Investigators ask for help identifying victim of ‘Happy Face Killer’

Posted at 7:57 PM, January 9, 2024

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (Scripps News San Diego) — Riverside County authorities are seeking public assistance to identify the only remaining unidentified victim of serial killer Keith Hunter Jesperson, known as the “Happy Face Killer.”

police sketch of a woman

A forensic approximation of a woman killed 31 years ago by the ‘Happy Face Killer.’ (Riverside Sheriff’s Office Forensic Technician Cori Kopitzke via Scripps News San Diego)

Recent breakthroughs in DNA technology have provided a significant lead in identifying the woman, referred to as “Claudia” by Jesperson, killed 31 years ago, according to the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office.

A forensic approximation is depicted in the sketch above, using DNA technology, her remains, and Jesperson’s descriptions.

Authorities said they found the woman’s body on August 30, 1992, along Interstate 95, about seven miles north of Blythe, California.

Jesperson, convicted of the murders in 2010, pleaded guilty to killing her and seven other women. However, “Claudia” remained the only victim who was not identified, according to a press release from Riverside County District Attorney’s Office.

In a recent interview at the Oregon State Penitentiary, Jesperson, currently serving a 15 years to life sentence, disclosed more details about “Claudia.”

RELATED: California ‘Happy Face Killer’ victim ID’d after 29 years

He said they met in August 1992 at a brake check area on Interstate 15, south of the Victorville area, where he was working as a truck driver.

a forensic sketch of a woman in a motorcycle tshirt

Investigators released this forensic sketch in an attempt to identify ‘Claudia.’ (Riverside County District Attorney’s Office via Scripps News San Diego)

Following an argument over money after arriving in Coachella, California, Jesperson claimed to kill her in the truck and later dispose of her body near Blythe, authorities said.

Jesperson described the victim as having “shaggy, wild blonde hair” in her 20s. “She was found wearing a T-shirt printed with a motorcycle and had a tattoo of two small dots on the left side of her right thumb,” according to cold case investigators.

Authorities said “Claudia” had ties to Los Angeles, San Bernardino, and Riverside County, with connections to Las Vegas and southern Nevada, based on Jesperson’s descriptions. “She is believed to have been a cigarette smoker and a frequent hitchhiker,” the release also said.

Over the years, investigators were able to find the victim’s biological father from Cameron County, Texas, who is now dead. Authorities suspect her maternal side of the family has ties to the Louisiana and/or southeast Texas area.

“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,” said District Attorney Mike Hestrin.

The Riverside County DA’s Office, in collaboration with the Regional Cold Case Homicide Team, is urging anyone with information to contact the Cold Case Hotline at (951) 955-5567 or email [email protected]. For more details, watch the video from officials.

This story was originally published by Scripps News San Diego, an E.W. Scripps Company.