The infamous Keith Jesperson, now 60, became known for sending confessions describing his heinous crimes to police and journalists. The letters were signed with a smiley face, which is how he earned his nickname. The killer, who is spending life behind bars, often targeted prostitutes and homeless women. He raped then strangling them. He murdered eight women total.
Now a mother of two, Melissa Moore first discovered her father, Keith Jesperson, was the ‘Happy Face’ serial killer when she was just 15. Before then, she’d believed her childhood was normal. She didn’t think there was anything different about her father.
“He was a provider, a protector,” she told Daily Mail. “He was what I thought every dad should be.”
She did, however, see him “torture animals that would come on the property,” she admitted.
Moore was only five years old when she watched father hang her pet kittens on a clothes line and torture them to death. She remembers screaming, but it did nothing to stop him. Another time, he pinned down a cat and twisted its head until its neck snapped. Moore remembers her father had a “look of enjoyment” on his face.
Despite all this, it came as a shock when Jesperson was arrested for the murder of eight women in 1995.
“Knowing that my father caused some pain causes me pain,” Moore says. She also feels her family members are secondary victims of her father. He’s brought them so much suffering and shame. “There are no books like what to do if your dad is a serial killer,” she said.
In fact, Melissa has written a book, Shattered Silence, about her father and her family’s struggle to cope with who he is. She reaches out to other serial killers’ family members, who also suffer the same trauma and stigma she’s familiar with.
Jenn Carson, Daughter of Michael Carson, One of the San Francisco Witch Killers
Michael Carson and Jenn Carson’s stepmother, Suzan Carson, were apprehended in the early ’80s after their murderous rampage, during which they murdered people they suspected of being witches. The killing spree began in 1981 with their 23-year-old roommate, Keryn Barnes, in their San Francisco apartment. They hit her in the head with a frying pan before stabbing her 13 times. They then wrapped her in blanket and hid the body in the basement. Both were arrested in 1983 for the murders of three people and were sentenced to 75 years to life in prison.
Jenn Carson became aware that her father, Michael Carson, was one half of the San Francisco Witch Killers when she was just eight years old.
Before then, she, like Moore, thought she was a part of a normal family. The only thing that seemed unconventional about her life was the fact that her parents were divorced.
“[My dad] was a stay-at-home pot dealer…yeah, that’s what he did. At preschool once I got in trouble — we were playing house and I was rolling joints. That was my concept of normal,” Carson told the Daily Mail.
Carson’s father stepped into a world of drugs when he married a woman named Suzan. She remembers Suzan as looking frightening.
“I found newspaper articles in the house,” Carson says, recalling how she found out about her father. “I remember the word ‘bludgeoned’ because I didn’t know what it meant, but I read the other words and I was able to figure out that they stabbed [Keryn] in the neck 12 times and they hit her over the head and that’s when my lifelong struggle with nightmares began.”
“I felt so alone. I remember doing research and found out I was more likely to have a parent who died by being struck by lightning than have a parent who was a serial killer,’ she said. “I remember thinking ‘I am the daughter of the devil. I must just be evil.’ (I thought) I was going to hurt people too.”