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When One Became Four

by C.B. 5 days ago in investigation

"I lost control of it"

Image from Getty Images - picturing Dennis Rader in custody

There are many haunting facets to the story of BTK that will keep you up at night. As someone whose entire media digest entails all that is true crime, Dennis Rader creeps me out the most.

Yes, I said it. I find him far more startling than the likes of Bundy, Dahmer, and Manson alike. If you aren't careful with your Google searches, it won't take you too long to find photos of this killer's self-bondage, creepy homemade masks, and the terrible crime scene photos that he undoubtedly takes pride in.

This man is a monster. Unlike us, his true crime obsession did not remain under the lens of fascination alone. The serial killers that he grew up reading about became his versions of Superman, while for those of us reading, remain real-life villains. Dennis Rader wanted to be a serial murderer. He named himself "BTK" for Bind, Torture, and Kill.

This case is disturbing for multiple reasons, a few of which I'll list here:

1. Preferred method of killing was strangulation and stabbing. This is a very personal way to kill someone and this man took great pleasure in the acts; he was a sexually motivated killer. DNA to prove this was often found at the crime scenes.

2. Hide n' Seek. Rader preferred to sneak into a victim's home when they weren't there. He would then lay in wake for hours if he had to, often hiding in bedroom closets. It was this element of surprise that excited him, mixed with the fear of the individual who had previously assumed they were safe alone in their homes.

3. He could have remained unknown. Had it not been for his selfish need for fame, we may not have known today who the BTK really was. His criminal activity went dormant for years, during which he continued to act like the perfect family man, community member, and churchgoer. Talk of his crimes diminished and he could not handle being left for the history books. He sent letters to law enforcement and newspapers, threatening to strike again, having already sought out and stalked his newest victim. He was apprehended, as he sent a floppy disc to police, who traced the file to a computer system at his church.

While these facts are scary enough alone, I find his first crimes to be the most disturbing. When we read about serial murderers or spree killers, it's often found that their first victim is different than the rest. Most importantly, it is usually one person in one period of time. For Dennis Rader, his first plunge into his twisted fantasies was not one person, but four.

The Otero Family - credit to:

Rader entered the Otero family home with Joseph Otero in mind. He admits to the judge, in the court hearing, that this was part of his sexual fantasy and that during this time, he was living this part of his personal pleasure.

"After I got into the house I lost control of it but in the back of my mind, I had some idea of what I was going to do. I basically panicked that first day, so."

I won't get too graphic, as you can find the details (and unfortunately crime scene photos) on your own. I will, however, note that Rader had performed all that his moniker described. He did this to Joseph, Julie, Joseph II, and Josephine, who were 9 and 11 years of age. He murdered an entire family, making his first murder a mass killing. This separates him from many of the evil souls we know today. His ability to kill both adults and children in the same timeframe without a moment's hesitation is what marks my mind so permanently.

What strikes me about this case is the risk Rader was willing to take in order to fulfill his needs. He had never committed a crime before, but his need to see his fantasy pushed him to kill four at a time. Whatever his reasoning for taking the lives of four people, he did live his life in fear shortly after, admitting he was waiting to get caught for his impulses.

Rader would go on to kill 6 more women, varying in age, before being apprehended by law enforcement after years of inactivity.

He now sits in prison, having permitted interviews, one most famously granting him the closest thing to an autobiography as he could get. Katherine Ramsland spent years visiting and writing letters to Rader in order to capture his side of the story in an attempt to get more information for law enforcement and the public on these types of crimes. The book is titled Confession of a Serial Killer: The Untold Story of Dennis Rader, the BTK Killer.

If you want to read more about Dennis Rader and the victims who lost their lives because of his horrendous acts, information can be found at where I found much of my information, as well as the numerous podcasts that have covered his crimes.

Read next: Chad Alan Lee

A grad student with a passion for creative writing and a inclination to make a little money here and there.

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