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ID Investigation 'My Father BTK': How Kerri Rawson dealt with father's serial killer past through letters

Rawson's father is Dennis Rader, more popularly known as the BTK killer who terrorized Wichita residents for decades, from 1974 to 1991
Kerri Rawson (ABC)
Kerri Rawson (ABC)

In 2005, Dennis Rader was arrested in Park City and booked on suspicion of ten counts of first-degree murder for the killings of Joseph Otero, Julie Otero, Josephine Otero, Joseph Otero Jr., Kathryn Bright, Shirley Vian Relford, Nancy Fox, Vicki Wegerle, Marine Hedge and Dolores Davis.

The victims were better known as those who were targeted by the BTK killer, who terrorized Wichita residents for decades, from 1974 to 1991. He gave himself the nickname of BTK, which he said is what he would do: Bind, torture, and kill his victims. More than anyone else, his own family was shocked to find out that Rader was indeed the BTK killer. Rader's daughter, Kerri Rawson was told later by the FBI that her father was arrested in connection with the BTK killings, but for Rawson, who grew up loving her father, none of it made sense.

After Rader was arrested, Rawson struggled to connect the dots between her father and him being a serial killer as the two began a correspondence. In ABC's 'My Father BTK', which is airing on Investigation Discovery tonight, Rawson admitted that she still receives letters from him to this day.

BTK killer Dennis Rader stands for a mug shot released February 27, 2005, in Sedgwick County, Kansas (Source: Sedgwick County Sheriff's Office via Getty Images)

They exchanged a number of handwritten notes in the months leading up to his plea. The two reportedly wrote about Rader’s court proceedings, reading the Bible, and their family. 

"I wasn’t corresponding with BTK. I’m never corresponding with BTK," she explained. "I’m talking to my father. I’m talking to the man that I lived with and loved for 26 years." She added, "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."

Some of the letters have since been published in Rawson's book, 'A Serial Killer's Daughter: My Story of Faith, Love, and Overcoming', which was published last year. In one note sent in 2005, he states that she will "always be his baby girl."

He wrote, "You will always be my baby girl I raised right-proud-independent and now is a grown adult with many years of love to give. Life before the arrest was a good time and the dark side took me away." In another letter, again dated to 2005, Rader asked about Rawson's husband, warning them to "be extra careful due to all my crimes." He added, "I would wish no harm to you but some crazy individual might try something."

In 2007, Rawson cut off contact with him - it was only five years later that she found that she could forgive him. Rawson has since been in touch with Rader again and remains in regular contact. 

Dennis Rader, the BTK Killer escorted by police (Getty Images)

In 'My Father BTK', she states, “It was a very long journey… There was a lot of hard work in me, with faith. I had gone back to church. I was working on my relationship with God, working on my own heart.” She added, “I realized I was rotting within. I didn’t just forgive my father for him. I had to do it for myself.”

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. It was in April 1985 that Rader murdered his eighth victim and neighbor, Marine Hedge, who lived just six doors down. Less than two years later, in September 1986, Vicki Wegerle became Rader’s ninth victim. Five years passed and in January 1991, Rader murdered his tenth victim, Dolores Davis.

'20/20 on ID Investigates: My Father BTK' will air on Investigation Discovery on May 30 at 9/8c. This special is a part of ID PRESENTS: NINE AT 9, with new premieres running nightly at 9 pm ET on Investigation Discovery.