Deer Lodge Prison is approximately 1,000 miles from Lake Berryessa, and no guards were reported to have been killed in the relative timeline. The suggestion of such was almost certainly designed to instill fear and compliance from his victims. However there was still a possibility that the killer may have inadvertently let something slip, that was relevant to his history, and more importantly the police investigation.
On Sunday September 21st 1969, only days before the Lake Berryessa attack, two convicts Carl Pierce (27) and Ronald Woods (22), made an escape bid, by cutting through the wire fence at the rear of Rothe Hall, Deer Lodge Prison, Montana. This newsworthy story may have had an influence on the Zodiac Killer's strategy when he entered into dialogue with Bryan Hartnell, or may well have just been something that he recalled on the fly, to divert investigators away from his real identity. However, the ferocity of his attack on Bryan Hartnell and Cecelia Shepard, clearly indicated that there was no intention to leave any surviving witnesses, so any cover story would be superfluous. It would therefore seem that any of the information he revealed would not have placed him at any risk, other than if he had been disturbed during the commission of the crime or immediately prior to his attack.
Was the September 21st 1969 escape from Deer Lodge Prison relevant to his history. If this was the location he really mentioned to Bryan Hartnell, it may prove that what he said, if he had no prepared script or dialogue that evening, may be the closest to the truth we can ever truly attain, short of a DNA comparison match.
Edward Wayne Edwards was a convicted serial killer who spent time at Old Montana State Prison, where he recalls one prisoner in his autobiography, stating "this man remains my most uncomfortable memory". Edwards stated that this individual believed that anyone he killed would become his slave in the next life. He goes on to say "This demented individual showed an overwhelming interest in science fiction and Egyptian literature." That prisoner, Donald Lee Bujok, was also present during the 1959 Montana Prison siege, known as Jerry's Riot, and was released three days prior to the Lake Herman Road double murder on December 20th 1968. See here.
During the prison riot, guards were held hostage, with Jerry Myles, one of the ringleaders, warned that any attempt to recapture control of the prison would result in the killing of the hostages, by fire, by hanging or by stabbing.
John Cameron, a former Great Falls, Montana police sergeant got to know Edward Edwards in Montana Prison and firmly believes that he is Zodiac Killer. The suggestion of slaves and the afterlife by another prisoner in Edward Wayne Edwards autobiography 'Metamorphosis of a Criminal,' may have been a case of supplanting his thoughts firmly at the door of someone else. Like the Zodiac Killer, it was a game he truly enjoyed playing and may have been his final attempt at mocking the authorities. Many researchers have placed Edward Edwards in Northern California during the timeline of the Zodiac murders of 1968 and 1969. There is little circumstantial evidence tying Edwards to the Zodiac murders, but one thing we do know about Edwards, is that he was a ruthless killer, not to be taken at face value.
John Cameron has recently released a book entitled 'It's Me, Edward Wayne Edwards, the Serial Killer You Never Heard of', complete with the Zodiac crossed circle, to leave you in no doubt where his suspicions lie.
But the story doesn't end there. In the March of 1971 The Akron Beacon Journal ran a story by William Kezziah, about two former inmates from Akron, Ohio, who served time at Old Montana Prison, Deer Lodge, who both had their suspicions on the Zodiac Killer's identity. One former prisoner Edward Wayne Edwards has already been discussed, the second wanted his identity withheld from print for fear of reprisals. But he spoke about an inmate called Richard. Unfortunately though, he could not recall his surname.
He stated he first recognized the likeness to the inmate he once knew, when he saw the composite sketch of the Zodiac Killer in a story by the Beacon Journal in February 1971, chronicling the Zodiac Killer during and after the callous murder of taxicab driver Paul Stine in Presidio Heights on October 11th 1969. He spent time with Richard at Deer Lodge Prison somewhere around the years 1956 to 1959, remembering that Richard was somewhat a loner, bullied by other inmates. However he was an auto mechanic, very interested in reading, particularly Egyptian history. This was not the first inmate to have leanings towards this particular subject. We cannot verify whether these recollections are accurate, born out of genuine experiences or simply a case of 'attention seeking', something that we have grown used to in the Zodiac case.
Old Montana State Prison, he believed, had housed approximately 20,000 prisoners since it creation, so it would not be too difficult to narrow down the search. Well, if his information is accurate, it isn't difficult. You visit Montana State Prison records here, enter Richard into the search box and up comes the list of all prisoners between 1869 and 1974 with the relevant name.
Then once the correct years have been identified, there should only be a handful remaining. Then lastly identify the crime attributed to each person, to verify if any murdered an officer of the law. It is highly likely that this would have already been cross checked by investigators.
Cheri Jo Bates was believed to have been murdered in the late night hours of October 30th 1966 at the Riverside City College Library, her body discovered on the following Halloween Day morning by a caretaker. She had been brutally stabbed and slashed numerous times. Sometime during this period, it was considered that the Zodiac Killer may have written the message found on the inside of a school desktop, known as 'The Riverside Desktop Poem', discovered by a janitor in late 1966 and that it may have had links to the Bates crime. The message ended with the initials RH.
Checking these initials in the Montana State Prison records, one can find Richard Haessly, Richard Harris, Richard Hayes, Richard Heavygun, Richard Hill, Richard Happel, Richard Helten, Richard Hodke, Richard Hunt and Richard L Hendrickson.
So if the Zodiac Killer did sign his initials and our man from Akron, Ohio is correct, that the inmate at Montana State Prison is of worthy consideration, then we have ten names of great interest. You can check out most of this list here, which shows the prisoner records, including age, occupation, date incarcerated, length of sentence, vital statistics and mugshot. Only two of the names show slight promise, but I will let you decide for yourselves.
But if detective work was this simple, the case would have been solved years ago. This approach is too simplistic and relies heavily on the testimony of a former inmate, whose memories may be deliberately or inadvertently skewed, especially since witness recollections are far from accurate, not only from this case, but quite possibly the composite sketch drawn up from the three eyewitnesses at the Presidio Heights crime scene. Furthermore, we do not know whether the RH at the foot of The Riverside Desktop Poem are initials.
The question however remains. Is the Montana connection a valid one, or should we have been looking in a totally different direction entirely. Although 'Fern Lock' proves elusive, there is a 'Fern Valley'.
The town of Idyllwild is situated in the San Jacinto Mountains in Riverside County, California, a scenic backdrop, flanked by the nearby communities of Pine Cove and Fern Valley. It is approximately 58 miles due east from Riverside, CA, notable in Zodiac circles for the tragic murder of Cheri Jo Bates.
The Zodiac Killer had arrived at Lake Berryessa by vehicle, so a route from Deer Lodge Montana, had it occurred in the days recent to his attack, could have taken him through the areas of Twin Falls, Idaho, as well as Elko, Reno, Carson City and Lake Tahoe, Nevada, the area where Donna Ann Lass disappeared some eleven months later. Was it a route he was familiar with and would later revisit.
Was the Zodiac Killer an inmate at Deer Lodge Prison or had some connection to, sometime prior to December 20th 1968. Did he return to prison between March 22nd 1971 and January 29th 1974. And are the words he gave up on September 27th 1969 something he never foresaw being repeated and therefore their significance to unveiling the truth may be closer than we think.
To visit John Cameron's website click the link http://coldcasecameron.com/