Vanished Into Thin Air is highlighting the murder of Sarah Rairdon by her father, John Rairdon, which occurred in Underwood, northwestern Minnesota.
On May 20, 1985, John was supposed to pick up Sarah from school because she stayed late to work on a project. When he hadn’t arrived by 6 p.m., she began walking to her home about four miles away.
Sarah never made it.
She was then reported missing, which prompted the community of approximately 330 residents to rally together to help search for Sarah.
John joined in on the search before going on television and begging her kidnappers to return her safely. He said, “Spare her from any more harm.”
Nearly two months later, on July 6, a farmer found the 13-year-old dead in a pasture near Rothsay, approximately 25 miles from town.
The farmer told authorities that he discovered her badly decomposed body after searching an area the cows were oddly avoiding.
John Rairdon confessed to murdering his daughter
In August of that year, John voluntarily admitted to the police that he had killed Sarah. The tire repairman said that after he finished his work, he went to pick her up from school, but he found her walking on a rural road.
John picked her up, but he didn’t take her home. He drove to an abandoned farm, and it was there that he made sexual advances toward her.
He told authorities that he had been sexually abusing her since the age of eight.
When Sarah refused to have sex with her father, he stabbed her in the stomach with an awl. With his elbow, he then hit her in the throat.
Sarah fell to the ground, where she bled to death.
John initially hid her body in a farmhouse and later moved it to a ditch.
Police officials arrested John. He was booked into the Otter Tail County Jail on charges of murder and intrafamilial sexual abuse.
John Rairdon retracted some of his incriminating statements
During his trial, John stated that he was unsure if he had killed his daughter. His defense team argued that an hours-long interrogation led to a coerced confession.
Despite their claims, a jury found John guilty of first-degree murder in March 1986.
The following month, a judge sentenced him to life in prison with an additional 11 and a half years for sexual abuse.
He is currently serving his time at a correctional facility in Moose Lake, Minnesota.
Vanished Into Thin Air airs Mondays at 10/9c on Investigation Discovery.