The Disturbing Tale of Dennis Rader: The BTK Killer's Double Life

For over three decades, Dennis Rader, a seemingly ordinary family man, managed to keep a dark secret as the notorious BTK Killer in Kansas. He was not just a Boy Scout troop leader and church council president but also a serial murderer who terrorized Wichita and its surroundings between 1974 and 1991. His chilling double life went undetected, even by his own family.

Early Life and Disturbing Signs:

Dennis Lynn Rader was born in 1945 in Pittsburgh, Kansas, and grew up in Wichita, the very city he would later terrorize. Even in his youth, Rader displayed a violent streak, showing signs of cruelty toward animals and harboring unusual sexual fantasies. As he confessed later in an interview, his fantasies were darker than the norm, involving bondage and control.

Living a Dual Existence:

Despite his disturbing fantasies and actions, Rader maintained an outwardly ordinary life. He attended college briefly, joined the U.S. Air Force, and worked as an electrician in Wichita. He met his wife, Paula Dietz, through church, and they married in 1971.

The BTK Killer's First Murder:

In 1974, Rader committed his first gruesome murder. While his wife was unaware, he broke into the home of the Otero family and brutally murdered all its members. The young children were forced to witness the horrors as he strangled their parents, and the tragedy left a lasting mark on them.

Maintaining the Facade:

As Rader continued his killing spree, his wife Paula remained oblivious to his horrific actions. Rader began to taunt the police with letters, using the name "BTK" to describe his methods. Even when she noticed the bizarre coded notes and the sealed box he kept at home, Paula did not question her husband's dark secrets.

A Family in the Shadow of a Serial Killer:

Rader's children also had no inkling of their father's deadly alter ego. His daughter, Kerri, described him as a strict Christian who, despite a few isolated incidents of anger, appeared to be a loving and moral father. Tragically, they would later discover the truth about their father's gruesome crimes.

Rader's Capture and Sentencing:

In 2005, Rader's reign of terror came to an end when he was captured due to his taunting letters and a crucial piece of evidence on a floppy disk. His arrest and subsequent confession led to a life sentence without parole. He escaped the death penalty because it was not in place during his years of crime.

The Fractured Family Left Behind:

When Dennis Rader was arrested, his wife Paula divorced him, and the Rader family was forever shattered. The media questioned whether Paula had known more than she let on, but it remains a mystery. Rader's daughter, Kerri, expressed mixed feelings about her father and the guilt of being alive when his victims had died.


Dennis Rader's case is a haunting reminder of how individuals can lead double lives, concealing dark and horrifying actions behind a facade of normalcy. His ability to deceive even his own family for over three decades is a disturbing example of the complexities of human behavior.

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