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Dennis Lynn RADER






A.K.A.: "The BTK killer"
Classification: Serial killer
Characteristics: Sadist - Fetishist
Number of victims: 10
Date of murders: 1974 - 1991
Date of arrest: February 25, 2005
Date of birth: March 9, 1945

Victims profile: Joseph Otero, 38, his wife Julie, 34, and two of their children: Joseph II, 9, and Josephine, 11 / Kathryn Bright, 21 / Shirley Vian, 24 / Nancy Fox, 25 / Marine Hedge, 53 / Vicki Wegerle, 28 / Dolores E. Davis, 62

Method of murder: Ligature strangulation - Stabbing with knife
Location: Sedgwick County, Kansas, USA
Status: Sentenced to serve 10 consecutive life sentences on August 18, 2005. Rader would be eligible for parole after 175 years of imprisonment

Dennis Rader - BTK killer - A biography

 Childhood, Adolescence, Adulthood pre-1974



Dennis Rader was born in a quiet corner of Kansas, close to where Kansas, Oklahoma and Missouri all meet, on March 9, 1945. He was the first of four sons born to William and Dorothea Rader. He was baptized at Zion Lutheran Church in Pittsburg, Kansas. His father was a member of the US Marine Corps, who later worked for the electric utility KG&E starting in 1948. The family moved to the largest city in Kansas, Wichita, when Dennis was a young boy. The Raders settled into a modest but pleasant home at 4815 N. Seneca, which remained continually as a Rader household until sold in 2005.


Not much is known about Rader's childhood. Is said to have joined the Boy Scouts as a youth. He attended Riverview Elementary School. By his own admission, he says he developed fantasies about bondage, control and torture from an early age, while still in grade school. As he became pubic he dreamed of tying girls up and having his way with them. The Mouseketeer Annette Funicello was one of his favorite targets for imaginary bondage. He admits to having killed cats and dogs such as by hanging them as a youth.


Those who knew him personally describe a quiet and polite young man who preferred to keep to himself. Dennis Rader was not a joiner or known to be very socially active in high school. The young Dennis showed no interest in the music of the times. One friend described him as utterly lacking a sense of humor, but tending to be studious and focused. He was described as a person who chose his words before speaking, and who would give you his full attention as he spoke.


Dennis Rader graduated from Wichita Heights High School, class of 1963. In his latter adolescence he appears to have had employment, such as working in a grocery store. It wasn't until the fall of 1965 that he entered Kansas Wesleyan College in Salina, too far away from Wichita to live at home. He only did two semesters there. In the summer of 1966 at age 21 Rader joined the US Air Force.


Rader was first sent to Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas for basic training. He spent time at Sheppard Air Force Base in Wichita Falls, Texas while doing technical training there. In early 1967 Rader was stationed at Brookley Air Force Base in Mobile, Alabama and appears to have been there until January, 1968, when he was sent to Kadena Air Force Base in Okinawa in the west Pacific. (Keep in mind that Air Force personnel typically travel quite a bit regardless of where they are based.)


Rader remained stationed in tropical Okinawa for six months. In July 1968 he was moved to mainland Japan, stationed at the large Tachikawa Air Base located near Tokyo. He appears to have been based there until the end of his service in 1970. By his own description, he also spent time in Korea, Greece and Turkey while serving in the Air Force.


Rader's four years on active duty in the Air Force appear to have been unremarkble. He attained the rank of sargeant and worked in the installation of antenna equipment, among other tasks. One former buddy from those times was totally shocked when he found out Rader was BTK in 2005.

Dennis was just one of the guys, he said, just sort of blended in. Rader received the Air Force Good Conduct Medal, the Small Arms Expert Marksmanship Ribbon and the National Defense Service Medal, was discharged from active duty in the summer of 1970 and returned to his home town of Wichita, Kansas. He would serve two more years in the reserves.


Less than a year after his return to Wichita, on May 22, 1971 Dennis Rader and Paula Dietz were married. Paula was also from the same area and had attended the same high school. She was also a fellow Lutheran. Dennis was 26, Paula was 23 when they got married. They settled in Park City, not far from the Rader home in north Wichita. Dennis was working in the meat department of an IGA supermarket, Paula was a bookkeeper.

In 1972 Rader went to work at the Coleman Co., a manufacturer of camping supplies and Wichita's largest employer at the time. He lasted 13 months there until July 1973. He was also attending Butler County Community College in El Dorado, and earned an Associate's (2 year) degree in Electronics in 1973.

In the fall of 1973 Rader began his studies at Wichita State University. It would take him six more years of night school to earn his degree. He was a poor student, even by his own description, a chronic C minus or D level. He couldn't spell and may have had a learning disability reflected in his unusually bad written grammar.

In late 1973 or early 1974 he appears to have had a brief stint working for Cessna, the aircraft manufacturer, but says he was fired from that job. He found himself in a low frame of mind, unemployed, unhappy, with time on his hands. He slipped deeper into the fantasy world he had known since childhood and wanted to know: what would it feel like to strangle somebody to death?



In January, 1974 Dennis Rader was in between jobs and restless. His wife worked at the VA Hospital in Wichita and didn't like driving in snow and ice, so Dennis would sometimes drive her to and from work.

He enjoyed "trolling", which consisted of driving or walking around certain neighborhoods or school campuses where there would be women to observe. He would focus in on a good prospect and enter into his fantasy realm of bondage, torture and death, imagining what he would do to her. Bind them, torture them, kill them.


There was a new Hispanic family that had moved into a corner house at Edgemoor and Murdock, and one day while dropping Paula off he spied Julie Otero, age 34, and her daughter Josephine, age 11. He had a thing for Hispanic women, admired their beauty and dark hair.



Rader devised a plan. He gathered together his hit kit, consisting of a gun, cords, knives, various tools for breaking and entering. He observed the Otero house for a time, getting an idea of when people left or returned, what their daily schedule was like.

On the morning of January 15, he could wait no longer. After 8 a.m. he came around the house, snuck into the yard and cut the phone line. Hesitating at the back door, unsure if he could go through with it, he barged in. Things were not as he had expected.

The man of the house, Joe Otero, 38, was still home, as were Julie, Josephine and Joey, the 9 year old son. Their rather vicious dog was in the house also. Rader seized control of the situation, ordering Joey to put the dog in the back yard at gunpoint. He somehow was able to control all four people using the gun. He told them he was a wanted criminal and needed money, food and a car to escape.

At first Joe was dumbfounded and asked him if this was some kind of a joke set up by his brother-in-law. Rader ordered everyone to lie down in the living room, then changed his mind and sent them all into a bedroom. Using his vagrant ruse, he was able to disalarm the Oteros enough to get them all tied up.


However everything changed when Rader put a bag over Joe's head. Joe fought hard, tearing holes in the bag. Rader had to devise a cord ligature to subdue him and kill him.

He attempted to manually strangle Julie, but it took considerably longer and much more effort to strangle someone than it did in the movies. Julie passed out, but revived after a time. The second strangulation attempt worked. She had begged Rader not to kill the children, and told him, "God have mercy on your soul".


Nine year old Joey was the next one to die. Rader herded him into his bedroom and did him in through strangulation and suffocation. He apparently rolled off the bed and died facedown on the bedroom floor. Rader says he brought a chair into the bedroom and sat there to watch the boy die.


Eleven year old Josie was the final one. After a failed attempt at strangulation she revived. Rader forced her to walk down to the basement. He put a noose around her neck and informed her she would be going to heaven to join the others.

He had asked her for a camera, but she said they didn't have one. Josie was hanged from a sewer pipe in the basement, left partially disrobed. Rader then masturbated over her bare legs, leaving some semen on the pipe behind her.


Afterwards Rader tidied up a bit, collected his things and left after a time. He took Joe's watch and a small radio. He got into their Oldsmobile station wagon, backed out onto Murdock Street and nearly had a collision with an oncoming vehicle. Rader drove to a nearby supermarket, Dillon's, and parked the car.

A lady saw him exiting the car shaking like a leaf. He stealthily tossed the car keys onto the roof of Dillon's and exited the area on foot. After that he claims he walked to his own car, but realized his knife was missing. He claims to have driven back to the Otero house, parked his car in their garage, and then retrieved the knife from the yard.


Rader had no idea that the Oteros had three other older children, all of whom had left for school before his arrival. Charlie, 15, Daniel, 14 and Carmen, 13 were the ones who found their parents dead when they arrived home from school that afternoon. (Photo and a story of the surviving Oteros from


In April, 1974 Rader was stalking a woman named Kathryn Bright, 21. He had seen her one day entering the home she rented in Wichita. On April 4 he broke into the home via the back porch door. He hid in a bedroom.

Around 2 pm Kathryn arrived home, accompanied by her brother Kevin who was 19 years old. Kevin didn't live there, but had gone with his sister that day to the bank. Rader startled them by emerging from the bedroom pointing a gun at them.

He recited the same story he had told the Oteros, he was a wanted criminal from California on his way to New York, and needed a car and money. Rader forced the two of them in a bedroom, where Kathryn was tied up by Kevin forced at gunpoint and/or by Rader himself.

He attempted to tie Kevin up in another room, but he hadn't brought his best hit kit materials that day and had to improvise from materials found in the home. Kevin worked his way loose and got into a vicious fight for his life with Rader, nearly succeeding in taking the gun from him.


Rader grabbed back the gun and got off a shot that hit Kevin in the face. Still fighting, Kevin made one more attempt to overpower Rader but got shot a second time in the head. Stunned and bleeding, Kevin appeared to be dead or dying and Rader went back to work on Kathryn.

She gave him a powerful fight also, but in order to end the scene quickly Rader switched from attempted strangulation to stabbing, getting her with deep cuts to the abdomen and other areas.

Meanwhile Kevin had revived and ran out of the house screaming for help. This necessitated Rader having to make a hasty exit, and he did, running from the scene on foot. He ran the many blocks to where his car was parked and drove off. He was all cleaned up by the time his wife got off work, and no one suspected him.

Kathryn died in the hospital a few hours later despite urgent attempts to save her with surgery and blood transfusions. Kevin was left in critical condition with his head wounds but survived. He still bears the damage done to him that day. (Photo and a story about Kevin Bright from

In October, 1974 an editor of the Wichita Eagle newspaper received a phone call directing him to a letter hidden in an engineering book at the Wichita Public Library. He notified police instead, who found the letter at the library. It was a gruesome description of the unsolved Otero murders by someone with a good knowledge of the crime scene.

It was written in poor English with numerous misspellings. The writer was concerned that the police had recently arrested the wrong men for the Otero murders, and proudly proclaimed, " I did it myself with noone's help". He said, "the code words for me will be... Bind them, toture them, kill them, B.T.K..."



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