Unholy Messenger: The BTK Story

Published: 01/01/2006

To all appearances, Dennis Rader was a model citizen in the small town of Park City,Kansas, where he had lived with his family nearly his entire life. He was a localcompliance office, a former Boy Scout leader, the president of his church congregation,and a seemingly ordinary father and husband. But Rader’s average surface beliedthe existence of a dark, sadistic other self: he was the BTK serial killer.

BTK had terrorized Wichita for 31 years, not only with his brutal, sexually motivatedcrimes, but also through his taunting, elusive communications with law enforcement.In 1974, BTK committed his first murders — torturing and strangling four membersof the Otero family — then writing the police an audacious letter and labelinghimself as BTK (for Bind, Torture, Kill). He stalked and killed a series of 10 victimsbut then apparently stopped in 1991. Law enforcement remained confounded until 2004,when BTK began writing another string of letters that would finally lead to hisarrest.

In Unholy Messenger, Singular delves into the disturbing life and crimesof Rader to explore fully — for the first time — the most dangerous and complexserial killer of our generation and the man who embodied, at once, astonishing extremesof normality and abnormality. Drawing on extensive interviews with Rader’spastor, congregation, detectives, and psychologists who worked the case, and alsoon Rader’s unnervingly detailed 32-hour confession, Singular recounts theyear prior to his arrest and its aftermath. Woven throughout are detailed accountsof each BTK crime and his bids for public attention, as well as the police investigation,and the wrenching impact of his deception on his family, church, and heartland community.

The result is a chilling story of a man considered a “spiritual leader”by his pastor and congregation, who turned out to be the devil next door. More thanjust true crime, Unholy Messenger is a powerful, thoroughly engrossing examinationof the intersection between good and evil, and of the psychology and spiritualityof a killer in whom faith and bloodshed converged.