'BTK' serial killer's daughter says she, her family are 'embracing a new start' since memoir release
Kerri Rawson is the daughter of notorious "BTK" serial killer Dennis Rader.
Kerri Rawson, the daughter of the notorious "BTK" serial killer Dennis Rader, said she has been in an "extended period of trying to recover" after releasing her best-selling memoir about her struggle and personal journey after learning her father is a murderer.
"I’m in an ongoing period of trying to rest and get peace and space," Rawson told “20/20” in a recent statement. “Our family has moved, embracing a new start for all of us. I still have ongoing battles with PTSD but am hopeful that I can continue to heal with time and peace.”
In her statement, Rawson told "20/20" that she'd received a letter from her father in February, in which he told her he had “watched a lot of the interviews” she had done for her memoir, "A Serial Killer’s Daughter: My Story of Faith, Love, and Overcoming," though she added she is not currently in contact with him. She said her mother also had reached out to her to say that she had read her daughter's book.
"She said even though she knew what was coming while reading it, she didn’t want to put it down, but had to at times, due to trauma," Rawson wrote. "She was proud of me, and only wished she had known how much I was suffering... Reading my book helped her and has also helped my family continue to deal with trauma of the past 14 years."
In conjunction with the release of her memoir in January, Rawson also sat down for an extensive “20/20” interview.
Watch the full story on "20/20" THIS FRIDAY, July 26, at 9 p.m. ET on ABC.
For the first 26 years of her life, Rawson said, she knew her father as a family man who could be a gruff at times, but who loved her. She knew her father as a man who was the president of his church, a Boy Scout troop leader and an Air Force veteran; a man who was nearly 60 by that point, balding and wore glasses.
"He [the FBI agent] asked, 'Do you know who BTK is?' I was like, 'You mean the person that's wanted for murders back in Kansas?'" Rawson told “20/20” in her interview. "And then he says, 'Your dad has been arrested as BTK.'"
The "BTK" killer haunted the community in and around Wichita, Kansas, for more than 30 years, largely in the '70s and '80s, torturing and murdering 10 people, including two children. He was known for taunting the Wichita local media and police with letters and sometimes even phone calls, seeking recognition and detailing his horrific crimes.The abbreviation "BTK" stands for “Bind, Torture, Kill,” a moniker Rader had given himself years earlier indicating what he had done to his victims.
Rader's killing spree began in January 1974, when he targeted four members of the Otero family, killing Joseph and Julie Otero and two of their five children. He killed 21-year-old Kathryn Bright later that year and his next two victims, Shirley Vian and Nancy Fox, in 1977.
Rawson was born the following year.
"I'm a crime victim from before I was born," Rawson told “20/20.” "I was born in '78. ... My dad murdered a young woman when my mom was three months pregnant with me. So that makes me a crime victim because you're living with a criminal."
In April 1985, Rader murdered his eighth victim and neighbor, Marine Hedge, who lived just six doors down. Rader murdered his ninth victim, Vicki Wegerle, in September 1986. Five years passed, and then in January 1991, Rader murdered his 10th victim, Dolores Davis.
Rader, now 74, pleaded guilty on June 27, 2005, to 10 counts of first-degree murder. He is currently serving 10 consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole at the El Dorado Correctional Facility in Kansas.
Rawson's mother was granted an emergency divorce from Rader in July 2005. Rawson is emphatic that neither she nor her mother or her brother knew anything about Rader's killings before his arrest.
"If we had had an inkling that my father had harmed anyone, let anyone murdered anyone, let alone 10, we would've gone screaming out that door to the police station," Rawson said. "We were living our normal life. We looked like a normal American family because we were a normal family. And then everything upended on us."
Rawson said she has been in and out of touch with her father over the years since his 2005 arrest, but through letters. She said she still has not visited him in prison.
After the "20/20" program aired in February, DailyMail.com reported that Rader had written the website a rambling letter in which he acknowledged her book and the "20/20" interview with his daughter.
"I think that will help her heal a deep-cut wound and tell others, 'You may love and live "a wolf in sheep's clothing,"' to watch [out] for not normal behavior, or things not quite right, check that person out,” DailyMail.com said he wrote in his letter to them.
According to DailyMail.com, Rader also claimed in the same letter that he had an "11th victim chosen" that would have "become my 'retirement victim' from the SK [serial killer] world" because he was "getting too old and wanted to back off and still remain 'BTK.'"
In the same letter, according to DailyMail.com, he added that he had been possessed by two demons called "Batter" and "Factor X" when he "committed those terrible crimes."
Since her book's release and the media attention around it, Rawson said she has received "a ton of messages" from others who are battling trauma, PTSD and past abuse and found solace in her words.
"I'm glad I'm able to make some small difference for the better in other people’s lives," Rawson told "20/20" in a recent statement. "And I'm hopeful for my family, my kids and [my husband] Darian, that we will continue to find peace."