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Rader's evil for all to see With media ready, sentencing begins today

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Wednesday, March 14, 2007, at 8:24 a.m.
  • Updated Tuesday, March 27, 2012, at 2:44 p.m.

Dennis Rader teased, taunted and tormented Wichita through local news outlets, eventually committing the final mistake that ensnared him after three decades. Now, the notorious BTK serial killer's deeds will be displayed in graphic detail through live coverage on radio, television and the Internet as prosecutors ask for the harshest sentence the law allows.

Rader has relished attention and even said in an interview last week on NBC's "Dateline" that he felt "like a star."

Sedgwick County District Attorney Nola Foulston said she hopes the public won't see him in that light when she begins presenting her case at 9 a.m. today.

"I say the meteor is dropping very fast, and when they do, they crash," Foulston said.

There's more to Foulston's plan for putting on evidence over the next couple of days than public humiliation for Rader.

Foulston, who has a reputation as a thorough trial lawyer, wants to make a complete record of the way Rader "bound, tortured and killed" 10 people from 1974 to 1991. She wants the record to be accurate in case of a review by higher courts. Even though Rader has pleaded guilty, he could still appeal his sentence.

And Foulston will be asking Sedgwick County District Judge Greg Waller to reach beyond the usual punishment.

Foulston will be seeking consecutive life sentences and the Hard 40 — the most serious punishment available to Waller, requiring Rader to serve at least 40 years in prison before facing a parole board. For Rader, 60, it would be as close to a life sentence as he could see.

"We also have to make recommendations that will follow him into the prison system," Foulston said. Rader will be transferred from Sedgwick County Jail to El Dorado Correctional Facility after his sentencing.

Foulston explained that the sentencing will reveal information about the danger of the criminal and the nature of his crimes that can help the Kansas Department of Corrections in its placement and handling of the prisoner.

That information, including graphic testimony and photographs of the torture Rader inflicted to gain his sexual gratification, will be broadcast live on local network affiliates and national cable channels.

The news media have been an integral part of the BTK story. For years, Rader wrote letters, most notably to The Eagle and KAKE-TV, bragging of his crimes and leaving clues for police.

After 25 years of silence, Rader resumed his communication in 2004. He broke his silence after an article appeared in The Eagle on the 30th anniversary of his first killings — four members of the Joseph Otero family.

Rader enjoyed a nearly yearlong revival before swallowing bait placed by police in an Eagle classified ad.

In the ad, Wichita detectives falsely assured Rader that they could not trace a computer diskette. So Rader sent a disk to Wichita Fox affiliate KSAS. Police traced the disk to Rader, solving the decades-old mystery.

Some 35 local and national media outlets will chronicle Rader's sentencing this week.

"It's more than any hearing we've had yet," said Kirk Longhofer, courthouse media coordinator.

Court TV will provide the main feed and carry the entire hearing live nationwide. Cable outlets CNN and MSNBC plan substantial coverage.

All of Wichita's local network affiliates plan gavel-to-gavel television coverage. Radio stations KFTI (1070 AM) and KNSS (1330 AM) will carry the audio portion of the hearing.

Because of the graphic nature of some of the exhibits, Foulston said a warning slide will precede some of the most disturbing photos.

"We're doing this for the family members (of the victims) and also for the media coverage," Foulston said.

Chief Judge Richard Ballinger said the arrangement of the coverage had gone smoothly and, for the most part, hadn't interfered with the other business of the court.

It did attract attention, however. The broadcast media set up on the courthouse plaza and the parade of satellite trucks parked nearby caused people to stop on the sidewalks, slow in their cars and comment on the unusual gathering.

"Everyone knows what's going to happen inside," Longhofer said, standing out in front of the media tents Tuesday. "For most people, out here is the real news."

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