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Investigator: BTK killer took victim's corpse to church|
Rader snapped photos of woman he had strangled
Thursday, August 18, 2005 Posted: 1418 GMT (2218 HKT)
Editor's Note: The following report includes graphic content that some readers may find disturbing. Reader discretion is advised.
WICHITA, Kansas (CNN) -- After strangling his 53-year-old neighbor in her home on April 27, 1985, Dennis Rader took the body of Marine Hedge to the Lutheran church he attended and snapped photographs of her in bondage positions, a Sedgwick County sheriff investigator testified Wednesday.
Rader spent about five hours cleaning up the scene before dumping the body in a remote ditch. He later returned to retrieve a cord from the body, fearing it could point investigators to him, Sgt. Tom Lee said during a sentencing hearing for Rader.
Lee said Rader told investigators he took the body to the church to "have his way with her" -- to fulfill his sexual fantasies. Rader had left black plastic sheets and other material at the church in anticipation of the killing.
"He advised to me that she was going to the church alive or dead -- either way," Lee said.
Rader seemed particularly proud of the killing because Hedge lived just a few houses from him. He had dubbed his plan "roject Cookie."
"He stated to me that if he could really pull it off, right by his house, it would really be a biggie," Lee said. "He told me it was really bad for a guy to knock one of the neighbors off -- it's not good for a serial killer because you don't want to kill in your own habitat."
At the time of his arrest last February 25, Rader, a father of two grown children, was the president of his Lutheran church.
Hedge was one of 10 victims killed by Rader in a spree from 1974 to 1991. Investigators gave graphic testimony of the killings on the first day of his sentencing hearing, which could last three days.
The testimony revealed new details of BTK's 31-year reign of terror in Wichita, which ended with Rader's arrest.
Investigators said Rader told them he would use a squeeze ball as exercise to build up his hand strength in preparation for stranglings, that he typically masturbated after killings, and that he took underwear from female victims and wore them.
He also had "after-life" plans for his female victims, including one who was to be his mistress and another who would act as his bondage servant.
Some of the victims would regain consciousness after being choked and Rader would whisper in their ears that he was "BTK."
"That was his form of torture," said Tim Relph, a Wichita police detective. "He certainly wanted them to know that you were being killed by BTK."
Rader, 60, who nicknamed himself BTK for his preference of "binding, torturing and killing" his victims, sat emotionless through much of the hearing.
The only emotion he appeared to show was rubbing his forehead when investigators displayed the photograph of 11-year-old Josephine Otero hanging from a noose, her mouth bound and her tongue slightly protruding. Other times, he sipped coffee.
Killer: 'I'm a nice guy'
Rader, dressed in a business suit and tie, was brought into the court in shackles. Steve Relford -- who was 6 years old when he watched Rader kill his mother, Shirley Vian, in their home in 1977 -- stared intently as Rader walked into court, and he kept standing until Sedgwick County District Judge Gregory Waller asked everyone to be seated.
Waller is to decide if Rader will serve his 10 life sentences concurrently or consecutively. Prosecutors are pushing for the strongest possible sentence -- a minimum of 175 years -- to make sure he is behind bars for the rest of his life.
Wichita Police detective Dana Gouge said even after detailing the killings to investigators, Rader told them he could be mean at times, but, "On the other hand, I'm a nice guy, I'm a nice guy."
Gouge said Rader told him that the killing of Vian, who was sick at home with her three children, did not go as planned. He had hoped to kill the children, but he had to leave the scene before that happened.
Gouge said that when Rader recounted that the children survived, the killer angrily shouted, "Christ!"
Wichita Police detective Clint Snyder said Rader expressed disappointment that he reverted to stabbing Kathryn Bright -- instead of strangling her -- in April 1974, just months after his first killings.
"She fought like a hellcat," Snyder quoted Rader as saying. "There was no way I was ever going to do what I wanted to do, and I had to put her down."
Rader, he said, added that stabbing or shooting somebody was not his "forte."
Rader rushed that killing because Bright's brother, Kevin, was also home. Rader had tied the brother up in a bedroom and tried to strangle him, but Kevin Bright fought off his attacker, Snyder said.
Rader said he shot the brother twice, including one shot in which he did "one of those John Wayne things," Snyder said. Rader thought the brother was dead and went to finish off his sister, but Kevin Bright ran from the home. Rader stabbed Kathryn Bright 11 times, Snyder said.
Rader appeared proud as he recounted the killing: "He commented to me at one point, 'I'm sorry, I know this is a human being, but I'm a monster,'" Snyder said.
Kevin Bright recovered from his wounds.
Killer told girl she 'would soon be in heaven'
Rader's killing spree began on January 15, 1974, when he entered the home of Joseph and Julie Otero -- a home he selected because he had targeted their 11-year-old daughter, Josephine, for sex and a killing, Kansas Bureau of Investigation agents testified.
Rader first killed the girl's parents in their bedroom as she and her 9-year-old brother, Joseph Jr., watched. He then dragged the boy to his room, wrapped two T-shirts around his head and covered it with a plastic bag; Rader pulled up a chair and watched as the boy struggled on his bed and rolled onto the floor, where he died, said Larry Thomas, a KBI special agent.
Thomas said Rader told authorities he then prepared for his "encore" -- killing Josephine. Rader escorted the girl to the basement of the family home, removing her clothing along the way and rubbing her. He had already prepared a noose around a basement sewer pipe.
"As he walked her over toward that position, he first asked for a camera because he wanted to take a picture. She responded that she did not have a camera. She then asked, 'What's going to happen to me?'
"And he told her that she would soon be in heaven with the others."
A gag was placed in her mouth and he hoisted her with the noose. As she writhed, Rader masturbated, Thomas said.
"He said it was a sexual release for him."
KBI special agent Ray Lundin said Rader had picked the Otero family because he was attracted to "Hispanic-looking people."
"I guess Hispanic people just turn me on," Lundin said Rader told authorities.
Rader said he was particularly fascinated by the 11-year-old.
"Josephine would really be his primary target because he was attracted to 'younger women,' I think is what he called it," Lundin said. "I don't know how you call an 11-year-old a woman, but he said 'younger women.'"
Victims' relatives weep
Three of the surviving Otero children were in court for the testimony.
Charlie Otero shook his head, arms folded across his chest, as he listened to how Rader entered the home and proceeded to murder his family. His sister, Carmen Otero Montoya, wept when a close-up photograph of her mother's strangled face was shown to the court. Charlie Otero bent over and cried as a photograph of his dead sister was shown. He was comforted by his brother, Danny.
The court appearance was the first for Rader since he pleaded guilty in late June, describing in cool and dispassionate detail how he killed his 10 victims to satisfy his sexual fantasies.
Rader cannot face the death penalty because Kansas did not reinstate the death penalty until 1994, three years after his last killing.