Women think: Did BTK stalk me?
06/29/2005 12:00 AM
03/27/2012 11:16 AM
By his own description, Dennis Rader trolled Wichita's neighborhoods for years as the serial killer BTK, selecting and stalking women before he locked in for a kill.
It's unclear how many women he targeted, but as he said in court Monday, "If it didn't work, I just move on to something else."
Even before that chilling admission, several women had told The Eagle they suspected Rader had targeted them over the years.
One Wichitan, haunted by a 1981 break-in, wrote to Rader in jail to ask:
Was it you?
Rader wrote her back, offering insight into the mind of a killer.
"This was a 1st of this type of letter," he replied to the 50-year-old mother of three, who is still afraid to allow her name to be revealed. She has corresponded with Rader as "K."
"1st of all, the initials... are very close to a person that die 4-4-1974, that is scarely," he wrote on March 24, referring to Kathryn Bright, BTK's fifth victim.
K. told Rader the intruder had been in her bedroom, and that photo albums had been rifled through.
"This may have been a person that saw you, and wished you harm, the fact that he or they waited and how it was laid out, this is a serious person to deal with," Rader responded. "Did they take a picture?... Do you have an alarm system now?"
K. is far from the only woman haunted by thoughts that BTK was tracking her.
June Vogt firmly believes Rader harassed her in 1974 at her store, the Spectacle Shoppe.
She thinks she caught his eye because she appeared in TV commercials.
She says she fitted Rader for glasses, stared into those cold eyes. In her gut, she felt he was not listening to what she said, but sizing her up.
Later that night she received a call. It sounded like the same man.
"Would you like to go out tonight?"
She said no. He asked how she could refuse someone she didn't know.
"I know who you are," she told him.
"Well, I will be at your car when you get off," he told her. "If you don't come out, I know where you live."
Thirty years later, she thought she saw the man on television —Rader.
"I had a terror attack in my heart," she said. "I just knew that was him."
That night in March 1981, K. stayed with a friend who was afraid to stay home alone.
The next afternoon, K. arrived home at 4902 E. Kellogg —since demolished — from her job at Wichita State University.
The first thing she noticed was that the back door was open.
From there, she noticed a number of odd things.
She would recount them all in the letter to Rader.
In response, he referred to a persona known as "the source," who seemed to be an expert on killing.
"They or him waited and knew your routine, but the unknown always can pop up and you probably saved yourself by staying at your girlfriend house that night."
The night Nancy Fox was killed in 1977, she and co-worker Cindy Duckett walked together to their cars in the Wichita Mall parking lot about 9 p.m.
"I knew he just about had to know her routine, because other nights she would have been home at 5 p.m.," Duckett said.
Rader would later tell a judge that he had indeed done "a little homework" on Fox, checking her mailbox, dropping by the jewelry store where she worked part-time.
After Fox's murder, Duckett was fearful she, too, was being tracked. She bought a gun to keep in her purse. She stopped trusting people.
"I had a police escort home every night for a month," she said.
"I vowed to myself at that time that no one would ever do that to me."
Looking around her apartment, K. noticed a butcher knife was missing. The thermostat had been turned all the way down. The clothes in her bedroom closet had been pushed apart, as if to make space for someone to hide inside. Pantyhose had been laid out.
K. called the police, and officers assured her BTK had not been in her home. For one thing, the phone line had not been cut.
But she wasn't so sure. At the time, K. was 25, a striking blonde and a student at WSU — a suspected BTK hangout.
The blinds on her windows facing her carport had been slightly opened. A pile of cigarette ashes lay on the floor, indicating someone had waited there, watching.
Three bottles of wine had been emptied. The toilet seat was up.
She told Rader all this.
He responded by analyzing her story, saying he was reflecting "a reliable source":
"This person would or does not smoke. Again if lying in ambush one does not smoke. And to drink, no way the source tell me, every nerve and fiber are tense, ready to spring. Alcohol would diminish that. If you where young and healthy, the person would have his total factility ready.
"Three wine bottles, is a third scarely. The source tell me that numbers in three are his favorite #'s group.
"The other facts are quite plain, what was going to happen to you.
"I gald you didn't come home that night."
That spooked K., but she still didn't have the answer:
Was it you?
Marti Clothier was 16 and babysitting on South Pinecrest in 1979 the night BTK broke into a home up the street to wait for Anna Williams. He left before she arrived, taking some items he'd later return in a letter as proof he'd been there.
Clothier recalled scratching noises on the home's window screens that night.
She later learned BTK was two doors down.
"It scared me to death," she said. "I can't tell you how freaked out I was."
On April 12, K. wrote back to Rader:
"It makes sense for the intruder not to drink so that he can be alert," she reasoned. "I thought that possibly the wine bottles had been emptied into the sink and placed throughout the apartment. As for the cigarette ashes, I smoked at the time, so entering the house and smelling cigarette smoke wouldn't have alarmed me. I figured if someone had been watching me, he might know if I smoked. What was kind of weird was that the phone lines weren't cut, but some lines next to it were."
Rader noted that the line would have been cut. But then he indicated maybe leaving it intact was intentional.
"Could be he thought you called home before arriving to check the phone, as some did back then. For it not to ring would be a dead give away not to come home. He could quickly cut it after you called or disable phone within."
K. hasn't told her mother about corresponding with Rader, or her suspicion that BTK was once in her home.
She is concerned people will think she's crazy.
For years, she said, she didn't obsess about BTK, but it just consumed her after he resurfaced in March 2004 by sending a letter to The Eagle.
After the break-in, a friend nailed her windows shut. She refused to be afraid.
"I was so mad — is that a weird response?" she said, sitting in a living room filled with family photos. "I was just young and stupid. I was so angry someone had been in my home and gone through my home and disturbed it. That was my way to protect my sanity."
By the time Rader wrote to K. the second time, he seemed comfortable talking about himself.
"I have adjusted to the 4-walls little by little.... A routine helps!"
The early morning is for Bible study and devotion. Later, he catches up on the newspaper, works the Cryptoquip, writes poems, responds to letters.
Late into the night, he plays solitaire and writes more letters.
"I enjoy mature letter like your and not so much rambling as many Pen-Pal do," Rader told K. "They start with small letters, you share a few things, and pretty soon, a female is falling in love with you, or they start going crazy, left or right on some subject, then they get upset if you don't write them back."
He seemed to connect with K., though.
"There is a lot of history I can share or small talk, poems and the such and reflect on your subjects. Sincerely, dennis."
K. picks apart each detail in Rader's letters. She knows Rader lied to the police in letters. He lied about being fascinated with trains. About his father dying in World War II. And about lots of other things.
To K., Rader had emphasized: "I did not do this."
And he has said in a postscript: "You can rest in peace that it wasn't the source."
But in his second letter, after she had pressed him about the incident and what he had written, he said:
"More Detective work I see at hand.
"And the source say, 'The Smoking Gun is to close.' "
Puzzled, K. wrote Rader a third time, on May 12.
"I wasn't sure what you meant in your last letter," she said. "Do you remember what you meant by that?"
There has been no response.
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