June 28, 2005

Sentencing to bring out new details

Sedgwick County District Attorney Nola Foulston plans to use Dennis Rader's Aug. 17 sentencing hearing as a platform to lay out — in much more detail than Rader offered in court Monday — how and why he committed 10 murders as the serial killer BTK.

Foulston said she plans to do it for two reasons: to build the case for the toughest sentence possible for Rader, and to shed light on the motivations and methods of a serial killer who "terrorized" Wichita.

"When a community is deprived of information about what happened, it never rests," trying to find out how and why horrible crimes happen, Foulston said.

Sedgwick County District Judge Greg Waller set Rader's sentencing for 9 a.m. on Aug. 17.

Foulston said she will ask for the maximum sentence possible for Rader: 175 years to life, which represents nine first-degree murder sentences served consecutively, plus a Hard 40 sentence for the 1991 murder of Dolores Davis — which means Rader would not be eligible for parole for at least 40 years.

"We'll be presenting evidence on each and every one of those cases" as a basis for why the maximum sentences should be imposed, Foulston said.

"The state is entitled to place its evidence before the court," she said. "I want you all to hear it."

The intent, Deputy District Attorney Kevin O'Connor said, is "so we can ensure that Mr. Rader never sees the light of day again."

Rader committed other crimes in the process of setting up his murders, Foulston said — among them sexual assault and burglary — but the statute of limitations had expired on every crime except murder, which has no statute of limitations.

Rader's defense team had prepared a factual basis for admitting his guilt that was "the legal minimum," Chief Public Defender Steve Osburn said, but Waller's questioning "went far beyond that" and caught them by surprise.

When she was asked after the hearing whether she believed Waller went too far in seeking details about the murders, Foulston tersely replied "no."

Waller was required to establish that Rader's plea was voluntarily made and was based on facts, she said, and that's just what he was doing.

The case against Rader included a confession, DNA evidence and personal items belonging to some of the victims, Osburn said.

The defense team did not try to tell Rader what to do, his lawyers said, they merely laid out his options and let him decide.

"He chose to step up to the plate and take responsibility for his actions," Osburn said, adding that with his admission "it's a weight off of him."

But Foulston dismissed any suggestions that Rader resurfaced in March 2004 after 25 years of silence so he could pay the penalty for his crimes.

"There is really no evidence that he wanted to be caught," she said.

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