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Rader used Scouts as a ruse in final murder, captain says

  • Published Wednesday, March 14, 2007, at 8:24 a.m.
  • Updated Tuesday, March 27, 2012, at 2:31 p.m.

District Judge Greg Waller interrupted Sedgwick County sheriff's Capt. Sam Houston in the middle of his testimony at 4:45 p.m. today to recess the first day of BTK sentencing until tomorrow morning.

Houston had been telling the court how Dennis Rader used a Scouting event as a ruse during his final murder 14 years ago.

As he had done in Marine Hedge's murder, Rader changed from his Scouting clothes into his "hit clothes" — and outfit that was darker and allowed him to be more maneuverable.

He had access to a Baptist church in Park City where the Scouts met.

He went there to prepare for his final "hit."

Rader then went to Dolores "Dee" Davis' home and watched her through a window. She was reading, and Rader waited until her light when out and she went to sleep, Houston said.

Rader threw a cinder block through a sliding glass door at the back of her house to get into her home, Houston said.

Rader said that Davis told him he couldn't be in her home, Houston said.

Rader told her to cooperate. He told her he had a gun, a club and a knife.

"That's the control factor," Rader told authorities, according to testimony. "You start to control them a little bit, you ease them a little bit. Just like you guys come in here and you buddy me, you try to make me feel at east like it's going to be OK."

Davis told her someone was coming to the house.

Houston said that Rader told authorities, "I really wanted to spend some time with her; but damn it, she said, there's somebody coming. I could not believe my luck in these places, I always got somebody coming."

His ultimate fantasy was to take one of his victims to a barn, where he could hang someone or put them in bondage, Houston said. As a kid, Rader killed stray cats and dogs and strangled them in a barn, he told authorities.

Davis was killed on Jan. 19, 1991.

Authorities did not know where she was, Houston said. Phone lines were cut. Phone jacks had been pulled out of the wall inside the home.

Jewelry and a camera were missing from her home, and it looked as though someone had rifled through her lingerie drawers, Houston said.

Dental records confirmed that a body found several weeks after she had been reported missing was Davis' body.

An autopsy determined her cause of death to be strangulation.

Under the state law in effect in 1991, when Davis was killed near her Park City home, the Hard 40 brought a separate sentencing hearing in front of a jury.

Kansas didn't have a death penalty law in those days, but juries decided the Hard 40 in the same way they determine capital punishment today: after hearing evidence.

Earlier this afternoon, Wichita Police Detective Kelly Otis, the seventh witness, said Rader told him he talked his way into the home of his ninth victim, Vicki Wegerle.

He was dressed in a yellow hard-hat and carrying a Southwestern Bell manual and fake identification, Rader said.

The 28-year-old wife and mother was found in 1986 bound and strangled in her home on West 13th.

Otis said authorities found a Southwestern Bell sticker in Rader's home.

"I still have the emblem in my lair," Rader said, according to testimony.

It's unclear how long Rader stalked Wegerle.

He told authorities that he walked in her neighborhood on some evenings.

"I could hear she played a piano, so she became Project Piano," Rader said, according to testimony.

Rader pointed a handgun at Wegerle, and said, "Let's go back to the bedroom," where Rader tied her up with leather shoestrings, Otis said.

"She was fighting for her life and I was trying to take her down," Rader said, according to testimony. "She fought like a hell cat, too. In fact, I think she nicked me."

DNA from underneath Wegerle's fingernail matched that from semen left at the Otero murder scene and the nightgown from Nancy Fox's murder scene, Otis said.

Authorities took cheek swabs from Rader after he was arrested in February to test his DNA.

It matched, too.

When Rader communicated with The Eagle in March 2004, he mailed a photocopy of three pictures the killer had taken of Wegerle, lying on the floor, plus a copy of her missing driver's license.

Authorities knew they had to be taken by the killer because authorities did not take crime scene photos that included Wegerle's body, Otis said.

Rescuers took Wegerle from her home quickly because they were trying to revive her, Otis said.

He asked Rader if Wegerle was alive when he took photos of her.

"Yes, she's dead," Rader said, according to testimony. "So I basically just simulated those for sexual purposes."

He put a gag in her mouth, pulled her shirt up and her pants down for the photos, Otis said.

Rader told authorities Wegerle was to be a bondage slave woman for him in the afterlife.

Authorities also found Rader's hand-written story about Wegerle's death.

It says he chose her because her home sets off the street and she lived in west Wichita, where he had not previously killed.

The story also lists items Rader carried with him to murders: cord, gag, camera, knife, plastic bags, wire cutter, pry bar and other items, Otis said.

Wegerle's husband came home for lunch and found their 2-year-old boy alone, which he found odd, Otis said.

He waited, thinking she would come home from running an errand. It was about 45 minutes before he found his wife's body in their bedroom.

Earlier this afternoon, Sedgwick County sheriff's Sgt. Tom Lee testified that Rader told him Marine Hedge's body was the first the serial killer had handled.

Rader said he was surprised at how heavy it was, even though Hedge was a small woman, said Lee, prosecutors' sixth witness in today's hearing.

Rader handcuffed Hedge, who lived on the same block as Rader in Park City, and choked her with hands, Lee said.

Rader told authorities that strangling is tough. "Your hands cramp. It's messy," according to testimony.

While Lee spoke about this in the courtroom, Rader sat with his legs crossed, his hands wrapped around one knee, twiddling his thumbs.

Lee went on to say that Rader stripped Hedge's body, wrapped her in blankets and put her in the trunk of her car to transfer her to Christ Lutheran Church, where he was a member.

It was the middle of the night.

"I had the plastic hid already at the church," Rader said, according to testimony. "That's premeditated. I was a congregational member over there. Rolls of plastic, black plastic and the thumb tacks. I taped that window off. I even went outside to make sure you couldn't see any light."

He carried her body to the basement of the church and posed her body in sexually explicit ways, including in bondage, and took pictures.

Some photos shown in court this afternoon included props: hose, high heels and a gag.

Family members dabbed tears from their eyes and looked away when Kim Parker displayed those pictures.

Rader took off his glasses and put his hand on his forehead, but gazed at the photos from under his fingers.

It's unclear how long he was in the church with her body, but it could have been up to five hours, Lee said.

Rader told authorities he panicked when he noticed the rising sun.

He cleaned up the church and found "a nice place" and dumped her, Rader told authorities.

Rader knew the place he chose was a dumping ground. Her body was found along with dog carcasses, Lee said.

In Rader's home, authorities found handcuffs, ropes, belts, black plastic and photos taken by Rader of himself wrapped in plastic, Lee said.

As a kid, Rader killed stray cats and dogs by strangling them in a barn, he told authorities.

Rader considered it a big thrill to pull off Hedge's murder, and said it was probably his most complicated hit, Lee said.

"We waved to her as a neighbor," Rader said to Lee after his arrest, according to testimony.

Rader knew Hedge worked at Wesley Medical Center and had been there to see her, Lee said.

Rader told authorities that it's a bad thing to kill in your own habitat.

"This is not really good serial killer business; this is right at my back door," he said, according to testimony.

He used the Cub Scouts as a cover, Lee said. He slipped away during an event. He changed into his "hit clothes" — those darker and more maneuverable than his Scout uniform.

Rader cut through his in-laws' Park City yard to get to Hedge's house, Lee said.

Earlier testimony focused on the torture rooms that Rader dreamed up. His sketches included detailed floor plans with sealed chambers and heat controls, among other features, apparently part of his sexual fantasies.

He also collected clippings about BTK murders and drew a detailed sketch of Fox as he had bound her.

When authorities showed that sketch to Rader earlier this year, he told them it was "Part of the media thing and also sexual — I'm sorry guys, I'm getting a hard on looking at it right now. I'm sorry," according to testimony.

Rader also told authorities that he had sent communications and a bound doll to the media to "stir the pot."

He had purchased new dolls to use in future communications, authorities said.

Everything he sent out, he kept an original or duplicate for himself, said Wichita Police Detective Tim Relph, prosecutors' fifth witness.

Rader told Relph that while he was killing his seventh victim, Nancy Fox, he stripped down. Rader said it was "one of the more — more enjoyable kills," according to testimony.

"I pulled her underpants down, I was basically nude or pretty close to nude at that time," Rader said, according to testimony. "I crawled on top of her."

He strangled her with his belt and told her who he was, Relph said.

It was like in the movies, Relph said: Rader wanted her to know the boogie man had her.

"I had her come back, and I whispered in her ear a little bit I told her I was BTK, I was a bad guy," Rader said, according to testimony.

As with Rader had done with his other victims, he assigned an afterlife plan to Fox.

"Nancy will be a primary mistress in the after life," Rader said, according to testimony. "She will obey my bondage conditions."

Rader didn't display emotion when he told authorities about what he did to Fox, Relph said.

"I was on a high," Rader said, according to testimony. "I remember I was really on a high. I took a nightie that was there, and I masturbated in it and left it there."

Prosecutors presented a blue nightgown as evidence. Holes cut in its front and back showed where authorities previously had taken samples for testing.

Rader took items from Fox's home to do sexual things with them later, Relph said.

Prosecutors Kevin O'Connor and Parker watched Rader as they presented details that Rader had left out of his account during his guilty plea.

Rader wiped his brow.

After his arrest, Rader told Relph that he liked "Project Foxhunt," what he called his murder of 25-year-old Nancy Fox.

He had control and no interruptions as in previous murders. No children screaming, husbands or brothers home unexpectedly, Relph said.

"This one went right according to script," Relph said, adding that she did not resist or scream.

"That was what I call a perfect — a perfect hit," Rader said, according to testimony.

Relph said that Rader had spotted Fox, seen her at work and gone to her home. On a December night in 1978, he cut her phone line and pried open a window to get into her house to wait for her.

Rader found her attractive on a sexual level, Relph said.

"She really appealed to me as a sexual female victim," Rader said, according to testimony. "So I probably had an attachment with her."

Relph said he may have stalked her for a couple of months.

"Nancy was a really — a nice person," Rader said, according to testimony. "She dressed nice, she had nice neat stuff. And the way it was all laid out and stuff. It looking like she's, you know, she was a nice family girl. Leave it to a weird guy like to do that."

Rader said Fox was feisty and he was intrigued by her, Relph said.

"She was pretty feisty," Rader said, according to testimony. "She said, 'I got to have a smoke. What are you in the house for?' I told her just like I told some of the others. I was basically a bad guy."

Rader had called 911 the morning after the murder to report the crime.

Authorities discovered Fox lying on her bed in her home. They pursued leads but were not able to find a suspect, Relph said.

The sentencing for Wichita's notorious BTK serial killer resumed at about 1 p.m. after an hour break.

Proceedings are scheduled to continue until 4:30 p.m. The sentencing could last two or more days before Dennis Rader, who has confessed to killing 10 people, receives his punishment.

District Attorney Nola Foulston is interviewing witnesses this afternoon for the first time today.

The courtroom is quiet and solemn this afternoon.

There was no reaction from the gallery, where families are seated, during Relph's testimony.

Before the break, Rader reacted to an autopsy photo of his victims during his sentencing.

When showed the picture of his fifth victim, Shirley Vian Relford, Rader looked away, rubbed his forehead and let out a sigh.

Rader told authorities that he would have killed Relford's 4-year-old daughter had things gone as planned, according to testimony.

"I would probably have did the kids in, like I did the Oteros," Rader said, according to testimony. "I probably would have hung the little girl. Like I said, I'm pretty mean or could be. But on the other hand I'm very — you know, I'm a nice guy."

BTK victim Josephine Otero, among Rader's first victims, was the 11-year-old authorities said struggled for her last breath while hanging from a noose.

Authorities have said that Rader masturbated while watching Otero struggle for her life.

Wichita Police Department Detective Dana Gouge, prosecutors' fourth witness, said that Rader did not have sex with Relford but stole a couple pair of her underpants to take home for his pleasure.

Prosecutors admitted into evidence during today's BTK sentencing a toy van and airplane Rader used in 1977 to calm the Relford's children, according to testimony.

Rader threw the toys and a blanket into the room while killing their mother, Gouge said.

Rader put Relford on her bed, taped her feet, and bound her ankles to the bedpost to prevent her from escaping before he could fulfill his fantasies, Gouge said.

The children, ages 4, 6 and 8, screamed and told Rader to leave their mother alone.

One of them told Rader he was going to break out, Gouge said.

"'I don't think you want to, I'll shoot you, blow your head off.' And they were upset," Rader told authorities, according to testimony.

The children broke out a window and ran to a neighbor's house, Gouge said.

Steven Relford, one of the children who is at today's sentencing, frowned and shook his head while looking at crime scene photos showing the bed where his mother died.

Authorities interviewed him as a child.

When asked if Steven Relford's description was accurate, Gouge said, "Knowing what was reported at the time, what Steven reported to police in 1977 was very accurate."

Relford stared in Rader's direction.

Rader used a photo of his own wife and son when acting as a detective to get into the Wichita home of Shirley Vian Relford, the sixth BTK victim, according to testimony.

Rader told authorities that he dressed in dark slacks and a James Bond-style tweed coat, Gouge said.

"I'm not really a real bad guy," Rader said, according to testimony.

Rader tried to comfort Relford, who was sick, and told her he was going to take some photos of her and perhaps have sex with her, Gouge said.

"As soon as we are done, we're out of here," Rader told her, according to testimony.

Relford vomited. Rader gave her a glass of water, Gouge said.

Rader wanted Relford to be his house servant in the afterlife, Gouge said.

Earlier this morning, the court heard that Kathryn Bright, Wichita serial killer BTK's fifth victim, "fought like a hell cat" when Dennis Rader tried to strangle her 31 years ago, according to testimony.

Bright's struggling disrupted Rader's plans, said Wichita Police Department Detective Clint Snyder, prosecutors' third witness.

"There was no way that I was ever going to do what I wanted to do, and I had to put her down," Rader said, according to testimony. "I just went ahead and drew the knives and stabbed her."

After his arrest, Rader told authorities where they could find a folding buck knife in his home, one he may have used in Bright's murder, Snyder said.

Prosecutors showed autopsy photos of Bright, which showed bruising on her face and 11 wounds on her lower back and on the front of her body.

Rader told authorities he stabbed her three times, Snyder said.

Rader said he stabbed her under the ribs because he had read in detective magazines, that the best way to stab someone was with upward thrusts under the ribs.

Rader told authorities he didn't realize how slick human blood would be, Snyder said, and that he went home and stashed his clothing in his parents' chicken coop because it was covered in blood. He scrubbed his knife clean to remove evidence.

Rader, who has confessed to killing Bright and nine others, described her as a "sweet kid," Snyder said.

Rader's ruse to get into her home 31 years ago was to carry textbooks and appear to be a college student looking for someone's home, Snyder said.

Rader wanted to avoid a male in the home after the conflict he had with Joseph Otero during his first murders, Snyder said.

Rader did not expect to find Kevin Bright, who was injured but survived the 1974 attack on his sister.

"I had him tie his sister," Rader said, according to testimony. "I took her to the room, I come back to do him in. I got the lariat around his neck and it snapped, he broke his bonds, he got out."

Earlier today, testimony focused on Rader's first four victims. Prosecutors said Rader had plans for how the Otero family would serve him in the afterlife.

In his twisted fantasy:

Joseph Otero would be a bodyguard.

His wife, Julie, was to be a female servant in the bathroom.

Their son Joey would become Rader's sex toy and boy servant.

And Rader would teach sex and bondage to 11-year-old Josephine — whom authorities say turned him on.

Rader has confessed to killing them and six other people.

Rader's pastor, the Rev. Michael Clark of Christ Lutheran Church, grimaced when he heard how Rader said how Otters would serve him in the afterlife. The hearing in Judge Greg Waller's courtroom is expected to last two days or more. It will end with Rader's punishment.

This morning's evidence has also included:

  • A Barbie-like doll prosecutors say Rader personalized to look like Josephine Otero. He drew in drew in pubic hair and eyelashes.

    He gagged the doll and bound its wrists, knees, ankles identically to how he bound the girl, authorities said.

  • A crime scene photo of Josephine Otero, with swollen lips and a protruding tongue.

    Charlie and Carmen Otero — surviving family members — both began to cry when photos of the girl, called "Josie" by her family, were shown. Charlie put his head between his knees, weeping.

  • A photo of Rader practicing bondage on himself while wearing women's pantyhose and a bra in a basement believed to be at his parents' house.
  • A gag Carmen Otero cut off her mother with toenail clippers more than 30 years ago.
  • A children's T-shirt that said "Puerto Rico."

    Prosecutors say Dennis Rader used it to suffocate Joey Otero was presented as evidence minutes ago during sentencing of Wichita's notorious serial killer BTK.

Through this morning's proceedings, Rader has sat showing no emotion, taking notes, rolling his tongue around in his mouth and licking his chops.

He is wearing ankle chains.

During that first BTK killing Rader carried tools needed for the murders in his parka pockets he was wearing that day before he packed his "kill kit" items in bags later in his criminal career, Lundin said.

Testimony has included that Rader was "turned on" by the Otero women he confessed to killing.

Visit Kansas.com for updates throughout the day, and read Thursday's Eagle for complete coverage.

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