'Happy Face Killer' Daughter Speaks Out

In new book, serial killer's daughter is "bringing light into that darkness."

October 16, 2009, 11:25 AM

Dec. 2, 2009 — -- At age 15, Melissa Moore learned that her father, Keith Jesperson, was a serial murderer. And for the next 15 years, she tried to keep that painful fact a secret.

Now 30 years old and author of the recently released book "Shattered Silence: The Untold Story of a Serial Killer's Daughter," Moore has spent the past year finally liberating herself from the guilt and shame she felt over her father's past.

"I know I'm in the perfect place at the perfect time, telling my story to those who have been searching for answers within the dark crevices of their own souls," Moore wrote. "I know that I'm bringing light into that darkness. I know that I'm literally breaking the chains of horror, secrecy and devastation."

But the light wasn't always there and signs of the darkness to come began for Moore at the age of 6 when she found a litter of kittens. She vividly recalls how her father asked to see the kittens, grabbed them and hung them on the clothesline.

"I remember saying, 'Daddy, please stop. These are my kittens. Please stop.' I kept screaming it," Moore said. "I saw that he had a smirk on his face. And that he was really enjoying what he was doing to my kittens."

Moore said she raced into the house to get her mother but it was too late: The kittens were already dead.

When Melissa was 10 her parents divorced, and five years later her mother called the whole family together for a meeting she would never forget.

"[Moore's mother] said, 'Your dad is in jail.' And she had this look that said, 'We're not going to talk about this. This is really hard.' And my brother said, 'For what?' and she said, 'For murder,'" Moore said.

Liberated by Telling Her Dark Secret

It wasn't just one murder, it was at least four, all women. Jesperson was the serial murderer known as the "Happy Face Killer" – the label given for the happy faces he drew on letters to the media. Although Moore did not want to believe it, she said she immediately thought of the kittens.

"That's when I knew that what my mother had just told me was true," Moore said.

Jesperson was convicted and is currently serving three consecutive life sentences in prison in Oregon.

What followed were years of keeping her shameful secret and worrying that people would think she was like her father, all the while knowing she wasn't.

When she fell in love with Samuel Moore, she shared her secret with him. The two started a family together and life was pretty normal, Moore said, until the day her own 5-year-old daughter, Aspen, asked about her grandfather.

"She came home from school and asked me "Mommy, everybody has a daddy, where's your daddy?"

The innocent question made Moore realize she didn't want to keep her secret anymore.

"I have not dealt with my past, I've avoided it," she said. "I've been running away from it. I've been keeping a secret. I have to do something."

Melissa said she began searching for the help she needed to cope with her guilt. Finally, she emailed Dr. Phil McGraw about taking part in his "Get Real Retreat." She said writing that email that day was so liberating, she wrote about it in her book.

"As I pressed 'send,' I knew I was changing my life forever and maybe that of many others," she wrote. "Magically, some of the darkness within began to lift."

Moore said she found relief when she appeared on "Dr. Phil."

"You have nothing to be ashamed of," McGraw told her. "You have done nothing wrong. You didn't kill anyone."

From "Dr. Phil" to her new book, to a family that can now be open about the past, the dark shadow of her father's misdeeds may always hang over the family.

But, Moore said, at least she has found a way to let the light in.

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