This Is How Many Victims Dennis Rader Actually Had

Anyone alive in the Midwest during the 1970s and '80s will most likely recall the media coverage about an elusive criminal referred to as the BTK Killer. The unsolved murders of Wichita, Kansas, residents that spanned the years 1974 to 1991 baffled investigators until the killer was finally brought to justice after an arrest in 2005. Letters were sent from the killer to authorities and the media, taunting them with vague clues about their identity, while also offering some insight into their motives. In one letter sent to a Wichita Eagle reporter, the writer expressed how he couldn't stop himself, and "since sex criminals do not change their M.O. or by nature cannot do so, I will not change mine. The code word for me will be... Bind them, torture them, kill them, B.T.K." (via Biography). 

True to his word, BTK continued to accumulate victims throughout the rest of the 1970s. While the murders that fit the killer's M.O. ceased after 1979, they would resume in 1985 before stopping entirely in 1991. Long after the cases had gone cold, the Wichita Eagle ran a story in 2004 about the 30th anniversary of the first BTK murders. This prompted the BTK Killer, long silent, to reemerge and send letters to authorities that teased his true identity. One slip-up with a computer disk mailed to police by the mysterious murderer led to a prime suspect. His name was Dennis Rader.

BTK murders in the 1970s

While in court, Dennis Rader admitted to murdering 10 people. As part of a plea arrangement, Rader offered details of each. Those who heard his chilling recollection of the crimes noted that he was very matter of fact during the open-court confession. According to Biography, bystanders later remarked how Rader seemed to have no remorse about his horrible deeds whatsoever.

Rader's killings began with four members of the Otero family on January 15, 1974. On that day, Rader forced his way into the home of Joseph Otero, who was with his wife and two of his five children. With the use of a handgun as a threat, Rader was able to get all four family members successfully tied up. He then strangled them to death one by one.

While he did not sexually assault his victims, the act of murder reportedly made Rader sexually charged. After murdering Mrs. Otero, Rader sexually gratified himself, leaving behind key DNA evidence that would aid in his conviction years later (via Murderpedia).

In April 1974, Rader began stalking 21-year-old college student Kathryn Bright. He broke into her apartment and waited for her to arrive home one afternoon but was surprised when she showed up with her brother Kevin. After shooting Kevin twice, Rader strangled Bright to death. Miraculously, Kevin survived the shooting (via Forensic Tales). 

Rader broke into the home of Shirley Vian in March 1977 and choked her to death while her children were locked away in a bathroom. His final murder of the 1970s occurred in that same year, in which he killed Nancy Fox.

The murders resume

After taking a break from murdering, Dennis Rader admitted in court that he killed his neighbor in 1985. The victim, Marine Hedge, was a recent widow that Rader had been stalking. After strangulation, Rader deviated from the typical BTK M.O. and moved the body from the home to another location. Hedge's remains were found buried alongside the road under some debris and brush (via True Crime and Justice). 

Rader's next victim was Vickie Wegerle, who was murdered by Rader in 1986. She was murdered in her home in the presence of her 2-year-old child. Thankfully, Rader left the child alive. 

Dolores Davis became Rader's last known victim on January 19, 1991. The 62-year-old woman was abducted from her home and murdered. Rader bound her limbs with pantyhose and dumped the lifeless body off the side of a bridge. Her remains were found two weeks later.

After his courtroom confessions, Rader was sentenced to 10 life terms without the possibility of parole, one for each of his known victims. Today, he sits in a maximum-security prison in El Dorado, Kansas, a short drive from the small city that he terrorized for so many years.