An Oregon mother was identified Tuesday as a victim of “the Happy Face Killer” nearly four decades after her body was found on the side of a California road, authorities said.
Patricia Skiple, believed to be 45, had long been known to detectives only as “Blue Pacheco” after the color of the clothing she was found in, the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office said.
She was identified last week using genetic genealogy, the department said in a statement.
The case is one of many decades-old unsolved crimes that law enforcement agencies are clearing using a technique that combines DNA analysis, genealogical detective work and ancestry databases.
Keith Jesperson confessed to Skiple’s murder in July 2006 and pleaded guilty a year later to felony homicide, the department said.
Dubbed the “Happy Face Killer” for drawings he left on anonymous letters, Jesperson, a long-haul trucker, targeted women, torturing and killing them in the cab of his truck, according to an account from journalist Jack Olsen.
Jesperson admitted to killing seven other women over five years in six states in the 1990s and is serving four consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole in Oregon, The Associated Press reported.
According to the DNA Doe Project, a nonprofit investigative genetic genealogy group that helped detectives solve the case, Skiple was one of three of Jesperson’s victims who had not been identified.
A trucker found Skiple’s body June 3, 1994, on the side of California State Route 152 near Gilroy, south of San Francisco, the group said on its website. She had been strangled.
In 2019, detectives with the sheriff’s office asked the group for help identifying her body, the department said.
On April 13, Skiple — known as Patsy — was identified as a mother from Colton, Oregon, a rural community southeast of Portland, the sheriff’s office said.
“Although this criminal case was adjudicated, detectives never gave up as they worked diligently throughout this investigation to provide closure for the family of Patricia Skiple,” the department said.