The daughter of the serial killer known as "BTK" says she has forgiven him — and has sent him letters in prison.
"I sat down and wrote a six-page letter to my dad," Kerri Rawson told Inside Edition. "I filled it full of news and I told him at the end, 'I forgive you and I'm letting it go and I hope to see you in heaven someday if you ask God for forgiveness.'"
Growing up in Park City, Kansas, Rawson said she idolized her father, Dennis Rader, who took her on camping and fishing trips. He was at her side as she graduated college and walked her down the aisle on her wedding day.
"He was pretty much my best friend growing up," she said. "I did everything with my dad."
Then she discovered the truth: Her father was a monster.
She recalled how an FBI agent knocked on her door and told her: "Your dad is BTK."
BTK stands for "Bind, Torture, Kill," which was Rader's modus operandi. He murdered 10 people in Wichita, between 1974 and 1991, mostly by strangulation. At the time, terrified women across the city bought handguns for protection.
In a cold-blooded act, Rader even called 911 to report one of the killings, telling the operator: "You will find a homicide at 843 South Pershing. Nancy Fox."
Rader was finally caught in 2005 after cops secretly obtained his daughter's DNA and matched it to the BTK killer. When he was captured, he had already chosen his 11th victim and had begun to fantasize about targeting Hollywood stars, including Meg Ryan and Halle Berry.
"It took 32 years to capture him so I'm very glad they caught him and if they had to use my DNA, then let's do it," Rawson said.
Her father showed no emotion as he spoke about the killings in chilling detail in court.
"I had many ... I called them projects. They were different people around town that I followed, watched," he told the court. "I had never strangled anyone before so I really didn't know how much pressure you had to put on a person or how long it would take."
His daughter was shocked by the admissions.
"It's insane," Rawson said. "He says the most insane things about what he did. I knew it was coming, I knew he had done these things, I had read about the crimes, but hearing about it in his own words was devastating."
Rader is now 73 and remains at El Dorado Correctional Facility in Kansas, where he is serving 10 consecutive life sentences.
Rawson doesn't visit him but has sent him letters. She knows the pain of finding out the truth about her father does not compare with the hurt suffered by the victims' families.
"At some point you have to let that go, you have to let the guilt — you have survivor's guilt because you survived something and other people didn't," she said.
Read an excerpt from Kerri Rawson's new book "A Serial Killer's Daughter: My Story of Faith, Love, and Overcoming" below.
On the day the world dropped out on me, I woke up late. I had pulled my dark brown hair back in a loose scrunchie, and at noon, I was still in my mint-green fleece pajamas. They’d been a gift from my parents on Christmas morning two months earlier, when I was home in Kansas with my husband, Darian. This was our second winter living in Michigan, and I’d taken the day off from substitute teaching. I’d been staying home a lot because driving on snow and ice set me on edge.
Friday, February 25, 2005, had begun as just another cold day, with snow on the ground and in the air. About 12:30 p.m., I glanced out our picture window to see how much snow had fallen the night
I noticed a maroon car, slightly rusted and beat up, parked next to the green dumpster behind our apartment building. A man sat behind the steering wheel and seemed to be glancing up at our window on the second floor.
My internal alarms buzzed. Stranger danger.
I wasn’t expecting Darian to be home until later for lunch, if at all.
As it neared one o’clock, I looked again.
The man was still there.
All right, that does it. I’m calling Darian.
“Hey, when are you coming home for lunch?” My voice was calm enough to fool him.
“Not sure. Want me to bring you something? Taco Bell?”
“Nah.” I paused. “I’m calling because a strange old beat-up car is parked by the dumpster. A man is sitting in the car, and I swear he’s looking into our window.” I was beginning to sound a little panicky, but Darian was unfazed.
“Hmm, our window? Upstairs?”
“Yeah, looking right in it.”
“Um, that’s really not possible. But if he’s giving you the creeps or something, call the cops.”
“Nah. Well, maybe. Yeah. If he doesn’t leave soon.”
“Okay. I’ll be home in a while to eat if I can get away. Swamped here today.”
We said goodbye, and I looked again, this time peering through the corner of the blinds, like my dad might do. The car was still there. The man was not.
Now my alarms were sounding full force. My heart was speeding up; my skin was growing hot.
I was sure the man in the car was now on the other side of the door, which only had a simple lock on it, no deadbolt. The house I grew up in had deadbolts, which were always kept locked. No matter
the time of day.
I’ll pretend I’m not home.
Clank, clank, clank.
Okay. Be brave. It’s nothing.
I propped my wire-rim glasses on my head and squinted through the peephole to see a man in his fifties wearing a dress shirt. Tie. Glasses.
“Hello? Can I help you?” I called from my side of the subpar door.
“Yes. I’m with the FBI. I need to speak with you.”
Me? The FBI?
“I need to speak to you. Can you let me in?”
I’m still in my pajamas, in my bare feet.
Dad always said, “Make them show you a badge. Make them prove to you who they are.”
I opened the door a bit, putting my foot next to it. If he was FBI, he might or might not push his way in. Hard to say, based on what I’d seen in movies.
He didn’t look like FBI. He looked like someone who might do my taxes.
“So, uh, can I see your ID?”
“Yes.” He flipped opened his badge and let me study it for a bit, then asked more softly, “Can I come in? I need to talk to you.”
Okay . . . but what the heck?
“Sure. My husband will be home soon. He’s on his way. You know, for lunch?”
That’s another trick Dad taught me long ago: tell the stranger in your house someone is on the way, even if it’s not true.
“Okay, good. I need to talk to him too.”
Standing with this guy in my apartment’s foyer, I decided he seemed all right. He wasn’t even carrying a gun, just a yellow legal pad and a pencil.
So much for the movies.
“What do you need to talk to me about? You’ve got the right person, right?”
He glanced down at his notepad and then back up at me.
“Yeah, think so. Are you Kerri Rawson? Maiden name Rader? Twenty-six years old?”
“Originally from Wichita, Kansas? Your father is Dennis Rader?”
“Uh, yeah. That’s me.” My mind was scrambling. Why is this man here? What does he want?
“Have you heard of BTK?”
The room brightened then narrowed, intensified.
“Um, you mean that guy they are looking for in Wichita? In Kansas?”
I hit the panic button. “Has something happened to my grandma? Has my grandma been murdered?”
“Your grandma? No. She’s fine.”
“Grandma is frail,” I said. “Keeps falling. My folks have to help a lot. She’s been to the hospital this week. BTK murders women.”
“No. It’s your dad.”
“What is my dad?”
“He’s been arrested.”
“My dad has been what?”
“Arrested. Your dad is wanted as BTK. Wanted for murders in Kansas.”
“My dad is wha—?”
“BTK. Wanted. Arrested. Can we sit down? I need to ask you some questions.”
“My mom? Is my mom, Paula, okay? Has my mom been murdered? By my dad?”
“No. She’s all right. Safe. She’s being picked up right now for questioning.”
“Who? Who is picking her up?”
“The police. They’re questioning her. She’s okay.”
“My brother, Brian? Is my brother okay? He’s stationed at Groton, Connecticut, with the United States Navy.”
“Yes. We are notifying him right now.”
“The FBI.” The man lifted a page on his notepad. “I need to question you. It’s important. When did you say your husband will be home?”
The room was spinning.
I grabbed at the wall jutting out near the stove.
I’d heard: Your dad is BTK.
Taken from A Serial Killer’s Daughter by Kerri Rawson Copyright © 2019 by Kerri Rawson Used by permission of Thomas Nelson. www.thomasnelson.com