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Crime News Serial Killers

Forensic Psychologist Explains How Fantasies And Magazines Created The BTK Serial Killer

Forensic psychologist explains the influences that led to Dennis Lynn Rader becoming the BTK Serial Killer and why he had police address him by a nickname for his penis.

By Constance Johnson
Who Is The BTK Killer Dennis Rader?

A professor of forensic psychology explained on a podcast how police finally captured the BTK serial killer, Dennis Lynn Rader.

“…He seemed to have stopped in 1991 with the last one. And then all of a sudden in 2004, he came out to say, ‘Here I am, I’m still in Wichita.’ And he wanted to make a big splash by killing somebody because he wanted to create terror in the whole area. But he made a big mistake,” Dr. Katherine Ramsland said on the podcast Coptales and Cocktails.

“He kept communicating. And then one day — what he would do is he’d copy the things he had written and then copy the copies, copy the copies, and that was getting time-consuming. So, he asked them if he could communicate with a computer disk, ‘Could they trace him?’ And they were to put in the newspaper ‘Rex’ because that was the name of his penis. ‘Rex, it will be okay.’ And he bought it and sent the disk, and they traced him and got him.”

After he was arrested, Rader asked police why they lied to him and was told by an officer: “We wanted to catch you.”

Ramsland said she has known Rader for 11 years and spent five years working on what she called a “guided autobiography” with him.

“… He wanted to tell his story. I wanted it to be useful for criminology, psychology, and law enforcement. So, I guided him toward thinking about things that we would find useful.”

He was convicted of killing ten people but gave Ramsland a list of 55 targets with full descriptions of where they lived and how he had stalked them and what happened to them.

“He referred to his victims as projects, so that was his distancing mechanism,” she said.

Ramsland said that Rader’s fantasy life and detective magazines led to him becoming a serial killer. He started devouring True Detective magazines after discovering one under the driver’s seat of his dad’s car when he was 14.

“This actually goes back to that theory of the golden age of serial killers, the sexually compelled serial killers that we spend a lot of media energy on. A lot of them have talked about those True Detective magazines in the 1950s and '60s of scantily clad bound, terrified women that they fixated on. He’s one of those,” Ramsland said.

“So, bondage, that image of a terrified woman, his desire to dominate women because women had humiliated him and his desire to be famous. And he saw on these magazine stories about [serial killers] H.H. Holmes and Harvey Glatman and people like that. And then he saw all the media attention to Ted Bundy and some of the 70s serial killers, and he wanted that, too. So, his fantasy life is what propelled him. He was thinking all about these things and imagining himself as one of those elite serial killers.”

She said that as a child, Rader was already hanging cats and imagining trapping girls and tying them to railroad tracks.

Rader is serving a life sentence in the El Dorado Correctional Facility in Kansas. He is in solitary confinement, Ramsland said.

Ramsland said overall, there is a lot of diversity among serial killers and to understand them you have to take it case by case, rather than apply a formula.

She said she was most fascinated by Jack the Ripper.

“We don’t know that there is one person, called Jack the Ripper,” Ramsland said. “It isn’t that killer that fascinates me but all the different aspects of that case that need to be looked at. It’s a mystery. It’s a puzzle.”

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