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8 Facts About 'BTK Killer' and How a Small Mistake Led to His Arrest After 30 Years of Evasion

Denis Rader has been linked to at least two unsolved murders in Oklahoma and Missouri and it took the authorities 30 years to catch him.
Cover Image Source: Screenshot | Fox23News
Cover Image Source: Screenshot | Fox23News

The BTK serial killer evaded capture for over 3 decades before finally being nabbed. He was on the loose, from 1974 to 2005, but cops finally managed to arrest him and put him on trial, the Associated Press reported. During that period, the serial killer took the lives of at least 10 people and left the Wichita residents in a constant state of fear and panic. 

The face behind the 'BTK killer' moniker was revealed to be Dennis Lynn Rader, who is currently serving multiple life sentences without a possibility of parole, Cosmopolitan reported.

There are a lot of lesser-known details about the murderer as he serves his time behind bars. Here are some of the facts about Rader, his early life, and how a small mistake from his side allowed the authorities to get a hold of him after he evaded arrest for nearly 30 years.

1. Dennis Rader's early life


Rader lived a fairly normal life to avoid suspicion. He was a Wichita resident and had a wife and two kids as well. He switched from one job to another and was working as a compliance officer for Park City and a camping equipment company at one point.

Rader also worked for a home security company. He was a member of the local Lutheran church and actively participated with his son's Boy Scout troop, according to Cosmopolitan. He gave himself the nickname BTK which stands for “Bind, Torture, Kill", the method he used while killing his victims, AP News reported.

2. The first known murders

Rader was born in 1945 and from a young age, he had sadistic fantasies about torturing and killing women. He carried out his first known murders in January 1974 and his victims were 38-year-old Joseph Otero, 33-year-old Julie Otero, and two of the couple's five kids who were 9 and 11 at that time, The Independent reported.


In April 1974, Rader killed again and this time it was a 21-year-old woman named Kathryn Bright. He took her life by binding and strangling her. “If you’ve read much about serial killers, they go through what they call different phases,” Rader said in a chilling account during his trial, CNN reported. “In the trolling stage, you’re looking for a victim at that time. You can be trolling for months or years but once you lock in on a certain person, you become a stalker.”

3. He was an expert at messing with the authorities

According to a 2005 report from CBS News, Cynthia Bowers, a correspondent of the outlet shared how Rader would "tease police with cryptic clues that may be true or not."


At one point, Rader sent three packages to a local TV station containing jewelry that could be from a victim, CNN reported. However, this ignited hope amongst locals that modern forensic science could aid the authorities to track down the killer. Some surveillance footage gave the authorities their first clue about Rader's identity and whereabouts.

Rader even called the police with details of Nancy Fox's 1977 slaying and wrote letters to the authorities with poems and graphic descriptions of the crimes he committed.

4. Rader's daughter spoke about her father


One of Rader's two children, Kerri Rawson was born in 1978. She opened up about her father in the 2016 book Confession of a Serial Killer: The Untold Story of Dennis Rader, the BTK Killer, which was written by renowned serial killer expert Dr. Katherine Ramsland with Rader's cooperation. It detailed the gruesome accounts of all the murders he committed. Rawson told The Independent in an interview that the book had "retraumatised her."

“To see my father say things about my family, and be rough on us in places it tore me apart,” she admitted to the outlet. Rawson was constantly harassed by his father's supporters through emails and social media posts. 

5. The victims of Rader

His first victims were the Otero couple and their two children Josephine and Joseph II. Rader slayed the members of the family and their bodies were found in their home on 15 January 1974, CBS News reported.

His next victim was 21-year-old Kathryn Bright. He stabbed her and shot Bright's brother, who survived the attack. Rader then attacked 24-year-old Shirley Vian whom he strangled to death in 1977.

Next was 25-year-old Nancy Fox who died in 1977 after Rader strangled her with stockings. After that, Rader took a long gap from committing his heinous crimes. In 1985, he took the life of Marine Hedge who was 53 years old at that time. Rader abducted her from her home in April of that year and then killed her using a knotted pair of pantyhose was found nearby. She had also lived on the same street as Rader.

The BTK killer also ended the life of 28-year-old Vicki Wegerle in 1986 and in 2004 Rader wrote a letter to The Wichita Eagle and included photos of a murdered Wegerle and a photocopy of her missing driver's license. Rader also abducted and killed 62-year-old Dolores Davis whose body was found under a bridge in 1991.

6. How was the BTK killer caught?

One simple mistake from Rader led to his ultimate capture. After the last killing in 1991, Rader started to toy with the authorities once again by dropping clues about his crimes in 2004.

Rader sent a box to a Wichita-based news channel that had a Barbie doll enacting the murders, Cosmopolitan reported. There was a victim's driver's license and a month later, he sent the same news station a postcard that read: “Can I communicate with Floppy [disk] and not be traced to a computer? Be honest.” It was the use of the floppy disk that led to him being caught, according to CBS News.

Eleven months before his ultimate arrest, Rader had sent 10 messages to taunt the authorities and many of those messages were addressed to Wichita Police Lieutenant, Ken Landwehr.


The authorities were able to use metadata from the documents in the floppy disk to trace to a computer at the local Lutheran church where he was president of the congregation. In the wake of his arrest, Rader's wife Paula Dietz was granted an emergency divorce.

7. The unsolved murders and mysteries

As of 2023, which is almost a decade after his imprisonment, Rader had led authorities looking into his case to believe that he could be the "prime suspect" of many other unsolved murders and disappearances in at least two states, The Independent reported.

During a search of Rader's former home in Park City, Wichita, the Osage County Sheriff's Department has stumbled upon certain objects of interest that could be tied to the murders of other victims. “Through the investigation, we developed information of some possible trophies of Dennis Rader’s, and we followed up on those leads and worked with Park City,” Sheriff Eddie Virden told Fox News Digital.

“One of the items we recovered at that time was what appears to be a pantyhose ligature." The items recovered were turned over to investigators from the Kansas Bureau of Investigation for more analysis. In a statement, Osage County undersheriff Gary Upton named Rader as the main suspect in at least two unsolved killings, including the case of Cynthia Kinney, whose disappearance is still officially considered a missing person case.

The National Missing and Unidentified Persons System states that the 16-year-old cheerleader was last seen in 1976.

8. Where is the BTK killer now?

The BTK killer is still serving his 10 consecutive life sentences at the El Dorado Correctional Facility. His daughter Rawson stated that her father is still "seething at cops searching his old home for possible links to other sick crimes," New York Post reported. 

“He’s pretty much rotting, like, to his core.” Rader — who has been locked up since 2005 — refused to cooperate, even when offered an immunity deal, according to the outlet. “My dad said maybe he would like to go out like a Roman candle,” Rawson said. “He’s very unhappy with what’s going on and we’re coming up against a man that’s playing lots of games."

“So that’s one pressing point, that if he’s not going to cooperate, then we’re going to do this the legit hard way and he’s going to wake up some morning somewhere he doesn’t want to be," Rawson added.

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