Officials in Oklahoma, Missouri and Kansas do not believe convicted killer Dennis Rader was involved in these unsolved cold cases
In the past several months, rumors have surfaced that convicted serial killer Dennis Rader, known as “BTK” (which stands for bind, torture, kill) may be responsible for several unsolved cold homicide cases in neighboring states where he lived, worked, and killed.
Rader was convicted in 2005 after confessing to killing 10 people in Wichita and Park City, Kansas between 1974 – 1991. He often left clues to taunt law enforcement.
But law enforcement experts believe BTK is not responsible for these other murders.
Investigators have since gone back and interviewed Rader in prison about several of these cold cases. Authorities have said there is no evidence linking BTK with these unsolved murders. The modus operandi seen most of these unsolved cases is quite different than how Rader operated for years undetected.
In Oklahoma, questions had been raised whether Rader could have been responsible for the disappearance of 16-year-old Cynthia Kinney in 1976.
At that time, Kinney was a cheerleader. She was working at her aunt and uncle’s laundromat in Pawhuska, Oklahoma. She was last seen at the laundromat. Her purse and drink were found there along with a half-eaten donut. Cynthia left the laundromat at 9:30am, and she got into a faded beige 1965 Plymouth Belvedere with two people inside, witnesses told police.
She had not been seen since. Her body was never found.
Osage County Sheriff Eddie Virden believes there could be a possible connection with BTK and Kinney. But Osage District Attorney Mike Fisher is adamant that Rader was not involved in the 1976 disappearance and murder.
This case has brought out a rather public feud between the two law enforcement leaders, each making disparaging statements publicly about each other.
Osage County District Attorney Mike Fisher said at a press conference on Sept. 11 that he believes there is no evidence linking Rader to Kinney’s murder. He said he was not given enough evidence or reasonable suspicion to connect Rader to the disappearance.
Fisher further explained that the information he had was from meetings with other law enforcement officials, and that he has not discussed with Sheriff Virden the suspected ties to BTK.
Fisher said that Kinney’s elderly parents, now in their 80s, are suffering emotionally and physically due to stress about reopening their daughter’s case. He does not want to get their hopes up only to have them crushed again. And he asked the media to give the family their privacy.
The DA said his relationship with Virden is so fractured that they rarely work together.
“I have never had an issue with law enforcement anywhere…for whatever reason the relationship with Sheriff Virden and it is broken…I have tried to reach out to Sheriff Virden and didn’t get anywhere,” Fisher said.
On the other side, Sheriff Virden told a local news station that he reasonably suspects that BTK could be involved in Kinney’s disappearance.
He traveled to Kansas to interview Rader in prison at the El Dorado Correctional Facility. During that conversation, the sheriff said BTK described a scene like that of how Kinney disappeared. After talking with him, the sheriff decided to take another look at the cold case.
But the facts of the case show that Kinney got into a car with at least two other people, according to witnesses at the time. BTK worked alone. Homicide experts say the modus operandi doesn’t fit with BTK.
In response to the DA’s press conference, Sheriff Virden released this statement:
“The Osage County Sheriff’s Office has actively engaged with the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation (OSBI) and the Kansas Bureau of Investigation (KBI) at various points during the course of this cold case investigation. Contrary to the statements made by District Attorney Fisher, the OCSO has had two meetings with both agencies to share information and work collaboratively. Despite this, there has been no further communication from the OSBI regarding the investigation. The sheriff remains committed to cooperating fully with the OSBI and other law enforcement agencies in pursuit of justice for Cynthia Kinney.
“District Attorney Fisher has not reached out to the OCSO to discuss the details or developments of this investigation. Therefore, his comments regarding the case are based on incomplete information and do not accurately represent the sheriff’s efforts or the progress made. District Attorney Fisher attempted to derail the investigation by contacting the prison where Dennis Rader (BTK) is held in an attempt to halt further interviews between Dennis Rader and our Investigators.
“The sheriff understands the pain and grief experienced by the families of the victims, including the Kinney family. Our primary focus is on finding the truth and bringing closure to the families affected by these crimes. Any actions or statements that may cause further distress to the victims’ families are deeply regrettable and contradict our commitment to compassion and professionalism.
“The sheriff remains dedicated to the pursuit of justice in the disappearance of Cynthia Dawn Kinney. We will continue to work diligently with all relevant agencies, including the OSBI, the KBI, and federal authorities, to solve this case. It is our hope that by conducting a thorough investigation, we can bring answers to the Kinney family and provide closure for them and the community.”
Meanwhile, OSBI is also examining the case and will consider information from both the sheriff and the DA.
In Kansas, there had been talk that BTK allegedly was involved in the 1983 disappearance of Mary Lang.
But the Ellis County Sheriff says unequivocally that BTK is not connected to Lang’s disappearance.
Mary Lang, 31, was last seen in the downtown area of Hays, Kansas on Oct. 21, 1983 around 1pm. She had just started a job working as a legal secretary for an attorney in Hays. On the day she disappeared, she was taking papers to other attorneys in town for them to sign. Her car was found with the door slightly open and her purse and legal papers were found inside her car. Days later, a search team found her coat along a country road six miles northwest of town with her car keys inside the pocket. Her body was never found.
“While the Kansas Bureau of Investigation (KBI), the Ellis County Sheriff’s Office, and the Hays Police Department will continue to explore all theories in this case, we do not presently have evidence that links Rader to this investigation,” the Ellis County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement to the media.
Missouri: The 1990 Murder of Shawna Beth Garber
This is another unsolved cold case that officials have said is not connected to BTK.
Shawna Beth Garber was known only as Grace Doe for more than 30 years. In December 1990, a couple found her body behind an abandoned farmhouse in McDonald County in southwest Missouri. Investigators named her Grace Doe because they said it was by the “grace of God” that she would ever be identified.
As a child, Shawna endured horrible abuse at her mother’s hands. At 22, her body was found behind the farmhouse about two months after she died. She had been raped, strangled, and restrained with different bindings before she died. She was not identified until 2021.
McDonald County Sheriff Rob Evenson has said they have worked with investigators, and, so far, there is no direct evidence connecting Dennis Rader to the case.
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