TW: Rape, binding, torture, and murder (obviously).
The first serial killer I ever knew about was BTK. So how fitting that my first murder article would be about him and all the messed up things he did. For background, BTK was a serial killer who murdered 10 people between 1974 and 1991. His sexual sadism and knack for messing with the media gave him notoriety, but it would be his laziness that would lead to his ultimate downfall. This is BTK.
803 North Edgemoor Street, Wichita, Kansas. January 15, 1974.
Joseph Otero (38), Julie Otero (33), Josephine Otero (11), and Joseph Jr Otero (9) are found dead in their home by Charlie, Danny and Carmen Otero, Joseph and Julie’s other children. A man had broken into their house between 7am and 7.30am. Cutting the phone line, breaking in and ordering the family into the bedroom where he tied them up and proceeded to murder them. Joseph and Joseph Jr have both been suffocated with plastic bags. Julie was strangled with a rope and Josephine was hanging from a draining pipe in the basement.
Wichita Public Library, October 1974.
A letter is found inside an engineering book detailing the murders of the Otero family.
Wichita, Kansas. April 4, 1974. 2pm.
Kathryn Bright (21) and her brother Kevin (19) return to Kathryn’s home. A man comes rushing out of the bedroom and points a gun at them, claiming he’s a criminal on the run who needs food, a car and money. He orders them into the bedroom and demands Kevin tie his sister’s hands and feet, the man then takes Kevin into the other room and attempts to tie him up too. Kevin fights the man and receives two gunshots to the head. The man then attempts to strangle Kathryn but she puts up a fight. Eventually, the man concedes his attempt to strangle her and begins to stab her in the abdomen 11 times. However, Kevin had survived the gunshot wounds to the head and was able to escape to get help. The man, believing they were both dead, fled. Both Kathryn and Kevin were taken to Wesley Medical Center. Unfortunately, Kathryn was unable to be saved. Kevin was in critical condition at the hospital but made a recovery.
1311 South Hydraulic Street, Wichita, Kansas. March 17, 1977.
Three years after the murder of Kathryn Bright, opportunity strikes. A man knocks on the door of the Vian family and tells one of the three children, Steve, that he is a detective. Steve lets the man into the house. The man then walks over to the TV and turns the volume down. He then closes the blinds. The children’s mother comes out of one of the rooms to find a stranger standing in her house, pointing a gun towards her. Steve and his two siblings are ordered into the bathroom by the man, who then locked them inside. The man then rapes the mother, Shirley Vian (24). As the children screamed from the bathroom the man ties her up and strangles her with a cord. The phone rings, startling the man, and he leaves. But not before Shirley is dead. Beside her body lay her underwear which the man had left semen on. The children remained in the bathroom.
843 South Pershing Street, Wichita, Kansas. December 8, 1977.
A woman by the name of Nancy Fox (25) was living on her own. She had no idea she had been the object of a sick fantasy, one that was about to play out in horrifying detail. Nancy returned home to find a man standing in her kitchen, gun cocked and loaded, aimed at her chest. The man tells her he has a “sexual issue” and he needed to tie her up and rape her to alleviate this. He then allows Nancy to undress herself before tying her up, undressing himself and strangling her to death. Ever the need to brag, the man confesses to Nancy all of his previous crimes as the life drains from her eyes.
The following day the local police department received an anonymous phone call stating that they would find the body of Nancy Fox at 843 South Pershing Street. The phone was left dangling, the caller gone. Nancy was found strangled with a nightgown with semen on it next to her body.
Wichita, Kansas. Early 1978.
KAKE, a television station in Wichita, receives a letter from a person claiming responsibility for the murders of the Otero family, Nancy Fox, Shirley Vian and an unidentified victim (possibly Kathryn Bright). The letter suggests that they give this killer a moniker, one of the suggestions was a name that would remain infamous throughout the true crime world. BTK.
6254 North Independence Street, Park City, Kansas. April 27, 1985.
BTK had slowed down. Some believed he might be dead. 53-year-old Marine Hedge returned home with a male friend, unknowingly walking into a house disturbed. A man lurked in her closet, waiting for Marine’s male friend to leave. He did. At 1am the man left the bedroom closet, turned on the bathroom light and launched himself at a sleeping Marine, strangling her to death. He had cut the phone line and entered quietly through the back door, expecting Marine to be home as her car was in the driveway. She was not. So he waited, patiently lurking around her bedroom until another car pulled into the driveway. His victim had arrived. Once the man had strangled Marine he dragged her body into the boot of his car and drove her to a local church. Unknown to all involved in this investigation, the man was a trusted member of this church and had the keys to the building. He dragged her body into the church basement, which he had covered in a plastic tarp, and photographed her body in multiple positions. He then placed her back into the boot and ditched her on a dirt road not far from her home. She was found on May 5, 1985, at East 53rd Street North in Wichita.
2404 West 13th Street North, Wichita, Kansas. September 16, 1986. 10am.
A man knocks on the door of a mother of 2, Vicki Wegerle’s (28) home. He’s dressed as a telephone repairman and tells Vicki that he was there to fix the phone line. She lets him in and instead of repairing the line, he cuts it. The man then holds her at gunpoint and walks her to the bedroom. He ties her up, but not without a fight from Vicki, who leaves scratches on the man. The fighting became so much that the man strangled Vicki with a nylon stocking, took photos of her body in multiple positions then stole the family car and fled. Bill Wegerle, Vicki’s husband, saw his car driving down the street but couldn’t make out the driver. He rushes home to find his 2-year-old son in the living room and his wife unconscious in the bedroom. She’s rushed to hospital but pronounced dead not long after. The Wegerle’s car was found not far from the home, evidence gone, no sign of the man.
6226 North Hillside Street, Wichita, Kansas. January 19, 1991.
A cement block breaks the glass back door of 62-year-old Dolores Davis’ home. She comes out of her bedroom to see a man standing in her house. He points a gun towards her and claims he is a wanted criminal, all he wants is food, a car, some money and that he was going to tie her up. The man ties Dolores up in her bedroom and strangles her, dragging her body outside and placing her in the boot of her own car. He hid the body and the evidence near a lack in park city, returned to the Davis home where he wiped the car and home down of fingerprints. The man then walked back to the church where his own car was parked, drove back to the dump site and collected Dolores’ body and dumped it for a second time under a bridge at West 117th Street North and North Meridian Street in Sedgwick. The next day the man returned to the dump site to take photos of her corpse. She was not found until February 1, 1991, 13 days after her murder.
The Downfall of BTK. 2004-2005.
On March 17, 2004, the Wichita Eagle (newspaper) received a letter from a man calling himself “Bill Thomas Killman”. At this point, the case of BTK had gone cold, and the Otero family had been dead for 30 years. BTK had been silent for at least 10. The letter contained photos of Vicki Wegerle, as well as photocopies of her license. The investigation was opened again.
May 5, 2004, saw another letter sent to KAKE-TV. A word puzzle. June 9, 2004, a package left taped to a sign in the middle of Wichita contained a terrifying description of the Otero family’s murder, and a sketch of a body hanging by a rope titled “The Sexual Thrill is My Bill”.
June 17, 2004, a package labelled “BTK” was found at Wichita Public Library. The package contained a letter that stated BTK was running out of time and was waiting for the perfect time for his next kill.
October 22, 2004, a package was found by a UPS driver which contained photos of children with bindings drawn over them and a fake autobiography about BTK, to mislead the police.
January 2005, A box of Special K cereal with the words “BTK” and “bomb” scrawled on it is found in the back of a pick-up truck, by its owner, while he was parked at Home Depot in Wichita. The box contained details of BTK’s stalking of his “projects” and more misleading information. Surveillance tape of the parking lot where the box was found, showed a man exiting his Black Jeep Cherokee to place the box in the back of the pick-up.
January 25, 2005, postcards are sent to KAKE-TV with directions on where to find the next box. In the box was a Barbie with dark hair, a rope around her neck that was attached to a piece of drain pipe, simulating the murder of 11-year-old Josephine Otero. BTK also wrote letters to police, asking them if they could trace information back to a floppy disk. The police replied via a post in the Wichita Eagle, lying and saying there was no way they could trace it.
February 3, 2005, a postcard arrives at KAKE-TV once again, this time stating his next drop will be the floppy disk.
February 16, 2005, a purple 1.44-Megabyte Memorex floppy disk is sent to KSAS-TV, a Fox affiliate. Also enclosed in the package was a letter, a gold necklace with a medallion and a photocopy of the cover 1989 novel Rules of Prey. Police found metadata of a deleted word document on the floppy disk that was traced back to Christ Lutheran Church, the last modifier being a man named “Dennis”. A quick internet search surfaces the name, Dennis Rader.
March 9, 1945. Pittsburg, Kansas.
Dorothea Mae Rader (née Cook) and William Elvin Rader welcome their first child, Dennis, into the world. Dennis Lynn Rader showed warning signs from an early age, the most troubling being his love for torturing animals. Though born in Pittsburg, he would grow up and ultimately spend the majority of his life in Wichita. Rader wasn’t the smartest kid but he eventually earned an associate degree in electronics from Butler County Community College in El Dorado in 1973. He then went onto earn a Bachelor degree in Administration of Justice from Wichita State University. He married Paula Dietz on May 22, 1971, they had a son and a daughter. Dennis Rader was a church official, boy scout leader and respected member of the community.
The Downfall of BTK. 2005. Cont.
February 2005, investigators drive by Rader’s house and see a black Jeep Cherokee in the driveway. The Police approached obtained a warrant for the DNA from Rader’s daughter, Kerri’s, pap-smear test. The sample was then run against the semen samples found at the multiple crime scenes. The Wichita Police department concluded a match. Dennis Rader was BTK.
Wichita, Kansas. February 25, 2005.
Dennis Rader is arrested without incident after the Wichita Police Department surround his car at his workplace parking lot and wait patiently for Rader to leave the building. A 30-hour confession leads to his conviction.
Wichita, Kansas. February 28, 2005.
Dennis L. Rader is convicted of 10 counts of first-degree murder.
Wichita, Kansas. August 18, 2005.
Dennis L. Rader makes a 30-minute monologue, which a prosecutor likened to “an Academy Award acceptance speech”. He is then sentenced to serve 175 years in El Dorado Correctional Facility.
Dennis Rader is currently serving his sentence in Solitary Confinement at El Dorado Correctional Facility. He is 73 years old.