Wichita police: ‘BTK is arrested’

Park City man accused in 31-year-old spree that left 10 dead

? The game of hide and seek may finally be over.

Dennis Lynn Rader, 59 — suspected of being the killer known to Wichitans and the world simply by the initials BTK for his self-described style of murder: “Bind, Torture, Kill” — is in police custody.

“The bottom line: BTK is arrested,” said Wichita Police Chief Norman Williams in an emotional news conference Saturday often marked by applause at the Wichita City Council chamber at City Hall.

BTK is believed to be responsible for a crime spree that left 10 dead and that tormented the town for three decades. After years of silence, the killer resurfaced recently, taunting police and the media for the past year for their inability to discover his identity.

Williams called the arrest of Rader — a compliance supervisor in the small suburb of Park City in charge of housing codes and animal control — a “very historic day” for the Wichita Police Department and numerous other agencies involved in the case.

Rader, a Cub Scout leader who was active at his Lutheran church, lived with his wife, neighbors said. Public records indicate they have two grown children.

Rader was being held at an undisclosed location, and it was not immediately clear whether he had an attorney. In Kansas, suspects generally appear before a judge for a status hearing within 48 hours of their arrest.

The suspect likely will be charged early next week with first-degree murder in connection to the 10 deaths tied to BTK, officials said.

DNA evidence

The investigation progressed quickly at noon Friday when the Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office, the Wichita Police and Kansas Bureau of Investigation arrested Rader in a traffic stop on East Kechi Road. Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, attending a news conference in Washington, said state highway patrol officers familiar with the case told her that DNA evidence linked the suspect to the slayings.

“The way they made the link was some DNA evidence, that they had some DNA connection to the guy who they arrested,” Sebelius said.

Yet if the suspect is convicted in all 10 homicides — which also include the Otero family, Kathryn Bright, 21, Shirley Vian, 24, Nancy Fox, 25, and Vicki Wegerle, 28 — Dist. Atty. Nola Foulston said the death penalty could not apply to any crime committed before 1994, the year the death penalty was reinstated in Kansas.

Challenge for law enforcement

Wichita Mayor Carlos Mayans said that this was the most challenging case in the history of Wichita and that “our fine police department has been, at times, questioned. Their competence was questioned, and their actions were often second-guessed.”

None more so than last March when BTK re-emerged after 25 years of silence by sending a letter to The Wichita Eagle that contained a photocopy of Wegerle’s driver’s license and three pictures. The photos could have only been taken by the killer because Wegerle’s body was removed quickly by EMS workers before any crime scene photos were shot.

“It has been a very long journey that has brought us to this day,” said Mayans, addressing the audience of 300 people, including several family members of victims. “The past year certainly has been a challenge. The national spotlight has been shining on us, but through diligence, tenacity, determination and just plain good police work by the men and women have once again made us proud of their accomplishment.”

Special agent Kevin Stafford, who headed the FBI’s involvement in the case, praised the local and state task forces, telling Wichita residents: “I hope you all sleep better at night.”

31 years of fear

The case dates back to Jan. 15, 1974, when Joseph Otero, 38, and Julie Otero, 34, along with their two children, Josephine, 11, and Joseph II, 9, were strangled in their east Wichita home. The deaths began a 31-year game of cat and mouse between BTK. Also Saturday, officials announced two additional killings, the deaths of Park City residents Marine Hedge, 53, who once lived on the same block as Rader, and Delores “Dee” Davis, 62. The two slayings were previously believed to be connected to BTK and are finally confirmed.

Hedge’s body, which an autopsy showed had been strangled, was found along a dirt road in Sedgwick County in May 1985, eight days after her abduction from her home.

Davis was taken from her house Jan. 19, 1991, after a brick was thrown through a sliding glass door. Her body was found with her hands, feet and knees bound by pantyhose underneath a bridge in rural Sedgwick County.

Relief at last

Kansas Atty. Gen. Phill Kline said he was pleased that finally the victims’ families could begin to find closure for the horrific crimes.

“Victims whose voices were brutally silenced by the evil of one man will now have their voices heard again,” he said. “This story, as is all stories of justice if achieved, is a story of our best brought by the necessity of the worst of mankind. And our best will prevail.”

Relatives of the victims, filling five rows of seats at the announcement, said the arrest brought relief at last.

“It’s been unbelievable,” said Dale Fox, Nancy Fox’s father. It was the break he’d been waiting for years after Nancy was strangled Dec. 8, 1977, in her home.

Fox said he’s certain his daughter’s killer will be brought to justice.

“It’ll all come out in the end,” Fox said. “He’ll get his.”

— The Associated Press contributed to this report.