THE SINS OF THE FATHER
In my award-winning suspense novel, LIKE FATHER, LIKE DAUGHTER, Libby wakes up to find her husband murdered in the bed next to her. When police arrive at the scene, they quickly realize that she’s the daughter of the infamous I-75 Strangler, who is now service several life sentences in prison. So I wondered…what would it be like to have a serial killer in the family?
When we hear about serial killers in the media, we become fixated on the monster and the horrific crimes they committed. We often forget about their victims. Beyond that, we forget that there are other victims that are rarely mentioned, if ever – their children.
Take for example, Kerri Rawson, daughter of the BTK Killer, Dennis Raider. She and her mother had no idea Dennis was a cold-blooded torturer and murderer until the FBI showed up at her house and told her and her husband everything. She claims she has coped with her father’s notoriety and the pain that comes with being the daughter of a serial killer with the help of her church and a psychologist (much like Libby in LIKE FATHER, LIKE DAUGHTER).
Melissa Moore is the daughter of Keith Jessperson (aka The Happy Face Killer) who murdered at least eight women in the early nineties while working as a long-haul truck driver (again, like Libby’s father in LIKE FATHER, LIKE DAUGHTER). He was known for mailing letters to the police and media detailing his crimes and signing them with a happy face. Chilling, but true. The truth came out when Jessperson turned himself in when Melissa was only 15. While she knew nothing about his crimes, she did tell BBC reporters that she knew something was “dark” about him. Moore wrote a book called “Shattered Silence: The Untold Story of a Serial Killer’s Daughter.” She later went on to host a television series called The Monster in My Family (available on Netflix).
The Green River Killer (Gary Ridgeway) may be one of the most well-known American serial killers. He is infamous for killing at least 49 women in Washington State before being captured in 2001. His son, Matthew Ridgeway, has said that his father (though absent mostly due to divorce from Matthew’s mother) was a “normal” dad and that he showed up often to sports matches and even taught his son how to ride a bike. Eerily, it has been said that Gary Ridgeway showed victims a picture of his son just prior to killing them, in an effort to calm their fears and make them feel at ease. Matthew went on to serve in the US Marine Corp. He later married and settled in California.
Some children of serial killers, however, do not fare so well. Take, for example, Yury Odnacheva, son of Andrei Chikatilo, arguably the most prolific serial killer ever identified. Chikatilo was convicted of sexually assaulting and murdering over 50 people, though he claimed to have killed many more than that. His son, Yury (who took on his mother’s surname after Chikatilo’s arrest), wound up having several run-ins with the law, including convictions for theft and extortion. In 2009, he was arrested and convicted of attempted murder for stabbing a man nine times.
Though each of these individuals has reacted differently to learning that their father was a notorious serial killer, they have one thing in common. They all have to live with the knowledge that their father killed countless innocent victims and that the man they knew as “daddy” no longer exists. They’ve each felt the sting of losing a father and having to accept the fact that the man who raised them is responsible for taking away other people’s mothers and fathers from them.
When I wrote Like Father, Like Daughter, I had seen an episode of The Monster in My Family and it got me wondering…what would it be like to have a serial killer for a father? Would you turn out to be just like them? Or was there a chance you could go on to live a normal life, despite living in the shadow of someone notorious for committing horrific acts of violence? I chose to take it a step further and have my main character, Libby Carter, charged with the murder of her own husband. In my mind, if an individual was charged with murder and then police learned that their father was a convicted serial killer, odds are they would be scrutinized even more thoroughly. I would think police would be disinclined to believe them and that they would automatically assume that they were just like their father. Hence the title, LIKE FATHER, LIKE DAUGHTER.
BIO: Christina Kaye is the award-winning author of dark, twisty novels. She was born and raised in Lexington, Kentucky. Some of her favorite things include: sweet tea, dragonflies, books, puppies, and thunderstorms. Christina lives in Nicholasville, Kentucky with her two teenage daughters, an extremely intelligent Aussie, and a very fat cat.