Log Out | Member Center

68°F

86°/63°

Wichita police detail BTK's capture Ads, Google and video helped solve the case

  • Published Wednesday, March 14, 2007, at 8:24 a.m.
  • Updated Tuesday, March 27, 2012, at 11:56 a.m.

Dennis Rader was still hunting for victims, and he would have never stopped, the head of the BTK Task Force said Friday night. In an extraordinary four-hour meeting with local reporters at City Hall, Wichita police Lt. Ken Landwehr and other task force members described step-by-step how they caught Wichita's most notorious killer.

Many of the details were new, others confirmed earlier reports. And for the first time, investigators spoke openly of the case that had consumed their lives and haunted Wichita for 31 years.

"He has no remorse," Landwehr said of Rader.

"He's proud of what he did. He can think he's a Christian all he wants.... He is nothing but a perverted serial killer."

Not long into the police interview following his arrest on Feb. 25, Rader told Landwehr and an FBI behaviorist, "I'm BTK."

"As soon as that was done, the floodgates opened," Landwehr said. If defense lawyers hadn't intervened, he said, Rader would have continued to talk to investigators.

Rader told them:

He picked his victims by driving down the street.

"He'll tell you he never, ever stopped looking," police Detective Tim Relph said.

He first killed after he saw Julie Otero and one of her daughters stepping out of a car. Joseph, Julie, Joseph Jr. and Josephine Otero were murdered in their home on Jan. 15, 1974.

He saw Kathryn Bright outside her home near 13th and Hillside. Rader stabbed her to death on April 4, 1974.

"He would find places where he thought single women would be," Landwehr said, but didn't elaborate on the specific locations where Rader "trolled" for those he didn't kill.

Rader spotted Wegerle walking out of her house on 13th Street near McLean. She was murdered Sept. 16, 1986.

He had a fantasy about neighbor Marine Hedge, who lived just down Independence Street from him in Park City. She was killed April 27, 1985.

He saw his final victim, Dolores "Dee" Davis and "made her a project," Landwehr said. She was killed on Jan. 19, 1991.

It was just a matter of seeing someone who "caught his eye," Landwehr said, and then he would become obsessed with stalking them.

The single biggest break in the case was a diskette in one BTK package that investigators determined was from Rader's church, Christ Lutheran.

Police found the name "Dennis" on the diskette, and in doing a Google search found that Dennis Rader was the congregation president.

During his correspondence with police, Rader had asked if it was OK to send them files on diskettes, and directed them to place a classified ad in The Eagle with the answer.

In January, investigators placed an ad that answered: "Rex, it will be OK." An ad placed in February, after the diskette had been received, appeared to give the false assurance it hadn't been traced: "Only read message about card."

Another key piece of evidence was video from the northeast Wichita Home Depot that showed someone in a dark-colored Jeep Cherokee leaving what turned out to be a BTK package in the bed of a pickup in the store parking lot. The Cherokee, it turned out, belonged to Rader's son, who was away serving in the military.

The package was eventually recovered from a trash bin.

After Rader's arrest, investigators found BTK's original communications, copies of which he had sent to police and the media, in a locked file cabinet in Rader's work office.

Rader was a compliance officer for Park City from 1991 until he was fired a few days after his arrest.

What clinched the case for investigators was a medical sample obtained from Rader's daughter that matched DNA from the Otero, Fox and Wegerle crime scenes.

That told police that "BTK was the father of Mr. Rader's daughter," Landwehr said.

Landwehr, who has been working on the case for 20 years, said investigators have not been able to trace the origin of the sexual fantasy that drove Rader to kill. Rader told a judge on June 27 that his obsession with bondage was "what probably got me in trouble."

"There's nothing in his family background" to explain Rader's perversions, Landwehr said.

In one recent communication, Rader said he had numerous "projects" — women he planned to kill.

Landwehr said investigators have talked to those potential victims, and they have all asked to remain anonymous.

"These people have been victims," he said without further explanation.

Rader's potential victims were in the Wichita area, but some were in other cities, Landwehr said.

None of his "PJs" — Rader's term for his "projects" — were children, Landwehr said. They were all older.

Rader admitted to killing 10 people last week and told authorities he had selected an 11th victim. How close he was to killing again isn't clear, Landwehr said.

Police do not believe Rader killed more than the 10 people he has admitted to murdering. Police also know Rader has often lied, Landwehr noted.

He also posed a threat to law enforcement, Landwehr said.

"He would later state in his interview that he would have taken us out if he could have," he said.

Rader told investigators that after resurfacing in March 2004, he called KAKE and The Eagle saying he was BTK, and he was hung up on, Landwehr said.

He would try to disguise his voice, as if he were Hispanic.

"He was always getting a little frustrated that people weren't taking him seriously," Landwehr said.

At the same time, because letters indicated BTK was targeting more victims, police were warning residents to be watchful.

Rader faces sentencing on Aug. 17.

Subscribe to our newsletters

Search for a job

in

Top jobs