June 28, 2005

Neighbors in Park City shudder, then move on

"This was just a neighborly type thing. It wasn't anything personal, just a neighbor."
— Dennis Rader, describing his relationship with Marine Hedge, a neighbor he killed in 1985

Virginia Jackson had four months to get used to the idea that her neighbor, Dennis Rader, is the BTK serial killer.

But as she stood in the 90-some degree sun on Monday, she shivered at the thought, goose bumps prickling her arm .

Rader admitted Monday morning in a televised court hearing that he killed all 10 of the victims police associate with BTK.

"It's still unbelievable. You never expect to be part of something like this," said Jackson, who lives down the street from Rader's home at 6220 N. Independence, just off 60th Street North in Park City.

The BTK case will always be a part of Park City culture, said Mayor Dee Stuart. But that doesn't mean residents can't have normal lives, she said.

"There is nothing we could do about it. It's just one of those things that happened to us."

People from the TV show "48 Hours" told Stuart they plan to attend the city's Fourth of July festivities next week. That won't faze residents, she said.

"That's us. I think we're all right with it."

In some ways, things did seem very normal on Independence on Monday. Bikes and balls sat unused in quiet yards as lawn mowers buzzed nearby.

Derrick Phillips sat in a chair in his front yard. He slept through the hearing, despite the "kinda crazy" activity the case has brought to the block he's lived on for 15 years.

"I thought he would plead guilty, but I don't think about it much," Phillips said.

Other people were not so relaxed. Some residents would not answer their doors.

One neighbor came to the door with tears streaming down her face.

"I have no comment," she said, before she was asked any questions.

Resident Korey Moore watched part of the hearing, but it scares him, he said, to think that BTK lived three houses away.

"He used to say 'hi' to me. You'd pretty much never know he was BTK," Moore said.

Denise Murphy, who lives a couple of blocks from Rader, watched the hearing at work. Listening to him describe each murder made her stomach churn.

Murphy said Rader used to spend time sitting down the road in his pickup, binoculars to his face.

In the hearing, Rader told Judge Greg Waller that he watched victim Marine Hedge, a neighbor, with ease.

"Since she lived down the street from me I could watch the comings and goings," he said.

Since Rader's arrest, Murphy said, she's wondered about his motives for eyeing the street.

"Maybe he was watching people come and go," she said. "It really freaks me out."

Murphy's habits have changed since Rader's Feb. 25 arrest. She always locks the door and asks service workers for ID. Her young daughter isn't allowed to answer the door at all.

"Before, I would never worry about that. I would just let people in. Not no more. I don't let nobody in my house," Murphy said.

Jackson said her trust in others is broken, too. She won't leave windows open unless she is in the room, and her door is usually locked.

Before Rader's arrest, she said, she always allowed uniformed workers into her house. Rader wore a uniform and had contact with many Park City residents as a compliance officer for the city.

"I would have let him in with his uniform on. I never would have thought he was coming to do something to me," Jackson said.

On Monday, Rader's house stood quiet, the porch light on. The Christmas lights that were up at the time of his arrest have come down, but no-trespassing and auction signs have gone up.

Rader's house will be offered at auction at 6:30 p.m. July 11 through McCurdy Auction Service.

The sale — and knowing that BTK is behind bars — may help bring some normalcy to the block, but things will never be completely normal again, Jackson said as she glanced toward Rader's house.

"It always will be the house BTK lived in."

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