Wichita — The sentencing of the BTK serial killer this week will allow the families of his victims to confront him in court for the first time. But they also will hear in graphic terms the depravity of the crimes that terrorized this Midwestern community for more than three decades.
Unlike June's courtroom confession in which Dennis Rader pleaded guilty before delivering a lecture-style narration of his killings, Wednesday's sentencing is expected to be emotional as investigators disclose explicit details of the sexually motivated crimes. Later, relatives will tell the judge about their loss and pain.
Dennis Rader, 60, will almost certainly die behind bars for the murders to which he confessed. Rader told KAKE-TV - a Wichita station with which he communicated as BTK since the 1970s - that he was working on an emotional statement for his sentencing.
Judge Gregory Waller must rule on whether Rader will serve his 10 sentences consecutively or concurrently. Prosecutors want Rader to get the longest possible sentence - a minimum of 175 years without a chance of parole.
To do that they plan to present 10 or fewer witnesses, along with a computer presentation showing photos of the crimes and other evidence, said Georgia Cole, spokeswoman for the Sedgwick County District Attorney's Office.
"Some of it will be graphic," she said.
Defense attorneys did not return calls for comment.
Prosecutors want to make their case even though Rader's lawyers are not opposing Kansas' "hard-40" sentence, which calls for life in prison with no chance of parole for at least 40 years. That law applies only to the last killing, committed in 1991. State law at the time of the other slayings carried a maximum of life with eligibility for parole after 15 years.
The state had no death penalty when the crimes were committed.
In his confession, Rader said sexual fantasies drove him to kill 10 people in the Wichita area between 1974 and 1991, killings he referred to as his "projects." Days later, Rader called KAKE-TV from prison and told them he had picked out another victim before he was caught.
Rader, a former president of his church congregation, blamed the killings on a "demon" that got inside him at a young age.
"If he showed any kind of remorse, you could feel sorry for him, but he shows none," said Sharon Bright, whose husband Kevin was the only survivor of a BTK attack. "He even thinks he is a Christian."
For decades, the serial killer that haunted Wichita was known as BTK - his own moniker for "Bind, Torture, Kill." In a haunting prophetic message sent to KAKE in the 1970s, BTK wrote: "There is no help, no cure, except death or being caught and put away."
It would take 31 years and the deaths of 10 people before prosecutors got that chance. Among those expected to fill the courtroom and a nearby overflow room to see justice done will be between 50 and 70 family members of victims.
While prosecutors do not anticipate calling any family members as witnesses in their case, relatives will get the chance during the hearing to give the court statements about the impact of the crimes on their lives.
It's been 31 years since Kevin Bright surprised the waiting killer when he accompanied his sister, Kathryn, home on April 4, 1974. Rader bound the siblings, but Kevin loosened his bonds and ran for help, despite being shot in the head. His sister was strangled and stabbed and died later at a hospital.
At their Goodrich, Texas, home, Sharon Bright has watched her husband struggle to decide what, if anything, to say when he finally gets his chance to speak in court.
"In retrospect, he knows he was saved that day because God has a plan for his life," said his wife, Sharon.
Also planning to attend sentencing is Michael Clark, pastor of Christ Lutheran Church who has ministered to Rader in jail and still considers Rader a church member.
With the criminal case against him winding up, Rader now faces a series of lawsuits from the families of his victims seeking to keep the notorious killer from profiting from his crimes. Rader's ex-wife, Paula, has filed a petition to intervene in those cases, primarily to protect proceeds from the recent sale of their home.
Rader plans to represent himself in the lawsuits.