Prize-winning journalist Jack Olsen, armed with unprecedented access to one of the most infamous serial killers in American history, provides a fascinating glimpse into the mind of a murderer in the killer's own words . . .
In February 1990, Oregon State Police arrested John Sosnovke and Laverne Pavlinac for the vicious rape and murder of Taunja Bennet, a troubled 23-year-old barfly who had suffered mild retardation since birth. Pavlinac had come forth and confessed, implicating her boyfriend and producing physical evidence that linked them to the crime. Authorities closed the case.
There was just one problem. They had the wrong people.
And the real killer wasn't about to let anyone take credit for his kill. Keith Hunter Jesperson was a long haul truck driver and the murderer of eight women, including Taunja Bennet. As the case wound through police precincts and courts--ending in life sentences for both Sosnovke and Pavlinac--Jesperson began a twisted one man campaign to win their release. To the editors of newspapers and on the walls of highway rest stops, Jesperson scribbled out a series of taunting confessions:
I killed Tanya Bennett . . . I beat her to death, raped her and loved it. Yes I'm sick, but I enjoy myself too. People took the blame and I'm free . . ..Look over your shoulder. I may be closer than you think.
At the end of each confession, Jesperson drew a happy face, earning for himself the grisly sobriquet "The Happy Face Killer."
Based on access to interviews, diaries, court records, and the criminal himself, I: The Creation of a Serial Killer is Jesperson's chilling story. It chronicles his evolution from angry child to sociopathic murderer, from tormentor of animals to torturer of women. It is also the story of the fate that befell him after two innocent citizens were imprisoned four years for one of his killings.
Edgar Award winner Jack Olsen lets the killer to tell his story in his own words, offering unprecedented insight into the twisted thought process of a serial murderer. Olsen takes his readers along on Jesperson's vicious cross-country killing spree, letting him describe how he played his "death game" with eight innocent victims and how he finally came to grips with the fate he deserved.
I: The Creation of a Serial Killer is one of the most revealing and insightful pieces of crime reporting ever published.
Veteran true-crime writer Olsen (Salt of the Earth,etc.) takes the profiling of a psychopath a step farther than usual; drawing on interviews and his subject's own diaries to intimately reveal the life and inner workings of Keith Hunter Jesperson, currently serving life in prison for the murders of eight women in the 1990s. Jesperson was called the "Happy Face Killer" for his token symbol on taunting letters sent to authorities. Cutting between Jesperson's rough rural childhood in the Pacific Northwest (with a hard-drinking, belt-swinging father who put him to work and charged room and board), and his mad glee in hunting down, raping and strangling women, the book plays more like a carefully detailed autobiography than a neutral investigation. While the gruesome details are nailed down with morbid precision, some readers may be disturbed by Olsen's abandonment of the objective narrator's voice in chapters where the first-person account puts the reader right inside the madman's mind it's a distinctly unpleasant place, where women are "lot lizards" and "bitches" paraded toward rape and death. Even chapters in the third person clearly represent Jesperson's viewpoint. Olsen's writing is clear and concise, but the voyeurism of the murder scenes will disturb some readers, and the attempt to create understanding of a serial murderer might be interpreted by others as an attempt to create sympathy. Eight pages b&w photos not seen by PW.