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Keith Hunter Jesperson Biography

Keith Hunter Jesperson Biography

Serial killer Keith Hunter Jesperson, also known as the “Happy Face Killer,” brutally murdered eight women between 1990 and 1995.

Who Is Keith Hunter Jesperson?

Keith Hunter Jesperson dedicated his first homicide in 1990. His victims, who had been typically raped and strangled, included short-term acquaintances, intercourse staff and a girlfriend. He left our bodies in Oregon, California, Florida, Nebraska and Washington whereas working as a long-haul truck driver. Before he was recognized as a serial killer, he anonymously confessed to his crimes in messages that contained smiley faces, resulting in his being nicknamed the “Happy Face Killer.” In addition to homicide, Jesperson’s legal historical past included animal cruelty, arson and sexual assault. He had a relationship together with his last sufferer and have become a suspect after her physique was found in March 1995. He confessed to killing her and subsequently admitted to seven different murders.

Early Life

Jesperson was born on April 6, 1955, in British Columbia, Canada. Jesperson was a center baby, with an older sister and brother and a youthful sister and brother. His father typically punished Jesperson by hitting him with a leather-based belt. Jesperson grew up in Chilliwack, Canada earlier than transferring to Selah, Washington together with his household when he was 12.

At faculty, Jesperson was larger than his classmates and was taunted with names like “Monster Man” and “Igor.” As a baby, he was merciless to animals – he killed cats and snakes and, underneath the guise of searching, inflicted ache on creatures like deer, rabbits, and coyotes.


Jesperson’s first sufferer, 23-year-old Taunja Bennett, was killed on January 21, 1990. He met the developmentally disabled Bennett whereas out consuming and satisfied her to go to his home. There, he assaulted, beat and strangled her.

In the summer season of 1992, Jesperson met “Claudia” at a truck checkpoint in California. Her physique, which had been strangled and tied up with duct tape, was discovered on August 30, 1992. Her identification stays unknown.

Jesperson murdered one other lady in August 1992 at a Turlock, California truck cease. This sufferer has been recognized as Cynthia Lynn (Rose) Wilcox. However, Jesperson later mentioned he really killed one other lady and didn’t acknowledge Wilcox’s photograph.

In November 1992, Jesperson had an encounter with intercourse employee Laurie Anne Pentland at a truck cease. He strangled her and left her corpse in Oregon.

Remains present in Merced County, California on June 3, 1993, belonged to a Jesperson sufferer he has mentioned was known as “Cindy.” They met at a truck cease in Corning, California. Her actual identify stays a thriller.

In September 1994, the physique of a lady was present in Florida. Her precise identification is unknown, however “Susanna” — which Jesperson has acknowledged might have been her identify — was confirmed to be one in every of his victims as a result of he knew in regards to the tie wraps discovered round her throat.

Soon after Angela Subrize bumped into Jesperson at a bar in Spokane, Washington in January 1995, she traveled east with him in his truck. He has mentioned he strangled her as a result of she would not let him sleep. After the homicide, Jesperson remembered they’d spent days collectively and he’d let her use a bank card. He determined to pull her physique beneath his truck to impede identification. He left her stays in Nebraska, although Subrize was seemingly killed in Wyoming.

Jesperson’s final sufferer was Julie Winningham, who’d been his girlfriend. She was killed in Washington state on March 10, 1995, and her physique was found the subsequent day.

Jesperson has mentioned that he took 166 lives, however solely the above eight murders have been attributed to him. In April 1990, he sexually assaulted a lady who managed to flee. According to Jesperson, after he killed his fifth sufferer in 1993 he managed to stave off murderous urges for greater than a yr by committing arson whereas on the street as a trucker.

Becoming the Happy Face Killer

Following the invention of Bennett’s physique in January 1990, Laverne Pavlinac lied to police that she’d aided her boyfriend John Sosnovske in committing the crime. Pavlinac made this false assertion as a result of she wished to flee her abusive relationship with Sosnovske. She later rescinded her confession, however in 1991 a jury nonetheless discovered her responsible. Sosnovske pleaded responsible to keep away from the demise penalty.

These convictions meant Jesperson was unlikely to ever face fees for his crime. However, part of him wished to say credit score, so he wrote about murdering Bennett in a bus terminal lavatory. The message was signed with a smiley face. He would go on to share particulars of the crime on different restroom partitions.

In later years, Jesperson additionally despatched nameless letters to The Oregonian newspaper about what had grow to be his a number of murders. Smiley faces once more served as his signature, prompting a journalist to dub Jesperson the “Happy Face Killer.”

After Jesperson was in custody, he offered the placement of Bennett’s purse, which solely the killer would know. Authorities got here to consider that they had convicted the unsuitable individuals. Pavlinac and Sosnovske had been launched from jail in November 1995.


Jesperson turned a suspect after Winningham’s was discovered since he was identified to be her boyfriend. Jesperson tried suicide however ended up confessing to Winningham’s homicide. Before his arrest, he additionally wrote a letter to his brother that admitted, “I am sorry that I turned out this way. I have been a killer for five years and have killed eight people.” His brother gave this letter to legislation enforcement.


While in custody, Jesperson shared particulars of his eight murders. He obtained a number of life sentences for a number of of those crimes however was spared the demise penalty.

Jesperson resides within the Oregon State Penitentiary, the place he spends a lot of his time making artwork. Pieces of his paintings have been seen on “murderabilia” websites.

Personal Life

Jesperson married Rose Hucke on August 2, 1975. They had three youngsters, two women and a boy. They divorced in 1989.

His older daughter has described witnessing acts of animal cruelty that included Jesperson killing kittens.

Movies and Books

A tv filmHappy Face Killer, starring David Arquette as Jesperson, aired in 2014.

The e-book I: the Creation of a Serial Killer (2002), by Jack Olsen, delved into Jesperson’s life. M. William Phelps penned a memoir about his interactions with Jesperson: Dangerous Ground: My Friendship with a Serial Killer (2017).

Melissa G. Moore, Jesperson’s older daughter, wrote Shattered Silence: The Untold Story of a Serial Killer’s Daughter (2009). She additionally examined her father’s actions within the podcast Happy Face.

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