Thursday, December 15, 2016

Confessions Of A Serial Killer by Katherine Ramsland

The letters BTK terrorized the Wichita, Kansas area for thirty years.  They referred to a serial killer who had adopted the title of Bind, Torture, Kill as his chosen name.  His acts were gruesome, starting with the torture and murder of four members of a family, two of whom were children.  From 1974 when he killed the family to 2004, when he was finally captured, he killed ten people, mostly women.

After his arrest, confession, trial and imprisonment, Katherine Ramsland reached out and established a relationship with Dennis Rader, the man behind the BTK title.  His case fascinated many in the true crime world.  He had a spate of murders, then nothing for many years, then he started killing again after decades.  This was contrary to serial killer profiles which assume that once started, a serial killer will never stop killing.  A bigger shock was the identity of the killer.  Rader was not a marginal person unable to hold a job or have a relationship.  He was involved in his church and even elected president of his local church council.  He was involved in the Boy Scouts as a leader.  He was married to his wife with no outside relationships, and they had two children.  He held a responsible job.  What was the story behind his crimes?

Ramsland spent five years researching the case and speaking with Rader through correspondence, phone calls and prison visits.  She outlines a man who had been consumed with thoughts of binding as an aid to sexual release since childhood.  Rader had an extensive fantasy life, filled with thoughts of railroad ties on which he wanted to position victims, torture castles, abandoned railcars and old barns.  He spent hours clipping pictures of women, writing about his fantasies, collecting true detective magazines and books about serial killers.  If he didn't have a victim, he practiced self-bondage in what he called 'motel parties'.  His wife didn't know about his crimes, although she had discovered him dressed in women's clothes and with bondage items.  But he promised it would never happen again and she believed it didn't.  Instead, Rader just went further underground, hiding his activities rather than ceasing them.

Readers will be chilled to read Rader's words, how he sees himself still as a good person who did some bad things.  He was able to live under the radar for so long by 'cubing', totally separating the two sides of his personality.  But he never really stopped.  He spent weeks stalking a victim before attempting anything.  He never stopped stalking women and he had long lists of 'projects' as he called women.  Having worked in the security business, he knew about breaking into houses.  Rader's nonchalant recounting of all the women he stalked is chilling.  During his 'dormant' years, he was in reality still actively stalking women.  He broke into several houses during this time only to find the occupants not there.  If they had been, he would have killed them as he did the others.  He was caught when he decided the BTK Killer wasn't getting enough attention and started a cat-and-mouse written correspondence with the police.  That led to him being caught and arrested.  He will live the rest of his life in prison.

Katherine Ramsland has devoted her writing life to studying the darker side of human nature.  She had advanced degrees in forensic psychology, criminal psychology, criminal justice and philosophy.  She has worked with some of the most well-known names in serial killer law enforcement such as John Douglas, Gregg McCrary and Henry Lee.  She has, in this book, been able to reveal Rader's fantasies and demonstrated the extent to which his dark thoughts made up his world, even as he seemed innocent and trustworthy to those he met.  This book is recommended to readers of true crime.

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