WICHITA, Kan. – Prosecutors vowed there will be no plea bargain in the case against a former church leader and city employee charged with 10 counts of murder in the BTK serial killings that terrorized Wichita since the 1970s.
"I look forward to a trial of this case because it is important after 30 years for people to know and for people to understand and appreciate, not only the work of law enforcement, but to be able to say, 'It's over, it's over,'" District Attorney Nola Foulston (search) said Tuesday after the arraignment of suspect Dennis Rader (search).
Rader, 60, stood mute during the brief hearing, leaving it to District Court Judge Gregory Waller (search) to enter a not guilty plea for him. Waller set trial for June 27 — a date likely to be postponed.
Rader, a former city compliance officer from suburban Park City, was arrested Feb. 25 and charged in 10 deaths linked to the serial killer known as BTK, which stands for "Bind, Torture, Kill."
The killings began in the 1970s and made headlines again last year when the killer started sending cryptic messages and packages to media and police.
Authorities have declined to say what led them to Rader.
Prosecutors cannot seek the death penalty because all the crimes were committed before 1994, when Kansas passed its capital punishment law.
But in a dramatic moment at the arraignment, Foulston stood across the table from Rader and looked him in the eye as she handed him a court document seeking a harsher sentence for the most recent of the 10 killings.
Foulston told Rader she would seek a so-called hard-40 sentence for the death of Dolores Davis, 62, who was abducted from her Park City home Jan. 19, 1991, and found strangled two weeks later.
The sentence means Rader, if convicted, would have to serve at least 40 years without a chance of parole.
As Rader was being taken out of the courtroom, one of victims' family members yelled out to him: "Don't worry, you won't last that long."
In the other nine killings, Rader would have a chance of parole after 15 years even if sentenced to life in prison under law on the books at the time of those crimes.
Foulston told reporters she wanted the case to go to a jury trial to determine Rader's guilt or innocence.
"Without that we still will wonder and live with the question for the rest of our lives in this community — and there isn't a book, there isn't anything that can make sense of this case — without a jury making a determination," she said.
Rader's defense team is considering seeking a change of venue but had not made a final decision, Osburn said, adding attorneys do not anticipate making Rader's competency a part of the defense.
Defense attorney Steve Osburn said Rader, despite his lack of cooperation in the courtroom, "cooperates with us. We are able to work with him and he is able to help with his defense."
Prosecutors have listed 247 potential witnesses, and the public defender's office has said a trial is likely more than a year away. Rader last month waived his right to a preliminary hearing, meaning prosecutors will not have to reveal details of their case until trial.