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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
BTK: Hiding in Plain Sight
Aired April 12, 2006 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: This is a special edition of ANDERSON COOPER 360. "BTK: Hiding in Plain Sight." Here's Anderson Cooper.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Well, Dennis Rader's years of death and torture began on a winter's day more than 30 years ago. His victims lived on a street like his own, a quiet block.
The Otero family had recently moved there. They had no reason to believe they were in any danger until he opened the door.
At his sentencing last year, he talked about that day. Here's what he said in his own words, in a voice so matter of fact, it takes your breath away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DENNIS RADER, BTK KILLER: Remorse, responsibility and corrections are the concepts of apology. The old me started whatever it was, factor "X," sexual predator the volcano was the building of all those years was the Otero. Probably the most devastating and upsetting, (INAUDIBLE) is the Josephine. I just don't know. Self- centered. Very selfish. And exploded on that day. And it did continue. Off and on. Dishonesty? Definitely. Dishonesty, probably the first thing to the people that I encountered. They trusted me that I was going to tie them up, take their money and leave. And then I killed them. The bottom line is the old, is it selfish? Very. Dissociated with society, self-centered for my own purposes. And I take that full burden on my shoulders.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Try telling that to Charlie Otero. He was just a teenager when it happened, just about a kid about to grow up in the worst way imaginable.
CHARLIE OTERO, FAMILY MEMBERS KILLED BY BTK: I saw a horrible sight. It was like out of some horror movie.
COOPER (voice-over): Charlie Otero was 15 the day he came home from school and found his parents, his sister, and his brother dead.
OTERO: I probably smelled the death before I realized what I was smelling.
COOPER: We now know BTK had been stalking Julie Otero and her 11-year-old daughter, Josephine. He would drive past their house and follow them. He was drawn to them, wanted them to play roles in his sexual fantasies. Finally on January 15, 1974, he made his move. He cut the phone line before forcing his way in.
OTERO: My parents were laying -- one was on the bed, The other was on the floor. They were tied up.
COOPER: BTK may have been reverting to twisted fantasies from his childhood. He bound up his victims to leave them alive, but defenseless, until he was done with them. His twisted impulses had finally taken over, and as you'll see, would only escalate.
STEPHEN SINGULAR, AUTHOR, "UNHOLY MESSENGER": He came across these magazines. In the 1950s, there were magazines that were prominent detective magazines that would usually show a woman looking up with terror in her eyes and words coming out of her mouth that might say, don't hurt me, or don't kill me. And she was in the very submissive, frightened position.
COOPER: 9-year-old Joseph Otero was bound. He was in his bedroom face down. Josephine Otero was in the basement, hanging from a pipe, wearing only socks and a sweeter. Semen was on her thigh. It was a crime scene that horrified even the most hardened detectives and haunted Charlie Otero for the rest of his life.
OTERO: It's tormented me for 30 years. I'd go to bed at night, and I can hear the screams. I can sense the fear and the terror that they've had.
COOPER: Four victims, bound tortured and killed.
(On camera): Well, police wanted to solve the Otero murders and they wanted to do it fast. They questioned almost 800 people. They even arrested three men, but then got a call telling them to look for a letter in the public library. The letter had details of the crime scene that only the killer would know. It was signed yours truly guiltily and added the postscript, the code words for me will be bind them, torture them, kill them, BTK. It was his first contact with the police, and it would not be his last.
(Voice-over): BTK may have actually believed killing the Oteros would be both his first and last surrender to his impulsive demons.
SINGULAR: if I just give into this once I'll purge myself of it and I won't have to do it again. It probably did relieve the tension in him for a period of time, but then it came back.
COOPER: Less than four months later, BTK would again give in to those impulses. He needed another project. This one he called "Project Lights Out." 21-year-old Kathryn Bright. On April 4, 1974, he broke into her house and waited. But when Kathryn Bright finally came home, she wasn't alone. With her was Kevin, her younger brother.
SINGULAR: He told them he was a fugitive, he was on the run, from California.
COOPER: Could BTK have been referring to a childhood fantasy? He told detectives about a fantasy he had when he was in high school.
It was about California and Annette Funicello, the television Mouseketeer.
SINGULAR: For most kids, it was you'd put on the mouse ears and want to be a Mouseketeer, do what those kids were doing on television.
But he developed a sexual and a violent fascination with her. He wanted to go to California. He wanted to kidnap her, he wanted to tie her up, and act out these very images that he was creating in his mind. And he just became obsessed with her.
COOPER: It seems BTK was driven by an obsession with Kathryn Bright that spring day in 1974. Things spiraled out of control.
SINGULAR: Things quickly got very chaotic. Kevin began wrestling, began fighting. Kevin was shot once, then he was shot again. And eventually he ran out of the house.
COOPER: Kathryn was alone in her bedroom with the killer. When police arrived at the scene, she was lying in a pool of blood. She had been stabbed 11 times. Kathryn Bright died five hours later at the hospital.
Nearly three years later, one morning Shirley Vian wasn't feeling well. She was in her bedroom when there was a knock on the door. Her 5-year-old son answered.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE, SHIRLEY VIAN'S SON: I answered the door. Asked me were my parents home? I told him yes, my mom, she's sick in bed. So he proceeded to come on in. Started pulling down blinds and turned off the TV and pulled out a gun.
COOPER: BTK locked the three kids in the bathroom and gave them toys and a blanket. He got a glass of water for Shirley to soothe her stomach. Small acts of kindness before a burst of unfathomable cruelty. To some, a reflection of the childhood impulses raging inside the killer.
SINGULAR: There were almost two of him from a very early age. And one was this good boy who did what his parents said and went to Sunday school and obeyed the rules and did all that. And the other one went off by himself and did these strange, violent things with animals.
COOPER: Shirley Vian's son will never forget the strange, violent things he saw that day.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I looked out the door in a crack. Seen my mom being stripped, taped, plastic bag over her head, rope tied around her neck.
COOPER: By the time this 5-year-old boy managed to break out of the bathroom, his mother was dead.
BTK: Yes, you will find a homicide at 843 South Pershing. Nancy Fox.
OPERATOR: I'm sorry, sir. I can't understand. What's the address? 843 South Pershing.
BTK: That is correct.
COOPER: Nancy Fox, project "Foxhunt." He was in her house when she came home from work.
SINGULAR: This was the one example where he could -- he maybe had hours with her, where he could strangle her, bring her up to the point of death, and then back off, and then repeat the process.
COOPER: Again, BTK seemed to be acting out a twisted, childhood experience. Singular says pain and pleasure were connected in his mind early on.
SINGULAR: When he was a small boy, his mother would spank him. And it would arouse him. It would create feelings apparently of pleasure within him. So this got wired very early on that pain and pleasure were sort of connected inside of him.
COOPER: As Nancy Fox died, he says he told her he was the serial killer known as BTK.
COOPER: Well, the death count keeps climbing. So are investigators making any connection to BTK? More insight now from Stephen Singular, the author of the new book about the case, "Unholy Messenger."
COOPER: So at this point, there are seven victims. There's four members of the Otero family, there's Kathryn Bright, there's Shirley Vian and Nancy Fox. Do police realize that these are connected?
SINGULAR: Well, they did a couple of years earlier when he, in fact, had contacted the police and named himself BTK.
The police had made a conscious decision not to tell the public about this. They thought if we don't give this guy attention, if we don't publicize this, maybe he won't kill again. Then he did go ahead and kill again. So clearly that strategy had not worked. At that point, they did decide to tell people that a serial killer was out there.
COOPER: And he had -- there had been communications some 10 months after the Oteros had been killed. Did he attempt to communicate with police after the other killings, after Shirley Vian's and the others?
SINGULAR: He did call in after the Fox homicide. He called the police and told them where to find her. And they in fact did go do that. But he -- the need for attention kept coming back, and I think getting stronger as this went on.
COOPER: And with these seven killings that we've seen so far, what do you think he's learning?
SINGULAR: Well, it's...
COOPER: Is he changing his methods at all? Is he -- is there a progression of evil, as you said?
SINGULAR: It's interesting to watch because the impression he created in the community was of such a monster and such an evil creature, who must have been quite a master criminal because he was not getting caught, because they couldn't catch him.
But if you really study it and if you listen to his words when he confessed, you see that he's really a bumbler.
I mean, he goes into the Otero household. He's thinking there's a mother and a daughter. In fact, there is a father and son, as well. It turns into a total and complete mess.
He goes into the Vian household. The same thing happens. There are kids in there. Everybody's yelling and screaming and breaking windows. He leaves behind genetic evidence. He is identified by people who continue to live.
And that's one of the fascinating things about it because he was so hard to catch. He was so hard to catch because he fit into the community so well. Not because he was really a grand criminal or a mastermind at doing that.
COOPER: And how was the community reacting at this point? I mean, has it become such a major story? Because I know at one point he says, you know, why aren't -- what do I have to do to get in the paper?
COOPER: That was after the first.
SINGULAR: That was early on. But after it becomes known that there is a serial killer out there and that he is called BTK and that he does in fact bind, torture and kill people, the community was terrified.
I mean, they bought locks. They went to self-defense classes. They tried to protect themselves. They knew what his MO was. It had been repeated that he would go into a house, he would cut a telephone line, he would frequently hide in a closet.
So one of the rituals in Wichita in those years was coming home and picking up your phone and seeing if there was a dial tone. And if there wasn't, there was a lot of terror around that.
Well, hiding in plain sight, Dennis Rader, a brutal killer, he cloaked his crimes in community service to the Boy Scouts and his church. Who were his final victims? And what drove him to murder? New details on the killing spree when this special edition of 360 continues.
SOPHIA CHOI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, I'm Sophia Choi at "HEADLINE NEWS." A special edition of 360, "BTK: Hiding in Plain Sight," will continue in a moment. But first an update on this hour's top stories.
The attorneys for al Qaeda conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui start a tough job tomorrow. They're going to try to convince a jury to spare his life. Today Moussaoui smirked and looked bored as prosecutors played the harrowing and heartbreaking cockpit voice recordings from United Flight 93 before the hijackers crashed the plane in Pennsylvania on September 11, 2001. At the end of the day, Moussaoui shouted, God curse you all.
There's new flap over Iraq's suspected mobile chemical weapons labs. Today's "Washington Post" says back in 2003, at the time President Bush was telling a reporter that U.S. forces had discovered those labs in the back tractor trailers, a secret report had already been filed saying the trucks weren't really laboratories at all. The president's spokesman called the Post reckless and irresponsible for leaving the impression that the president knew what he was saying wasn't true.
And New Orleans' homeowners got some expensive news from FEMA today. The government says many homes damaged by flooding will have to be raised one to three feet off the ground to qualify for flood insurance. It's part of a master plan for rebuilding areas of the city devastated by flooding after Hurricane Katrina.
And those are the day's top stories. "BTK: Hiding in Plain Sight," a special edition of 360 continues in just a moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RADER: Probably (INAUDIBLE) I didn't know Vicki Vian (ph) very much. Although I walked by her place and I listened to a piano. I appreciate music. That's one thing I always wanted to learn was piano. And I took her life. She's also a beloved mother.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well Vicki Wegerle was the second to last victim of BTK, a serial killer who for years was hiding in plain sight in Wichita, Kansas.
His crime wave began in 1974, when he murdered four members of the Otero family. Later that year, and following years, he would kill again and again and again until 1991, when he would claim his final victim. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
COOPER (voice-over): It's now the spring of 1985. About eight years has passed, and Dennis Rader has kept BTK, his demonic alter ego in check -- in check until one night in April.
Rader, a Cub Scout leader, was chaperoning of a camping trip when he left, complaining of a headache. In fact, he'd come prepared for his next murder. He called it "Project Cookie." Marine Hedge, a 53- year-old woman who lived just down the street from Rader. That night he strangled her, dragged her dead body to her car, and then drove to his church.
SINGULAR: He had stashed black plastic and thumbtacks there, knowing that he was going to do this. He puts the black plastic over the windows so that nobody can see in. He tacks it up. He has a camera with him, and he takes her nude body in the church and poses her in various bondage positions. When he looked up finally, or looked out the window, the sun was coming up.
COOPER: BTK dumped her body in a drainage ditch and went back to the Cub Scouts. No one asked where he had been.
Seventeen months later, BTK's dark impulses stirred once again.
SINGULAR: He had heard her play the piano. He was attracted to that.
COOPER: He would call Vicki Wegerle, "Project Piano."
SINGULAR: He was in a strange way drawn to a lot of artistic things. I think writing, drawing, music. And he had walked around that neighborhood.
COOPER: Walked around that neighborhood until finally he settled on his plan.
SINGULAR: He used a helmet with a Southwestern Bell logo on it. And so he went to the door and said he worked for Southwestern Bell. And there was static on her phone and he needed to do a phone check.
COOPER: He forced her into the bedroom and strangled her with her own stockings and leather laces. He also took pictures. And that seemed to satisfy BTK for another four years.
But there was one thing he always wanted to do, but never had. He had done it as a child.
SINGULAR: And then he started taking animals into barns. He had a fascination with barns that lasted his entire life. And he would go in there and strangle them with barbed wire, with other things; and again, it seemed to be tied into pleasurable impulses and impulses of feeling really powerful.
COOPER: It seems he had been looking to recreate that childhood memory with 62-year-old Delores Davis. He strangled her with a pair of pantyhose, took her out of the house and looked for that farm setting.
SINGULAR: He killed dogs and cats in that setting, but he had never been able to take a human being into a barn and either take photographs or do whatever he wanted to do.
So he had hoped to do that with her, but he could never find exactly the right location or the right barn where he was sure that he wouldn't get caught.
COOPER: Delores Davis' body was found almost two weeks later under a bridge. She was the last of BTK's 10 victims.
COOPER (on camera): Well, by all accounts, everything about Dennis Rader's life was normal. He was active in his church, even a Cub Scout leader. He had a family, a wife and two kids. And it's those seemingly innocent qualities that make this case all the more disturbing.
I talked about what drives serial killers like Rader with Psychologist Howard Brodsky.
COOPER: What is it that drives someone like Dennis Rader to kill? I mean, you've seen these horrible photos that he took of his victims, of himself. What drives him?
DR. HOWARD BRODSKY, PSYCHOLOGIST: Right. Well, this went on for many, many years. You know, it has to go back to at a pretty young age, whatever he experienced within himself, whatever deviance it was, if he called it a demon, whatever it was, it just was never stopped. He never found a way to stop it. I'm not so sure that he wanted to stop it. I'm not sure that he understood it. And no one outside of him picked up on it, so it just went on and on, and then you get these just bizarre things happening.
COOPER: He killed until 1991 and then stopped. Can a serial killer really just stop killing?
BRODSKY: Yes, there have been cases where serial killers do stop. And we have to wonder what was going on with this guy. He says, hey, I was too busy. I had other obligations. Could be that he was concerned about the death penalty. You know, there's just a whole lot of factors that could explain it. I think that's more information that might come out in the future.
COOPER: You think more information may come out? In what way?
BRODSKY: Well, you know, it's entirely possible that he did more offenses that we just don't know about at this point. It's entirely possible that he did things when the death penalty was in force. And as a consequence, he didn't want to admit it at the time that he was sentenced.
As he gets more and more bored hanging out in prison, he might decide that he needs the excitement of revealing some more offenses.
COOPER: And so he'll sort of use that to continue the attention to be on him?
BRODSKY: Yes, that's the idea. Yes. I think this guy is just so motivated for attention. He's got a pathological need for attention. And even when he was hanging himself, talking to the police, he just couldn't stop talking.
COOPER: He was so controlling, too, in his personal life. I mean, I find it hard to imagine him living with a wife and her not having any idea. And yet I guess there were parts of the house which were just off limits to her.
BRODSKY: Yes. He was exceptionally controlling in her personal life in terms of what we know about his marriage. But you know, his offenses show this extreme need for control, that he had his offenses just choreographed. He had them thought through in advance, and wanted to just reveal to just these people that he later killed what a terribly controlling, pathologically controlling guy he was.
COOPER: And yet not particularly clever. I mean, it's kind of amazing that he wasn't caught sooner. You know, he killed someone in his neighborhood. It wasn't as if this is some, you know, genius mastermind.
BRODSKY: Well, he wasn't a genius. He made a lot of mistakes. There's mistakes at the crime scenes. He leaves behind evidence. He doesn't realize that other people are going to be present. He did make mistakes. But the nature of serial killers are, they are very hard to catch. They go after people that aren't related to them in their lives, and they do think things through before they carry it out. So because of those factors, it makes it harder to catch them.
COOPER: We saw him speaking out in court about the killings, comparing himself to his victims. What does that tell you about him?
BRODSKY: Well, he doesn't have any compassion for anybody but himself. He's entirely devoted to his own needs and really can't empathize with anybody else. He doesn't understand the harm that he's done so, so many people in such a brutal way.
COOPER: It's such a terrible case, and yet fascinating in a lot of different ways.
Dr. Howard Brodsky, appreciate you joining us. Thanks.
BRODSKY: Thank you.
COOPER: While the mindset of the BTK killer is open to interpretation, one thing is certain. He thrived on toying with police.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CALLER: You will find a homicide at 843 South Pershing. Nancy Fox.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: The communications with authorities went on for years. But then after decades of cat and mouse, he made one slick move too many.
The final pursuit of the BTK killer, when 360 continues.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RADER: The problem is, I did -- blew so much smoke that now nobody knows facts from fiction. And that's basically my demise.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, for Dennis Rader, murder was only part of the game. The BTK killer wanted the world to know what he was doing, so he taunted the police and the media with clues and letters. He thought he could outsmart the police. And for years, he did. Then his luck finally ran out.
COOPER (voice-over): The manhunt began more than 30 years ago. In January 1974, with the murder of the Otero family. Nine months later, police first heard from the killer.
SINGULAR: He called a secret witness hotline there in Wichita and basically said that he was responsible, and he was going to leave some material in a library.
COOPER: What he left was a note addressed to the Wichita police, telling them that three men they had in custody, quote, "know nothing at all. I did it by myself, and with no one's help." He also provided details of the murder only the killer could know, and told police he would do it again, writing, "I can't stop it and so the monster goes on?" and he signed it, "yours truly, guiltily." He also said his code word would be BTK for bind them, torture them, kill them. What he didn't say was that he had already killed again.
In April 1974, his victim, Kathryn Bright. It would be more than three years before the killer would contact them again.
In December of 1977, when, in a phone call, he directed police to the home of Nancy Fox.
BTK: You will find a homicide at 843 South Pershing. Nancy Fox.
COOPER: The police traced the call to a downtown phone box, and witnesses described a man they saw using the phone. They weren't able to find the caller. On January 31, 1978, in another letter to another newspaper, he wrote a poem about another victim. Shirley Vian, murdered in March of 1977. Any fear he might have had of being caught was clearly eclipsed by his need for attention.
In February 1978, he wrote to a local television station claiming he had already killed seven times. Asking, how many do I have to kill before I get my name in the paper or some national attention?
After that, the killing and the communications stopped. But police kept up the search, forming a task force called Ghostbusters, developing a profile, collecting hundreds of DNA samples, hunting for clues in his letters and poems, assembling lists of possible suspects. But there were no arrests, and the case went cold and stayed cold until March of 2004.
SINGULAR: I don't think his life was very exciting. And for him, I think those times back then, communicating with the police, taunting people, sending waves of fear through Wichita, I think it had been very exciting for him. And so as he said, he decided to bring the character back.
COOPER: More than 30 years after he began killing, he wrote another letter to a newspaper. In it, he said he was responsible for the murder of another woman, Vicki Wegerle in 1986. He enclosed her driver's license and three photos of her body.
In May of 2004, he sent a letter to a local TV station, along with a word puzzle, a jumble that spells out, among other things, prowl, follow, victim, and sex.
In the months that followed, more letters, more clues.
It wasn't until mid-February of 2005 that BTK would make a fatal mistake. He sent a local TV station a package containing a computer disk, which led them to the Christ Lutheran Church near Park City and to a man named Dennis, Dennis Rader.
They followed him for two weeks, watching where he worked, where he lived, and where he worshipped. They used a search warrant to get the college medical records of his daughter, Carrie, including a DNA sample. That sample showed that Carrie Rader's father was BTK. They knew they had their killer.
COOPER (on camera): Well, there was no question of the crime. Only question remaining was the punishment and the chance for the families of the victims to face the man who had cold-bloodedly ended the lives of their loved ones.
How the killing career of Dennis Rader ended next, on this special edition of 360.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you look at this investigation, it wasn't about one department. It wasn't about two departments. It was about the law enforcement community coming together with one goal and one goal only. To identify and apprehend BTK. And doggone it, we did. We did it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, between 1974 and 1991, Dennis Rader turned Wichita, Kansas, into his own killing field. He tortured and murdered 10 people.
Judging by his confession, more victims may have followed. But thankfully, his life as the BTK killer came to an end last year on a day Rader was caught by surprise -- as were the neighbors who thought they knew him.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It has been a very long journey that has brought us to this day.
COOPER (voice-over): A journey more than 30 years in the making. On Friday, February 25, 2005, a team of Wichita police officers and federal agents pulled Dennis Rader from his car and arrested him for murder.
Politicians, police and prosecutors called in the victims' families and held a press conference to announce that the hunt for BTK had come to an end and to congratulate themselves on a job well done.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was about the law enforcement community coming together with one goal and one goal only, to identify and apprehend BTK. And doggone it, we did it. We did it.
COOPER: Dennis Rader was charged with 10 counts of murder. And when he was arraigned via a video link with the Wichita courthouse, we first heard the soft-spoken voice of the murderer.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you understand that you're charged with 10 counts of first-degree murder?
RADER: Yes, sir.
COOPER: Police said Rader was cooperative. In fact, they spent 32 hours questioning him, learning detail after detail of each horrendous crime and delving further inside the mind of this serial killer.
SINGULAR: He talked pretty much nonstop for 32 hours. He didn't even want to stop to sleep. And I think it was just reflective of the fact that here is a man nobody knew. Here is a man who could never talk to anybody, who could never share his life with anybody, who could never tell people who he was. He had hit it, he had repressed it. COOPER: There would be no trial for the BTK killer. With the evidence mounting against him and the death penalty not an option for prosecutors since his crimes took place when there was no death penalty statute in Kansas, Dennis Rader pleaded guilty and worked out a deal with the D.A. that would keep him in prison for the rest of his life.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sir, based upon your plea which occurred on the 27th day of June 2005, before this court, I once again judge you guilty of murder in the first degree.
COOPER: At his sentencing, the family of his victims talked about their loved ones and vented their anger at the man who murdered them.
BEVERLY PLAPP, SISTER KILLED BY DENNIS RADER: I want him to suffer as much as he made his victims suffer. But then when I think about that in his sick, perverted way, he'd probably find that as some kind of pleasure or reward.
BILL WEGERLE, WIFE KILLED BY DENNIS RADER: There's no punishment that you can exact upon him that will satisfy our needs. We can just ask the court to bestow upon him the most that you can. And hopefully we will not have to deal with him or see him or hear from him ever again.
STEPHANIE CLYNE, MOTHER KILLED BY DENNIS RADER: I ask you today, Your Honor, to show no remorse for him. Don't let this monster have any comforts as he lives out his remaining years in prison. He isn't worthy.
COOPER: And he did not go quietly. The man who admittedly sought the attention of the press coldly made his last statement, expressing remorse, taking responsibility, comparing himself to his victims, quoting the scriptures, and facing his now very dark future.
RADER: Christian bible verse I found that I think that's helping me or will help me in leading me. This is John 8:12. I am the light of the world. He who follow me shall not walk in darkness, but have light of life.
Now that I have confessed, put myself out to let everybody know what's going on, I expect to heal and to have life. And then hopefully someday God will accept me.
COOPER (on camera): Well, earlier I spoke with the Nola Foulston, the district attorney of Sedgwick County.
She made sure that Dennis Rader got the maximum punishment under Kansas law -- 10 consecutive life sentences.
COOPER: You made the decision not to take the BTK case to trial, but you say you wish you had. Why?
NOLA FOULSTON, SEDGWICK COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: Well, I think that it was very important for the community to listen to all of the evidence and to have that information presented in a very cogent manner. It actually did happen, Anderson, with the sentencing proceeding that was permitted by the court. And I think that although it was an abbreviated version at the trial, it still gave the community the ability to listen and evaluate the evidence and to understand why our prosecution was so viable.
COOPER: And what did you make of his testimony in court when he actually spoke? I mean, it was so, you know, he called some of the people projects, and -- what was your impression of it?
FOULSTON: Well, I had seem him, of course, speak during his 32 hours of discussion with law enforcement. So I was familiar with his evasive manners, his crude sense of humor and some of this other...
COOPER: So the man -- the man you saw in court...
COOPER: The man you saw in court was the man you had seen in those interrogation rooms?
FOULSTON: Well, he had basically changed his tune somewhat and became very cavalier; in fact, lecturing the court about what serial killers do and do not. And had a very -- his attitude was just very self-centered. And that's all part of his particular personality.
He is a very unusual individual, a very dangerous individual. This is an egomaniac that just really was very much interested in having a lot of media contact and a lot of information being revealed about him.
And he wanted to be in control of every situation, including those statements that he made in court at the original plea.
COOPER: What was your first impression of him when you saw him in the interrogation room?
FOULSTON: I was surprised at what an ordinary individual he was. There were just some things about him, the way he responded, his inappropriate laughter, his absolute relishing of discussions of the individual characteristics of his victims. And this was, of course, after he had admitted that he was in fact the serial killer.
COOPER: His last murder was in 1991. And he kind of disappeared. Why do you think he stopped killing?
FOULSTON: Well, what he said was that during that time, he had family and church obligations. Of course, he had two children that were in their growing-up years.
He didn't stop, in essence, looking for projects, nor did he stop activities. There was just no homicide that occurred during that period of time. But during this whole time, he continued to stalk individuals, to plan, and to identify what he considered projects or individuals that he had designed to be part of his web of homicide.
COOPER: He also -- I mean, he liked to think of himself as very smart. It doesn't seem like he was very smart. He sort of had these grandiose notions about himself as a law enforcement officer when in fact he was basically the dogcatcher.
You look at these clues that he offered in his notes, the evidence that he left behind. Do you think this crime, looking back, could have been solved sooner?
FOULSTON: It was one of those situations where I don't think the officers could have done any more than they did. It was actually the discussions that were initiated by Dennis Rader for his own benefit because he felt slighted that he had not received media attention. And you know that if you look at most serial killers, they slip up in one way or another. And that's ultimately the way they are caught.
COOPER: That's fascinating. District Attorney Foulston, thanks very much.
FOULSTON: You're welcome.
COOPER: Incredibly, Dennis Rader seems OK with where he is. But what about his family? Especially his daughter whose DNA sample helped send her dad to prison, and his wife and son. How have they dealt with all this?
More of my conversation with Author Stephen Singular when this special edition of 360 continues.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If my focus were hatred, I would stare you down and call you a demon from hell who defiles this court at the very sight of its cancerous presence. If I embrace bitterness, I would remind you that you are nothing but a despicable child-murdering cowardly, impotent, eunuch and pervert, masquerading as a human being.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'd just like for him to suffer for the rest of his life and, you know, that's all.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This man needs to be thrown in a deep, dark hole and left to rot. He should never, ever see the light of day. And I have some afterlife scenarios for him on the day he dies. Nancy and all of his victims will be waiting with God and watching him as he burns in hell.
COOPER: Well, for the families of the victims and the citizens of Wichita, the story that we've been telling, the BTK killer, unfolded over more than three decades.
Over the hour we've been getting crucial details on the case from Stephen Singular who wrote the new book "Unholy Messenger, The Life and Crimes of the BTK Serial Killer." What does he take away from the story? We spoke earlier.
COOPER: There's been a lot of talk about Dennis Rader really wanting to get caught. Do you think he did?
SINGULAR: I don't think he wanted to get caught. I think what -- as I said earlier, that he was a totally isolated individual. I say in the book that Dennis Rader wasn't lonely, but BTK was because he never reached out to any human figure for his entire criminal career until the end.
I think what the Wichita police did, when he resurfaced in March 2004 and sent the Lieutenant Landwehr out there to talk to him in all of his public pronouncement -- not just to the public, not just to the media, but more specifically to Rader. And the strategy was, if we can bond with him, you know, don't be too aggressive, don't be hostile or anything like that, just try to reach out to him. And I think the strategy worked very well because he began to communicate with them, in particular, he began to think about Lieutenant Landwehr and actually to write about him.
And so that bonding is what caused him to eventually send in the computer diskette that got him caught.
COOPER: One of the things that fascinates me about this is that, I mean, he had a family. He lived with a woman, he had two kids. I mean, what was his home life like?
SINGULAR: As far as we know, it must have been quite normal. I mean, his children apparently liked him. He -- there's no indication he was an abusive husband or anything like that. He shoved this other thing totally to the side.
COOPER: But there were, I mean, drawers that his wife wasn't allowed to look into.
SINGULAR: That's true.
COOPER: The fact that she never looked in those drawers is fascinating.
SINGULAR: Well, he had this mother lode of information, as he called it, with all of these extraordinary pictures and drawings and writings at work. And it was in a metal file cabinet, there for years and years and years. Nobody...
COOPER: Was it was locked?
SINGULAR: It was locked, but nobody noticed it. At home, it was in a tub. And he just kept it there. And if anyone got near it, he brushed them and told them that was off limits. And nobody knew a thing.
COOPER: Do his kids have contact with him in prison now?
SINGULAR: As far as we know, no. His daughter wrote him a very heartfelt letter that I think stung him very deeply, that said basically he had destroyed their lives. So I don't think the family has had any contact.
COOPER: There are also very -- I mean horrific, bizarre pictures of Rader really acting out these bondage fantasies. And we should warn people, they are very disturbing. What do you make of him taking these pictures? What did it mean?
SINGULAR: Well, I think when he was a child, as I said, he looked at these detective magazines where women were either in bondage or women were looking up in terror. And the fascinating thing about it was that he didn't just identify with tying them up, but I think he also identified with being tied up. And I think that runs through his whole career.
COOPER: And he would tie himself up?
SINGULAR: And so he didn't just go out and commit these crimes and tie up other people and put them in bondage. He did exactly the same thing to himself.
COOPER: While wearing women's clothes?
SINGULAR: While wearing women's clothes. I mean, from a psychological perspective, I don't think it gets too much richer than going into your parent's basement, putting a white sack over your head and having a mock hanging in the basement when you're naked. I mean, that's a field day for people who want to interpret it psychologically.
But to me, the photographs told his story in a way that words couldn't. He was terribly inarticulate when trying to talk about his own life. But the pictures showed this man in bondage. I mean, this man bound up, unable to get out of anything, unable to escape.
COOPER: And were they -- was it a way of capturing and reliving the excitement of these murders that he did?
SINGULAR: I think that was part of it. I think it had a lot of sexual overtones. I think he had many sexual proclivities that he was acting out there as well. I mean, he was trying to force this very unusual psychology and sexuality into this completely normal small- town Kansas life. The tension it created had to come out some way, and it came out in the horrible murder of these people.
COOPER: You spent a lot of time with Rader's pastor, Michael Clark. What does he think drove Rader to kill?
SINGULAR: Well, I think this crime -- these -- this arrest really affected Pastor Clark very deeply because he -- as he told me, he thought he had a pretty good beat on evil before February 25, 2005, when Rader was arrested.
And basically, he decided he had to go read the bible again. He had to start rethinking sin again, the nature of evil and all of that. So he started to look into demonic possession and actually study it. And I think that he felt, after looking at all of it, that Rader was quite possibly possessed by demons.
COOPER: What do you think it is that should be learned from Dennis Rader?
SINGULAR: I think the whole book is about -- if you don't deal with the hand that's dealt you, it's going to be a problem. And if you're dealt with a particular sexual identity, you need to come to terms with it; or a spiritual identity, you need to come to terms with it; or psychological problems. They don't just go away. They don't just evaporate.
His whole life was lived as if he could shove this to the side, and it would somehow leave him alone. And it didn't. It ended in one tragedy right after the other. I think that's the core lesson. You have to take responsibility for what's inside of you. And he never did that.
COOPER: You can't escape your past.
SINGULAR: You cannot escape who you are. And that's what he tried to do. And he never really lived, I think, his own true life.
COOPER: It is a fascinating case and a fascinating book. Stephen, thanks.
SINGULAR: Thank you.
COOPER: We're going to have more in a moment. We'll be right back.
COOPER: Sophia Choi from "HEADLINE NEWS," joins us with some of the business stories we're following -- Sophia.
CHOI: Hi Anderson.
Retailers from around the country have started pulling Bausch & Lomb contact lens solution ReNu with Moisture Lock off their shelves. Federal investigators are looking into whether the solution is linked to eye infections that can cause permanent vision loss if left untreated. At least 109 people who used the contact lens solution developed an infection.
Auto recalls are in the news. Ford is recalling more than 19,000 Mustang Cobras from the 2003 and 2004 model years because the gas pedal can get stuck on the floor carpeting. Ford will install carpet shields to make sure that doesn't happen. General Motors and Mazda announced recalls today as well.
And maybe it's a good thing you don't have to file your taxes until Monday, the 17th. A lot of you haven't done it yet. The Internal Revenue Service, as of last weekend, said it was about 46 million returns shy of what it's expecting this year. Those are most likely people who have to pay. The IRS also says more and more taxpayers are e-filing on computers this year. And you're going to like this. The average refund this year is about $2,200. That's about $100 higher than last year.
And, Anderson, if that's you -- yes, don't go spending it all in one place, OK?
COOPER: Have you actually filed yet?
CHOI: I have filed.
COOPER: Wow, very organized of you. I have not actually.
CHOI: I haven't gotten my refund thought.
COOPER: Oh no? All right. There you go. Well, let me know when you do. We'll go out to lunch.
COOPER: Thanks, Sophia.
Thanks very much for joining us for this special edition of 360, "BTK: Hiding in Plain Sight."
Tomorrow night, a special hour-long look at the faulty intelligence in the run up to the war in Iraq.
"LARRY KING" is next. His guest, Dominick Dunne, with secrets of the trials of the rich and the famous. Ah, yes.
Thanks for watching.
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