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.