Who is BTK?
A Michigan man who bought a used copy of the book co-written by BTK serial killer Dennis Rader says he discovered one of Rader’s drawings tucked inside. It features what appears to be a bondage rack and ropes.
Now the man has a question: Why was a serial killer known for binding and torturing his victims allowed to draw a picture of what may be a torture device and send it out to the public?
The Kansas Department of Corrections says it monitors mail being sent and received by an inmate. It would not comment specifically on the drawing or whether and when it might have been sent from Rader’s prison cell at El Dorado Correctional Facility.
But department spokesman Samir Arif said that “inmates are allowed to send and receive mail as long as it’s not security or sexually related.”
Rader is fond of sketching and coloring and typically puts his hand-drawn seal on outgoing correspondence. The drawing the Michigan man found has Rader’s seal on one side and what appears to be a modified wooden St. Andrew’s Cross, a restraining device sometimes used in sexual situations, on the other side.
It’s unclear when the 4 1/4 -by-5 1/2 -inch crayon-and-ink drawing was made. But it has Rader’s name, initials and a date — 7/2016 — on the side with the bondage rack and ropes. The other side has the date July 16, 2017, written on it.
The Department of Corrections considers material sexually explicit if its purpose is sexual arousal or gratification and it contains nudity or anything related to intercourse, according to its website. Anyone who receives unwanted mail from an inmate can contact the agency and ask that it stop coming to their address, KDOC says.
The Michigan man who discovered the drawing says he sent it to a crime memorabilia authentication company to verify that it is real.
Research scholar Katherine Ramsland also said the artwork appears to have been made by Rader. She co-wrote the book “Confession of a Serial Killer: The Untold Story of Dennis Rader, the BTK Killer” with him. It was published last year.
Ramsland said the drawing looks like one of the so-called bookplates Rader sends to his pen pals and others who’ve bought copies of the book. Rader started creating the bookplates after he sent her a drawing for their book that was too large, and she asked him to make it smaller, she said.
“He has like 40 people who write to him,” Ramsland said. “It was my impression they were for people who were friends (of Rader’s) or correspondence for people who specifically asked for them,” she said of the bookplates.
She has one, too, she said.
She did not know how many bookplates Rader has drawn. But, Ramsland said, “I haven’t seen any that’s overtly about murder.”
Rader — who calls himself BTK for Bind Torture Kill — murdered 10 people between 1974 and 1991. Many were bound and strangled.
About the drawing found by the Michigan man, Ramsland said: “It’s no secret that he (Rader) likes ropes, but the meaning of the image is ambiguous, because he liked self-bondage, too.”
The Michigan man contacted The Eagle in late September to find out more about the drawing and to pose the questions about how Rader is able to send them out of prison. He did not want his name used for security reasons.
He said he bought the book on Ebay in early September for $3 or $4 after hearing that Rader had co-written one. He doesn’t recall where the book was shipped from but said it arrived in a white envelope with bubble wrap a couple of days after he paid for it.
The drawing slipped out of the bottom of the dust jacket when he sat down to read it, he said.
The man said he immediately glanced at the drawing but didn’t realize that it might be one of Rader’s until the next day.
“I had a bad feeling,” he said. “You could tell. It said ‘Dennis Rader’ on it and that’s what got me.”
The drawing made him feel uneasy, he said. “That fact that it was a torture device – just that in general just didn’t sit well with me.”
The man said he contacted a company that advertises authentication services online, paid $50 and sent the drawing in to verify that it is real. About a week later, True Crime Authentication responded. The drawing was real the company told him.
There is a market for Rader’s letters and drawings. On one website that sells crime memorabilia, his letters were being sold for $100 to $375 apiece. Parts of envelops scrawled with his initials went for $50 each.
The Michigan man says he still feels uneasy about the drawing and isn’t sure what he’ll ultimately do with it.
“I like true crime stuff. But not like that,” he said, referring to Rader’s drawing.
“For right now, I’ll probably just keep it in the book. I really don’t know what else to do with it. I don’t want to fuel a market for stuff like that.”