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Kerri Rawson will never forget getting the knock on her door on Feb. I'm already For the first 26 years of her life, Rawson knew her father, Dennis Rader, as a family man who could be a gruff at times, but who loved her.
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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.
Then suddenly, in a matter of minutes, he was being named among the most notorious serial killers by the FBI agent standing in Rawson's new Michigan apartment. I was like, 'My father is a good guy.
For more than 30 years, the BTK killer haunted the community in and around Wichita, Kansas, torturing and murdering 10 people, including two children. He was known for taunting the Wichita community, local media and police with letters, sometimes phone calls, seeking recognition and detailing his horrific crimes.
From the moment the FBI agent broke the news to her, Rawson said it felt like her "whole life was a lie. Rader, now 73, pleaded guilty on June 27, , to 10 counts of first-degree murder.
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He is currently serving 10 consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole. Rader's killing spree began in January , when he targeted four members of the Otero family , killing Joseph and Julie Otero and two of their five children. To Rawson, her childhood seemed normal.
She said the family lived in a three-bedroom ranch house with a dog, and a treehouse her father built for her and her older brother in the backyard.
It was in April that Rader murdered his eighth victim and neighbor, Marine Hedge, who lived just six doors down. She believed her father was away on a Cub Scout camping trip with her older brother. Rader later told authorities he snuck away from the event that night to commit the murder and returned to the campsite in the morning. I started having night terrors around that time. Five years passed, and in January , Rader murdered his 10th victim, Dolores Davis.
But after that, Rader, the BTK killer , went silent.
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For years, there were no killings, no phone calls to police, no letters left around town or sent to journalists. Most in Wichita believed he just disappeared. By , when Rawson was 12 years old, her father got a job as a compliance officer in the Wichita suburb of Park City, Kansas. His office was down the hall from the Park City Police Department. Rawson went to Kansas State University, where she met her husband, Darian.
In , Rader walked his daughter down the aisle at her wedding. Then, the Wichita Eagle newspaper ran a story in about the 30th anniversary of the unsolved Otero family murders. Kelly Otis. Ramsland corresponded and met with Rader over the course of five years after he was incarcerated.
He got these dolls dressed them to look like his victims, put them into the boxes with Then began the task of linking Rader to the BTK crime spree. When the murders began in the s, DNA technology had yet to be developed.
They took her annual pap smears to get samples of her DNA for testing. I would've willingly given it. I understand why nobody approached me.
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They needed to catch my dad. They needed to be safe about it. They needed to do it quick. We had a tank. And we knew he was leaving work.
And we were going to catch him right before he got to his house. On Feb. When Rawson reached her mother on the phone the day she found out, "You could just hear her [my mother] break Rader eventually confessed. She said a pastor at their church encouraged her to write to him as he was in jail, which she did. I'm never corresponding with BTK," Rawson contined.
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I'm talking to the man that I lived with and loved for 26 years. I still love my dad today. I love the man that I knew.
I don't know a psychopath. That's not the man I knew and loved. I was done.
I wiped my hands of him for two years. Rawson said her mother was granted an emergency divorce in July We looked like a normal American family because we were a normal family. And then everything upended on us. I had my husband. I had therapy. But you're, sort of, alone.
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It's a very lonely -- worst club you could ever imagine belonging to, being the daughter of a serial killer. She said she wrote her dad in to let him know she was pregnant with her first child -- a daughter -- but then said she cut off communication with him again for five years afterward. She now also has a son in addition to her daughter. And, you know, she was, kind of, like, "Well, where's the other grandfather?
Rawson said she began writing her father again in , and still does to this day, because she has forgiven him.
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I had gone back to church. I was working on my relationship with God, working on my own heart. Rawson decided to come forward to talk about her story now, after all this time, she said, because she wants to start taking control of her story.
I'm still here. You, too, can overcome things.
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In a new book, Kerri Rawson describes her relationship with her dad today.
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