Post by Graveyardbride on Dec 20, 2013 19:14:04 GMT -5
December 20, 1968: Death on a Lonely Road
On the night of Friday, December 20, 1968, 17-year-old David Faraday, Eagle Scout and member of the high school wrestling team, arrived at the home of his new girlfriend, Betty Lou Jensen, age 16, in the small northern California city of Benicia. The teenagers had met two weeks earlier while attending a church function and it was love at first sight. As the youngsters departed for a high school Christmas concert in Vallejo, on what was to be their first official date, David promised Mr. and Mrs. Jensen he would return with their daughter by no later than 11 p.m. The proud parents watched as Betty Lou and her new suitor climbed into the Rambler station wagon that belonged to David’s mother and drove away.
Eleven o’clock came and went and Betty Lou’s parents were peeved their daughter’s new boyfriend had not kept his word and wondered what sort of story the teens would concoct.
In the meantime, Mrs. Manuel Borges, traveling along a darkened stretch of Lake Herman Road (pictured above), saw what appeared to be two bodies lying on the ground in a well-known “lover’s lane” spot and stopped to investigate. Two teenagers, a boy and girl, had been shot.
When sheriff’s deputies arrived, they discovered Betty Lou’s body several feet from the car and autopsy would later reveal she had been shot five times in the back, indicating she had been attempting to get away. David was lying next to the car. Though he had been shot in the head, he was still breathing, but died en route to the hospital. Footprints indicated Faraday had gotten out of the station wagon and walked around to the passenger side and four cartridge casings from a small caliber weapon were found near the vehicle. A deep heel-print was also discovered in the brush, which would have been the only place a sniper could have hidden in the rolling farmland country.
Witnesses had observed the teens huddled close together in the front seat of the Rambler around 10:15, but that was what teens did when they parked in out-of-the-way places. Bill Crow and his girlfriend were parked in the same area around 45 minutes earlier, but when a white Chevrolet drove past, then stopped and backed up, Crow and his companion became frightened and sped away in the opposite direction. The Chevy turned around and followed them, but was unable to keep up after Crow made a sharp right turn at an intersection. Two hunters also reported seeing a white Chevrolet parked at a gravel turnaround on Lake Herman Road, but did not see a driver inside the vehicle.
The killing of David Faraday and Betty Lou Jensen is considered by most to be the first in what would come to be known as “The Zodiac” murders. But there are others who believe Zodiac’s first victim was Cheri Jo Bates, a college student in Riverside, California, who was killed outside her school’s library on the night before Halloween in 1966. There were reports of a white male driving an old car in the location at the time of Ms. Bates’ murder and police discovered a man’s watch at the scene. A month after the attack, a letter allegedly written by the killer was received by a local newspaper and months after that, letters were sent to the news media, the police and the victim’s father, all with the same chilling message: “Bates had to die. There will be more.”
On Friday, July 4, 1969, Mike Megeau and Darlene Ferrin, a young Vallejo couple, were attacked and Ferrin died at the scene. Three area newspapers received letters allegedly written by the killer containing details of the crime. He also wrote a cipher (coded message), sending one part to each of the papers. In his letter, he said if the papers did not print the cipher in its entirety, he would kill again. The letters also featured a strange symbol – a circle with two intersecting lines running through it – which became the Zodiac’s calling card. Just six days after the cipher was published, it was cracked by a high school teacher and his wife in Salinas, but the code did not contain the killer’s identity as the writer had claimed. Nevertheless, it did provide some disturbing insights into his personality. “I like killing people because it is so much fun,” the message read in part and also indicated the killer believed those he killed would be his slaves in the afterlife.
On the night of Saturday, September 27, 1969, the Zodiac Killer struck again, choosing yet another young couple in a remote area. But this time, instead of shooting his victims, he repeatedly stabbed Bryan Hartnell and Cecelia Shepard. Hartnell survived the attack, but Shepard died two days later. The assailant left a message on the car door, which included the dates of two earlier assaults.
Less than a month later, on Saturday, October 11, 1969, taxi driver Paul Stine, age 29, was shot in the head at point-blank range in the Presidio Heights area of San Francisco. The man’s wallet and keys were taken and a large portion of his shirt was carefully torn off. The weapon was determined to be a 9mm semi-automatic pistol, not the same as that used in the July 4 shootings. Following the assault, three witnesses observed a man casually walking north on Cherry Street, a man described as a stocky white male, age 25 to 30, 5'8" to 5'9", with reddish-brown hair worn in a crew cut and wearing heavy-rimmed glasses and dark clothing. From these descriptions, a sketch of the killer was created and widely-distributed.
Then the killings stopped, or at least they stopped in California.
Because the Zodiac killer has never been definitively identified, he has been the subject of much discussion and speculation. Numerous books have been written on the Zodiac Killer with authors providing a bevy of possible suspects. Proposed suspects include Bruce Davis, a follower of Charles Manson, and Michael O’Hare, a Harvard-educated professor at UC Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy. Arthur Leigh Allen was a popular candidate after being identified by Hartnell and Mageau as their attacker, but later DNA testing failed to link him to the crimes.
In 2007, a man named Dennis Kaufman claimed his stepfather, Jack Tarrance, was the Zodiac. Kaufman turned several items over to the FBI, including a hood similar to the one worn by the Zodiac, but DNA analysis conducted by the FBI was inconclusive.
In 2009, Deborah Perez claimed her father, Guy Ward Hendrickson, was the Zodiac. However, she also allegedly claimed to be the illegitimate daughter of John F. Kennedy, so her claims were dismissed as unlikely. Also in 2009, an episode of the History Channel’s MysteryQuest suggested newspaper editor Richard Gaikowski could be the Zodiac. During the time of the murders, Gaikowski worked for Good Times, a San Francisco counterculture newspaper and he resembled the composite sketch. Additionally, a Vallejo police dispatcher, who was contacted by the Zodiac shortly after one of the attacks, identified a recording of Gaikowski’s voice as being the same as the Zodiac’s. Although circumstantial evidence is strong, it cannot definitively connect Gaikowski to the murders.
On February 19, 2011, America’s Most Wanted featured the Zodiac Killer and a picture has recently surfaced of known Zodiac victim Darlene Ferrin and a man who closely resembles the composite sketch. Police believe the photo was taken in San Francisco in the summer of 1966 or 1967, but it is suspected the man in the photo is James Phillips, Ms. Ferrin’s ex-husband.
Former California Highway Patrol officer Lyndon Lafferty in his 2012 book, The Zodiac Killer Cover-up: The Silenced Badge, argues the Zodiac killer is a 91-year-old Solano County man whom he calls “George Russell Tucker.” Using a group of retired law enforcement officers called the Mandamus Seven, Lafferty discovered both Tucker and a coverup explaining the reason he was not pursued. Lafferty claims he met the man at a rest stop in Vallejo in 1970 when the suspect parked close to Lafferty’s patrol car. “I looked into a quivering, snarling face like I was looking into the face of death,” Lafferty recalled during an interview. “It scared the hell out of me.” Lafferty and his collaborators insist the man they called George Russell Tucker was known to be a regular at the Vallejo restaurant where one of the victims, Darlene Ferrin, worked; that a car resembling Tucker’s was seen around Ferrin’s house in the weeks before the killing, and strange graffiti markings were discovered around Tucker’s home in Cordelia, California. Lafferty also says Tucker’s real name was spelled out in one of the cryptograms the Zodiac Killer sent to the media. He maintains powerful individuals in Solano County thwarted the case, among them a judge who was having an affair with the suspect’s wife – an affair that may have prompted the murder spree in the first place. “As God is my witness, my partners and I have always tried to share our material and our case with the proper authorities, but in the past 40 years, the latter have ignored and stymied and stonewalled us again and again,” Lafferty writes. The man identified as “Tucker” died in February 2012 and is not considered a suspect by law enforcement agencies.
In his 2013 book, Strange Mysteries, British author Tom Slemen explores the possibility that Zodiac lived near the scene of his last known crime – the murder of cab-driver Paul Stine in the Presidio Heights section of San Francisco – and hints at a British connection.
Sources: Zodiac by Robert Graysmith; Time; The San Francisco Chronicle; CrimeStories; and The Zodiac Killer Cover-up: The Silenced Badge by Lyndon Lafferty.