Keith Hunter Jesperson

Keith Hunter Jesperson

Keith Hunter Jesperson
Background information
Birth name: Keith Hunter Jesperson
Also known as: The Happy Face Killer
Born: April 6, 1955 (1955-04-06) (age 54)
Chilliwack, British Columbia, Canada
Number of victims: 8 (confirmed)
Span of killings: January 23, 1990–March 10, 1995
Country: United States
State(s): Nebraska, California, Florida, Washington, Oregon, Wyoming
Date apprehended: March 30, 1995

Keith Hunter Jesperson (born April 6, 1955, Chilliwack, British Columbia) is a Canada-born American serial killer known as the “Happy Face Killer” for the smiley face he drew on his many letters to the media and prosecutors.[1] He first drew the smiley face on the wall of a toilet where he left an anonymous confession to killing Taunja Bennett, this was hundreds of miles away from the scene of the crime. When that didn’t elicit a responce he began writing letters. [2]


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Early life

As a child, Keith Hunter Jesperson was the middle child with two brothers, Bruce and Brad, and two sisters, Sharon and Jill. Keith was segregated and treated differently by the rest of his family. His father, Leslie (Les) Jesperson, charged Keith room and board, 30 dollars a week, while his brothers and sisters paid nothing. Keith claimed his father was an abusive father who was often drunk. His paternal ancestors also had a history of violence. Les Jesperson denied being an abusive parent; however while investigating for his book Jack Olsen was able to confirm some of the abuse that Keith claimed happened with other family members. Keith tortured animals and set fire to houses and wooded areas. The Jespersons moved from British Columbia to the United States. In Selah, Washington, Jesperson had trouble fitting in and making friends. His brothers didn’t help him, instead they nicknamed him “Igor” or “Ig” and the name stuck throughout high school. [3]


Jesperson was first arrested in 1995 for the murder of his girlfriend, Julie Ann Winningham, 41, of Camas.

In addition to his conviction for Winningham’s murder, Jesperson has been convicted of murdering four women in Oregon, California, and Wyoming. While Jesperson sat in the Clark County Jail for the murder of Julie Winningham, he began talking to his attorney, Thomas Phelan, about other crimes that he had committed starting with Taunja Bennett. Keith also confessed to a large number of murders that he didn’t commit. He sought attention from the media by taking credit for many more murders. Many of these murders happened when he had a conclusive alibi and he later re3canted most of these confessions.[4] By the age of 35, he was a tall hulking man who stood at 6’6″ and weighed 240 pounds. He had dreams of working for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. During his training as a policeman he sustained a fall during a training exercise and was permanently dismissed.

He later sought work as an interstate truck driver in Cheney, Washington. During the homicide investigation of Winningham, witnesses who gave their information to the police described Jesperson as having a “Baby Huey” appearance.

His first known victim was Taunja Bennett on January 23, 1990, near Portland, Oregon.[5] Overall, Jesperson murdered 8 people in Nebraska, California, Florida, Washington, Oregon, and Wyoming as he was a truck driver at the time he committed these murders. He is serving three consecutive life sentences at the Oregon State Penitentiary in Salem. In prison he took up painting as a hobby and sells his artwork over the internet. In September 2009, he was indicted for murder in Riverside County, California, and was extradited to California from Oregon to face the charges in December.[1]

Laverne Pavlinac read the news reports surrounding Taunja Bennett’s death and gave a false confession to police. Pavlinac and live-in boyfriend John Sosnovske were convicted of the murder of Jesperson’s first victim in February 1991. On November 27, 1995, after serving more than four years in prison for a crime they didn’t commit, Pavlinac and Sosnovske were released from prison after Jesperson and his attorney offered his confession with convincing evidence of his guilt. He had given police officers the location of the victim’s purse, which was a detail not released to the press. [6]


In November 2008, Jesperson’s daughter, Melissa G. Moore, (who has written a book about her life growing up with a serial killer) appeared on the Dr. Phil Show to talk about her father. Her book, Shattered Silence: The Untold Story of a Serial Killer’s Daughter was also featured on the Oprah Winfrey Show September 17, 2009.[7] Moore lived with her father until the divorce in 1990 between Keith Jesperson and her mother Rose. Melissa noticed her dad was different when she was in elementary school. Their house bordered an apple orchard, and her dad killed stray cats and gophers that wandered
nearby. But one day she watched, horrified, as he hanged her pet kittens from the family’s clothes line and beat them. He also watched and laughed as the kittens clawed each other to escape.


  1. ^ a b Russell, Michael (December 10, 2009). “‘Happy Face Killer’ extradited to Southern Calif. to face charges“. The Oregonian. Retrieved 10 December 2009. 
  2. ^ Jack Olsen, “I : the creation of a serial killer” 2002
  3. ^ Jack Olsen, “I : the creation of a serial killer” 2002
  4. ^ Jack Olsen, “I : the creation of a serial killer” 2002
  5. ^ Crime Library: The First Known Murder
  6. ^ Jack Olsen, “I : the creation of a serial killer” 2002
  7. ^ Dr. Phil Returns to The Oprah Show: My Father Is a Serial Killer

External links

NAME Jesperson, Keith Hunter
DATE OF BIRTH April 6, 1955
PLACE OF BIRTH Chilliwack, British Columbia, Canada

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