Oklahoma officials who dug up serial killer Dennis Rader’s former property in Park City, Kansas, this week found “items of interest,” including “personal items and other binding type items,” Osage County Sheriff’s Office Sheriff Eddie Virden said.
Digging at the property in April, they found pantyhose with knots “where they would go probably around the wrist or ankle,” he said.
Rader — a church leader and Boy Scout volunteer who called himself BTK for bind, torture, kill — now is the “prime suspect” in the cold case disappearance of a 16-year-old girl from Pawhuska, Oklahoma, as well as other unsolved murders, the Osage County Sheriff’s Office said in a news release Wednesday.
“(Rader’s) 100%, in my opinion, the guy,” Virden said about the 1976 disappearance of Cynthia ‘Cyndi’ Dawn Kinney.
Rader, who is serving multiple life sentences in Kansas for 10 murders around the Wichita area from 1974 to 1991, has denied his involvement in any other killings, according to the sheriff’s office and his daughter.
The April dig at the site of Rader’s former home had not been reported. Tuesday’s dig would not have been public either, but word got out. Virden said it’s not about being secret, but trying to protect families of victims and not compromise the investigation.
Virden said they aren’t ready to release exactly what was found Tuesday.
“I can say they were deliberately placed 14-16 inches below the ground,” Virden said, adding that based on Rader’s history of saving items from his victims “it has to be meaningful for him to go through that much trouble.”
He said the items found Tuesday were in two different spots. Both spots had the dirt removed; a sand-like substance replaced the dirt. One area had a brick at the bottom that appeared to be a floor, and then what appeared to be shingles used as a roof to protect the item or items. The pantyhose, he said, were found buried near the edge of a concrete sidewalk, alongside glass; it’s unclear how construction of the sidewalk might have affected that cache.
“It was definitely an intentional burial of those items,” he said.
Virden said he doesn’t know if the items are from the 10 murders Rader is serving time for, or ones he is now suspected of being involved in.
The sheriff’s office said in a news release that the items will “undergo thorough examination to determine their potential relevance to the ongoing investigations. At this stage, Dennis Rader is considered a prime suspect in these unsolved cases, including the Cynthia Dawn Kinney case from Pawhuska.”
Kinney went missing in 1976 after leaving her family’s laundromat on a weekday morning and getting into a 1965 faded beige Plymouth with two women, according to the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System.
Virden said it’s not certain that she got into a vehicle with two women.
She was 16 at the time. She was a cheerleader.
Clues to Kinney’s disappearance
Virden said there are a few things that tie Rader to the disappearance:
In the book he had been writing before his arrest, Rader called one killing in 1976 “project bad laundry day.” The notations in that section say that he needed to get out of town again until things cooled down.
Rader was familiar with that area of Oklahoma. He had family nearby and also possibly attended an annual Boy Scout camp event nearby
Rader worked as a regional installer for ADT, and Pawhuska would have been in the area he covered. At the time of Kinney’s disappearance, a bank being built across the street from the laundromat would have been around the stage when security wiring would have been installed.
Rader’s writing, Virden says, tells them she may have been buried in a barn somewhere.
“Of course that’s what we are trying to find,” he said.
The sheriff’s office said the cold case investigation has also led Rader to being a suspect in other murders, including at least one in Kansas and one in Missouri involving Shawna Beth Garber.
Garber, 22, had been raped and tied up for two months before she was found in December 1990, according to KSNT. Garber’s case is in McDonald County in Missouri, about a four-hour drive from Park City.
“This ongoing investigation has uncovered potential connections to other missing persons cases and unsolved murders in the Kansas and Missouri areas, which are possibly linked to Dennis Rader,” the news release says.
TMZ reported earlier this year that Rader “categorically denied any involvement in the Kinney case.”
Osage County Undersheriff Gary Upton said: “Well, I wouldn’t believe a serial killer.”
Why dig in Park City?
Kerri Rawson, Rader’s daughter, previously told Fox that the “theory is he could have placed evidence of cases under stone pavers under the metal shed he built early to mid 90s. Like driver’s licenses in jars.”
Rawson, in a phone interview Wednesday, said she had also told the sheriff’s office to check an area where Rader had buried their family dog.
The tip about the driver’s license, Virden said, came after the sheriff’s office found a 2008 correspondence between Rader and an admirer. Rader told the admirer that he hid “some trophies and some victim’s driver’s licenses that the police had never found,” Virden said.
Virden said they didn’t find any licenses.
It’s possible, he said, that person already dug those up. He said that person lives in another state and they have been communicating with other law enforcement to try and follow up on that part of the investigation.
The shed and home have since been plowed and the property now belongs to the city. City officials helped remove a piece of concrete sidewalk where deputies dug and used a metal detector to find items on Tuesday.
The sheriff’s office doesn’t have any further digs planned at the site.
Rawson said she started working with the Osage County Sheriff’s Office this summer to help them with the investigation. Her help included breaking her several-years silence with her father and seeing him in person.
She said he denied his involvement in the killings, but also changed his alibis multiple times. Though, she said, that could be just because of his memory. He is 78.
“I’m still not 100% sure my dad did commit any more at this point,” she said, adding: “If my dad has harmed somebody else, we need answers.”