“The Hunt for the BTK Killer,” the 2005 TV movie now available on DVD. It tells the story of Dennis L. Rader (Gregg Henry). In June 2005, Radar pleaded guilty to the murders of 10 people in the Wichita, Kansas area beginning in 1974 and ending in 1991. It begins with his court appearance in June of 2005 when he announced that he was pleading guilty to all ten murders.
The movie then goes back to one year before and the 30th anniversary of the first confirmed BTK murders. Rader then sends a letter to the Wichita Eagle newspaper, along with photos he took of a murder he committed and a victim’s drivers’ license. This is reported to Detective Jason Magida (Robert Forster), who vows to find the killer at any cost.
At this point, the movie alternates between the events that took place in 2004 in regards to Magida’s investigation, and in the courtroom where Rader is describing the murders.
Eventually, with the help of the media, Magida and the Wichita Police Department are able to track down Rader, thanks in part to various clues he sends to them throughout 2004. It culminates in February 2005 when, thanks to a floppy disk Rader sent to them, the police are able to track down the suspected serial killer. Once in custody, Magida conducts an interrogation, in which Radar admits that he is the killer and goes on to describe the manner in which he selected and murdered his victims.
Once the trial wraps up, the viewers learn that Rader received 10 life sentences for all of the murders he admitted to. He will be eligible for parole in 2180.
Rader is a real person who pleaded guilty to ten murders over the course of almost twenty years. Although he did communicate with authorities back in the 1970’s, he ceased these communications until the 30-year anniversary in 2004. Robert Beattie is also a real-life individual. However, there is very little evidence to show whether Detective Jason Magida is a real individual or not.
The movie stays true to the real story. The victims’ real names are used and the names of most of the individuals involved are real. The testimony read by Henry as Rader uses almost the exact same words used by Rader himself in court. The phone call Rader made after killing one woman is verbatim, as are the police chief’s words when describing Rader’s capture. Henry himself looks like he could be Dennis Rader’s twin brother and he even has Rader’s voice and accent down perfectly.
However, the names of some people and places have been changed. Not every murder victim is mentioned.
The DVD special features also leave a lot to be desired. It has everything the usual DVD has, but, other than that, is disappointing. Perhaps Sony believed that since it was a made-for-TV movie, viewers wouldn’t have wanted special features.
Nevertheless, “The Hunt for the BTK Killer” is a very interesting movie. It’s not very long, only 88 minutes, and except for a few scenes, it isn’t very violent either. It is very faithful to the events that really happened to the residents of Wichita.