In this article, we will explore The Happy Face Killer — Keith Hunter Jesperson. On a dark night in April 1995, a trucker named Keith Hunter Jesperson sent a postcard to the media with a happy face drawn on it. That same night, the body of his latest victim was found off the side of the highway. Little did anyone know then that this would be the start of one of America’s most notorious serial killers: The Happy Face Killer. For nearly five years, Jesperson evaded authorities by travelling across the country while killing his victims and leaving behind taunting messages for the police.
Jesperson’s Early Life
Keith Hunter Jesperson was born on April 6, 1955 in Chilliwack, British Columbia, Canada. His parents were strict Pentecostals who believed in the literal interpretation of the Bible. Jesperson grew up feeling rejected and unloved. He was often left home alone while his parents went to church or out with friends. As a result, Jesperson became a loner and developed a violent temper.
In his teens, Jesperson began working as a long-haul truck driver like his father. It was during this time that he began committing crimes. In 1980, he raped and murdered a woman in Montana. He then moved to Oregon where he met and married Rose Huckels. The couple had three children together.
In 1990, Jesperson killed his first known victim, Lance Twitchell. He strangled Twitchell with a rope and then dumped his body by the side of the road. Over the next few years, Jesperson would go on to kill eight more women in similar fashion. He became known as the “Happy Face Killer” after leaving smiley faces near many of the crime scenes.
Jesperson was finally caught in 1995 when he attempted to confess to the murders through letters sent to various media outlets. He is currently serving life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Jesperson’s First Murder
On May 18, 1990, Jesperson murdered his first known victim, 23-year-old Taunja Bennett. Bennett was a developmentally disabled woman who lived in Portland, Oregon. She had been hitchhiking to her father’s house in Bend, Oregon when she was picked up by Jesperson. He later told police that he had originally planned to let her go once they reached Bend, but changed his mind after she scratched his face and made him angry. Instead, he took her to a remote area near Scappoose, Oregon where he sexually assaulted her and then strangled her to death with a piece of cord. He later confessed to investigators that he had kept Bennett’s body in his truck for several days before dumping it in a ravine off an isolated road.
The Happy Face Killer
The Happy Face Killer is the nickname given to serial killer Keith Hunter Jesperson, who killed at least eight women in the early 1990s. He was nicknamed the “Happy Face Killer” because he would often draw a happy face on his victims’ bodies.
Jesperson was born in Chilliwack, British Columbia, Canada, and later moved to the United States, where he worked as a long-haul truck driver. He began his killing spree in 1990, when he strangled and raped his first victim, 23-year-old Taunja Bennett. He then killed two more women in 1991, including 16-year-old Julie Winningham.
In 1992, Jesperson killed three more women: 22-year-old Susie Marie Johnson, 32-year-old Laurie Ann Pentland, and 36-year-old Rosemary Vinal. He also attempted to kill another woman, but she survived.
After killing Pentland and Vinal, Jesperson began sending letters to newspapers and television stations confessing to the murders. He signed these letters with a happy face emoji, which is how he got his nickname. In 1995, he was arrested for the murder of Pentland after DNA evidence linked him to the crime. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to life in prison without parole.
Jesperson’s Capture and Trial
On February 16, 1995, Keith Hunter Jesperson was arrested for the murders of Taunja Bennett and Laurence Monfort. He had been on the run for six days, and his capture was due in part to a tip from his own mother. During his trial, Jesperson confessed to killing eight women in total, although authorities believe the true number is closer to 160.
Jesperson’s victims were all prostitutes or women he met while working as a long-haul trucker. He would strangle them to death, then dispose of their bodies in remote locations. In some cases, he would return to the scene of the crime and sexually assault the corpse.
During his confession, Jesperson claimed that he killed Bennett and Monfort because they had “mocked” him after learning that he was unable to perform sexually due to an injury. However, prosecutors argued that the real motivation behind the murders was Jesperson’s anger towards women in general.
After hearing testimony from numerous witnesses, including several of Jesperson’s former girlfriends, the jury found him guilty of first-degree murder in Bennett’s death. He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Aftermath is the period of time following an event during which people experience the consequences of that event. For victims of crime, the aftermath can be a long and difficult road to recovery. For families of victims, the aftermath can be a time of grief, anger, and confusion. And for perpetrators of crime, the aftermath can be a time of regret, remorse, and consequences.
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