Facebook Twitter

BTK killer is sentenced to consecutive life terms

SHARE BTK killer is sentenced to consecutive life terms
Dennis Rader looks away while pictures of him clad in women's undergarments are shown.

Dennis Rader looks away while pictures of him clad in women’s undergarments are shown.

Bo Rader, Associated Press

WICHITA, Kan. — A judge on Thursday sentenced Dennis L. Rader to 10 consecutive life terms, capping a wrenching hearing in which victims' families, mixing vengeance with grief, confronted the man who had spent decades tormenting them and this city as the strangler called BTK.

"I want him to suffer as much as his victims suffered," declared Beverly Plapp, the sister of Nancy Fox, who was 25 when Rader squeezed the life out of her in 1977. "This man needs to be thrown in a deep, dark hole and left to rot."

Carmen Montoya, whose parents and two younger siblings were Rader's first victims, in 1974, stared at the defendant and said: "You are such a coward."

Rader, the Cub Scout leader and church council president who nicknamed himself "BTK" in missives to the media for his bind-torture-kill methods, was not eligible for the death penalty. Judge Greg Waller of Sedgwick County Court imposed the most severe sentence possible, including the so-called "hard 40" years without the possibility of parole for the final murder, that of Dolores Davis in 1991, deeming it particularly "heinous, atrocious or cruel."

District Attorney Nola Foulston, the lead prosecutor, said Rader, 60, would certainly die in prison, with the sentences lining up like boxcars to prevent parole for 175 years.

With his ankles in shackles, Rader, who had pleaded guilty and provided an exhaustive confession to the police, removed his glasses to wipe several tears as a dozen relatives of his victims chastised him for a total of 40 minutes. Most of them left the courtroom as he rose to deliver his own meandering monologue, saying he had been selfish and dishonest but hoped now to "start a new chapter in my life" and that "someday God will accept me."

In a surreal speech, Rader read notes from yellow legal paper about what he had in common with his victims: like Kathryn Bright, he spent time on a grandparent's farm; Dolores Davis shared his love for dogs; he and Marine Hedge were both gardeners; Joseph Otero was a fellow veteran of the Air Force.

"She liked to write poetry — I liked to write poetry," he said of Otero's 11-year-old daughter, Josie, in a macabre reminder of the depraved poems and sketches the police found in his home. "She liked to draw, I liked to draw."

Rader quoted from Scripture and made a few corrections to the evidence presented by prosecutors. He thanked lawyers, police officers and prison guards as though accepting an Academy Award. He asked to retrieve personal photographs from his wallet.

And, finally, he apologized to his victims' families, acknowledging, "There's no way that I can ever repay them."

The sentence came after an extraordinary two-day hearing in which prosecutors and police officers clinically chronicled Rader's gruesome career in a sort of mini-trial broadcast live on local television and national cable channels. In addition to the maximum sentence, prosecutors urged the judge to recommend restrictive prison conditions that would deny Rader access to magazines and newspapers, or even crayons and paper, to prevent him from using pictures of girls and women to stimulate himself sexually. Waller said he would decide that in 30 days.

Among the evidence presented Thursday was a tub of index cards and three-ring binders containing what Rader called his "slick ads" — cutouts of girls and women, including famous actresses like Halle Barry and Meg Ryan, from magazines and catalogs. Also seized by the police were lewd Polaroids of Rader's "self-bondage" in his victims' clothing, an extensive collection of Barbie-style dolls he would paint and pose in sexual positions, and books on serial killers, one subtitled, "The Methods and Madness of Monsters" that had a mention of BTK highlighted.

Foulston made her own dramatic display to demonstrate the horror of Davis' death. Noting that Rader said he held pantyhose tight around Davis' neck for two to three minutes, Foulston fell silent, staring at the courtroom clock. She took a sip of water and waited, the only sound the clicking of a lone photographer's camera and Waller drumming fingers on his desk.

"One minute has passed," Foulston said finally. "So three times that length was the length of time in which Dolores Davis struggled for her life."

But after hours of disgusting detail about the crimes, it was the emotional speeches from the victims' relatives that made Rader's legacy clear.

They called him monster, devil, predator, pedophile, "rabid animal," "social malignancy" and worse. They shook with anger and sobbed in agony. They spoke of missing sisters, aunts, wives, mothers and grandmothers.

"Every day is a struggle to get through without her," said Stephanie Clyne, who was 10 when her mother, Vicki Wegerle, was murdered in 1986. Displaying snapshots of three smiling toddlers on the courtroom screen, Clyne added, "It's not fair that her three grandbabies never get to see her."

Jeff Davis, the son of Rader's final victim, said he had been waiting 5,326 days to "confront the walking cesspool," and that "there could be no justice harsh enough or pain bitter enough."

"This world would have been much better off had your mother aborted your demon soul," Davis spat. "You have now lost everything, and you will forever remain nothing. May that torment you for the rest of your tortured existence."

Plapp noted that Rader had jotted in his vast journals fantasies of how each victim might serve him in the afterlife.

"I have an afterlife concept for him," she said, mocking his words. "On the day that he dies, Nancy and all of his victims will be waiting with God and watching him as he burns in hell."