Monday, February 28, 2005

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Source: BTK Suspect Confesses to Killings

By ROXANA HEGEMAN, Associated Press Writer

WICHITA, Kan. - The man arrested on suspicion of being the BTK serial killer has confessed to at least six slayings and might be responsible for as many as 13 — including one that could carry the death penalty, a source close to the investigation said Sunday.

Investigators, who suspect Dennis L. Rader in a decades-old string of 10 slayings, are looking into whether he was responsible for another three killings_ including at least one that occurred after the restoration of the Kansas' death penalty in 1994, the source told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

Rader made the confession Friday, the day of his arrest, according to the source. "The guy is telling us about the murders," the source said.

Police spokeswoman Janet Johnson declined to comment on the accuracy of the source's statements.

Rader was being held on a $10 million bond in the deaths of 10 people between 1974 and 1991. Police had long linked the BTK killer to eight murders, but added two more after Rader's arrest.

Now, the source said, police are investigating whether Rader was responsible for the deaths of two Wichita State University students, as well as a woman who lived down the street from another known victim of BTK, the killer's self-coined nickname that stands for "Bind, Torture, Kill."

Prosecutors had said initially they could not pursue the death penalty against Rader because the 10 murders linked to BTK occurred when Kansas did not have the death penalty.

Rader, 59, could appear in court as early as Monday to stand in front of a judge on video while prosecutors recite yet-to-be-filed criminal charges against him. The judge would also review Rader's bond and set a permanent amount.

The hearing, however, probably will be postponed until Tuesday, the district attorney's office said Sunday. It was unclear whether Rader had a lawyer.

Police said they were confident Rader's arrest last week would bring to an end 30 years of fear about the BTK strangler, whose re-emerged over the last year, taunting police with letters and packages sent to media outlets.

Many residents, as they pored over news of a suspect's capture, were left with an unsettling feeling — that he had been hidden among them all along.

Charlie Otero, whose parents and two siblings were BTK's first victims in 1974, said Sunday that he was "waiting with anticipation" to learn more about the DNA evidence that has been credited with helping crack the case.

Otero believes his family was targeted, although the rest of BTK's victims were likely chosen at random. He isn't sure why the family was targeted but said it's interesting that Rader and his father served in the Air Force at the same time in the 1960s. "I'm sure this will all come out during the trial," he said.

Rader, a married father of two, a Cub Scout leader and an active member of a Lutheran church, was anything but a recluse.

His job as a city code enforcement supervisor required daily contact with the public, and he even appeared on television in 2001 in his tan city uniform for a story on vicious dogs running loose in Park City.

Before becoming a municipal employee, Rader worked for a home-security company, where he held several positions that allowed him access to customers' homes, including a role as installation manager. He worked for ADT Security Systems from 1974 to 1989 — the same time as a majority of the BTK killings.

Mike Tavares, who worked with Rader at ADT, described him as a "by-the-books" employee who would often draw diagrams of houses and personally make sure technicians installed systems correctly.

While Rader was known as a blunt person and rubbed some people the wrong way, it never struck co-workers as anything other than businesslike.

"I've spoken to some co-workers who were around then, and everybody is very numb," said Tavares, who left the company in 2001.

At his church and around town, many expressed shock that Rader was accused of being the BTK killer.

"I never would have guessed in a million years," said a tearful Carole Nelson, a member of Christ Lutheran Church, where Rader was an usher and the president of the church council.

"The guy that walked in here was not the face of evil," said Bob Smyser, an usher at the church.

The church's pastor, Michael Clark, said Rader's wife, Paula, was in a state of shock when he visited the family, who remained in seclusion Sunday.

"Her demeanor and voice indicated she was suffering," Clark said.

Police disclosed little about how they identified Rader as a suspect and have said they will not comment further on the case, but bits and pieces of the investigation have filtered out.

Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius told The Associated Press that DNA evidence was the key to cracking the case. It was unclear whether BTK's letters helped lead to the arrest. Police have said they obtained semen from the crime scenes even though the killer did not sexually assault his victims.

Wichita television station KAKE, citing sources it did not name, reported that DNA from Rader's daughter, Kerri, was instrumental in his capture, though KAKE anchor Larry Hatteberg said it did not appear the daughter turned in her father.

Parts of the profile released earlier by police seemed to match up. Investigators said they believed the killer was familiar with a professor at Wichita State University. Rader graduated from the university in 1979.

In the 1970s, Rader worked at a nearby Coleman camping gear plant where two of his victims were employed.

Associated Press Writer David Twiddy contributed to this report from Wichita.

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