Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The BTK Story

Legal Matters: Dennis Rader Update

By Rachael Bell

The 34-year-long marriage between Dennis Rader and Paula Dietz came to an abrupt end on July 26, 2005 several months after she learned that her husband was the BTK serial killer. Sedgwick County District Judge Eric Yost decided not to enforce the standard 60-day waiting period and instead granted Paula a speedy emergency divorce within a day. Not surprisingly, Paula cited in the divorce papers that she suffered emotional stress after learning about the true character of her husband, Ron Sylvester reported in The Wichita Eagle. Based on the judge's quick response, he was likely sympathetic to her nightmarish situation and her desire to escape the marriage as soon as possible. 

In a another surprising event, Rader has waived his right to legal representation and has decided to defend himself in "a series of wrongful death lawsuits filed against him by several relatives of his 10 murder victims," Hurst Laviana said in a Wichita Eagle article. Mark Hutton, the victims' attorney suggested that Rader was either getting legal advice or "going to law school at night" because the legal paperwork he filed was so professionally done. Interestingly, Rader's desire to represent himself in court is highly reminiscent of narcissistic serial killer Ted Bundy who also defended himself during the 1979 Chi Omega sorority sisters murder trial.

Bundy meeting in court with lawyers
Bundy meeting in court with lawyers

However, Bundy was unsuccessful in his endeavor, which resulted in his subsequent execution. Many wonder just how successful Rader will be and if his grandstanding will do more harm then good. We can only wait and see.


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