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Dennis L. Rader was eldest of the four sons William E. Rader and Dorothea Rader had together. Born on March 9, 1945 in Wichita, Dennis L. Rader lived a normal life while growing up. In his childhood, he never showed symptoms that would indicate his behaviour in his later life.
He belonged to a good Christian family and was an active participant in the family of the Lutheran church in his home town. He grew up as a clean cut child. He graduated from his high school on 1963. After graduating from high school, Rader joined the Air Force from 1965 till 1970, and was posted in different countries such as South Korea, Greece and Japan, where he served his country. Once he came back from the Air Force, he took up a job in the meat department of a grocery store. He lived separate from his parents, although their residence was not far from where he lived.
In 1973 he married Paula Dietz who was a secretary at the local hospital. They had 2 children together. According to Rader himself, he had a good marriage with his wife for the first 30 years. After 34 years of marriage, his file filed for divorce on grounds of her mental health being unstable, after Rader was arrested.
People had mixed views of Denis Rader in their community. Some found him proud, rude and confrontational, while others found him to be to be a nice, friendly guy.
As a child, Rader was very highly sexually active. Not in the sense that he performed sexual acts as a child (it is known that he graduated from high school as a virgin), but he would be easily provoked by spankings from his mother. He even had Sexual magazines and would sketch his sexual fantasies on paper. He would break into people's homes when no one was there and would steal ladies underwear. Peeping and breaking into homes had become more frequent during the age of 14 till 21. The first killing he ever made was of dogs and cats, as a child, which he would strangle to death. Throughout his childhood, Rader was known to be a poor student who preferred isolation. He enjoyed the torturing of animals and gathering of erotic pictured of women to making friends. He modified these pictured he collected adding gags, chains and ropes to the pictures to sexually please himself with the idea of torture. The only 2 social activities that Rader indulged in were either those of his church or while he was a boy scout. While he was in the boy scouts, he quickly learnt the art of tying knots, which helped him later on when he bound his victims before he killed them. (McClellan, 2010)
Once BTK's violent streak grasped him, there was nothing that could stop him. From 1974 till 1991, BTK Dennis Rader was responsible for killing 10 women in Wichita, Kansas. He was known to tie up his victims, torture them and then kill them. Hence the name BTK, Bind, Torture and Kill. Denis would collect personal items from his victims as souvenirs, after killing them. He even sent letters to the police and newspapers after his killings. The first letter that the police received from BTK was in 1974 after his first killing of the Otero family, that very year. His second letter, sent in 1978, was clearly a stunt for attention from the media. His letter was addressed to a television station as BTK, after which the name became famous for the serial killer. Dennis was even a writer of poems. His poems often contained descriptions of how he imagined his victims' killings and some poems were even written with intent to send to his own victims.
Dennis last made contact with the media in 2005. Forensic software to discover that the Microsoft Word document which was deleted, had metadata that contained the phrase 'Christ Lutheran Church' and the name 'Dennis' for when it was last modified. The church website then showed Dennis Rader as the church president, after which the authorities then started investigation on Dennis Rader. The police obtained a warrant for collecting DNA samples of Rader's daughter. This DNA sample matched with the semen that authorities found in one of the earlier BKT killing victims. This gave the authorities a lead on the BKT case. Dennis Rader was arrested soon after the discovery of this evidence.
The legal proceedings were underway soon after Dennis was arrested. On August 18, 2005 Dennis was sentenced to serve 10 consecutive life terms in prison. This meant a minimum of 175 years in prison, before he could go on parole.
The compiling of the letters sent by the serial killer and other violent behaviour before his arrest were compiled by experts and a conclusion was drawn on his behaviour. What experts could gather from what was in front of them was that the killer was a male who was mentally disturbed, and had a fetish for bonding. He received sexual pleasure when he bound his victims before killing them. Evidence gathered from the crime scenes supported the experts views since all of BTK's victims were bound in one way or another - either from the legs, hands or the whole body itself.
According to Tony Ruark, a psychologist in Wichita, the killer, who was later discovered to be Dennis Rader, was a sociopath. The psychologist suggested that suffered from a sever anti-social personality disorder, causing him to perform such killing. The severity of this psychological disorder was so severe that the psychologist also stated that the killer performed all his killings without a slight hint of guilt or remorse. The killings themselves brought out no negative feelings within the killer himself. Instead, the killer performed all these actions in a very calm and collected way, as if it was absolutely normal do perform such acts. To the killer, the performance of these actions was a production. The killer felt the urge to be in control all throughout the process of these killing, showing the intensity of the disorder Dennis Rader suffered from.
Jack Levin, PHD, knows a lot about serial killers and psychopaths like Dennis Rader. According to him, Dennis considered these crimes to be some of his greatest accomplishments, no matter how horrid the crimes were in reality. Levin said that most people stereotypically view such killers as loners and anti social. This however, was not the case with Dennis. Dennis was active in society, being the president of his town's church and married with 2 kids. He suggested that if such killers did not look like normal people, they would immediately be apprehended. This is why serial killers, like BTK, wear a mask to prevent themselves from being caught.
Michael Welner, MD, a forensic psychiatrist and an associate professor of psychiatry at NYU, agrees with Levin's views of such killers, claiming that they disguise themselves behind a mask of sanity. This is particularly why no one was suspicious of Dennis Rader.
Levin further said that not all psychopaths turn into killers. According to the Rader was the most successful psychopath who evolved into a killer. There has been much debate over the past few decades as to how such psychopaths turn toward killing. Levin suggested that this evolution into a killer may be because of a number of reasons. Some of these include having a biological predisposition, failing to bond well in childhood, or having a fault in (brain) wiring.
There was a certain pattern of women that Rader chose as his victims. His victims were aged between 9 to 63, and were mostly white. The women he chose as victims belonged to middle income families and had no relationship with Rader himself. (McClellan, 2010)
Perhaps the developmental factors, that forced Dennis into killing was the satisfaction he derived from these acts. Dennis was generous towards his investigators and gave them numerous reasons as to why he carried out the killings. According to Dennis, the killings were a way of satisfying his sexual fantasies and that he was proud of his works. He also added that he wanted to terrorize the society with the messages he was trying to get across to them in his letters to the media and the police. He also stated that he saw himself as James Bond or John Wayne in every aspect from which he committed the crimes, whether it is his way of dressing or the way he attacked his victims.
According to Jonathan Pincus's Base instincts: what makes killers kill?, he states that criminal behavior occurs because of neurobiological and environmental factors combined. Out of the 150 criminals he examined, almost 94% of them had experienced abuse in some form or the other during their childhood and suffered from brain dysfunction in their front brain lobes. Such criminals do not register the understand the consequences of the acts that they commit nor do they feel any guilt. What they actually feel is what they did was not wrong at all. This was evident from Raders speech in trial where he spoke very emotionlessly of the victims he killed including that since he had not killed anyone before his first murder, he wasn't sure of how long it would take for the person to die, or how much pressure was needed to be applied to strangle the person to death (Stein, 2007). Apart from that, he chatted and laughed freely with his investigators when he was confronted with forensic evidence about the killings he made. (McClellan, 2010)
Some serial killers are extreme sadists. They are aroused by the torture, panic and pain that they inflict upon their victims. Such extreme sadists are consistent over the period of time. They choreograph their attacks beforehand so that they are completely capable of gaining full control of the situation when they make their move (Carson, 2000). This description applies well to Dennis Raders case, where Rader stalked his victims before he murdered them. Also, Carson's view also serves to explain the situational and developmental factors linked to the behavior of Dennis Rader. Dennis Rader, as stated before, killed because it fulfilled his sexual fantasies and made him feel like James bond or John Wayne. Therefore proving that, Rader was an extreme sadist who turned to killing to derive his sexual pleasure. The pain and the torture he inflicted on his victims motivated him to continue killing.
We can all agree to the fact that Dennis Rader was a serial killer that took Kansas by storm with the large number of murders he committed, torturing his victims to death. From the various psychologists views stated in this paper, it can be concluding that Dennis Rader was a serial killer who suffered from an extreme personality disorder. His lack of guilt related to his killings and the motivation he derived from torturing his victims to derive sexual pleasure and achieve sexual release prove that Dennis Rader aka BTK was an extreme sadist. His conscious prevented him from realizing that his acts were wrong. Instead he felt proud of his accomplishments, especially those of terrorizing the society he lived in.
However, contrary to what we might agree on about Rader, the states investigation stated otherwise. Summary of the evidence that the state provided stated that Rader did not have any sort of mental disorder or defect. He had not been a victim of sexual, psychological or physical abuse previously. He premeditated before murdering and he planned each murder carefully and very systematically. He made no considerations and no moral concerns for the victims he preyed upon. The state also claimed that Dennis Rader killed because he simply wanted to. (McClellan, 2010)
From all the evidence gathered in the paper regarding Dennis Rader, we conclude that he, in essence, was a disturbed male, who viewed his victim's pain as his pleasure. He treated his victims mercilessly and was a man who was in control of all the aspects in his life, from his life at home, to his life as a serial killer. He also called himself a controlling sadistic serial homicide offender (McClellans, 2010). He named himself as BTK, to serve as a description of the method with which he attacked his victims. He ran loose around the state for over a decade, killing 10 women and managed to terrorize the society. He saw all of the crimes he committed at his celebrated accomplishments which he was very proud of. Dennis Rader was arrested in 2005 after which he was sentenced to 10 consecutive life terms in prison. This was the highest punishment in the state of Kansas, since the state did not allow capital punishments for its criminals.
Dennis was aware that the victims' families may never forgive him for the grief that he had brought upon their families. He felt that he could not stop himself from committing the murders and that it was a driving force that he couldn't stop. He found himself bound by his urge to bind torture and kill his victims. His arrest caused brought relief to the families in his town. However, it may never truly be known why Dennis did what he did. We could believe psychologists and their views, or we could agree with the state's summary of the evidence they collected. Either ways, the terror of BTK cannot be forgotten, especially by the families of the victims he killed.