A sixth victim of serial murderer Keith Jesperson — nicknamed the ‘Happy Face Killer’ — was identified Wednesday as a 34-year-old woman who was hitch-hiking cross-country when she was brutally murdered in 1994.
Jesperson, 67, from British Columbia, Canada, killed at least eight women while traveling America’s highways as a long-haul rig driver in the 1990s. He earned his notoriety by sending gloating confessions to police and journalists and signing them with a smiley face.
On Wednesday, authorities in Florida were able to identify Suzanne Kjellenberg as one of Jesperson’s victims, using forensic technology and DNA evidence.
Her body was discovered on September 14, 1994 near an exit on Interstate 10 in Holt, Florida.
Eric Aden, the sheriff of Okaloosa County, revealed that Jesperson admitted to killing the woman – and had previously said her name was Suzanne – in the mid-90s but were unable to properly identify her.
On Wednesday, authorities in Florida were able to identify Suzanne Kjellenberg as one of Jesperson’s victims, using forensic technology and DNA evidence
‘He has a phenomenal memory. To the point of specific exit numbers,’ said senior investigator Kelly Henderson.
The DNA technology supplied by Othram Inc. helped them confirm it was Kjellenberg.
‘A family member gave a sample, and it became a 100% DNA hit for Suzanne Kjellenberg,’ Aden said.
Her family, who live in Wisconsin, asked for privacy, according to investigators.
Jesperson was arrested in 1995 on suspicion of killing a woman in Washington state and was dubbed the Happy Face Killer because he drew smiley faces on letters he sent to the media and police, prosecutors said.
He would eventually confess to killing eight women between 1990 and 1995 in California, Washington, Oregon, Florida, Nebraska, and Wyoming and is currently serving four life sentences without possibility of parole in Oregon.
During his reign of terror as the Happy face Killer Jesperson usually targeted prostitutes and homeless women – raping them before strangling them with his bare hands.
In 2021, Jesperson detailed his horrific crimes in Oxygen’s Snapped Notorious: The Happy Face Killer.
A sixth victim of serial murderer Keith Jesperson — nicknamed the ‘Happy Face Killer’ — was identified Wednesday as a 34-year-old woman who was hitch-hiking cross-country when she was brutally murdered in 1994
Her body was discovered on September 14, 1994 near an exit on Interstate 10 in Holt, Florida
He claimed his first memories of violence were being beaten with a belt by his father, who seemed to take pleasure in the abuse. Despite his troubled upbringing, he found a partner and started his own family.
In 1975, the then 20-year-old married his wife, Rose Huck, and they went on to have three children. However, Huck later suspected he was being unfaithful, and their marriage became to crumble.
Huck shut him off sexually, according to Jesperson, who opened up to Phelps about how his marital troubles fueled his future murders.
‘My wife used to say, “Go stick it in the keyhole. Just leave me alone,”‘ he recalled. ‘It really kinda struck me, kinda like, you know, what the hell, I don’t need this.’
The couple finalized their divorce in 1990 after 15 years of marriage, and he admitted to Phelps that he was ‘really angry at women’ at the time.
Jesperson would eventually confess to killing eight women between 1990 and 1995 in California, Washington, Oregon, Florida, Nebraska, and Wyoming
Other victims: Taunja Bennett, 23 (left), who was killed in January 1990, and Julia Ann Winningham, 41, who was Jesperson’s long-term girlfriend when she was strangled
That same year, he was dumped by his new girlfriend, who left him for another trucker. To get over the breakup, he went barhopping at B & I Tavern in Portland, Oregon, in January 1990.
‘That’s when I met [Taunja] Bennett,’ Jesperson said of his first known victim, who was 23 when he raped and killed her after convincing her to come home with him.
Jesperson murdered Bennett, 23, in January 1990, after meeting her at a bar near Portland, Oregon.
He invited her back to a house he was renting, where they had sex. Then he beat her and strangled her and went back out to a bar to have more drinks and provide himself with an alibi.
He later returned to the house, strapped Taunja’s body into the front seat of his car and disposed of it before leaving town.
In 1975, the then 20-year-old Jesperson married his wife, Rose Huck
Jesperson told filmmakers that his first memories of violence were being beaten with a belt by his father, who seemed to take pleasure in the abuse
Three months later, Jesperson met Daun Richert-Slagle, a 21-year-old mother of three who became the only known victim to survive an attack.
The truck driver waited for more than two years before he struck again in 1992 – raping and strangling a woman near Blythe, California. She has still not been identified but Jesperson said her name was Claudia.
His killing spree then escalated – a month later he raped and strangled a prostitute Cynthia Lyn Rose in Turlock, California.
The next month, he killed a fourth woman, also a prostitute, named Laurie Ann Pentland from Salem, Oregon. He claimed to have strangled her because she tried to double the amount of money she wanted for sex and had threatened to call the police.
His fifth victim, an unidentified ‘Jane Doe’ living on the streets in Santa Nella, California, was discovered in July of 1993. Police initially believed she had suffered a drug overdose.
In January 1995, Jesperson picked up a 21-year-old hitchhiker, Angela Subrize, whom he offered to drive from Spokane, Washington, to meet her boyfriend in Indiana.
On the journey, he raped and strangled her, then strapped her body face-down to the undercarriage of his truck so her face and prints would be ground off by the road while he drove.
The killer was finally caught in March 1995 after strangling his long-time girlfriend Julia Ann Winningham, 41, who he claimed did not love him but only wanted his money. She was the only victim he could be connected to. The rest are believed to have been strangers.
Jesperson initially refused to talk to police and attempted suicide twice. He then turned himself in, hoping for leniency at his trial.
He confessed details of his murderous history while in custody but later recanted much of it. At one point he claimed to have had as many as 160 victims but so far only eight have been confirmed.
Source: | This article originally belongs to Dailymail.co.uk