A walk through Rader's house

07/08/2005 12:00 AM

03/27/2012 11:47 AM

This is the house where Dennis Rader lived.

You step through the front door on a brief tour with Lonny McCurdy, whose company is auctioning the Park City house Monday.

There's a security-system sticker on the front door along with a faded Friends of Scouting decal, curled at the edges.

Yes, this is the house where Rader lived for years — before he was arrested in February and charged with 10 counts of first-degree murder, before he pleaded guilty last month and told how he tied up and strangled his victims from 1974 to 1991.

Before people learned he was the BTK serial killer, he was another neighbor in one of the modest ranch homes in the 6000 block of Independence, not far from I-135. The interstate runs south to Wichita, his main stalking ground. He was a church president, a Scout leader, a devoted father.

McCurdy says he's trying to treat the house like any other home up for auction. The sign outside the home simply says: "Auction, 3-bedroom home."

As you step into the living room, you walk over a shiny hardwood floor that doesn't seem to creak after a half-century of use. McCurdy says it's in good shape, like the rest of the home.

The central air has been turned off, and the home is vacant. Rader's wife, Paula, the woman everyone says is so sweet, no longer lives there. Amid all the publicity about her husband's case, amid all the curiosity seekers, she has stayed away.

Down the short hallway, the bathroom shines with black and yellow tile that looks original.

The master bedroom bears a faint rectangle of dust where the bed sat.

The kitchen features a newer sage-green countertop and leaf-pattern wallpaper. One wall corner has small shelves, each with a cutout of a heart.

The ivory-colored appliances will remain.

Outside, the white, painted wooden siding shows marks where a sanding tool gouged into the surface. There's a little peeling paint, but the exterior, with maroon trim, looks fairly well maintained, except for one rotted set of window trim.

Someone has dabbed caulk into gaps in the siding and front door trim.

Until his arrest, Rader worked as a Park City compliance supervisor. Part of his job, besides catching loose pets, was making sure homes and lawns were maintained. Some people saw his enforcement as overzealous.

Over the years, the Raders have dotted the yard with flower gardens. The beds aren't set up in rigid, uniform patterns. In the driveway, someone has set out potted plants, which have withered.

Out back, there's a metal shed, the kind you can build yourself, and a small closetlike shed built into the rear of the house. Paint cans sit inside the closet; a 1975 license plate hangs from the wall.

Sprawling elms shade the large backyard. Up in the largest elm, a 20-foot-long loop of partly knotted rope, about an inch thick, clings to a notch in the bark. It's not clear whether the rope is attached or how it was used.

Rader, now 60, told a judge he used cord and stockings to tie up and strangle his victims. Years ago, in his taunting mail to police and the media, he called himself BTK and said it stood for bind, torture, kill. As a Scout leader, he taught boys how to tie knots.

In his backyard, a playhouse, built up on stilts as wide as telephone poles, sits beyond the metal shed. The wooden siding of the playhouse has weathered. His two children are grown and gone.

A heavily shaded sitting area, neatly paved with bricks, occupies a back corner of the fenced yard, which drops off into a drainage ditch. Vines have snaked onto a bench.

The auction, at 6:30 p.m. Monday, will take place in the backyard. That way the bidders will have some privacy, although McCurdy says he will allow media into a designated spot in the backyard.

"I want to protect the neighborhood," he said. He plans to use numbers, not names, to identify the sellers. "If a buyer wishes to protect their privacy, we will do our best to do so.

"I want the auction to be conducted professionally at all times."

Only "serious buyers" showing they have at least $2,500 in certified funds will be allowed into the auction area.

The seller can refuse to accept the final bid.

McCurdy has been dealing with an intermediary, not directly with the family.

The house, built in 1954, covers 960 square feet and has a tax-appraised value of $56,700, according to Sedgwick County records.

More than a dozen potential buyers have looked at the home.

Because of the media coverage of the BTK case and Rader's arrest, McCurdy figures that whoever buys it knows who lived there.

One prospective buyer had no problem with the history, telling McCurdy: "The house didn't do anything."

One of Rader's victims, Marine Hedge, was a neighbor who lived just down the street from him.

It's debatable whether the law requires the owner to disclose the BTK connection, said Dave Crockett, a Wichita lawyer who represents the real estate and building industry.

But Crockett said he would advise a seller to disclose such a connection "because most reasonable people would consider that a material fact" — something that could cause them not to buy. "It's better to make the disclosure and get on down the road."

Something like a leaky basement has to be disclosed. But with the Rader house, he said, "this is hard because it doesn't have anything to do with the (physical) integrity of the building."

Around Park City, there have been rumors that someone would buy the house, turn it into a museum and charge for tours.

Park City Mayor Dee Stuart has heard the rumors but is adamant that won't happen.

"We don't want that kind of thing in Park City," she said. "We'd like to regain the peace."

Making the house a tourist attraction would require a zoning change. That is out of the question, she said, because the house sits on a small street in a uniformly residential area, which she expects to remain residential.

She's disgusted by people who still drive by the house, gawking.

"It amazes me how many people are ghouls."

Meanwhile, there's widespread sympathy for Rader's wife.

"This community has put its arms around Paula Rader," Stuart said, "and protected her as much as I think is humanly possible. She is respected."

Even though McCurdy stresses that he plans to keep sightseers out of the auction, Stuart said she fears the sale could turn the neighborhood into a circus.

To keep out sightseers, police plan to block off the street in front of the house to everyone except residents and people allowed in by the auctioneer, Park City Police Chief Bill Ball said.

Standing in the Rader driveway the other evening, McCurdy conceded that because of the "high-profile property," it won't be exactly a typical sale. "It's going to be interesting."

A few minutes later, a van pulled up. The driver squinted and in a twangy voice asked: "Is this BTK's house?" McCurdy didn't directly answer.

And then McCurdy turned and looked down the block.

"There's a film crew down there," he said. A man stood outside an unmarked van with a tripod-mounted video camera.

A woman from the van walked up and politely said, "We're with CBS."

Editor's Choice Videos

Join the Discussion

The Wichita Eagle is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Terms of Service