BTK’s daughter speaks out for victims
Kerri Rawson, the daughter of the BTK serial killer who terrorized Wichita over 31 years, says her father made up some of the stories he tells in a new book that attempts to explain why serial killers kill.
There are several anecdotes that Rawson questions, all involving Paula Rader — her mother and Dennis Rader’s wife.
In the book, Dennis Rader told the author, forensic psychologist Katherine Ramsland, that he liked to fantasize by dressing in a woman’s slip at home and tying himself up so he could play the role of victim.
Police say Paula Rader was innocent of any wrongdoing during her husband’s crimes and was unaware of any of her husband’s crimes until after police caught him.
She has never spoken to news reporters since her husband’s arrest, and did not speak directly for this story. But those anecdotes prompted her to tell her daughter that her ex-husband made up stories.
The book, “Confession of a Serial Killer: The Untold Story of Dennis Rader, the BTK Killer,” goes on sale Aug. 30. Ramsland says Dennis Rader wrote most of the book, with her giving it a narrative structure and an academic purpose. She talked with Rader by phone once a week for a year and read more than 100 of his letters.
Ramsland arranged for Rawson to obtain an advance copy of the book.
“Dad is clearly enjoying himself here,” Rawson said. “Being interviewed. Playing up his stories, feeding his ego and his narcissism.”
Reading the book upset her for a number of reasons, among them that Rader spent a lot of time discussing his family life.
Ramsland took this in stride, saying her purpose was to give criminologists, forensic psychologists and others some first-hand insights into a serial killer’s mind, by relating the stories he tells, and how he tells them.
Rader said that twice his wife came home and found him tied up and dressed as a woman.
Rawson said she called her mother several weeks ago, after she read the two anecdotes about Paula surprising him in female clothes.
Talking with her mother about her father is always problematic, Rawson said.
“Mom is horrified by what my Dad did to those people.
“So when I asked her about these stories, I said, ‘Hey, did you ever catch him dressed up like that?’ And she got real quiet. And after a few seconds she said, very quiet, “No, that never happened.’
“So I thought, well, it’s a terrible thing, what happened, so maybe Mom is just pushing it down in her memory. And when this supposedly happened, Mom’s got two little kids to raise, and is financially dependent on Dad.
“So I said to her, ‘Well, Dad is pretty clear about it in what he wrote – that he dressed up in women’s slips, and in bondage.’ And Mom said, ‘No. No, no, no. That wasn’t true. It did not happen.’ ”
Rader also claimed that his wife found a draft of a BTK poem written after he murdered Shirley Vian, which was intended for the police.
“Shirleylocks! Shirleylocks! Wilt thou be mine. Thou shalt not screem ...” it began.
“My wife actually found my drafts on Shirleylocks,” Rader told Ramsland. “I was working on them in the living room one evening. She came home, so I quickly stuffed them in the pocket of the easy chair. I forget about them. She later, while cleaning, asked about them.”
Rader says he told Paula that he and other students were studying BTK in a college class he was attending at Wichita State University. “She didn’t ask anything else about it.”
Paula says this story is also made up, Rawson said.
“Mom is not the type to lie,” Rawson said. “Dad has told many lies. He said different things when he was arrested, different things when he was in court, different things after he went to prison.”
“He’s a psychopath,” she said. “You can’t take anything he says as truth.”
Police detectives also say much of what Rader says in the book are lies or exaggerations stemming from Rader living constantly in a fantasy world.
“I’ve talked to Paula several times,” said Tim Relph, one of the Wichita police detectives who captured Dennis Rader. “Paula is a good and decent person. If she had seen anything like that book says, she’d have told us. So if Paula says it didn’t occur – it didn’t occur.”
“She’s been downplayed by some people as some sort of ignorant Christian person,” Relph added. “But her only mistake in life was to care for Dennis Rader.”
Rawson grew up with her father, her mother and her brother, Brian, in Park City, where Dennis Rader worked as a code enforcement officer.
‘Make of it what you will’
When asked in a letter from The Eagle whether he’d made up stories, Rader declined to answer, in a polite reply. Perhaps he and his family could settle this question in letters to each other, he wrote. “Not sure how Dr. Ramsland addresses this,” he wrote.
Ramsland said it’s possible Rader made up or exaggerated stories.
“It may be that it didn’t happen, but in my world it doesn’t matter,” she said. “What matters is how he tells how it happened.
“We also know that each person who comes to the material will have their own memories, their own interpretations, their reason for why they want it to be a certain way.
“And that’s OK. I’m not going to defend that it’s the truth, but to show that this is how he said it – and you can make of it what you will.”
Another story Rawson found in the book was her father describing the sexual high he achieved while strangling Nancy Fox in 1977 – and how he says he debated afterward what to do with jewelry he stole from Fox.
He thought about giving the jewelry to Paula.
“I thought, no, I’m not going to give it to my wife, that’s too cruel,” Rader said in the book. “I thought about giving it to my daughter once. And I maybe did give it to my daughter. But I don’t think so. I think I still have it.”
Rawson was horrified.
“Thanks so much, Dad,” she said. “He gave me some of Fox’s jewelry? Crap! As far as we know, we don’t have any jewelry from murdered people. But we don’t know for sure.”
Rader says in the book that he has little or no relationship to his once-close family.
“Although I’m not dead,” Rader wrote Ramsland, “to the living world and my family I’m a lost soul.”
Some quotes in this story were excerpted from “Confession of a Serial Killer: The Untold Story of Dennis Rader, the BTK Killer” by Katherine Ramsland, published by ForeEdge, an imprint of University Press of New England.