Rader Gets 175 Years For BTK Slayings

By Sam Coates
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, August 19, 2005

After evading justice for more than 31 years, Dennis Rader, a serial killer who called himself BTK -- for "bind, torture, kill" -- was sentenced to 10 consecutive life terms in a court in Wichita, Kan.

It was the culmination of an emotional two-day sentencing hearing during which details of the murders were revealed for the first time. The victims' relatives relived their ordeal on the witness stand and listened to graphic descriptions of the killer's twisted sexual fantasies. In June, Rader pleaded guilty to 10 murders between 1974 and 1991.

Judge Gregory Waller, who said there was "no evidence of mitigating factors" in the case, ordered the former Lutheran Church president and Boy Scout leader to a minimum of 175 years in prison.

Beverly Plapp, sister of victim Nancy Fox, said during the nationally televised hearing that the emotional scars will never heal. "As far as I'm concerned, Dennis Rader does not deserve to live. I want him to suffer as much as he made his victims suffer." Rader was not eligible for the death penalty, because his killing spree ended three years before Kansas reintroduced capital punishment in 1994.

Before sentencing, Rader was given permission to address the court, in a procedure known as allocution. In a rambling half-hour statement, he quoted the Bible and thanked his lawyers, jailers, friends and family, before paying tribute to the law enforcement officials who caught him.

"I hope someday God will accept me. The dark side was there, but now I think light is beginning to shine," he said. "People will say I am not a Christian, but I believe I am. I know the victims' families will never be able to forgive me. I hope somewhere deep down that will happen."

Rader also took full responsibility for his actions, and emphasized how cooperative he had been with officials, a statement disputed by the prosecutor immediately afterward. "I brought the community, my family, the victims, dishonor. It's all self-centered," Rader said.

During the hearing, family members called him a "monster," a "depraved predator" and demanded that Rader end his days behind bars.

The court heard from relatives of the Otero family, four of whom were murdered by Rader in 1974, when he targeted their 11-year-old daughter, Josephine. After killing her parents and 9-year-old brother, he removed her clothes and led her to the basement, where he had already prepared a noose. He told her "Well, honey, you're going to be in heaven with the rest of your family" then masturbated while she hanged.

"My mother against your gun, you are such a coward," said Carmen Otero Montoya, a sister of Josephine, who refused to address Rader as BTK because she said it would dignify him. "Rader is an appropriate name for you, as in one who invades, a surprise attack. That is nothing to be proud of."

The court also heard from Kevin Bright, who was attacked by Rader and locked in the bathroom while he murdered Bright's sister in 1974. Bright fought back tears as he told the judge that he wants Rader to suffer for the rest of his life.

"No remorse, no compassion, I think that's what he ought to receive," Bright said. At this point, Rader wiped away tears of his own, one of his few displays of emotion during the hearing.

Graphic details of the meticulous way he approached the killings also emerged during the hearing. On Wednesday, the court learned that Rader used to practice squeezing a rubber ball to strengthen a hand to stop it from going numb while he strangled victims, Detective Clint Snyder testified. Rader also painstakingly chronicled his actions, amassing a huge collection of photographs, drawings and cutouts, which he kept at home and at work.

He was arrested in February, 11 months after resuming contact with the police after a 25-year silence. He taunted the authorities with a string of clues, sending jewelry in envelopes to local reporters and leaving more of his victims' belongings in a cereal box by the roadside.

DNA techniques, unavailable to police in the 1970s, helped connect Rader to his victims.

Law enforcement officials had theorized that the killer thrived on attention. After one murder, he called 911 to report a homicide he had committed.

After Rader's arrest, Richard LaMunyon, a former Wichita police chief, said Rader left so many clues that he clearly "wanted to tell his story."

Prosecutors have filed a motion to restrict Rader's access to newspapers and writing material to ensure that he cannot glory in coverage of his case. A judge will rule at a hearing in 30 days.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company