On December 20th 1969, the first anniversary of the Lake Herman Road murders the Zodiac Killer mailed a letter to the home address of prominent attorney Melvin Belli asking for his help and claiming he was afraid of "losing control again and taking his ninth or possibly tenth victim". Melvin Belli lived at 1228 Montgomery Street, San Francisco, California. He also included another piece of Paul Stine's shirt to verify its authenticity.
Melvin Belli had traveled to Munich for a conference on December 20th 1969, so his housekeeper forwarded the letter to his office, where it remained until after the Christmas break. When employees finally returned to work they found the letter and its contents and handed it in to authorities. It was subsequently analysed and found to be genuine Zodiac correspondence.
Two months earlier on October 22nd 1969 the Oakland Police Department took a call in the early morning hours from somebody claiming to be the Zodiac, requesting that either Melvin Belli or Francis Lee Bailey, high profile lawyers at the time, appear on a chat show hosted by Jim Dunbar later that day. Melvin Belli agreed to appear on the show to which a man would eventually contact via telephone, claiming not only his name was 'Sam', but also by inference that he was the infamous Zodiac Killer.
Three people had heard the voice of the Zodiac Killer, including two police dispatchers; Dave Slaight who took the second Zodiac phone call after the Lake Berryessa attack on September 27th 1969 and Nancy Slover who received the first phone call from the killer at 12:40 am on July 5th 1969 from the intersection of Springs Road and Tuolumne, approximately 40 minutes after the attack on Darlene Ferrin and Michael Mageau at the Blue Rock Springs Park in Vallejo. Bryan Hartnell who survived the brutal attack in Napa, became the third and last person ever to hear the Zodiac, all three of which categorically stated that the man called 'Sam', who rang into the Jim Dunbar show was not the same voice they had recalled from the Blue Rock Springs and Lake Berryessa attacks and therefore not the Zodiac.
With regards to Zodiac "losing control again and taking his ninth or possibly tenth victim", two months after the Melvin Belli letter on Saturday February 21st 1970, John Franklin Hood (24), who had served decorated time in Vietnam in the 64th Armoured Division and Sandra Garcia (20), who worked in the California Department of Motor Vehicles, decided to visit the quiet retreat of East Beach, Santa Barbara one evening, when they fell victim to a knife wielding assassin. The John F. Hood and Sandra Garcia murders seem to bear all the hallmarks of the Lake Berryessa attack on Bryan Hartnell and Cecelia Shepard on September 27th 1969, accredited as a confirmed Zodiac attack. Both Bryan Hartnell and Cecelia Shepard were stabbed repeatedly without mercy. Although the couple survived the initial attack, Cecelia Shepard succumbed to her injuries two days later at the Queen of the Valley Hospital. John F. Hood and Sandra Garcia were set to become married and were enjoying the evening tranquility lying on a blanket under a full moon, when a knife-man carrying a bone handled 4" blade approached them, taking them by surprise - and despite evidently fighting back against their attacker, both unfortunately had their lives cruelly snatched away on that fateful night. John Franklin Hood suffered 11 stab wounds, the majority inflicted to the face and back, with Sandra Garcia receiving the brunt of the attack, leaving her almost unrecognizable, in what appeared a senseless and motiveless crime. There appeared to be no sexual interference, with their possessions left untouched where they lay.
On December 28th 1969, Paul Avery of the San Francisco Chronicle got in touch with Melvin Belli in Germany, who was understood to have offered his help to the Zodiac, but his gesture fell on deaf ears. Melvin Belli was to remain out of the country until at least the middle of January.
The following extract from an FBI file details the 'birthday call' to Melvin Belli's residence. The document is dated 14th January 1970.
1 14 70 RE: SAN FRANCISCO AIRTEL DECEMBER TWENTY NINE LAST. On instant date Insp. (name redacted), Homicide Detail, San Francisco Police Department, confidentially advised that UNSUB, who identified himself as ‘Zodiac,' telephonically contacted attorney Melvin Belli's residence in effort to contact Belli. UNSUB was advised Belli was in Europe and stated, "I can't wait. Today's my birthday."
This FBI response was regarding a San Francisco Airtel sent on December 29th 1969. Airtel is an outdated data communication process used internally within the FBI, in addition to Teletype and facsimile. The above refers to a letter that must be typed and mailed on the same day. In other words, this communication is not referring to December 29th being related to the birthday call. The only credible information we can infer regarding the 'birthday call', is that the possible Zodiac rang the Belli residence on or prior to January 14th 1970. The police and FBI have no confirmation the 'Zodiac caller' to Melvin Belli's residence was anything other than a hoaxer and the 'birthday call' is considered by many to be a false lead in respect to the Zodiac case.
The San Francisco Police Department eavesdropped on future incoming calls to Melvin Belli's home address and traced them to a mental hospital, where patient Eric Weil was subsequently identified as the caller. It was therefore believed that Eric Weil was also responsible for the hoax call to the Jim Dunbar show on October 22nd 1969 - but whether the original phone call to Oakland Police Department on October 22nd 1969, calling for Francis Lee Bailey or Melvin Mouron Belli to appear on the Jim Dunbar Show was the real Zodiac or not, we will never know - although it seems highly unlikely.
At the foot of the Melvin Belli letter it appeared that the Zodiac Killer was mimicking lines from a previous crime scene, later accredited to William Heirens, who was also known as the Lipstick Killer, eventually captured and convicted for the murders of three females over a seven month period.
Josephine Ross had been stabbed numerous times in her apartment at 4108 North Kenmore Avenue on June 5th 1945. Frances Brown was discovered with multiple knife wounds on December 10th 1945 at her 3941 North Pine Grove apartment, again in Edgewater, Chicago. In her case, a knife was found protruding from the neck, along with a bullet wound to her head. But on this occasion the killer had left a calling card, in the form of a message written in lipstick on the wall. It read:
On January 7th 1946, 6-year-old Suzanne Degnan disappeared from her 5943 North Kenmore residence. A ladder was discovered outside the girl's window, and a ransom note was also found by police. The misspelled note read:
"GeI $20,000 Reddy & wAITe foR WoRd, do NoT NoTify FBI oR Police. Bills IN 5's & 10's." Later an anonymous phone call was received instructing police to check the sewers and subsequent searches found dismembered body parts of Suzanne Degnan at various locations.
William Heirens confessed to the three murders on August 7th 1946 and spent the rest of his life in prison. He died on March 5th 2012 at the Chicago University of Illinois Medical Center.
1963 June 4th-The Domingos/Edwards Murders
1966 October 30th-The Cheri Jo Bates Murder
1966 November 29th -The Confession Letter
1966 December- The Riverside Desktop Poem
1967 April 30th- Bates Had to Die Letter
1968 December 20th-The Lake Herman Murders
1969 July 4th-The Blue Rock Springs Attack
1969 July 31st- Vallejo Times Herald Letter and
408 Cipher Page1 (solved)
1969 July 31st- Examiner Letter and
408 Cipher Page 2 (solved)
1969 July 31st - Chronicle Letter and
408 Cipher Page 3 (solved)
1969 July 31st-The Complete 408 Cipher
1969 August 4th- Debut of Zodiac Letter
1969 September 27th- Lake Berryessa Attack
1969 October 11th-The Presidio Heights Murder
1969 October 13th-The Paul Stine Letters
1969 October 22nd-Call to Chat Show
1969 November 8th-The Dripping Pen Card and
340 Cipher (unsolved)
1969 November 9th-The Bus Bomb Letter
1969 November 28th-The Betsy Aardsma Murder
1969 December 16th-The Fairfield Letter
1969 December 20th-The Melvin Belli Letter
1970 Feb 21st- The Hood and Garcia Murders
1970 March 22nd-The Modesto Attack
1970 April 20th-"My Name is" Letter,
Cipher 3 (unsolved) and Bus Bomb Diagram
1970 April 28th-The Dragon Card
1970 June 26th-The Button Letter
Cipher 4 (unsolved) and Map
1970 July 4th-The Sleeping Bag Murders
1970 July 24th-The Kathleen Johns Letter
1970 July 26th-The Little List Letter
1970 Sept 6th-The Donna Lass Disappearance
1970 October 5th-13 Hole Postcard
1970 October 27th-The Halloween Card
1971 March 13th-The Los Angeles Letter
1971 March 22nd-The Pines Card
1974 January 29th-The Exorcist Letter
1974 February 3rd-The SLA Letter
1974 May 8th-The Citizen Card
1974 July 8th-The Red Phantom Letter
1974 December 27th- Christmas Card
1978 April 24th-The 1978 Letter
1987 October 28th- The 1987 Letter
1990 December-American Greetings Card