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

Melissa Moore heard dad say: 'I know how to kill someone and get away with it.'

ByABC News
August 16, 2010, 4:35 PM

Aug. 20, 2010— -- Growing up, Melissa Moore adored her father. She had a modest upbringing in rural Toppenish, Wash. and remembers the fun times they had together. "I have memories of riding my bike and my dad would run behind me as I would be peddling," she said.

Not once during her early childhood did she suspect her father was capable of becoming "the Happy Face Killer."

Moore is the oldest of three children, and always looked forward to when her dad, a long-haul truck driver, would come home from a trip.

"The first thing I would do when he got out of the car is I would run up to him and go for his pockets with the change that he had left over from the day and I got to keep the change," she said.

Keith Jesperson was a doting father when his children were little, but behind the loving facade, his daughter says, were the darkest of secrets. Secrets he mostly managed to keep hidden from his family, except for one traumatizing day that Moore still remembers vividly.

She was just a young girl when she saw her father torture animals. "I found some little kittens, he grabbed them by the tail and hung them on the clothesline," she said.

Frightened, she ran inside to get her mother, Rose Hucke, but by the time she came back, it was too late. "I remember bending down and seeing that they were dead."

Moore believed that's when she first saw her father's darker side. "I think I caught a glimpse of the sociopath, the part of where felt in control over me and that he enjoyed it. I got the sense that there was another side to him," she said.

Moore's mother fell in love with Jesperson when she was a teenager. The two were married in 1975. "When you're young, you don't realize that this person's gonna become who they become," she said. "At the time he was a very charismatic, considerate young man and I had no clue that this is what he would become."

Jesperson would turn out to be one of the country's most notorious serial killers, known as the "Happy Face Killer." The nickname began because he signed anonymous confession letters with a smiley face.

After a few years of marriage, Hucke said strange women started calling the house and she suspected her husband was having affairs.

The marriage started to crumble, and the final straw came for Hucke while she and her husband were on a road trip. "We took a little walk ... and there was a bunch of young men and he grabbed me and threw me in their arms and said, 'Here, you can have [her],' and walked away," she recalled.

Hucke had had enough, and she knew it was time to get away from her husband of 14 years. So while he was on the road, she packed up her three children, and drove 200 miles to Spokane, Wash. to move into her mother's basement. Her daughter Melissa was only 10 years old at the time.