Dr. Phil Returns with a Bone-Chilling Story
Dr. Phil met Melissa in 2008 at one of his "Get Real Retreats," an intense three-day therapy session. Melissa went on the retreat, she says, to decide if she should try to have a relationship with her estranged father. During their sessions, Melissa told Dr. Phil she didn't know why she was protecting a man who had hurt her. When Dr. Phil asked what Melissa's father had done, she admitted a shocking secret: He was a serial killer.
Jesperson's victims were strangers, which made him difficult to track down. One of the women was a young mother of 2-year-old twins. After killing her, Jesperson strapped her body to the bottom of a truck and dragged it for miles.
After a lengthy interrogation, Jesperson confessed to all eight murders. Melissa was a sophomore in high school when her father was sentenced to life in prison. He is serving life without parole.
Dr. Phil says the most important thing was for Melissa to stop blaming herself. "We had to clear something day one, minute one," he says. "You didn't do anything wrong. You didn't kill anybody. You didn't hurt anybody. You didn't hide anything. You have no complicity in this whatsoever."
Melissa says the truth clicked for her during the retreat. "He was my father and didn't have a conscience; he didn't show remorse for the victims," she says. "I took it upon myself to feel that burden, that guilt, for him, and I didn't realize I did that."
Still, Melissa admits she saw glimpses of evil in her father when she was very young. "I was just a child when he took my kittens from me. He took the little tails and pinned them on the clothesline, and I watched them scratching at each other, trying to get down, and I couldn't stop it," she says. "As I got older, I started to put two and two together."
"His appearances to visit us were so random. He would never call or tell us. But I'd have this instinct that my father was coming. It was like a form of anxiety," she says. "It would start building and building, and I would tell my mom: 'I know Dad's coming. He's going to visit us.' But when I was around him, I felt this intense stomach-turning feeling."
Melissa's father never told her what he was going to say, which Dr. Phil says is a good thing. "Had he completed the conversation, you would have never made it home alive," he says. "He would have had to kill you to protect himself."
Melissa's mother, Rose, says she knows she created that silent barrier. "I was paralyzed with fear and pain. You want the best for your children. Then to tell them that their father's a murderer? There are no resources for you to say that," she says. "I had to find my own way to deal with the pain. I think in dealing with my own pain, I wasn't there for my kids."
Dr. Phil says Melissa's attempt to separate her father from the criminal he is is normal but futile. "It's a mechanism of denial. You want there to be this man, this influence [in your children's life]. 'Do I owe my children the opportunity to know their grandfather?' But the point is, he sacrificed that right," he says. "The best thing in the world you can do is keep your children away from evil and that man is evil. It's that simple."
Melissa says she's finally learned to accept that her father can't be in her life. "The denial was so thick. I could only see the memories that we had. I couldn't see the heinous acts that he committed," she says. "I was aware of [his crimes], but to me it sounded almost like a fictional story."