Since 1974 BTK Strangler Dennis Rader has been writing letters, to the media, police and more recently to his many pen-pals. It keeps him busy as he awaits sentencing on August 17, 2005 after pleading guilty to 10 counts of first degree murder. In fact, it was his own prolific prose and need to communicate that led to his arrest and downfall in February. He decided to put his thoughts on a computer diskette that was mailed to a Wichita, Kansas television station. The police promptly traced the diskette to the church Rader was the president of, and after checking a DNA sample secretly obtained of his daughter, they arrested the dog catcher of Park City, Kansas as the infamous BTK Strangler serial killer.
The sentencing on August 17 should be a big media event of its own. We are promised a fuller disclosure of what BTK did to his victims by prosecutors, as well as testimony from surviving victims family members.
BTK’s letters were always peculiar in that they were so badly written it was thought the killer was trying to disguise his intelligence by appearing to be grammatically inept. Actually it was merely the way Rader, a college graduate, really does write in his everyday life.
During the 1970s he wrote three letters to police and media. All are quite graphic and were intended to prove he had committed these crimes and appear to boast of his accomphishments. The crimes referred to in these letters are the seven murders he was known to commit in 1974 and 1977, including the four members of the Otero family (Joe, 38; Julie, 34; daughter Josephine, 11; son Joseph II, 9); Kathryn Bright, 21; Shirley Vian, 24; and Nancy Fox, 25.
Here is a link to the first letter, which was written in October, 1974. It is a graphic description of what he did to the four Otero victims, and at the time was able to prove to police he was the actual perpetrator of this crime.
The second letter was received in 1978 and takes credit for the murders of Shirley Vian and Nancy Fox in 1977. There is a reference to a victim #5 which is not identified, but was later proven to be Kathryn Bright from 1974. Her brother Kevin survived that incident and BTK was reluctant to admit direct responsibility, apparently because there was a surviving witness. There is a reference to the hanging of Josephine Otero in this letter, his 11 year old victim.
The 1978 letter follows unedited with mistakes left intact:
“I find the newspaper not wirting about the poem on Vain unamusing. A little paragraph would have enough. Iknow it not the media fault. The Police Cheif he keep things quiet, and doesn’t let the public know there a psycho running around lose strangling mostly women, there 7 in the ground; who will be next?
“How many do I have to Kill before I get a name in the paper or some national attention. Do the cop think that all those deaths are not related? Golly -gee, yes the M.O. is different in each, but look a pattern is developing. The victims are tie up-most have been women-phone cut- bring some bondage mater sadist tendencies-no struggle, outside the death spot-no wintness except the Vain’s Kids. They were very lucky; a phone call save them. I was go-ng to tape the boys and put plastics bag over there head like I did Joseph, and Shirley. And then hang the girl. God-oh God what a beautiful sexual relief that would been. Josephine,when I hung her really turn me on; her pleading for mercy then the rope took whole, she helpless; staring at me with wide terror fill eyes the rope getting tighter-tighter. You don’t understand these things because your not underthe influence of factor x). The same thing that made Son of Sam, Jack the Ripper, Havery Glatman, Boston Strangler, Dr. H.H. Holmes Panty Hose Strangler OF Florida, Hillside Strangler, Ted of the West Coast and many more infamous character kill. Which seem s senseless, but we cannot help it. There is no help, no cure, except death or being caught and put away. It a terrible nightmarebut, you see I don’t lose any sleep over it. After a thing like Fox I ccome home and go about life like anyone else. And I will be like that until the urge hit me again. It not continuous and I don;t have a lot of time. It take time to set a kill, one mistake and it all over. Since I about blew it on the phone-handwriting is out-letter guide is to long and typewriter can be traced too,.My short poem of death and maybe a drawing;later on real picture and maybe a tape of the sound will come your way. How will you know me. Before a murder or murders you will receive a copy of the initials B.T.K. , you keep that copy the original will show up some day on guess who?
“May you not be the unluck one!
How about some name for me, its time: 7 down and many more to go. I like the following How about you?
“‘THE B.T.K. STRANGLER’, WICHITA STRANGLER’, ‘POETIC STRANGLER’, ‘THE BOND AGE STRANGLER’ OR PSYCHO’ THE WICHITA HANGMAN THE WICHITA EXECUTIONER, ‘THE GAROTE PHATHOM’, ‘THE ASPHIXIATER’.
On a separate page, he writes:
“#5 You guess motive and victim.
“#6 You found one Shirley Vain lying belly down on a unmade bed in northeast bedroom-hand tied behind back with black tape and cord. Feet & ankles with black tape &legs. Ankles tied to west head of the bed with small off white cord, wrap around legs, hands, arm, finally the neck, many times. A off white pla stic bag over her head loop on with a pink nitie was barefooted. She was sick use a glass of water and smoke I or Two cigarette-house a total mess- kids took some toys with them to the bathroom-bedagainst east bathroom door. Chose at random with some pre-planning. Motive Factor X.
“#7 One Nancy Fox-lying belly down on made bed in southwest bedroom-hands tied behind back with red panty hose-feet together with yellow nitie-semi-nude with pink sweather and bra small neckless-glasses on west dresser-panties below butt-many different than the hosery. She had a smoke and wbnt to the bathroom before the final act-very neat housekeeper& dresser-rifled pursein kitchen-empty paper bag – white coat in living-room- heat up to about 90 degrees, Christsmas tree lights on- nities and hose around the room- hose bag of orange color it and hosery on bed-driver licence gone-seminal stain on or in blue women wear. Chose at random with little pre-planning, Motive Factor “X”.
“#8 Next victim maybe: You will find her hanging with a wire noose-Hands behind back with black tape or cord -feet with tape or cord-gaged- then cord around the body to the neck -hooded maybe- possible seminal stain in anus-or on body. Will be chosen at random. Some pre-planning-Motive Factor’X’.”
There was a poem and sketch enclosed with this letter. The poem was entitled “Oh Death to Nancy” and was based on an old folk song called “Oh Death”. The crime scenes described are acknowledged by police to have been fairly accurate.
The third letter of the 1970s was sent to both a Wichita televsion station and to an intended victim who did not come home in time to meet what would have been certain death one evening in 1979. BTK returned some pilfered small items in this letter, to prove it was indeed he who had been in that house waiting for his victim to come home. He enclosed a sketch of what he would have liked to have done to this would-be victim, as well as a poem entitled “Oh Anna Why Didn’t You Appear”. (For the two poems and some other BTK writings, see The Letters of Dennis Rader.)
After this followed a 25 year silence during which there were no confirmed communications from BTK. He broke that silence in March 2004 when the first of eleven communications were issued, the final one of which led directly to his arrest.
If BTK had not been an ego-maniac he may never have been arrested. He had to let the world know that these crimes were exclusively his, saving police a lot of guesswork in linking these different crimes together. He would go on to be charged with three more murders in 1985, 1986 and 1991. He furnished his own crime scene photos of 1986 victim Vicki Wegerle in his 2004 series of communications, leaving no doubt that this was another BTK victim. Evidence was seized, probably from his own files, proving the other two murders after he was arrested.
The only reason we refer to Dennis Rader as BTK or the BTK Strangler is because he himself created the name and character back in 1974.
“The code words for me will be, Bind them, Torture them, Kill them…” he wrote prophetically back then. By 2004 he couldn’t contain his silence any longer. Apart from proving the Wegerle murder and that he was the same killer from the 1970s, BTK mostly furnished fake clues while transfixing Wichita and an increasingly larger audience in this latter series of letters and packages. He became obsessed with his own case, hearing and seeing BTK reports in the media, until finally he got so careless that the police were able to identify him beyond all doubt. This self-created madman who posed as a normal member of society for so many years will be spending his remaining years inside a maximum security prison, writing more letters.
For the latest on the BTK Strangler visit my website, The BTK Site.