Aug. 18 (Bloomberg) — Dennis Rader, a former Cub Scout leader and president of his Lutheran church, was sentenced to 10 life sentences today after he admitted to a string of “self- centered, very selfish” torture killings in his hometown of Wichita, Kansas, from 1974 to 1991.
Sedgwick County District Judge Greg Waller ordered that Rader, 60, serve at least 40 years before parole is considered. The sentencing followed a two-day hearing where relatives of the 10 victims described the suffering of their families.
Rader, who dabbed at his eyes during the family presentations, addressed the court for almost 30 minutes, describing himself as a self-centered liar who committed “atrocious crimes.” In a rambling discourse broadcast live on U.s. television news channels, Rader quoted scripture and said his own “smoke blowing,” taunting police, had led to his capture.
Rader faced a maximum sentence of life in prison for each killing because Kansas didn’t institute the death penalty until 1994, three years after his last murder. He had dubbed himself BTK for “Bind, Torture, Kill” in letters he sent to the media.
After his capture in February, Rader gave investigators detailed, matter-of-fact descriptions of the slayings, starting with the strangulation and hanging of four members of the Otero family in January 1974. He said he decided to kill them when he realized that without a mask they could identify him.
“I made a decision to go ahead and put them down, I guess, or strangle them,” he told Waller during a plea hearing in June. Rader told the judge he then cleaned up, took the keys to the family’s car, and walked out the front door of the family’s home.
Rader wrote letters over a period of decades to local news organizations, including The Wichita Eagle and local KAKE-TV, bragging of his crimes and leaving clues for police.
He ended a 25-year silence in 2004 when he wrote a letter in response to an article that appeared on the 30th anniversary of the Otero killings, the Eagle said. Police captured him by placing a classified ad in the newspaper that prompted Rader to send television station KSAS a computer disc, which was then used to trace him, the Eagle said.
District Attorney Nola Foulston asked Waller to impose additional restrictions on Rader while in prison, including a ban on being able to possess or even create visual depictions of human beings or animals. The prosecutor told the judge Rader shouldn’t be allowed “to lick underwear off the pictures of young girls” in newspapers.
A hearing on that request will likely be held in about a month, Rader’s lead attorney, Steve Osburn, told reporters after the sentencing.
Osburn said he told Rader in May that he would be sent to prison for the rest of his life, and called the two-day sentencing hearing “just a facade.” Osburn said the media spectacle around the sentencing “sickens me.”
Foulston, in an interview with Cable News Network, said she hoped Rader would be placed in the general prison population and acknowledged that, as a sex offender, he could face harm from fellow inmates.
Rader, a father of two, was divorced last month by his wife of 34 years, Paula. In his comments to the court, he called his family his “final victims” and asked that creditors consider not confiscating his home from his former wife to pay his legal bills.
Rader told the court just before sentencing that “today is my final judgment.” Several relatives of victims said in their statements that they hoped he faced a far harsher penalty in an afterlife.
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