UnSubs Central

Your stop for killer book and film reviews about the world's most notorious serial murderers

 

A Serial Killer’s Daughter: My Story of Faith, Love, and Overcoming
By Kerri Rawson
Nelson Books
2019

 

The first time I found that writing could be therapeutic, was the death of my mother’s husband. He was 52 years old. He was a sweet, kind, and gentle man. I worked in a hospital and had seen people who had passed on, but never had I seen one laying on my mother’s living room floor and never had I cleaned the carpet afterward. Time progressed, but those flashing images continued to be stuck in my mind in a constant barrage that I couldn’t break free from. It was only after an emotional writing session where I documented every painful moment, that I was able to dislodge those images and move forward.

For Kerri Rawson, daughter of Dennis Rader, otherwise known as the serial killer BTK, writing became not only therapeutic, but a necessary way to manage both her grief and her Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

For Rawson, it was February 25, 2005 when her world forever changed. It was the day that marked everything before and everything after. Her before world consisted of growing up in Kansas, in a normal middle-class family, her after world seemed to singularly identify her as the daughter of a serial killer.

Rawson relies heavily on the work of forensic psychologist Katherine Ramsland, known for her in-depth correspondence and discussions with Dennis Rader, as summarized in what she calls a “guided autobiography,” Confessions of a Serial Killer: The Untold Story of Dennis Rader, the BTK Killer, as well as from the Pulitzer Prize winning reporter, Roy Wenzl, who wrote one of the definitive books about Rader, Blind, Torture, Kill: Inside the Story of BTK, the Serial Killer Next Door.⁠1 Rawson’s need to research her own life, is a nightmarish scenario. Imagine having to read books and articles to learn about your life. In doing so, though, she wins over the immense pain she experienced during the predictable media onslaught after her father’s arrest. The pressures of a 24 hour news cycle, the desire to get the story, the desire to respond to a thirsty public desperate for information, made her and her family prisoners at the time.

Even more painful, were questions about whether the family knew about her father’s crimes. Anti-social traits are easily obvious in hindsight, but instances of irritability, impulsivity, and narcissistic behavior are not always an indicator of an antisocial personality disorder. What is clear from the book, is the fact that Dennis Rader became adept at compartmentalizing his life. His disregard for moral values and his lack of conscience were carefully hidden behind a facade of church activities and the appearance of being a normal husband, father, brother, and son.

For Rawson, the slow process of unfolding the massive ball of confusing emotions would not be easy, and in fact would be excruciatingly painful, made most difficult by the reality that she was suffering from post traumatic stress. With grief that didn’t fall neatly into stages, her PTSD would manifest itself in night terrors that plagued her for years.⁠2 And while mourning is a part of life, it is also true that mourning is not always for the dead. On that February day, Kerri Rawson began her long journey of mourning the loss of a life she once knew as well as grieving the loss of the father she once knew; she says, “I loved the dad I knew.”⁠3 The process of mourning, though, would also become the source of  “guilt and shame” as Rawson questioned whether she should be afforded the right to such grief.⁠4 In light of the overwhelming pain her father had caused his victims and their families, whom she also grieved for, was it right for her to feel anything but hatred? Was there room for anything else?

For Rawson, healing came through her faith. Her mantra, “Love Never Fails,” has been a guiding force. That, and leaning on her ultra supportive husband Darian, all rounded out by music soundtracks that allow her to shelter herself, if only for brief, but necessary, times of needed respite.

Rawson doesn’t understand her father, doesn’t excuse his actions, but forgives him and when she does so, she is clear that she does it for herself.⁠5 “There were no excuses for what my father had done. He was responsible for all of it. He chose this for himself—chose to harm others.”⁠6 By finally taking control of the one thing she can take control of, she frees herself and allows for the opportunity to begin the healing process and to begin to move forward in the only way she knows how. Maybe most importantly, though, is it’s in the way that works for her.

 

Footnotes
1 Ramsland, Katherine. Confessions of a Serial Killer: The Untold Story of Dennis Radar, the BTK Killer. (Lebanon, NH: ForeEdge, 2016).
2 Rawson, Kerri. A Serial Killer’s Daughter: My Story of Faith, Love, and Overcoming. (Nashville, Tennessee: Nashville, Tennessee, 2019), 272.
3 Rawson, 181.
4 Rawson, 198.
5 Rawson, 317.
6 Rawson, 173.

February 11, 2019

I started this journey on June 28, 2018. Since then, I’ve reviewed 7 books, 3 films, 1 documentary, and 1 short story about the serial killer known as the Zodiac. I provided some history about the Zodiac crimes and had a Contest Give Away for Michael Ferguson and Mike Morford’s fantastic book, “The Case of the Zodiac Killer.” Maybe most proudly, I focused on those killed and those who survived, with the hope of giving some insight into who they were beyond the label of “victim.”

There was so much I didn’t cover though. I could have reviewed the films Dirty Harry or Bullitt, both of which had a main character inspired by Dave Toschi, the San Francisco Police Detective who investigated the murder of Paul Stine. Or, “This is the Zodiac Speaking,” a quirky short story by Chuck Klosterman. Or, “Zodiac Code: Solved! The Confessions of the Zodiac,” by Michael D. Sechrest. Or, “This is the Zodiac Speaking: Into the Mind of a Serial Killer,” by Michael D. Kelleher and David Van Nuys. The amount of Zodiac related material is daunting. At least it felt that way as I first began planning my approach to this particular serial killer.

I cannot emphasize what a rewarding journey it has been so far. I’ve been moved by the tragic murders of innocent victims and the pain endured by their family and friends. I’ve been awed by the true crime community and thrilled to interact with genuinely like-minded people over social media (the amount of quality podcasts and blogs out there is staggering). In a very real way, I wish this blog did not exist, in that I wish serial killers did not exist and I wish true crime did not exist. Instead of looking away though, I have chosen to inform myself while shedding light on stories that need telling, evaluating criminals, their crimes, and the investigations, all the while as I dig deeper into the culture that has surrounded the true crime phenomenon.

Most importantly, I need to send a huge THANK YOU to all who have joined me!

In the following weeks, I’ll be providing some one-off blogs. I’ll be doing special book review for “A Serial Killer’s Daughter,” by Kerri Rawson, Dennis Rader’s (also known as BTK) daughter. I’ll be reviewing the cult film Peeping Tom as well as Michelle McNamara’s book, “I’ll Be Gone Before Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer.” Lastly, I will be delving into my Scream obsession by reviewing all four films. All this, before a short break to start research on my next Serial Killer series…more information to come!

Until then, feel free to catch up on my other posts in the Zodiac series, or catch me on Instagram and Twitter!

Peace,
Michelle