Dennis Rader appeared as an ordinary family man in Wichita, Kansas, who collected stamps and served as president of his church,
But the seemingly adored father and trusted Cub Scout leader was also a murderer who terrorized residents for decades using the BTK moniker – bind, torture, kill.
In 2005, Rader, now 76, pleaded guilty to killing 10 people from 1974 to 1991. And for more than a decade, Rader corresponded with Dr. Katherine Ramsland, professor of forensic psychology, to better understand how lust, along with a desire for fame and power, drove him to kill. Now she shares her story.
Ramsland speaks in a new real crime docuseries on A&E titled “BTK: Confession of a Serial Killer”. Executive producer Dick Wolf’s two-night special of “Law & Order” features never-before-seen conversations between Rader and Ramsland as they discuss his past and gruesome crimes.
“When I first wrote to him, he liked the fact that I had a college degree and I was also an expert on serial killers because I had written about them a lot before I spoke to him,” Ramsland told Fox News. “But he had a test for me. He wanted me to solve some codes he sent me.
“He wanted to make sure that I didn’t just dismiss him. But for practical purposes he wanted to use codes to cover up what we were talking about when we got into very dark and raw topics. And I was ready to do it. . It was a good signal to him that I would work with him as he wanted. “
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Ramsland first corresponded with Rader in 2010. They exchanged numerous letters, spoke on the phone, and even met face to face at El Dorado Correctional Facility, a maximum security prison in Kansas. In 2016, Ramsland wrote the book “Confession of a Serial Killer: The Untold Story of Dennis Rader, the BTK Killer” under an agreement that the proceeds from his sale would go to the Victims’ Families Trust Fund. .
“My initial impression of Dennis Rader was that he wanted to challenge me,” Ramsland said. “And what surprised me was the fact that there was nothing in his past that fits the typical formula we have of serial killers. I recently heard a detective say that all Serial killers have traumas in their past. He was wrong about that. “
“Dennis Rader questions our idea of serial killers,” she added. “He was a family man. He was a practitioner, even a president of his congregation. He had a full-time job. He was part of his community. So we have to be careful with some of the stereotypes we form about. About these kinds of offenders.
“Otherwise, we’ll start to think we know them when we don’t. And in Dennis’ case, there was no particular reason in his background. No trauma. It was an all-American boy, the the oldest of four boys in his family. He had an intact family and played on his farm. So where did it all come from? It intrigued me.
Rader joined the Air Force and married Paula Dietz in 1971. Every Sunday he and his wife attended church. The couple share two children, a boy and a girl. Rader’s father, who died in 1996 after retiring as a power plant operator for a utility company, has been described by childhood friends as strict but never cruel, the New reported. York Times.
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Rader first struck the BTK in 1974. Four members of the Otero family – Joseph, 38, wife Julie, 34, and two of their children – Josephine, 11 and Joseph II, 9 – were tied up and strangled inside their homes. The slain matriarch had worked on an assembly line for the Coleman company, in the same location where Rader worked in the early 1970s.
Rader taunted the media and the police with cryptic messages during a cat-and-mouse game that began after the murders. He signed the letters “BTK”.
That same year, 21-year-old Kathryn Bright, who also worked at the Coleman factory, was found stabbed in her home. She was tied with a rope and partially dressed. Her brother was shot but survived.
Rader returned to her seemingly normal life until 1977. Shirley Vian, 24, was found in her bed with a plastic bag over her head and a rope wrapped around her neck, hands and feet. That same year, 25-year-old Nancy Fox was strangled in nylons in her home.
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Rader hid in plain sight as he helped raise his family. Then, in 1985, Marine Hedge, 53, was found strangled along a dirt road. The following year, 28-year-old Vicki Wegerle was found strangled in her bed.
Rader returned to a low-key life once again as he became deeply involved in his church community. That changed in 1991 when he kidnapped Dolores Davis, 62, his latest victim, from her home. She was found strangled and tied under a bridge.
Ramsland said that growing up Rader was “humbled by his mother” who has remained with him over the years.
“It really played on him,” she explained. “That’s something he still thinks about, even to this day. And we haven’t studied much humiliation as a factor in the development of extreme offenders. And I think maybe we need to rethink that. And he was certainly exposed to the use of ropes for erotic activity very early on.
“And then he started reading those real crime magazines that his father hid in the car. So that drove him underground… He wanted to feel important. And he wanted to have power over women because women unbalanced him. “
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“He didn’t like it as an older boy, he was expected to be strong and masculine, and yet they seem to bring him to his knees right and left without even trying, just being a woman.” , she shared. “And his fantastic life certainly propelled him.”
Rader resurfaced in 2004 with more spooky and mocking letters. The breakdown of the case came in 2005 after a computer disk sent by Rader was traced back to his church. His chilling confession in court ended a mystery that has haunted Wichita for decades. He was sentenced to 10 consecutive life sentences.
“During this court hearing, Dennis felt able to teach people who he was,” Ramsland said. “In a way, he saw himself as a victim too. He thought he had things in common with victims… Rader is a narcissist, so he just thought that was a way of presenting himself.”
When asked if Rader considered himself a monster, Ramsland replied, “Sometimes”.
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“Dennis Rader considers himself a monster, but he also considers himself a good person who has done bad things,” she explained. “He’ll be talking about a monster in his brain. It’s his ‘X-Factor,’ which is a way to distance himself from criminal liability. He thinks, for the most part, that he’s not a monster. He doesn’t think he’s a monster. Certainly was in those instances where he chose a victim and committed his crimes. But overall, he doesn’t see himself that way. “
As for remorse? Ramsland said it depends on the day.
“He certainly regrets a lot because he doesn’t want to be in jail,” she shared. “He didn’t want to lose his family. There’s a lot of regret in that. But it’s not the same as remorse. It depends on his mood. It’s a concept he calls ‘cubing’. , where he has different faces of a cube that he can turn on and off. Sometimes he’s a good family man. Sometimes he’s a serial killer, thief, or liar. Sometimes he’s the practitioner who studies the Bible. So it depends on the day you get it whether you will hear him speak of remorse. “
“BTK: Confession of a Serial Killer” will premiere Saturday, January 8 at 9 p.m. on A&E. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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