Tonight, ABC News’ 20/20 will speak with Kerri Rawson, the daughter of BTK serial killer. The 73-year-old murderer is now serving 10 consecutive life sentences in prison without the possibility of parole.
Interested in learning more about Dennis Rader, also known as BTK serial killer? Read on.
1. He Killed 10 People Between 1974 and 1991
In 1974, Rader killed four members of the Otero family, including Joseph and Julie Otero and two of their five children. He went on to kill 21-year-old Kathryn Bright, Shirley Vian, and Nancy Fox.
Rader tells Dateline of happening upon Mrs. Otero, “She came out of the house and took the kids to school, so I followed them to school. I thought, well, that’s a corner house. That’s a possibility. And I was in between work. Idle hands, what is it?”
Then, in 1985, Rader murdered his neighbor, Marine Hedge, followed by Vicki Wegerle and Dolores Davis. He was arrested while driving one afternoon in Park City in 2005.
That same year, Rader pleaded guilty to all charges. As part of his plea, he is reported to have given the details of his gruesome crimes. Biography.com writes, “Many observers noted that he described the gruesome events without any sign of remorse or emotion. Because he committed his crimes before the state’s 1994 reinstatement of the death penalty, Rader was sent to El Dorado Correctional Facility to serve his 10 life sentences.”
2. He Was Known for Letters He Wrote to Police and Newspapers
In 2004, years after he committed his murders, Rader began writing letters to the police taking responsibility for one murder that was never tied to him. Less than one year later, DNA linked him to the murders and he was captured.
From 1966 to 1970, prior to his murders, Rader worked in the US Air Force. He moved to Park City upon being discharged, and eventually enrolled in Butler County Community College, where he earned his associate degree in Economics. After that time, Rader enrolled at Wichita State University, where he graduated from in 1979 with a bachelor’s degree in administration of justice.
Rader was known for letters that he wrote about his crimes. He wrote one, in particular, after killing members of the Otero family, that described in detail the killing of the family members. The letter was found stashed inside an engineering book in the Wichita Public Library in October 1974.
Rader’s story is what is said to have inspired Stephen King’s novella, A Good Marriage. One of the characters depicted in the 2017 Netflix drama Mindhunter is also based on Rader.
In an interview obtained by Dateline, Rader was quoted as saying, “I started working out this fantasy in my mind. And once that potential — that person become a fantasy, I could just loop it over. I could lay in bed at night and think about this person, the events and how it’s gonna happen. And it would become a real, almost like a picture show. You know, I wanted to go ahead and produce it and direct it and go through with it. No matter what the costs were, the consequences. It was gonna happen one way or another. Maybe not that day, but it was gonna happen.”
3. His Name Meant ‘Blood, Torture, and Kill’
Dennis Rader went by “BTK” killer, which stood for blood, torture, and kill.
As “Serial Murderers and their Victims” points out, “He killed mostly women whom he stalked, often waiting for them in their homes. He regularly sent taunting letters to police and media detailing his crimes.”
In 2004, the case of the BTK killer was considered a cold case. However, it was his communications with local media that led to his arrest. The Wichita Eagle received a letter from someone who went by the name of Bill Thomas Killman that claimed he had murdered Vicki Wegerle; this person enclosed crime scene photos. Months later, the outlet released another letter with chapter headings for “BTK Story”, along with a word puzzle. A series of postcards and letters were sent to a variety of locations in subsequent months.
In his final letter, Rader asked if his writings, which had been placed on a floppy disk, could be traced. He then sent another floppy disk which had metadata embedded on a word document. This was what eventually led the police to Rader.
4. His Daughter Says a Pastor at Her Church Encouraged Her to Write Her Father
In tonight’s interview with ABC News’ 20/20, Rawson describes in gripping details what it was like the moment an FBI agent came knocking at her apartment door to tell her that her father had been arrested as BTK. “I was gripping the wall next to my stove, [the room] was spinning, [I was] saying, ‘I think I’m going to pass out’… [The agent] was asking me questions about my dad, about dates and things, and I was … trying to almost alibi my father. I was like, ‘My father is a good guy.'”
Years later, according to ABC News, Rawson says a pastor at her church was the one who urged her to write to her father. In a book she has since written, titled “A Serial Killer’s Daughter: My Story of Faith, Love, and Overcoming,” she writes that she exchanged letters with her father in the months leading up to his plea.
They reportedly discussed everything from the Bible to how their family was doing. Rader, in return, wrote about what like was life behind bars. One letter from 2005 reads, “You will always be my baby girl I raised right-proud-independent and now is a grown adult with many years of love to give… Life before the arrest was a good time and the dark side took me away.”
Speaking to 20/20, Rawson says, “I wasn’t corresponding with BTK. I’m never corresponding with BTK… I’m talking to my father. I’m talking to the man that I lived with and loved for 26 years… I still love my dad today. I love the man that I knew. I don’t know a psychopath… That’s not the man I knew and loved.”
5. He Was Married to His Wife from 1971 to 2005
For over three decades, Rader was married to a woman named Paula Dietz. According to ABC, Paula, who is Rawson’s mother, was granted an emergency divorce in July 2005.
Biography.com reports that he was successful in keeping his murderous life quiet. The outlet states that Rader was reportedly an “attentive” husband.
Together, Paula and Rader had two children: their son was born in 1975 and Rawson was born in 1978.