Will The BTK Killer Ever Get Out Of Prison?

Dennis Rader, otherwise known as the infamous "BTK Killer," viciously slaughtered 10 known individuals in a manner that gratified his perverse sexual desires between 1974 and 1991. For what seemed like ages, his identity remained shrouded and hopelessly untraceable. Then, through an elaborate maze of ominous leads and taunting letters sent to authorities over the years by the killer himself, police finally caught Rader in 2005 after DNA evidence from one of the crime scenes pegged him as the atrocious, subversive murderer they'd been pursuing for decades (via Biography). 

A family man who was once a boy scout leader and the president of his church presented himself as a normal person woven into the tapestry of everyday society, but Dennis Rader had a secret life as a sadistic killer. Though a father himself, some of Rader's victims were children. Others included both men and women. His vicious crimes ultimately overshadowed any venerable reputation he may have had. His life behind bars remains highly restricted and closely monitored by prison officials (per Distractify).

The BTK murders

Rader's dark urges were gratified by his methodological assaults in which he would bind and torture his victims before killing them — hence "BTK," a nickname he coined for himself. Living under the guise of an average citizen, his family and friends never suspected him of malice or any intent to harm. Nonetheless, the greater Wichita, Kansas area would suffer his daunting presence for a grueling series of years before the bloodshed finally stopped. 

It was the Otero family — Joseph, Julie, and two of their children, Josephine and Joseph Jr. — who would be the first to fall under his murderous domain on January 15, 1974. They were strangled and left dead in their own house, and later on that day, 15-year-old Charlie Otero would discover the bodies of his family members upon arriving home (via Biography). A few months later on April 4, Dennis Rader struck again. He broke into the apartment belonging to a woman named Kathryn Bright and waited for her to get home. When she entered the residence, he stabbed and strangled her. Rader also shot her brother Kevin twice before fleeing, though he survived the assault and contacted authorities with a description of the killer. 

It would be three years before he killed again, this time taking the life of Shirley Vian (tied up and strangled) after locking her children in the bathroom. Four more would die in like fashion (Nancy Fox, Marine Hedge, Vicki Wegerle, and Dolores Davis) before the BTK killing spree finally ceased (per Biography).

Details that lead to his arrest

Oftentimes, Dennis Rader would take souvenirs from his victims' homes (watches, underwear, etc.) by means of commemorating his exploits. Traces of his semen were also found at the Otero crime scene which would later match his DNA after his arrest. Nonetheless, clues were sparse, and police searched for many years without any reliable trails leading to his identity (per Biography). After the Otero murders in 1974, he left a note intended for police in the Wichita Public Library that read, "the code words for me will be ... bind them, torture them, kill them, B.T.K." It was the first of many taunting messages that he would send to authorities, all of which followed a similar pattern of grammatical disfluencies and spelling errors (via Britannica).

Years passed after he killed his last victim in 1991, and many speculated that the notorious BTK killer was dead. However, in 2004 — on the 30th anniversary of his first murder — a local paper ran a piece stating that the killer was likely dead or imprisoned, and Rader responded by sending evidence and artifacts from his ninth murder (including a copy of the victim's driver's license and photographs of her body ) to a reporter. The manhunt revived as packages and letters continued to arrive from the ominous killer for the next year, and in February of 2005, Rader was finally arrested after police traced him via a floppy disk he'd sent them that led back to his church (per Britannica).

Rader's life behind bars

Dennis Rader is currently serving 10 consecutive life sentences back-to-back – one life sentence for each of the innocent lives he was convicted of taking. He will never get out of prison. According to an inmate search at the Kansas Department of Corrections, he is serving his sentence at El Dorado Correctional Facility in Butler County. Since 2005 Rader has had three disciplinary reports, two having to do with mail and another listed as "Violation of Published Orders." 

According to Distractify, Rader resides in solitary confinement and is allowed an hour outside of his cell per day, five days a week, for essential purposes only (showering, exercise). He is able to receive and send letters, though he has no access to press interviews and is strictly forbidden from appearing on television. Rader sent a letter to his daughter in 2018 revealing that he may have had a stroke earlier that year, possibly leaving him with short-term memory loss and dementia.

"It's hard because I know he's 73 and he's having some health issues," Rader's daughter Kerri Rawson told the Detroit News in 2019. "I want to take care of him and say goodbye. The reality is he's been gone 14 years. I can't imagine the situation where I would go through with it." Rawson released a book, "A Serial Killer's Daughter: My Story of Faith, Love, and Overcoming" (2019) revealing her experience with hardship, resentment, and forgiveness in regards to her father's abominations (per Distractify).