Sentencing Hearing Held For BTK Killer Dennis Rader

Dennis Rader was the Kindly Guy Down the Street, Eager to Teach His Dog How to Behave

Dennis Rader didn’t just terrorize those 10 people and their families, he terrorized a town of 300,000 people.”


ind. Torture. Kill.
For most Americans these words in such succession bring to mind a mad man looming in the next neighborhood’s shadows, a plainclothes assassin set to strike in some unmemorable suburb tucked deep in America’s Heartland.
For Jeremy Rogers, who today lives in Independence, this unmemorable suburb was his own, and this plainclothes assassin was somebody he trusted, somebody he respected.


s someone born in 1976 and raised in Wichita, Kan., Rogers assumed everyone grew up with the fear of a bogeyman hidden in a closet or under the bed.
And many did.
Only their fears arose from the not-so-realistic prospect of a fanged monster or ungregarious ghoul.
“Mine came from a very real human being who would linger in such places before he’d kill,” Rogers said.
When Rogers and his family would return to their home after an evening on the town, his father would have the rest of the family wait outside on the front doorstep while he checked for a dial tone (the BTK killer was known to snip phone lines prior to his murders) and took a gander in every broom closet, coat closet, linen closet in the house before giving the go-ahead to come inside.
“I figured it was a common practice nationwide,” Rogers said. “I figured the sense of paranoia went far beyond Wichita, Kansas.”
The BTK killer first struck in 1974 when he butchered four members of a family living in central Wichita. Three months later, the BTK killer struck again, gutting Kathryn Bright, a resident of downtown Wichita.
Three years passed before the BTK killer murdered twice more, ending the lives of Shirley Vian, who lived in Park City just north of Wichita, and Nancy Fox, who resided in eastern Wichita.
The BTK’s murders were widespread with no timetable.
“You never knew when or where BTK would kill again,” Rogers said.
In 1986, Rogers was 10 years old when the BTK resurfaced to claim yet another life, Vicki Wegerle – strangled in her home in western Wichita.
“We were learning a little about Wichita’s history, with the BTK killer something from its past, then the BTK jumped to the present day, and everyone was on their tippy-toes again,” Rogers said.
Although her demise was always suspected as the end result of the BTK killer, Wegerle wasn’t officially added to the death count until much later, when the murderer resurfaced in March 19, 2004, sending a package to the Wichita Eagle that included crime scene photographs and a copy of Wegerle’s driver’s license, which was missing at the scene.
Rogers heard the news that evening on KAKE-TV’s 9 p.m. broadcast. He and his wife had recently settled into a new home in Park City; there were no neighbors to speak of – only the shells of future homes and a wheat pasture.
Then the doorbell rang.
Rogers grabbed hold of a shotgun and answered the door.
“It was some kid selling newspapers for his marketing class at Wichita State,” Rogers said. “I thought for sure it was him.”
In reality, he had already met the BTK killer.


ince 1991, Dennis Rader had worked as the supervisor of Park City’s compliance department, which was responsible for animal control, housing problems, zoning and general permit enforcement among other things.
So when Rogers and his wife decided to build a home in Park City, Rader was their contact person.
If Rogers had any questions, any questions whatsoever, he was to call Rader – which he frequently did.
“On the phone he seemed like a pretty decent guy who was always happy to help,” Rogers said.
Rogers reviewed codes with Rader for building a fence on the property and a sprinkler system.
“He was very well-spoken, very politically correct, very well-educated,” Rogers said.
The first time Rogers met Rader face-to-face he and his wife were within days of moving into their house.
Rogers was in his yard playing with his dog, who was a puppy, when a Park City vehicle came to rest in front of the house.
A ruddy, thick-mustached man with wide-rimmed glasses emerged. He introduced himself in a voice chiruppy yet direct, explaining to Rogers that he was simply making sure his home was up to code.
He asked about the dog.
The dog hid behind Rogers.
“Apparently my dog knew something I didn’t,” Rogers said.


t was Rogers’ dog that attracted Rader.
Rogers’ job required him to report to work at 4:30 every morning, so he was typically home by 1:30 p.m., at which time he would unchain his dog and set to work on its obedience training.
“Dennis knew dogs extraordinarily well and wanted to help me with mine as best he could,” Rogers said.
Rader stopped by Rogers’ household three to four times per week. Sometimes they would talk about dogs (giving Rogers pointers on how to keep his dog from jumping on strangers or how to get it to lie down on command), other times they would talk about current events.
“It got to where I looked forward to seeing him,” Rogers said. “I didn’t really have any neighbors, so he kind of filled that space; he seemed like a real nice guy.”
The topic of discussion could be the no-pit bull ordinance Rader was diligent about railroading through city council – or it could be an item from the 9 p.m. news.
Several days after the BTK killer’s return to national headlines, Rader visited Rogers’ home. After Rader griped for awhile about the over-abundance of strays in Park City (Rogers said it was well-understood in Park City that if Rader captured your pet, you would never see it alive again), Rogers broached the subject on everyone’s mind: The BTK killer.
“Why, what do you think of him?” Rader said.
“Well, I think he’s too old to kill again, I think he’s washed up, and I just think the guy’s a lunatic who wants to bring attention to himself; by now, he’s probably a lame, fat old man,” Rogers said.
Rader said nothing in response.
His eyes drifted for a moment before resting on Rogers’ dog.
“So, how’s he coming along? He minding all right?” Rader said.


t was an unseasonably warm day when Rogers headed home from work on Feb. 25, 2005.
The sun was shining. The first hints of spring hung in the air.
To the north, there were five helicopters hovering in the vicinity of his home.
When Rogers prepared to pull onto the street that would lead him to his home, he was stopped.
It was a police barricade.
There was a Wichita Police bomb unit truck, armored SUVs and militia outfitted with automatic weapons.
He asked what was the matter.
“They told me they couldn’t talk about it,” Rogers said.
So he killed time for a couple of hours and returned, finding the street wide open; where there had been activity, there was now nothing – as if what he had witnessed was nothing more than an illusion.


ater, Rogers learned that the ruckus was real: a suspect in a high profile case had been apprehended.
On the evening of Feb. 26, 2005, Rogers had just checked into a hotel in Denver, where he was intervieing for a job, when he turned on the television, flipping to CNN.
The suspect in the high profile case had been identified: Dennis Lynn Rader, age 59, beloved husband, father of two children, Boy Scout leader, a deacon in the Lutheran church.
Rogers remembers the voice-over well:
“Authorities are 99.9 percent positive that Rader is the BTK killer.”
Weeks, months would pass before Rogers convinced himself that Dennis was the monster he had feared all his life.
He had told Rader what time he went to work, “about 4:30 a.m. every day during the week,” how long his wife was home alone, “she heads to work at about 9 or so in the morning,” where he stations the dog when he’s away, “in that kennel over there.”
He even unintentionally allowed Rader a peek at the inside of his home during their regular visits on his front porch.
“You could see the wires dangling from our ceiling to the security system and that, although the panel looked to be in working order from the outside, Dennis probably could tell we hadn’t installed it properly,” Rogers said.
For Rogers, the confirmation of Rader’s guilt came during his televised court date on June 27, 2005. Standing before a judge, Rader reenacted each murder he had committed with such heinous detail, such indifference that Rogers’ stomach was wrenched in a knot:
“And then I proceeded to tie her up. I think she was sick. She threw up. I got her a glass of water and sort of comforted her,” said Rader, referring to Vian. “Then I put a bag over her head and strangled her…that was part of what you’d call my fantasy. Sexual fantasy, sir.”
Rader later told the judge how he was always “trolling” for new victims, studying them as they walked home or when they watered their lawn or when they changed into their pajamas.
“Well if you read much about serial killers, they go through different phases. That’s one of the phases they go through is a 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 stalking. And that may be several of them. But you really hone in on that person.”


oday, Rogers lives in a city 200 miles from the scene of the crime.
Yet sometimes when he arrives home alone, Rogers reverts to old habits.
First, he’ll throw open his door and flip on the lights.
Then he’ll pick up the telephone and press the speaker to his ear.
Then, it’s on to the closets.

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