Rader handed over to El Dorado prison

08/20/2005 12:00 AM

03/27/2012 3:01 PM

Sedgwick County Sheriff Gary Steed was content to pass the journey chatting with the deputies in the maroon sedan, but the manacled man sitting next to him in the back seat kept interjecting into the conversation.

"He talked about how green everything was" as they drove through the countryside shortly after dawn Friday, Steed said. August often turns the landscape brown, the passenger said, but "everything looked pretty good out there."

He talked about the weather and made other small talk. Then a radio newscast began playing excerpts from Thursday's sentencing hearing as relatives of the serial killer BTK's victims spoke.

That's when Dennis Rader fell silent.

"He was staring out the window during most of that," Steed said of the man who pleaded guilty to killing 10 people and was sentenced Thursday to life in prison. "When he turned towards me, I noticed his eyes had watered up.

"I don't know if those were tears for the victims or tears for the families or tears for himself. But there was a tremendous amount of emotion right there."

Razor wire gleamed in the freshly risen sun as Rader arrived at the El Dorado state prison to spend the rest of his life isolated from the world he terrorized for 31 years.

The four-car escort delivered him to the prison at 7:28 a.m. Wearing a red jumpsuit and shackled at the forearms, waist and ankles, Rader made the short walk in plastic sandals from the car to the prison building.

One of the last things Rader told Steed as they waited at the prison's entry port was that some day he might be able to participate in studies that could prevent future serial killers.

"I don't know what his motivations were" for saying that, Steed said.

"There was a certain amount of personal satisfaction for me" in making the early-morning journey, Steed said.

"There's not too many people that have the opportunity to take a serial killer to the penitentiary."

As BTK, Rader killed 10 people between 1974 and 1991. He was sentenced to 10 life sentences with no chance of parole for more than 40 years.

Once Rader was inside the prison, warden Ray Roberts read a brief statement confirming his arrival, then walked away without taking questions.

As well as being fingerprinted, photographed and medically screened, Rader is being evaluated to determine where he will be incarcerated. Intake evaluations typically take two to four weeks, and weigh such issues as psychological and security factors.

After his arrest, Rader told investigators he worried that he would be targeted for violence by other prison inmates because some of his victims were children.

Rader may well be assigned to stay at El Dorado; it houses several men who were given the death penalty. They remain in their one-man cells 23 hours a day.

Within the next month, Sedgwick County District Judge Greg Waller is expected to hold a hearing to entertain recommendations for the conditions of Rader's imprisonment. Rader will not be present for the hearing.

The Department of Corrections is not required to accept any of the recommendations Waller may offer.

Inmates are generally granted access to reading materials, but Sedgwick County District Attorney Nola Foulston doesn't want Rader to "possess, receive or create" any documents that describe sexual or murderous fantasies, she told Waller during Thursday's sentencing hearing.

Foulston also doesn't want Rader to watch or read anything about the murders he committed.

"Individuals who are predators, who are pedophiles, who are anti-social, who are individuals who have attachment disorders and psychological problems, whose lives are built around sexual perversions... just are not built like the rest of us and need to be put somewhere where they don't get crayons and where they don't get paper and where they don't get newspapers so they can clip out pictures of little girls in their underwear so that they can lick the bathing suits off of them for their own sexual pleasures," Foulston said during the hearing.

Public defender Steve Osburn expressed concern during the hearing about the restrictions on reading and writing being sought by Foulston, saying, "We are talking about a First Amendment issue here."

Foulston said the prosecution is "not asking for any unconstitutional bans or access, and the interest of the media and the press is still protected under those cases."

State law prohibits inmates from having obscene writing, pictures, items or devices. What is obscene is determined by an "average person applying contemporary community standards," the law says.

Foulston says that Rader can take virtually anything and create pornographic fantasies from it.

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