BTK, Who Inflicted Pain for His Pleasure, Gets Life

Times Staff Writer

Sentenced Thursday to 10 consecutive life terms, serial killer Dennis L. Rader said he still did not understand the forces that had twisted him into a monster. But the man who called himself BTK-- for “Bind, Torture, Kill” -- and terrorized Wichita, Kan., for decades did show his first public signs of remorse.

Rader choked up, took off his glasses, wiped his eyes and blew his nose as he apologized to his victims, his former wife, even the county residents who paid his salary when he worked as a code-compliance officer for a Wichita suburb.

For the record:

12:00 AM, Aug. 24, 2005 For The Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday August 24, 2005 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 40 words Type of Material: Correction
BTK sentencing -- An article in Friday’s Section A about serial killer Dennis L. Rader’s sentencing hearing in Wichita, Kan., said he had photographed one of his victims on a church altar. He photographed her body in a church basement.

“I’ve humbled myself,” he said, bowing his head before the silent courtroom. “The dark side was there, but now I think light is beginning to shine.”

His tears earned him no apparent sympathy in District Judge Gregory Waller’s courtroom.


During the two-day sentencing hearing in Wichita, prosecutors described in horrifying detail the torment that Rader, a former Boy Scout leader and president of his church, inflicted to fulfill his sexual fantasies.

He strangled his victims slowly, taking pleasure in their prolonged suffering. When he had time, he would masturbate on their bodies and pose them in bondage positions, snapping photos as souvenirs. Before he left, he often took their panties; he’d later dress in women’s clothing and act out bondage scenarios, apparently to relive the excitement of the murders.

After killing neighbor Marine Hedge in 1985, Rader took her body to his church and photographed it on the altar. Then he hid her body, changed into his Scouting uniform and went off to chaperon a camping trip.

“This man needs to be thrown in a deep, dark hole and be left to rot,” said Beverly Plapp, the sister of one of Rader’s early victims.


Rader, 60, pleaded guilty in June to killing seven women, two children and one man from 1974 to 1991. During that period, Kansas did not permit capital punishment, so Rader could not receive the death penalty. Instead, he will spend the rest of his life behind bars.

“There was no way I was going to get out of this,” Rader acknowledged.

Even as he apologized for what he called his “atrocious” and “very selfish” acts, Rader showed flashes of the arrogant killer who delighted in taunting police with clues.

He told prosecutors Thursday that they hadn’t gotten all the details quite right in their PowerPoint presentation of his crimes. He expressed remorse that victim Delores Davis would never again see her beloved pets -- but then immediately turned his monologue back to himself, boasting that he had always loved animals. (Though evidence showed that as a child, he used to hang stray cats.)


“He was a narcissist even to the end. It was all about how he felt, what he wanted,” said Robert Beattie, a local lawyer who wrote a book about BTK.

“These have been the worst two days,” said Paul Carlstedt, who knew Rader as a friend and leader at church. “There’s such confusion, such disbelief. I knew [he was guilty] but it was like it wasn’t real before. Today, the reality hit.”

In his rambling statement to the court, Rader quoted the Bible and called himself a Christian.

Carlstedt said he hoped his old friend meant it.


“There is always the possibility of forgiveness. There is always hope,” Carlstedt said. “It’s not my place to pass final judgment on anyone. That’s going to have to come from a higher authority.”