Calgary police lauded for helping confirm identity of ‘The Happy Face Serial Killer’ murder victim

The victim of a grisly murder in the United States nearly 30 years ago has now been identified thanks in part to advancements in DNA technology and Calgary Police Service members.

The Office of the Sheriff of The County of Santa Clara in California says a woman was found dead on the side of Highway 152 near Gilfroy, Calif. in the spring of 1993.

The following year, an anonymous writer — dubbed ‘The Happy Face Serial Killer’ as he signed his letters with a happy face symbol — claimed in his letters to an Oregon newspaper that he was responsible for several unsolved murders.

The Happy Face Serial Killer was identified as Keith Hunter Jesperson and, in 2006, he sent a letter to the Santa Clara County District Attorney in which he admitting to sexually assaulting and killing a woman in a dirt turnout along Highway 152.

Jesperson pleaded guilty to first-degree murder of the woman in 2007 but the victim’s identity remained unknown.

Cold case detectives with the sheriff’s office in Santa Clara County ramped up their effort to identify the victim in 2019, utilizing advanced investigative genetic genealogy technology in partnership with the DNA Doe Project. 

The technology identified potential relatives of the murdered woman, including numerous hits in Canada.

“It’s pretty cool,” said Calgary Police Service spokesperson Emma Poole. “Our folks were tasked with helping them track down Canadian ‘relatives’ that were identified through their genealogy searches.

“There were a ton of hits all around here and in Saskatchewan, across the country. So, (Det.)Ken (Carriere) and his team helped track them down to rule them in or out as potential family.”

The DNA Doe Project confirmed Patricia Skiple had been identified as the victim of a 1993 murder in California at the hands of The Happy Face Serial Killer. (image: DNA Doe Project)

The victim was officially identified on April 13 of this year as Patricia ‘Patsy’ Skiple of Colton, Ore., who was approximately 45 years old at the time of her murder.

“Although this criminal case was adjudicated, detectives never gave up as they worked diligently throughout this investigation to provide closure for the family of Patricia Skiple,” said the Office of the Sheriff in a statement released Monday. “We would like to thank the DNA Doe Project, Oregon State Police Criminal Investigations Division, including Detective Jim O’Connor, and the Calgary Police Service, including Detective Ken Carriere and Analyst Amy Lemieux for their assistance throughout this investigation.”

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