Wichita BTK suspect Dennis Rader pleaded guilty today to 10 counts of first-degree murder, admitting in a chillingly matter-of-fact voice to a series of slayings that terrorized the city beginning in the 1970s.
Rader, 60, of Park City, entered the guilty pleas on what would have been the first day of his trial.
Prosecutors had said before the hearing that no plea deal had been made.
Saying he was motivated by "sexual fantasy," the one-time president of the church council at Christ Lutheran Church and Boy Scout leader admitted killing 10 people in the Wichita area between 1974 and 1991. The serial killer known as BTK - the self-coined nickname that stands for "Bind, Torture, Kill" - taunted media and police with cryptic messages that became increasingly frequent in the months before Rader's arrest on Feb. 25.
Rader, wearing a beige coat and dark tie, told District Judge Gregory Waller that he understood the charges against him and that he was waiving his right to a jury trial. He later described to the court how he killed his victims, calmly detailing the strangulation deaths of Joseph and Julie Otero and their two children.
"I had never strangled anyone before, so I really didn't know how much pressure you had to put on a person or how long it would take," he said.
"The whole family just panicked on me. I worked pretty quick. I strangled Mrs. Otero. She passed out. I thought she was dead. I strangled Josephine. She passed out. I thought she was dead. Then I went over and put a bag on Junior's head."
He later said about Mrs. Otero: "I went back and strangled her again."
When questioned by the judge about the motivation for the Otero slayings, Rader said: "That was part of what you call my fantasy."
Pressed further, Rader said, "Sexual fantasy, sir."
Rader has not been accused of sexually assaulting his victims, but he admitted masturbating over some of them.
Most of the victims' relatives who were in the courtroom sat silent and stared at Rader, although one woman wiped away tears. After the hearing, the relatives were escorted by officials into another building and did not speak to reporters.
The judge set sentencing for Aug. 17. Rader will not face the death penalty because all the crimes were committed before the state adopted capital punishment. But it's likely he'll never leave prison because each count carries a possible life sentence.
The earliest crimes linked to the BTK strangler date were the Otero deaths on Jan. 15, 1974, when they were found strangled in their home.
BTK's next three victims were young women found strangled in their homes: Kathryn Bright, 21, on April 4, 1974; Shirley Vian, 24, on March 17, 1977; and Nancy Fox, 25, on Dec. 8, 1977.
Police did not connect the Sept. 16, 1986, strangulation death of Vicki Wegerle to BTK until the killer resurfaced last year with a letter to The Wichita Eagle that included photos of the crime and a photocopy of her missing driver's license.
Rader also admitted killing Marine Hedge, 53, who was abducted from her Park City home on April 27, 1985, and found dead along a dirt road eight days later. Dolores Davis, 62, was abducted from her home near Park City on Jan. 19, 1991. Those deaths were not linked to BTK until Rader's arrest.
Referring to his victims as "projects," Rader laid out for the court how he would "troll" for victims on his off-time, then stalk them.
"If you've read much about serial killers, they go through what they call different phases. In the trolling stage, basically, 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. That might be several of them but you really hone in on one person. They basically become the ... that's the victim. Or at least that's what you want it to be."
He said he told Fox he had "sexual problems," forced her to strip, then handcuffed her and strangled her with a belt. After she was dead, he said, he removed the handcuffs from her body and masturbated over her.
Steve Osburn, one of Rader's defense attorney's, said prosecutors' evidence against Rader included a confession, DNA and "personal trophies" Rader collected from his victims.
"It was a very solid case," Osburn said.
He said defense attorneys explored an insanity plea, but decided not to proceed.
"From a legal standpoint, we had nothing to work with," Osburn said.
Rader did not apologize during the hearing, though Osburn suggested later that Rader may apologize at his sentencing.
"Mr. Rader basically wanted to take responsibility for his actions," Osburn said.
Rader's pastor, the Rev. Michael Clark of the Christ Lutheran Church said he had hoped Rader would plead guilty.