Published February 26, 2005
PARK CITY, Kan. – Dennis Rader was a confusing and often frustrating man for many of his neighbors.
Most said the man now accused of being the BTK serial killer (search) was a bureaucratic bully, an ordinance enforcement officer for this suburb 7 miles north of Wichita who, they said, often went out of his way to find reasons to give people citations.
One neighbor said his wife's grandmother once found Rader measuring grass in her front yard with a tape measure to see if it was too long. Another said he and his wife sometimes caught Rader filming their house, ostensibly documenting possible violation.
And yet, there were hints at a pleasant side. He helped elderly neighbors with yard work, was active in his church and acted as a Cub Scout leader.
Police say BTK — the killer's self-coined nickname stands for "Bind, Torture, Kill" — may have killed as many as 10 people between 1974 and 1991. Police arrested Rader on Friday and said Saturday they were confident he was the killer.
"He was definitely two-sided," said Jim Reno, who has lived across the street from Rader and his wife for 16 years and has had several confrontations with him over what he considered Rader's "harassment."
Rader moved into the neighborhood almost 30 years ago. He graduated from Wichita State University (search) with a degree in administration of justice in 1979. But he never became an officer, instead going into code enforcement, or what one critic called "a glorified dog catcher."
He lived with his wife, whose parents lived around the corner. No one answered the door at the residence Saturday afternoon. Public records indicate he has two adult children.
Many residents praised his wife and her family, saying the problem was Rader.
Bill Lindsay, 38, lived behind Rader and said something about the man unnerved him. Lindsay said his wife, Tina, caught Rader in their adjoining backyards filming the back of their house.
"He really acted really funny," said Lindsay, a truck driver. "I'd be on the road and my wife would tell me, 'Dennis has been out again, taking his pictures."'
And yet, Lindsay, as well as other neighbors interviewed, said they never thought that Rader was possibly something much darker.
"I didn't start thinking about (BTK) until I started seeing increased law enforcement in the neighborhood" in the last few weeks, Lindsay said.
Jason Day, 28, described the working-class neighborhood bordered by the town's main drag and a Wendy's restaurant as "very quiet. You'd never consider something like this happening here."
Day said his brother, Roy, was in Rader's Cub Scout pack at the nearby Park City Baptist Church, but their mother pulled him out because of Rader.
"It was his demeanor," he said. "He was so strange."
Rader also was a scout leader at Christ Lutheran Church (search). Officials there said they would issue a statement later Saturday.
Not everyone had a bad story about Rader. David Cool said he had lived next to Raders' in-laws for most of his life, and his parents knew Rader. He said Rader helped his parents, now in their 70s, with yard work..
"Mom doesn't have a bad word to say about him," Cool said.