Unholy Messenger: The Life and Crimes of the BTK Serial Killer by Stephen Singular, Paperback | Barnes & Noble
Unholy Messenger: The Life and Crimes of the BTK Serial Killer

Unholy Messenger: The Life and Crimes of the BTK Serial Killer

3.2 7
by Stephen Singular
Behind a façade of Midwestern normalcy, Dennis Rader hid a life of bloodlust, sadism, and murder beyond imagining.

The upstanding family man, Scout leader, and church board president was well liked and trusted by his Wichita community.

Kansans -- and all of America -- would never recover from the truth: He was BTK, the madman who bound, tortured, and


Behind a façade of Midwestern normalcy, Dennis Rader hid a life of bloodlust, sadism, and murder beyond imagining.

The upstanding family man, Scout leader, and church board president was well liked and trusted by his Wichita community.

Kansans -- and all of America -- would never recover from the truth: He was BTK, the madman who bound, tortured, and killed ten victims over the course of three decades.

Drawing on extensive interviews, including exclusive access to Rader's pastor and congregation, bestselling author Stephen Singular chronicles the horrific crimes, the investigation, the capture, and confession of BTK -- and, more deeply than any other account, reveals how his 2005 arrest shattered and challenged those in a circle of faith who thought they knew him best.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Veteran true crime author Singular, who advanced a controversial theory of the Jon-Benet Ramsey murder in Presumed Guilty, has crafted a gripping and chilling tale in this thorough examination of Dennis Rader, the infamous BTK killer, who terrorized Wichita, Kans., for decades. By making use of Rader's extensive confessions, as well as the recollections of his pastor and one of the primary detectives, the author recreates, in macabre detail, the killing spree that claimed 10 lives. Rader's sadism is hard to stomach, especially his modus operandi of murdering people in front of their relatives. The pastor's take on the crimes-that his parishioner (who was president of the congregation) was demonically possessed-may offend some, but Singular puts this theory in context by taking pains to present the theological struggle Rader's crimes presented. Some of the details-for example, of the dialogue between killer and victim just before the murders-appear to be derived solely from Rader's admissions. Overall, Singular has written a solid account that will both fascinate and horrify. (Apr.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The banality of evil, right next door. Over the course of 30 years, Dennis Rader, a pinched, humorless Midwestern family man, terrorized the residents of Wichita, Kan., as the "BTK Killer," a serial murderer and sexual sadist whose nom-de-crime derived from his predilection for binding, torturing and killing his victims. No criminal mastermind, Rader so embodied the archetypical Kansas man-self-effacing, pious, reliable, conservative (he served as a scout leader and was president of his Lutheran church)-that he was able, despite a sloppy m.o. and innumerable gaffes, to elude the concentrated efforts of the Wichita Police Department and the FBI to catch him. Crime journalist Singular (Presumed Guilty, 1999, etc.) limns Rader's daily routine, stunted inner life and grisly crimes in unfussy prose that underscores the horror of the BTK slayings with brutal effectiveness; the dryly recounted quotidian details of the victims' (and Rader's) lives add an excruciating poignancy and immediacy to the accounts of the murders that a more lurid approach might have obscured. Singular includes many of Rader's taunting letters to the police, full of tortured syntax, awful poetry and chilling solipsism, and they bring the killer uncomfortably close: an unimaginably lonely and emotionally stifled man whose fantasies of murder and domination coexisted with pathetic Walter Mitty-esque flights of fancy that cast the drab cipher as James Bond or John Wayne. The author wisely leavens the horror by widening the scope of the narrative to include the law enforcement personnel dedicated to the BTK case (whose eventual capture of Rader derived from an almost comically stupid blunder by the killer), and to theheroically eccentric pastor and shell-shocked congregation of Rader's church, who had counted Rader among the most steadfast and pious of their number. A compelling and clear-eyed portrait of a recognizable American community, devastated by the secret heart of a quintessential good neighbor-the sort of neighbor who makes one feel comfortable leaving the doors unlocked at night.
From the Publisher
"Powerful, scary reading. Packed with lurid, behind-the-murder tidbits."

Entertainment Weekly

"Gripping and chilling."

Publishers Weekly

"Macabre, riveting, scary."


"Just as the public was riveted to the BTK case as it unfolded on national TV, they will also be gripped by Singular's skillfully crafted story."

Rocky Mountain News (Denver)

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Pocket Books
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Read an Excerpt

Unholy Messenger

The Life and Crimes of the BTK Serial Killer
By Stephen Singular


Copyright © 2006 Stephen Singular
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-7432-9124-7

Chapter One

On Sunday morning, January 17, 2004, Dennis Rader walked outside and picked up the Wichita Eagle, the local newspaper he read closely, especially on weekends. Sometimes, he cut articles or ads featuring girls or women out of the paper and kept them in one of his private collections. He had thousands of pictures of females stashed around the house and at work, which he looked at whenever he felt restless or in need of a sexual rush. As he opened the paper, the main headline stunned him: "BTK Case Unsolved, 30 Years Later." A reporter named Hurst Laviana had written a story about Wichita's greatest mystery, recapping the terror that had infiltrated the city in the 1970s, after the WPD had announced that a serial killer was in their midst. The article described the crimes, the victims, the maddeningly unsuccessful one-hundred-thousand-hour investigation, and the bizarre behavior of BTK himself, evoking the most perplexing issues all over again. How was it possible that a city renowned for its police work could not find this predator? Why hadn't the FBI and other national resources brought into the case been able to help? Would the WPD and Wichita's 340,000 citizens ever know thetruth? The story suggested that by 2004 all these questions had likely become moot, because BTK was probably dead.

Rader read the article slowly and read parts of it again, stopping to nod or smile. The words brought on a flood of exciting and powerful memories of his heyday, back in his thirties and forties. He'd been unstoppable then, uncatchable, invincible. No one had had a clue who he was or where he lived or worked, and they still didn't. He'd done it all, never made a major mistake, and felt lucky to have held on to his freedom. Now that he was about to turn fifty-nine, he'd more or less put BTK into retirement, but this article was stirring something within. Over the next few years, he'd planned to take all of BTK's drawings, pictures, and writings, transfer them onto CDs, and place everything in a safe-deposit box for others to find after his funeral. On the CDs, he'd have laid it all out just like the credits at the beginning and end of a movie, listing the names of the people who'd played a part in the criminal drama, describing their roles, thanking some of them, and calling the whole thing BTK Productions. Wouldn't that be a kick - not just to his wife and children and the people at Christ Lutheran, who thought they knew their husband and father and fellow worshipper, but to the entire city of Wichita and its incompetent police department! The bogeyman had been living right next to them all along, going to his job each day, coming home and watching BTK reports on the evening news with his wife, and praying at one of their churches. They'd only get the satisfaction of solving their grand mystery after he was gone - and he'd get the satisfaction of never having spent a day in prison.

One section of Laviana's article struck him the hardest, the part about a local lawyer named Robert Beattie, who taught a criminal justice course at Friends University. For years Beattie had been researching the BTK murders and was putting together a book about the case. While the police generally felt that BTK was either in prison or had left Wichita or died, Beattie held out the hope that somebody might one day read his book and, as he'd told the Eagle, "come forward with some information - a driver's license, a watch, some car keys.... I'm sure we will be contacted by both crackpots and well-meaning people who have little to contribute. But I do not think we'll be contacted by BTK."

Beattie's words angered and stimulated Rader because for years he'd been trying to write his own book. The attorney had thrown down the gauntlet. How could some lawyer who'd never met him presume to know who BTK was or what he'd accomplished during the height of his criminal career? Or why he'd done all those things? How could anybody have any understanding of the case unless that person knew what had gone through BTK's head or the feelings that had raced through his body before and after a kill, and how he'd picked out his victims, and what had taken place in the rest of his life, when he wasn't stalking a woman? Who the hell did this Beattie think he was - trying to answer such questions without knowing anything about the subject?

Rader laid aside the paper and calmed down, considering his options. Maybe BTK had gone away too soon. Maybe he could bring him out of retirement for just one more fling with the media and the Wichita Police Department. Not much else was going on in his life right now. His job as a Park City compliance officer, issuing tickets to people whose dogs ran loose or who violated other local ordinances, had become a mindless routine. His kids were grown and out of the house, and he and Paula had drifted into a place in middle age where nothing seemed capable of being new. Only his church work really called to him because he was fond of Pastor Clark and serious about being a good Christian. He'd read a lot of Scriptures and didn't wait till Sunday morning to pray to God. For three decades, Jesus Christ had been his personal savior, and he renewed that commitment every week in the sanctuary. He'd do anything for his minister and congregation.

He was bored, really, once he stopped to think about it - doing little more than waiting to leave his job in a few more years and start drawing Social Security. He was isolated too, in that part of himself he'd never been able to share with others, yet still wanted to. Dennis Rader wasn't lonely, but BTK was.

"It might be fun to stir the hornet's nest," he muttered to himself, smiling again.

He'd always itched to do something creative, so why not bring back BTK and see what happened? It wasn't as if he'd ever really put all that to rest. He still had "hiding holes" around the house, where he tucked away pictures, drawings, and slick ads taken from fashion magazines. He had swimsuit ads, bra ads, pictures of brides, and images of celebrities, Halle Berry and Meg Ryan, all taped to three-by-five index cards. He had ads of young boys, young girls, and women of all ages, plus Barbie-doll knockoffs. One hiding hole was a box he kept right below his work uniforms in the bedroom. Another was a drawer with a secret bottom in a linen closet. A third was a green plastic tub filled with mementos. His wife had never looked in any of these places or suspected a thing, even though they'd lived in the same nine-hundred-foot-square house for the past thirty years. It wasn't her way to pry into his affairs, and if she ever tried to do that, he knew how to brush her off with a glib comment or two. Didn't take much to steer Paula in another direction. Outside in the driveway was his camper, where he kept more memorabilia. A few blocks away, in his office at City Hall, was the Mother Lode of information sitting right by his desk, a locked metal file cabinet holding computer floppy disks, newspaper clippings, maps, Polaroid pictures, puzzle books, and neatly marked file folders with transparent covers. No matter what he was doing, Rader was extremely well organized and stayed on top of the details.

He was also absolutely sure of one thing: nobody could tell his story but himself. He was a man no one knew - no one on earth - and it had been that way since early childhood, because he was certain that nobody could understand or accept who he really was, not even God. For years, he'd been trying to tell people who he was without revealing anything about himself - just one of his contradictions. He'd wanted to remain unknown but craved media attention and getting credit for his crimes. He could be utterly normal and grotesquely abnormal. He'd seemed to want help with his compulsions but resisted the notion that anybody could help him. He'd toyed with the police and given them hints about his identity, but didn't want to get caught. For years he'd admired law enforcement but treated them with contempt. He wrote in a tiny handwriting so that his words were nearly indecipherable, using language not to reveal but to distort and cover up. He'd pull back the mask of anonymity just enough to entice before sliding it back over his life. He could be genuinely kind and unspeakably vicious. And he'd always been amazed at how easily the police and the public could be misled, by just a few misdirecting clues. People weren't nearly as smart as they thought they were.

He looked at some other headlines, needing to think about all this and weigh the risks and potential benefits before making a decision. Age had slowed him down and he wasn't as quick mentally as he used to be; he couldn't afford a single mistake. Almost two months passed before he took action.


Excerpted from Unholy Messenger by Stephen Singular Copyright © 2006 by Stephen Singular. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Stephen Singular has authored or coauthored seventeen previous books, including numerous New York Times and Los Angeles Times bestsellers. His titles include Presumed Guilty: An Investigation into the JonBenet Ramsey Case, the Media, and the Culture of Pornography; and Anyone You Want Me to Be: A True Story of Sex and Death on the Internet, coauthored with legendary FBI profiler John Douglas. Formerly a staff writer for the Denver Post, he lives in Denver. Visit his website at www.stephensingular.com.

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