Unspeakable Times

Dennis Rader's Daughter Opened Up About What It's Like To Be The Child Of A Serial Killer  

Stefanie Hammond
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Imagine learning your father is a hardened, depraved criminal. Your entire life might become chaotic, especially if your dad was kind, supportive, and protective where you were concerned. Kerri Rawson went through just this situation. Her father, Dennis Rader, who gave himself the BTK nickname, hunted and massacred the people of Wichita, KS, from 1974 to 1991. Rawson talked about her experiences in a book she released in January 2019. A Serial Killer's Daughter: My Story of Faith, Love, and Overcoming, details the woman's youth, her adulthood, and the moment she realized her father was responsible for the gruesome demise of 10 people. 

According to the book, Rawson's life changed drastically and immediately in 2005 when Rader confessed, but in writing the story, she learned to cope. Though her father went from being a church president and Boy Scout volunteer to one of America's most notorious serial criminals, the author eventually experienced a spiritual transformation.

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Rawson Thought Details From The BTK Killer's Life Seemed Familiar

In early 2004, the BTK killer resurfaced after a decade-long absence. Kerri Rawson remembered reading reports about the criminal and was surprised to learn the crimes all occurred in Wichita, KS, her hometown. Rawson also felt puzzled by the information the criminal gave police. She recognized certain details from the man's life. For example, the criminal claimed to have "a cousin in Missouri and a grandfather who played the fiddle and died of lung disease." The BTK suspect also said his father died in WWII and that he always lived near railroads. 

Those details triggered something in Rawson; they felt familiar but she couldn't determine why. Authorities eventually arrested another man for the BTK crimes, though, so she quickly forgot her misgivings for a year until new evidence emerged and her father, Dennis Rader, was caught.

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She Didn't Voluntarily Report Her Father To The Authorities

Certain media outlets suggested Kerri Rawson purposefully reported her father to the local authorities. That reporting was inaccurate though. Rawson didn't know of Dennis Rader's crimes until after his capture. In truth, authorities compared DNA from a confiscated Pap smear of Rawson's to the DNA of the suspected murderer without obtaining permission.

At one point, Rawson even wrote to her father, asking him not to believe the lie that she turned him in to the police. Rader claimed he already knew his daughter wasn't responsible.

Rawson Always Thought Her Father's Safety Concerns Were Strange

In the book, Kerri Rawson noted her father was always a little uptight about security measures. A particular instance of her father's paranoia stood out in her memory though. In 1986, during a family vacation in Southern California, Dennis Rader noticed footprints on the top of a van parked under the balcony of their motel room. Convinced that someone broke into their room, Rader insisted everyone use a password to gain entry.

Additionally, Rawson's father made sure she always picked apartments in safe locations. He took precautions so intruders could never break into his daughter's house and recommended first-floor apartments for easy escapes. Rader even “rigged up a broom handle [his daughter] could wedge into [doors]" to add further security.

She Found Damning Evidence In Her Childhood Home

After Dennis Rader’s arrest, Kerri Rawson and her mother decided to fully vacate the former family home. During the move, Rawson noticed an unfamiliar book in her childhood room. As she flipped through the pages, a business card tumbled to the ground. According to her, the card featured "CliffNotes for a murder [Rader] was planning.”

She gave the evidence to FBI agents, and though no further charges were brought against her father, Rawson believed she did the right thing by calling the authorities.