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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Update: BTK killer sentenced

After receiving 10 life sentences, Dennis Rader gave his pastor, Michael G. Clark, a thumbs-up as he left the courtroom Aug. 18. Moments earlier, he called Clark “my main man,” saying, “If there’s anybody I was dishonest to, it’s that man right there.”

Rader, 60, was church council president of Christ Lutheran, Wichita, when he was arrested Feb. 25 for 10 murders committed in Kansas between 1974 and 1991 as the self-proclaimed BTK (bind, torture and kill) serial killer. ("Images of hope," May, page 32 in the print edition; "Member's arrest shocks congregation," April, page 39 in the print edition.) He will serve 40 years before the possibility of parole—the stiffest punishment available.

In sentencing hearings Aug. 17, prosecutors gave step-by-step details of Rader’s murders. Victims’ family members spoke to Rader, who also spoke for 30 minutes.

The New York Times reported Aug. 19 that Clark sat in the second row and during breaks read Psalm 51, a lament that asks God to cleanse the sinner from evil.

“After yesterday, his life is not worth a plug nickel in prison,” Clark said before the sentencing. “There’s a code in the criminal system, and there’s no tolerance for the kinds of things Dennis has done.”

Of his continued visits to Rader, Clark said, “I just tell people, would you want me to stop coming to see you if I were your pastor?”

In July, a judge waived the usual 60-day waiting period and granted Rader’s wife, Paula, an “emergency divorce,” agreeing that her mental health was in danger. They had been married 34 years.


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