Everything You Need To Know About BTK, The Disturbing Killer Shown In ‘Mindhunter’

The second season of “Mindhunter” dives deeper into Dennis Rader’s twisted psyche and the gruesome murders he committed in Wichita, Kansas.

By Aly Vander Hayden

During season one of “Mindhunter,” we got our first glimpse at Sonny Valicenti’s portrayal of Dennis Rader, a onetime ADT Security Services employee who terrorized Wichita, Kansas, for almost 20 years as the BTK serial killer

Shown through several introductory episodic vignettes that take place in Wichita and Park City, Kansas, we witness Rader staking out a neighborhood, mailing a letter, tying a rope into a knot, and gathering a kill kit containing tape, rubber gloves, a heavy parka, and a gun. 

While Rader’s life seems to run unnoticed and parallel to the FBI's Behavioral Science Unit’s study on serial killers — founded by agents Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff) and Bill Tench (Holt McCallany), and psychologist Wendy Carr (Anna Torv) — this all changes in season two.  

At the beginning of the second episode, Tench travels to Kansas to interview Kevin Bright, the only surviving victim of BTK (the nickname Rader has, standing for Bind, Torture, Kill). Kevin Bright is a real person – he did, in fact, come face to face with Rader and live.

On April 4, 1974, Rader broke into the home of 21-year-old Kathryn Bright while she was out and waited for her to return. 

When she did, however, she was with her 19-year-old brother, Kevin. While Rader held them at gunpoint, he had Kevin tie up Kathryn, and then Rader took him to another room and restrained him with rope, reported CNN. He ended up shooting Kevin, who was able to escape, and then strangled and fatally stabbed Kathryn several times in the abdomen. 

Btk Killer Dennis Rader and Sonny Valicenti as Dennis Rader in "Mindhunter"

“Mindhunter” season two also dives deeper into Rader’s twisted psyche and consuming sexual obsession with autoerotic asphyxiation. In the opening scene, Rader’s wife, Joanne (Katherine Banks), catches him in the bathroom wearing a woman’s mask with a rope around his neck. This act is mirrored in the finale, when Rader, dressed in women’s clothing, puts on the mask, ties a rope around his neck, and chokes himself inside a motel room. Trophies from his victims are spread across the bed, and a tripod and camera are set up nearby. 

Rader did admit to taking several photographs of himself in a state of "autoerotic activity," which involved Rader limiting his own oxygen supply to experience "a heightened feeling of euphoria during sexual release," according to CNN.

Rader would often relive "the ecstasy of the murder" by taking photographs of himself in the victims' clothing, reported CBS News, allowing him to "live in that moment for years.” 

Although season two ends in 1981, Rader’s murders continued until 1991, when he strangled his 10th and final victim, 62-year-old Dolores E. Davis. However, Rader wouldn't be caught for another decade: Rader often sent taunting letters and messages to local media, and he was captured in 2005 after he sent a floppy disk — which contained metadata from a deleted document that tied him to the murders — to Wichita’s KSAS-TV. 

Rader eventually confessed to being BTK, sharing details of the killings and telling detectives where they could find evidence in his “hidey holes,” scattered throughout Wichita. On June 27, 2005, Dennis Rader pleaded guilty to 10 counts of first-degree murder and he later received the maximum sentence of 10 consecutive life terms.

He is currently incarcerated at the maximum-security El Dorado Correctional Facility near Wichita, where he is being held in solitary confinement for his own safety. 

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