WILL THE REAL BTK STRANGLER PLEASE STAND UP?
The BTK investigation and the trial of Dennis Rader is a sad example of a how not to solve a serial homicide series and, unfortunately, since no one wants to face the truth, no one is going to learn from the mistakes either. While the WPD and politicians were backslapping each other and everyone was cheering that BTK had been caught, they ignored the real issue; three decades of failure to catch an active serial killer - three decades of a dangerous predator on the streets of Wichita. The fact that someone was arrested thirty-one years after the first BTK crimes only tell future serial killers one thing; they have a thirty-one year head start on law enforcement. The fact that it took thirty-one years and a stupid mistake to catch anyone means the investigative methods used by the Wichita PD, the KBI, and the FBI were not very effective.
The fact that the prosecution didn't even put on a prosecution shows that the evidence was very limited and a number of the crimes can't actually be connected to Dennis Rader except by his supposed confessions, stuff that he frankly could have made up from the newspaper reports of the crimes. This does not mean that police investigators didn't work extremely long hours trying to catch BTK or that they don't deserve our appreciation for all their hard work; it means that, in spite of all their efforts, a lack of success for decades means we need to implement new serial homicide investigative methodologies.
The three-day Dennis Rader Show was not about proving he committed each and every one of the ten crimes with which he was charged, and it was not about hearing more testimony so the judge could figure out how to sentence him (there was hardly any question as to giving him the full force of the law): this circus was about directing the focus of the public away from an embarrassingly unsuccessful police investigation and away from the lack of prosecutorial presentation of evidence that would uncontrovertibly prove Rader's guilt.
The idea was for us to be so fascinated by Dennis Rader and his bizarre behavior, so entranced by his accounts (or absolute lies) about how he committed these crimes, so disgusted and repelled by the man, that we will all forget to question how the investigation was handled and what the truth might actually be about the whole BTK Strangler debacle.
Previous police statements said that Rader's DNA matched DNA from at least one BTK scene. At the trial, Lt. Landwehr stated that Rader's DNA matched the DNA from two of the crime scenes. Oddly, he did not state which crime scenes those were. The Otero DNA for years has been said to be too degraded to do a full DNA profile on and Vicki Wegerle's husband was a suspect until the very time the photos of her showed up at the Wichita Eagle in 2004.
If there was indeed DNA under Wegerle's fingernails, why wasn't it analyzed earlier and Wegerle added to the BTK murder list? No one is talking. Regardless of the DNA, if Rader sent the photos of Wegerle and had Fox's driver's license as well, then we have proof that Dennis Rader committed two of the supposed BTK crimes. But, where is the proof he killed Vian, Bright, and the Oteros or and Davis? Except for the Polaroid photos of Marine Hedge from his stash, no other photos and no trophies were found in his shed linking Rader to any the other nine victims - no Otero watch, no radio, no cut off pubic hair, no panties from the females - nothing. No proof of any other physical sort was offered either; Landwehr states that there was no original of the Otero letter, although he states there were originals of the other communications (except the Fox drawing). Of course, any one could have sent a poem about Shirley Vian; This would not make him necessarily the killer. No photos of any of the early BTK crimes were found either.
Just some artwork and writings from Dennis Rader's fantasy world that could match BTK, but that could also match a BTK copycat or simply be the sick writings and drawings of any old serial killer. It would seem that the Otero murders and the Bright murder had absolutely no evidence at all linking Rader to those crimes and we only have Rader's "word" that he did them.
It would be nice now to see the original evidence and all the Rader evidence the police collected, so we can determine for ourselves if only this one man, Dennis Rader, committed all the assigned BTK killings or if he is responsible for only most or some of them; and whether, perhaps, there was more than one killer involved in this series of murders.
My guess is we will never have that privilege. A prosecution that doesn't want to brag about the evidence in court is a prosecution that has something to hide. It may be that there is simply a lack of physical evidence, a desire to close all the cases and a wish to have everyone forget about the whole bloody mess.
Rader may be guilty of every one of the crimes, but I, for one, don't believe in convicting without proving such guilt beyond a shadow of a doubt and I also want to be absolutely sure we are not leaving some other killer out there simply because we want to have better statistics and closure for the families and community. Let's be sure we have the one and only BTK Strangler and there isn't someone else out there in Wichita smugly channel surfing the networks with Joseph Otero's wristwatch on his right arm. Wouldn't that be a shame?
The Sexual Homicide Exchange