Officials say they need the public’s help to solve a decadeslong mystery: the identity of a woman whose body was left on the side of a California road by a man known as the “Happy Face Killer.”
Long-haul trucker Keith Hunter Jesperson, who is currently serving multiple life sentences for killing eight women across the country, pleaded guilty in 2010 to murdering the woman in 1992, Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin said Monday in a video posted on YouTube.
“This woman is the last of all his victims to remain unidentified,” Hestrin said.
Jesperson referred to the woman as “Claudia,” but that may not be her real name, according to the video.
Dubbed the “Happy Face Killer” for drawings he left on anonymous letters, he targeted women, torturing and killing them in the cab of his truck, according to an account from journalist Jack Olsen.
The morning before “Claudia” died, investigators said they suspect she caught a ride with a grocery ride truck driver traveling from Las Vegas on Interstate 15. They believe she was hitchhiking.
The unknown driver dropped off the woman at a brake stop south of Victorville, California, according to the DA’s office. That is where investigators said she approached Jesperson and asked him for a ride to Los Angeles.
Jesperson was on his way to Arizona and said the closest he could take her was to Cabazon, an unincorporated community in Riverside County. The woman accepted, the DA’s office said.
After arriving in Cabazon, the woman decided to continue traveling with Jesperson down Interstate 10 to a truck stop near Indio where they stopped to have lunch inside a diner, according to investigators.
After their meal, the two got into a heated argument inside Jesperson’s truck and he killed the woman, the DA’s office said. Jesperson continued traveling toward Blythe in eastern Riverside County, where he dumped the woman’s body on the side of the road.
“Claudia” is described as a white woman with a fair complexion who was about 25 to 35 years old when she was killed. The woman had brown or dyed blonde hair and was about 5 feet, 7 inches tall with a medium build, according to officials. She also had a tattoo of two dots on the side of her right thumb and wore a shirt that read “Ride Me Ride Free” at the time of her death.
The woman was a frequent hitchhiker and likely from Southern California, possibly Los Angeles, San Bernardino or Riverside County, the DA’s office said.
“We are hoping that someone, anyone might recognize her and be able to provide some information that can help with identifying her in this case,” Hestrin said in the video. “Even the smallest piece of information could be the key in bringing this victim’s identity to light.”
Hestrin’s plea for help comes nearly two years authorities were able to provide closure for the family of another victim of the “Happy Face Killer.” Oregon mother Patricia Skiple had long been known to detectives only as “Blue Pacheco” after the color of her clothing before genetic genealogy was used to identify her in April 2022.
The DA’s office asks anyone with leads on “Claudia” to contact its cold case team at 951-955-5567 or [email protected].
This article was originally published on NBCNews.com