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Santiago High School's Student News Site

Shark Attack

Santiago High School's Student News Site

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‘Happy Face Killer’ Riverside County DA resurfacing victim?

On Monday, January 8, 2024, the Riverside County DA requested public assistance to identify the last victim of the said ‘Happy Face Killer.’

Background

Keith Hunter Jesperson - Wikipedia
Keith Hunter Jesperson

The Happy Face Killer, or the 68-year-old Keith Hunter Jesperson,  has killed at least eight women in the 1990s. Keith H. Jesperson got the title of ‘The Happy Face Killer’ because he was known for sending the newspaper and the authorities confession letters (these letters were also said to sound as if he was bragging about his murderous actions) that were signed with “smiley faces.”

On January 8, 2024 as the authorities asked for assistance, the victim was described as a “white woman, 25-35 years old, 5 feet 7 inches tall, with brown or dyed blonde hair and a tattoo of two small dots on her right thumb. When found, she was wearing a t-shirt with a motorcycle print.” (abc7.com) It was also released that allegedly, based on evidence, this woman “was hitchhiking along Interstate 15 in August 1992 from the Las Vegas or Barstow region to the Los Angeles area. She crossed paths with Jesperson and his purple Peterbilt south of Victorville at a brake stop.” Following this, this was about when “Jesperson strangled her in his semi-trailer and drove to Blythe, where he dumped her body.” (also sourced from abc7.com) It was also suspected that this woman’s name was “Claudia” as well as to have been murdered “14 years ago,” according to ‘The Happy Face Killer” himself, but this is not wholly believed by California authorities (nbcnews.com).

“Claudia” is said to be “the last of all his victims to remain unidentified,” according to Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin. It should also be noted that this woman was supposedly a frequent “hitchhiker” who is most likely believed to have lived in southern California (possibly in Los Angeles, San Bernardino, or Riverside County, according to the DA office).

“We are hoping that someone, anyone, might recognize her and be able to provide some information that can help with identifying her in this case,” According to a video provided by nbcnews.com, as well as, “Even the smallest piece of information could be the key in bringing this victim’s identity to light.”

Our increasingly improving technologies, specifically our “forensic science” investigators and genealogists,, have been able to identify the victims’ family members. This included her biological father, who has already passed but was known to be from Cameron County, Texas (as said by DA’s office). Yet this is not the only relative found. Claudia’s half-siblings were also identified, but these relatives were not biological matches to her mother (these family members are said to be connected to Louisiana and southeast Texas general areas).

The authorities also developed two police sketches of what the woman “Claudia” could have looked like, depending on whether she was brunette or blonde.

Cold case investigators seek help identifying final victim of the 'Happy Face Killer' | The Independent
The Riverside County District Attorney’s Office released and developed these photos.

These are all of the current updates on the status of the last victim of The Happy Face Killer, and authorities say, “Anyone with additional leads to the victim’s identity was asked to call the Cold Case Hotline at 951-955-5567 or email [email protected].”

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About the Contributor
LilyRose Cartwright, Staff writer
LilyRose Cartwright (10) is a current Sophomore  at Santiago High School and plans to attend a four year college in the year 2026. LilyRose’s interest in writing spiked when she wrote a short book in first grade about a fictional butterfly and its love for cake. Not too long after, she started to write more frequently, slowly uncovering her new found passion. Other than her love for writing, she loves doing arts and crafts, and draws and paints in her free time. She has always been more in touch with her creative side since she was young. In the future, LilyRose plans on graduating med school and pursuing her dream of nursing to make a difference in people’s lives. You can reach her at [email protected]
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