Number of victims: 8+
Date of murders: 1990 - 1995
Method of murder: Strangulation
Location: Nebraska / California / Florida / Washington /Oregon / Wyoming
Known as the “Happy Face Killer,” Keith Hunter Jesperson was a deadly trucker who committed murders across the USA, from Oregon to Florida. A hulking man of 6’6 and 240 pounds, Canadian born Jesperson had ambitions of joining the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. However, after suffering a serious injury during training, he was declared unfit for duty. Bitterly disappointed, he moved to Cheney, Washington, where he found work as a truck driver.
Jesperson’s first known victim was Taunja Bennett, strangled to death on January 23, 1990 near Portland, Oregon. That murder sparked a five year killing spree during which at least seven more women would die at Jesperson’s hands. Cryptic messages about the murders were scrawled on bathroom walls at various truck stops, each accompanied by a drawing of a smiley face. This led police to refer to the, as-yet unidentified, murderer as the “Happy Face Killer.”
Like many serial killers before him, Jesperson was caught after he changed his M.O. and killed someone he knew, in this case his 41-year-old girlfriend, Julie Ann Winningham. Arrested on that charge he soon began talking about his other crimes. “It was their fate to die by my hands,” he declared, “like a car accident or an illness.”
Keith Jesperson is currently serving three consecutive life sentences at the Oregon State Penitentiary in Salem.