Viewers tuning into Investigation Discovery’s BTK: A Killer Among Us should be preparing for an “emotionally wrenching trip into the dark side of humanity.”
Inspired by the renewed interest in Dennis Rader prompted by the soon-to-debut book written by Kerri Rawson (his daughter), and leaning heavily on the book Bind, Torture, Kill, the Inside Story of BTK, the Serial Killer Next Door written by four Wichita Eagle journalists who covered the case, BTK: A Killer Among Us premieres on Investigation Discovery on Sunday. It tells the story of a man engulfed in a cryptic double life.
“Those who are unfamiliar with the story will get a thorough overview of Dennis Rader’s crimes and the efforts to catch him over three decades as told by the investigators who hunted him, the television and print journalists who covered him, and the people who suffered horribly because of him – including his own daughter, Kerri Rawson,” Kate Harrison, President of Cream Productions, the production company behind the documentary, told PopCulture.com. “Those who know the story will get a visceral and emotionally charged experience of it.”
Over the span of a 31-year period, Rader unleashed a wave of torment on the Wichita, Kansas, metro area, his killings of 10 people—including four people of the same family—quickly leading him to become known as the “BTK Killer,” or “Bind, Torture, Kill.” Despite his continued letters to news stations and his craving for notoriety, he managed to elude capture for more than three decades, hiding under the guise of a family man.
Along with interviewing those most deeply affected by Rader, the team behind hind the documentary had access to the “motherload” of evidence against Rader—“a massive collection of personal files, photos, drawings, letters and more that Rader kept in a filing cabinet in his office at work”—allowing the documentary to “capture the essence, specifically the fear and dread, of what it was like for Wichita” and focus “on the deep impact he had on those who were in his orbit.”
And while they had an abundance of information at their disposal, digging into it and bringing the documentary to life wasn’t an easy task, Harrison revealed.
“The strong emotion pouring out of many of our subjects all these years later, including some of the cops, is deeply affecting,” she said. “I cried a lot in the edit suite and I can’t watch the final film without tearing up every time. BTK task force investigator Kelly Otis told us a case like this sticks with you forever and I have no doubt it will.”
Acknowledging the criticism that faces many true crime documentaries due to the sensitive material they cover and their replaying of such tragic events for a TV audience, Harrison said that true crime documentaries “speak to people.”
“True crime stories, in whatever medium, speak to many people in an almost primal way in that they give us an experience of straight up good vs evil,” Harrison said. “They confirm our worst fears about how horrible humans can be to each other and at the same time give us a sense of hope and faith in our better angels… when the worst of us unleashes horror upon the world, the best of us steps up to fight it.”
Harrison explained that those working on the two-hour special took caution in the way in which they approached BTK and his crimes and “were adamant that he was not to be a character or in any way the ‘star’ of the show.”
“We are not telling his story, we are telling the story of how his brutal crimes impacted those who experienced them,” she said. “It is their trauma, their scars, their resilience that is at the forefront of our film.”
BTK: A Killer Among Us premieres on Sunday, Feb. 17 at 10 p.m. ET on Investigation Discovery.