This past winter one of America’s most notorious serial killers, a man until then who was only known as “BTK” because of his propensity to bind, torture, and kill his victims was finally taken into custody after 31 years. His identity was revealed to be Dennis Rader: father, husband, cub scout leader, and church president.
On Friday, Aug. 12 at 8 PM/ET, “Dateline’s” Edie Magnus reports on the first exclusive look inside the mind of the man behind the initials, a man who hunted and killed his victims in secret, then made sure the police and world at large knew he was out there. This exclusive interview, obtained by “Dateline,” was conducted by Harvard neuropsychologist, Robert Mendoza, who was hired by Rader’s defense team to assess his sanity.
During the two-hour “Dateline,” Magnus chronicles Rader’s killings, his subsequent obsession with the media, his arrest — which he refers to as “Black Friday” because he claims he didn’t see it coming — and ultimately, his willing confession. Also included in the broadcast are never heard before details about how and why he chose his victims.
Below are excerpts from the interview:
On the “B” in Bind, Torture and Kill
Rader: You have to have the control, which is the bonding. That’s been a big thing with me. My sexual fantasy is ... if I’m going to kill a victim or do something to the victim, is having them bound and tied. In my dreams, I had what they called torture chambers. And to relieve your sexual fantasies you have to go to the kill.
How he got the initials “BTK”
Rader: I just put it in one of the first letters. I’m always surprised I put it up there first. I think it was just — Bind, Torture, Kill. I put “Poetic Strangler,” “the Wichita Strangler,” “BTK Strangler” and they put the BTK on me. They actually decided, it wasn’t me. They took one of those acronyms and said, “Okay, this is it.” And I thought, “That’s, that’s good. And I’ll go with that.”
Mendoza: So you embraced it?
Rader: I embraced it.
Mendoza: And you enjoyed it, it seems.
Rader: Well, yeah, yeah, I guess you could say that. eah, now I had a label on me. It was like the “Green River Killer” and “Son of Sam...”
On how he saw his victims as objects
Rader: I don’t think it was actually the person that I was after, I think it was the dream. I know that’s not really nice to say about a person, but they were basically an object. They were just an object. That’s all they were. I had more satisfaction building up to it and afterwards than I did the actual killing of the person.
On the “Factor X” and what caused him to kill
Rader: Factor X is probably something I’ll never know. I actually think it may be possessed with demons. Uh, I was dropped on my head when I was a kid...
Mendoza: You can’t stop it.
Rader: I can’t stop it...it controls me, you know, it’s like in the driver’s seat. That’s probably the reason we’re sitting here. You know, if I could just say, “No, I don’t want to do this, and go crawl into a hole.” But it’s driving me.
On how some people are lucky that they weren’t one of his victims
Mendoza: Is it safe to say that there are at least a few lucky people out there?
Rader: There’s a lot of lucky people out there.
Mendoza: Who you didn’t kill, that you ---
Rader: Yeah, didn’t make it to the house, they come home or for some reason I didn’t go. There’s a lot of lucky people out there, yes. There would have been more probably if I had succeeded. Yeah, you’re almost guaranteed it.