Everywhere, curious pause to watch, listen

08/18/2005 12:00 AM

03/27/2012 2:46 PM

As he ferried an out-of-state traveler downtown Wednesday, taxi driver Bill Wright let his customer know he was visiting "the focal point of the country."

He made the off-hand comment because of Dennis Rader's sentencing hearing, which has drawn national media to town this week.

At workplaces, restaurants, barbershops, waiting rooms, fire stations, coffee shops and nursing homes Wednesday, TVs and radios were tuned to coverage of the hearing.

Wright read a book during the hearing's lunch break as he sat in his yellow taxi at Wichita Mid-Continent Airport, the trunk popped and ready for luggage. But before the break, he'd watched some of the coverage on another driver's TV and also had listened on the radio.

He said he wasn't particularly interested but also couldn't ignore it.

Mostly, he was miffed that the hearing would pre-empt his favorite soap operas, "All My Children," "One Life to Live" and "General Hospital." He tapes them daily and watches them when he gets home from work.

Although some people say they're sick of hearing about Dennis Rader, you wouldn't have known that Wednesday at most public places.

The television was on Wednesday morning at Jerry's Barber Shop in Park City.

Joann Sebastian sat waiting for her great-grandchildren to get their hair cut and listened to detectives talk about the case.

"I can't imagine how Charlie (Otero) feels. It's terrible. It just brings tears to my eyes," she said, crying.

Sebastian said she didn't want her great-grandchildren watching the hearing at home, so she put in a video instead. But the coverage already was on at the hair place when they walked in, the top of the TV covered in healthy green plants.

The television also was on at Annie's Antique Mall in Park City.

Working the mall's front counter, Joyce Boyer, who has had a booth there for 15 years or so, said she probably wouldn't keep the TV on all day but had turned it on to keep updated.

"If I were home, I'm sure I would have it on all day, and I'm sure my husband would be very unhappy," Boyer said, explaining that he's not originally from Wichita and doesn't remember what living here was like when the BTK killings happened.

"I think anyone that's a native of Wichita has an interest because we were all kind of fearful when it was going on," Boyer said.

When Boyer picks up a book, it's usually a mystery novel, she said. She finds crime fascinating.

The Rader case is interesting, she said, because "he had two different lives" — the serial killer into bondage and the church leader that his minister could always count on.

Boyer is intrigued by how Rader kept his crimes to himself. If she did something that evil, she thinks people would notice a change in her, she said.

Rader seemed to be able to balance the two lives, she said.

"How does a brain do that?" she asked.

Boyer has mailed clippings of Eagle stories about Rader to friends and family members living outside the Wichita area. They like to keep up, too, she said.

At the Artichoke Sandwich Bar on North Broadway in Wichita, the TV was on as lunch got under way Wednesday, but the volume wasn't turned up. Music played on the jukebox in the background.

"All I want to know is what the final sentencing is," employee Tom Mance said. Mance said he didn't need or want to know the details of what Rader did to his 10 victims.

Just up the street at Saigon Restaurant, manager Elizabeth Bui had the TVs tuned to the news.

"There's going to be a lot of people interested," Bui said, preparing for the lunch crunch. "I want to know what happens to him. It's kind of scary when it's close to home."

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