Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Keith Hunter Jesperson

Bashing Gophers and Slaughtering Cats and Dogs

Buckner learned that by the time Keith Jesperson was six, he had gotten his first taste of killing living things by bashing in the heads of gophers while still in British Columbia.  By the time he was twenty, while living with his parents in the Washington State trailer park, Keith got his first taste of killing larger animals when he began dragging stray dogs and cats into a field near the park where he would beat them to death with a shovel, strangle them with his bare hands, or shoot them with his BB gun.  He discovered that he enjoyed it.

I was Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jesperson bragged to a reporter.  It was like I was playing war.  When I looked at those dogs, they would squat and pee.  Theyd be so scared that theyd tremble.  By his own admission, Jesperson enjoyed the fear he instilled in these animals, and took great pleasure in watching and feeling the life literally drain out of the animals until they succumbed to death.

You come to the point where killing something is nothing, Jesperson said.  Its the same feeling, he said, whether he was strangling a human being or an animal.  Youve already felt the pressure on the throat of them trying to grab air.  Youre actually squeezing the life out of these animals and there isnt much difference.  Theyre gonna fight for their lives just as much as a human being will.

Nowadays, its no secret that those who have shown a propensity toward animal violence and abuse during their younger years sometimes move on to more violent crimes later on in life that are directed at human beings.

Its in the crime journals of all major law enforcement agencies, Jesperson once wrote from his prison cell at Oregon State Penitentiary, where he eventually became a permanent resident.  Abusive behavior towards animals is one of the symptoms on the road to being a murderer.

He wrote that it was in his early childhood that his aggression toward animals began, and explained that his father once witnessed him throw a cat against the pavement and finish it off by strangling it to death.  Jesperson wrote that his father had appeared proud of how he had dealt with the cat, and bragged to others about how Keith had gotten rid of the stray cats and dogs in the mobile home park where they lived.

All this did is spawn in me the urge to kill again, Jesperson said.  I began to think of what it would be like to kill a human being.  The thought stayed with me for years, until one night it happened.  I killed a woman by beating her almost to death and finished her off by strangulation, he said, explaining how he killed Taunja Bennett.  No longer did I search for animals to mistreat.  I now looked for people to kill.  And I did.  I killed over and over until I was caught.  Now Im paying for it with the rest of my life behind bars.  We should stop the cruelty to anything before it develops into a bigger problem, like me.

Jesperson was clearly making an attempt to convince the public to buy into the idea that a compassionate side to him existed where, of course, none did.  During his many letter-writing campaigns to reporters and writers with web sites, Jesperson ran the gamut of trying to present different sides to his personality.  In one letter he might write about his compassionate side, and in another he would refer to roadside victims as piles of garbage and attempt to place doubt in the public and law enforcements eyes that he was the killer but had, instead, merely only stumbled onto someone elses garbage only to have a murder unfairly pinned on him after reporting finding the roadside bodies.  In yet other letters he would write about offering a Self-Start Serial Killer Kit, such as the following, an obvious attempt at sick humor and sarcasm: 

This is the offer you all have been dying for!  The Self-Start Serial Killer Kit.  Now you can be the only serial killer on your blocklearn from a professional serial killer!  Get rid of that unwanted family member!  Get that job you always wanted by opening up the slotEveryone will be dying to meet youYou get a full life Julie Winningham Look-alike Doll with an extra tough spring-back neck, so you will soon have the strength to squeeze the shit out of anyone.

I enjoy screwing with the press and prosecutors, through the press, Jesperson once told a reporter.  I do what has to be done to get results. Often, as will be seen, the results that he often looked for was avoiding receiving a death sentence.

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