Dennis Rader
Name Dennis Lynn Rader
Alias BTK
Ethan Truman
Happ Kakemann
Bill Thomas Killman
The BTK Strangler
The BTK Killer
The Wichita Strangler (self-named)
The Poetic Strangler (self-named)
The Asphyxiater (self-named)
The Garrote Phantom (self-named)
The Bondage Strangler (self-named)
The Wichita Hangman (self-named)
Gender Male
Birth Date March 9, 1945
Place of Birth Pittsburgh, Kansas
Job Alarm installer
Compliance officer
Boy Scout leader
Pathology Serial Killer
Family Annihilator
Modus Operandi Strangulation
Stabbing (once)
Type Organized lust
No. of Victims 10 killed
1 injured
1 attempted
Status Incarcerated

"How many do I have to Kill before I get a name in the paper or some national attention. [sic]"

Dennis Lynn Rader, a.k.a. "The BTK Killer", is an American serial killer.

Background Edit

Rader Age 17

Rader at age 17.

Rader was born the eldest of four sons to William Elvin Rader, a Kansas Gas & Electricity employee, and Dorothea Mae Cook, a bookkeeper. His brothers were named Jeff, Paul and Bill. Though he was born in Pittsburgh, Kansas, he was raised in Wichita, Kansas, where he attended Riverview School and graduated from the Wichita Heights High School. In 1957, he was confirmed into the Zion Lutheran Church. By his own account and several reports, he engaged in animal torture during his early years, hanging cats and dogs in barns, and harbored a sexual fetish for women's underwear. After attending the Kansas Wesleyan University between 1965 and 1966, he was in the U.S. Air Force until 1970, stationed in Texas, Alabama, Okinawa, South Korea, Greece, and Turkey. During this time, he would peep at women undressing and burglarize houses to steal womens' underwear. Sometime during the 1970s, he married and he and his wife, Paula, had two children, a boy and a girl.

When Rader returned to the U.S., he moved to Park City, a Wichita suburb, and attended the Butler County Community College of El Dorado, earning an associate degree in Electronics in 1973, and then enrolled with the Wichita State University the same fall, graduating in 1979 with a bachelor's degree in Administration of Justice. Throughout his life, he held down a number of different jobs, including working at a supermarket, as an assembler for a camping gear firm, briefly for Cessna and, between November 1974 to July 1988, held various positions at ADT Security, which at the time sold and installed commercial-grade alarms. In the early 1980s, he became a Cub Scout troop leader. During his time in that position, he would teach the boy scouts some of the knots he used in his murders. Also, in 1989, he worked as a census field operations supervisor of Wichita and was, in 1991, hired by the Compliance Department in Park City as a dogcatcher and compliance officer. He was later described as being extremely strict in his position and even overzealous. One nieghbor claimed he euthanized her dog for no reason. He was still working there at the time of his arrest and was also the congregation president of the Christ Lutheran Church.

Letters, Arrest, and Conviction Edit

BTK mail

Rader's correspondence.

Rader's killings occured between 1974 and 1991, during which time he killed a total of 10 people (the first four of whom were killed in one night). Occasionally, he took breaks from killing. Some such times were around the time that his children were born and he didn't have enough free time to stalk potential victims. During these periods, he would engage in auto-erotic behavior to keep his urges satisfied. He enjoyed performing self-bondage, sometimes wearing a mask he used during some murders or even female underwear he had taken from his victims. Throughout his serial killing career, Rader sent several taunting letters to the police and media in which he graphically described his murders. The first, written in October 1974, was stashed inside an engineering book in the Wichita Public Library. In 1978, he sent another to Wichita-based TV station KAKE in which he also suggested a number of names for himself, such as "The Wichita Strangler", "The Wichita Hangman", "The Asphyxiater" and, the name the public came to know him by, "The BTK Killer", signifying his M.O.: "Bind, Torture, Kill". The next letters did not come until later. In 2004, the newspaper The Wichita Eagle received a letter from someone using the return address "Bill Thomas Killman". The writer of the letter claimed responsibility for the September 16, 1986 murder of Vicki Wegerle through a series of crime scene photos, details about the murder, and a photocopy of her driver's license. Prior to this, the murder had not definitely been tied to BTK.

KAKE also received a word puzzle containing words like "FANTASIES", "REALTOR", "SERVICEMAN" and "TELEPHONE" in May 2004. On December 8 of 2004, Rader made calls to a number of companies, including KAKE TV, to tell them the location of a package he had left for the authorities. It took him a while to get responders' attention because when he instroduced himself as BTK, they all thought it was a prank call and hung up on him. One postcard sent to KAKE used the alias "Happ Kakemann" and the station's own address as return address. On February 16, 2005, Fox TV station KSAS in Wichita were sent a floppy disk. A forensic analysis revealed that it had been used by the Christ Lutheran Church in Wichita and contained a reference to the name "Dennis". An Internet search revealed that Dennis Rader was the president of the church council. On February 25, 2005, he was arrested and formally charged on February 28. As a result of his arrest, Rader's wife filed for divorce the same year and was allowed to forgo the legal 60-day waiting period. As Kansas did not have capital punishment at the time of Rader's murders, he was sentenced to 10 consecutive life sentences. He is currently serving this time in the El Dorado Correctional Facility and is not eligible for release before February 26, 2180. He is held in solitary confinement 23 hours a day, only being released one hour a day for yard exercise and is allowed three showers a week. Through good behavior, he has been allowed a few privileges such as access to television, radio, and magazines.

Modus OperandiEdit

BTK first murder scene

Law enforcement at Rader's first crime scene.

Rader usually targeted women, though he did kill or attempt to kill men and children on a few occasions. He would wander through Wichita until he found a potential victim and enter their homes through home invasions. The kills were highly premeditated, as he would stalk them beforehand to know when they would come home and who lived with them, bring various items with him to use for the kill and the break-in, like duct tape, rope, and a screwdriver (which he would put in a briefcase or a bowling bag), cut off the phone lines to prevent the victims calling for help, etc. He did not, however, make a habit of bringing a "hit kit" until after his first few murders, initially using objects from the house. He also wore what he referred to as "hit clothes" to the murders and later dispose of them.

He would use a .22-caliber Colt Woodsman handgun (with which he shot Kevin Bright by incident), a .357 Magnum, and a knife to threaten his victims and gain control of them. On two occasions, he also masturbated on the victims' bodies. The victims were typically tied up, sometimes using items from their houses, and killed by strangulation, either manual or with a ligature, or suffocation with a plastic bag. When he strangled his victims, he would do it repeatedly as a form of torture and become sexually aroused from watching them struggle. In the case of his fifth victim, Kathryn Bright, he tried to strangle her, but stabbed her with a knife instead when she struggled too much. He also took souvenirs, such as underwear from his female victims, driver's licenses, and personal possessions. He had a habit of nicknaming his home invasion plans in a manner similar to the way military operations are codenamed; the Kathryn Bright home invasion was called "Project Lights Out" and Vicki Wegerle's murder "Project Piano" because he liked listening to her playing.


After the murder of Dolores Davis, FBI profiler John Douglas assumed that BTK had either been arrested or had died. It could be assumed, though erroneously, that the pictures, drawings, and memories would be sufficient enough to complete his fantasy. When the BTK killer began communicating again, the BAU developed a strategy to keep him communicating by issuing press releases. BTK took the bait.

Known VictimsEdit

BTK victims

Dennis Rader's victims.

  • 1974:
    • January 15: The Otero family (excluding the eldest son, Charlie Otero, who was not home at the time)
      • Joseph Otero, 38 (father; suffocated with a plastic bag over his head and strangled with a clothesline rope)
      • Julie Otero, 33 (mother; strangled with rope twice)
      • Joseph Otero II, 9 (son; suffocated with a plastic bag)
      • Josephine Otero, 11 (daughter; was hung with rope and her body masturbated on)
    • April 4: Kathryn Bright and her brother Kevin:
      • Kathryn Doreen Bright, 21 (intended to strangle, but was stabbed three times in the back and lower abdomen with a knife as she struggled too much)
      • Kevin Bright, 19 (incidental; shot twice in the head with a .22; survived)
  • 1977:
    • March 17: The Relford family
      • Shirley Vian Relford, 24 (mother; strangled with rope and suffocated with a plastic bag over her head)
      • Bud Relford, 8 (eldest son; forced into a bathroom, tied up, and intended to kill along with the two below)
      • Steven Relford, 5 (youngest son)
      • Stephanie Relford (daughter)
    • December 8: Nancy Fox, 25 (was tied up and strangled repeatedly with a belt and her body masturbated on)
  • April 28, 1979: Anna Williams, 53 (intended; Rader gave up as she came home much later than he expected)
  • April 27, 1985: Marine Hedge (was manually strangled)
  • September 16, 1986: Vicki Lynn Wegerle, 28 (was tied up, strangled to the point of fatal injury with a nylon stocking and left for dead)
  • January 19, 1991: Dolores E. Davis, 62 (strangled with pantyhose)
  • Note: Rader also stalked two women in the 1980s and another in the 1990s. He also admitted during interrogation that he had planned to kill again and had even set October 2004 as the date, though he never carried it out.

On Beyond BordersEdit

Rader was compared to Rafael Acosta in De Los Inocentes when the IRT speculated that Acosta was able to soothe his killing urges for a whole year at a time because he had a job with strict responsibilities, like a civil servant or a code enforcer.