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Why BTK Sentencing is Important

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On Wednesday, August 17, 2005 the sentencing of BTK Strangler Dennis Rader begins. This will not be a run-of-the-mill court proceeding, but represents the very first time prosecutors will be able to voice their case against him. This will be a very dramatic time, filled with the testimony of victim families and the impact BTK had on their lives. We’ve already heard some of Dennis Rader’s version of what he did to his victims; prosecutors say his version is sanitized and leaves out many of the uglier details of his crimes. Rader’s version was shocking enough for many, but this will be the proverbial rest of the story.

Fortunately we will be allowed to see this all unfold ourselves, thanks to television, the Internet and Court TV. Court TV will be covering the sentencing, expected to last up to three days, both on its cable channel and uninterrupted on its Internet outlet Court TV Extra. Also on the Internet, Wichita’s channel 12 promises to stream it live via its website KWCH.com. Kansas viewers will be able to watch it live on local stations KSN, KAKE and KWCH, plus their Kansas subsidiaries. Viewers are warned that the testimony at times will be graphic.

Dennis Rader evaded a preliminary hearing and a trial by pleading guilty, but was quizzed by Judge Greg Waller over some of what he did while committing his 10 known murders. He coolly responded by describing a version mentioning the strangulations and how he engineered the scenarios, but otherwise talking of how he calmed and comforted his victims before they died. He loosened Joe Otero’s bindings because they were too tight, he said. Gave Shirley Vian a glass of water. Assured Nancy Fox and Dolores Davis that he was after something else other than murder, and so on.

The prosecutors say the evidence points to much more drastic scenarios, during which BTK intentionally tortured his victims psychologically and physically, even reviving some of them from strangulation so that he could strangle them all over again, perhaps a number of times in some cases. Over the years a great deal of information has piled up about what BTK did do, but due to the secrecy required by police investigations it was never permitted that all of it be made public. This will be the opportunity prosecutors have waited years for, the chance to describe in open court exactly what BTK was up to.

But most importantly it will the opportunity for the victims themselves to speak, the deceased via evidence and the survivors via live testimony. There will be a number of surviving family members in court, some of whom will be required to give testimony over how BTK has directly impacted their lives. Survivor Kevin Bright, brother of murder victim Kathryn Bright, was shot in the face but has lived to tell his story of what happened back on April 4, 1974. Steve Relford, son of Shirley Vian, was locked in a bathroom when he was 5 years old while BTK murdered his mother in the adjoining bedroom. Charlie Otero, who came home from high school one day to discover his parents, sister and brother all murdered. Other relatives will give testimony over how the murder of their family members has affected their lives. (See BTK Victims, Survivors and Evidence Gallery for photos and related stories).

BTK himself will be allowed to speak, if he wishes to present mitigating testimony on his own behalf. He may also be forced to face the surviving victims directly themselves and answer questions as to why he so brutally deprived their loved ones of life. All in all, this event should represent the dramatic climax of a chain of events that began with BTK’s re-emegence in March 2004 with the first of a series of communications that led to his arrest. (See The BTK Drops). The judge has discretionary power to rule on Rader’s sentence: he is eligible for a minimum of 15 years to life for each murder victim. In addition, since the last known murder in 1991 occurred after a change in state law that allows for a minimum of 40 years, the judge can therefore require a sentence of as much as 175 years to life if all counts are to be served consecutively.

While everyone knows that Rader, at age 60, will never walk the streets again no matter what the judge rules, this event is still monumental so the citizens of Kansas can see where the millions of dollars that were spent to bring this man to justice have gone and what was found out about him. If you can, watch this sentencing. Every minute of it will be riveting.

For the latest in BTK news and videos, check my website, The BTK Site.

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About Frank Waldron

  • Nancy

    It’s a pity there isn’t any way to make this man suffer, physically & mentally.

  • http://xraystyle.blogspot.com Bryan McKay

    Good posting. Thanks for keeping us updated on this story. My one qualm, however, is your insistence on referring to Rader as BTK in the text of your post – i.e. “describe in open court exactly what BTK was up to,” “BTK himself will be allowed to speak,” etc. Referring to him as the BTK Strangler or BTK in the headline or at the beginning of the post works well to put Rader’s name, which readers may be unfamiliar with, into context, but as we know his identity now, it just seems unprofessional to continue referring to him by the nickname. Of course, my stronger objection to using the name is that Rader himself has acknowledged that he embraced and enjoyed the name (which was one of the several he coined for himself). By using the nickname rather than his own name, it enables the dehumanization and mythical status that Rader looking for. By referring to him by his name and stripping him of the “BTK” mystique, he is reduced to what he is: a depraved, sick human being without a myth or legend or set of initials he can hide behind.

  • http://victorplenty.blogspot.com Victor Plenty

    There is no reason to watch this sentencing unless you personally knew one of the victims. For the people directly affected by the crimes, the sentencing process might provide some sense of closure, but that cannot be guaranteed even for them. For most people, the psychologically healthy choice would be to avoid learning too many details of such crimes.

    Our endless unhealthy fascination with serial killers leads to morbid and sensationalized coverage. Too often, we learn little or nothing about how an average person could better guard against such criminals. Instead we learn all the disturbing and graphic details of the crime. The news coverage contains more to encourage copycat crimes than to help average people avoid becoming victims.

    Bryan makes an excellent point. A twisted sense of self-importance is a large part of what drives many serial killers. Laws and morals prevent us from putting them through the same tortures they inflict on their victims, but we can certainly deprive them of the notoriety and attention they seek. Referring to this pathetic and ineffectual figure as simply Dennis Rader, failed human being, would be a good start.

  • Henrietta

    I agree with Victor & Bryan. Dennis Rader’s ego has already been fed since his arrest by the media & of course the ensuing public consumption especially with broadcasts of phone conversations from jail, people writing him/selling letters on ebay, writing his biography, & now a tape aired of his interview with a little known psychologist. I see nothing in all this or in listening to more of his lies or the details provided by prosecutors that will better help us understand how this happened in the first place. More hype like this article does not help, it just makes it into a morbid circus. I would rather see articles on him with a more serious & intellectual focus. All due respect, but this one seems to be singing to the choir. It’s like everyone waiting for the public hanging, little difference.

  • http://www.dorksandlosers.com Tan The Man

    Good article.

  • Frank Waldron

    As far as how to refer to Rader, some have suggested DTDC (Denny the Dog Catcher) or just plain @#%&. The reason for referring to him as BTK is that all these years Rader pretended to be someone he was not. Under a thin disguise he really was BTK; if you’ve studied this individual you see that BTK is more like his real self than is Dennis Rader. The name BTK is not a compliment but a detriment to this man.

  • Sally Hura

    Dennis Rader is/was Dennis Rader. BTK is (now at least) an integral part of that person along with many gradations of this person – cruel in many ways not attributed to BTK. I believe we should quit seeing him as two polar opposites. That’s not exactly what he was – disagreeing with you does not mean one has not studied the case.

  • http://xraystyle.blogspot.com Bryan McKay

    Mr. Waldron, calling Rader “BTK” is simply feeding his ego. I’m sure he’d also be quite thrilled to know he has an entire creepy site devoted to his case. By buying into the media frenzy and building up the hype, you’re simply giving him what he wants. Let him live out the rest of his days as a man and not as the myth he wanted to create for himself.

  • Boyd Fletcher

    After looking at his site, me thinks Frank is trying to profit from his BTK site with book sales. Posting articles here draws traffic to his site since it is searchable in Google News.

  • Hal Olaf

    I think calling him “Denny the Dog Catcher” or other names cheapens the crimes. Why should we become less just because he is. What would you gain if you could “make this man suffer, physically & mentally.” A little more inhumanity in the world.

  • http://btk-profiles.blogspot.com/ bigbug

    Another view, excepts from Newsday.

    “Wichitans know that for 30 years, Dennis L. Rader prowled their streets as the BTK killer, stalking victims he called ‘projects,’ hiding in their closets, then binding, torturing and slowly killing them when they arrived home…They know this because Rader admitted it on June 26…Nevertheless, prosecutors plan to present even more gruesome evidence today at an elaborate sentencing hearing that, depending on one’s view, will be a catharsis for the city and the victims’ families, or an ego-fest for the district attorney and for Rader, 60, who admits to loving the limelight….’He’s going to jail forever. I question whether it’s necessary to put the community through this,’ said Richard LaMunyon, Wichita’s police chief from 1976 to 1989. ‘Let’s just close the door and end it.’…Retired Bronx homicide commander Vernon Geberth, who helped Wichita investigators in the 1980s, called the hearing ‘despicable,’ saying it would give Rader the publicity he craves while forcing families to relive the painful past. ‘Every time these people try to get some peace, bang, it’ll pop up as a movie of the week,’ he said.”

  • Frank Waldron

    The purpose of the website is NOT to sell books, all I do is lose money each month as the $4 in commissions the site has earned since it was created doesn’t cover one month’s worth of bandwidth. It is intended to be an informational tool about a compelling true crime case. If that’s not your interest, then that’s OK also. No one is out to glorify this man. There are other issues to be explored in this case such as cold cases Rader has not confessed to but which many believe to be related to him. There are deep psychological issues being studied in this case: how psychopaths function and get away with crimes, for example. If some people see the case or website as sensationalistic, it’s not how I see it personally. It is a human drama being acting out at this moment. It will quickly fade away once he is shipped to his final destination and is out of sight.

  • http://fightforjustice.blogspot.com Barbara

    The man is a psychopath like Scott Peterson. Ego driven, no empathy, nothing. BTK was his moniker – he’s just a sick man.

    It also shows how these people walk around AMONG us. Some of them NEVER run afoul of the law yet leave disaster and pain everywhere they go.

    Good article. I recommended Crier’s DEADLY GAME for a similar look at Peterson.

  • Frank Waldron

    Thank you, Barbara. I read the Reader’s Digest article about you posted on your blog (Click “Barbara” link above). Excellent story, but I’m amazed your attacker only got put away for 4 1/2 years. Good luck with your campaign.

  • http://fightforjustice.blogspot.com Barbara

    I only help out at that blog. It belongs to a dear friend – Holly D. She works tirelessly for victims in Canada. I am an All American!

    Don’t forget that idiot Joey Buttafuoco only did a few months! for statutory rape. And while prostitutes do years behind bars, their customers get a slap on the wrist and sometimes a fine. Granted that’s not as bad as what Rader did but often the punishments when compared with the level of their abuse of people is often seriously lacking; just as in Holly’s case.

    Maybe we can put Rader in with Peterson?

    Have you read any of the work of Dr. Robert Hare? Fascinating stuff.

    You can visit my blogs anytime you like btw. Keep up the good work.

    Barbara’s Tchatzkahs

    Sanctuary for the Abused

    all the very best! I will be watching this case with interest

  • Frank Waldron

    Barbara, the links to your blogs don’t work, I think you have to type out the URL and leave it as such in these comments. Thanks again.

  • Frank Waldron

    Responding to the post from bigbug: The same article quoted from Newsday ends on quite a different note. < >

  • http://www.bhwblog.com bhw

    I think you have to type out the URL and leave it as such in these comments.

    No, no, no! Don’t type out the url in the comments — put in links. They can be fixed if they’re not working.

  • Frank Waldron

    Newsday article

    Cole, though, said that family members have expressed eagerness to attend and that representatives of each of Rader’s 10 victims plans to speak. The differences show the hold Rader’s crimes have on a city that for years thought BTK had gone away, only to have him resurface last year with a series of taunting messages. “It would be very difficult to articulate the amount of fear and trauma this guy caused,” said Paul Morrison, the district attorney of Johnson County in suburban Kansas City, who is of two minds about the hearing. In his experience, he said, some victims’ relatives want to know everything, while others find the details too painful. “It’s hard to make a call on this case,” Morrison said. Not so for one woman who suspects she was stalked by Rader in 1991 when she says a man using BTK’s methods harassed her. The hearing might ensure other killers get caught more quickly, she said. “There is some value to the public to realize that this is what a serial killer looks like, and acts like,” said the woman, who said she still fears for her safety. “It could be somebody you know. It could be somebody you’re married to.”

  • http://fightforjustice.blogspot.com Barbara

    I just tried my links and they work fine. HMMMMM.

    Frank just Google the titles & blogspot – should come up….. I hope.
    *******************

    >> said the woman, who said she still fears for her safety. “It could be somebody you know. It could be somebody you’re married to.” <<<

    Precisely!! I had the bad luck to be involved with a psychopath. He never killed anyone but he had most of Hare’s checklist. Books like PSYCHOPATHS AMONG US point this out. I just finished reading an article on Corporate Psychopaths. Chilling.

    Of course some people think Bush and Karl Rove are psychopaths.

  • http://www.bhwblog.com bhw

    I just tried my links and they work fine. HMMMMM.

    Because I fixed them. 8-)

  • http://fightforjustice.blogspot.com Barbara

    fankoo bhw!

    I know I am danger to myself and my computer…. but I just can’t help myself….

    must blog….

    fankoo again!!

  • http://www.fightforjustice.blogspot.com Holly

    Great work Frank,
    Interesting story, and my prayers are with the families involved in the BTK case, reading impact statements, sentencing, the details of how loved ones taken. The families/friends will need all the support from everyone in any country! Sincerely Holly Desimone

  • http://btk-profiles.blogspot.com/ bigbug

    Frank, I realize there is more to the article although I do not think a conclusion was reached nor can be. I was just presenting the alternate view – one that is rarely presented and acknowledged. It is just as viable as others, that’s the point.

  • http://w6daily.winn.com/ Phillip Winn

    Frank, you originally left the ‘http://’ (without the quotes) off of the beginning of the URL, and that means it isn’t recognized as a valid URL.

  • Gary

    [edited] Frank.

    p.s. I think your neighbor’s dog is mocking you.

  • Frank Waldron

    Holly: thank you. Bigbug: I see where you’re coming from. Phillip: thanks, I’ll remember for next time. Gary: [edited]

  • brian

    The reason for even having a sentencing hearing for this pathetic loser escapes me. OK, so his victims get the “chance to face him” , call him a “coward”, and vent about how much he destroyed their lives. So what, they could do that on Dateline or 20/20. This farcical “hearing” merely provided Dennis Rader one last appearance on the public stage before he is carted off to prison. No one needed to hear about his self-professed fantasies or what he did with his victims. Surely this type of descriptive narrative will only serve to fascinate and spawn some future loser/ sicko to become a serial killer. Unfortunately, it surely will not be his last as the networks are lining up for prison interviews.
    Was there ever any doubt as to what his sentence was going to be? Of course not. The court ought to have given him the maximum sentence on the day he pleaded guilty and sent him immediately to prison without “passing go” and having to have this ridiculous spectacle that merely added to his delusional ego trip of self importance. Isn’t that why he wrote the letter last year, allowing himself to be caught I mean Rader must have been masturbating in his cell to thoughts of all this coverage.
    The only reason I can think of to hold a “sentencing hearing” is that KANSAS law must require it. No useful or valid purpose was served by it. In the old days, this is the kind of Defendant that never even made it to a trial.
    SO YOU ARE DEAD WRONG IN YOUR PREMISE THAT THE SENTENCING HEARING WAS EITHER HELPFUL OR NECESSARY. IT REALLY WASN’T.
    LET’S HOPE HE IS GIVEN A JOB OUT IN GENERAL POPULATION IN PRISON, BECAUSE I CAN ASSURE EVERYONE THAT A FATE CLOSE TO (OR EVEN WORSE THAN ) JEFFREY DAHMER AWAITS HIM.****Remember, broken broom handle to the gut, bled like a stuck pig.

  • jane

    Great points Brian………You hit the nail on the head and I agree with everything you said.
    Who are these idiots who think a sentencing hearing was a good thing?

  • Nancy

    It is within the authority of the courts to ensure he never has an interview with anyone for the rest of his life; so why are the media & other publicity hangers-on being allowed to line up?

  • Frank Waldron

    Without this hearing, the mountain of evidence against Rader never would have been aired, and by Kansas law would have been legally buried for decades. At last the victims families were allowed to be heard, and they told him to his face exactly what they felt. It was necessary, as painful and disgusting as it all was, and now it’s all over. He will just quietly be filed away and will fade out.

  • lilly

    BTW, one of the Otero family members said she would NOT refer to him as BTK because that is what he wanted. She also called him Rader instead of Mr. Rader.

  • Frank Waldron

    This is an excerpt from the statement in court by Carmen Otero Montoya: “I’m Carmen Julie Otero Montoya. Although we have never met, you have seen my face before. It is the same face you murdered over 30 years ago. The face of my mother, Julie Otero. I will not address you as Mr. Rader, because mister is a word of respect. As in, mister, can you help me; not mister, are you going to kill me. BTK is how you want to be known and I will not give you that satisfaction. Rader is an appropriate name for you, as one who invades, a surprise attack. That is nothing to be proud of. Rader, when you took away my mother, you took someone who meant a lot to a lot of people. My mother loved life, her friends, a good laugh, dancing with my dad, and she loved to help people. But most of all, she loved and lived for us, her family. She showed me how to love, to be a good person, to accept others as they are and, most of all, to face your fears. I’m sure you saw that in her face as she fought to live. My mother against your gun. You are such a coward.” article

  • brian

    Necessary………I disagree.

    The hearing was one of the most worthless hearings in judicial history.
    There was no need to put all of that on television.

  • Frank Waldron

    BTK myth now as hollow as the man
    Because Rader had pleaded guilty in June, many felt that prosecutors were indulging in grandstanding overkill with a day and a half of witnesses and evidence. But there was a need to give Rader’s crimes and depravity a fuller context. He only furthered the feeling with his pathetic attempt at an apology and explanation. Watching him fumble for words and thank his jailers, it was at once infuriating and absurd to think he’d once had the power to frighten Wichitans into checking for dial tones, buying security systems and guns, and losing sleep. How dare he? Indeed, how dare anyone commit such vile, violent acts against his fellow man?…That’s nothing, of course, to compare with what BTK victims’ loved ones must live with, and have been living with. There was no imagining the long-term effects of BTK’s violence; in the survivors’ tears and pleas, you could see what murder does to those left behind by it, even 31, 28, 20, 19 and 14 years later. At least the soulless monster long known only as BTK no longer has the power to taunt or terrorize or kill. He is finished, the myth hollowed out and the man desiccated.