On this week’s True Crime Corner, let’s take a look at a narcissistic killer who gave himself his own nickname. When imposters took responsibility for some of his murders, this guy contacted the media to set the record straight. Dennis Rader adopted the moniker B.T.K. for bind them, torture them, and kill them.
Dennis Rader was born on March 9, 1945, the son of Dorothea and William, in Pittsburg, Kansas. Rader was the oldest of the couple’s children. He also killed animals when he was young, a trait common to serial killers.
On the surface, Rader seemed to live an ordinary life. Like his father, he served in the military, and was married for over thirty years, with two children. He was active in his church, with Boy Scouts, and even worked for an alarm company, installing systems meant to protect homeowners from predators such as himself.
However, his work as a compliance officer may have been one of the most rewarding, appealing to his dark side. In this capacity he was able to stalk potential victims, or “projects,” as he called them, and harass them. Residents complained about Rader, and when one woman didn’t ditch her boyfriend as Rader suggested, his harassment of her increased. She claimed he had her dog ordered to be euthanized. This potential project soon left.
However, his ordinary life took a sinister turn on January 15, 1974, when he murdered not one, but four people, one of them a coworker from the camping goods company where Rader was employed. She was killed along with her husband and two children, and there were signs of strangulation and binding at the scene. Their other son found their bodies when he returned home.
Rader could not remain silent when others claimed responsibility for his horrific deed. He contacted a local newspaper to inform them that the real killer was still on the loose, and through a letter he was able to give details of the crime no one but the killer would know. He signed that letter “B.T.K. Strangler.”
It was over two years before B.T.K. struck again. This time a woman was killed in a manner similar to the 1974 family; she was bound and strangled.
On another occasion, after B.T.K. claimed another life, her killer called the authorities from a phone booth, giving the address where they would find his victim. Of course, he was long gone when police arrived on the scene. When he failed to receive attention for this kill, he again sought out the media.
There were people who were fortunate to survive encounters with B.T.K. Children who were tied up while their mother was killed were able to flee the madman. The killer attacked two siblings, the brother forced to bind his sister, who wouldn’t live through the ordeal. The man survived the attempt on his life, despite being shot twice.
B.T.K. went dormant for several years before resurfacing. In 2004, he sent a letter to the same newspaper with photos of a 1986 murder victim. More letters followed to authorities and a television station.
Dennis Rader was arrested in February of 2005, suspected of being the B.T.K. killer. It’s not clear how Rader was caught after over 30 years, but it’s believed DNA played a role. (Rader didn’t sexually assault his victims, but left his DNA at the crime scenes). He was even more frightening because no one was safe from him; he killed men, women, and even children with equal viciousness. He enjoyed stalking his prey, utilizing the library to find potential projects, phoning and driving past their homes whenever possible. Once he had his sights set on someone, he was determined to carry out his intention to kill. If for some reason his plan failed, he moved onto a new project. He carried his own “hit kit” to the crime scenes, consisting of plastic bags, rope, tape, and weapons. He received a life sentence for each of the 10 people he killed. It’s disturbing how calm he was as he spoke about his crimes in court. Not only did his victims and their families suffer, but his family suffered as well. His atrocities destroyed so many innocent lives.
So what drove Rader to kill? He blamed it on Factor X, an unknown reason that drove him to murder, claiming that Jack the Ripper and Son of Sam killer David Berkowitz also suffered from the same unknown Factor X. (Maybe he just wanted to include himself in their company). He also thought he might be possessed by a demon, or that being dropped on his head as a child had something to do with his sickness.
B.T.K. is part of the DVD America’s Serial Killers: Portraits in Evil. However, to see horror icon Kane Hodder portray the killer, check out 2008’s B.T.K. It can be streamed through online services or it can be found on DVD.