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Netflix’s ‘Mindhunter’ Glimpses At The BTK Killer For Unclear Reasons

They don’t catch him until decades later. Why show him now?

Source: Pixabay

Dennis Lynn Rader (born March 9th, 1945) was born in Pittsburg, Kansas, but grew up in Wichita. In the mid-1960s, he dropped out of college and joined the U.S. Air Force. Upon discharge, he returned to Wichita in the early 1970s, where he married his wife, Paula, and had two children. He attended Butler County Community College in El Dorado, earning an associate degree in electronics in 1973. He then enrolled at Wichita State University, and graduated in 1979 with a bachelor’s degree in administration of justice. Rader worked as an assembler for the Coleman Company, an outdoor supply company. He worked at the Wichita-based office of ADT Security Services from 1974 to 1988, where he installed security alarms as part of his job. Rader was a member of Christ Lutheran Church and had been elected president of the church council. He was also a Cub Scout leader. Oh, and he also just happened to be one the most notorious killers of all time — the BTK Killer.

The Netflix series Mindhunter revolves around FBI agents Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff) and Bill Tench (Holt McCallany), along with psychologist Wendy Carr (Anna Torv), who originate the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit (BSU) within the Training Division at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia. They interview imprisoned serial killers in order to understand how they think, with the hope of applying this knowledge to solve ongoing cases. Season 1 of the series takes place between 1977-1980 while the most recent season, season 2, takes place between 1980-1981.

To be brief and avoid graphic detail, Rader dubbed himself “BTK” (short for “Bind, Torture, Kill”) after his modus operandi. He had a sexual fetish for women’s underwear — stealing them from his victims and wearing them himself. In the show, Rader tries to walk on the straight and narrow after his wife catches him engaging in auto-erotic asphyxiation while wearing… well, take a guess. By the end of the season, his attempts to reform fail and he gets back into his odd sexual habits.

The interesting thing about the timeline of season 2, where Rader is shown, is that Rader isn’t captured until 2005. So why show him now? McCallany gives an explanation in an interview with Esquire. “One of the things that I think separates our show from other shows is that we show the reality of police work,” McCallany points out, “and the reality is that they don’t always get the guy! They didn’t catch the Zodiac. They didn’t catch Rader until 2005, and only because he made a really stupid mistake, sending a floppy disk that was traceable, directly to the police department in a kind of Son of Sam style quest for notoriety.”

Toward the end of his murderous career in 1991, Rader began taunting police by sending them letters and continued over the next few years until 2004. However, in 2005, Rader asked police via letters whether or nor a floppy disk would be traced. The police lied, saying it couldn’t. When Rader later sent the disk, police found metadata embedded in a deleted Microsoft Word document that was, unknown to Rader, still stored on the floppy disk. The metadata contained the words “Christ Lutheran Church”, and the document was marked as last modified by “Dennis.” From there, scattered clues quickly fit into place like a jigsaw puzzle and the BTK Killer had ultimately undone himself.

To McCallany’s point, the police don’t always catch the killer. However, perhaps Rader’s appearance serves another purpose. Throughout season 2, Holden says a number of times that serial killers are incapable of living normal lives, but Rader directly contradicts that idea — he has a job, a family, and even holds a leadership position at a church of all places. In Ed Kemper’s only scene in the season, he points out something very important to Holden — that all of the BSU’s insights come from serial killers who have been caught.

A bone-chilling remark, but true nonetheless. It would be interesting if the premise of season 3 focused on the BSU reevaluating their findings and trying to come up with methods to identify killers who have not been caught. Essentially, I hope the next season takes that remark by Kemper and runs with it.

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