To make sure you never miss out on your favourite NEW stories, we're happy to send you some reminders

Click 'OK' then 'Allow' to enable notifications

Chilling True Story Of Woman Who Falsely Confessed To 'Happy Face Killer' Murder

Chilling True Story Of Woman Who Falsely Confessed To 'Happy Face Killer' Murder

Laverne Pavlinac falsely implicated herself and her then-boyfriend, John Sosnovske, in the murder of Taunja Bennett. But why?

After years of alleged abuse at the hands of her boyfriend, 58-year-old grandma Laverne Pavlinac had decided enough was enough.

Her plan was detailed, yet simple. She was going to send John Sosnovske to jail - by any means necessary.

Episodes three and four of Netflix's Catching Killers details the story of the 'Happy Face' murders, including the elderly couple who spent four years in prison for a crime they didn't commit.

Taunja was 'overtly friendly', according to her family. [
YouTube]

Who Was Taunja Bennett?

Not a great deal is known about Bennett's background, but the 23-year-old was first reported missing on 21st January 1990. Friends and family had previously described her as a 'cheerful and lovely person' with a flare for striking up conversations with strangers.

She was found dead just one day later, beside the Old Columbia River Highway in Portland, Oregon. She'd been brutally beaten and sexually assaulted before the culprit strangled her to death.

Her murder case struggled to gain momentum at first, due to a lack of leads. Details of the murder were made public by the police in the hope that someone would come forward with insider knowledge. It wasn't long until a 58-year-old woman came forward, telling them about an alarming conversation she apparently heard her boyfriend having.

Pavlinac was a 'desperate woman', according to her daughter. [
YouTube]

Why Did Laverne Pavlinac Come Forward?

It's thought that Pavlinac suffered abuse at the hands of her partner, John Sosnovske. She felt trapped within the confines of her toxic relationship, and believed she had to go to extreme lengths in order to distance herself from him once and for all.

She wanted to see him behind bars - and when details of an unsolved murder case were made public knowledge, she found her chance.

Pavlinac was sentenced to life in prison. [
YouTube]

Pavlinac strategically phoned the local force with details of a concerning 'conversation'. She claimed that she overheard Sosnovske peacocking to a friend about assaulting and killing the 23-year-old. Before long, her claims began to implicate herself in the murder as well. She told police that she was actually there when Bennett was killed, witnessing the events unfold for herself.

Pavlinac died in 2003. [
YouTube]

What Happened To Pavlinac And Sosnovske?

The grandma's story was believable enough for a jury to convict. Pavlinac was found guilty for her 'crime' - being an accessory to rape and murder. Sosnovske pleaded no contest to the killing of Taunja Bennett, believing it would steer him clear of the death sentence.

Pavlinac and Sosnovske were sentenced to life in prison, with both parties knowing full well they were innocent.

With Bennett's apparent killers behind bars, the case was put on ice. The real killer, however, was still a free man. In 1995, Bennett's real killer revealed himself to the authorities.

The real 'Happy Face Killer' revealed himself in 1995. [
YouTube]

The Real 'Happy Face Killer'

Keith Hunter Jesperson - more widely known by his nickname - turned himself in after committing a further six murders.

He sent a letter to the authorities laden with smiley faces, bragging about his '90s killing spree and simply admitting he was 'done killing'.

One of the murders he confessed to was that of Taunja Bennett.

Jesperson remains in prison today. [
YouTube]

Jesperson addressed Pavlinac and Sosnovske directly in his letter. "I had been worried about this for a long time", he said. "I wanted to get those two people out of prison".

When the killer came forward, Sosnovske was released from prison; his conviction overturned. Pavlinac's conviction remained, although she was also released.

The judge insisted, "Pavlinac has selfishly engaged in an obsessive and persistent obstruction of justice which deflected the investigation at an early stage, causing it to focus on her boyfriend, Sosnovske, while the real killer remained free to kill and kill again".

Jesperson's daughter has previously spoken out about growing up with him. [
YouTube]

Pavlinac died in 2003, while Sosnovske died in 2013. Catching Killers is available to stream now.

Featured Image Credit: YouTube

Topics: TV And Film, Netflix

Choose your content: