Keith Hunter Jesperson, also known as “The Happy Face Killer,” is serving a life sentence in prison today. He is now 66 years old, according to his prison records.
Jesperson was a long-road trucker from British Columbia who killed at least eight women, according to Oregon Live. He was convicted in a killing spree spanning five states beginning in 1990, the article said.
ABC “20/20” looked into the case in an episode premiering, Friday, November 5, 2021. The two-hour special aired at 9 p.m. Eastern time.
Here’s what you need to know:
Jesperson Is Serving Three Consecutive Life Sentences in an Oregon State Penitentiary
Jesperson is serving three consecutive life sentences in the Oregon State Penitentiary in Salem, Oregon, according to his prison records. He was convicted in the murders of Taunja Bennett, Julie Winningham and Laurie Ann Pentland, Oxygen reported. His prison record lists his alias as “Happy Face Killer.”
Here is his prison record:
Oxygen reported Jesperson took a plea deal in the murders to avoid the death sentence.
“He didn’t want to die,” crime novelist M. William Phelps said, according to the article. “He was scared of dying.”
Phelps is the author of “Dangerous Ground: My Friendship with a Serial Killer.”
Prior to Jesperson’s conviction, Laverne Pavlinac gave a false confession saying that she and her boyfriend, John Sosnovske, killed Bennett, Oxygen reported. They were both convicted and sentenced to prison time, though they were released after Jesperson took credit for the crime, Distractify reported.
Oxygen reported the false confession, for Jesperson, was “both elating and puzzling.” Phelps said Jesperson considered the confession “a license to continue to kill.”
“During his murder spree, Jesperson taunted authorities with anonymous confessions that let him brag about his depraved slayings without giving himself away. Jesperson scribbled his first confession in a bathroom in a bus terminal in Montana after the couple was taken in for Bennett’s murder,” Oxygen wrote.
The scrawled confession included a happy face.
Daun Slagle, a Surviving Victim of Jesperson, Filed a Lawsuit Over Her Depiction in a Movie
Daun Slagle was one of the surviving victims of Jesperson, who escaped after he tried to force her to perform a sex act on him in California in 1990, according to Oregon Live. The article said she was a 21-year-old mother of three at the time. Jesperson attempted to choke her and break her neck, but she ran away, the article said.
Oregon Live reported in 2014 that Slagle filed a lawsuit regarding a movie adaptation of the story, in which she was depicted as a prostitute. The article said she had never been a prostitute.
“Despite having been portrayed (elsewhere) as the courageous victim and survivor of an attempted murder,” Slagle’s lawsuit said, according to Oregon Live, “she was depicted in the ‘Happy Face Killer’ movie as a prostitute, a person who voluntarily orally copulated a serial killer, a mother who committed sex acts for pay in front of her infant child, an unfit mother and person who sought to extort money by threatening to file a false criminal rape complaint against Jesperson.”
The lawsuit was ultimately dismissed in March of 2015, according to court records.