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Alleged BTK killer waives right to hearing

The man accused of terrorizing Wichita, Kansas, for years, the alleged BTK serial killer,  waived his right to a preliminary hearing Tuesday, meaning he acknowledged the state has enough evidence to go to trial
Dennis Rader talks with attorney Sarah McKinnon after waiving his preliminary hearing Tuesday.Bo Rader / Pool via AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

In a surprise turn, the man accused of the BTK serial killings waived his right to a preliminary hearing Tuesday, meaning he acknowledged the state has enough evidence to go to trial.

During the hearing, which lasted only a few minutes, Dennis Rader, 60, answered “Yes, sir” to questions from Sedgwick County District Gregory Waller about whether he understood his rights.

Rader's attorney, Steve Osburn, said afterwards that “considering the low burden of proof, we didn’t think there would be anything new that would come out anyway, so we didn’t think there was much to be gained by having a preliminary hearing.”

Prosecutors had hoped for a preliminary hearing over several days so that they could start laying out the evidence against him. The court has sealed almost every order and motion filed in the case.

After the brief hearing, District Attorney Nola Foulston told reporters: “Of course there is a certain type of disappointment because it prolongs the agony for the public to know. ... And as long as the public doesn’t know, it places us in a position where we are out here telling you, ‘I’m sorry, I can’t tell you.”’

Rader, formerly a city ordinance enforcement officer for suburban Park City, was arrested on Feb. 25 and is charged with 10 counts of first-degree murder.

Arraignment May 3
He will enter a plea at his arraignment, which was set for May 3.

The BTK strangler, whose nickname stands for “Bind, Torture, Kill,” had been suspected of eight deaths beginning in 1974, but since Rader’s arrest authorities have linked two more victims to the serial killer. Prosecutors can’t seek the death penalty because the crimes were committed before 1994, when Kansas passed its capital punishment law.

Osburn said after the hearing that Rader would plead not guilty at his arraignment. An arraignment is normally held right after a preliminary hearing, but Osburn said he asked that it be continued to give the defense more time to prepare.

Osburn said he did not foresee Rader pleading innocent by reason of insanity and did not anticipate a plea bargain. Defense attorneys have not decided whether to seek a change of venue for the trial.

Also at the hearing, the judge granted a prosecutor’s motion to add more witnesses, but that motion was kept under seal, as have been almost all court papers in the case.

Several family members of the victims were in the courtroom and in an overflow room watching by video feed. Rader’s family was not in the courtroom, Osburn said.

Rader, who is being held in lieu of $10 million bail, is no longer secluded from other prisoners, Osburn said. Rader has been sheltered from much of the media coverage.

“All things considered he is doing OK,” he said.

Computer was key
BTK’s penchant for taunting police and media with cryptic messages is believed to have led to Rader’s arrest.

Investigators went to his church in Park City, Christ Lutheran, because a computer diskette BTK sent to a TV station apparently contained an electronic imprint from a computer at the church, according to Rader’s pastor, Michael Clark.

Among the most incriminating pieces of evidence expected to be presented is DNA investigators collected from murder scenes. Gov. Kathleen Sebelius has said DNA samples linked Rader to the killings.

Court officials are bracing for an onslaught of public attention.

“It is going to be something like we have never seen in Wichita before. ... Every conceivable media outlet — from the very high end to the tabloid shows — are coming,” said Kirk Longhofer, the court’s media coordinator.