He Is Known as the Happy Face Killer — Where Is Keith Jesperson Now?

Where is the Happy Face Killer now? In the early 1990s, he murdered at least eight women before finally getting caught. Here's what we know.

Jennifer Tisdale - Author

Jun. 26 2023, Published 2:10 p.m. ET

Throughout his life, Keith Jesperson would wear many hats. He was a son, a brother, a father, and eventually a murderer. According to True Crime Report, Jesperson has confessed to the murder of eight women although there are more victims waiting to be identified. He was given the name Happy Face Killer based on a smiley face he used as a tag on a public bathroom wall, and later in letters to police.

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His reign of terror stretched from Washington to Wyoming, Nebraska, and even as far away as Florida. In 1995, the terror ended when Jesperson was finally caught. Where is the Happy Face Killer now? Here's what we know.

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Where is the Happy Face Killer now? Jesperson was caught in 1995.

Jesperson is currently serving a life sentence at Oregon State Penitentiary. He will be eligible for parole March 1, 2063, but would be over 100 years old. In all likelihood, Jesperson will die in prison. In February 2003, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer profiled Jesperson and spoke with him about his crimes. He was disturbingly specific. In fact, it feels more like a tutorial on how to get away with murder though he clearly did not.

He spoke of creating distance between himself and his victims, both personally and physically. Not only did Jesperson suggest picking victims at random, but he emphasized the importance of getting rid of the body in a different location from where you met the victim. "The longer it takes to find a body, the better," he told the outlet. "But you don't have to take it 20 miles away to dump it. You can put a body in the Dumpster next door if you feel comfortable that no one can pin it on you."

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As a former long-haul trucker, Jesperson frequently encountered new people and was of course constantly on the move. It was the perfect job for a serial killer. "When you're throwing away bodies, the real adversary out there is not the police, it's the public," said Jesperson. "You're trying to avoid being seen by them. You can't be placed at a dumpsite."

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How was the Happy Face Killer caught?

Reading Jesperson's thoughts on how to effectively murder someone feels strange given the fact that he obviously got caught. What finally did him in was straying from his own rules. Jesperson's final victim was his then-girlfriend, Julie Ann Winningham. All of his friends and loved ones knew they were dating. Winningham was even telling people they were engaged.

In March 1995, "her body was found along a highway in Clark County," and it didn't take long for police to look at Jesperson. After being questioned by authorities, they didn't find any hard evidence linking Jesperson to his girlfriend's death but things were becoming strained. At this point, he was fatigued and ready to give up. So, Jesperson confessed to all eight murders in a letter he sent to his brother. He also confessed to a Clark County detective, but only admitted to killing Winningham.

In an effort to avoid the death penalty, he "began writing to the press about other murders," via the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Along with DNA evidence linking him to the crimes, Jesperson's confessions are what lead to his convictions. He has since confessed to eight murders, and has been convicted of four. Jesperson claims he has killed more than 160 women but refuses to confess to any more because, "There's no benefit in it for me."

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