in Kansas.