Two young high school students David Faraday and Betty Lou Jensen, out on a date, were parked up in a quiet, unlit and secluded turnout, somewhere close to the jurisdictional line between Benicia and Vallejo when an unknown assailant drew up alongside their Rambler at approximately 11.15 pm with murder on his mind.
Hundreds of people were interviewed, including high school students, family and friends of the victims, with police following various lines of inquiry such as jealousy or revenge, but nothing could have prepared them for what was about to come just four miles away.
Nearly seven months had elapsed and police could have been forgiven for believing this was an isolated event, but the fireworks were about to begin again, fireworks that would turn deadly. Only this time the killer had crossed into Vallejo.
The date was July 4th 1969 and the Independence Day celebrations were in full swing, a day the people of America could rejoice with family get-together's and such like, however for some families one man was determined to shatter those dreams forever and he was not in the mood to be forgotten.
A man exited the vehicle and calmly approached the couple's car carrying a flashlight and 9 mm Luger and without uttering a word fired a volley of gunfire through the open passenger side window, striking the couple several times. He then retreated only to return, in what could only be described from his standpoint as a coup de grace, unleashing four more bullets into the defenseless couple, before driving away. Sadly Darlene Ferrin was pronounced dead upon her arrival at hospital, but miraculously Michael Mageau was able to survive the merciless onslaught, despite receiving horrific injuries. The City of Vallejo and surrounding Bay Area were now just forty minutes away from the realization that the events of Lake Herman Road were about to be resurrected, the second coming had just arrived, but this time it was bearing a prophecy of death. The time was 12.40 am on July 5th 1969 when police dispatcher Nancy Slover took the call she was never to forget.
"I wish to report a double murder. If you will go one mile east on Columbus Parkway to a public park, you will find the kids in a brown car. They have been shot by a 9 mm Luger. I also killed those kids last year.... Good-bye".
The dawn of a serial killer had arrived, one that would cast fear into the local community and beyond, a beginning that had started at Lake Herman Road some seven months earlier, but this was to be no end.
The words psychopath and madman were banded about by police, and although this ruthless killer was devoid of compassion and empathy, he was to prove more complex than anyone could ever have imagined, when twenty seven days later, on July 31st 1969 three newspapers were to receive three letters, bearing cryptograms and details of both crimes, and the stark realization that indeed the Lake Herman Road double murder, the Blue Rock Springs Park attack and the sinister phone call were the work of one man, a man playing a dangerous game in the very real world of Northern California.
Bryan Hartnell was able to free his bonds, crawl up the hill and seek help, with both victims being rushed to the Queen of the Valley Hospital. Cecelia Shepard unfortunately succumbed to her injuries two days later, but Bryan Hartnell survived and was able to recount his terrifying ordeal at the hands of a killer, who had now claimed four lives, a fact that the Zodiac Killer was not going to let us forget and one that would come sharply into focus when police approached the car door of Bryan Hartnell's 1956 White Karmann Ghia. Written on the car door underneath the infamous crossed circle were the dates of his now three attacks thus far, chillingly signing off with the words 'by knife'.
But there was to be no respite.
San Francisco would be placed on high alert.
To be continued......