In the past week, readers from the Wichita area and around the country have responded to our appeal for questions about the BTK serial killer case.
Of the several hundred questions we've received, many will likely be answered at Dennis Rader's Aug. 17 sentencing hearing. Answers to other questions can be found in the extensive Kansas.com archives of the Eagle's BTK coverage, but bear repeating here for those who haven't followed the case as closely as many Wichitans have. And a few questions — especially those about Rader's most private motivations and decisions — may never be answered.
Here is a sampling of questions, along with answers based on reporting by The Eagle:
Q: Did his wife suspect anything?
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A: Christ Lutheran Church Pastor Mike Clark, who has been in contact with Rader's family throughout their ordeal, told The Eagle that Paula Rader and their two grown children were stunned, devastated and in disbelief over Dennis Rader being identified as BTK. They have spent most of their time since his arrest in seclusion.
Q: Rader seems to talk in the third person. Has he disassociated himself from the events?
A: Wichita psychologist Tony Ruark, who has consulted with investigators on the BTK case, said people referring to themselves in the third person want to distance themselves from traumatic or negative events. "It's a defense mechanism," he said.
Ruark said Rader's use of the third person was a way of saying, "I'm not taking personal responsibility for this."
"He knows better, and intellectually it doesn't make any sense," Ruark said. "He's disassociating himself from these things emotionally. I don't know if this man has any emotions. That description he gave us was unbelievable."
Q: I have been hearing women say that now they are afraid a BTK wanna-be might pop up. It might be helpful to know what training is available for self-defense or safety.
A: The Wichita Police Department's Community Affairs Bureau offers a wide array of services, including crime prevention classes and free home and business security surveys. For more information, contact the community affairs bureau at 268-4101 or go online to the Police Department's section on the city of Wichita's Web site, www.wichita.gov.
Q: Why didn't police tell people about BTK's ruses so they could have been more alert to the risk of opening their doors to strangers and protected themselves more?
A: At the June 27 hearing, Rader talked about using a disguise as a telephone repairman to convince Vicki Wegerle to let him into her house. But Wichita police did not definitively connect Wegerle's murder to BTK until a letter containing a photocopy of Wegerle's driver's license and three Polaroid photos of Wegerle's body was mailed to The Eagle in March 2004. That letter ended 25 years of silence from BTK and announced to the world that the serial killer was still alive and in the Wichita area.
In a letter received by KAKE on May 5, 2004, Rader included fake ID cards and a fake badge and indicated he had used false identification to conduct surveillance or gain entry into houses. After the FBI had confirmed that the letter had been sent by BTK, police held a news conference July 22 to warn residents of the ruses and reviewed ways people could protect themselves.
Lead investigator Lt. Ken Landwehr urged residents to increase their security practices and teach children to not open doors to strangers.
Q: Has anyone outright asked Dennis Rader if there are any other murders?
A: Chief Public Defender Steve Osburn has said Dennis Rader confessed to 10 murders. Deputy District Attorney Kevin O'Connor said law enforcement did ask about other crimes, including murder. District Attorney Nola Foulston and Osburn have said there is no evidence that Rader committed other murders. Specific information surrounding Rader's statement may be presented at the sentencing hearing, O'Connor said.
Q: I hope The Eagle will renew its request for the probable cause affidavit. We deserve to know how the police connected Rader to BTK after 30 years of trying.
A: "We have repeatedly said that evidence will be presented at the sentencing," O'Connor told The Eagle on Friday.
Q: Nola Foulston told a TV station that the BTK records will be sealed forever. Why?
A: O'Connor told The Eagle that the statement may have been taken out of context. He pointed to prior statements regarding the intent to present evidence in open court at a sentencing hearing. "The district attorney has always recognized the public's interest in this case," O'Connor said. "The district attorney is the representative of the people of the state of Kansas and will fulfill her sworn obligation to the people and the law."
Q: How and when was Rader first brought to police attention? From the videotape of him dropping off a BTK package in the hardware store parking lot?
A: The sentencing hearing may answer this question, O'Connor said.
Q: In the transcript of the June 27 hearing, why does Rader lapse in and out of saying "we," as opposed to "I"? Was this a Freudian slip alluding to an accomplice? Is there someone else out there who will be facing charges?
A: "He had no accomplices," O'Connor told The Eagle on Friday.
A: Was there a reward for BTK before Dennis Rader got caught?
Q: In response to the Otero murders, The Eagle offered a $2,500 reward. The offer expired at midnight March 15, 1974. In 2004 and early 2005, there had been talk in the community of whether offering a reward would help produce more tips, but the BTK tip line flooded with calls even without it.