Wednesday, April 12, 2006
New book captures BTK killer
While on assignment recently in Wichita, Kansas, I met Stephen Singular, the author of a new book, "Unholy Messenger: The Life and Crimes of the BTK Serial Killer." Singular spent a year digging through the personal history and motivations of Dennis Rader, aka the BTK killer, a subject we cover in tonight's show.

So what would possess a man to do what Rader did?

Singular said that when he looked in the BTK killer's childhood he learned that Rader would get aroused when his mother spanked him. When Rader visited his grandparents' farm, he would watch with fascination as chickens were being slaughtered. One day, he killed a cat. It may have been an accident, Singular said, but it was an event that had a lasting impact on Rader.

"I think it started the feeling of liking killing," Singular said. "I also think it's about power. It's about being something where you can see and feel a sense of power, and you can see and feel having an affect on the world around you."

Rader was in essence two different people: He was married, had kids, and was active in his church. On the outside, he was the stereotypical guy next door. But on the inside, he was another person, someone who killed ten people.

"He'd gotten to know this other person so well that he'd given it a name and a face -- Factor X, or sometimes Rex - and imagined it as a demon that resembled a small, nasty-looking, demented frog. He drew pictures of the creature who kept coming round and fueling his fantasy of having a live, pretty, helpless woman at his command," Singular wrote in his book.

We all know that BTK stands for bind, torture, kill. It's what Rader liked to do to his victims, but in a way, he identified with his victims too.

Here's Singular's take: "...that image of being tied up...I think it's a two-edged sword. Not only does he want to tie somebody up, but he himself is terribly constrained in this environment that he's in. He can't talk to anybody about it. He can't get out of it -- at least he doesn't think he can."

Rader never talked about what was going on in his head until he was caught. Would these people still be alive if Rader had revealed his inner demons sooner? It's an interesting question, but not one that can ever be answered definitively.
Posted By Lisa Ort, CNN Producer: 5:25 PM ET
  30 Comments
Hi Lisa,
We probably all will never know what made the BTK killer become the killer he became. I don't think I want to really know. That's up to him and his maker. My prayers are still for his victims and their families. I just hope all the coverage he keeps getting doesn't break their hearts..Take Care
Posted By Anonymous Lorie Ann, Buellton,Calif. : 6:11 PM ET
Lisa- You are asking a great question. Rader may well have stopped if other people had a hint of the demons in this guy's head. If he received feedback that might have given him the direction to change his pattern of beavior. That is how "normal" people learned to rid themselves of their demons.
Posted By Anonymous Wichita, Kansas : 6:23 PM ET
Well, obviously this is another bozo who deserves to rot inside a cell. He should be regularly visited by a psycologist weekley as well.
Posted By Anonymous Judy Hargreaves, East Peoria, Illinois : 6:51 PM ET
Why are you giving this "person" any airtime? He is an individual who obviously got some enjoyment from the coverage of his crimes. CNN continues to fall directly into his trap. There is nothing interesting in his story beyond the obvious.
Posted By Anonymous Dave K. Boise, ID : 7:08 PM ET
M.Scott Peck, M.D. wrote a book titled People of the Lie and made an attempt to discuss the subject of "evil" in a scientific way. He later wrote another titled Glimpses of the Devil. He suggests studying cases like BTK might lead us to some greater understanding of the forces at work in our world that we do not yet understand.
Posted By Anonymous Alice Jones, Machias, Maine : 7:23 PM ET
Some people are just hard-wired wrong. It's got very litte to do with them wanting or not wanting to do something. I really believe there's a rather large physiological component to it.

I'm willing to bet money that if a thorough catscan of Radar's brain were to be done, they'd find a plethara of abnormal functioning.
Posted By Anonymous Butler, Westchester, California : 7:48 PM ET
Why Rader committed these muders is isn't important. When the first victim was discovered authorities should of realised the bizarre nature of the crime. FBI should of been called in to review , solve and capture this idiot.
Posted By Anonymous Dave Winfield Quincy, Il : 8:16 PM ET
I still find it hard to believe that Dennis was able to stop this sick behavior for so many years. Do we really know the truth? Who suffered in place of other victims? What is the likely hood of someone being able to control this type of sickness?
Posted By Anonymous Debbie Gates Flower Mound, TX : 8:20 PM ET
Still to look at this man face gives me chills!
Posted By Anonymous Kerri Quebodeaux, Orange, Texas : 8:20 PM ET
Dennis Rader does not deserve the attention he is getting. Yet another book about a serial killer will neither enlighten Society nor prevent another person from following in his path. These books are written for sensationalism only, a pathetic attempt to titillate the masses. Let Rader rot in prison, and let Singular find another topic for a book.
Posted By Anonymous L.M. Wichita, KS : 8:23 PM ET
Oh boy more BTK, more BTK!

The formerly respectable CNN yet again gnawing at the bones of the dead for profit. Congratulations Cooper, another formerly respectable reporter turns social parasite regurgitating National Enquirer style lowest common denominator bilge to appeal to the sordid human fascination with killing. This fawning over rape and murder and death begins to look less and less like reporting and morning and more like a sick (but profitable!) fetish.

Meanwhile, Rome burns.

Pathetic.

Sincerely, Clay Williams
Posted By Anonymous Clay Williams, San Francisco, California : 9:07 PM ET
I had the opportunity to watch the Rader arraingment and sentencing. Never in my life have I been so shocked by the utter depravity of one human being towards others. For me the realization that many times I had walked the same streets as Rader and been in the same community with such a purely evil individual makes me grateful for the endeavors of the Wichita Police, KBI and FBI. Hopefully we will be able to learn what makes this serial killer tick, learn and help find others before they are able to inflict so much misery and loss in our society.
Posted By Anonymous Michelle- Fort Scott,Kansas : 10:03 PM ET
If Rader's inner demons had been revealed sooner maybe some of his victims would be alive, but not all because Rader was "a family man by day and a killer by knight" so that blurrs the reality of thinking that he would actually brutally kill someone.
Posted By Anonymous Kim, Raleigh, NC : 10:10 PM ET
Understanding a serial killer is impossible. Some say it is from their past, maybe, some say it is financial and ego driven, maybe, some say they are misfits, bullied in school, maybe, some say they are sexually abused when a child, or domestic violence, maybe, some say they are disfigured, etc...

No one knows what couase or drives a person to do these crimes. Unfortunately it is common in America. Some countries dont have murders at all or very few.

America was set-up to chastize others, we discriminate, we think some are ugly, women lead men on and then slam the door in their faces. America has created this ego, snob society, no way out situations, media drives ego's for some.

Writing books wont help anyone it only makes the next serial killer more profound and original, or worse, a copycat!!
Posted By Anonymous Mike, Zephyrhills, FL : 10:13 PM ET
This guy is the greatest argument there ever was for the death penalty!
Posted By Anonymous J. Hunsicker, Hermosa Beach CA : 10:55 PM ET
Who Cares!!

Why would i buy a book about some background of a serial killer.

Society creates them , so deal with them.

They are amongst us, now and forever.

Since we dont really care about laws anymore and only use them when we want to, look for more and more people to kill.

Wish the media would ignore these kinds of stories!!
Posted By Anonymous Mike, Zephyrhills, FL : 11:02 PM ET
Why is it that stories like these make Anderson Cooper and any news pundit today.

Tabloid trash!! Who cares about the mind of these killers. Look around you it happens daily. We the people create these people, so deal with them.

Lets move on, i wouldnt waste a pneey on crappy books like these.

America read some reports on Oil Peaking or Global Warming, or Near collisions by Asteroids coming soon, or how we can help each other.

Have a family meal at the table.

Get to know you kid, your brother, your sister, your neighbor, etc...

Tell the Media and it pundits your sick of whats wrong, lets start doing whats right. Change society and how we treat each other and we will have less people like these amongst us.

Wake up America!!!!
Posted By Anonymous Mike, Zephyrhills, FL : 11:08 PM ET
I honestly think that the whole frog thing is a ploy to make people think that he is crazy. While this is true we didn't need a frog to tell us this. I think that BTK says it all. He likes to Bind, Torture and Kill his victums. I believe that the whole frog thing was to give himself the "I'm crazy" break in court.
Posted By Anonymous Edd, Westerville, OH : 12:34 AM ET
Was this really worth talking about?
Posted By Anonymous Anderson, Baltimore, Maryland : 12:55 AM ET
I saw the part of your program in which you say he identified with his victims. What you call "identifying" looks like a ploy for sympathy to me. This man strikes me as a pure manipulator and while it is rather simplistic to call anyone "evil", I do think that evil people exist in this world. The BTK killer is surely one of them.
Posted By Anonymous Karoline, Burbank, CA : 2:32 AM ET
Rader is an evil man and whether he is mentally ill or not, does not matter. He simply should be put to death and forgotten. Any mention of his name in the press only feeds this demon even more. I hope that when the curiosity wanes, he may be put out of everyone's mind for ever.
Posted By Anonymous Scott Washburn, WI : 9:07 AM ET
I grew up less than 2 miles from where Rader lived, so I guess my family and friends were potential victims. I later worked for the TV station he contacted during his initial killing spree. Knowing he had resurfaced and was communicating with police was very frightening to those of us with loved ones living in the area. All we really need to know about the inner workings of his mind is how we could potentially identify the next murderer. For example, it's important to know that when people torture and kill animals, they need to be watched. Otherwise, why don't you write book on the contributions, missed opportunities, values, and blessings of the lives he snuffed out? Why give him the pay-off of the attention he craves? Please deny him this celebrity you are extending and give it to those who deserve it.
Posted By Anonymous Lisa, Highland Village, Texas : 10:39 AM ET
The scariest thing about Rader is that he lived such a normal life. I feel so sorry for his family. He just wants attention from the media and to live out his sick fantasies. What a coward!
Posted By Anonymous Sarah, San Antonio, TX : 10:44 AM ET
Whoah. It seems the substance of Lisa Ort's entry (not Anderson Cooper's, folks) is getting a little lost under the "BTK" headline.

If what Singular has written is true, what BTK aroused initially was the effect of his mother's spankings. I wonder, however, if what we are talking about here are beatings, not spankings. Isn't there an entire industry of "sociopath" clients who seek such beatings way into adulthood? Is the message about the effects of beating children totally lost here?
Posted By Anonymous Athena Jones, New York, NY : 11:32 AM ET
That guy is the definition of creepy. The special was very well done.
Posted By Anonymous Kathy Chicago, Il : 2:03 PM ET
Please don't go overboard, commenters, by saying this article implies that BTK became a psycho because his mama spanked him. Millions are spanked who don't think they have killer brain frogs later. The implication is that he was born twisted somehow. The key is that he could have controlled himself, and usually did. He did evil by choice . . .
Posted By Anonymous Steve, Statesboro GA : 2:05 PM ET
I think BTK is worth talking about because he would've gotten away with 10 murders if he had not resurfaced the way he did. Over 20 years of no more killings or correspondence is very disturbing for him to exhibit that type of self control. This is not a crazy man. He planned his murders so meticulously before, during and after. By attempting to understand his mindset, maybe he could've been identified and stopped sooner.
Posted By Anonymous Missy, Los Angeles, CA : 2:20 PM ET
Let's face it - No other country on earth produces serial killers the way America does. Must be something wrong with America then...

That's scarier than BTK.

What is it 'bout American culture/society that gives rise to psycopaths like Bundy, Gacy, Rader, etc?

Maybe, if Anderson or CNN devoted a show analyzing that proposition, it would do much to spot these maniacs before they can do real harm.
Posted By Anonymous RDS, NY, NY : 4:28 PM ET
I think it's important to try and understand the psychology of these serial killers whose numbers are growing, especially here in the States. It's too simplistic to say don't sensationalize these stories or report on new books about them because that will just cause them to be copycats or glorify their actions. We need to understand what in our society is producing these monsters. Knowledge is power.
Posted By Anonymous Marie, Denver, Colorado : 4:31 PM ET
Dennis Radar wanted to get caught. His sick fantasies and killings are what he wants to be remembered for. I'm glad he at least went to church, he knows hell awaits him.
Posted By Anonymous Brian, Bolingbrook, IL : 5:26 PM ET
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