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​There are many experiences that happen in a person’s life that shape them as a person. Some respond to these experiences differently than others do. Dennis Rader is a notorious serial killer who was arrested for 10 counts of murder. Also known as “BTK” which stands for “bind them, torture them, kill them.” Rader lived a double-life. On one side Rader was a husband to Paula Dietz and a father as well. On the other side, Rader was a serial killer who strangled women. There really is no full telling of the real reason that serial killers kill but part of the reason Rader did is because of the sexual pleasure that he received from killing. This isn’t however uncommon amongst serial killers. Serial killers tend to kill based on experiences that happened throughout their lives. A concept from our book that describes this is contrast effect. Contrast effect is defined as “the effect of punishment on human behavior depends on how much the punishment and the usual life experience of the person being punished differ or contrast (p.73).” This term ties into the previous sentence because people cope with punishments or experiences in different ways. Some people have a way to look past them and others may never forget. The one’s that never forget may also act out in the future and cope with this in a criminal way. This is not however, the same with every serial killer, but this can play a big role into what these killers do with their lives. How you are raised is a big part into determining what a person is going to grow up to be. Rader was raised in a household with his mom and dad and had four brothers. He grew up in Wichita, Kansas and had some instances where he showed that he was different. In an article by they give an insight of Rader’s childhood. “Reportedly masking such disturbing behavior as hanging stray animals (, 2019).” After his childhood, Rader dropped out of college and started working. He also married his wife and was looked at as a normal guy by his neighbors and others who knew him. From the outside there were no signs (besides his childhood), that led anyone to believe that Rader was a serial killer. During the course of Rader’s life there were a lot of ups and downs. He was the only one who knew what he had done. Why serial killers kill is one question, but putting a stop to it before they start could be a big factor into it as well. Most serial killers have tells when they are younger that lead to them killing.

​After Rader dropped out of college he joined the U.S. Air force and then got a job for an outdoor-supply company. This was also around the same time that Rader got married as well. Not too long after there was a family of 4 that were all strangled to death. As I talked about earlier in my first paragraph, part of the reason Rader kills is because of the sexual desire he has. There was semen found at the house that this family of 4 (The Otero’s) were strangled to death. This sexual desire is what drives Rader to kill and is what makes him do it again. The scary part was that this was only the beginning for Rader. Later during the same year Rader murdered a women in the same way that he murdered the Otera family. The only difference with this murder is that he stabbed her. Rader then went on to murder 5 more people that are known deaths caused by Rader. Rader’s 10 known victims were murdered between 1974 and 1991.

​The first theory that ties into this case is rational choice theory. Rational choice theory is defined as “A neoclassical theory that offenders are free actors responsible for their own actions

(Anthony Walsh, 2018, p. 85).” This goes with Dennis Rader’s case because rational choice theory is not only about people being responsible for their own actions, it is also about pleasure and motivation. Rader was a serial killer motivated by the pleasure he received from seeing a women struggle. This started early in his childhood during an instance with his mom. At a young age Rader found what pleasured him the most and that was seeing a women struggle. A book that I found written by Katherine Ramsland points out on page 14 that some serial killers minds can think of anything, and that you can think of whatever you want with your mind. Another point Katherine makes on this page is that there is a fantasy for a serial killer that is motivated by what they want, some serial killers want to kill because of fulfillment and others may be sexually aroused by killing someone. This is only a small part of her book, but I believe that this goes well with Dennis Rader’s case and rational choice theory as well. Rational choice theory points out that a criminal act is a choice. For some this choice is harder to resist than others but, in the end, there is still a choice to make.

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​The next theory that I believe fits in well with this case is arousal theory. Arousal theory is a concept of how people act upon their emotions. This theory also explains that some people have different emotions than others. For example, say you are standing next to a stranger in line at a fast food restaurant. All of a sudden, a man gets hit by a car. My reaction will be different than his. This relates to serial killers because they do not show remorse. It is almost like they do not have feelings and basically, they don’t care. The reason I believe that this theory fits in with Rader is because of why he started killing. Rader was aroused by the struggle of women.

​The last theory that I believe represents this case is the anomie theory. The anomie theory is a theory that describes how a criminal fulfills their needs through crime. In our textbook anomie theory also described as “insatiable appetites”. This means that criminals express their feelings through crime and they won’t stop until they are fulfilled. These criminals do not think whether or not their actions will hurt others. They basically do whatever they want for themselves. This applies to Dennis Radar because Dennis lived to separate lives and one life no body knew about. In this life Rader was a serial murderer who expressed his feelings through strangulation. In an article I found titled The Sociological Routine of a Serial- Killer, Craig Forsyth explains how some serial killers really do have two separate identities. Most serial killers have to be good at manipulating others and have a charming personality such as Ted Bundy. Rader also did this in somewhat of a different way. Rader was a master at blending in with the community and hiding who he really was. This makes the world we live in just a little more untrusting than it should be.

​I believe that the anomie theory best explains Rader’s case. This theory basically describes Rader. Rader acted upon how his emotions told him to no matter how bad they were. Also, because Rader was good at hiding his other life along with being friendly with everyone in his community.

​Rader was a normal nice guy with a wife and kids. At least that’s what everyone who knew him thought. Rader led two different lives. One filled with love and compassion for his friends and family and the other life was filled with ruthless emotions and pleasure from murdering. Rader ended up finally being caught and arrested in 2005. Rader sent tapes to the media and wrote messages letting everyone know that there was a serial killer in town. There is no saying how many people he really killed but arresting him gave a lot of people stress relief and hopefully helped their pain out some as well.

Works Cited

  1. Anthony Walsh, C. J. (2018). Criminology The Essentials. Sage.
  2. (2019, January 15). Dennis Rader Biography. (A&E Television Networks) Retrieved from
  3. Forsyth, Chris. (2015). Posing: The Sociological Routine of a Serial Killer. Southern Criminal Justice Association.
  4. Hansen, Mark. (2006). How the Cops Caught BTK: American Bar Association.
  5. Miller, Laurence. (2013). Serial killers: II. Development, dynamics, and forensics. Elsevier Ltd.
  6. Ramsland, Katherine, (2006). Inside the minds of serial killers: Why they kill. CT, USA: Praeger Publishers/ Greenwood Publishing Group.
  7. Simons, Erica. (2005). Forensic Computer Investigation Brings Notorious Serial Killer BTK to Justice. American College of Forensic Examiners.

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