Crime & Courts

BTK 'murderabilia' up for sale

Nearly five years after he was sent to prison for the murders of 10 people, Dennis Rader's name is a staple on a handful of websites, like this one, selling collectibles related to serial killers.
Nearly five years after he was sent to prison for the murders of 10 people, Dennis Rader's name is a staple on a handful of websites, like this one, selling collectibles related to serial killers. Courtesy image

For $600, you can buy a handmade Halloween card that has been signed three times by serial killer Dennis Rader.

For $2,999.99, you can buy a manila envelope with an "original colored drawing of (the) Factor X creature that made him kill."

"Very significative and unusual collectible artwork," the seller says. "This superb piece is in excellent condition with 11 lines written in his hand."

For the budget-minded collector, $40 will buy dirt "obtained on location from BTK's (former) residence. Guaranteed authentic."

Although the amount of dirt isn't specified, the shipping weight is listed at 0.2 pounds.

Nearly five years after he was sent to prison for life for the murders of 10 people, Dennis Rader's name has become a staple on a half-dozen websites that specialize in "murderabilia"— collectibles related to notorious killers.

Those familiar with the industry said Rader probably isn't profiting from sale of his artifacts and may not be aware that they're being sold.

The notion that anyone is profiting from the killings is upsetting to Andy Kahan, director of the crime victims assistance program in Houston.

"From a victim's perspective, there's absolutely nothing more nauseating or disgusting than seeing items from the murderer of your loved one being hawked," Kahan said. "Frankly, it's blood money, plain and simple."

Relatively expensive

Kahan, who has been monitoring murderabilia websites for years, said Rader artifacts — when compared to those of other serial killers — are relatively expensive because they are rare.

He said the market for such material is limited.

"You're dealing with small, select group of crime enthusiasts," he said. "Like it or not, there are people who idolize serial murderers just like they do movie stars and athletes."

Kansas Department of Corrections spokesman Bill Miskell said the emergence of Rader murderabilia does not appear to be causing problems in Kansas prisons.

"What we hear about occasionally appears to be private individuals on the outside who are marketing a product that people are buying,'' he said.

"We are not aware of inmates in Kansas prisons who are either attempting to market those kind of items or are profiting from the sales of those items."

Miskell said prison officials regularly monitor inmates' prison bank accounts for irregularities. A sudden increase in funds could be an indication that the inmate has started selling drugs or collecting protection money, he said.

Miskell said he couldn't discuss specifics about Rader's account but said, "We have looked at his transactions, and we do not see any irregularities."

Wichita lawyer James Thompson, who represents several relatives of BTK victims, said he doubts that Rader has a direct role in the sale of items attached to his name.

Thompson recently obtained two boxes of BTK material from Kristin Casarona, a Topeka woman who began corresponding and meeting with Rader shortly after his arrest with plans to write a book about his case.

When she decided she would be unable to finish the book, she contacted Thompson and said she wanted the material to go to the victims' families.

Among the items is a handmade book titled "Prose for the Trial," which contains poems that are accompanied by colored hearts, flowers and other decorations. The artwork appears similar to the work found on the Halloween card.

Thompson said Casarona did not want any of the material to end up on an Internet auction site.

Thompson said Rader doesn't normally respond to unsolicited letters because he is aware there are people who want only to profit from his replies.

"He gets a lot of mail, it's my understanding, from people who want to get a letter for that very reason," he said.

Kahn said it's not uncommon for murderabilia dealers to write to notorious killers in the hopes that they'll receive a reply that can be sold online.

"They strike up a correspondence, just like a pen-pal relationship," he said. "Sometimes the killer has no clue that their material is even being sold."

'Still getting out'

Most of the Rader items being offered last week were written in 2005 when he was an inmate in the Sedgwick County Jail.

But his writings also included a two-page handwritten summary of the events of January 2009, including the Jan. 20 inauguration of President Obama and the Jan. 23 landing of a U.S. Airways jet on the Hudson in New York City. It was being offered for $450.

"Items are still getting out," Kahan said.

Kahan has pushed unsuccessfully for a national law that would make it illegal to send murderabilia through the U.S. mail.

"As much as I'm a firm believer in free enterprise and capitalism, I think you've got to draw a line somewhere," he said.

Thompson said he doesn't think the families of Rader's' victims will want to see the material from Casarona end up on a murderabilia website.

"I don't know what they're going to do with it," he said. "They may decide to burn it."

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