Dennis Rader, also known as the BTK (Bind, Torture, Kill) Killer, terrorized the Kansas community for decades. His killing spree lasted from 1974-1991, during which he claimed to have taken the lives of 10 people, including 2 children. The police stated that he “manipulates everyone he runs into… He lives a double life he doesn’t fit the profile of what we would have expected for the BTK killer.”

BTK killer being escorted out of the court
BTK killer on his way out, Bo Rader-The Wichita Eagle/Reuters

Between 1974 and 1991, Rader carried out a series of murders in Wichita, Kansas. He sought fame for his crimes and sent letters, drawings, and poems to local police and news outlets describing the details of his murders. He signed these communications as “BTK” in order to claim credit for the killings. Rader’s method of murder was to bind, torture, and kill his victims and he would take photos and videos of his victims before killing them.

13 Years of Silence

After his last known killing, all communication from BTK ceased and a report in the Wichita Eagle in 2004 titled “BTK Case Unsolved, 30 Years Later” suggested that the killer was either dead or in prison as serial killers typically don’t quit until they are caught. This proved to be a crucial mistake for Dennis Rader, as he sought attention and was enraged that the world believed he was dead.

After 13 years of silence, BTK decided to write again, this time replying to the article in the Eagle, confessing to a murder he committed in 1986. As proof, he included a copy of the victim’s driver’s license within the letter. This letter was the start of a new string of communication from BTK Killer, which eventually led to Rader’s arrest and conviction.

How was the BTK killer caught?

BTK did not stop his attempts to gain attention, and in January 2005, he alerted a Wichita news station via a postcard about two packages he had left for authorities. Both of the packages were disguised as cereal boxes. One was left by the side of a road and the other behind a Home Depot.

Police quickly located the box left on the road, which included a graphic description of his first murders. While the first box was easy to find, the second box proved to be more difficult to locate, but it would eventually lead to BTK’s downfall. Inside the second box, police found a floppy disk that had metadata that would link it to Rader’s computer at his workplace. This along with other evidence found in his house led to the arrest of Rader.

covers of the letter sent to BTK killer to police
Letter Addressed Bill Thomas Killman

The box was accidentally thrown away by an employee at Home Depot. Authorities searched the trash and found several documents inside. The most important item was a note that read “Can I communicate with Floppy and not be traced by the computer… Be honest.” The note further asked police to place an ad, which they did, stating “Rex, it will be ok.”

A Floppy disk led to BTK’s arrest

The police ran the ad with the intention of tracking the disk. They examined the Home Depot security footage in the hope of gaining additional insights about the person who dropped off the second box. The footage revealed that the cereal box was left there by a man driving a black Jeep Grand Cherokee.

BTK's letter to police in which he asked if he could use a floppy disk and not tracked?
BTK’s letter to the police

Two weeks after the police placed the ad, a package arrived from BTK at a local news station. The package included a floppy disk. The floppy disk contained one file that stated “This is a test.” It was not what he included on the floppy disk, but what he didn’t include on the floppy disk that changed the course of history.

Police traced the disk and found that it had been used at the Park City Library and Christ Lutheran Church. They also managed to find out that the document was created by someone named Dennis. When they searched the internet, they found that the congregation president at the Christ Lutheran Church was named Dennis Rader. This and other evidence led to the arrest of Rader in 2004.

Police wasted no time in scoping out Rader’s driveway and found a black Jeep Grand Cherokee, the same jeep that was used to drop the cereal box at Home Depot. On February 25th, 2005, Dennis Rader was arrested. At first, he tried to act innocent but it wasn’t long before he began confessing in full to the ten murders he committed over the years. His recorded confession lasted approximately 30 hours, as the lead interrogator put it, “We couldn’t shut him up.”

Witchita Eagle after BTk killer confessed
Witchita Eagle after BTk killer confessed

The serial killer who took 10 lives felt betrayed that the police lied about being able to trace the floppy disk. Rader even asked the interrogator “How come you lied to me” to which the interrogator replied, “Because I was trying to catch you.”

Is the BTK killer still alive? – Rader was convicted of all ten murders and sentenced to 10 consecutive life sentences with no possibility of parole, with a minimum of 175 years. He is currently serving his life sentence in El Dorado Correctional Facility in Kansas.

Now that you’ve read about How the BTK killer was caught, read more about The Church President who strangled people to death or the conspiracy behind the disappearance of D.B. Cooper.