On July 4th 1969, shortly before midnight, Darlene Elizabeth Ferrin (22) and Michael Renault Mageau (19) pulled into the parking lot of the Blue Rock Springs Park in Vallejo, approximately 6 months and four miles apart from the Lake Herman murder site. Their decision not to visit Mr Ed's diner, proved unbeknownst at the time, a decision that would have the gravest of outcomes just a few short minutes later.
The Independence Day celebrations were in evidence, reinforced by the arrival of some boisterous youngsters into the parking lot and the sound of firecrackers being let off. However, the interruption was short lived and the revelers would soon move on, leaving the couple alone once again. Shortly thereafter, another car pulled into the parking lot alongside the couple's car, the occupant of which briefly extinguished the headlights, before finally moving off again, exiting the parking lot and heading in the direction of Vallejo and Springs Road. Michael Mageau stated "Dea turned the lights and motor off and had the radio playing. They were there just a very short time, a few minutes, and three cars pulled into the parking lot where they were. They were apparently young kids and they heard some laughing and carrying on and a few firecrackers were set off, then the three vehicles left within a short time. This was just a short space of time, a few minutes. Shortly after this and about 5 minutes before the shooting occurred, a vehicle pulled into the lot, coming from the direction of Springs Road and Vallejo. The driver turned the lights off on the car and pulled around to the left or east side of their car, approximately 6 or 8 feet away and sat there for a minute. He asked Dea if she knew who it was and she stated 'Oh, never mind'."
According to Mageau approximately five minutes later the same brown car, thought to be a Chevrolet Corvair or Ford Mustang returned, but this time drew up to within 10 feet of the rear of their car, slightly to the right side. Only this time the lone driver exited the vehicle carrying what Michael Mageau described as a 'high powered flashlight, the type you carry with a handle' and although not known at the time, was in possession of a 9mm Luger, as he casually approached the couple's car.
Michael Mageau believing the person to be a policeman, because of his demeanor, went for some personal identification, at which point the man raised the handgun and without uttering a word fired a volley of five rounds at point blank range through the window, striking Michael Mageau and Darlene Ferrin several times. Mageau stated he heard a muffled sound, surmising that the gun 'sounded like it had a silencer on it'.
At this precise moment George Bryant, the son of a caretaker at Blue Rock Springs Park was in bed at his house located just 800 feet from the parking lot. He would recall these details "He could hear laughing and a few firecrackers being shot off, but he couldn't see anybody. At approximately midnight he heard what appeared to be a gunshot. This was much louder than any of the firecrackers. A short time later he heard what appeared to be another gunshot. After another short pause he heard rapid fire of what appears to be gunshots. He then heard a car taking off at super speed and it burned rubber and was squealing its tires as it sped along the road. He wasn't sure of its direction of travel. He didn't check as it was the Fourth of July and thought it was just somebody celebrating."
The fact George Bryant seemingly heard gunshots tends to negate the premise the weapon had a suppressor attached, the more reasonable suggestion being that Michael Mageau was temporarily deafened by the first gunshot so close to his head.
When the merciless attack began Michael Mageau in a bid to prevent further injury or blind terror propelled himself to the rear passenger seats. After the initial volley of five shots the assailant retreated, but upon hearing Mageau start to yell returned once again to shoot both victims each twice more. The assailant then calmly walked away and got back in his vehicle. Michael Mageau then stated he grappled for the outside door handle and fell out onto the Blue Rock Springs car park. At which point the assailant sped away 'at a high rate of speed' from the scene in the direction of Vallejo and Springs Road. This would later be countered by the Zodiac Killer in a letter he sent to the San Francisco Examiner on August 4th 1969, exactly one month after this attack. In the letter the Zodiac Killer wrote 'The boy was origionaly sitting in the front seat when I began fireing. When I fired the first shot at his head, he leaped backwards at the same time, thus spoiling my aim. He ended up on the back seat then the floor in back thashing out very violently with his legs; that's how I shot him in the knee. I did not leave the cene of the killing with squealing tires + raceing engine as described in he Vallejo paper. I drove away quite slowly so as not to draw attention to my car'.
Michael Mageau would later recollect, in an interview conducted at Kaiser Hospital on 6th July 1969 with Detective Ed Rust, that he thought the assailant's car was the same or of similar type to Darlene Ferrin's vehicle, a Corvair, although lighter brown with California license plates.
Richard Hoffman and Ed Rust were two of the first responding officers that night. Both having separately made their way to the scene of the crime after reports of shooting being heard at Blue Rock Springs. When Ed Rust arrived he noticed Hoffman tending to Michael Mageau, who was lying on his back on the ground by the open door of the car, Darlene Ferrin was observed motionless behind the steering wheel of the car. Ed Rust tried to ask Darlene Ferrin what happened, but could not distinguish what she mumbled, due to the severity of her injuries. Both were rushed to hospital, but despite Darlene Ferrin receiving extensive cardiopulmonary resuscitation from the ambulance crew that night, she finally succumbed to her multiple injuries. Sadly Darlene Ferrin was pronounced dead at 12.38 am upon her arrival at the hospital.
Miraculously, Michael Mageau, who took the initial brunt of the cold blooded attack, survived and was later at his bedside able to give a description of the killer to investigating detective Ed Rust, stating he was a heavyset man standing at about 5'8'' tall, beefy build, but not blubbery fat, possibly 195-200 pounds, short curly hair, light brown almost blond. He added that the man was not wearing glasses, but stressed that his assailant did possess a particularly large face. A description that would appear to contradict the first composite sketch of the Zodiac Killer recalled from initial eyewitness testimony after the murder of Paul Stine at Presidio Heights some three months later. However, an amended composite of the Presidio Heights murderer, being closer to the description given by Officer Donald Fouke, appears to align more closely to the observations of Michael Mageau at Blue Rock Springs.
On July 5th at 12.40 am, approximately forty minutes after the attack, a call was received from a phone booth at the gas station of Springs Road and Tuolumne, close to Ferrin's home, where the assailant claimed responsibility for the attack at Blue Rock Springs Park and the previous Lake Herman Road murders. The police dispatcher who took the call in the early hours of July 5th 1969 was 26 year old Nancy Slover. She was to become one of only three people to speak directly to the Zodiac Killer, the other two being surviving eyewitness Bryan Hartnell from the attack at Lake Berryessa and Dave Slaight, the police radio dispatcher who took the second phone call the evening of September 27th 1969. Nancy Slover described his voice and tone, as though he was mocking and taunting her for shock value, claiming "it worked".
The caller spoke the following words in a monotone, rehearsed fashion, "I want to report a double murder. If you will go one mile east on Columbus Parkway to the public park, you will find the kids in a brown car. They were shot with a 9 mm Luger. I also killed those kids last year.... Good-bye". Despite claims by certain individuals, this call was never recorded, as police dispatcher Nancy Slover did not have the equipment at her disposal to record incoming calls at the time.
Many Zodiac enthusiasts and police officials have questioned the directional accuracy of the Zodiac phone call. Read or heard without breaks give the impression that the directions given by Zodiac are incorrect, however, despite his distances being off slightly, simply adding a comma or pause changes the whole meaning of the phone call. Nancy Slover, the police dispatcher, attempted to talk over Zodiac to acquire details and in addition had to recall the phone conversation word for word, in context, at a later time, so we can assume it may not have been the original message verbatim.
Let us add the breaks or pauses into the passage, and other than 'one mile east', which should be 2 miles east from the police station (see here), the rest is pretty much correct: "I want to report a double murder. If you will go one mile east...... on Columbus Parkway to the public park, you will find the kids in a brown car. They were shot with a 9 mm Luger. I also killed those kids last year.... Good-bye." The Zodiac was either not a master of the English language or toyed with authorities, so unless Nancy Slover recalled the message slightly incorrectly, then ideally the phrase should have read "on Columbus Parkway by the public park, you will find the kids in a brown car."
Considering Zodiac's compass accuracy at Lake Herman Road and Presidio Heights (Bus Bomb letter), it is highly doubtful he was was suggesting Blue Rock Springs Park was east on Columbus Parkway and the likely answer can be found in a misinterpretation and misrepresentation of the phone call under stressful conditions.
The Sheriff's Office was located at the junction of Virginia and Tuolumne Streets, and the Vallejo Police Department at 111 Amador Street, so if the Zodiac was giving directions in relation to these, then the journey is still east to Columbus Parkway. See here, albeit marginally over 2 miles.
One month after the attack at Blue Rock Springs Park the killer sent the 'Debut of Zodiac' Letter and recalled his version of events in the last hour of July 4th 1969 and run up to the phone call to Nancy Slover. 'This is the Zodiac speaking. In answer to your asking for more details about the good times I have had in Vallejo, I shall be very happy to supply even more material. By the way, are the police having a good time with the code? If not, tell them to cheer up; when they do crack it, they will have me. On the 4th of July I did not open the car door. The window was rolled down all ready. The boy was origionaly sitting in the front seat when I began fireing. When I fired the first shot at his head, he leaped backwards at the same time, thus spoiling my aim. He ended up on the back seat then the floor in back thashing out very violently with his legs; that's how I shot him in the knee. I did not leave the cene of the killing with squealling tires + raceing engine as described in the Vallejo paper. I drove away quite slowly so as not to draw attention to my car. The man who told police that my car was brown was a negro about 40-45 rather shabbly dressed. I was in this phone booth having some fun with the Vallejo cop when he was walking by. When I hung the phone up the damn thing began to ring & that drew his attention to me + my car.
Last Christmass In that epasode the police were wondering how I could shoot + hit my victims in the dark. They did not openly state this, but implied this by saying it was a well lit night + I could see silowets on the horizon. Bullshit that area is srounded by high hills + trees. What I did was tape a small pencel flash light to the barrel of my gun. If you notice, in the center of the beam of light if you aim it at a wall or ceiling you will see a black or darck spot in the center of the circle of light about 3 to 6 inches across. When taped to a gun barrel, the bullet will strike in the center of the black dot in the light. All I had to do was spray them as if it was a water hose; there was no need to use the gun sights. I was not happy to see that I did not get front page coverage.'
THE TIMELINE OF EVENTS AT BLUE ROCK SPRINGS PARK
The following is an accompaniment to above, attempting to narrow down the timeline of events leading up to and after the double shooting at the Blue Rock Springs parking lot, to discover whether the Zodiac made his approach to Darlene Ferrin's 1963 brown Corvair just before the stroke of midnight on July 4th 1969, or slightly after on July 5th. The timeline will be reconstructed from the numerous statements contained within the police report.
In the run up the Blue Rock Springs Michael Mageau "stated that Dea came over at approximately 11.30 pm or shortly thereafter and picked him up in her car." Michael went on to say they headed in the direction of Mr Ed's along Springs Road before turning around and heading eastward toward Blue Rock Springs Park. Michael Mageau resided at 864 Beechwood Avenue and Darlene Ferrin at 1300 Virginia Street, both in Vallejo. However, further on in the report it states that Dean Ferrin, Darlene's husband and Bill Lee, Darlene's employer recounted that "Darlene and her sister Christina Suennen had been at Mr Ferrin's place of employment 'Ceasers' in the 300 block of Tennessee Street at approximately 10.30 pm and at this time Darlene left, stating that she was going to take Christina home, then go home herself to 1300 Virginia Street."
Then at "approximately 11.30 pm Lee called Darlene to ask her if she would try to find a fireworks booth open and purchase some as they were going to have a party at 1300 Virginia Street." In combination with this Pamela and Janet, who were babysitting for Darlene stated that "Darlene didn't return until about 11.30 pm or shortly before that" and after a few minutes cleaning up the house she was going out to buy fireworks, "Darlene left the house around 11.40 pm and they didn't see her again." It was clear by the accounts of three people that Darlene was still at 1300 Virginia Street at 11.30 pm, left approximately 10 minutes later, to arrive at Michael Mageau's Beechwood residence "shortly thereafter."
The traveling time from 1300 Virginia Street to 864 Beechwood Avenue is approximately 5 to 6 minutes, so at the earliest Darlene Ferrin arrived at Michael Mageau's residence is at 11.45 pm. This is likely the exact time, because if we backtrack through events that subsequently happened at the Blue Rock Springs parking lot, as recounted by numerous people, along with Michael Mageau, this time is confirmed. Darlene Ferrin and Michael Mageau's journey time from 864 Beechwood Avenue to Blue Rock Springs Park is 7 to 8 minutes, but factoring in that they initially headed along Springs Road to Mr Ed's, away from Blue Rock Springs, before altering their plans, we will take the top estimate of 8 minutes, although it could be conceivably up to 9 minutes.
This places the couple entering the parking lot at 11.53 pm. We now have three independent statements to factor in the events hereafter, starting with Michael Mageau.
Michael stated "they were there just a very short time, a few minutes, and three cars pulled into the parking lot where they were. They were apparently young kids and they heard some laughing and carrying on and a few firecrackers were set off, then the three vehicles left within a short time. Shortly after this and about 5 minutes before the shooting occurred, Michael states a vehicle pulled into the lot, coming from the direction of Springs Road and Vallejo. The driver turned the lights off on the car and pulled around to the left or east side side of their car, approximately six or eight feet away and sat there for a minute. The car drove off and headed in the direction of Vallejo and Springs Road. He stated approximately 5 minutes later it returned." The killer then approached the Corvair. Deconstructing these statements and estimating the kids arriving after them by 'a few minutes', considering the kids stayed to laugh and joke, and let off some firecrackers, we can place a minimum of 3 minutes on this duration. Michael stated after the kids left it was about 5 minutes before the shooting. Combining these two estimations puts the duration at 8 minutes, meaning if they arrived at the parking lot at 11.53 pm, the time would now be 12.01 am on the 5th of July. However, Michael also stated that after the kids left, a vehicle pulled up behind them, 'sat there for a minute and returned approximately 5 minutes later', extending the timeline to 6 minutes, and coupled with a minimum of 3 minutes for the kids arriving and leaving, totals 9 minutes, to extend the time of the shooting to 12.02 am. All the timelines above are conservative estimates, so the 12.02 am calculation could equally be as late as 12.04 am. To verify or back up this prediction we shall now examine some further statements.
George Bryant lived only 800 feet from the Blue Rock Springs parking lot and stated "He could hear laughing and a few firecrackers being shot off", which tallies exactly with the statement of Michael Mageau. He continued by saying "at approximately midnight he heard what appeared to be a gunshot." This fits the timeline nicely.
In the police report it chronicles three other people, Jerry, Roger and Debbie who were heading along the freeway and came into the park the back way. "it was dark and they looked for any vehicles. The only one they saw was the victims brown corvair." They approached Mageau, wounded on the floor, and left to get help. "Both boys had to guess the time they were at the park as real close to midnight, possibly a little before midnight." However it was likely slightly after midnight as we shall estimate. At approximately 12.10 am Richard Hoffman "copied a radio message from KMA 818 regarding two teenagers being shot at in the area of Blue Rock Springs, R.O. had just checked this approximately 15 minutes prior to this transmission, and found the parking lot of Blue Rock Springs clear of people or motor vehicles." This statement uses approximation, because as we can see, 15 minutes prior to 12.10 am is 11.55 pm, and Michael Mageau and Darlene Ferrin pulled into the parking lot at around 11.53 pm, meaning they would have been spotted by Richard Hoffman. However, what it does tell us, is that Richard Hoffman likely missed the couple's arrival by a matter of minutes, probably passing the parking lot just prior to 11.53 pm. The three youths, Debbie, Jerry and Roger, after seeing Michael Mageau pleading for help, set off to Jerry's home at 938 Catlewood Drive, Vallejo and called police. The time to reach 938 Castlewood Drive from Blue Rock Springs Park is about 6 to 7 minutes. We have estimated the shooting at 12.02 am. So Jerry, Debbie and Roger likely arrived at 12.03 am to 12.04 am, immediately after the shooting. The 6 minutes to arrive home and call police tallies nicely with the 12.10 am call by Debbie to dispatcher Nancy Slover and the transmission to Richard Hoffman.
Richard Hoffman stated in the 'This is the Zodiac Speaking' documentary, after having previously checked the park "I wasn't far away, so I turned around and went back out there and told dispatch I was going to go out there to check on that report." Had that took Hoffman a couple of minutes after receiving the 12.10 am dispatch to arrive at Michael Mageau's side, then Michael's statement of "A white man drove up in a car, got out, walked up to the car, shined flashlight in and started shooting. Man was older than me, window was down. After stop shooting I got out of car, I tried to get the people to come over but they drove off. After finally 10 minutes the policeman came." This seems about correct, placing Michael Mageau on the ground in the aftermath of the shooting around 12.02 am, with Richard Hoffman arriving at 12.12 am, or shortly thereafter.
With all the time periods above, a conservative approach has been adopted, implying the double shooting may have occurred slightly later, but from the phone call to the police and dispatch times 12.04 am is the latest cut off point. However, the most likely time of the attack can be narrowed to 12.02-12.03 am on July 5th 1969. Although Zodiac having begun the night with murder on his mind was clearly content with "On the 4th of July I did not open the car door. The window was rolled down all ready. The boy was origionaly sitting in the front seat when I began fireing." Debut of Zodiac Letter-August 4th 1969.
Darlene Ferrin lived at 1300 Virginia Street Vallejo and at the time of her murder she worked as a waitress at Terry's Waffle Shop situated on Magazine Street, Vallejo, just off Interstate 80, approximately 2 miles from her residence.
Terry's was also 4.5 miles from the location of Blue Rock Springs parking lot.
The Zodiac Killer placed the call to police at 12.40 am on July 5th 1969 from Joe's Union Gas Station at the corner of Springs and Tuolumne. This payphone was only 730 meters from the doorstep of Darlene Ferrin's residence. That is roughly 0.5 mile or 10 minutes walking distance.
Arthur Leigh Allen lived at 32 Fresno Street, Vallejo which places his residence at the time of the murder inside of one mile from 1300 Virginia Street.
THE PAYPHONE AT SPRINGS AND TUOLUMNE
CLICK THE PHOTOGRAPH BELOW TO ENTER PARK
Read more on the Luger pistol at Wikipedia.
It has been claimed that Darlene Ferrin was stalked and had been the intended target of the assailant at Blue Rock Springs Park on July 4th 1969, backed up by the claims of her sister Pam Huckaby.
Pam Huckaby stated that on that tragic day Darlene had gone over to her Mum and Dad's house and it was while she was there Darlene said to her mother 'remember that killing I told you about a few years ago, well it's gonna be in the papers tomorrow' - thought to be a premonition of later events.
Pam Huckaby also stated that the man who killed Darlene, also killed Cheri Jo Bates in 1966, with Darlene having been murdered because she was an eyewitness to the earlier crime at Riverside. She was supposed to have known Cheri Jo Bates. Pam Huckaby also claimed that Darlene knew the Zodiac Killer's second victim, Betty Lou Jensen, but there is no evidence to prove such an link.
She asserted that seventeen years later, she felt in danger of her life and suspected the Zodiac Killer was now targeting her, claiming that she found the number 187, the letters TR and the familiar crossed circle trademark sign of the Zodiac emblazoned on her apartment door. 187 means 'murder in progress', but the TR element remains unexplained. Pam Huckaby also recalls that cryptograms, notes, coffins and other bizarre items were constantly sent to her over a three year period. But her credibility has been doubted, herself stating, that the police think she is being put up to it by a movie company or unknown third parties to keep the story alive in the media.
There have been many theories down the years, that Darlene Ferrin was involved in a satanic cult and was stalked in the run up to her murder, possibly knowing her killer. But there is no evidence to support this. The police have often been accused for their lack of background investigation, but this is contradicted by investigators, who claim people close to Darlene Ferrin, continue to change and enhance their version of events as time goes by, further blurring the line between fact and fiction.
In 1970 police were to investigate a possible link between Darlene Ferrin and her ex husband James Phillips having been involved in the murder, but no evidence was forthcoming to implicate him of having any connection to the events of July 4th 1969.