Kerri Rawson was 26 years old when her father was apprehended by police and confessed to brutally murdering 10 people, including two children, between 1974 and 1991. Our Kerri Rawson wiki delves into the traumatic impact being the BTK killer’s daughter had on Rawson’s psyche and her life as well as how she’s learned to cope with the fact that her father is a serial killer.
Who Is the BTK Killer?
Arguably one of the most notorious, bloodthirsty, and narcissistic murderers of the 20th century, Dennis Rader, also known as the BTK (bind, torture, kill) killer, seemed like a perfectly normal family man.
|About Kerri Rawson|
|Known As||Kerri Rader|
|Spouse||Darian Rawson (2003-current)|
|Parents||Dennis Rader (BTK Killer), Paula Dietz|
He was married with two kids and enjoyed a respectable career working for ADT Security Services for a number of years. Also president of his church and a Boy Scout leader, Rader escaped his family’s suspicion until 2004, when he was getting ready to strike again and murder his 11th potential victim. Only then would BTK’s daughter find out his true identity.
Who Is BTK’s Daughter, Kerri Rawson?
By the time Kerri Rawson (nee Rader) was born in 1978, her father had already murdered seven people. This included four members of the Otero family—Julie Otero (the matriarch), Joseph Otero (the patriarch), 11-year-old Josephine Otero, and nine-year-old Joseph Otero Jr.
But by all accounts, it seemed as if Dennis Rader was a normal guy. Born in 1945, he married Paula Dietz in 1971 and they had two children together.
Their firstborn, son Brian Rader, was born in 1975, just one year after BTK’s first murder.
Reflecting on her childhood in Wichita, Kansas, Rawson says she was a tomboy who thought of herself as being “pretty strong and tough.” At least, that’s what her father raised her to be. Though she suffered from night terrors, she believed they were just an unpleasant part of childhood. Something she’d grow out of eventually.
She also recalls that her father was a “boring,” average person, in the sense that there was nothing remarkable to make him stand out.
He enjoyed teaching her and her brother Brian how to hunt and fish or garden. Rader would take his kids camping, too. He also liked just taking them out for long walks. All simple stuff an average dad might like to do.
He was also an incredibly active member of the community. In addition to being a Boy Scout leader, Rader was president of the local church council at the Christ Lutheran Church. He made certain that his daughter Kerri and the rest of the family attended every Sunday.
Her Father Wasn’t Who She Thought He Was
It wasn’t until many years later, when the police discovered the true identity of the BTK killer, that the wholesome and innocent family man facade was stripped away.
Even after receiving confirmation that her father was the murderer who had terrorized the state of Kansas all those years, Kerri Rawson still had a hard time reconciling that evil creature with the man she knew and loved.
“Nobody wants to believe that their father could be capable of such monstrous things,” she said during an interview.
Understandably, it took her a long time to accept that her father was responsible for murdering all those people.
There were a few times throughout the investigation that the case went cold and investigators were at a loss in terms of where the BTK killer was. After he murdered jewelry store worker Nancy Fox in 1977, he seemed to have disappeared from Wichita altogether and no one knew why.
During this time, Dennis Rader had moved his family to Park City, which is a much smaller suburb of Wichita. That’s where Kerri Rawson and Brian Rader grew up.
Rawson went to Kansas State University, where she met her future husband in 1998. Kerri was a junior in college and Darian Rawson was a freshman. They dated for three years and were married in 2003.
Dennis Rader helped the newlyweds move to their home in Detroit, Michigan, where Kerri immediately started working as a substitute teacher in the fall of 2004.
Dealing with the Aftermath of Her Father’s Arrest
One fateful day in 2004, an FBI agent knocked on Kerri Rawson’s door and changed the course of her and her husband’s life forever.
“I had a knock on my door and I barely opened the door because my dad had always taught me to be weary [sic] of strangers, be careful when, like, people try to come into your house,” Kerri said.
She continued to explain what happened that day. “He said, ‘Are you Kerri Rawson? Is your dad Dennis Rader? Are you from Wichita?’ And I was like ‘yes.’ And then he’s like, ‘your dad is BTK.’”
At that moment, Rawson said she went into complete and utter shock to the extent that she had a hard time understanding what was happening. It was like, in one fell swoop, everything she ever knew about her father and her entire life was just swept away from under her.
She described the whole ordeal by saying, “It was just very intense. Like you’re out of your body. You’re just in shock and you’re just confused. Nothing’s right and everything’s just crazy.”
Naturally, Kerri Rawson has received a great deal of public scrutiny for failing to recognize signs of her father’s dark secrets sooner. It’s important to remember, though, that she and Brian were just young kids when the majority of these murders took place.
Looking back, she recalls that perhaps there were a few characteristics that should have raised a few red flags, but she didn’t think twice about them as a kid because they seemed normal.
For instance, her father didn’t allow his children to go through his belongings and would get angry at them when they tried. This seems pretty normal; most parents probably wouldn’t like their children rummaging through their things.
Neither the Rader children nor Paula ever seemed to question this rule until after Dennis Rader’s dark secrets were brought to light. As it turned out, Dennis liked to keep mementos from his crimes and hide them around the house, some of them in plain sight.
Rawson also remembered the mysterious disappearance of their Park City neighbor, Marine Hedge, who lived six doors down. It was a tempestuous night in April 1985 and Kerri Rawson was just six years old.
Fifty-three-year-old Hedge had gone missing, and Kerri’s father wasn’t at home. “It was stormy, and I didn’t want to sleep by myself. My mom let me in her bed—that’s how I know he was gone.”
Hedge’s body was eventually discovered in a ditch. She was BTK’s eighth victim.
Kerri Rawson’s DNA Was Used to Arrest Her Father
In the mid-2000s, after 30 years of living a private life, Dennis Rader decided to reemerge from the shadows.
Rawson suspects empty nest syndrome was the catalyst.
“I think he was just bored and wanted to play games,” she said. “I was grown and out of the house; my brother was in the Navy. I think he felt like we were safe from whatever he was doing.”
Rader planted a Barbie doll that had been bound and gagged in very much the same way as Nancy Fox in a local park where it was found by a man walking his dog. The doll had a copy of Fox’s driver’s license tied around its legs. He also sent graphic Polaroid pictures of her deceased body after he’d strangled her and ejaculated on her in her own bed.
Even though DNA was ineffective in the 1970s and wouldn’t become a prominent form of crime scene investigation until the late 1980s, the detectives working the case at that time had meticulously stored the evidence they gathered.
Rader also went to a local Home Depot and left a cereal box with the letters “BTK” in the bed of a local employee’s pickup truck. The man thought it was just garbage someone threw in his truck, and discarded it. But after police started asking the public for help with the case again, one of the man’s coworkers realized it might have been evidence and turned it over to the police.
Fortunately, Rader was caught on the store’s surveillance footage. Although the footage was grainy and it was impossible to make out his face, they were able to tell that he was driving a black Jeep Cherokee.
Rader had started communicating with police again after decades of radio silence. As it turned out, the cereal box contained a letter asking if they’d be able to find out who he was if he sent them a floppy disk. He also instructed police to respond to his question using a newspaper ad with the code phrase, “Rex, it’ll be OK.” The police did as they were instructed.
Two weeks later, Rader, who was unknown to the police at the time, sent a package containing some of his victims’ jewelry and a purple floppy disk to a local news outlet. The broadcasters turned the package over to the police.
Computer experts were immediately able to find the information they needed on the disk. They traced it back to a user named “Dennis” at the Christ Lutheran Church, which was the last place the floppy disk had been used. All it took was a quick Google search for police to find out who Dennis was.
Detectives found Dennis Rader’s Park City address on the web and then drove past his house. In the driveway, they found the same black Jeep Cherokee that appeared in the surveillance video at Home Depot. But they needed more concrete evidence to make an arrest.
After finding out that Rader had two children and that one of them was a student at Kansas State University, they were able to obtain a warrant for Kerri Rawson’s medical records there. Rawson had recently gone to the health center at her school to undergo a Pap smear. Detectives used the DNA from that examination and found a filial match with the preserved ejaculate that was found on Nancy Fox in 1977.
Rader was arrested on February 25, 2005.
Dennis Rader Pleads Guilty to All of His Crimes
After Rader was taken into police custody, officers spent a grueling 30 hours interviewing him. During that time, he described each and every single one of his crimes in graphic and gruesome detail.
According to detectives, he showed absolutely no remorse for the things he’d done. To him, it was like a game for which he wanted the notoriety. He wanted to get the credit for all of the horrible things he’d done and he hated the fact that, after 30 years of living practically incognito, people were beginning to forget about him.
“He was quiet, and then the 30th anniversary of the Otero murders was in 2004,” said Rawson, speculating on whether her father may have wanted to get caught. “There was a special [about BTK] on the news. We know that my dad watched that special and would have read the paper.”
The Wichita Eagle also published a special report on the killings that year.
Ultimately, Rawson imagines Rader “stumbled” into getting caught.
“You’ve got to realize, you’re dealing with a very twisted, insane person. It’s not like our rational minds can rationalize what my father is thinking or doing. “
At that point, there was an entire generation of people who had never heard of BTK. For Rader, this was unacceptable…and it was that narcissism that would eventually lead to his arrest, police say.
As difficult as it was for his family to accept and understand what he’d done, the glaring evidence was hard to ignore. Police obtained warrants to search the Rader home. There, they recovered all kinds of evidence that had previously eluded investigators, including items that had belonged to his victims that he’d hidden all over the house and under the floorboards.
Dennis Rader is currently serving his time at the El Dorado Correctional Facility, where he’s living in solitary confinement. He is only allowed out of his cell for one hour a day to shower or exercise.
Kerri Rawson Is a Published Author
In 2019, Kerri Rawson published a book entitled A Serial Killer’s Daughter: My Story of Faith, Love, and Overcoming. She wrote the book on the advice of her therapist, who thought that writing about her experiences and the trauma of discovering that her father was a serial killer would help Rawson heal. The book is currently a No. 1 New York Times Best Seller.
Rawson lives with anxiety, depression, and PTSD as a result of the horrific discovery.
Neither she nor her mother or brother ever attended any of Rader’s court appearances. Following his plea and sentencing in August 2005, she was determined to banish him from her life for good.
She did, however, write him a letter in 2007, announcing that she was pregnant with her first child, a daughter.
After cutting off communication with her father for a number of years, Rawson decided to start writing to him in prison again in 2012. By then, she was a mother of two, and her oldest had begun to ask questions about her “other grandfather.” Rawson was also beginning her journey towards forgiveness.
BTK in Pop Culture
In 2014, a Stephen King-penned film called A Good Marriage was released, starring Anthony LaPaglia and Joan Allen. When King admitted that the lead character, a serial killer who had hides his homicidal proclivities from his wife, was inspired by Dennis Rader, Kerri Rawson spoke out publicly for the first time.
“He’s exploiting my father’s 10 victims and their families,” Rawson told the Wichita Eagle at the time, charging that an apparent BTK movie would only feed her father’s ego.
“Great—now Stephen King is giving my father a big head. Thanks for that. That’s the last thing my dad should get.”
Rawson’s criticism broke the nine years of silence held by her family since Dennis Rader’s 2005 conviction. She would go on to develop a more open relationship with the media, granting print and television interviews with news outlets about her father.
At the end of the day, Rawson suffered a major loss not too dissimilar to the families of her father’s victims. Even after all these years, it’s still incredibly difficult for her to accept the fact that her father did the horrific things he did.
After years of hiding from media scrutiny, Kerri Rawson now channels her experiences into doing good and trying to help other victims in similar situations.