Video: A friend's reaction

msnbc.com news services
updated 2/27/2005 11:57:55 AM ET 2005-02-27T16:57:55

Dennis Rader, the man police believe is the BTK serial killer, hid for more than 30 years in plain sight.

He lived in this suburb of Wichita, the city he is suspected of terrorizing, with a wife and two children. He led a Cub Scout troop and was active in his Lutheran church. As an ordinance enforcement officer for the local government, he could be seen measuring grass in a front yard with a tape measure to see if it was too long, a neighbor said.

On Saturday, police identified Rader as a suspect in the BTK killings and announced an end to their 31-year manhunt. Although no charges have been filed, a jubilant collection of law enforcers and community leaders told a cheering crowd they were confident the long-running case could now be closed.

Officials also said they connected two more deaths to BTK — a self-coined nickname that stands for “Bind, Torture, Kill” — bringing his total to at least 10.

BTK stoked fears throughout the 1970s in Wichita, a manufacturing center with 350,000 residents, with his grisly crimes and letters sent to police and media.

The killer stopped writing in the late 1970s but resurfaced about a year ago with a letter giving details of a 1986 slaying that had not previously linked to BTK.

'He was so strange'
In Park City, the suspect’s neighbors said he helped elderly neighbors with yard work but described him as an unpleasant man who often went looking for reasons to cite his neighbors for violations of city codes.

Bill Lindsay, 38, lived behind Rader and said his wife caught Rader in their adjoining backyards filming the back of their house.

“He really acted really funny,” said Lindsay, a truck driver. “I’d be on the road and my wife would tell me, ’Dennis has been out again, taking his pictures.”’

Jason Day, 28, said his brother was in Rader’s Cub Scout pack at the nearby Park City Baptist Church, but their mother pulled him out because of Rader.

“It was his demeanor,” he said. “He was so strange.”

Rader served on the Sedgwick County Board of Zoning Appeals and the Animal Control Advisory Board, according to official documents posted on the Internet, and was president of the Christ Lutheran Church in Wichita, according to the church's Web site.

Reported connection to some victims
Other information about Rader was sketchy, but the Wichita Eagle reported that he had worked for the Coleman camping gear firm in the early 1970s — as did two of BTK's early victims. He also apparently lived on the same street as one of his victims, according to media reports.

The newspaper said he had served in the military during the Vietnam War, though it was not clear whether he had seen action, and had worked for years at a home security company in Wichita.

Park City Mayor Emil Bergquist, citing a request of investigators, declined to comment about Rader’s employment record or any part of the case.

Messages left for Rader’s family members were not returned on Saturday, and no one answered the door at the home of his in-laws.

Not everyone had a bad story about Rader. David Cool said he had lived next to Raders’ in-laws for most of his life, and his parents knew Rader. He said Rader helped his parents, now in their 70s, with yard work.

“Mom doesn’t have a bad word to say about him,” Cool said.

Rader was being held at an undisclosed location, and it was not immediately clear if he had a lawyer. In Kansas, suspects generally appear before a judge for a status hearing within 48 hours of their arrest.

Prosecutor Nola Foulston said the death penalty would not apply to any crime committed between 1972 and 1994, when Kansas did not have the death penalty.

Clues to his identity
The BTK slayings began in 1974 with the strangulations of Joseph Otero, 38, his wife, Julie, 34, and their two children. The six victims that followed were all women, and most were strangled.

Along with his grisly crimes, the killer terrorized Wichita by sending rambling letters to the media, including one in which he named himself BTK for “Bind them, Torture them, Kill them.” In another he complained, “How many do I have to kill before I get my name in the paper or some national attention?”

In several of the letters, BTK included clues to his identity. Police had long believed BTK was a graduate of Wichita State University, as Rader was. Letters sent in the past year included jewelry that police believed may have been taken from BTK’s victims and the driver’s license of one of the victims.

“He obviously was getting rid of his trophies; he was leaving us a wide-open trail,” said Richard LaMunyon, Wichita’s police chief from 1963 to 1989. “I think the ultimate goal was of him being caught.”

At one point, investigators made a list of white men who graduated from Wichita State in the 1970s. Officials said Rader’s name likely was on that list, but he wasn’t identified back then as a suspect.

Silent for decades
BTK stopped communicating in 1979 and remained silent for more than two decades before re-establishing contact last March with a letter to The Wichita Eagle about an unsolved 1986 killing.

Image: BTK suspect Dennis Rader
MSNBC TV
Sedgwick County Jail booking photograph of BTK Killer suspect Dennis Rader
The letter included a copy of the victim’s driver’s license and photos of her slain body. The return address on the letter said it was from Bill Thomas Killman — initials BTK.

Thousands of tips poured in, and the Kansas Bureau of Investigation gathered thousands of DNA swabs in connection with the investigation. In the end, DNA evidence was the key to cracking the case, said Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius.

“The way they made the link was some DNA evidence, that they had some DNA connection to the guy who they arrested,” Sebelius said in an interview with The Associated Press. She did not elaborate.

The two newly identified cases were similar to the early ones with one exception, Sedgwick County Sheriff Gary Steed said: The bodies had been removed from the crime scenes. One of the victims lived on the same street as Rader.

“We as investigators keep an open mind. But only now are we able to bring them together as BTK cases,” he said.

On Friday, investigators searched Rader’s house and seized computer equipment.

Authorities, who generally declined to answer questions in detail after announcing the arrest, had little to say about why BTK resurfaced after years without contact.

“It is possible something in his life has changed. I think he felt the need to get his story out,” LaMunyon said.

The Associated Press and MSNBC reporter Michael Brunker contributed to this report.

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