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Archive for Tuesday, March 1, 2005

Wichita once put security in hands of BTK suspect

March 1, 2005

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— For about 15 years, it was the job of the man police have accused of being the BTK serial killer to help keep people safe.

Before he started as a city code enforcer in suburban Park City, Dennis L. Rader was an employee at an ADT Security Services branch office in Wichita, holding several positions that allowed him access to customers' homes. He worked for the home security company between 1974 and 1988 -- the same time as a majority of the killings.

Police have not disclosed any evidence suggesting that Rader worked at the homes of the BTK victims. But his employment history has given police and Wichita-area residents one more piece of the puzzle after being baffled for years about the killings.

Rader was scheduled to appear in court at noon today via video so prosecutors could recite yet-to-be-filed criminal charges against him and the judge could review bail. It was unclear whether Rader had a lawyer.

Rader, 59, a churchgoing family man and Cub Scout leader, was arrested Friday. He remains in custody in lieu of $10 million bail in connection with 10 deaths, committed between 1974 and 1991.

The BTK killer re-emerged in March 2004, taunting police with letters and packages sent to media outlets. Authorities have declined to say what led them to zero in on Rader, a married father of two and an active member of a Lutheran church.

Police had long linked BTK -- the nickname comes from killer's own writings to authorities and stands for "Bind, Torture, Kill" -- to eight murders, but they added two more Saturday after Rader's arrest and said their investigation was continuing. A source close to the investigation said Rader had confessed to six killings.

"The guy is telling us about the murders," the source said on condition of anonymity.

Meanwhile, investigators in two nearby counties said Monday that they were looking at old cases with similarities to BTK homicides.

Media criticized

Investigators remained tight-lipped Monday about the investigation, going so far as to hold a news conference to warn that public speculation could complicate their investigation. Police Chief Norman Williams vowed that Rader will "not be tried in the media, but rather in a court of law."

Williams reiterated Monday police have linked Rader to the 10 slayings blamed on BTK. But the source said investigators were looking into whether Rader was responsible for the deaths of two Wichita State University students as well as a woman who lived down the street from another known victim of BTK.

Upset at the details reported about the investigation, Williams said he would ask prosecutors whether they could take legal action against members of the media. But he did not go into specifics about what information was inaccurate, and he refused to take any questions.

In a written statement issued Monday, Boca Raton, Fla.-based ADT said it had little detailed information on Rader's employment record in Wichita, but pledged to cooperate with investigators.

Security checks

Jason Watkins, part-owner and general manager for Alarm America, another local company that sells security systems, said that while it's not required by law, many security alarm companies conduct routine criminal background checks on prospective employees. But he noted that Rader had never apparently before been in trouble with the law.

Mike Tavares worked with Rader at ADT and described him as a "by-the-books" employee who would often draw diagrams of houses and personally make sure technicians installed systems correctly. While Rader was known as a blunt person and rubbed some people the wrong way, he never struck co-workers as anything other than businesslike.

In the year since BTK reappeared, the number of Wichita-area residents installing ADT-like security systems rose noticeably. In some cases, the waiting periods for systems installations increased from two days to almost a week.

"There was a little bit of panic buying," said Bob Collins, who has been in the alarm industry for 25 years and is president of Comsec of Kansas. "The psychological impact of his breaking silence after 30 years caused people to reassess their security."

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