Jane Doe identified, Happy Face Killer charged in her murder
Victim found dead along I-10 in 1994
OKALOOSA COUNTY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Nearly 30 years ago, a woman’s body was found along Interstate 10 near Crestview.
In 1996, Keith Jesperson, known nationally as the “Happy Face” killer, reportedly told investigators with the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office he had killed a “Jane Doe” in 1994, dumping her body near the Holt exit outside of Crestview.
He said he believed the woman’s name was “Susan” or “Suzette”.
“In February 1996, Jesperson actually admitted to killing our victim,” Okaloosa County Sheriff Eric Aden said. “Unfortunately, we didn’t know the identity of our victim to killing someone in this area and dumping her body. We had him as a suspect early on, just didn’t have an identity for our victim.”
On Tuesday, deputies announced that she had been identified as Suzanne Kjellenberg from Wisconsin. They say the victim’s family has been contacted. Investigators say DNA helped with the positive identification.
Kjellenberg is believed to be the sixth victim of Jesperson.
Jesperson reportedly admitted to the murder in 1996, but recently gave new details in a 2023 interview that officials previously did not know.
He told law enforcement he met Suzanne at a truck stop near Tampa in August 1994 while he was working as a long-haul trucker. Jesperson said he traveled to a rest area in the Panhandle and parked next to a security guard while Suzanne was sleeping in his bed.
When Jesperson sat next to her, he said she began screaming. He claims he was not allowed to have unauthorized riders in his truck and was afraid the security guard would hear her. Jesperson says he stopped her from breathing by pushing his fist against her neck, later placing zip ties around her throat.
He says he later disposed of her body, which was found by an inmate work crew.
Authorities are now working to prosecute Jesperson for the murder.
Jesperson is serving seven life sentences in Oregon State Penitentiary for the murders of seven other women across the country when he worked as a trucker.
Below is the full statement from the District One Medical Examiner’s Office regarding Kjellenberg’s DNA developments over the course of the investigation:
“On September 15, 1994, the D1MEO received the skeletonized remains of a female found near I-10. During the initial investigation, the remains were sent to the C.A. Pound Human Identification Laboratory in Gainesville by Dr. Kielman. An osteological examination showed the remains to be that of a white female aged approximately 35 to 55 years. Samples were sent for entomological examination for estimation of time since death. A clay facial reconstruction did not generate any leads.
Serial killer Keith Jesperson later admitted to killing a woman and disposing of her remains in the area, stating she called herself Susanne.
In 2007, a forensic artist completed a new facial reconstruction in hopes of identifying the victim. In 2008, the remains were sent for additional anthropological examination at the University of West Florida. Specimens were sent to the FBI Laboratory for DNA analysis and entry into the National Missing Person DNA Database. Mitochondrial DNA was also analyzed and entered into CODIS.
In 2018, specimens were sent for isotope analysis at the University of Florida. In late 2022, the D1MEO began working with Othram, a company that uses genetic genealogy to aid in identification. Othram, Inc., based in The Woodlands, Texas, is a leader in using Forensic-Grade Genome Sequencing to develop comprehensive genealogical profiles. In 2023, the D1MEO sent samples to Othram, Inc. and, with funding through the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs), a genealogical profile produced leads that led to Kjellenberg’s identification.”
Copyright 2023 WJHG. All rights reserved.