June 27: On This Day in Criminal History: BTK

27 Jun

On this day in 2005, Dennis Rader, the self-monikered BTK (Bind, Torture, Kill) serial killer pled guilty to 10 murders that took place between 1974 and 1991, ending one of the longest and most disturbing chapters in serial killer history. If you look up Psychopath in the dictionary it’ll be a picture of Rader.


His killing career began in the 1970s in Wichita, Kansas, where he bound, tortured, and murdered his victims in a horrific manner. He continued killing into the 1990s. His MO was to suffocate or strangle his victims to near death, revive them, and then do it again. Over and over, until he finally killed them. His victims were mostly women but his first attack was on a family of four, Joseph and Julie Otero and their children Joseph II and Josephine.

He sent taunting letters to the police and to local newspapers, graphically detailing the killings. He fell silent in 1991 and wasn’t heard from again until 2004 when he revived his letter-writing campaign, an act that led to his capture. The case had gone cold, the police having exhausted all their investigative avenues. Rader, apparently missing the limelight, sent another letter to police in which he confessed to a killing that had not previously been attributed to BTK. DNA from tissues found beneath that victim’s fingernails then moved front and center. Eleven hundred DNA samples were taken from local men but none proved to match.

Then Rader screwed up. In an act of incredible stupidity, he sent a letter to the police asking if there was any way to trace a floppy disc–remember those?–to a specific computer. The police lied, telling him there wasn’t. Rader then sent a message on a floppy. The police quickly analyzed the metadata on the disc and linked it to a computer at a local Lutheran Church, where Rader was a Deacon. His arrest followed. Maybe that’s what he wanted. Maybe he was tired of hiding out. Maybe he simply wanted credit. I’d bet on the latter.

One the most disturbing images of this creature took place during his in-court confessions, where he calmly and matter-of-factly documented each of the 10 murders in very graphic detail. Since the death penalty in Kansas was on hiatus during the time of the killings, he received 10 life sentences. He’ll be eligible for parole in 175 years. What’s that? 2180? Haley’s Comet will lap past us twice between now and then (2061 & 2136). Bet Dennis will miss both of those.

Wikipedia Article

TruTV Crime Library Article

Haley’s Comet


3 responses to “June 27: On This Day in Criminal History: BTK

  1. T. D. McKinney

    June 27, 2009 at 1:15 pm

    Though a fascinating case, I can’t say I’m looking forward to climbing into Rader’s head for an upcoming book. The more I find out about him the more disturbing I find him. The thought of interviewing him is chilling. I’ll do it but I’ll be sure to take anti-nausea meds first.


  2. Steven Walker

    June 27, 2009 at 8:10 pm

    More recently, Timothy Krajcir has received 13 consecutive life sentences with no chance of parole in connection with multilple rapes, assaults and convictions of seven murders. Krajcir has already confessed to two more murders for which his trials are pending, and he is under investigation for even more unsolved murders. The media has not given him as much attention as it has to the BTK murderer, but Krajcir’s methods were equally, if not even more brutal, often committing his crimes in the presence of his victims’ children. The definitive account of Krajcir’s killing spree, which terrorized areas of Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky and Pennsylvania is detailed in Steven Walker’s latest true-crime book, Predator, which will be released by Kensington Publishing in the beginning of 2010.


    • D.P. Lyle, MD

      June 28, 2009 at 8:42 am

      Yes, Krajcir was a very bad dude and did some awful things to his victims. I guess the media latched on to BTK because of the moniker he gave himself–much like the Zodiac–and because he communicated with the police and the media so frequently. Then disappearing for over a decade left everyone in Wichita with a very uneasy feeling—he was still out there somewhere.

      Hope the book does well. Can’t wait to read it.



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