Filming in Wichita, driving to all the key locations and deposition sites, and talking with the police, court staff and the journalists who worked the case, and with Rader’s former neighbour, I could see that he was almost the “perfect” psychopath. Think of psychopathy as a personality disorder defined by a cluster of traits centred around three different factors which, over time, have become ingrained as beliefs and behaviours.
First, is their inter-personal style, which allows the psychopath to be glib, grandiose, dishonest and manipulative; they are always arrogant and deceitful in their day-to-day dealings. Second, as far as their behaviour is concerned, psychopaths will be sensation seeking, impulsive, reckless to the point of stupidity – seemingly having no thought for their own safety. Finally, psychopaths will have defective emotional responses so that they lack remorse for their manipulative, reckless behaviours and find it impossible to truly understand why it is that you might actually find their behaviour wrong. In short, they just don’t get it; they operate in a totally different moral universe.
Rader could often be reckless in how he went about his murders – despite planning them with care; manipulative of his immediate family and of his community; arrogant in his demand for attention; and grandiose in his belief that he would not be caught and that he had somehow befriended the police officer assigned to catch him. He gave a jaw-droppingly insensitive performance in front of the judge and the families of his victims. He was at last publicly living the life less ordinary that he had always craved, and could only previously achieve in private when he killed.