The BTK Killer, known as Dennis Rader to his family and church community, terrorized the city and surrounding areas of Wichita, Kansas from 1974 to 1992.
Who Is the BTK Killer?
Rader grew up in blue-collar suburban Wichita, having a seemingly ordinary childhood except for two big warning signs: he secretly strangled stray animals to death and once he felt aroused when his mother’s ring caught in a couch spring and she was unable to free herself.
After dropping out of college, Rader served in the Air Force until he returned to his hometown, married and had two kids. He worked for ADT Security Services, a home and business alarm installation company.
Rader started killing in 1974 when he tied up and strangled all four members of the Otero family to death. Rader initially stalked mother Julie Otero, a former coworker back when Rader worked at the Coleman Company in the early ‘70s, and later forced his way into her family home, killing her as well as her husband and two children.
According to a letter he wrote to The Wichita Eagle in 1974, BTK stands for “Bind, Torture, Kill.” The letter, filled with misspellings and grammar mistakes, detailed the Otero killings and warned them that there would be more victims to come.
Rader was skilled at hiding in plain sight. During the several decades he spent as a serial killer, Rader was also a volunteer Scout Leader for his son’s troop, an active members of a Lutheran church, and a compliance officer supervisor in 1991. He even earned a Bachelor’s degree for criminal justice two years prior. In January of 1991, Rader tied and strangled an elderly woman before returning to a Boy Scout camping trip. There are no further records of murders or murder attempts since then.
An End to BTK’s Anonymity
Rader’s anonymity continued for over 30 years even as he conducted indirect communication with local media and authorities, from letters claiming he used to be a “Peeping Tom” who stole woman’s panties to leaving behind mementos of his crime scenes. It wasn’t until Rader sent a floppy disk to KSAS-TV in 2005 that police tracked him to his church and residence. The BTK Killer was arrested at age 60 in February of that same year, later pleading guilty to 10 first-degree murders. Sentenced to 10 consecutive life terms, BTK lives in solitary confinement at El Dorado Correctional Facility, a maximum-security prison less than 40 miles from the city he terrorized.
Curious about how BTK hid in plain sight? Watch Oxygen’s “Snapped: Notorious The BTK Serial Killer” to learn more about how Rader was able to keep his cover and ultimately expose himself to the police.