Neighbors 'in awe,' 'in denial'

03/26/2012 3:37 PM

03/26/2012 3:37 PM

Linda Day stood outside her son's home Saturday, pointed down the street to Dennis Rader's home and shook her head.

The fact that the person police suspect is BTK may be the same person who lives so close to her son and his family and who has been in so many of her friends' and relatives' homes gives her the creeps.

"It makes me very ill," Day said after watching a police news conference about the BTK case at her son Jason's home.

When Wichita Police Lt. Ken Landwehr identified Rader, a Park City resident and compliance officer, as the person police believe to be BTK, applause broke out at the Day home.

Day and other neighbors of the Rader family expressed mixed emotions — joy that police had arrested a suspect and disbelief that BTK may have lived near them for years.

"I'm just in awe," Jason Day said while watching the news conference. He wiped away tears when police spoke of BTK's many victims and their survivors.

Rader's normally quiet neighborhood found itself flooded with people driving by to sneak a peek at his house, cordoned off with yellow police tape. One of the town's major streets, 61st Street North, turned into a platform for the curious.

"Get over it!" one passer-by shouted to the crowds gathered near Rader's home.

   

As Auntie C's Restaurant diners watched the news coverage Saturday, Joel Gunnels talked of police swabbing him as a potential BTK suspect a few months ago.

Investigators came to his home and swabbed his mouth. No one ever contacted him about the results.

Phil Luekenga said he wasn't going to get into a "twist" about the case. He said he found entertaining what some people were saying—that it was "shocking" that Rader had shopped at Leeker's, for example.

"What would be weird is if he didn't go to Leeker's," Luekenga said of the popular Park City grocery.

Outside the grocery store, April Elliott, who's lived in Park City for three years, said she was fed up with BTK news. She'd already had enough before Friday.

"I'm up to here with it," she said, gesturing to her forehead.

As police confirmed Rader's arrest, many people expressed sympathy for his family. His wife works as the bookkeeper at a local convenience store.

Employees there declined to comment Saturday out of respect for the woman, who they said was "very shaken up."

   

Judy Dizazzo said Saturday afternoon that she had barely slept Friday night because of concern for Rader's family.

"I just kept waking up thinking, how is his wife dealing with this?" she said.

Dizazzo wondered if Rader watched news about BTK with his wife.

Dizazzo and Linda Day both expressed disappointment that the death penalty will not apply in the case.

Day said she is confident, however, that if Rader is BTK "the Lord is going to punish him."

   

For Rader's family, there is sympathy being extended.

In the early evening dark Friday, Carol VanBloem walked up to the home of his in-laws with what appeared to be a note or letter.

She knocked.

A porch light came on.

Rader's mother-in-law answered the door.

VanBloem hugged her a good long while.

VanBloem, a teacher, has lived near the Raders and his in-laws for years.

As she walked away from the home, she was quiet and sad.

"I'm just in denial," she said. "They have been delightful neighbors."

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