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On this Day in True Crime – The Otero Family is Murdered by Dennis Rader/BTK: 1/15/1975

The Otero Family. Left to Right: Joseph Otero, Julie Otero, Josephine Otero, Joseph Otero Jr.

After fantasizing about torturing and killing people for his entire life, 29yo Dennis Rader settled on the Otero family to be his first victims. On January 15, 1974, he broke into their house from the back door. He had brought a rope, gun, and knife with him.

Rader, who would go on to give himself the name BTK (Bind, Torture, Kill), first killed Joseph Otero, 38, by suffocating him to death with a plastic bag.

He then strangled Joseph’s 34-year-old wife, Julie Otero. Rader later wrote that she pleaded with him to spare her family and told him, “God have mercy on you.”

Rader then murdered their son, 9yo Joseph Otero, Jr., in the same manner as his father: strangulation by a plastic bag.

Though Josephine had escaped the bloodbath upstairs, Rader soon caught her in the basement and hanged her to death from a drainage pipe. He reportedly masturbated over the girl’s dead body. Police detectives were able to retrieve semen samples from the crime scene.

Court Transcript of Dennis Rader’s Confession of the Otero Family Murder

BTK in court

Waller: All right, Mr. Rader, I need to find out more information, on that particular day, on the 15th day of January 1974, can you tell me where you went to kill Joseph Otero?

Rader: Um… I think it was 1834 Edgemoor.

Waller: All right, can you tell me approximately what time of day you went there?

Rader: Somewhere between 7 and 7:30.

Waller: At this particular location, did you know these people?

Rader: No, that was part of what… I guess what you call my fantasy. These people were selected.

Waller: So you were engaged in some kind of fantasy during this period of time?

Rader: Yes, sir.

Waller: Now, when you use the term fantasy, is this something you were doing for your personal pleasure?

Rader: Sexual fantasy, sir.

Waller: I see. So you went to this residence and what occurred then?

Rader: I had did some thinking on what I was going to do to either Mrs. Otero or Josephine and basically broke into the house, or didn’t break into the house… but when they came out of the house I came in and confronted the family and then we went from there.

Waller: Had you planned this beforehand?

Rader: To some degree, yes. After I got in the house I lost control. It was, you know, in the back of my mind, I had some ideas of what I was going to do. I basically panicked that first day, so…

Waller: Beforehand, did you know who was there in the house?

Rader: I thought Mrs. Otero and the two kids, the two younger kids, were in the house . I didn’t realize Mr. Otero was going to be there.

Waller: How did you get into the house?

Rader: I came through the back door. I cut the phone lines. I waited at the back door… I had reservations about even going or just walking away, but pretty soon the door opened and I was in.

Waller: So the door opened for you, or…

Rader: I think one of the kids, I think Jr., the younger Joseph, opened the door cause he let the dog out, cause the dog was in the house at that time.

Waller: Now when you went into the house. What happened then?

Rader: Well, I confronted the family… pulled a pistol, confronted Mr. Otero and asked him to, you know, that I was there, that basically I was wanted… to get the car… hungry, food… I was wanted, asked them to lie down in the living room… and at that time I realized that was not a good idea. So I finally, the dog was a real problem, so I asked Mr. Otero if he could get the dog out. He had one of the kids put it out. I took them back to the bedroom.

Waller: You took who back to the bedroom?

Rader: The family… the four members. At that time I tied them up.

Waller: While still holding them at gunpoint?

Rader: In between tying, I guess.

Waller: After you tied them up, what happened?

Rader: Well, they started complaining about being tied up, and I reloosened the bonds, tried to make Mr. Otero as comfortable as I could. Apparently he had a cracked rib from a car accident. So I had him put a pillow down for his head. I think he had a parka or a coat underneath him. He talked to me about giving me a car… I guess he didn’t have very much money. There I realized that, you know, I didn’t have a mask on or anything, that they could ID me, so I made a decision to go ahead and put ’em down, I guess, or strangle them.

Waller: All right, what did you do to Joseph Otero?

Rader: Joseph Otero?

Waller: J. Joseph Otero Sr., Mr. Otero, the father.

Rader: I put a plastic bag over his head and then some cords and tightened it.

Waller: This was in the bedroom?

Rader: Yes sir.

Waller: Did he in fact, suffocate and die as a result of this?

Rader: Not right away, no sir, he didn’t.

Waller: What happened?

Rader: After that I did Mrs. Otero… I had never strangled anyone before, so I really didn’t know how much pressure you have to put on a person or how long it would take…

Waller: Was she also tied up there in the bedroom?

Rader: Yes, both their hands and feet were tied up She was on the bed.

Waller: Where were the children?

Rader: Josephine was on the bed and Jr. was on the floor at this time.

Waller: We are talking first of all about Joseph Otero… so you put the bag over his head and tied it and he did not die right away. Can you tell me what happened in regards to Joseph Otero?

Rader: He moved over real quick like and I think tore a hole in the bag. I could tell that he was having some problems there, but at that time the whole family just went panicked on me, so I worked pretty quick.

Waller: You worked pretty quick. What did you do?

Rader: Well, I mean I strangled Mrs. Otero… she went out, passed out and I thought she was dead. I strangled Josephine and she passed out… I thought she was dead and then I went over and put a bag on Jr.’ s head and then if I remember right, Mrs. Otero came back… she came back, and…

Waller: Sir, let me ask you about Joseph Otero Sr. He tore a hole in the bag. What did you do with him then?

Rader: I put another bag either that… I recollect, I think I put either a cloth or a T-shirt or something over his head and then another bag, and then tightened it up.

Waller: Did he subsequently die?

Rader: Well, yes, I mean I was… didn’t stay there and watch him. I was moving around the room.

Waller: So you indicated that you strangled Mrs. Otero after you had done this, is that correct?

Rader: I went back and strangled her again, it finally killed her at that time.

Waller: So this is in regards to count 2. You first of all put the bag over Joseph Otero’s head and he tore a hole in the bag, then you went ahead… did you strangle Mrs. Otero then?

Rader: First of all, Mr. Otero was strangled… a bag put over his head and strangled him. Then, I thought he was going down. Then I went over and strangled Mrs. Otero, and I thought she was down. Then I strangled Josephine and she was down and then I went over to Jr. and put the bag on his head. After that, Mrs. Otero woke back up and you know, she was pretty upset with what’s going on and at that point in time, I strangled her… the death strangle at that time.

Waller: With your hands?

Rader: No, with a cord, with a rope. Then I think at that point in time, I redid Mr. Otero and put the bag over his head, and then Jr…. oh, before that she asked me to save her son, so I actually had taken the bag off. I was really upset at that point in time. So basically, Mr. Otero was down, Mrs. Otero was down, then I went ahead and took Junior, I put another bag over his head and took him into the other bedroom.

Waller: What did you do then?

Rader: Put a bag over his head, put a cloth over his head, a T-shirt and bag so he couldn’t tear a hole in it. He subsequently died from that. I went back up, Josephine had woke back up.

Waller: What did you do then?

Rader: I took her to the basement and hung her.

Waller: You hung her in the basement?

Rader: Yes, sir

Waller: Did you do anything else at that time?

Rader: Yes, I had some sexual fantasies, but that was after she was hung.

Waller: All right, what did you do then?

Rader: I went through the house, kinda cleaned it up: It’s called the right-hand rule, you go from room to room clean things up. I think I took Mr. Otero’s watch. I guess I took a radio. I had forgot about that but apparently took a radio.

Waller: Why did you take these things?

Rader: I don’t know… I have no idea.

Waller: What happened then?

Rader: I got the keys to the car… in fact I had the keys, I think earlier before that, a way of getting out of the house, and cleaned the house a little bit, make sure everything was packed up and left through the front door. Then went over to their car and drove over to Dillons and left the car there. I eventually walked back to my car.

Waller: All right, sir, from what you have just said I take it that the facts you told me apply to all of counts l, 2, 3 and 4, is that correct?

Rader: Yes, sir.

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