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Task Force Bravo

The BTK Killer

Dennis Lynn Rader (born March 9, 1945) is an American serial killer who murdered 10 people in Sedgwick County (in and around Wichita, Kansas), between 1974 and 1991. He was known as the BTK killer (or the BTK strangler), which stands for "bind, torture and kill" and describes his modus operandi. He sent boastful letters describing the details of the killings to police and to local news outlets during the period of time in which the murders took place. After a long hiatus in the 1990s, he resumed sending letters in 2004, leading to his 2005 arrest and subsequent conviction.Confirmed Kills:

  • January 15, 1974: Four members of the Otero family
    • Joseph Otero
    • Julie Otero, Joseph's wife
    • Joseph Otero II, son
    • Josephine Otero, daughter
  • April 4, 1974: Kathryn Bright (he also shot Bright's brother, Kevin, twice, but he survived)
  • March 17, 1977: Shirley Vian
  • December 8, 1977: Nancy Fox
  • April 27, 1985: Marine Hedge
  • September 16, 1986: Vicki Wegerle
  • January 19, 1991: Dolores Davis

Arrest and Conviction

By 2004, the investigation of the BTK Killer had gone cold. Then, Rader sent a letter to the police, claiming responsibility for a killing that had previously not been attributed to him. DNA collected from under the fingernails of that victim provided police with previously unknown evidence. They then began DNA testing hundreds of men in an effort to find the serial killer. Altogether, some 1100 DNA samples would be taken.

The police corresponded with the BTK Killer (Rader) in an effort to gain his confidence. Then, in one of his communications with police, Rader asked them if it was possible to trace information from floppy disks. The police department replied that there was no way of knowing what computer such a disk had been used on, when in fact such ways existed. Rader then sent his message and floppy to the police department, which quickly checked the metadata of the Microsoft Word document. In the metadata, they found that the document had been made by a man who called himself Dennis. They also found a link to the Lutheran Church. When the police searched on the Internet for 'Lutheran Church Wichita Dennis', they found his family name, and were able to identify a suspect: Dennis Rader, a Lutheran Deacon. The police also knew BTK owned a black Jeep Cherokee. When investigators drove by Rader's house they noticed a black Jeep Cherokee parked outside.

The police now had strong circumstantial evidence against Rader, but they needed more direct evidence in order to detain him. They controversially obtained a warrant to test the DNA of a Pap smear Rader's daughter had taken at the University of Kansas medical clinic while she was a student there. The DNA of the Pap smear was a near match to the DNA of the sample taken from the victim's fingernails indicating that the killer was closely related to Rader's daughter. This was the evidence the police needed to make an arrest.

On February 25, 2005, Rader was detained near his home in Park City and accused of the BTK killings. At a press conference the next morning, Wichita Police Chief Norman Williams announced, "the bottom line... BTK is arrested." Rader pleaded guilty to the murders on June 27, 2005, giving a graphic account of his crimes in court. On August 18, 2005, he was sentenced to serve 10 consecutive life sentences, one life sentence per murder victim. This included nine life sentences that each had the possibility of parole after 15 years, and one life sentence with the possibility of parole after 40 years. It meant that, in total, Rader would be eligible for parole after 175 years of imprisonment. This result guaranteed that Rader would spend the rest of his life in prison, without any possibility of parole.

Rader was ineligible for the death penalty, because Kansas did not have a death penalty during the period of time in which he committed his crimes. Kansas reinstated death penalty laws in 1994.

My job: Re-route evidence (books), edit the Coroner’s report.

What they didn’t tell you:

His body count was probably closer to 100. All males killed were just unfortunate to be there at the time. All of the killings had ritualistic elements. So much for him being a devout Lutheran. The collection of books removed from a secret compartment in his shed were never cataloged or mentioned in the court proceedings. Neither was the pound of flesh that was removed from each female victim. Makes you wonder “why”? 

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