Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The BTK Story

Who is Dennis Rader?

Monday, Feb. 28 8:50 a.m. update

Dennis Rader, Mugshot
Dennis Rader, Mugshot

After 31-years, the identity of Wichita, Kansas' most notorious serial killer, known as BTK, was made public after the suspect's arrest on February 26, 2005. Dennis L. Rader, 59, of Park City, Kansas was taken into custody after having been stopped at a traffic light near his home on East Kechi Road shortly after noon that day. Even though formal charges have not yet been filed, the authorities said, "they would ask prosecutors to file 10 counts of first degree murder against Rader, including two murders in Park City that had not previously been attributed to the BTK killer," it was reported in a February 26th MSNBC article.

Police Chief Norman Williams
Police Chief Norman Williams

The question now on everyone's lips is, "Who is Dennis L. Rader?" Relatively little is know about him, especially since prosecutors are reluctant to divulge too much information, which could harm the up-coming trial. What is certain is that Rader spent most of his life in Park City.

Rader was born in 1945 and grew up in Wichita along with three brothers, all of whom graduated from Heights High School in Wichita.

Rader was in the Air Force in Viertnam from 1965 to 1969. Joseph Otero, BTK's victim, was also in the Air Force at the same time.

Rader worked in the meat department for a Park City grocery store and then as an assembler at the Coleman camping gear firm between 1971 and 1973, where he met two of his earlier victims, Mike Brunker reported in a MSNBC article.

He worked at ADT Security Services from 1974 through 1989. In 1989, he also worked for the U.S. Census bureau going door-to-door collecting information. While working in both positions, Rader had access to many area residents' homes. It is believed that he might have initially encountered some of his victims while on the job. 

At some point in the 1970s, Rader married and he and his wife Paula had two children, a boy and girl. At around the same time, he attended Wichita State University and in 1979 graduated with a degree in Administration of Justice. According to Fox News, Rader "never became an officer but instead went "into code enforcement, or what one critic called "a glorified dog catcher."

In his spare time, Rader lead a Cub Scouts group and was active in his church. No one imagined he was capable of doing any harm to anybody. Many referred to him as a kind of guy who wasn't very noticeable, one who never really stood out from others. In fact, it was his ability to "blend in" that allowed him to go undetected for so many years.

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