The body of a woman found near Gilroy, California was this week identified as Patricia Skiple, a victim of the Happy Face Killer.
The DNA Doe Project identified Skiple’s body in partnership with the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office after it was found near westbound State Route 152.
Serial killer Keith Hunter Jesperson, also known as the Happy Face Killer, confessed to the murder of Skiple and seven other women between 1990 and 1994 across Washington, Oregon, California, Florida, Nebraska, and Wyoming.
He earned his nickname from the smiley faces he drew on letters to the media and authorities.
Jesperson is currently serving four life sentences without the possibility of parole in the Oregon State Penitentiary.
Skiple, also known as Patty or Patsy, was born May 29, 1948 and raised in Colton, Oregon.
Sgt. Shannon Catalano of the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office brought the ‘Pacheco Jane Doe’ case to the DNA Doe Project in 2019.
Volunteers began using genetic genealogy to track down her identity, which was recently confirmed through DNA testing.
Catalano helped the process by contacting potential family members and asking them to upload their DNA profiles to GEDmatch, a public DNA database.
“This case was exceptionally challenging due to recent Norwegian ancestry which resulted in very distant DNA matches on GEDmatch and FamilyTreeDNA,” said DNA Doe Project team leader Cairenn Binder.
“It would not have been possible to solve this case without the dedication of our law enforcement partners at Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office, especially Sergeant Shannon Catalano, whose tenacious efforts to solve the case made our job as genealogists as effective as possible.”
Team leader Harmony Bronson said every DNA match made a difference in the case.
“We thank the voluntary DNA testers who tested and/or uploaded to GEDmatch in order to assist us in solving this case,” Bronson said.
To find out more about how to upload your profile to GEDmatch to potentially help solve criminal cases, visit dnadoeproject.org.