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

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(RIVERSIDE, Calif.) — More than three decades after she was murdered by a notorious serial killer, police and prosecutors in Riverside, California, are hoping the public can help them identify the unknown victim.

Riverside County officials launched a new, nationwide effort Monday to discover the identity of the woman who was murdered in 1992, the last unidentified victim of Keith Jesperson — the “Happy Face Killer.”

“Our goal is to identify this victim and provide closure to her family,” Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin said in a statement.

Police have referred to her as “Claudia” because that is how Jesperson, who was convicted of her murder 14 years ago Monday, has referred to her. The authorities, though, do not know if that is her real name.

In a new law enforcement interview with investigators, details of which Riverside officials released Monday, they say Jesperson told them he met “Claudia” at a brake check area near Victorville, California, while he was working as a trucker. She was hitchhiking and took a ride with him, he reportedly said. During that ride, he told them, they argued about money, and he killed her in his truck. He admitted to dumping the body in Blythe.

Jesperson allegedly described her as having shaggy, wild blonde hair. She was wearing tight clothing, he said. She was about 20 to 30 years old in 1992. Investigators believe she was living in, or frequented, Southern California and Nevada.

Investigators hope that recent advances in DNA technology and tips from the public could help them discover her name.

Forensic investigators and genealogists have traced her to a now-deceased father who was from Cameron County, Texas, but traveled extensively. Half siblings were identified but they were not aware of the woman as none were biological matches to her mother. Her mother may have had ties to Louisiana or Texas, authorities said.

Jesperson terrorized the country in the ‘90s. A Canadian-born long-haul trucker and divorced father of three, Jesperson claimed to have killed women in five states: Washington, California, Florida, Wyoming and Oregon.

His killing spree lasted from 1990-1995, when he turned himself in to police.

The unidentified woman’s body was found on Aug. 30, 1992, along Highway 95 near Blythe, California. Jesperson pleaded guilty to her murder in 2010 and was given a sentence of 15 years to life.

He received the name the “Happy Face Killer” due to the smiley faces he drew on a letter he sent to a newspaper in which he bragged about his crimes.

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