Daughter of the 'Happy Face Killer' Talks About Growing Up With a Serial Killer Dad

Ashamed and worried what people would think, Moore kept the dark family secret to herself.

When she was 21, Melissa met Sam Moore at a church dance. Their romance blossomed quickly, but she was worried about telling him her secret.

"I knew that our relationship was going towards marriage ... and I thought, well, this is something he's gonna need to know," Moore remembered. "I said, 'Hey, you know, you always ask me, you know, who my father is. I want you to know he's in prison.' And then I said, Hhe's' a serial killer. [Sam] put a face on that it didn't bother him."

After they were married, the Moores had two children: a daughter, Aspen, now 9 and a son, Jake, now 6. Moore admits she used to be afraid that her son "might have characteristics or DNA that would prove -- that he is capable of being a sociopath like my dad." She later learned that research has found there is no genetic link.

Just as Moore was settling into a normal life with her new family, letters from her father began arriving, asking her to visit him in prison. After talking it over with her husband, she decided to take the family to visit her father.

"I was kinda curious to see ... would he look like what I remembered him looking like? Or would I see him as the convicted serial killer?" she said.

They were told there was a family center and the couple expected to meet with the serial killer one at a time, while the children waited in the security of a day care facility. But the visit was nothing like what they had expected. The inmates were free to visit with their families in the children's center of the prison. The meeting wasn't what Jesperson had dreamed about either.

"It was, uh, uncomfortable ... last time I had seen my daughter, she was 15 years old, and all of a sudden, 10 years after the fact, she shows up, she's a mother and has children of her own and has a husband I've never met before," he said.

No one knew how to react. "I didn't want to talk about the crimes and I didn't want to bring to my attention that he really was a convicted serial killer at that moment. I wanted to play that he was my dad." Moore said.

A Serial Killer's Daughter

After that visit, Moore and her husband decided to keep their distance, because staying in touch seemed to be doing their family more harm than good. Thankfully, the children had no memory of the jailhouse visit.

The couple hid the sins of her father until one day when her daughter Aspen, then in first grade, said, "Everybody has a daddy, where's your daddy?" It was something Moore wasn't prepared for, and that simple question set off a complicated chain of events in her head.

"I went everywhere looking for books about serial killers in relationship to their family members. There was nothing that I could find out there that talked about the issues between criminals and their families," she said.

She decided to write the talk show host Dr. Phil McGraw a letter. In October 2008, Moore appeared on his show and asked him if she was doing the right thing by cutting off contact with her dad. His response was that she did nothing wrong, she didn't hurt anyone, her father did.

Moore said she found the show liberating and it ultimately changed the course of her life. "It held me accountable to sharing the secret. It made it so that I had to continue to move forward in my healing. It made it so that I couldn't hold it a secret anymore," she said.

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