- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 27, 2005

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A 31-year hunt for a serial killer who taunted police with letters ended yesterday when authorities said they had caught the man who called himself “BTK” and linked the municipal worker and Cub Scout leader to at least 10 homicides.

“The bottom line: BTK is arrested,” Wichita Police Chief Norman Williams said, setting off applause from a crowd that included family members of some of the victims.

BTK — a self-coined nickname that stands for “Bind, Torture, Kill” — was identified as Dennis L. Rader, 59, a code-enforcement supervisor in nearby Park City, who was arrested Friday. Police did not say how they identified Mr. Rader as a suspect or whether he has said anything since his arrest.

The killings stoked fears throughout the 1970s in Wichita, a manufacturing center with 350,000 residents, about 180 miles southwest of Kansas City, Mo.

Then the killer resurfaced about a year ago after 25 years of silence. He had been linked to eight slayings between 1974 and 1986, but police said yesterday they had identified two more, from 1985 and 1991.



Mr. Rader, a Cub Scout leader who was active at his Lutheran church, lived with his wife, neighbors said. Public records indicate they have two grown children. Messages left for family members were not returned yesterday, and no one answered the door at the home of his in-laws.

A few neighbors recalled receiving small favors from Mr. Rader, but most interviewed said he was an unpleasant man who often went looking for reasons to cite his neighbors for violations of city codes.

Bill Lindsay, 38, lived behind Mr. Rader and said something about the man unnerved him. Mr. Lindsay said his wife caught Mr. Rader in their adjoining back yards filming the back of their house.

“He really acted really funny,” said Mr. Lindsay, a truck driver. “I’d be on the road and my wife would tell me, ‘Dennis has been out again, taking his pictures.’ ”

In the end, DNA evidence was the key to cracking the case, Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius said.

“The way they made the link was some DNA evidence, that they had some DNA connection to the guy who they arrested,” Mrs. Sebelius told the Associated Press. She did not elaborate.

Mr. Rader has yet to be charged, but a jubilant collection of law enforcers and community leaders said they were confident the long-running case could now be closed.

“Victims whose voices were brutally silenced by the evil of one man will now have their voices heard again,” Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline said.

Mr. Rader was being held at an undisclosed location, and it was not clear if he had an attorney. In Kansas, suspects generally appear before a judge for a status hearing within 48 hours of their arrest.

Prosecutor Nola Foulston said the death penalty would not apply to any crime committed before 1994, when the death penalty was introduced in Kansas.

The BTK slayings began in 1974 with the strangulations of Joseph Otero, 38; his wife, Julie, 34; and their two children. The six victims that followed were all women, and most were strangled.

Along with his grisly crimes, the killer terrorized Wichita by sending rambling letters to the press, including one in which he named himself BTK for “Bind them, Torture them, Kill them.” In another he complained, “How many do I have to kill before I get my name in the paper or some national attention?”

But he stopped communicating in 1979 and remained silent for more than two decades before re-establishing contact last March with a letter to the Wichita Eagle about an unsolved 1986 killing.

The letter included a copy of the victim’s driver’s license and photos of her slain body. The return address on the letter said it was from Bill Thomas Killman — initials BTK.

Since then, the killer had sent at least eight letters to the press or police, including three packages containing jewelry that police believed might have been taken from BTK’s victims. One letter contained the driver’s license of victim Nancy Fox.

The new letters sent chills through Wichita, but also rekindled hope that modern forensic science could find some clue that would finally lead police to the killer.

Thousands of tips poured in, and the Kansas Bureau of Investigation gathered thousands of DNA swabs in connection with the BTK investigation.

The two newly identified cases were similar to the early ones with one exception, Sedgwick County Sheriff Gary Stead said. The bodies had been removed from the crime scenes. One of the victims lived on the same street as Mr. Rader.

“We as investigators keep an open mind. But only now are we able to bring them together as BTK cases,” he said.

On Friday, investigators searched Mr. Rader’s house and seized computer equipment.

Authorities, who generally declined to answer questions in detail after announcing the arrest, had little to say about why BTK resurfaced after years without contact.

“It is possible something in his life has changed. I think he felt the need to get his story out,” said Richard LaMunyon, Wichita’s police chief from 1963 to 1989.

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