Keith Hunter Jesperson is a Canadian-American serial killer also known as the Happy Faced Killer. Over a five year period (1990-1995) he murdered eight known women. Though, Jesperson himself claims to have killed 160 women. Victims of the long-haul truck driver tended to be truck-stop prostitutes and drifters.
When someone else took credit for one of Jesperson’s victims, he decided to set the story straight, leaving confessionals in public places; he also sent letter about his crimes to the media. Jesperson signed his anonymous admissions with smiley faces, giving him the nickname, the Happy Face Killer.
This Happy Face Killer wiki takes an in-depth look at the cunning and devious mind of Keith Hunter Jesperson.
Who Is Keith Hunter Jesperson, the Happy Face Killer?
Keith Jesperson was born on April 6, 1955 in Chilliwack, British Columbia, a then small farming community one hour east of Vancouver. He is a middle child with two sisters and two brothers. He was remembered as being a big kid and sometimes a little slow.
His family’s rural home on five acres in the woods was a paradise for the young Jesperson. On the property was a barn with a hayloft, a wooden bridge over a creek, and a water wheel to trap fish. In a tree was a rope swing.
But life wasn’t all that idyllic. Jesperson said that his father was an abusive alcoholic, and his grandfather was also abusive. His father also treated him differently, charging him $30 a week for room and board; his brothers and sisters paid nothing.
In later years, Jesperson blamed his father for turning him into an emotionless cold-blooded serial killer. His father, Les denied being an abusive parent, but many of the stories of alleged abuse were verified by other family members.
Tortured Animals at a Young Age
At around the age of five, he started to abuse animals, torturing and killing gophers, crows, and cats. The eventual serial killer also claims to have started small fires.
He attended Unsworth Elementary School and said that, during those years, he was teased by other kids. Jesperson recalled swimming in nearby Cultus Lake with a classmate who tried to drown him by holding his head underwater.
The abuse he suffered at the hands of his father and grandfather may have been responsible for his desire to hurt others. When Jesperson was around 10, he had a close friend by the name of Martin. The two would often get into trouble, but Jesperson ended up getting punished for things Martin did but blamed on Jesperson.
This led Jesperson to violently attack Martin; the beating only stopped when his father pulled him away. Jesperson later said he was trying to kill the boy.
He attempted his second murder some time later. At a public pool, he tried to drown the boy who held his head under water in Cultus Lake. A lifeguard intervened and pulled Jesperson off the boy.
Move to Washington
The family moved from Chilliwack to Selah, Washington; even there, though, Jesperson had trouble fitting in and making friends. His two brothers also made life difficult for him, giving him the high school nickname “Igor” and “Ig.”
It was in high school, at age 14, that Jesperson claims to have lost his virginity during an act of rape. Though none of this has been verified.
Despite getting into trouble, Jesperson graduated from high school in 1973. He did not attend college because his father didn’t think he was smart or determined enough. Jesperson always dreamed of joining the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, but because of a high school injury, this dream died. Instead, he helped run a state trailer park with his father.
It was around this time that Jesperson, who was not exactly known as a ladies man in high school (having never gone to a dance or his prom), met Rose Pernick at a hamburger drive-thru. They married on August 2, 1975, in Moxee, Washinton, when Jesperson was 20.
He later recalled that for their honeymoon, they stayed at the Starlite Motel on the Trans-Canada Highway, just outside Chilliwack. They argued all night.
“It was nice to have regular sex, but I knew the thrill would wear off. I also knew I needed more than what Rose offered, but I wasn’t exactly sure what. I wasn’t experienced about pleasing women. That first night I pulled out to avoid getting her pregnant. She appreciated that. A baby was the last thing we needed!”
The couple eventually went on to have three kids: Two daughters and a son.
Financial troubles forced the family to sell the trailer park. Jesperson then decided to move his family to Elkford, British Columbia (130 miles north of Montana) to work at a coal company.
Trouble always seemed to follow Jesperson; he was fired from the mining company for theft. He fell into trucking, making direct runs between Lethbridge, Alberta, and Calgary. That particular job didn’t last long, but he loved what he did, and stuck with it.
In 1983, Jesperson moved his family back to Washington where he continued to drive long-haul. This started to cause a strain in their marriage. After a few years, Pernick began to suspect Jesperson was having affairs after strange women started calling the house.
After 14 years, Pernick had had enough; while Jesperson was on the road, she packed up her things and left with her children, driving 200 miles to live with her parents in Spokane, Washington.
Jesperson would drop by and spend time with his kids when he was in town. The couple divorced in 1990.
Melissa Jesperson Moore with her husband
It was then that the newly single, 35-year-old, hulking, 6’6,” 240-lbs Jesperson began to kill.
Happy Face Killer Murders First Victim, Taunja Bennett
On January 21, 1990, Jesperson visited a tavern not far from Portland to shoot pool. Outside the bar he met Taunja Bennet, 32, and invited her back to his place. They had, he claims, consensual sex.
But something that night angered Jesperson and he lashed out, beating and strangling her to death. He punched her in the head so many times she was no longer recognizable. Jesperson later said the fact she was intellectually slow excited him.
Establishing an alibi, Jesperson went back out for drinks, chatting up the locals. He returned to his rented home, picked up Bennett’s lifeless body, and drove to the Columbia River Gorge, dumping the body into a ravine.
Her body was discovered just days later by a cyclist, but by then, Jesperson was back out on the road. Police had a body but no suspects, and no leads.
Woman Takes Credit for Bennett Murder, Gets Jailed
Laverne Pavlinac, 57, read about the January 21 murder of 23-year old Taunja Bennett with great interest and decided to use it to her advantage. She was looking for a way to end her 10-year abusive relationship with her 39-year-old boyfriend, John Sosnovske. Pinning the murder on him seemed like her best option. Things didn’t go according to plans though.
First, she made anonymous tips to police that Sosnovske had bragged about committing the murder. But when she didn’t get the response she wanted, she decided to ramp up her efforts. She called the detectives working on the case, and told them about her abusive relationship with Sosnovske, and that he murdered Bennett.
She radically changed her story, though, saying that it was the two of them who met Bennet at a bar in Portland and that Sosnovke forced her to help him rape Bennett and dispose of the body.
Police interviewed the surprised Sosnovske who denied any knowledge of the murder. A search of Sosnovke’s residence failed to turn up any incriminating evidence. Undeterred, Pavlinac told police she found items in the trunk of her car that matched those in a search warrant. Police, however, determined that these items were planted.
Detectives were not sure exactly what to make of Pavlinac’s tale and continued to interview her. They took her to the Columbia River Gorge to see if she could find the locations only police and the killer would know.
She did surprisingly well, identifying where the body had been found, but was less than accurate when it came to identifying places where Bennet’s personal items were located.
The case was eventually turned over to prosecutors and, in February 1990, just weeks after the murder, both Pavlinac and Sosnovske were arrested. Both proclaimed their innocence.
Pavlinac, who was tried first, recanted her confession and said that she made it up to escape from Sosnovske. In January 1991, Pavlinac, who was only looking to escape an abusive relationship, was convicted of felony murder and sentenced to life in prison with a minimum of 10 years.
Sosnovske’s trial came second. He was afraid of getting the death penalty and pleaded “no contest” to murder and kidnapping charges in March 1991. He was sentenced to life in prison.
With Paclinac and Sosnovske arrested for the murder of Taunja Bennett, Jesperson was free to go on his murderous ways with impunity. On the evening of Thursday, April 12, 1990, he was approached by an intoxicated woman carrying her six-month-old baby in a shopping mall parking lot in Mt. Shasta, California.