Storage worries Rader's lawyers

A chunk of the $405,000 approved by the governor to bolster the budget for Dennis Rader's public defenders will go to pay to store the avalanche of evidence that's expected in coming weeks.

No one's sure how much space will be needed for what has been accumulated in the course of the 31-year BTK serial killer investigation. But what everyone knows is that the Sedgwick County public defender's office has no place to put it.

"We're not talking boxes, we're talking rooms," said Pat Scalia, director of the Kansas State Board of Indigent Defense.

The evidence, which has been stored in various locations by the Police Department over the years, will be turned over to the defense team after May 3, when suspect Dennis Rader is expected to plead not guilty to 10 counts of first-degree murder.

This sharing of the prosecution's evidence, called discovery, is required by state law.

In Rader's case, this will be a discovery process never seen before in Sedgwick County District Court.

The investigation includes 10 killings, seven crime scenes and police work that covered dozens of investigators working over decades. The case has generated physical evidence, DNA test reports, witness statements and photographs.

At one BTK crime scene, a retired investigator has told The Eagle, the items removed from the house filled the bed of a pickup.

The defense team will receive it all.

"We have no clue how much room we need," Scalia said. "But we just can't start stacking it in the hall."

Security is a big concern for the office, and not just because evidence must be preserved for trial.

"There is a ghoulish interest in anything connected to this case," Scalia said.

Shortly after Rader's arrest was announced, tickets he wrote while working as a dog-catcher and housing compliance officer for Park City turned up for sale on eBay, the online auction site.

"We've had the public defender's office in Wichita broken into before — when we didn't have BTK evidence," Scalia said. "We are going to go to great length to keep everything secure."

Earlier this week, Gov. Kathleen Sebelius approved an amendment to her budget that would transfer funds from within the agency to help meet the unexpected cost of Rader's defense.

Most of the money is coming from the Death Penalty Defense Unit. The number of capital murder cases has dropped, and others have been delayed by district judges, after the Kansas Supreme Court declared the death penalty law unconstitutional in December.

The ruling was stayed pending appeal, however. And capital murder charges are still being filed.

Scalia said the unit may need to make up the money later because the agency budgeted for three cases a year. Gregory Moore, charged with capital murder in the shooting of a Harvey County sheriff's deputy, is the fourth case coming to the unit this year.

The funds also will help hire another lawyer to pick up cases in an office already squeezed to its limit with assigned cases. One lawyer's office in the complex near the corner of Elm and Main is a converted closet.

The office also intends to hire a legal aide and an investigator for the three lawyers defending Rader.

Scalia expects to have to ask for additional appropriations as the case continues.

A spokeswoman for Sedgwick County District Attorney Nola Foulston said it was too early in the case to tell whether Rader's prosecution will require more funds.

"Right now, it's just business as usual," said Georgia Cole, Foulston's chief administrative assistant.

Prosecutors Kevin O'Connor, Kim Parker and Aaron Smith, who are assisting Foulston, are not working exclusively on the Rader case.

"Eventually, we may have to assign their cases to someone else," Cole said.

Because of the scope of the case, Scalia expects Rader's defense to surpass the $1 million mark usually reserved for high-profile capital murder cases.