Editor’s note:This article contains graphic and disturbing material.
Dennis Rader’s description of his crimes — in letters to police that have just been released to reporters — was far uglier than the emotionless account he gave in court last month.
A letter detailing how BTK killed his first four victims portrays a family in terror.
Before he strangled 34-year-old Julie Otero, he wrote, she pleaded with him to spare her family and told him: “God have mercy on you.”
As she died, Rader wrote, her 11-year-old daughter, Josephine, cried out: “Mommy, I love you.”
Another communication details how Rader developed violent sexual fantasies.
Police caution that he could be lying in both communications.
Those who study serial killers know they often fantasize about their crimes. Anything they write about the crimes could be concocted to feed their fantasies or bolster their egos.
BTK “finds gratification writing about it and talking about it,” police Capt. Randy Landen said. “So it’s going to be presented (by him) in whatever light is most exciting to him.”
Some things Rader claims happened at the Otero home can be verified using crime-scene photos and evidence.
What can’t be verified is the conversation BTK says took place with the Oteros.
Some of the supposed conversation sounds too articulate, too calm to Landen. The situation would have been chaotic.
Rader’s Aug. 17 sentencing is expected to focus on the pleasure he gained from others’ suffering and the sexual fantasy he says motivated him. When he pleaded guilty to 10 killings in June, he told District Judge Greg Waller that bondage got him into trouble.
“How much is true will come out in sentencing,” Lt. Ken Landwehr, the BTK task force commander, said in an interview with The Eagle on Thursday.
A lawyer representing Rader, Deputy Public Defender Jama Mitchell, declined to comment Friday.
The letter was found June 9, 2004, in a package taped to a stop sign at First and Kansas. It is a step-by-step, graphic description of how BTK killed Joseph and Julie Otero and their two youngest children, Josephine, and Joseph II, 9.
Police released the letter and other documents July 8. Because copies were of poor quality and in reduced type, it took reporters days to transcribe them. Police had the same difficulty with their copies.
Here are some details of what the killer says happened at the Otero house on Jan. 15, 1974. The Eagle is not publishing the most graphic details.
In the letter, BTK said he crept up to the Oteros’ detached garage in the cold, noticed a dog’s paw prints and waited. He thought out his options.
In his own words — full of misspellings and typos — he wrote: “Finally, about twenty minutes before nine the door unlock and the boy step outide...”
He ordered Joseph II back inside and confronted the family with a knife and a .22-caliber handgun.
He told the family — the children were preparing to leave for school — that it was a robbery. He told them not to be alarmed.
Joseph II, who stayed by his parents, looked scared. Josephine began to cry.
Rattled by the family’s barking dog, he threatened them, saying his gun was an automatic with hollow-point bullets. The father agreed to put the dog outside.
The killer ordered the four into a bedroom and tied their hands behind their backs.
Someone screamed after Rader put plastic bags over the heads of Joseph and his son and pulled on cords or other bindings.
Julie and Josephine pleaded, asking him to release the boy and his father.
“What are you doing?” Julie asked, as he slipped a rope around her neck. He strangled her slowly.
He told Josephine her parents were sleeping, then put a binding around her neck. She passed out.
In the basement, he found a sewer pipe he thought was stout enough to support a body.
He brought Josephine — apparently still alive — downstairs and removed most of her clothes.
“Please,” she said.
“Don’t worry baby,” he said he told her.
“You be in heaven tonite with the rest.”
He put a rope around her neck and hung her from the pipe.
Though he tried to leave no evidence, the DNA he left behind later helped seal the case against him.
In another communication, received by police Oct. 22, BTK wrote a chronological account of his childhood and early adulthood.
Landwehr told reporters at the July 8 briefing that some of the details were false. For example, Rader claimed to have used prostitutes but really didn’t.
Even if the communication isn’t true, it gives investigators and others a look into the mind of a sexually motivated serial killer, said Robert Ressler, a Virginia-based former FBI profiler who has studied and written about a number of high-profile serial killers.
In the purported autobiography, which BTK refers to as “Chapter 2” and “Dawn,” he describes how he developed violent sexual fantasies.
He wrote that as a boy he secretly looked at “Girly Books” that exposed him to what he calls “S/M & B/D,” apparent references to sado-masochism and bondage and domination.
He said he went window-peeping at 18 and stole panties.
He mentioned hanging a cat, then a dog.
In his late teens, he wrote, he began to fantasize about women in bondage.
He said he traveled in the military and became a marksman and learned survival and self-defense skills. Records show Rader entered the Air Force in June 1966. He then was sent to Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio; Sheppard Air Force Base, near Wichita Falls, Texas; Brookley Air Force Base, in Mobile, Ala.; and bases on Okinawa and outside Tokyo, Japan. He left active duty in August 1970.
He referred to fantasies, drawings, pictures. “Always had to destroy them when I moved from base to base. Would start over again when the feeling starting coming back.”
In his communications to police last year, BTK included disturbing drawings of naked and bound women.
Sometimes, he wrote about his past: “I would break in and steal underclothes for my private collection.”
After Rader’s arrest, investigators removed dozens of items from his backyard shed, including pantyhose, underwear, ropes, cord and duct tape.
In his early 30s, he claims, he tried bondage on prostitutes. Some refused to see him again “because I was too scary.”
At age 32 to 34, “I was getting the feeling again and it was bad this time.”
He talked about reading detective magazines and paperbacks.
Then he listed several serial killers.
“They all got caught except the Ripper, could I become a Killer and not get caught?”