A Master Serial Murderer: Dennis Rader

Updated on September 12, 2019
Dennis Rader
Dennis Rader | Source

Dennis Lynn Rader was born March 9th, 1945, in Pittsburg, Kansas. Dennis is an American serial murderer who murdered ten people between the years of 1974 and 1991. He gave himself the name “BTK” because he would bind, torture, and kill his victims.

Life as a Normal Guy

Rader’s parents raised him in Wichita, Kansas, and lived an average life. Rader’s violence began in his childhood; he stated, “It started in grade school. I used to make sketches even back then. Annette Funicello was my favorite fantasy hit target when she was on the Mouseketeers. I had these imaginary stories of how I was going to get her, kidnap her, and do sexual things to her in California.”

As a child, he was also obsessed with mummies and told Agent Thomas, “Mummy was always a big favorite; they bound people up.” Rader confessed to strangling animals when he was young, too.

In the 1960s, Rader served in the United States Air Force, and in 1970 he went back to Wichita and got married. He and his wife had two children, a boy, and a girl. He even graduated from college with a degree in criminal justice.

Rader was an active member of his church, and he was a boy scout leader. It is unimaginable how he was able to live two different lives, for over 30 years, without any issues.

The Murders

The Oteros

Dennis Rader somehow avoided authorities for 31 years. The 31 years started in 1974 when Rader went to the home of the Oteros. Rader parked his car and walked to the Otero household. He entered the house, only expecting Mrs. Otero and the little girl, and discovered Mr. Otero and a little boy were there, too. Rader said his “original idea was to get Mrs. Otero or Josephine (the little girl) in bed and have sex with them and strangle them.”

Instead, Rader tied Mr. Otero up first, then tied Mrs. Otero up. He put a bag over Mr. Otero’s head, strangled Mrs. Otero, and then put a bag over Joseph’s (the little boy) head. Rader had to strangle Mrs. Otero twice, and after that, he strangled Josephine. The little girl “woke up” from the first choking, so Rader took her down to the basement. In the basement, Rader hung Josephine from a sewage pipe and then reached sexual gratification. Finally, Dennis Rader took the family’s car and left the Otero house.

Kathryn Bright

In April of 1974, Rader got his second “hit”, Kathryn Bright. That situation didn’t go as planned for Rader either. He ended up having to stab Kathryn to death and shot her brother twice in the face. The brother lived, though, and managed to escape.

Shirley Vian

In March of 1977, Rader killed Shirley Vian by strangulation. He entered her home and discovered three kids there as well. He locked the three kids into the bathroom and then tied Shirley up to her bed, pushed the bed up against the door, and strangled her.

Nancy Fox

On December 9th of 1977, Nancy Fox fell victim to Rader’s hands. The police found Nancy lying face down on her bed. She was bound at her feet and tied at her hands, with pieces of her clothing. The cops found semen on a nightgown next to Nancy, and she had pantyhose around her neck. Nancy’s cause of death was also strangulation.

Marine Hedge

Rader got his next victim in April of 1985, Marine Hedge. The police found her body in a ditch, and she, too, had been bound, tortured, and killed.

Vicki Wegerle

On September 16th, 1986, Gordon Wegerle came home to find his wife Vicki Wegerle, tied up and dead on the floor next to their bed. Her cause of death was determined to be asphyxiation and strangulation.

Dolores Davis

In February of 1991, a 15-year-old boy was walking his dog and stumbled across Dolores Davis’ corpse. There was a pair of pantyhose around her neck, around her knees, around her ankles, and her wrists. Dennis Rader’s final victim died from ligature strangulation.

How Did Rader Get Caught?

Throughout the 31 years of Rader strangling people, he also occasionally sent notes, letters, victim’s belongings, drawings, etc. to the police.

In January of 2005, Rader sent out some communication to law enforcement asking, “Can I communicate with Floppy and not be traced to a computer?” He went on to request for them to be honest with him. Rader told the authorities to run an ad in the newspaper that stated, “Rex, it will be OK if a floppy cannot be traced.” He promised a “floppy for a test run” in the near future, and the police put out the ad.

On February 16th, 2005, Rader sent out another package with more notes and a computer disk. A detective examined the properties section of the document on the floppy, and he located the name “Dennis” and “Christ Lutheran Church”. Law enforcement quickly pieced everything together and obtained a biological sample from a medical procedure that was done on Rader’s daughter.

The DNA test matched Rader to his daughter and the DNA from the murder crime scenes paired with Rader.


BTK Is Finally Stopped

At around 12:15 P.M. on February 25th, 2005, the police took Dennis Rader into custody. BTK was finally under arrest. Rader confessed and in his statement described all ten murders in great detail. He was charged with ten counts of first-degree murder and is currently serving his ten life sentences in El Dorado Correctional Facility in Butler County, Kansas.


© 2019 Sarah Lyell


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