DA to reveal graphic details in BTK case

08/14/2005 12:00 AM

03/27/2012 2:08 PM

Editor's note: The following story includes graphic descriptions of Dennis Rader's BTK killings. Reader discretion is advised.

The killer didn't always come out of shadows or act out his depraved sexual fantasies under cover of the night.

After all, Dennis Rader had a family to go home to in Park City. As his alter ego, BTK, he stalked the streets of Wichita during the day to find ways to relieve his sadistic desires: aroused by the struggle of the helpless and climaxing amid the stench of death.

To most, Rader's recitation of how he committed his 10 murders during his guilty plea nearly two months ago may have been shocking. But it angered others, including former detectives who knew the true horror of BTK. They didn't hear in Rader's words the kind of terror that Nancy Fox and others experienced in their final hours.

When prosecutors present evidence at Rader's sentencing beginning Wednesday in Sedgwick County District Court, many will be hearing details of the BTK story for the first time.

"Parts of this will be graphic and disturbing," said Kevin O'Connor, chief litigator for the Sedgwick County district attorney's office. "But this whole case is disturbing."

Unmasking horror

Rader's admissions during his June 27 plea, as shocking as they may have sounded, simply proved a generic description — a G-rated version of X-rated deeds.

It outraged Al Thimmesch, a homicide captain for the Wichita Police Department from 1977 to 1980. Thimmesch had been to some of the crimes scenes. He'd seen the suffering. He heard cowardice in Rader's plea.

"He never implied 'What I did was horrendous. What I did was bad.' Not once," Thimmesch said.

To Thimmesch, Rader was trying to sound like a cool, calculated professional, talking of "hits" and "putting down" people, like he had as a dog catcher for Park City.

"It completely dehumanized the effects of what he did," Thimmesch said.

As Rader found out, fantasy is often more successful than reality. In real life, Rader often bungled acting out his grotesque dreams. He found himself faced with noisy children, nosy neighbors, ringing phones and women who would fight to the final breath to keep him from fulfilling his goals.

Rader would carry through his best plan with the murder of Nancy Fox. That was the one killing Rader would brag about in letters written when he could still hide behind the security of anonymity.

In those letters, Rader would be more brazen than when he had to stand in public and talk about what he did.

The Dennis Rader in those letters is the one prosecutors want to expose at sentencing.

Rader's public defenders, meanwhile, said they see no need for further evidence, after he admitted his guilt and said he's willing to accept spending the rest of his life in prison.

But prosecutors and police want the judge and world to know the Dennis Rader who, before his capture, would eulogize Nancy Fox in painfully written poetry and brag of her killing in even worse prose.

The writing was so bad, some speculated it was a purposeful — meant to throw off police. Then Rader spoke, and everyone knew the verbal stumbling was no ruse.

Prosecutors and police want Rader remembered as the man who got his kicks out of watching 11-year-old Josephine Otero struggle for her last breath while hanging from a noose.

They want Judge Greg Waller to know the man he's sentencing is the same person who described the killing of Nancy Fox as an erotic experience.

Nancy's nightmare

Rader called them projects — PJ's for short. In a letter he left in Murdock Park, discovered by police on Dec. 14, he detailed Fox's death under the title "PJ Fox Tail."

"I spotted Nancy one day while cruising the area," the letter read. "Found out her name by checking her mail box and tracked her to work."

Fox worked at a jewelry store. After killing Fox, Rader wrote that he stole jewelry that "I gave to another girl friend."

As Rader did with other victims, he stalked Fox and broke into her house when she wasn't there. On Dec. 8, 1977, he waited for her to come home.

Rader didn't charm women or manhandle them. He packed two pistols, a knife, a homemade brass knuckle. He cut the phone lines.

When confronted, Rader wrote that Fox acted like she expected to be raped. But Rader didn't rape. He aroused himself by the sight of them helplessly fighting for their lives. He would describe in other letters how he gained gratification as Josephine Otero tried to fight off the fate of the rope around her neck, leaving behind DNA which years later would identify him.

Three years after the Otero murders, Rader handcuffed Fox to her bed and began removing her clothes. Then "she asks me not too," Rader wrote in his typically poor English.

"I was becoming sexual aroused when tying her ankle, and approached her rear I pulled down her panties, quickly slip my belt over her head and on to the neck and pulled tight but not the final strangle hold," the letter read.

Rader would strangle people until they reached the point of passing out, then he would loosen his grip and let them regain consciousness. He would repeat the strangling, as if they were dying repeated deaths, only to recover and relive the horror.

"I spoke softly into her left ear," the letter continued. "I was wanted for the Oteros and others murders and she was next. She began to really struggle then, and I did the final hold, this my torture mental and restrangle."

The arousal would reach its peak with the last gasp of life, and Rader would find his sexual release over the corpse.

The aftermath

In the BTK letter, Rader wrote of turning up the furnace in the Fox house, in hopes of hastening the decomposition of the body.

Those details are what detectives remember.

"I was dealing with the human side," Thimmesch said. "He was busy dehumanizing them."

Prosecutors will likely offer Judge Waller photos of the crime scenes Rader left behind.

Investigators are expected to repeat what Rader told them after his arrest in February. He told them more than what he related to Waller in June. Rader got excited, even during his confession, while reliving his conquests.

Prosecutors want Waller to have no doubt before asking him to impose the harshest sentence available in Kansas during the killings, from 1974 to 1991, leaving no chance of parole.

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