The Killer Next Door

No one ever suspected this ordinary man could be the killer next door.

By Max Alexander from Reader's Digest | July 2005

On May 3, Rader, now 60, stood mute at his arraignment and allowed the judge to enter a plea of not guilty on his behalf. He awaits trial on charges that would bring life in prison. (Because the BTK murders were committed before 1994, when Kansas reinstated the death penalty, the charges are not capital-punishment offenses.)

Two Sundays before Easter and two weeks after Rader’s arrest, bright morning sun streams through the high windows of Christ Lutheran Church. Paula Rader’s seat in the choir remains empty; until recently a bookkeeper for a local convenience store, she remains in seclusion. Their daughter, Kerri, is married to a Web designer and lives in Michigan. Son Brian is in the Naval Submarine School in Connecticut.

Assisting Minister Donn Bischoff offers a prayer “for the Rader family and for the victims of BTK and their families.” The Gospel reading is the story of Lazarus, whom Christ brought back from the dead. Jesus tells his disciples, “Those who walk during the day do not stumble, because they see the light of this world. But those who walk at night stumble, because the light is not in them.”

After the service, Pastor Clark removes his vestments and sighs wearily. “Nothing in the seminary prepared me for this,” he says. Clark is a year older than Rader. Three times a week, he drives down to the jail and speaks with his congregant from the other side of a glass wall. “He needs a pastor,” adds Clark. “And the family is devastated. Paula’s life is turned upside down. I’m afraid she may have to move away, because people will take it out on her.”

Or they may take it out on Clark himself. “Some people want me to get up on that pulpit and condemn Dennis to hell,” he remarks. “But that’s not why I was called into the ministry.”

All the while, Cindy Plant can’t stop thinking about the cereal box. “Now BTK was a puzzle and a game person,” she says. “And you know how that box was against a road-curve sign? Well, the arrow on that sign points to Park City. I keep wondering if that was a clue.”

Carmen Montoya is looking toward the future; she plans to attend Rader’s trial. “At this point I don’t even know if I could face him, but I feel I need to,” she says. “He got gratification ruining people’s lives. He needs to know that he didn’t ruin mine.”

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