Victims' Families Reject Kansas Killer's Apology

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Dennis Rader, the man known as the BTK serial killer, is handed 10 life sentences for 10 murders. He was not eligible for the death penalty. Those speaking for Rader's victims scoffed at an apologetic statement he made at the hearing.


In Kansas yesterday, BTK serial killer Dennis Rader was sentenced to 10 consecutive life terms with no possibility of parole for 40 years. This week's sentencing hearing finally answered many questions about the man who killed 10 people and who terrorized Wichita for nearly two decades. NPR's Greg Allen reports.

GREG ALLEN reporting:

Dennis Rader pleaded guilty to all 10 murders in June. Although he taunted the police and eluded them for 30 years while he preyed on his victims, since his capture in January, he's been cooperative. Investigators say in some 30 hours of interviews after his capture, Rader confessed to all 10 murders, providing them with details and directing them to a trove of photos, drawings and writings that graphically documented his career as a serial killer. In Wichita this week at the sentencing hearing, much of that collection, what Rader called his mother lode, was placed into evidence: thousands of pages of material that detailed Rader's sadomasochistic fantasies and which included pictures he took of many of his victims.

Through it all, the 60-year-old Rader, dressed in a blue business suit, sat patiently, unemotional, listening attentively as police and family members of those he killed described him as a monster. Finally, near the end of the hearing, Rader spoke. In an odd turn of events, he praised the police for catching him and expressed admiration for his murder victims. Then the former Boy Scout leader and church president expressed hope he'll ultimately be forgiven.

Mr. DENNIS RADER (Serial Killer): The dark side was there, but now I think light is beginning to shine. And I appreciate the family and friends in who I can be thankful for, and I think that will keep me from finally going to the dark side, or hell. And finally, a final--apologize to the victims' families. There's no way that I can ever repay you.

ALLEN: Since pleading guilty in June, the basic outline of Rader's sentence--10 life terms--has not been in doubt. Rader's attorney also said his client would not challenge the request that he serve a hard 40; 40 years before becoming eligible for parole. But Wichita district attorney Nola Foulston said she felt it was important that the state lay out all it knew about Dennis Rader and his crimes to provide some closure to a city still traumatized by the BTK murders. Rader's expressions of remorse were not well-received by family members of his victims, who said they didn't believe him or, in her comments to the judge by Foulston.

Ms. NOLA FOULSTON (District Attorney): It's pitiful for Mr. Rader to stand here looking all pale and pasty and say how sorry he is. Well, that's usually the culmination of what happens when defendants go to their last chance in order to convince a judge, you know, `Gosh, I'm really sorry.' Well, what else do you say after you kill 10 people? He doesn't have the ability to be arrogant today.

ALLEN: At yesterday's hearing, a dozen family members of those Rader murdered spoke, asking the judge to impose the maximum sentence. Some, like Jeff Davis, son of 63-year-old Dolores Davis, BTK's last victim in 1991, addressed Rader directly. Davis said to Rader, `You won't defeat us.'

Mr. JEFF DAVIS (Victim's Son): Our very lives will be testimony that good can triumph over even the most hideous form of evil and perversion. Just as your days are now over, ours are just beginning. In the final analysis, you have to live with the cold reality that while all of us here will overcome your depravity, you have now lost everything and you will forever remain nothing.

ALLEN: Rader will now be taken to the state maximum security prison in El Dorado, but he still has more court appearances ahead. Family members of the murder victims have filed wrongful death lawsuits against him, and he's told the court he intends to act as his own lawyer. Greg Allen, NPR News.

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