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Marilyn Rairdon Shocked At Husband’s Alleged Admission

August 16, 1985

UNDERWOOD, Minn. (AP) _ A woman whose husband allegedly confessed to the slaying of his 13-year-old daughter after first leading the community in a search for the killer says he must have blocked out the memory of the crime.

″We had a happy marriage. He was a loving, caring father and husband. He was the last person on earth who would have done something like this. There’s no way I can explain it,″ Marilyn Rairdon, 37, said Thursday.

″It would have been easier if I could have said, ‘I hate you and I never want to see you again.’ But I loved John and I still do. I said to him, ’I love you but I don’t understand you,‴ she said.

Rairdon, 38, was charged Wednesday with one count each of first-and second- degree murder in the death of 13-year-old Sarah Ann Rairdon, and one count of first-degree intrafamilial sexual abuse of Sarah. The girl was one of Rairdon’s children by an earlier marriage.

In a complaint filed in Otter Tail County District Court, Rairdon said he had sexually abused his daughter as many as 60 times over five years. He also allegedly told authorities he killed her May 20 when she refused his advances.

Rairdon assisted in several ground searches for his missing daughter and since her death had served as chairman of a newly formed organization called Search and Find Missing Persons Inc.

Sarah’s body was found in a pasture July 6.

″He must have just blocked it out,″ Mrs. Rairdon said. ″It’s hard to believe he couldn’t remember it, but it’s even harder to believe he could be that good at hiding it from everybody. How could he have been so involved in the search? Nobody could be that cold and callous, especially with your own child.″

Of her husband’s admission that he had sexually abused Sarah, Mrs. Rairdon said, ″I had no idea at all. That’s the truth. I know people find it hard to believe that I wouldn’t know after it had been going on for five years, but I didn’t.″

Social workers have talked with the 11 other Rairdon children, she said, and found no indication that any of the others had been abused. The Rairdon children range in age from 7 to 18. Four are from Rairdon’s previous marriage, as Sarah was, and five are from his wife’s previous marriage. The couple have two children together.

Residents of the tiny western Minnesota community, who had worked with the Rairdon family to raise money and form volunteer groups to help find Sarah, reacted in disbelief and anger when Rairdon was charged.

″I can’t absorb this. I don’t understand,″ said Ed Boen after he learned of the news from a waitress at The Farmer’s Dell restaurant Wednesday.

″I think everyone was looking for a solution to this problem, but this situation - I’m dumbfounded. We’re not geared to this sort of thing in this community,″ Boen said.

The Rev. Rolf Wangberg of Sverdrup Lutheran Church said the situation will be a test both for the Rairdon family and for the community of 332 people.

″People feel shock and betrayal,″ he said. ″People wonder what else they don’t know. That’s really hard for Marilyn. It’s hard for the kids.″