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Keith Jesperson: The Happy Face Killer


Keith Hunter Jesperson (born 6 April 1955) is a Canadian-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.  Once he became a truck driver, his marriage soured and he lashed out in a terrible way. This is his story.

He claims to have killed more than 160 people, yet investigators insist that the total number is much lower. They have only been able to corroborate eight murders to this day. Despite consistently getting into trouble in his youth, including twice attempting to kill children who had crossed him, Jesperson graduated from high school, secured a job as a truck driver, got married, and had three children. In 1990, after 15 years of marriage, Jesperson was divorced and saw his dream to become a Royal Canadian Mounted Policeman dashed following an injury. It was that year, after returning to truck driving, that Jesperson began to kill.

A Strange Twist

Police are used to people making false confessions to high profile murders. The nature of fame is too lucrative for many people, and the news of a strangled young girl left under a bridge caught many people’s attention. After the body of Tanja Bennett was found, media attention surrounded Laverne Pavlinac, a woman who confessed to having killed Bennett with her abusive boyfriend. The two managed to flabbergast detectives for months with details as Jesperson continued to kill other women after his mental break.

Jesperson was upset that he was not getting the attention, and first drew the smiley face on the bathroom wall where he wrote an anonymous confession for the murder, hundreds of miles away from the scene of the crime. When that did not elicit a response, he began writing the letters to media and prosecutors. Many of his victims were prostitutes and transients with no connection to him; however, his final victim was his long-time girlfriend.

That connection is ultimately what led to his downfall.


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