Dennis Rader (the BTK Killer)
Dennis Rader BTK: The Killer
Serial killers can be defined as people who murder at least three people in at least three separate occasions over a span of time mainly to satisfy themselves psychologically. While many of them suffer from Antisocial Personality Disorder, they adapt and present a normal front to people around them - a state Hervey Cleckley refers to as 'mask of sanity'. Some of the murders may have some sexual aspect to them. The murders may have been executed in such a way that there was some common characteristic in them. This could be sex, occupation, race, etc. Nonetheless, the victim's and the serial killer's race is seldom the same (Vronsky, 2004).
It is not yet known who exactly coined the term serial killer. Many believe that Robert Ressler, an FBI agent, or Robert D. Keppel may have been the one who coined it. The term came to popular usage due to the infamous criminal activities of David Berkowitzin and Ted Bundy (Vronsky, 2004).
Dennis Rader, alias BTK killer, believed that he had reached an understanding with the Wichita, Kan., police lt. Ken Landwehr, who was then heading the task force that was then making attempts at catching him (Bardsley, Bell & Lohr).
Before Dennis was arrested, he had asked the police whether communications with them made through a floppy disk could be traced to him through any specific computer (Bardsley, Bell & Lohr).
Police's response was through a classified ad in a local newspaper. They told Rader that it would be OK to communicate through a floppy disk (Hansen, 2006).
The following weeks saw BTK send a floppy disk to a local TV station. Police traced the disk to a certain computer at Rader's church and it was discovered that Rader was actually BTK. Testing of DNA samples proved this. He had named himself 'BTK' which was an acronym standing for bind, torture and kill (Hansen, 2006).
The days that followed saw BTK put in custody. He had been the serial killer that had been terrorizing Wichita area from the 1970s. He had reportedly murdered ten people and vanished in 1991 to resurface just 2 years before he was arrested. He began communicating with the media and police after speculations were made by some news reports that he was either in prison or dead (Hansen, 2006).
Rader pleaded guilty to ten counts of first degree murder and is now in a state prison in Kansas serving ten consecutive life sentences (Hansen, 2006). He had been married to Paula Dietz for 34 years and his marriage crumbled when she learned that her husband was the serial killer. She was awarded divorce within a day of application, after Eric Yoast, the Sedgwick County District Judge granted her a speedy divorce allowing her not to wait the standard 60 days. The Wichita Eagle reported that in her divorce papers, Paula said that she had suffered emotional stress on learning of her husband's character. Basing on the favorable response from the judge, we can only assume that he was sympathetic to her plight (Barsdley, Bell & Lohr).
The criminal's actions in carrying out the crime are referred to as the modus operandi (MO). The MO is learned based on repeated criminal acts and perfected or evolves with each act as the criminal learns from his experiences. Dennis Rader, for instance, resolved to carry along his 'tool' after the experiences of killing Kathryn Bright. Dennis waited for her at her home; she came with Kevin, her brother. Rader had failed to carry his tools along with him and so...
Kevin managed to escape with two gun shot wounds. Kathryn, however, was not as lucky. She became the fifth person Rader had killed (LaBrode, 2007).
Rader was surprisingly not implicated in the killing of Kathryn. None the less, he stated that following the events at Kathryn's place, he resolved to bring along his kit in subsequent killings. There is a signature aspect in every murder. It is not the same as the MO in that it includes far much more than is needed to conduct the crime. It satiates the murderer's fantasies and its inclusion in the murder is very important for the killer to draw satisfaction from his deeds. While the MO evolves and adapts as the killer draws experiences from acts of murder, the signature aspect always remains the same. After Dennis had dumped his victims' bodies, he often returned to relive his criminal activities by engaging in sexual activities with the bodies. Dennis also taunted the police. He sent letters detailing his criminal activities and where his victims' bodies could be found. Most of the letters were signed BTK with the letters of the acronym arranged explicitly (LaBrode, 2007).
Rader Gets Caught
This section outlines how Rader was caught and how he almost escaped (Hansen, 2006).
Landwehr points out that what made it easy to catch Rader was his sending of the disk. Had he quit murdering people and went silent about it, the police would have never figured out who the killer was (Hansen, 2006).
Rader was hurt that he had been played by the police when they told him that the floppy disk was not traceable. He expressed shock on Feb. 25, 2005 after his arrest that he was intentionally deceived by the police. He also said that he believed he and Landwehr got along well (Hansen, 2006).
During the interrogation, Rader asked Landwehr why he actually lied to him to which Landwehr replied in a matter of fact manner that he was indeed trying to catch him. Referring to the floppy disk incident, Landwehr said that Rader could not believe that the cop had lied to him. He was indeed upset. Rader mentioned the floppy disk again in the interrogation saying he had a feeling that sending it to the TV station was indeed a risky gamble. According to him, he thought he could take Landwehr's word (Hansen, 2006).
The strategy used during the interrogation was to keep Rader talking. At the beginning, Rader played safe, hypothesizing about the whole saga and talking about BTK like it was not him. When he realized that there was no way out, he confessed, recounting chilling tales of his heartless torture and cold blooded murder. He had killed ten people. One was a boy aged 9 and another girl aged 11 (Hansen, 2006).
Landwehr recalls that Rader felt like he shared a strong bond with him and the police. He actually remarked at one instance that he and the police were fellows as they were all law enforcement officers. Turns out Rader served as a code compliance officer (Hansen, 2006).
During the interrogation, Rader talked about several things including his criminal ways. His egoism allowed the police to easily manipulate him and get him to reveal incriminating information. He was so infatuated with himself to an extent that he had tricked himself into believing that the police were his allies. He had gotten so comfortable with the police that he bantered with them (Hansen, 2006).
Rasch notes that a sophisticated and skilled user could have covered his tracks in the case of the floppy disk. However, bringing in a skilled expert who has the needed tools will ensure that even that sophisticated user's vague electronic trail will be followed to the slightest original molecules (Hansen, 2006).
It takes great skill to follow that kind of trail or to entirely wipe it out. This explains computer forensics, an entire area of study dedicated to this kind of thing. O'Connor thinks that the police should be given more credit for the way they handled the case. Their handling of the DNA aspect of the case and how they got BTK talking fully aware that he might implicate himself at some point was pure genius (Hansen, 2006).
A comparative Analysis: Motives of other Serial Killers and that of Dennis Rader
Serial killers' motives can be grouped into five categories. DeBurger and Holmes came up with these categories. There are some killers who may posses two or more characteristics (as cited in Vronsky, 2004).
While it is popularly believed that serial killers may be insane or hallucinating, this is not usually the case. Many serial killers claim this as a way for them to be acquitted on grounds of insanity. None the less, some cases of insanity among serial killers do exist but the number is very small. One case is that of Herbert Mullin whose murderous ways claimed 13 lives. He committed these grave acts after he heard some voices tell him that doing so would help California avoid an earthquake. He actually tried the much he could to defend his theory that California avoided earthquakes in the period he committed homicides (Vronsky, 2004).
Ed Gein, on the other hand, claimed that eating women's corpses - women who resembled his mother - helped…
Graysmith notes the results of a comparison of Starr's printing to the Zodiac letters, but there was no match (Graysmith 266-267). As noted, Graysmith also had an explanation for how the Zodiac might have disguised his printing, but clearly the letters have not been linked to anyone for certain. The fact that the Zodiac stopped killing has been the focus of a good deal of speculation as well, including