She is the only remaining unidentified victim of convicted serial killer, Keith Hunter Jesperson
RIVERSIDE, Calif. -- Authorities in California are hoping the public can help solve a 32-year-old mystery. They're desperately trying to find the name of a woman killed by one of the country's most notorious criminals.
Officials in Riverside County have released rendering images of the victim, hoping to identify the only remaining unidentified victim of convicted serial killer, Keith Hunter Jesperson.
"So easily able to kill her and just dump her on the side of the road like she was trash, and she's not, and she deserves dignity and respect," said Amy Contreras, a Riverside County Sheriff's Office investigator.
The body of the woman, known as "Claudia," was discovered along Highway 95 in August 1992.
Jesperson was referred to as the "Happy Face Killer" because he drew smiley faces on letters to the media and police.
He confessed to murdering Claudia and seven other women.
"Jesperson is currently serving multiple life sentences. This woman is the last of all his victims to remain unidentified," said Mike Hestrin, the Riverside County District Attorney.
It's believed Claudia was hitch-hiking, eventually getting into a truck with Jesperson.
"This would be Claudia's last meal. After eating, the two had a heated argument in Jesperson's truck. This is where he killed her," Contreras explained.
Authorities say advances in DNA technology, the woman's remains and a recent jailhouse interview with Jesperson have helped, adding that Claudia may not be her real name.
"She is described as a white female with fair complexion. She was around 25 to 35 years old at the time of her death, she was about 5 feet 7 inches tall, with medium build. She likely had blonde or dyed blonde hair," Contreras said.
Authorities also released images of a rendering of the shirt she was wearing when she was found, as well as a distinct tattoo of two small dots on the left side of her right thumb.
"Even though this killer is behind bars and never going to get out, this victim has an identity and is a real person, and we want to make sure that we give her back her identity and give closure to these families," Hestrin said.
Genealogists were able to determine some of Claudia's relatives, including her father, who they say is now deceased. They say other relatives found are half-siblings but that they weren't aware Claudia existed so they haven't been able to help.
Investigators in Florida recently used this same DNA technology to identify one of Jesperson's victims who was found in 1994.