I live less than an hour from Wichita, and the BTK serial killer appeared in court this morning, reciting the details of his killings with no emotion. Of course, this is big news here since it’s the culmination of a 30 year long investigation – not that it wouldn’t be big news anywhere.
Dennis Rader very calmly gave the details of each killing, in response to questions from Judge Greg Waller. Waller needed to make certain that he really is BTK, so the questions were necessary. But people seemed surprised by Rader’s delivery of the facts.
Rarely does the general public have the opportunity to see a known sociopath up close. I’m not a psychologist, so please accept my commentary as personal, and nothing more. Rader’s behavior is typical sociopathic behavior – detached and emotionless – while talking about things that are horrific to most of us. Sociopath is the old term, but I still think it’s understood better, and more descriptive, than anti-social behavior.
The really frightening part, that we don’t want to discuss, is that sociopaths are not that rare – Martha Stout suggests in her book that it’s about 4%. Much research indicates that their brains are built differently. So what does that mean for the rest of us? It means that it could just as easily be our brains that were built that way.
The governor said it was good police work that brought him in. I’m afraid I have to disagree about that. Good police work would have brought him in a few decades ago. He had to keep “helping” them with clues.
The Wichita police department has had at least one person on this case for 30 years. To those of us outside the loop, it seems that in 30 years one person could have tracked down everyone living in Wichita at the time of the murders who fit the profile.
Rader did, indeed, fall right into the profile and was on more than one of the lists of potentials. They simply didn’t catch it. Obviously, no one knows the details except those involved and it’s not my place to say that anyone messed up. But, it is also not appropriate to now try and make us believe that exceptional police work brought him in. That may be true at this stage of the game, but there have been decades where it seems not much was happening in that department.
Speculation is that he started giving them clues, wanting to be caught, because Beatty’s book was going to take some of his glory.
The judge hearing the case, Greg Waller, is from Hutchinson, where I live. He spoke at a MLK event I went to here in January. He’s a powerful speaker, an accomplished man, and an imposing – but charming – figure. Nonetheless, I would not want to meet him in his professional capacity.
The Wichita Eagle did a special edition today. These are incredibly rare these days because of the expense. They sold out all over Wichita in a short amount of time. I’m sure none even made it out of town.
The sentencing is set for mid August. It seems there will be no quick end to this part of Wichita’s history.