Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Confession of a Serial Killer: The Untold Story of Dennis Rader, The BTK Killer by Katherine Ramsland, Ph.D.

Review by E.J. Hammon

Take a peek into the mind of one of the most disturbing serial killers of the 20th century. The BTK Killer was one of the most successful, longest active murderers within the past fifty years. Eventually caught through his own ignorance and arrogance, the depravity of his crimes suggests a deeply troubled mind. Noted author and professor of forensic psychology, Katherine Ramsland takes us deep into the chilling thoughts and acts of a dangerous individual who moved amongst the good people of Park City, Kansas and seemed to pose no threat.

Ramsland has written other books about various serial killers and their psychology. This book is full of her insights regarding how Rader thinks and views the world. She digs deep into his history and holds very little back in detailing disturbing tales and theories from his childhood. To his credit, Rader talks about subjects that might embarrass the average person. I was surprised by how much private information he gave about his marriage and the women he stalked. He owned up to various “failed projects” and admitted to self-gratification that he enjoyed when he wasn’t able to murder. Most of his commentary is backed up by photographs he took of himself in several different bondage positions through the years. Assuming he is being honest in most, if not all of his statements, he doesn’t do much to paint himself in a good light. Part of the thrill of telling his story probably comes down to him being the center of attention. What serial killer doesn’t like the attention he receives after his most worthy accomplishment!

I have always been curious about his wife, Paula. Rader talks about two separate occasions in which Paula came home and found him in his bondage outfits. As a good, church-going mother of two from the mid-west, she was naturally mortified. Dennis tells how he appeased her and assured her he would stop. She purchased a book for him to read related to normal marriage but he admits he merely stopped acting out in the house. He simply pacified his wife without changing his behavior. This also goes to explain why many of Rader’s pictures of himself in bondage were taken outside.

Rader also discussed his need for attention and communication with the media. He wanted recognition for his crimes and when it wasn’t forthcoming, he propelled police to the crime scene by calling or mailing packages to the local news station. In his communication with Ramsland, he mentions becoming bolder and potentially leaving his DNA at a crime. In his mind, his DNA wouldn’t link to him because he had never been arrested. Little did he know, he was eventually linked by familial DNA (his daughter’s) and it finally put an end to his extensive crime spree.

If you’re interested in true crime and the psychology behind a multiple murderer, you will really enjoy this book. At times I found myself overwhelmed by the depravity behind BTK’s thought process. However, as I made my way through the mind of Kansas’s most deadly criminal, I found myself enjoying the overall experience. This book is more than just the brief overview of Rader’s crimes. It puts some meaning to his behavior and perhaps some understanding how we can prevent future serial killers.