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It's not unusual for parents to have secrets from their children. But when the secret is that they're a depraved serial killer, it's the worst kind of betrayal imaginable.
That's the reality for Melissa Moore, whose father is Keith Hunter Jesperson, a trucker who strangled eight women to death around the United States in the 1990s. He would later send taunting letters to media and law enforcement that were signed with a smiley face, earning him the moniker "The Happy Face Killer." His horrific crimes are examined in the new Oxygen special "Snapped Notorious: The Happy Face Killer."
Jesperson was caught after murdering his ex-girlfriend, Julie Ann Winningham, in March 1995, according to a 2020 The New York Daily News report. He's now serving serving seven consecutive life sentences at the Oregon State Penitentiary, CBS 12 News reported this year.
Moore, one of Jesperson's three kids with his ex-wife, has had to learn to live with the reality her father is a brutal murderer. It wasn't a total surprise, though, she told the BBC in 2014.
"I loved my dad, but I didn't really enjoy being around him. He made me anxious. He never molested or beat any of us, it was just a feeling that something was building, seething beneath the surface. I had once tried to articulate it to a school counselor but it didn't come out right," she said, adding, "He would leer at women in public, make lewd remarks about them, and harass them."
She did emphasize to the outlet he could be a "doting" and "good dad" at times, though, which made it all the more confusing.
"There isn't a book out there called, 'What Do You Do When You Find Out That Your Dad's A Serial Killer?' There's nothing out there that tells you what to do," she explained to the BBC.
Moore, who is now married with children, added that while working on a book about her experiences, her grandfather told her Jesperson had said in a prison phone call he "had thoughts of killing [Moore's] children."
Moore's memoir, "Shattered Silence: The Untold Story of a Serial Killer's Daughter," was published in 2009. Since then, she has continued to help support other people with killers in their family.
"What a lot of people don't know is that when I came forward with my story way back in 2008, it was amazing because I started getting emails and letters from people that had a killer in the family. They dealt with the same stigma, the same issues, and were basically underground. We kind of created this club, I would say. We would talk to each other and support each other. Sometimes I would hear something that one of the kids of a killer was going through and I would connect them to another person I know had that same [issue]. It's kind of like a grief club but in a really unique way," she told Marie Claire in 2021.
Moore, who has written about true crime for "Dr. Oz," released a podcast in 2021 along with criminologist Dr. Laura Pettler called "Life After Happy Face." It tells "stories that we think we know, but from a different point of view, the point of view of a survivor, somebody who's related to or lived with the killer or the victim, and they know this story from their own experience and how it changed their life," she explained to Marie Claire.
Moore hasn't spoken to her father in decades, but said she recently received a letter from him that claimed he was dying and requested a relationship with her. She told Marie Claire she is still planning how to respond to him.
For more on the Happy Face Killer, watch "Snapped Notorious: The Happy Face Killer" on Oxygen or stream the episode here.
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