What Happens to the Children of Famous Criminals?
Everyone thinks the story ends when bad guys are sent behind bars, but what happens to the children of famous criminals? The truth is heartbreaking.
In most true crime books, or movies about serial killers, the story ends when the criminal gets sent to prison. For most people, this is true. The perp will no longer be claiming the lives of innocent victims, robbing them, or otherwise harming innocent people. Their reign of terror is done for the most part.
But, for the family members of the criminal in question, the story is only beginning. They no longer have a normal life; they're now forever branded as the relatives of someone notorious. People will see them as complicit, guilty by association.
Life forever changes when you discover that you're one of the many children of famous criminals. Here's what happened to the kids of famous serial killers, white collar criminals, and war criminals.
Dennis Rader was one of the most prolific serial killers in modern history. Rader was known for binding his victims, torturing them, killing them, and then taking a grisly trophy as a way to savor the murder. In total, he killed 10 adults and 2 children.
When he was sentenced to 10 lifetimes in prison, he left behind a daughter. Kerri Rader, who changed her name to Kerri Rawson, has only recently broken her silence about being the daughter of a serial killer.
She has been trying to live a normal life ever since he was arrested. She has since refused to talk to her father, and has openly decried her relationship with the BTK Killer.
Keith Jesperson was also known as "the Happy Face Killer," a murderer who left a serial killer calling card of a smiley face drawn near the victim. Like Dennis Rader, when Jesperson was arrested, he left behind a daughter to deal with the fallout from his arrest.
Unlike Kerri, Melissa Moore has been very vocal about the trials and tribulations that occur when you're one of the few people whose parents murdered others. She has appeared on Dr. Phil to discuss what life is like knowing that her parent killed innocent people.
Since then, Moore has become a major advocate for her father's victims, as well as other children of famous criminals. She hopes to help others heal from the sins her father committed.
Imagine being the child of not one, but two, killers. Even among children of famous criminals, this is an exceedingly rare situation to confront—but Jenn Carson saw it.
Her father and step-mother were Michael and Susan Carson, the San Fransisco Witch Killers. The two allegedly had "visions" that told them to kill women they deemed evil. The folie a deux led them to torturing and killing several women.
When news broke out, Jenn's biological mother raised her. Jenn lost both her dad and step-mom to jail when she was 10 years old. Since then, she has found strength in helping others overcome serious issues.
She has become a child and adolescent counselor who specializes in helping kids whose parents are incarcerated.
El Sayyid Nosair is not a name most people would recognize, primarily because most people don't keep an eye on terrorist activities. He was convicted of assassinating Meir Kahane, the founder of the Jewish Defense League.
He was also caught plotting the World Trade Center bombings that occurred in 1993. He's considered to be one of the most notorious terrorists of the 90s. He was so notorious, Osama bin Laden would actually remind people to remember El Sayyid Nosair.
Zak Ebrahim is his son.
Since he realized what his father has done, and how it affected him, Ebrahim has dedicated his life to ending hatred. He's the author of The Terrorist's Son: A Story of Choice, and regularly speaks about overcoming hate.
Andrei Chikatilo was Russia's most prolific mass murderer and is said to have killed over 50 people. Sadly, his son is proof that not all children of famous criminals end up doing well in life.
His son, Yury, took his mother's name after Chikatilo's arrest. Unfortunately, it seems like this was a case of, "like father, like son."
Yury himself has had multiple arrests after his father's arrest. The charges ran from theft, to extortion, to a final charge involving the stabbing of a local man. Yikes.
It's kind of scary how many children of famous criminals get goaded into taking up the family business, isn't it? Kenny Kimes was the son of con artist, human trafficker, and killer Sante Kimes. When his father died, his mother convinced the recent college grad to go on a killing spree with her.
Together, they killed three people in New York City prior to being caught. Kenny Kimes cooperated with police and told them his mother's crimes in order to escape the death penalty. He currently serves life in prison.
Since the discovery of the crimes, the two have been the subject of multiple movies, including Like Mother, Like Son.
Cult leader and serial killer Charles Manson remains one of the most notorious killers to ever live. And, since he was in a cult that practiced "free love," it's not totally certain how many children he fathered.
However, at least one person ended up carrying on the family name: his son, Michael. Michael Manson was raised by his grandparents and had his name changed to Michael Brunner when he was only 18 months old.
When he found out who his father was, he quickly distanced himself from his father. Similar reports have come out about similar children born in the Manson family.
The children involved in this cult have seriously warped stories. Some started drug use as young as seven, while others had stories involving worshipping Charles Manson himself.
Marcus Shrenker was a prime example of what happens when greed overcomes common sense. He became the center of newspaper stories after he was caught faking his own death once word got out about how he fleeced his clients.
Ever since the arrest, Alyssa Schrenker has found herself to be a pariah in society. She had no friends, had a hard time through school, and also struggled with life as a "Schrenker kid."
The stigma children of famous criminals face is very, very real. How they handle it is nothing short of amazing.
Protecting her identity from those who wish to know, an anonymous woman known as "Angela" explained what life was like when you were born into the mafia.
Angela became aware of her ties to the mob when her mother asked her father for a divorce. Her life, as she put it, was one where she was always followed and where her father would regularly try to lie about his mafia connections to her.
By the time she figured out that her father was a mafioso, she was a teenager and was ready to hear the announcement that he was under arrest. She noted that her family expected her to carry on the tradition, which means that she herself will never be fully out.
Criminals come in all varieties, and perhaps one of the most horrific varieties are those who were war criminals. Hans Frank was one such monster. He was known as Nazi Governor-General of Poland during World War II.
Frank was one of the most infamous war criminals in history, most well-known for helping create extermination camps that ended the lives of over 6 million Jews. A disturbingly cruel individual, he had become famous for shooting babies in concentration camps "for sport."
His son is Niklas Frank, and he still recalls seeing his father torturing Jews in front of him to make his son laugh. Frank has lived a long life, totally tormented by the acts of his father.
"Thinking of my father is thinking, at first, about his victims," he said in an interview for the documentary, Hitler's Children. The memories are equally chilling.
"Thin men were mounted on to a wild donkey and the donkey bucked and the men fell off, and they could only pick themselves up again very slowly, and they didn't find it as funny as I did. And again and again, they got back on and the donkey was given a slap and again they fell off and they tried to help each other; it was a fantastic afternoon. Then we had cocoa. These are the s****y images I carry around of my father."—Niklas Frank
Niklas Frank now spends his time warning others of the dangers of Nazism, speaking out against the crimes his father committed. This is an act that appears to be pretty common among children of famous criminals.
Bernie Madoff conducted the world's largest Ponzi scheme, and stole approximately $65 billion from conned investors. His sons, Andrew and Mark both worked in the Madoff family securities firm.
When their father confessed to the scheme, they ran to a lawyer and then reported him to the FBI. The family was forever changed and almost immediately became assumed co-conspirators to the scheme.
Every single Madoff family member was seen as a criminal, total pariahs. They could not go out to eat, cut their hair, or even walk outside without being accosted by people who wanted their money back or had choice words for them.
Two years after Madoff's arrest, Mark Madoff hung himself with a dog leash. Prior to his suicide, he expressed serious bitterness towards what his father had done and was openly worrying how he could handle all the lawsuits thrown at his family.
Andrew Madoff regularly appeared on television condemning his father and vouching for both brothers' innocence. He died of cancer at the age of 48.
Ruth Madoff, though not one of the children of famous criminals, may have paid the biggest penalty of all. As the mother of both Mark and Andrew, she lived long enough to bury all her children.