Archive for Sunday, July 10, 2005

Police detail capture of BTK

July 10, 2005

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— Confessed serial killer Dennis Rader was still hunting for victims, and he would have never stopped, the head of a police task force said Friday night.

In a four-hour meeting with local reporters at City Hall, Wichita police Lt. Ken Landwehr and other BTK Task Force members described step-by-step how they caught Wichita's most notorious killer.

Many of the details were new, while others confirmed earlier reports. And for the first time, investigators spoke openly of the case that had consumed their lives and haunted Wichita for 31 years.

"He has no remorse," Landwehr said of Rader.

"He's proud of what he did. He can think he's a Christian all he wants. ... He is nothing but a perverted serial killer."

Not long into the police interview following his arrest on Feb. 25, Rader told Landwehr and an FBI behaviorist, "I'm BTK," the name Rader used for himself for "bind, torture, kill."

"As soon as that was done, the floodgates opened," Landwehr said. If defense lawyers hadn't intervened, he said, Rader would have continued to talk to investigators.

Rader told them that he picked his victims by driving down the street.

"He'll tell you he never, ever stopped looking," police Detective Tim Relph said.

He first killed after he saw Julie Otero and one of her daughters stepping out of a car. Joseph, Julie, Joseph Jr. and Josephine Otero were murdered in their home on Jan. 15, 1974.

He saw Kathryn Bright outside her home. Rader stabbed her to death on April 4, 1974.

"He would find places where he thought single women would be," Landwehr said, but didn't elaborate on the specific locations where Rader "trolled" for those he didn't kill.

Rader spotted Vicki Wegerle walking out of her house. She was murdered Sept. 16, 1986.

He had a fantasy about neighbor Marine Hedge, who lived just down the street from him in Park City. She was killed April 27, 1985.

He saw his final victim, Dolores "Dee" Davis and "made her a project," Landwehr said. She was killed on Jan. 19, 1991.

It was just a matter of seeing someone who "caught his eye," Landwehr said, and then he would become obsessed with stalking them.

A big break

The single biggest break in the case was a diskette in one BTK package that investigators determined was from Rader's church, Christ Lutheran.

Police found the name "Dennis" on the diskette, and in doing a Google search found that Dennis Rader was the congregation president.

During his correspondence with police, Rader had asked if it was OK to send them files on diskettes, and directed them to place a classified ad in The Wichita Eagle with the answer.

In January, investigators placed an ad that answered: "Rex, it will be OK." An ad placed in February, after the diskette had been received, appeared to give the false assurance it hadn't been traced: "Only read message about card."

Another key piece of evidence was video from the northeast Wichita Home Depot that showed someone in a dark-colored Jeep Cherokee leaving what turned out to be a BTK package in the bed of a pickup in the store parking lot. The Cherokee, it turned out, belonged to Rader's son, who was away serving in the military.

The package was eventually recovered from a trash bin.

After Rader's arrest, investigators found BTK's original communications, copies of which he had sent to police and the media, in a locked file cabinet in Rader's work office.

Rader was a compliance officer for Park City from 1991 until he was fired a few days after his arrest.

Proof positive

What clinched the case for investigators was a medical sample obtained from Rader's daughter that matched DNA from the Otero, Fox and Wegerle crime scenes.

That told police that "BTK was the father of Mr. Rader's daughter," Landwehr said.

On June 27, Rader admitted to killing 10 people and told authorities he had selected an 11th victim. How close he was to killing again isn't clear, Landwehr said.

Police do not believe Rader killed more than the 10 people he has admitted to murdering.

Rader faces sentencing on Aug. 17.

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