RIVERSIDE – The Riverside County District Attorney’s office Monday sought help from the public in identifying a woman who was murdered by the “Happy Face” serial killer 31 years ago.
“Our goal is to identify this victim and provide closure to her family, wherever they may be,” Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin said in a statement. “We are hopeful someone hearing any of these details may remember anything that could help us reunite this woman with the family who may have been looking for her for over three decades.”
Keith Hunter Jesperson pleaded guilty Jan. 8, 2010, to the murder and was sentenced to 15 years to life in prison, according to a statement from Riverside County District Attorney’s office spokesperson Brooke Beare. He referred to the woman as “Claudia,” and she was found about seven miles north of Blythe, along Highway 95, on Aug. 30, 1992.
Jesperson confessed the murder to a news reporter in Portland, Oregon following his arrest in a separate case, Beare said. He then admitted to Riverside County Sheriff’s Department deputies about killing her and seven other women as well. He was dubbed the “Happy Face Killer” because he put smiley faces on letters he sent to the media detailing his murders.
More recently, Riverside County Regional Cold Case Homicide investigators interviewed Jesperson late last year at the Oregon State Penitentiary about `Claudia,’ according to Beare. He said he met her while he was working as a long-haul truck driver in August 1992.
He described her as an about 5 feet 6 inches to 5 feet 7 inches tall, 20- to 30-years old with a medium build, weighing about 140 to 150 pounds, with shaggy, wild blonde hair, and tight clothing, according to Beare. When found, she was wearing a t-shirt with a motorcycle print and had a tattoo of two small dots on the left side of her right thumb.
She’s believed to have been familiar with the Los Angeles, San Bernardino, and Riverside County areas with ties to Las Vegas and southern Nevada, based on what Jesperson described in his encounter with the victim, Beare said. It’s also believed that she smoked cigarettes and was a frequent hitchhiker.
Improvements in forensic science allowed investigators and genealogists to determine some relatives, including her biological but now deceased father of Cameron County, Texas, according to Beare. Several of the victim’s half-siblings were also identified but they were not biological matches to her mother.
The victim’s maternal side of the family is believed to have ties to the Louisiana and/or southeast Texas area, Brooke said.
Anyone with additional leads to `Claudia’s’ identity was asked to call the Cold Case Hotline at 951-955-5567 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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