After nearly 30 years, California authorities have identified an Oregon woman murdered by the “Happy Face Killer.”
On June 3, 1993, the body of Patricia Skiple was found by a truck driver who stopped on the side of California State Route 152 in Gilroy unincorporated, about half an hour south of San Jose. The woman was wearing blue denim when she was found by detectives in the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office. The autopsy classified her death as “indeterminate” and, with no clues as to her identity, authorities referred to her as “Pacheco Azul”.
Detectives resurfaced the case a few years ago to keep track. With the help of Doe DNA Projecta nonprofit that offers genetic genealogy research services to identify “John and Jane Does,” were able to discover Skiple’s identity last week and confirm his killer, Keith Hunter Jesperson.
Skiple, known to her family and friends as “Patsy,” was a mother and long-term resident of Colton, Oregon, according to a statement from the sheriff’s office. Skiple was about 45 years old at the time she was killed.
Jesperson, who already faces up to four life terms without the possibility of parole for murders in Oregon, California and Wyoming, has gained notoriety for attacking several women across the Pacific Northwest. He worked as a long-distance truck driver, according to the Statesman Journal.
Jesperson is known as the “Happy Face Killer” for drawing happy faces in letters boasting of five murders on the West Coast. Four of the five cases remained unresolved.
Jesperson, now 67, said he killed several people; Eight “strangulation” murders of women between 1990 and 1994 have been confirmed, according to the sheriff’s office and a DNA Doe Project statement.
In 2006, Jesperson wrote a letter to the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office, as well as former Statesman Journal reporter Jan Davies, admitting to sexually assaulting and killing an unknown female subject along a land exit between Dinosaur Point. and El Toro, on Highway 152. in California.
He pleaded guilty to first-degree homicide the following year for killing the unidentified woman known as “Blue Pacheco,” so called because of the color he wore and the nickname of Highway 152, Pacheco Pass Highway. But Skiple’s identity was still unknown at the time of sentencing.
In 2019, cold case detectives from the sheriff’s office evaluated the “Blue Pacheco” case to track down clues and collaborated on the DNA Doe project.
DNA Doe project volunteers began investigating genetic coincidences with “Blue Pacheco” in December 2019, after the sergeant. Shannon Catalano with the Santa Clara Sheriff’s Office took the case to the nonprofit, according to organization statement. A “likely candidate” was paired with “Pacheco Azul” in 2021.
On Wednesday, investigators were able to confirm the identity of “Blue Pacheco” as Skiple by DNA testing.
“This case has been exceptionally challenging due to recent Norwegian ancestry that has resulted in very distant DNA matches in GEDmatch and FamilyTreeDNA,” DNA Doe Project team leader Cairenn Binder said in a statement.
The organization said Catalano made the most of the information discovered through genealogy by contacting potential family members and encouraging them to voluntarily upload their DNA profiles to GEDmatch, a public DNA database that can be used for forensic cases.
“Every DNA match made the difference in this difficult case,” said Doe Project DNA team leader Harmony Bronson.
“Although this criminal case has been tried, detectives have never given up as they have worked diligently throughout this investigation to arrest Patricia Skiple’s family,” sheriff’s office officials said in a statement.
Records show that Jesperson is being held at the Oregon State Penitentiary in Salem on charges of murder and aggravated homicide in Washington and Multnomah counties, respectively. One case involved Laurie Ann Pentland, 23, of Carlton, whose body was found on November 14, 1992, behind an East Salem store.
Jesperson’s first release date from the Department of Corrections’ custody is March 1, 2063.
The sheriff’s office thanked the DNA Doe project, the Oregon State Police’s Criminal Investigation Division, including Detective Jim O’Connor, and the Calgary Police Service, including Detective Ken Carriere and analyst Amy Lemieux, for their help. during this research.
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