Dennis Raider Crime
In the years between 1974 and 1991, the United States was gripped by fear over a serial killer that had been on the prowl and was yet to be arrested. Dubbed the BTK killer, the unknown assailant murdered ten people residing in Wichita, Kansas over a period of three decades. Dennis Rader commenced his killing spree when he killed four members of the same family. By 1990, he had murdered six more female victims. Commonly referred to as BTK, Dennis Rader who was considered to be the most elusive serial killer in American history, was arrested by a mere oversight that allowed computer forensic experts to find enough clues that led to his capture.
Dennis Rader was born in 1945 as the oldest sibling of William and Dorothea Rader who resided in Pittsburg, Kansas. Being a well-spoken man, he easily managed to live a double life in which he was a devoted family man and church elder by day while he terrorized the residents of Wichita by night (Hickey 254). As the oldest of four brothers, he lived a seemingly normal childhood and was able to mask some of his most disturbing behaviors, such as torturing stray animals (Hickey 254). He dropped out of college to join the U.S. Airforce around 1965. In 1971, he moved to Wichita where he met and married his wife, Paula. He was employed at an outdoor supply company before moving to ADT Security Services in 1974.
Rader was a serial killer who killed ten residents of Wichita, Kansas. Beginning his murder spree in early 1975, he got the attention of the police after murdering the entire Otero family in their home, who included the parents, Joseph and Julie, and their two children, Joseph Junior and Josephine (Douglass & Dodd 83). The murder set the pace for his modus operandi, which included strangulation and taking souvenirs from the crime scene. Over the next fifteen years, he added six more female victims to his rapport. In all his crime scenes, he would leave semen, which he later admitted was a result of the act that he derived sexual pleasure from murder (Douglas & Dodd 84). Throughout this period, he sent provocative messages to the police containing clues and details that were only availed to the police. In posting his first message, he stuck a note in a book in the local Wichita Public Library. The note contained his written confession about murdering the family and included details that the police had not made public. He also used the letters as a platform to create a name for himself by combining the words Bind, Torture, Kill to form BTK (Meadows). He also took advantage of the media and postal service to send numerous other taunting messages to the police that contained pictures, poems, and puzzles. For fifteen years, Rader was never arrested despite the high number of dead female victims that he left in his wake.
Computer forensics aided in the arrest of BTK in 2004, thirty years after his initial murder. His arrest followed a note that he sent to the police after fourteen years of silence. In one of his taunting communication with the police, Rader sent a floppy disk containing a Microsoft Office document that included his typed message. Upon receiving the floppy disk, it was immediately given to experts in computer forensics for analysis. The experts used EnCase software in analyzing it, which allowed them to discover another Microsoft Office document that had been deleted from the same floppy disk (Girard 417). Upon recovering the document, they realized that it had been modified by an individual named ‘Dennis’ at a computer in the Christ Lutheran Church (Meadows). The forensic experts then searched the church’s website and found a Dennis Rader who served as the president of its congregation council (Singular 115). Armed with this information, the FBI collaborated with the police in checking Rader’s background and assessing the DNA evidence that had been collected in his previous cases that allowed them to link him to the ten BTK murders that had occurred in the past. Dennis Rader was arrested in Wichita and charged with murder on 25 February 2005 (Meadows). His murderous regime was brought to an abrupt demise by a simple oversight on his part. Initially, he took a not guilty plea to the charges filed against him. However, he later caved and provided the police with several hours of intense details about the murders that he had been accused of. He was found guilty of all his crimes and sentenced to ten consecutive life sentences without parole.
Considered to be among the most slippery serial killers in American history, there is need to understand the nature of Dennis Rader’s crimes, his biography, and the role of computer forensics in facilitating his arrest. He was a serial killer who was found guilty of the murder of eight female and two male victims between 1974 and 1990. While he continuously taunted the police with endless messages, pictures, and puzzles, his arrest followed his decision to send a computer generated message in a floppy disc that allowed computer forensic experts to gather enough evidence for his arrest and arraignment in court.
Douglas, John and Johnny Dodd. Inside the Mind of BTK: The True Story Behind the Thirty Year Hunt for the Notorious Wichita Serial Killer. John Wiley & Sons, 2008.
Girard, James E. Criminalistics: Forensic Science, Crime, and Terrorism. Jones & Bartlett Publishers, 2013.
Hickey, Eric W. Serial Murderers and their Victims. Cengage Learning, 2012.
Meadows, Bob. “The BTK Case: the Killer Unmasked?” People, 21 March 2005, http://people.com/archive/the-btk-case-the-killer-unmasked-vol-63-no-11/ Accessed 6 November 2017
Singular, Stephen. Unholy Messenger: The Life and Crimes of the BTK Serial Killer. Simon & Schuster, 2007.
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