Warning: The following post contains graphic depictions of murder.
But a killer, Rader was. Rader murdered 10 people in and around Wichita between the years 1974 and 1991. And he might've gotten away with his heinous crimes, too — if he hadn't longed for attention.
Rader figures heavily in the second season of the Netflix show Mindhunter, which depicts the early days of criminal profiling. Rader, more commonly known as the BTK Killer, is a persistent case for Agents Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff) and Bill Tench (Holt McCallany). He taunts the police with details about his crimes, but seems impossible to catch.
On January 15, 1974, Rader shocked the Wichita community with a devastating series of murders. In the middle of the day, Rader broke into the house of the Otero family, expecting only Julie Otero (35) and two of her children, Josephine (11) and Joseph Jr. (9) to be there. However, Joseph (38) was also home. Rader killed all four of the Otero family members. Their bodies were later discovered by the Oteros' three older children, Charlie, Danny, and Carmen Otero, teenagers at the time.
A month later, Rader sent a letter to the Wichita Eagle detailing exactly how he murdered the Oteros. "Those three dudes you have in custody are just talking to get publicity for the Otero murders," Rader wrote. "They know nothing at all. I did it by myself and with no ones help. There has been no talk either. Let's put this straight." Rader went on to provide graphic details that only someone at the crime scene would know.
In the wordy, often grammatically and misspelled incorrect, letter, Rader grappled with his urges, calling the his murderous alter ego "the monster."
“I’m sorry this happen to the society...It hard to control myself. You probably call me 'psychotic with sexual perversion hang-up.' Where this monster enter my brain I will never know. But, it here to stay. How does one cure himself? If you ask for help, that you have killed four people, they will laugh or hit the panic button and call the cops....I can’t stop it so, the monster goes on, and hurt me as wall as society. Maybe you can stop him. I can’t. Good luck hunting,” Rader said, ominously.
But that's not all. At the end of the letter, Rader cemented his image in the public eye. He suggested the nicknamed "BTK Killer," which stands for "bind, torture, kill," himself. "P.S. Since sex criminals do not change their M.O. or by nature cannot do so, I will not change mine. The code word for me will be… Bind them, torture them, kill them, B.T.K., you see he's at it again," Rader wrote.
Rader indicated that he'd already chosen his next victim. Unfortunately, Rader's two-page letter didn't make him any easier to catch. He went on to kill six more people. Just months after the Oteros, Rader killed Kathryn Bright (21) in April 1974, and nearly killed her brother, Kevin (19). Then, he murdered Shirley Vian (24) in March 1977; Nancy Fox (25) in December 1977; Marine Hedge (53) in 1985; Vicki Weerle (28) in 1987; and finally Dolore Davis (62) in 1991, while he was on a Boy Scout trip.
Throughout, Rader continued to taunt police. After his seventh murder, he wrote, "How many do I have to kill before I get a name in the paper or some national recognition?”
Not all the messages Rader sent to police and newspapers were as straightforward as his 1974 confessional level. He left packages in parks and sent elaborate word searches. Rader often sent over his sick arts-n-crafts projects, called "slick ads." He would cut out female figures from magazine advertisements, then draw ropes, gags, and other acts of torture on them. He'd carry the collages around on 3x5 index cards.
Rader also invented a whole vocabulary to describe his inner landscape. He called his ability to switch from his “good” to “bad” side “cubing.” So, he “cubed” from a father, husband, security guard, and Boy Scout Leader to a murderer.
Rader called his potential victims “projects,” and stalked about 55 people over the years. He called a murder a “hit," and called killing someone "putting them down." Sometimes, Rader would wait years between "hits."
"It was all about the process of killing and it was almost like foreplay for sex, where it would lead up to the ultimate moment where he would kill them, but that's not really what he lived for," criminologist Scott Bonn told Oxygen. "What he lived for was the process."
Rader sent police and newspapers 19 messages in all, 10 of them within a year of his arrest in 2005. With his shrewd public letters, Rader purposefully fed into the public’s fascination with gruesome murder. In fact, he probably wouldn’t be surprised about Mindhunter's popularity.
But his need for attention led to his downfall. In January 2005, Rader sent a postcard to a Wichita TV station with the location of two packages. The first, a cereal box containing details about the 1974 Otero murders and dolls representing the victims. The other, which was accidentally thrown away from the Home Depot to which it was sent, contained a floppy disk asking police he could "safely" communicate with them. The police played into his scheme, and ultimately used further discs Rader sent to track him down.
Upon his arrest in 2005, Rader gave police what he called the "mother lode:" His entire paper trail, including some of the book he was writing, The BTK Story. Rader was sentenced to a minimum of 175 years without parole. Now 74 years old, he is serving out his sentence in isolation for 23 hours a day.