A serial killer known by the initials BTK—for Bind, Torture, Kill—claimed the lives of at least 10 people between 1974 and 1991 in the Wichita area of Kansas and for a while it looked like the case would never be solved. Then a man by the name of Dennis Rader was arrested for the crimes and everyone who knew him was stunned. Rader was, for all anyone knew, a good and upstanding man they’d known for decades. He was a former president of the church council at Christ Lutheran Church as well as a Boy Scout leader and most folks who knew him would’ve vouched for him without question. Now that he’s been arrested he’s pled guilty to all counts. Rader went into some detail at his hearing about the people he killed and his methods:
Referring to his victims as “projects,” Rader laid out for the court how he would “troll” for victims on his off-time, then stalk them and kill them.
“I had never strangled anyone before, so I really didn’t know how much pressure you had to put on a person or how long it would take,” he told the court in describing his first killings in 1974, a couple and two of their children.
“The whole family just panicked on me. I worked pretty quick,” he said. “I strangled Mrs. Otero. She passed out. I thought she was dead. I strangled Josephine. She passed out. I thought she was dead. Then I went over and put a bag on Junior’s head.”
He later said about Mrs. Otero: “I went back and strangled her again.”
He described to the court how he chose his victims.
“If you’ve read much about serial killers, they go through what they call different phases. In the trolling stage, basically, you’re looking for a victim at that time. You can be trolling for months or years, but once you lock in on a certain person, you become a stalker. That might be several of them but you really hone in on one person. They basically become the … that’s the victim. Or at least that’s what you want it to be.”
No one ever suspected this man could ever be the serial killer they lived in fear of for decades and the police had no leads until Rader made the fatal mistake of using an old floppy from his Church’s computer which ended up being traced back to him. He’s 60 years old now. Been married for 34 years and has two fully grown kids. He shows no signs of being insane or possessed by evil supernatural entities. He was loved, trusted, and accepted by his community and church.
I point all this out because I’m sometimes told by True Believers™ that the power of faith in God is so great that it can turn the worst of murderers into shining saints. Or that true evil of the sort that supposedly drives men such as Rader to do the terrible things they do can not survive in the light of God. Rader would seem to put the lie to those claims; he survived and prospered just fine for most of his life. The truly scary thing about him is that it didn’t take Satan for him to do the things he did, just a desire to see what it was like to emulate his God in a small fashion.