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'Happy Face Killer' Victim Identified 30 years After Body Found Near Gilroy

GILROY (CBS SF/AP) — A victim of the Happy Face Killer has been identified nearly 30 years after her body was left near a rural Gilroy highway.

Patricia Skiple of Colton, Oregon, had been known only as "Blue Pacheco" for the color of her clothing until genetic genealogy was used to identify her last week, the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office said.

According to cold case investigators, the case began when a female body was located on the side of California State Route 152 in
unincorporated Gilroy in June 1993.

At the time of the incident, the body was dressed in blue clothing and her identity was unknown. The Santa Clara County Medical Examiner-Coroner's autopsy report classified the cause of death as "undetermined". A nearly a 30-year investigation ensued.

In 1994, an Oregon newspaper ran a five-part series "The Happy Face Serial Killer" in which an anonymous letter-writer claimed to have committed five murders throughout the West Coast.

The person behind the anonymous letter-writing was later identified as Keith Hunter Jesperson, also known as the "Happy Face Killer", who signed his anonymous letters with a happy face symbol.

In 2006, Jesperson submitted a letter to the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office admitting to sexually assaulting and killing an unknown female subject along a dirt turnout on Highway 152.

In July 2007, Jesperson pled guilty to killing a female subject, referred to as "Blue Pacheco", but the woman's identity remained a mystery.

In 2019, Sheriff's office cold case detectives used advanced investigative genetic genealogy in an attempt to identify "Blue
Pacheco". They partnered with the DNA Doe Project.

A major break came last week, after pursuing multiple leads, detectives were able to identify "Blue Pacheco" as Patricia Skiple, known to family and friends close to her as "Patsy". She would have been approximately 45 years old at the time she was killed.

"This case was exceptionally challenging due to recent Norwegian ancestry which resulted in very distant DNA matches on GEDmatch and FamilyTreeDNA," said DNA Doe Project team leader Cairenn Binder.

Jesperson eventually confessed to killing eight women between 1990 and 1995 in California, Washington, Oregon, Florida, Nebraska, and Wyoming. He currently is serving four life sentences without possibility of parole in Oregon.

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