Daughter of Happy Face Killer launches GoFundMe for Gilgo Beach murders suspect’s wife

Melissa Moore is the daughter of Keith Hunter Jesperson, the serial killer who terrorised the US in the early 1990s

Rachel Sharp
Wednesday 02 August 2023 16:33 BST
Rex Heuermann makes court appearance

The daughter of the notorious Happy Face Killer has launched a GoFundMe campaign to help the wife of Gilgo Beach serial killer suspect Rex Heuermann “start her new life”.

Melissa Moore announced her decision to try to help Asa Ellerup as she compared their experiences discovering that a close family member had spent years leading a “double life” as an alleged serial killer.

“Today, I have an opportunity to use my voice to help Asa, who isn’t in a place to speak about the terror and horror she and her family are experiencing at this moment,” she said.

The GoFundMe had topped $13,000 in donations as of Wednesday morning.

Ms Moore’s father is Keith Hunter Jesperson, the serial killer who terrorised the US in the early 1990s.

Between 1990 and 1995, Jesperson raped and murdered at least eight women across California, Washington, Oregon, Florida, Nebraska, and Wyoming.

He earned the nickname the Happy Face Killer as drew smiley faces on letters that he sent to taunt law enforcement and the media over the killings.

Following his arrest in 1995, he confessed and was convicted of eight murders.

He is currently behind bars at the Oregon State Penitentiary where he will never be released.

Writing in the GoFundMe campaign, Ms Moore said that she and her family were also “victims” of her father’s crimes as they knew nothing of his horrific double life.

“Hi, I am Melissa Moore. People may know me as the daughter of the serial killer known as the ‘Happy Face’ killer captured in 1995,” she wrote.

“My mother and my family were and are victims. We did not know about his double life. I have waited to create this gofundme, as I didn’t want to offer support if she would not want it. I needed Asa’s consent.”

GoFundMe for Rex Heuermann’s wife Asa Ellerup (GoFundMe)

Ms Moore added that “while people may assume Asa has the funds to start a new life, the assumption is just that. We don’t know the financial and verbal abuse she may have suffered”.

“In solidarity, I kindly ask that you share this link on social media, make a comment of support, or share a dollar or more if you’re able to. The funds will go directly to the law firm representing Asa’s divorce in her name,” she wrote.

“The funds are to assist Asa and their family to divorce her alleged serial killer husband and any extra for starting her new life, therapy, basic needs for the children, and to restore the home to whole (as evidence collection damage or destroyed many critical household items).”

Ms Moore – who was 15 at the time of her father’s arrest – pointed out that Mr Heuermann’s wife Ms Ellerup had confirmed to the media that a GoFundMe would be helpful to her and her family.

“Today, Asa has broken her silence on the front porch of the home that may or may not have been a crime scene, saying she “would find it helpful for a gofundme” to help her,” she wrote.

Like Jesperson, the accused Gilgo Beach serial killer had a family. He has been married to Ms Ellerup for more than two decades and they share an adult daughter Victoria Heuermann, 26, and stepson Christopher Sheridan, 33.

Following his bombshell arrest for the murders of three women last month, Ms Ellerup filed for divorce.

This week, she broke her silence in her first interview where she revealed that she has been left filled with “anxiety” and their two children “cry themselves to sleep” over the horror.

“I woke up in the middle of the night, shivering... anxiety,” she told The New York Post.

“My children cry themselves to sleep. I mean, they’re not children. They’re grown adults but they’re my children, and my son has developmental disabilities and he cried himself to sleep.”

Their daughter Victoria has been left feeling “not human”, with Ms Ellerup’s lawyer Bob Macedonio explaining that the family had been treated “like animals”.

Ms Ellerup spoke out as she said that the family’s home in Massapequa Park had been left in tatters by investigators who spent almost two weeks combing through the property for evidence connected to the murders or for trophies the accused killer took from his victims.

Images show the bathtub with holes cut out and possessions strewn everywhere.

Rex Heuermann appears in Suffolk County Court on Tuesday (AP)

Mr Macedonio told the Post that he is making an itemised list of the damage to send to the DA’s office.

Suffolk County District Attorney Raymond Tierney said last week that a “massive amount of evidence” had been recovered from the home which Mr Heuermann grew up in as a child – and which he went on to share with his family up until his sudden arrest.

No human remains were discovered, but a trove of around 270 guns were seized from the home.

The DA previously revealed that they believe at least some of the murders may have taken place inside the home.

Mr Heuermann’s wife and children were out of town at the time of each of the three murders he is charged with.

He was taken into custody on 13 July, almost 13 years after the bodies of at least 11 victims were discovered along the shores of Gilgo Beach on Long Island.

He was charged with the murders of Megan Waterman, Melissa Barthelemy and Amber Costello.

He is also the prime suspect in the murder of Maureen Brainard-Barnes – who was last seen alive in early June 2007 in New York City and who, with the three other women, is known as the “Gilgo Four”.

All four women worked as sex workers and disappeared after going to meet a client. They were all found in December 2010 within one-quarter mile of each other, bound by belts or tape and some wrapped in burlap – their bodies dumped along Gilgo Beach.

They are among 11 victims whose remains were found along the shores of Long Island in 2010 and 2011, sparking fears of one or more serial killers.

As well as looking into his connection to the murder of Brainard-Barnes and the other Gilgo Beach victims, law enforcement agencies are now also looking into unsolved murders and missing persons cases all across the country.

Police in Las Vegas and South Carolina – where Mr Heuermann owns properties – and Atlantic City – where several sex workers have been found murdered – have confirmed they are eyeing the suspect in cold cases.

Court records show that Mr Heuermann was linked to the “Gilgo Four” murders through a tip about his pickup truck, a stash of burner phones, “sadistic” online searches, phone calls taunting victims’ families, his wife’s hair found on the victims’ bodies – and a pizza crust.

Aerial view of search on Rex Heuermann’s home (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

The first piece of the puzzle came when a witness in the Amber Costello case revealed details about a vehicle that a client was driving when she was last seen alive.

Costello, who worked as a sex worker, was seen alive on the evening of 2 September 2010 when she left her home in West Babylon. A witness said she had gone to meet a client who was driving a first-generation Chevrolet Avalanche.

Last year, a registration search showed that local man Mr Heuermann owned a first-generation model of the truck at the time of Costello’s disappearance. He also matched the witness’ description of the man believed to be the killer: a large, white “ogre”-like male in his mid-40s, around 6’4’ to 6’6” tall, with “dark bushy hair,” and “big oval style 1970’s type eyeglasses”.

The discovery of the car led investigators to hone in on Mr Heuermann including executing 300 subpoenas, search warrants and other legal processes to obtain evidence to determine his potential involvement in the killings.

Among this was Mr Heuermann’s alleged use of burner phones, with prosecutors saying that he used burner phones to contact the three women and arrange to meet them at the time when they went missing.

He also allegedly took two of the victims’ cellphones – and used one to make taunting phone calls to one of their families where he boasted about her murder, court documents state.

Mr Heuermann’s DNA was found on one of the victims, while his wife’s hair was found on three of the four women he is connected to.

His arrest comes after the horrific serial killer case has captured the nation’s attention for more than a decade.

The Gilgo Beach murders had long stumped law enforcement officials in Suffolk County who believed it could be the work of one or more serial killers who targeted sex workers and dumped their bodies along the remote beaches on Ocean Parkway.

The case began in May 2010 when Shannan Gilbert vanished after leaving a client’s house on foot near Gilgo Beach.

She called 911 for help saying she feared for her life and was never seen alive again.

During a search for Gilbert in dense thicket close to the beach, police discovered the remains of another woman.

Within a matter of days, the remains of three more victims were found close by.

By spring 2011, the remains of a total of 10 victims had been found including eight women, a man, and a toddler. Police have long thought that it could be the work of one or more serial killers.

Gilbert’s body was then found in December 2011. Her cause of death is widely contested with authorities long claiming that it is not connected to the serial killer or killers but that she died from accidental drowning as she fled from the client’s home.

However, an independent autopsy commissioned by her family ruled that she died by strangulation and her mother believes she was murdered.

Like Gilbert, most of the victims targeted were sex workers, while some are yet to be identified.

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