Dennis Rader murdered 10 people, including two children, in the Wichita, Kansas, area between 1974 and 1991. He taunted the police and gave himself his own nickname, the BTK Killer, based on the method of his crimes: Bind, Torture, Kill. When he was arrested in 2005, Rader pointed the police to the Wichita Public Library, where he’d stashed a letter he wrote in October 1974 detailing the killing of four members of the Otero family on January 15, of that year. Two of the victims were children, aged 9 and 11, the bodies were found by their sibling, who was only in tenth grade. BTK: A Killer Among Us which premieres Sunday, February 17 at 10 p.m. on Investigation Discovery, will explore the incidents.
Stephen King was inspired to write the 2010 novella A Good Marriage, which was made into a film in 2014, by the BTK Killer. The infamous “BTK” killer lived a seemingly normal life but was the same monster who broke into homes where he would bind, torture, and kill his victims, and he was hiding in plain sight. BTK: A Killer Among Us exposes Rader’s double life through interviews with law enforcement, victim’s family members, and his daughter.
“It’s okay, don’t worry. You’re safe.” Kerri Rawson, Rader’s daughter, who wrote the book A Serial Killer’s Daughter: My Story of Faith, Love and Overcoming, remembers her father saying as he assured her the serial killer taunting Wichita, city of less than 400,000 people, would not hurt her. Years later Kerri would learn the man comforting her was engulfed in a cryptic double-life.
“This is a horrifically perfect example of a wolf in sheep’s clothing,” Henry Schleiff, Group President of Investigation Discovery, Travel Channel, American Heroes Channel, and Destination America, said in a statement. “It’s shocking to think that for 31 years, Dennis Rader was able to live a double life: one as a doting husband and father, and the other as one of our country’s most vicious and prolific serial murderers.”
The new two-hour special reveals what Rader worked so hard to conceal. “In 1974, Wichita’s reputation as a peaceful community was destroyed when Dennis Rader began his killing spree with the murders of four members of the Otero family,” reads the official press statement. “Months later he struck again, turning his attention to Kathryn Bright, a college student who lived eerily close to his original crime. Shortly after this murder, he began leaving correspondence for police, relishing in the fear he created. His first note detailed his desire to ‘Bind, torture and kill.’ From then on, he was dubbed ‘BTK.’
“These killings threw the city into panic, and the pursuit for a murderer began. BTK held the city of Wichita on razor’s edge for nearly 31 years as a deliberate and meticulous killer who stalked, studied, and hunted ten innocent and unsuspecting victims. Tormenting police and media with notes and remnants from his crimes, BTK continued to correspond with the public, hungry to spread fear across the nation. Ultimately, Rader’s insatiable need to be recognized for his crimes led to his arrest in 2005.”
BTK: A Killer Among Us premieres Sunday, February 17, at 10 p.m. on Investigation Discovery.
Culture Editor Tony Sokol cut his teeth on the wire services and also wrote and produced New York City’s Vampyr Theatre and the rock opera AssassiNation: We Killed JFK. Read more of his work here or find him on Twitter @tsokol.