He was one of the most chilling and enigmatic psychopaths in the history of crime, and despite the steady stream of books and television documentaries that claim to have unmasked him, the mysterious serial killer who called himself The Zodiac remains faceless. We are as near to putting a name to Zodiac as the police were back in the 1960s when he first embarked on his killings. No one is even sure when Zodiac began his sinister programme of stabbings and shootings; did the killings commence with the brutal cold-blooded murder of the pretty 18-year-old coed Cheri Jo Bates just before the Halloween of 1966, or was it the chilling double murder of a teenaged couple in December 1968 Zodiac’s baptism in blood? Some researchers into the Zodiac murders believe he may have struck as early as 4 June, 1963 – the date when two high school seniors – Robert George Domingos (aged 18) and his fiancée Linda Faye Edwards (aged 17) – were killed around twenty miles out of Santa Barbara. Domingos and Edwards were full of high-jinks that Monday in the summer of 1964; they graduated from a Lompoc High School, and had driven to a rather remote beach to swim together. They would have felt that the nearby bushes and thick shrubbery would have shielded them from any prying eyes of motorists passing by on the nearby highway, but someone might have noticed Domingos’ Pontiac partially hidden behind the bushes and deduced that the driver – and possibly a partner – had obviously gone for a swim on such a hot day. And that person was probably The Zodiac.
The couple had gone to an isolated spot to canoodle in their swimsuits, and when they laid down together on a blanket, neither of them would have dreamt they would soon find themselves the prey of a extreme psychopath. The couple were approached by a man brandishing a rifle (loaded with Winchester .22 ammunition). He carried rope, and he seems to have attempted to tie the couple up. It’s believed he first asked Linda Faye Edwards to tie up her boyfriend, but in the middle of the enforced bondage the couple got to their feet in an attempt to escape and ran into the marshy creek. The killer fired upon them with his rifle. Robert George Domingos was hit in the back and fell face down, dead. The murderer then blasted Linda, and then, just to make sure the teens were dead, he stood over their bodies and fired at them at point blank range. Eleven bullets were left in Robert’s body and eight in Linda’s. The killer then took turns in dragging each of the bodies to a shack where wood was usually stored. The killer took a knife out at one point and began to carve Linda’s flesh with it. He then tried to burn the wooden shack down with the bodies inside but it failed to burn. The few prints that had not been obliterated by the weather seemed to show that the killer had worn military-style shoes. The killer of Robert George Domingos and Linda Faye Edwards was never brought to justice, but it’s possible that he was in fact Zodiac, because he would later attack a couple and he would ask the female victim to tie up the male victim, and this couple, like Domingos and Edwards, would also be lying together on a blanket in a remote location.
Next, we come to another possible murder of Zodiac’s – the barbarous slaying of teenager Cheri Jo Bates. The full moon loomed high over the campus library annex of Riverside City College, Riverside, California, that Sunday evening on 30 October 1966.
Inside the library, 18-year-old former varsity cheerleader Cheri Josephine Bates – known as Cheri Jo to her friends and family – was studying hard. A graduate of Ramona High School, the attractive and petite brownish-blonde-haired green-eyed Cheri Jo held an ambition to become a flight attendant, and was working at the time of her studies as a clerk typist and also as a teller in the local bank. Around 9.00pm, just before the library closed, Cheri Jo checked out three books (which were about the structure of the US Government) then went to her light green Volkswagen Beetle, which was conveniently parked outside. It seems Cheri Jo put the key in the ignition and discovered that the engine would not start. Someone had tampered with the engine, presumably as the girl had been in the library. This person had removed the middle wire from the distributor and possibly removed the condenser and ignition coil. We can only surmise what happened next. Cheri Jo might have left the car and gone in search of a telephone call box to contact her father to tell him about the problem with her car. She may have gone back to the library but found no one to answer her knocks on the door because the place had closed by then. We can only speculate as to what happened after the teenager found her Volkswagen’s engine was dead, but we do know that Cheri Jo Bates encountered a psychopath that moonlit evening.
Two “awful screams” as a neighbour in the area of the library described them, were heard that Halloween eve at around 10.30pm. Just before 6.30am on the following morning, Cheri’s body was found by the janitor of Riverside Community College, a 48-year-old WWII veteran named Cleophus F Martin. Martin found the body in an alleyway, lying face down in the dirt driveway adjacent to the library and some 100 yards from her sabotaged car. She had been stabbed forty-two times and her throat had been cut. As well as several stab wounds to the face, chest and shoulder, Cheri’s head was bruised, as if it had been struck with a blunt weapon – or kicked.
Inside the deceased’s car, police found the three books checked out from the library, lying on the front passenger seat. A Timex wristwatch - which had stooped at twenty-three minutes past midnight – was found about ten feet away from Cheri’s corpse. This watch, which had a broken 7-inch-wristband, was later traced to a military depot in the UK, but its origins threw no light on the murder case, and some investigators are not even sure if the watch has anything to do with the homicide; it may have simply have been discarded or mislaid by its wearer in the vicinity of the crime days or weeks before the murder. It’s even possible that the killer of Cheri Jo Bates planted the wound-down Timex watch as a red herring to distract investigators and perhaps lead them to believe that the attack had occurred three hours later than it actually did (which was around 9.30pm). Shoeprints made by what appeared to be a military-style heel were found near to the body, but all that could be determined was that the wearer of the shoes was size 8-10. The autopsy established that the victim had not been subjected to a sexual assault, and the police quickly ascertained that Cheri Jo had not been robbed, so it looked like an entirely motiveless murder had taken place. Just under a month after the murder, two copies of a typewritten letter containing a confession to the Bates killing, were posted to the Riverside Police Department and the Riverside Press Enterpries newspaper. Police forces across the world routinely receive bogus confession letters after murders, but detectives believed that the author of this confession letter seemed to know details about the Bates murder that hadn’t been revealed to the Press. The letter-writer knew, for example, that the middle wire had been removed from the distributor in Cheri Jo’s car. The letter ran thus:
SHE WAS YOUNG AND SHE WAS BEAUTIFUL. BUT NOW SHE IS BATTERED AND DEAD. SHE IS NOT THE FIRST AND SHE WILL NOT BE THE LAST. I LAY AWAKE NIGHTS THINKING ABOUT MY NEXT VICTIM. MAYBE SHE WILL BE THE BEAUTIFUL BLOND THAT BABYSITS NEAR THE LITTLE STORE AND WALXS [sic] DOWN THE DARK ALLEY EACH EVENING ABOUT SEVEN. OR MAYBE SHE WILL BE THE SHAPELY BLUE EYED BROWNETT THAT SAID NO WHEN I ASKED HER FOR A DATE IN HIGH SCHOOL. BUT MAYBE IT WILL NOT BE EITHER. BUT I SHALL CUT OFF HER FEMALE PARTS AND DEPOSIT THEM FOR THE WHOLE CITY TO SEE. SO DON’T MAKI [sic] IT EASY FOR ME. KEEP YOUR SISTERS, DAUGHTERS, AND WIVES OFF THE STREETS AND ALLEYS. MISS BATES WAS STUPID. SHE WENT TO THE SLAUGHTER LIKE A LAMB. SHE DID NOT PUT UP A STRUGGLE. BUT I DID. IT WAS A BALL. I FIRST PULLED THE MIDDLI [sic] WIRE FROM THE DISTRIBUTOR. THEN I WAITED FOR HER IN THE LIBRARY AND FOLLOWED HER OUT AFTER ABOUT TWO MINUTS [sic]. THE BATTERY MUST HAVE BEEN ABOUT DEAD BY THEN. I THEN OFFERED TO HELP. SHE WAS THEN VERY WILLING TO TALK WITH ME. I TOLD HER THAT MY CAR WAS DOWN THE STREET AND THAT I WOULD GIVE HER A LIFT HOME. WHEN WE WERE AWAY FROM THE LIBRARY WALKING, I SAID IT WAS ABOUT TIME. SHE ASKED ME “ABOUT TIME FOR WHAT” . I SAID IT WAS ABOUT TIME FOR HER TO DIE. I GRABBED HER AROUND THE NECK WITH MY HAND OVER HER MOUTH AND MY OTHER HAND WITH A SMALL KNIFE AT HER THROAT. SHE WENT VERY WILLINGLY. HER BREAST FELT VERY WARM AND FIRM UNDER MY HANDS. BUT ONLY ONE THING WAS ON MY MIND. MAKING HER PAY FOR THE BRUSH OFFS THAT SHE HAD GIVEN ME DURING THE YEARS PRIOR. SHE DIED HARD. SHE SQUIRMED AND SHOOK AS I CHOAKED [sic] HER. AND HER LIPS TWICHED [sic]. SHE LET OUT A SCREAM ONCE AND I KICKED HER HEAD TO SHUT HER UP. I PLUNGED THE KNIFE INTO HER AND IT BROKE. I THEN FINISHED THE JOB BY CUTTING HER THROAT. I AM NOT SICK. I AM INSANE. BUT THAT WILL NOT STOP THE GAME. THIS LETTER SHOULD BE PUBLISHED FOR ALL TO READ IT. IT MIGHT JUST SAVE THAT GIRL IN THE ALLEY. BUT THAT’S UP TO YOU. IT WILL BE ON YOUR CONSCIENCE. NOT MINE. YES I DID MAXE [sic] THAT CALL TO YOU ALSO. IT WAS JUST A WARNING. BEWARE…I AM STALKING YOUR GIRLS NOW.
CC. CHIEF OF POLICE
The second-to-last sentence in the disturbing letter which stated: ‘Yes I did make that call to you also’ was interpreted by the police and the FBI (who never directly investigated the Zodiac case) as a reference to a certain telephone call made to the Riverside Police Department from an anonymous individual who talked about the Bates murder before hanging up. The public and press had not been told about this possible telephone call from the alleged killer. In December 1966, an unexpected clue came to light when a janitor at Riverside City College Library – the very library Cheri Jo had been murdered near to – found a strange sinister blank verse poem that someone had inscribed into the surface of a desk found in the library basement. The handwriting and phraseology of this morbid inscription is very similar to the handwriting and wording of the letters that the Zodiac would later taunt the police and newspapers with. The poem, signed by “rh”, had been written on an area just under five inches in length, in tiny letters, and it read:
Sick of living/unwilling to die
If red I
blood squirting, dripping, spitting;
all over her new
it was red
life draining into an
someone’ll find her.
Just wait till
Police could find no pupil or any other employee at the library with the initials R. H. and yet if the writer of the poem was indeed the killer of Cheri Jo Bates and the couple murdered in the summer of 1963 – Robert George Domingos and Linda Faye Edwards, it was conceivable that Zodiac had some connection with schools. Domingos and Faye had just graduated, and Cheri Jo – herself a graduate of Ramona’s High School - had been killed on the campus of Riverside City College. The months wore on and the killer of Cheri Jo Bates could not be found. The teenager’s remains were created and her ashes strewn into the sea.
In December 1968, the first of the canonical murders officially attributed to Zodiac took place, and like most of the murders perpetrated by the enigmatic killer (with the exception of the Domingos Edwards slaying, which took place on a Monday), this one took place on a weekend. The date was Friday, 20 December, 1968, and the time was approximately 11.15pm. The backdrop for this double murder was the secluded Lake Herman Road, a lonely spot known locally as a lover’s lane, on the eastern periphery of Vallejo, California, where two high school sweethearts, David Faraday, aged 17, and his beautiful and petite (standing at just over five feet) 16-year-old girlfriend Betty Lou Jensen, were parked up in a Rambler Station Wagon. It was their first ever date together (and Betty Lou’s first date ever), and because it was such a glacially cold December night, the heater in the vehicle was on full. It seems that the killer approached out of the darkness and, perhaps through some gesturing with his gun and the flashlight he must have carried, he herded the teenagers to one side of the car. David Faraday was shot first in the head as he left the vehicle. The .22 calibre bullet entered his skull just behind his upper right ear and lodged in the front left lobe of his brain, and this head shot caused him to die within minutes. Betty Lou tried to flee from the wagon, but was blasted five times in the back and died instantly just 35 feet from the vehicle. It was pitch black on Lake Herman Road, and so it is thought that the gunman either attached a flashlight to his weapon or pointed it at his targets with his free hand as he fired the gun with the other hand. A woman named Stella Borges, who was driving through the wintry night to pick up her grandson after his Christmas recital at Benicia High School, came upon the eerie sight of the Rambler Station Wagon parked upon Lake Herman Road with its headlights on. As the headlamp beams of Stella’s Oldsmobile swept over the bodies of the murdered teenagers lying on the right side of the road, the elderly lady naturally panicked, and she drove off like a bat out of hell with her horn honking and her lights flashing to attract attention. Stella eventually alerted the law to the double cold-blooded murder. David Faraday was found holding his prized school class ring between his thumb and the third finger of his left hand, and just why he was holding the ruby ring in such a way has never been explained. Some investigators believed he had been about to offer the cherished class ring to Betty Lou as a romantic gesture because he wanted to go steady with her, and had somehow retained the ring between his fingers after he was shot, while some detectives wondered if the boy had been ready to offer it to his killer, thinking the gunman was a robber, even though it seems, from the forensic evidence, that the killer blasted David in the head from behind in a surprise attack. It’s also possible that David was trying to indicate something – perhaps about the identity of the killer – by holding the ring in such a way as his consciousness was quickly ebbing away. That ring was engraved with the words Vallejo Senior High School; is it possible that the killer was somehow connected to that school? It’s pure conjecture but it’s also a possibility.
The killer left faint shoeprints in the frozen ground which could not be matched to any footwear, and no tyre tracks belonging to the murderer’s vehicle were evident to police. Nor had the killer left any hand prints on the Rambler or even a partial fingerprint on the shell casings found at the scene.
In the summer of the following year, the killer struck again, and once more he targeted a young couple sitting in a car at a secluded location. The couple on this occasion were 22-year-old married waitress Darlene Ferrin (known by her nickname as “Dee” to closer associates and family) and 19-year-old Mike Mageau (who was single), and the venue for this slaying was a lonely poorly-lit parking lot in the Blue Rock Springs Park on the eastern suburbs of Vallejo, California – just four miles from the last double murder at Lake Herman Road. It was close to midnight, and being the fourth of July, the occasional firecracker could be heard in the distance as Mike sat next to Darlene in her brown Chevrolet Corvair. Another car entered the parking lot and rolled to a halt. Its presence made the couple nervous, but within a minute the car left the parking lot. The couple talked again for about ten minutes and as they did they heard a car approach again. It was the car that had parked up behind them earlier, and it was either a light brown Ford Mustang or a Chevrolet Corvair, just like the one the couple were sitting in. The silhouetted driver of the car, estimated by Mageau to be about 5 ft 8 or 9 inches in height, left his vehicle with a flashlight, and Dee Ferrin and Mike Mageau wondered if it might be a policeman approaching because the figure was shining a flashlight in their direction. In these cases when police did spot checks, nervous teens and people close to that age group would usually reach into their pockets, wallets, purses and handbags to produce some form of identity, and this is exactly what this couple did, but the shadowy man with the torch came to the passenger-door side of Dee Ferrin’s car – and opened fire. Five shots were fired from what might have been a 9mm semi-automatic pistol with a silencer, as Mageau thought the pistol shots had sounded muffled, but of course, its possible that he had been partially deafened by the first shot being fired so close to his ear. Some of the shots went through Mageau and into Ferrin’s body. The killer walked back to his car, but upon hearing Mageau’s agonised groans, he returned to the Chevrolet Corvair and blasted two more bullets into each of the couple. Mageau survived, even though he had sustained four gunshot wounds, but Ferrin, who had been shot five times, was taken to hospital and pronounced dead.
People living in the area heard the gunshots and telephoned the police, and about forty-five minutes after the attack, a man claiming to be the killer made a call to the Vallejo Police Department from a phone booth at Joe's Union Station, just a few blocks away from police headquarters. A 26-year-old woman named Nancy Slover took the call from the self-confessed murderer as she sat at the police department’s switchboard at 12.40am. The caller, who spoke in what Nancy would later describe as “a soft but forceful” mature voice devoid of an accent, said he would like to report a double murder at a public park. Nancy said the police had already received reports of a shooting at the park and were responding, but then the caller said: ‘If you’ll go one mile east on Columbus Parkway to the public park, you’ll find they were shot with a 9 millimetre Luger. I also killed those kids last year.’
The ‘kids last year’ was a reference to the double-murder of teens David Faraday and Betty Lou Jensen at Lake Herman Road.
The chilling voice of the killer who would subsequently be known as the Zodiac has stayed with Nancy Slover all of her life. His last words to her before he hung up were: ‘Gooood Byyye,’ and he drew out the sounds of the words in a strange mocking style.
There were a number of other eerie calls made that night, seemingly related to the murder. Around 1.30am, someone called the mother-in-law and father-in-law of Darlene Ferrin and breathed heavily down the phone before hanging up. Someone also made two telephone calls to the home of Dean Ferrin – Dalene’s husband – that morning, but Dean wasn’t home, and his babysitter was rather unnerved to hear the heavy breather. A further strange out-of-hours call was made to the home of Dean Ferrin’s brother, but he was out the country at the time. It was beginning to look as if the killer knew Darlene Ferrin enough to know where her in-laws lived.
At the end of that month, on July 31, a man professing to be the killer of Faraday, Jensen and Ferrin sent letters containing ciphers to The San Francisco Examiner, The San Francisco Chronicle, and the Vallejo Times-Herald. The author of these letters provided details about the crimes that would have only been known to the killer, and intriguingly, the murderer stated in his missives that his identity was encoded in a cryptogram – a grid of 408 symbols. Detectives, newspaper staff and members of the general public attempted to crack the codes, without success. Police forensic experts applied Ninhydrin vapour to the letters to make the writer’s hand or fingerprints visible but could find none. The letter to the San Francisco Chronicle stated:
This is the murderer of the 2 teenagers last Christmass at Lake Herman + the girl on the 4th of July near the golf course in Vallejo. To prove I killed them I shall state some facts which only I + the police know. Here is part of a cipher the other 2 parts of this cipher are being mailed to the editors of the Vallejo Times + SF Examiner. I want you to print this cipher on the front page of your paper. In this cipher is my idenity. If you do not print this cipher by the afternoon of Fry. 1st of Aug 69, I will go on a kill ramPage Fry. night. I will cruse around all weekend killing lone people in the night then move on to kill again, untill I end up with a dozen people over the weekend.
The letter was signed with a circle with a cross radiating from the centre, and some thought this symbol resembled the cross-hairs and circle that are seen through the telescopic sights of a rifle. This symbol would become Zodiac’s trademark. He would scrawl it on the doors of his victims' cars and even use it as a character in his strange codes.
A week after the receipt of the three letters, the killer wrote another taunting letter to the San Francisco Editor, and in this communication he gave himself a name: Zodiac. The killer’s letter began, ‘Dear Editor, this is Zodiac speaking…’ and the missive was a reply to a police chief’s request for the letter-writer to provide proof that he was actually the killer. Zodiac included more details about the murders not known to the Press or the general public, and he stated that if his code was cracked, the police would have him. On the following day, a high school teacher named Donald Gene Harden and his wife Betty managed to crack Zodiac’s cipher after working on and off it for some twenty hours. Harden and his wife had succeeded where even the cream of the Navy’s cryptographers had failed. The decoded message, though, painted a very strange motive for the Zodiac’s killings. The cracked code, full of similar ‘typos’ that have an eerie parallel to the Cheri Jo Bates confession letter, stated:
I LIKE KILLING PEOPLE BECAUSE IT IS SO MUCH FUN IT IS MORE FUN THAN KILLING WILD GAME IN THE FORREST BECAUSE MAN IS THE MOST DANGEROUE ANAMAL OF ALL TO KILL SOMETHING GIVES ME THE MOST THRILLING EXPERIENCE IT IS EVEN BETTER THAN GETTING YOUR ROCKS OFF WITH A GIRL THE BEST PART OF IT IS THAE WHEN I DIE I WILL BE REBORN IN PARADICE AND THEI HAVE KILLED WILL BECOME MY SLAVES I WILL NOT GIVE YOU MY NAME BECAUSE YOU WILL TRY TO SLOI DOWN OR ATOP MY COLLECTIOG OF SLAVES FOR MY AFTERLIFE EBEORIETEMETHHPITI
The significance of the last eighteen letters in the decoded message is not known. Some students of cryptography believe the letters are meaningless ‘leftovers’ – surplus symbols used to make the cipher fit the grid it was composed within, while others believe the eighteen letters may provide some anagrammatic clue – perhaps even the real name of Zodiac or perhaps even some key to a cryptogram he would later send to the police and newspaper – for that cryptogram of 340 symbols and letters, written in a 17 by 20 grid, was not decoded till December 2020, by American Dave Oranchak, Australian Sam Blake, and Belgian Jarl Van Eycke. The Zodiac's cipher had defeated experts at the FBI, CIA, and even analysis by several supercomputers. The message had been encoded by Zodiac in a diagonal pattern, and it read:
I HOPE YOU ARE HAVING LOTS OF FUN IN TRYING TO CATCH ME THAT WASNT ME ON THE TV SHOW WHICH BRINGS UP A POINT ABOUT ME I AM NOT AFRAID OF THE GAS CHAMBER BECAUSE IT WILL SEND ME TO PARADICE ALL THE SOONER BECAUSE I NOW HAVE ENOUGH SLAVES TO WORK FOR ME WHERE EVERYONE ELSE HAS NOTHING WHEN THEY REACH PARADICE SO THEY ARE AFRAID OF DEATH I AM NOT AFRAID BECAUSE I KNOW THAT MY NEW LIFE WILL BE AN EASY ONE IN PARADICE LIFE IS DEATH
The TV show Zodiac was referring to was AM San Francisco hosted by Jim Dunbar, with guest Melvin Belli, a flamboyant and highly prominent lawyer. Someone claiming to be the Zodiac had contact San Francisco Police Department and promised they'd call Dunbar on air if Belli was a guest. The person who did call in was not the killer, however. Why did the Zodiac have to encode his messages in the first place? It seems as if he was forever attempting to prove that he was more intelligent than everyone else, almost as if he was compensating for some feeling of inferiority in his everyday life when he was presumably working in a 9 to 5 existence. The fact that he always struck at weekends (as Jack the Ripper did eighty years before) seems to suggest two possibilities: that Zodiac was either in regular employment and only able to indulge in his deadly pastimes on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays – or, he was a fairly wealthy man of private means who had no need to work, and only chose weekends because that was when his victims – mostly young students – were out enjoying themselves in secluded places and open to attack.
A month after his first code was cracked, Zodiac struck again, and this time it was during the hours of daylight. It was almost a carbon copy of the 1963 murders of Robert George Domingos and his sweetheart Linda Faye Edwards. The attack took place on Saturday, 27 September, 1969, at 6.15pm, on the secluded shoreline of Lake Berryessa near Napa, California. 20-year-old Bryan Hartnell and his friend, 22-year-old Cecelia Shepherd, were relaxing on a blanket at a picturesque spot overlooking the lake. Bryan was laying on his back and Cecelia was lying on her stomach, and the couple, who had dated two years back, were reminiscing about old times. The couple’s reminiscences were suddenly interrupted by a noise that sounded like the rustling of leaves somewhere in the distance. Bryan said to Cecelia, ‘You have your specs on; why don’t you see what the deal is over there?’
Cecelia noticed movement – a figure, some distance off, coming towards her and Bryan, and she remarked, ‘Oh, it’s some man.’
‘What?’ Bryan asked, ‘Is he alone?’ and he squinted over towards the area where Cecelia was looking. His eyesight wasn’t too good and he didn’t have his spectacles on.
‘Yeah,’ Cecelia answered, and then she said: ‘He just stepped behind the tree!’
‘What’s the idea of that?’ Bryan wondered out loud, and speculated: ‘To take a leak?’
Cecelia looked at the tree in question with a worried expression.
‘Well keep looking and tell me what happens,’ Bryan told her.
Cecelia seemed to recoil in horror at what she saw next, and she gripped Bryan’s arm hard and exclaimed: ‘Oh my God, he’s got a gun!’
The figure that approached looked sinister, menacing and deadly. It was a six-foot-tall man pointing a pistol at the couple, and he wore a bizarre black bag over his head that looked like an executioner’s hood from the medieval period. This hood had two eyeholes in it, and over these eyeholes the gunman had attached clip-on sunglasses. The black hood went down to some sort of sleeveless black tunic, and upon this tunic there was a white symbol – the very same symbol the Zodiac had used to sign his letters to the police and the Press – a circle with a cross in the middle with the arms of the cross radiating beyond the confines of the circle. Zodiac wore a dark blue cotton coat and dark pleated trousers, and when he addressed the couple, Bryan had the tantalising impression that he had heard the voice before somewhere, but he just couldn’t place it. Thinking Zodiac was being motivated by robbery, Bryan assured him: ‘Well, listen Mac, there’s no strings attached; I don’t have any money right now but if you need help that badly I can help you out in another way maybe.’
‘Nah, time’s running short,’ Zodiac replied, with the gun still trained on the couple. Zodiac then claimed he was an escaped prisoner on the run from a Montana jail. He had killed a prison guard to affect his escape and now had plans to flee the country and go south to Mexico. All he needed was a car and enough money to get by. Bryan had studied sociology and psychology at college, and believed he was qualified to negotiate and perhaps parley with the ‘escaped convict’. He wondered if the hooded man even had any ammo in his gun.
Bryan said to Zodiac: ‘Well, man, I mean actually, I don’t want to call your bluff or anything, but wouldn’t you rather be stuck on a stealing charge than a threat of homicide?’
‘Well just don’t start playing the hero with me,’ Zodiac told Bryan, ‘don’t try to grab the gun.’
‘You know you’re really wasting your time with me,’ said Bryan, ‘I’ve got a billfold and this much change and that’s it.’
Zodiac pointed the gun at Cecelia and sternly told her to: ‘Tie him up!’ and then he turned his hooded head back to Bryan and said: ‘I’d feel much better if you were tied up.’ And Zodiac threw a length of plastic clothes line to Cecelia. The terrified young lady pretended to tie Bryan’s wrists behind his back but simply made loose knots instead, and Bryan turned to her and whispered: ‘You know I think I can get that gun; do you mind?’ but Cecelia’s terror-filled eyes answered his glance in such a way that Bryan realised he’d be risking her life with his well-meant intentions, as well as his own.
Zodiac then intervened, as if he knew that Cecelia had been tying weak knots, and he bound the couple up with their wrists behind their backs. ‘Okay, lay down!’ he barked at Bryan and then Zodiac told him: ‘I’ve got her tied up.’
‘Oh come on!’ Bryan complained, ‘Don’t make me lay down! We could be here all night!’
‘Get down! Right now!’ Zodiac roared.
Bryan lay down – face down almost, as Zodiac finished tying up Cecelia. He then began to tie a length of the clothes line from Bryan’s wrists to his ankles.
‘Do you have bullets in there?’ Bryan asked the gunman, looking at the pistol, and Zodiac took the clip out the handle of the pistol to show his captor that he really did have a loaded gun. Zodiac then put away the gun, and Bryan turned to say something to Cecelia, who was naturally in a very anxious state. As Bryan was about to talk to his friend, he felt something go through his back. Zodiac had taken out a long-bladed knife (of approximately 12 inches in length) and was stabbing him in the back. Bryan felt no pain as the blade went in and punctured his lung because he was in shock. Cecelia almost fainted at the sight – and the sound – of the blade being plunged into her friend’s back six times. But then Zodiac grabbed Cecelia, and he stabbed her five times in the back, and when she turned over, trying desperately to escape, he stabbed her five more times in the front, and seemed to go into a frenzy when he attacked her.
And then Zodiac calmly walked away. Upon reaching Bryan Hartnell’s white Kharman Ghia car, the killer took out a marker pen and scrawled his cross-within-a-circle symbol on the door of the vehicle, and underneath this, Zodiac wrote the word ‘Vallejo; and below this he scrawled the dates of his previous murders and also the date and time of today’s murder, along with a mention of the weapon used:
The couple screamed for help with their lifeblood draining away. Cecelia made repeated attempts to roll over and free Bryan with her bound hands, and somehow she managed to help him untie himself. Bryan untied Cecelia, and he kissed her and said: ‘I’m gonna try and get help.’
Bryan walked and walked and began to black out from loss of blood. He was picked up by park rangers who had been alerted by a fisherman who had heard the couple’s frantic screams. Cecelia survived for about 48 hours then passed away.
Police found 10-and-a-half-size shoe prints made by a brand of footwear known as Wing Walkers at the scene of the crime, and they estimated – by the depth of the prints – that Zodiac weighed about 210 pounds. Tyre tracks found by Bryan’s car indicated that the Zodiac had parked behind the vehicle. About an hour after the stabbings, a man telephoned the Napa Police Department and coolly claimed responsibility for stabbing Hartnell and Shepherd. The call was traced to a telephone kiosk about four blocks away from the police station, in the downtown area of Napa, and a fresh palm print – believed to be the killer’s - was successfully lifted from the telephone receiver and later submitted to the FBI – but no matches with any suspects were ever made. Zodiac, whoever he was, did not have a police record, for his prints never matched any held by the police forces of America. An unidentified print of someone’s hand was found on the Zodiac’s first letter to the Vallejo Times-Herald but again there was no match with the Napa phone booth print.
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