Cheri Jo Bates (18) was murdered on Sunday October 30th 1966 in an alleyway outside the Riverside City College Library, brutally stabbed and slashed numerous times with a short bladed instrument. The killer had sabotaged her Volkswagen Beetle car by tampering with the middle wire of her distributor, with the intention of luring the young girl to her death.
Cheri Jo Bates was a gregarious, outgoing woman, who easily made friends, apparent by her desire to become an air stewardess, where personality and social skills are key ingredients. This makes it even more strange that such a vivacious young woman, who by all accounts was in a good, humorous, and sociable mood that day, could enter the Riverside College Library shortly after 6.15 pm, check out three books from stocks, and apparently go unnoticed by everybody in the cramped library annex, including her close friends who were present between 6.00-9.00 pm that evening. In fact, in a reconstruction performed by police two weeks later, none of the 60+ people assembled remember ever seeing Cheri Jo Bates. What makes this crime even more unusual is that nobody set eyes on the young woman from approximately 6.15 pm that evening, until her body was discovered some 12 hours later, the following day on a gravel driveway.
On Halloween morning, groundskeeper Cleophus Martin (48) was traveling along Terracina Drive at 6.30 am, slightly west of the Riverside Library annex, when he discovered the lifeless body of Cheri Jo Bates lying face down in the gravel driveway. Her body was discovered on the east side of the driveway, between two vacant properties. Cheri Jo Bates had been brutally attacked with a knife. There were signs of a violent struggle with her murderer, with skin and hair present in the young woman's fingernails and hand, that in later years would reveal a mitochondrial DNA fingerprint.
A Timex watch, with a broken strap was discovered only ten feet from her body, likely wrenched off during the vicious attack. The Timex watch which bore specks of household paint, presumed to be the offenders, was found just ten feet from Cheri's body with the wristband broken, however it provided no clues to the killers identity.
Screams were heard in the campus area the previous night by certain local residents at approximately 10.15-10.45 pm, so if Cheri Jo Bates had entered the library at 6.15-6.30 pm and left immediately after checking out her library books, then she could not have simply been led away from her vehicle on the pretext of help and murdered in the driveway. The screams were heard four hours later, not to mention the numerous people entering and exiting the library from 6.00-9.00 pm that evening, would surely have noticed the stricken Miss Bates. Remember, Cheri Jo Bates was spotted in the area of the library shortly before and after 6.00 pm by several eyewitnesses.
If Cheri Jo Bates had entered the library shortly after it opened and left at 9.00 pm, upon its closing, it is inconceivable she could spend upwards of two and a half hours inside the 'cramped' library annex and remained invisible for the entire duration to everybody inside it, including her close friends. Even had this been possible, we are left with literally 75-90 minutes from her leaving the library to the sound of the screams in the driveway. It certainly doesn't take this long to walk from the library to her Volkswagen Beetle, receive the 'assistance' from her attacker, and then travel back to the driveway, where she was ultimately found. Neither scenario makes any sense, so there has to be an alternative sequence of events. The location of Cheri Jo Bates between 6.15 pm and 10.15/10.45 pm, therefore has to lie elsewhere.
One has to speculate on the two vacant buildings either side of where Cheri Jo Bates was found, having recently been purchased by the college. Would somebody known to Cheri Jo Bates and other students, or somebody familiar with campus grounds, have been aware that these buildings were unoccupied, and at approximately 10.30 pm at night the risk of detection at this location was limited, something a stranger would be unaware of.
Would a stranger or persons unknown to the area have begun an attack between two buildings, only yards from them, inflict numerous injuries on a screaming woman, not knowing if occupants resided within them. I suppose this was a question for the Zodiac Killer at Presidio Heights. The college was supposedly undergoing renovation, the Timex watch had paint splashes on it;- so was it a crime of opportunity from somebody connected with the college.
This crime has many unanswered questions, in fact nearly four hours worth.
One month later on November 29th 1966 a typed 'Confession' letter would arrive claiming responsibility for the murder of Cheri Jo Bates, giving details about the crime. Exactly six months after the murder, on April 30th 1967, three letters were sent to Joseph Bates (Cheri's father), Riverside Press Enterprise and Riverside Police. They were very short in nature. Two contained the words "Bates had to die there will be more", but the letter to Joseph Bates stated "She had to die there will be more." Furthermore a morbid poem was discovered written on the inside of a foldable desktop at the Riverside City College Library, discovered by a janitor in December of 1966.
Questioned Documents Examiner Sherwood Morrill, who worked on many of the Zodiac letters, would link the Riverside correspondence to the Zodiac Killer. But not everybody believes the Cheri Jo Bates murder is linked to the Bay Area murderer.
Extra reading on Cheri Jo Bates-Zodiac Ciphers News
Here are two articles from Zodiac news, expanding on the Cheri Jo Bates case, including the autopsy findings.
CHERI JO BATES-THE AUTOPSY FINDINGS
The Cheri Jo Bates murder on October 30th 1966 has been linked to the Zodiac crimes, but unlike the Zodiac murders this crime has gaping holes in the timeline that have yet to be fully explained. Cheri Jo Bates simply went off the radar for at least 12 hours, from around 6.00 pm on Sunday evening to the following morning, when her lifeless body was discovered by Riverside City College groundskeeper Cleophus Martin at 6.30 am.
The time of the murder has been estimated between 9.15 pm and 10.45 pm, based on eyewitness reports and autopsy findings. One woman from a nearby residence stated that about 10.30 pm "I heard a muted scream, and then a loud sound like an old car being started up - this was about two minutes after I heard the first scream." Other eyewitnesses would corroborate the time between 10.15 pm-10.45 pm, suggesting that the idea people failed to adjust for daylight savings, sending the clocks back the previous midnight, highly unlikely. Placing the murder at 9.15 pm sounds more plausible, based upon the fact the library closed at 9.00 pm, however considering Cheri Jo Bates arrived at the library shortly after 6.00 pm, this places her in the library for nearly three hours, yet nobody, even her close friends, could actually place her in the library during the entire evening.
Cheri Jo Bates' liver temperature was recorded at 26C and 28C at 9.31 am on October 31st 1966 at autopsy. Algor Mortis is the rate at which a body cools after death, very little during the first hour, but calculated thereafter at 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit per hour, dependent on ambient temperature, body size, clothing etc. The temperature in Riverside that day hit a maximum 97 degrees Fahrenheit, falling to 52 degrees Fahrenheit at its lowest, giving us an idea of ambient temperature during this period. There was also little to no wind at this time, therefore not adversely affecting the rate of body cooling. Taking normal body temperature of 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit and Cheri Jo Bates median liver temperature of 80.6 Fahrenheit at 9.31 am, we can calculate the approximate time of her murder,
The body of Cheri Jo Bates had cooled by 18 degrees at autopsy, but not counting the first hour, this would take 12 hours (18÷1.5). Then if we add back the first hour, it gives us a time period of 13 hours. This would mean Cheri Jo Bates was murdered at 8.31 pm or slightly earlier, as body cooling actually slows down in rate, as it approaches the ambient temperature. If we take the high end measurement of her liver temperature of 82.4 Fahrenheit at autopsy, it places the murder at 9.31 pm, or again slightly earlier, bearing in mind the existence of a "temperature plateau", a highly variable length of time in which the body does not cool.
Taking the bottom measurement liver temperature of 78.8 Fahrenheit, that is a drop of nearly 20 degrees (20÷1.5 =13.33), just over 14 hours since the time of death, including the first hour, and giving us a murder at 7.31 pm.
Joseph Bates arrived back at the 4195 Via San Jose residence around 5.00 pm, finding the note left by Cheri Jo Bates "Dad-Went to RCC Library." Cheri was spotted at the RCC Library around 6.15 pm.
This is crucial because the pathologist F. Rene Modglin stated 'the gastric contents suggest she had eaten a supper type meal probably not more than 2 to 4 hours before death.' In addition the stomach contents contained 'at least 100ml of thick fluid, with particulate food particles in which are easily recognized reasonably large pieces of beef, along with vegetable particulates and/or celery and onion, and what appears to be milk or cottage cheese.' Cheri Jo Bates consumed this meal prior to 5.00 pm, before Joseph Bates arrived home.
Food takes approximately 2-5 hours to leave the stomach, depending on its constitution. The pathologist stated she had eaten not more than 2-4 hours before her death. This means if Cheri Jo Bates ate this meal at approximately 4.30 pm, then she would have been killed at 6.30 pm to 8.30 pm, tying in with the findings of body temperature above and the indication of an earlier murder.
This would match the 'Confession' letter on November 29th 1966, if Cheri Jo Bates arrived at the library at 6.15 pm, checked out her books immediately and was followed to her vehicle, before being killed around 6.30 pm. The author stated "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 cut the middle wire from the distributor. Then I waited for her in the library and followed her out after about two minutes. The battery must have been about dead by then. I then offered to help. She was then very willing to talk to 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."
However, this throws up an unlikely scenario, that 65 people entering and leaving the library that night between 6.00 pm and 9.00 pm, would fail to spot the stricken Miss Bates lying in the driveway for at least 2 1/2 hours. Even if the murder occurred at 7.30 pm or 8.30 pm, we still have a problem, particularly in light of screams being heard at 10.30 pm at night by local residents. But a 10.30 pm murder leaves us back where we started, four long hours to explain, and seemingly contradictory to the body temperature and stomach analysis.
Again we will take another look at the Cheri Jo Bates murder on October 30th 1966, but on this occasion we shall take the path of least resistance, to arrive at Cheri Jo Bates fending off her attacker three to four hours earlier than the widely accepted consensus,- because it takes away the unresolved time from her leaving the library to her eventual demise.
There are still a lot of unresolved factors, on whether Cheri Jo Bates ever entered the library or was abducted for the missing 3-4 hours and returned back to the scene. This however this should be regarded as the simplistic approach.
Cheri Jo Bates arrived at the library at 6.15 pm to pick up some reading material, parked her Volkswagen Bug on Terracina Drive and walked to the library annex, approximately 100 yards away. Robert Graysmith stated in his book "We figure Cheri Jo arrived at the RCC Library annex around six and went into the library. She had friends studying in the library, but none of them recall seeing her. We know she actually entered the library only because of three books on the Electoral College she checked out, which were found on the front seat of her car."
Two weeks after the murder a reenactment was performed bringing 65 people back to the library who were present on Sunday October 30th, but nobody recalled seeing Cheri Jo. However it is highly unlikely that all 65 attendees were in the library around 6.15 pm, so if Cheri Jo Bates did enter the library, she would had to have done it earlier and left immediately to go unnoticed. It has also been suggested that possibly somebody else charged out the books using her ID card, left the books in her Volkswagen and disabled the distributor coil to center the murder around the college campus. This could have been resolved by checking the books for Miss Bates' fingerprints. which one assumes would have been done by police, as they did with other areas of the vehicle. Cheri Jo Bates, had she entered the library, was certainly not there for a prolonged period of time, certainly not until 9.00 pm closing time, as many people would have remembered her present that night.
Assuming she entered the library, it had to be of short duration to avoid being noticed. Bearing in mind she arrived at the library at 6.15 pm, it is conceivable she had left as early as 6.20-6.25 pm. She attempted to start her vehicle, is offered assistance by an unknown male (the one who disabled it) and the irrevocable chain of events unfolded.
Cheri Jo Bates may simply have decided to walk back to the RCC Library to phone home, seek assistance or ask for a lift home once a suitable friend arrived. Had the 'good Samaritan' offering her help been a stranger, this would appear the sensible option, after all the library was only a mere 100 yards from her parked vehicle. She started walking back towards the library, but when she arrived by the dimly lit alleyway, she was manhandled into its upper reaches and the rest is history. Her body was discovered only a short distance into the alleyway off Terracina Drive, suggestive of being forced into that location.
If Miss Bates had willingly entered the alleyway, surely the killer would have waited until they were further away from the road and less visible to any potential eyewitnesses, which by the location of her body it apparently seemed was not the case. It appears the offer of a lift claimed in the 'Confession' letter was politely turned down, so the killer had to improvise, resulting in a murder at a location closer to the road than one might expect.
Depending on her interaction with the eventual murderer, this would shift the timeline about four hours before the widely accepted view, to around 6.30 pm - 6.45 pm. Sunset in Riverside was approximately 6.00 pm, so the light was ebbing away and her body lay there unnoticed for 12 hours, before Riverside City College caretaker Cleophus Martin discovered the stricken Miss Bates at 6.30 am on October 31st 1966.
But could Cheri Jo's body lie just off Terracina Drive for approximately 2 1/2 hours while people entered and exited the library that night without being spotted. It seems difficult to believe, but this has to be more likely than Cheri Jo Bates entering the cramped library at 6.15 pm and leaving at 9.00 pm without anybody noticing her. At least the library is illuminated.
Although not definitive, the autopsy results back up the earlier murder scenario, discussed here in Cheri-Jo-Bates-the-autopsy-findings. Stomach contents generally empty within 2-4 hours, but Cheri still had 100 ml in her stomach, a sizeable amount. Her last meal was at her Via San Jose residence around 4.30 pm, as testified by Joseph Bates and backed up by the constituent stomach contents. With the amount of food remaining in her stomach, her likely murder occurred no later than three hours after she had eaten, possibly as little as two hours, placing the time at 6.30 pm-7.30 pm.
If Cheri Jo Bates had entered the library at 6.15 pm and stayed there until closing, not only would she have been spotted by numerous people, but she couldn't have had 100 ml of food in her stomach 5-6 hours later. Stomach digestion is severely restricted during periods of great stress, indicating she may have been held under duress at a second location, but this suggests an abduction from the scene, only for the abductor/s to then return hours later and murder Cheri Jo Bates at the original location they took her from. Other than this scenario, a murder at 6.30 pm-7.30 pm is what we are left with.
The liver temperature of 26-28 degrees at autopsy (9.31 am) the following day, seems to back up the findings of the stomach contents, indicating a murder some 13-15 hours earlier. But considering the fact that Cheri Jo arrived at the library at 6.15 pm, the bottom end estimate of 6.30 pm seems the most likely.
The supposed killer would send a 'Confession' letter a month later, also backing up this earlier timeline. The author of the correspondence typed "Then I waited for her in the library and followed her out after about two minutes. The battery must have been about dead by then. I then offered to help. She was then very willing to talk to 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."
If this person was the killer, and he followed her out of the library, or waited outside, then it had to be early, as again the only way for Cheri Jo Bates to have gone unnoticed by so many people, was to enter and leave the library relatively close to opening time, before the library filled up. The question is, how do you interpret the phrase "Then I waited for her in the library and followed her out after about two minutes." Did the killer wait for two minutes after Cheri Jo Bates left the library or did Cheri Jo Bates enter the library and leave two minutes later.
The fly in the ointment are the screams heard by eyewitnesses around 10.30 pm. But are these accurate and did they originate from Cheri Jo Bates. They are seemingly four hours too late and appear to conflict with all of the above.
FBI files, Zodiac 5, page 139/249
Cheri Jo Bates Volkswagen Beetle was found parked approximately 100 yards west of the library annex, parked on Terracina Drive. When discovered by police her vehicle was unlocked, the windows were rolled down, her keys were still in the ignition and her library books lay on the front passenger seat. Surely if Cheri Jo Bates had vacated her vehicle to call for assistance or had left voluntarily on the offer of help, she would have secured her vehicle first.
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