October 10, 2023
The last unidentified victim of serial killer, Keith "Happy Face Killer" Hunter Jesperson, has been identified after thirty years.
Suzanne Kjellenberg was officially named last week in a press conference by the Oskaloosa County Sheriff's Office.
Kjellenberg’s body was found by an inmate work crew in Holt, Florida just off the I-10 in September of 1994.
Although in 1995 Jesperson admitted to killing a woman named “Suzie,” forensic technology was in its infancy in the 1990s, and investigators were unable to make an identification of the victim. The remains were also skeletal by the time they were discovered, making it even more to produce a composite sketch of what Kjellenberg could have looked like.
At the time of her murder, Suzanne Kjellenberg did not have a fixed place of abode, nor a place of employment. News articles describe her as a drifter.
Jesperson, a long haul truck driver at the time of his arrest, told police that he met Kjellenberg at a truck stop in Tampa, Florida, in 1994. He described locking zip ties around the victims neck to stop her screaming. He said he did so because he did not want nearby security guards to notice he had, what he referred to as, "an unauthorized person," in his truck. Strangulation was his method of murder and he killed at least eight women this way.
Suzanne Kjellenberg was recently identified after the medical examiner’s office sent DNA samples to Othram Lab, who created a genealogical profile for the victim. From there, a living relative was tracked down, and helped investigators to put a name to the Jane Doe.
Jesperson has given some insight into his life over the years, describing his childhood in an abusive home in British Columbia with his alcoholic father, and his experience as the target of bullying in school. He eventually grew up perpetuating the same violence towards other kids and animals, capturing wild birds and stray cats and dogs which he would beat, torture, choke and kill.
He once beat another child severely and held another's head underwater. He would later claim that these incidents were murder attempts. Jesperson would have been around 10 or 11 at the time of the attacks.
Before he was known as the Happy Face Killer, he was known as "Igor" due to his large stature of 6"7. He never dated in high school; however, when he was 20 years old he got married, and had two daughters and a son.
Before the murders, Jesperson had been training to join the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, but had to pull out after sustaining an injury. He eventually became a truck driver, which is how he would go on to find his victims and spread his crimes out over the country.
His wife took the children and left at some point in the eighties, relocating to Spokane, Washington while Jesperson was away for work. The divorce was officially finalised in 1990, and there were rumours that Jesperson's wife believed he had been cheating on her as unknown women would often call the home line.
Jesperson's daughter would grow up and go on to publish a book about living with her serial killer father, which recalled a lot of his abuse and killing towards animals that came within the vicinity of their home and the pleasure he derived from it. She would also make appearances on several talk shows to talk about growing up with him.
Keith Jesperson killed multiple women across several states while driving cross-country for work. His media moniker, “The Happy Face Killer,” was given on account of the smiley faces he would sign off with in his letters to authorities and newspapers. He killed eight women between 1990 – 1995. His victims were strangers to him, sex workers or lone women hitchhiking, whom he would murder.
Although his official victim count, at the time of writing, is eight, Jesperson claims that he killed many, many more women. According to the killer, he believes he has killed upwards of 160 women over the years, but this has never been confirmed.
An uninvolved individual falsely confessed to the murder of Jesperson’s first victim, Taunja Bennett. Jesperson, who was hungry for the attention of his crime, wrote a letter to the police and media, with proof he committed the murder.
Jesperson's first arrest came in the Spring of 1995. He was considered a suspect in the murder of Julie Winningham. Despite the fact that there were no grounds for arrest, Jesperson attempted to take his own life two times, before ultimately handing himself over to the authorities.
Jesperson is currently serving out multiple life sentences. He took a plea deal over a death sentence and will remain incarcerated for the rest of his life. He is, at the time of writing, being held at the Oregon State Penitentiary.
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