Home / Living with BTK – Paula Rader Gets a Divorce

Living with BTK – Paula Rader Gets a Divorce

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On July 26, 2005 Paula Rader was granted an emergency divorce from BTK killer Dennis Rader. The 60 day waiting period was waived by Sedgwick County District Judge Eric Yost and the divorce was finalized the same day it was petitioned. It was filed citing mental and physical distress under the advice of a mental health professional, and also grants Paula Rader full ownership of all property shared by the couple including the home that was recently auctioned. Paula Rader assumes responsibility for the house mortgage and her living expenses. Dennis Rader also gave up all income from two retirement accounts. Here is a link to the divorce petition and decree from kansas.com.

Dennis Rader recently admitted to being the notorious BTK Strangler serial killer that had terrorized Wichita, Kansas since 1974. He confessed to 10 murders committed in the Wichita area, the last known one being in 1991. He was arrested in February, 2005 after a 31 year hunt for the elusive killer. He had been there all along, living respectably as a husband, father, Lutheran church official and former Boy Scout troop leader. He installed alarm systems and later became the compliance officer/animal control officer for Park City KS, just a few miles north of Wichita where he had lived with his wife and family since 1971. His killings were a brutal mixture of home invasion, bondage, torture and strangulation. Not one person who knew him personally ever suspected that he could be the infamous BTK Strangler.

With Paula he fathered two children, now adults, who were conceived literally in between horrible murders. He had the ability to compartmentalize, to cut off the evil side from the apparently normal side and vice versa. He could kill and then go on like nothing had happened at all.

One of his victims was a pleasant lady who lived on the same street as the Raders, Marine Hedge. They would greet her as they strolled past her home when she was out working in her garden. BTK broke into her house one night in 1985 and hid in a bedroom. He waited until she went to bed that night then pounced on her, strangling her with his bare hands. He drove her body off in her own car and dumped it in a ditch a few miles away.

Paula herself was known to be terrified of BTK, as were many other women around Wichita. People have often asked, how could she live with BTK and not suspect anything? Some find it inconceivable that she could not have known. The answer here lies in the fact that as a psychopath BTK was unsurpassed in his ability to lead two different lives. While far from perfect in his everyday life, he just did not impress people as being a likely candidate for a serial killer. He was too ordinary, too straight, too responsible, too religious.

Paula is known by her friends and associates as an upstanding person, a lady that is universally liked and respected by those who know her. A founding member of her Lutheran church, she was even known to be envied by the way her husband doted on her in public. He appeared to be, and likely was, every bit the true family man dedicated to his wife and children.

BTK’s dark side was kept well hidden from the family and people he knew. It was revealed in 2005 that the night he killed Marine Hedge, he first drove her to the Lutheran church and photographed her dead body in various poses inside the church.

What has happened to Paula Rader represents an extreme that almost no one else on the planet will ever know. An extreme of being deceived, lied to, betrayed beyond all known measure. There is no way you and I could ever conceive what that would feel like. The same would go for the two children he so responsibly reared.

Certainly in retrospect she can see certain details now that previously had been ignored or not understood. Certain danger signs that were interpreted as being something else, that could be explained away by the power of reason or denial. She has the horrible task set before her of piecing it all together, of seeing things in the light of how they really were.

We support Paula in her quest to get beyond this terrible shock and to start life all over. It is no surprise that neither she nor the children have visited Dennis since his arrest. Now that the divorce is final, she never will have to deal with him directly ever again. She was unable to continue to live in the family home after the arrest, and had it auctioned this month. A benevolent bidder bought the home at a much higher price than it was worth out of sympathy for Paula.

I could post a link or two for those who want to see a photo of Paula, but I won’t, neither here nor at my website. Let’s respect the privacy she desperately needs and wants at this time. She has nothing to hide in terms of appearance, her picture is that of a fine lady who radiates a sort of sweetness and warmth. She is 57 years old and still considered a welcome part of the church she helped to found.

For the latest in the ongoing BTK saga, to view the confession video and find more information on the BTK Strangler, stop by my website at www.freewebs.com/thebtksite


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About Frank Waldron

  • Eric Olsen

    fascinating and very disturbing – thanks and welcome Frank!

  • When is the movie version being released? And what will they call it?

  • Greg

    This is one of the most compassionate pieces I have seen written on BTK. I grew up in Wichita during that era. Thank you for respecting the family’s privacy and the extreme difficulty they face going forward. How could anyone of them know what is real in their life going forward. This monsterous act is just unreal for them. God bless them.

  • Amazing details. I’ve tended to avoid the case, but this post was compelling and with a fresh angle. Thanks.

  • Nancy

    I can’t even imagine being in that position. How horrific. And serial killers ARE extremely good at ‘compartmentalizing’ & dissembling. How were they to know? I can understand why she just couldn’t live in that house any more. I think I’d move out of state & take a new name, too.

  • This is by far the best synopsis of the BTK case from the point of view of the unsuspecting wife that I have yet read. Frank combines a keen eye for detail with a thoughtful overview that misses nothing yet makes sense out of everything. That he did it in such few words is a remarkable achievement. Please keep writing, Frank.

  • chas

    While I welcome any pieces on BTK outside the mainstream media, this piece contains unsupported and overly generic/broad assertions, such as, “BTK’s dark side was kept well hidden from the family and people he knew…” Also, the phrase, “We support Paula..”, is not neccessarily the case as this is one person writing this piece – the plural shoudl not be used. Not everyone wants to just blindly grant her blanket support although most feel sympathy for her.

  • Joe Smo

    You might as well let the public see what pictures you have of Paula, because now a not-so-flatering picture of her is in the Globe.

  • Frank Waldron

    The movie being made for CBS-TV is called “The Hunt for the BTK Strangler”, scheduled to air Oct. 9, 2005.

  • GyasiM

    There most be more to the the story. Either she knew something was not right, or Mr. & Mrs Rader weren’t as close as a married couple should have been.

  • Rex

    Kill him now. The State of Kansas should be embarrassed for letting Rader live as long as he has. Could have killed him during the arrest, said he tried to shoot a cop and have been done with it. Nobody would have complained. This scum needs to go. He can explain it all to Satan when he gets down there.

  • Jennifer

    Paula Rader is the primary victim here? Excuse me? What about the families of the people Dennis Rader killed?

    I am sick of hearing about how sad this woman’s story is. True, she lived with an unimaginably evil man. But by all accounts he treated her well. He gave her two healthy children and supported all of them. And now that he’s in prison, she’s managed to get all of his assets transfered to her so that she can go on living the comfortable life that she’s always had. Not only that, she managed to sell her house for far more than it was worth because of her husband’s notoriety. While Son-of-Sam laws keep her husband from profiting from his crime, Paula Rader is more than happy to make money off the deaths of so many innocents.

    Contrast her story with that of the families of BTK victims. They were widowed, orphaned, left alone and, in some cases, financially destitute. One man was investigated by the police for years for his wife’s murder. The Otero children grew up without their parents.

    Did Paula Rader have any idea that her husband was the BTK killer? We may never know. The question arises, though — what would have happened to Paula Rader and her children if her husband had been arrested during the height of his crimes? She would have been left a single mom with two small children. She would have had to work and many of the family’s resources could have been expended on Rader’s defense. More than one woman has found those reasons enough to look the other way. Her willingness to profit now from her husband’s crimes does not bolster her claims that she knew nothing at the time. A truly innocent woman would give the money away to the real victims.

  • Frank Waldron

    No one is suggesting that Paula is the primary victim, she is one of BTK’s many victims. According to police testimony, she had no idea her husband was the man she lived in fear of. She is entitled to her own life and assets and has shown no sign of wanting to profit from ex-husband’s case.

  • Brittney Adams

    I am 17, and I live in Wichita. When I had learned about who the BTK killer was from my grandparents, and mom and etc. they told me that hopefully someday they find out who the killer is. Now that we all know…I hope Dennis Rader ROTS for his nasty, insane murders and sexual fantasies. What kind of man puts on a bra and underwear and takes pix of himself? GAY? Lol..U tell me…Thanks!

  • “Paula found a draft of they ‘Shirley Locks’ poem before it was even sent by BTK (about victim Shirley Vian Relford). Rader also claims she commented that he spelled “just like BTK.” Court testimony also shows a lot of Raer stuff was store right in their home, let alone in the car, the shed, etc. I am nether condemning her nor ready to say she knew nothing. I feel Frank’s statements are not supported any more than saying she is absolutely guilty of knowing something was wrong. Let’s not go overboard one way or the other.

    Picture of Paula…

  • Kim

    The poems were typed or stencilled, not handwrittem.

  • Bo Diaz

    Why not post a link of Paula you stinking jackass! The victims pictures are posted all over the place and yet everyone wants to protect the wife of this animal. If she ddn’t know this creature was btk then she should be given a citation for being an idiot. One of the victims lived right on their street and she found a poem about another victim in their house! Hello? 2+2=4. What a moron. I consider your blog weak and bogus until you post a link to see a picture of this dummy.

  • Frank Waldron

    If Paula is a moron, so too are all of their friends and relatives as well as everyone in Park City that knew them. No one ever suspected Rader because he is a psychopath cum laude that fooled everyone all the time. Your insults don’t otherwise deserve an intelligent reply.

  • Mark Marcus

    It is a shock that as he was a church going man,did not confess or redemption enter his mind? Stalin reminds of of a man who stated: “One death is a tragedy a million is a statistic.” Numbers meant nothing for Rader. The sympathy of a mother and her children is unexplainable. I pray for his family.

    Mark Marquez

  • Mary Anne

    In response to Jennifer:

    Paula Rader is deeply a victim as well. Obviously not a victim in the same sense as the murdered victims and their beloved family members, but a victim. And for that matter, so are Rader’s son and daughter. Let’s see – – – profit? What profit? They lived modestly. Paula – regardless of when Dennis Rader was apprehended finally – still worked outside the home, even after her two children were adults and self-supporting. Assets? I am no attorney but I believe that his assets upon conviction would transfer to his spouse – anyway. I mean, what’s he going to do with them? Buy drawing pads in bulk?

    You are being very judgmental and harsh. Paula – and John and Kerri – are victims, too. Losses? They have lost security. They have lost peace. They have lost the happy memories. They have lost the head of the household’s income and insurance, etc. benefits. They have lost the once-respectable Rader family name. I daresay you can mention the name “Rader” in the far reaches of Timbuktu, and someone will recoil in horror at hearing it. If you don’t think that’s a loss, then I wonder at your intelligence and insight.

    Paula and her children have lost an admittedly good husband and father’s companionship, the trust they had put in him, the contentment on Independence Street, the contentment and solid relationships at Christ Lutheran (at least without eyebrows being raised and whispers being bandied around). Paula has lost consortium. Kerri and John have lost a normal, loving, jovial grandpa-dream for their children/future children. They have all lost favor – as wrong as that is – in society. They have done NOTHING WRONG. Yet they are made to suffer along with this horrifically disturbed man they called husband and father. Paula, Kerri and John can never – E V E R – for the rest of their lives – walk down the street with their head held high and feel quiet inside. And none of that is their fault. Only the people who know real love and kindness inside their own hearts dare to reach out to Paula. Or Kerri. Or John. And that’s disgusting. They are victims. They have had the veritable floor pulled out from beneath them. All they have known for over thirty years has been a lie.

    Be sensible and think hard on your response.

  • johnny

    Paula Rader obviously tried to sell her house fast and got her degusting hubby to sign his half over to her, in an effort to deny the victim’s families the money that was owed to them from anything that Rader profited from. Per countless news report she was twarted in her efforts. Yet she tries to come off as this cute Christian woman. Of course she belongs to the same church that her child murdering hubby belonged to, so there it is!!!

  • Lola

    Great post, Mary Anne. Thank you for your response.

  • Allie

    Um, why are some people saying it is Paula’s “job” to give her so-called “profits” to the victims? She did not profit anything wrongfully. The Rader home was their home, which would of course be her home after a divorce. And Rader’s savings should also be hers after a divorce. He did not “profit” the money from his victims. His retirement savings were earned while he was employed.

    Her marriage to this monster should not make her a guilty party. Why should it? She didn’t take those people’s lives. Maybe she was in denial when she was married to him. No one will ever know the whole truth. But just because she may have been naive or in denial, doesn’t make her the same monster as Dennis.

    I feel it is not Paula’s “wifely” duty to make ammends with the victims of Rader. They were his horrific crimes, not hers. It is sad that some individuals would shame Paula because of her past marriage to Dennis.

    Oh, and, Mary Anne had a good response.

  • I do not believe he could possibly have been “loving”- maybe acceptable or dutiful. But I hope that Paula, instead of hiding will become an advocate for the families of psychopaths. There are between 3 and 12 million psychopaths out there and so that makes a lot of family members coping with similar issues of evil in their midst.

  • unoamongmany

    there you go. You just proved my point. Kevin Bright was shot by Rader
    and his sister killed. The Relford guy watched through a key hole as
    his mother is strangled, the Oteros find their parents and siblings
    murdered. The Weigerle son sits in a play pen while is mother is
    strangled, and you say what a “Victim” Paula Rader is? Where was she
    when the people who lost their loved ones came out? No where to be
    seen. She and her kids are STILL alive, and only utter blindness could
    compare her with those who’s family members were killed, sometimes
    right in front of their eyes! Of course she is not to blame for his
    actions, but the only thing we hear of her is of her efforts to get a
    good price for her home. She inadvertently supported this maggot for 31
    years! Where is her sympathy for his victims families?? No where to be

    and what about the “loyal” church she goes to and founded? Did they take up any money for the victim’s families. No, one of them bought her house out of empathy.

    No way. May she and her family live with the same pain, his victims suffer, and more

  • lee

    these people are very smart people serial killers that is there iq may not be the best but there ability to fool the people around them and those who loved them just a few that done this are jeffery dahmer,john wanye gacey and ted bundy they all get there victims trust this is why dennis is so different from them but the same outcome they can defere what they do in there private life to the family life

  • Yes, that is very true. The people who criticize family members of serial killers for not knowing anything have no idea what the psychopaths are like. They are masters of deception, really excellent liars and cons who know how to work and manipulate people for sympathy. It’s easy to assume relatives should have known better, but the same people who criticize would have been just as easily deceived and fooled by these killers. BTK fooled everyone around him, no one ever turned him even as a possible suspect even though he fit the correct age, gender and location profile. Nobody in his family, church, work or otherwise turned him in, because he just didn’t impress anyone as a killer, he was way too ordinary and responsible.

  • Jess

    I only got about halfway through the comments on here… However, some of you should check your facts. For instance Mary Ann commented that his son John was a victim. His sons name was Brian… Also, a good read for all would be John Douglas’s book about BTK. In it you will gain an understanding and possibly an admiration for Paula. She can be attributed to saving countless victims lives. She caught Dennis playing dress up twice, each time she managed to scare him into quitting for an extended period of time. She did not have knowledge of his activities, however he knew that he better rein himself in or he would be caught much sooner. Typical of a sociopath, he was unable to truly love either Paula or his two children. He was able to act out normal emotions through simulation. He would study how others acted in a “normal” way and simulate this in his own life. The only thing that Dennis did in his life that was genuine was kill. He lacks empathy or a conscience. He also has a self-hatred that bars him from ever being able to love another person. This man is truly a sick man, and the only thing that is unfortunate about him being in prison is the lack of evidence of a kill after 1994, which would have rendered him eligible for the death penalty.

  • marianne gary

    i follow serial killer information- i have read all the john douglas books including the one on btk. when i was 18-24 i knew of and was afraid of this killer called btk- he haunted my dreams- knowing that he was still at large- and so when they caught him it was a relief somehow for me- even though i lived far from witchita-one thing i want to comment about is paula rader–i realize she thought she was marrying a normal guy who she probably genuinely loved for her part- but having been married myself for 13 years now, i still cannot come to grips with the fact that she could not put two and two together- i think that if she had really thought about it- finding him ‘dressed up’ and pretending to strangle himself with ropes and her proximity to many of the victims- like the fact that they drove past the family home of the first victims everyday on their way to dropping her off to work -i have to question her intelligence- or perhaps her denial skills in eluding herself about the monster she slept with–one more thing- btk kept a whole closet of his drawings and cut out slick papers- i am sorry but i know what is in every box in our house- i don’t mean like off the top of my head- but i look in everything- not out of suspicion- just to know where things are and to just know- why didn’t she look in his boxes and boxes and boxes of self made killing porn? why? i read the comments heralding her and trying to protect her feelings-blah blah blah- i don’t have this sympathy for her- i think she should have put it together- i think she should have looked in the boxes- it’s not like they had some awesome life- they lived in a hecka small and not elaborate house- he was a so so husband on the surface- i am sorry- she should have noticed more and done more- and if she had there might possibly be less women who were slowly strangled and tortured to death- as her sicko husband masturbated next to them.

  • lindsey b

    i think that his wife had to of known. she was afraid of losing everything once he got arrested. she prob did look in those boxes. she was selfish and didnt want to hurt their children.maybe she thought if she did say anything herself and her children would be killed. i know from having a child myself that i would do anything to protect her saftey. i think she should of gathered her children and went to police deparrtment and told them what she knew. but thee justice system dosent always work as everyone knows and shee might of been afraid of getting killed after doing all that to protect her. i am not saying what she did is right its totally wrong im just trying to see her side. he was emotional abuse towards her and she couuld oof been in denial.

  • Josh

    Paula didn’t know, how do I know, cause she told me. I lived next door to them in the late 70’s and early eightys, and they were our only friends in that neighborhood, I played with Carrie and Brian their kids, they were the first people I knew in this world, they were great people. Even after we moved, we would always go visit my parents first home next door to the Raders and we always looked forward to suprising them with a visit, and we kept in touch exchanging letters and X-mas cards through out the years. Dennis was way too normal and nice for anyone to know his secrets even his family. The guy babysat me, he was my brothers boyscout leader, I played doctor with his daughter, te he. I have photos of their family, but I won’t post them out of respect for them, they are way to nice, and their lives are ruined and are still hiding from the media to this day.
    We knew these people very well, Dennis hid his dark side very well, and was a huge shock to us all. Paula still sends us letters from time to time, she’s a great friend to our family and her and Carrie and Brian will always be=)

  • ann

    You show your ignorance when you post you can know what someone like BTK is determined to hide.

    Recent statistics say that 1out of 4 relationships are abusive and how many of you have stepped up to save those victims?

    You think someone cannot hide a terrible secret for a lifetime? Just look around you…there are victims everywhere. People are shocked all the time to find out about secrets of their loved ones, family, friends. Turn on the TV…murder mysteries prevail. They wouldn’t exist if everyone was so privy to so called clues.

    Why shouldn’t we feel sorry for all victims? Who sets the standard by which to declare a victim worthy of sympathy? They are all worthy.

  • Cate

    I have watched Paula on the program “the devil you know” . She seems to be a kind gentle soul and naive. If people that are social paths look as crazy as some think. We would be able to stop the horrible cases we have all heard about. There ability to fit into “normality” is the make-up of psychopath. Victims of all crime is systemic. It reaches out to many and the families of these criminals are among them. Just thank God that no one in your family has put you in this families shoes.
    Bless all the people who have been victimized by this man.

  • Kay

    Why are some of you looking at the cracks in the wall instead of the killer in the room? The family did nothing. They have to live with knowing the person they loved so many years, carry his blood in their vains is a monster.That would be alot harder to «learn to live with »than even being his victim. If we could spot these killers we would never have another murderer lose and you would be in heaven.

  • vi

    I followed this case and had no idea paula had given interviews. I can’t imagine a woman not finding his pedophile little girl cutouts from newspaper ads and such. I hope he is miserable in jail and not able to draw or fantasize.

  • BILL

    Holy fucking shit !!!
    This guy is crazy.
    By the sound of him in the interviews he knows he himself is crazy and is confused as why he did and wants to still do it.
    Truly memtally ill .
    Hard to understand .But he is not right in the head.


      Where did you get the interviews?

  • jeoy ptkaskenglacken

    it’s an insane situation, but lets not pound our cocks over it.