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SUSPECT'S LETTER SAYS HE KILLED 8 PEOPLE

A long-haul trucker awaiting trial here in a rape-slaying wrote a letter to his brother saying he had killed eight people in the past five years, including a woman who once lived in Utah.

"I am sorry that I turned out this way," says the letter attributed in Clark County court documents to Keith Hunter Jesperson, 40."I have been a killer for five years and have killed eight people. Assaulted more," he wrote in the letter sent just before his arrest in March. "Seems like my luck has run out. I will never be able to enjoy life on the outside again."

Jesperson was arrested in Cochise County, Ariz., after he called Clark County sheriff's Detective Rick Buckner on March 24 from a southern Arizona truck stop to confess to strangling Julie Winningham, 41, of Kamas. Winningham had apparently lived in Utah before leaving the state with Jesperson.

He goes to trial Sept. 11 in Clark County Superior Court on charges of first-degree murder and first-degree rape in Winningham's death.

Jesperson has not been charged in any other case, but Clark County officials sent out a teletype nationwide describing the case and advising other jurisdictions to check into any unsolved slayings that might fit his travel patterns. The advisory so far has drawn the interest of authorities in 16 jurisdictions, as far east as New York state and in Utah, Nevada and Oregon.

Clark County deputy sheriffs served a search warrant in Spokane County, where Jesperson had parked his car at the offices of his employer, Systems Trucking of Cheney.

An affidavit on that search includes the letter they say Jesperson wrote to his brother in Selah, in Yakima County. Detectives obtained a copy of the letter from his brother in May.

"I got into a bad situation and got caught up with emotion. I killed a woman in my truck during an argument," the letter says. "With all the evidence against me it looks like I truly am a black sheep. The court will appoint me a lawyer and there will be a trial. I am sure they will kill me for this."

Authorities contend Jesperson killed Winningham in the sleeper cab of his truck while it was parked on a Washougal street on March 10. He told police they had a fight after they had sex and she accused him of rape, according to court documents.

Winningham was a Kamas resident who had moved to Utah and returned to the area with Jesperson in February. Her nude body was found March 11 on state Highway 14 just across the border of neighboring Skamania County.

"As I saw it, I was hoping they would catch me," the letter says. "I took 48 sleeping pills last night, and I woke up well rested. The nite before, I took two bottles of pills to no avail. They will arrest me today."

Jesperson spent the two weeks after Winningham's death on the road, driving to Pennsylvania and back west through Texas, New Mexico and Arizona.

The affidavit filed in Spokane County says the Oregon case concerns a woman whose body was found along a Medford-area highway in March. She had been last seen at a Wilsonville, Ore., truck stop in August 1994.