The thing about these pieces I did for the networks, is that the networks own them — so they can show them as many times as they want. And NBC just keeps airing the hour on BTK. I cannot tell you how many times people have come up to me (it’s now a few years since I’ve worked there) and said, HEY, I JUST SAW YOU ON DATELINE DOING THE STORY ON THAT SERIAL KILLER IN WICHITA. THAT WAS HORRIBLE. Yes, it was. Truthfully I’d like to forget about it, but I can’t. Neither, I’m sure, can the good people of Wichita, Kansas. 30 years after disappearing, a man who slaughtered 10 people re-emerged to haunt the town again, goading the authorities until they finally did catch him.
BTK stands for bind, torture, and kill. That’s what Dennis Rader did to his victims. The police were so close to catching him so many times, and they had such a mountain of evidence, it’s amazing the case never broke. There were witnesses who’d seen him. They had his voice on tape (at one point he phoned in his own murder.) And there was physical evidence from the scenes (semen, fingerprints.) But Rader was lucky.
The police were so exasperated they tried something unprecedented in the annals of detective work – and television. They inserted a subliminal image in an evening newscast one night (on the theory BTK was watching.) See the shot of the glasses with the message “Call The Chief?” This is an approximation of the real thing. Yes, it was primitive. And sadly, it didn’t work. But the man who was police chief at the time told us he’d have tried anything short of psychics to catch Rader.
Which they finally did — after the local paper ran an anniversary piece on the killings and Rader sort of announced in a letter he was still around. He even provided evidence about two more murders that had never been pinned on him. Rader just couldn’t resist the limelight. Thank goodness for that, I guess: he’s been put away for life now.
This story was produced by my talented and dear friend Cathy Singer,
whose delicious brownies are enough to help power you through the most hideous of events.