Susan Greenwood Dennis Reader: The Man Next Door Troy University Criminal Justice 4430 Abstract A mystery remains on why certain people turn into serial killers. It has been long debated and studied on what drives a seemingly normal person to become a serial killer. This paper will discuss Dennis Reader, a notorious serial killer known as the BET (Bind, Torture, and Kill) killer. Why did Dennis Reader commit such hateful crimes? Factors such as his childhood, family life, and influences from society will be examined to see if they were contributing factors for his crimes.
Theories will be explored to try and explain why he chose a life of crime and explain the differences between a serial killer and a mass murderer as these two terms are often used interchangeably. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Reports and Publication “Serial Murder”, they term “serial killings” as a “series of three or more killings, not less than one of which was committed in the United States, having common characteristics such as to suggest the reasonable possibility that the crimes were committed by the same actor or actors” (FBI website).
The difference between a serial oilier and a mass murderer is a serial killer usually eludes detection and they usually continue to kill for weeks, months, and even years before they are found and stopped. Sometimes serial killers are not found at all. A mass murderer is usually apprehended by law enforcement official, commit suicide, or turn themselves in and also they typically kill groups of people at one time, whereas a serial killer individualizes their murders. Often the motivation of a mass murderer is family issues, society, government, or work related issues.
The serial killer typically kills to ratify urges they cannot control for sexual gratification, to eliminate members of society they deem do not fit, childhood trauma, psychological reasons, and because they want the attention and control from their killings. Dennis Reader was born on March 9, 1945, in Pittsburgh Kansas, but grew up in Wichita, Kansas. He was the oldest of four sons. Some speculate there were early signs of trouble because Dennis Reader himself stated he used to hang stray cats as a child. He attended Riverview School and graduated from Wichita Heights High School.
In 1957, he was confirmed into the Zion Lutheran Church. He attended Kansas Wesleyan University from 1965 to 1966 and then went on to spend four years in the U. S. Air Force, where he was stationed in Texas, Turkey, South Korea, Greece, Alabama, and Okinawa. When he returned from the Air Force, he moved to Park City which is a suburb north of Wichita. He worked in a supermarket alongside his mother. In 1973 he earned his associates degree then went Wichita State University to graduate with his Bachelor’s Degree in 1979 in Administration of Justice.
He married his Witt Paula Dietz in 1 71 and they and a son and a daughter together. On January 15, 1974, Dennis Reader would commit his first of many serial killings. He killed four members of the Otter family, Joseph, Julie, Joseph II, and Josephine Otter. Their fifteen -year- old son Charlie Otter was the one who found them coming home from school. His family were bounded and gagged. Joseph II was in a different state besides being bounded, he had a hood over his head.
The worst of the killings in this family was Charlie’s eleven-year-old sister Josephine, which she was discovered to be hanging by her neck from a pipe, partially nude, dressed in only a hire and socks, and she had been gagged. None of the victims were sexually assaulted but Dennis Reader masturbated on some of these victims. He took their personal belongings such as a watch. He confessed to all these killings and told all the chilling graphic testimony in his court proceeding. He cut all their phone lines and waited at the back door.
He did not personally know them but he had selected Mrs.. Otter and her daughter Josephine to act out in his sexual fantasies. He used the excuse that he was wanted and needed a car. He didn’t quite play out the way he liked because he never expected Mr.. Otter to be there and it caused him to panic and lose his control. He knew he had to kill them because he could be identified since he did not wear a mask. These were obviously premeditated killings. After the Otter murders, Dennis Reader would kill another victim, and attempt to kill her brother Just months after his first murders.
On April 4, 1974, came the murder of Kathy Bright. He picked her out because he was driving by one day and saw her and thought it could potentially be his next victim. He trolled and then stalked his victims. He broke into her house and waited for her arrival. He did not expect a man to be there inside with her but there was which it was her brother Kevin Bright and he used the same excuse that he was wanted and needed a car. He made Astrakhan’s brother tie her up and Dennis Reader tied Seven’s feet to a bedpost. From then, he had many errors in this killing.
He moved Kathy into another bedroom and went back to the other room to strangle her brother Kevin, but he had got loose, so Reader decided to shoot him and thought he was dead and went back to Kathy only to find out he hadn’t tied her up too well. After this, he heard Kevin in the other room and then the woo were struggling and shot Kevin again and this time he felt he had “done the Job”. So he proceeded to kill Kathy only to hear Kevin escaping. He ran off where his car was parked because he couldn’t take their car since he didn’t have the right keys.
Kevin survived the attack and gunshots and still Reader was not identified. His next victim would be Shirley Avian Reload, on March 17, 1977, Just three years after the other attacks. Shirley was not the potential target, but after the potential target wasn’t home, he had already talked to Shirley son and saw where he went so he proceeded to go where he went to. He knocked on the door and one of Shirley children answered the door and he stated he was a private detective and pushed his way through the door with his pistol..
He told Shirley he had problems with sexual fantasies and he was going to tie her up and even her kids possibly. He proceeded to tie her kids up her bedroom and they got upset and started crying. He felt that plan wasn’t going to work so he put the kids in bathroom with Shirley help, put some toys in there along with blankets, and he tied the doors shut so they could not escape. He moved on to Shirley, where he then tried to tie her up but she got sick and threw up. He went and got a glass to water and try to comfort near a lie title but then en went ahead tied her up, put a bag over her head, and strangled her.
After he killed her, the kids were making too much noise and Shirley phone rang. Dennis Reader had remembered that the kids stated the neighbor was going to check on them, so he grabbed all his tape, cords, and his other items he used in the killings in his briefcase, which was called his “hit kit” and went back to his car (A & E Documentary, 2010). Again, Just months from killing Shirley Avian Reload, he moved on to Nancy Fox, on December 8, 1977. He had been stalking Nancy. He felt the more he knew a person the more comfortable he would be with his killing.
He found out where she worked, checked her mailbox, and watched her a few times. He knew what time Nancy typically came home from work, and when he knew there was no one in her apartment, he continued his plan by cutting her phone lines, and broke in the house and waited for her in the kitchen. When she came home, he confronted her and explained his problem with sexual fantasies as he did his other victims, then told her he would have to tie her up and have sex with her. They talked for a while, smoked a cigarette, he went through her purse to get some of her stuff.
She went to the bathroom and came out undressed as he told her to do, he handcuffed her, made her lie in the bed while he tied her feet, which he was undressed somewhat his self, then he got on top of her, and proceeded to strangle her. After the killing of Nancy, he masturbated, took some of her personal items, cleaned up any evidence he thought might be around, and then walked to his car which was Just blocks away. Dennis Reader had a break in his killings. Everyone had thought the killings had need. That thought would not last.
On January 1978, a letter mailed by Dennis Reader aka BET, was sent to the Wichita Eagle- Beacon and it was a poem about Shirley Avian who was one of his murder victims in March of 1977. When he didn’t get the social recognition he wanted from the poem, he wrote another letter on February 10, 1978 to a T. V. Station. He demented the attention of the media. In 1979, he sent packages that were the same, one to the T. V. Station and one to a potential victim, Anna Williams. Anna was lucky, she never came home the day he decided she was his next victim. Dennis Reader got tired of waiting and left.
Everyone in the community were frightened and bought firearms. It was never known why the killings had stopped for that time period. It wasn’t until April 27, 1985 that Dennis Reader would strike again. This time, the victim was someone he knew that lived down the street. Her name was Marine Hodge. It was easy to learn her routine. He broke into her house and waited for her to return home but little did he know she has a man with her who stayed a while. Dennis Reader waited until late in the morning to make his move. He flipped on her throat lights, she screamed, he Jumped on the bed, and immediate strangled her with his bare hands.
After he had killed her, he acted out his sexual fantasies, put her on a blanket, went through her belongings in the house and in her purse, put her in the trunk of the car, drove her to the Christ Lutheran Church and took pictures of her deceased body in different forms of bondage, then dumped her body in a ditch, covered it up with brush and leaves then left. There was a new method used in his sexual fantasies with Marine Hodge, which was bondage. He took pictures of this reticular victim. As en moved trot victim to victim you can see now his tansies have escalated to being more violent and more sexual.
A little over a year after killing Marine Hodge, he moved to his next victim which was Vicki Wigglier. On September 16, 1986, he killed yet another victim. This time he portrayed his self as a telephone repair man and pulled a gun on her. He made her go in her room and then tied her up. He used material in her room to tie her up, but it didn’t work because she was fighting him off, so he used one of her stocking to strangle her until she stopped moving. When he thought she was dead, he took pictures of her deceased body and rearranged her clothes.
He knew he had to get out quick because during the struggle she had mentioned her husband would be coming home. He had previously got her keys to the car so he hurried and left in her car. Vicki was fatally injured from being strangled, but when Dennis Reader had left, she was not dead as he had thought. His final victim, was Dolores Davis, on January 19, 1991, five years later he would commit his final murder. As the other victims he pretended to be a person on the run just wanting food, a car, and warmth. He strangled her as he had with some of the other victims.
He placed Dolores in the trunk of the car then dumped her deceased body under a bridge. In February 25, 2005, after multiple communications from the BET to the media and the police department, he would finally be apprehended from a floppy disc that was sent to the T. V. Station. Forensic analysis would be traced back to the Christ Lutheran Church in Wichita along with the name of Dennis. During an internet search investigators were able to link “Dennis Reader” as the president of the church and he was arrested. Dennis Reader was formally charged on February 28, 2005 with all ten counts of the first-degree murder.
On June 27, 2005, he confessed to all the ten murders in gruesome details explaining how he intended to kill each one of the victims and what he planned on doing. It was a chilling confession. People were horrified by the lack of emotion and remorse Dennis Reader displayed. What led Dennis Reader to kill? Are they born to kill? Do society and the media play a huge role on influencing and developing serial killers? Dennis Reader admitted to researching, reading textbooks, and educating his self on serial murderers. He admitted he had strangled and killed stray cats earlier in his life. Could that potentially been a red flag?
Dennis Reader falls under the criminological theory of Bacteria which is the Classical Theory and it is when people pursue things for their self- interest and do not think about the punishments that could come. Dennis Reader was not at all concerned with the punishment at all, he was concerned with was sexual gratification and making a name for himself. I don’t think Dennis Reader falls under one theory but multiple theories. The Integrated Theory should also be examined since it is a impotent of multiple theories. It takes the strain, control, and social learning theories and combines them to explain crime.
He picked victims he didn’t know, he picked one he knew, he admitted to killing stray cats when he was younger, he had sexual fantasies, he read on other serial murderers to educate himself, and these factors have to play into consideration when you try to label Dennis Reader into a specific theory. Holmes and Debugger describe two typologies that Dennis Reader tall under, which is the Hendrickson and the power/control typology (Hickey, 2013, p. 36). Holmes and Debugger define a Hendrickson killer as those: “who are “thrill seekers” those who derive some form of satisfaction from the murders” (Hickey, 2013, p. 6). Reader was a “thrill seeker” and he felt huge amounts of satisfaction when he killed his victims. Holmes and Debugger also define the power/control typology: “the primary source of pleasure is not sexual, but the killer’s ability to control and exert power over his helpless victims” (Hickey, 2013, p. 36). Reader experienced control and power over his victims. Reader strangled one of his victims to the point he thought she was going to IEEE only to release the victim, only to do it again to watch her gasp as she died. He liked to control when his victims were going to die.
Dennis Reader is a psychopath who evolved into a serial killer, only to take pride in his killings. Psychopaths do not react nor show a lot of affection or emotion. This is exactly the behavior he displayed in his court proceedings when he explained in depth of each victim he killed. Serial killers are usually labeled as loners, anti-social, and not able to maintain any type of relations, but that is a stereotypical view of a serial killer, as we have seen here with Dennis Reader. People often think a serial killer will use the insanity plea, but they do not. He was the man next door that everyone knew and never suspected in these killings.
His killings were sexually – oriented. He was a narcissistic and a self- centered killer. He called his victims “projects” (A& E Documentary, 2010). He believed he was superior to the law enforcement officials and thought he was way too smart to get caught. But in reality, he wanted the fame of being a notorious serial killer. According to the Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (ADSM-IV), paraphernalia have “sexual impulse scissors characterized by intensely arousing, recurrent sexual fantasies, urges, and behaviors” (of at least six months’ duration), (Hickey, 2013, p. 51). Reader falls into this category of a paraphernalia. He always was living out his fantasy to seek sexual gratification. He is a sadistic killer. Dennis Reader is known as one of the notorious serial killers. People can only use criminological theories and possible mental disorders to help narrow down the potential serial killer. A lot of times, it can be the man next door, as we have seen here with Dennis Reader. He individualized his victims and avoided detection for thirty-years.
He engaged in violent and lethal behavior Just to achieve orgasm, which his fantasies became increasingly violent. He acted in a horrific and heinous way. In the end, he received what is known as the “hard forty’ sentence which is ten life sentences for the ten counts of first-degree murder (A& E Documentary, 2010). The victims in this case received the death sentence. References A Documentary. (2010, February 11). The BET Killer Speaks – Part 1 of 5. Retrieved from http://www. Youth. Com/watch? V=Doohickey. Blanch, Gigantic Juan. N. D. ).
Retrieved May 26, 2013 from the Murdered website: http://murdered. Org/ male. R/r/reader-Dennis-bio-into. Net. Dennis Reader. ( 3 The Biography Channel website. Retrieved 09:07, May 27, 2013, from http://www. Biography. Com/people/ Dennis-reader-241487. Federal Bureau of Investigation. Serial Murder. Retrieved on May 28, 2013, from the Federal Bureau of Investigation website: http://www. FBI. Gob/ stats-services/publications/serial-murder/serial-murder-l#two. Hickey, W. Eric. (2013). Serial Murderers and Their Victims (6th De. ). Belmont, CA: Headwords, Coinage Learning.