ID & Cream Delve Deeper into BTK Story


Dennis Rader—better known as the serial killer BTK (for Bind, Torture, Kill)—created a wake of terror that stretched for three decades, before he was finally captured and incarcerated. The story of the father and church leader, a sadistic serial murderer who stalked and tortured his victims, has made international headlines and captivated public interest, and Cream Productions took a deep dive into the legacy in the two-hour BTK: A Killer Among Us, produced for Investigation Discovery (ID).

“We entered development on this project with ID when we had researched the story and discovered that his daughter, Kerri Rawson, had never had the chance to tell her story,” Kate Harrison Karman, executive producer of the series and president of Cream Productions, tells TV Real Weekly. “We immediately realized that this was the access point and worked hard to gain her trust and ultimately give her the platform to tell her truth. Her life was forever changed and memories destroyed when she found out her father’s true identity, and we’re grateful she trusted us with her story.”

Cream’s doc brought two unique approaches to the BTK saga, which is often only shown with the most sensational aspects of the case. “We decided to, as much as possible, focus on the impact of BTK’s crimes on those in his orbit, from victims’ families to law enforcement and journalists, and tell their stories from an emotional perspective as much as a narrative one,” says Jeffrey Hirschfield, series producer. “Secondly, we played it as the real-time, nerve-shredding mystery it was for 30 years, rather than give the killer’s identity away in the first moments. We wanted viewers to actually feel what it was like to have a long-running mystery killer in their midst.”

The series originally aired on ID early last year to much interest and success. “Clearly, viewers responded to both the confounding mystery and intense hunt for BTK as we presented it, as well the harrowing emotional journeys of our interview subjects,” Hirschfield says. “No doubt the key draw was our interview with Kerri Rawson, BTK’s daughter, whose story of growing up with a serial killer for a father has to be seen and heard to be believed.”

Now, ID and Cream are bringing new insights to BTK: A Killer Among Us with an extended version, BTK: Chasing a Serial Killer. “BTK was a prolific communicator with the media and authorities; the extended version includes more of these highly disturbing communications, as well as more stories about the twists and turns in the effort to capture him and his impact on his victims and the community, more interviews with his daughter and analysis of his pathology by a forensic psychologist who communicated with him for five years after his imprisonment,” says Hirschfield. “There’s also a trove of new and extended archive materials. It’s a deeper dive down the darkest of rabbit holes.”

“To craft the extended version, all done remotely because of COVID, we first went back over our dozens of hours of interviews, made selects, sourced new archives, opened up the original film and inserted all of the new materials where appropriate,” Hirschfield continues. “One of the challenges was that the new additions had to be evenly distributed over the three distinct and precisely timed hours. We even constructed a few drama scenes from stock footage that work very well. We also added new music, recorded new voice-over, recolored and remixed the entire film.”

As the true-crime genre has evolved with its audience, Cream has kept pace with new doc techniques. “Viewers are sophisticated and informed and are looking to true-crime documentaries to tell them things they wouldn’t otherwise know,” Harrison Karman says. “In most cases, this comes with unique access and information. In the case of BTK, this was our access to Dennis Rader’s daughter, Kerri. She brings a perspective to this horrific story that had not yet been told.”

With this unique access, BTK: A Killer Among Us and its extended version fit in line with the types of shows and insights that Cream wants to offer to the marketplace. “BTK’s narrative is insightful and meticulously researched,” Harrison Karman says. “Cream prides itself on telling true and impactful stories by engaging the audience with high-production-value visuals and immersive storytelling. BTK is a perfect example of this.”