The Paul Stine murder was to become the fifth and final confirmed murder by the Zodiac Killer, despite this being challenged by many as a highly unlikely, based upon future unsolved crimes bearing hallmarks of the killer and his claim in the Exorcist letter on January 29th 1974 to have killed at least 37 people.
On 11th October 1969, it is widely believed that a man requisitioned a taxicab close to the corner of Mason and Geary Street in downtown San Francisco, although it is equally conceivable the taxicab was summoned between 9:35 pm and 9:45 pm close to the Westin St. Francis Hotel at 335 Powell Street, situated in Union Square in the bustling theater district of San Francisco. Regardless of the origin point, this would turn out to be the taxicab driver's final journey, because the passenger he had just picked up had murder on his mind.
Paul Stine (29) resided at 1842 Fell Street, San Francisco, and
had arrived for work earlier that evening at the Yellow Cab Company at approximately 8:45 pm, taking a fare from Pier 64 to the San Francisco Air Terminal. His most likely route thereafter was US Route 101 taking him back to the busy intersection of Mason and Geary, where he probably felt he was likely to pick up an unscheduled fare. At this point, Leroy Sweet, the assistant traffic manager of the Yellow Cab Company instructed Paul Stine of a regular pick-up at 500 9th Avenue. This was the last contact with Paul Stine. Twelve to thirteen minutes later he would be discovered lifeless, slumped across the passenger seat of his Ford Galaxie taxicab. Responding officers would later notice the taxicab meter read $6.25 at 10:46 pm, thereby allowing them to backtrack the journey and determine that Paul Stine had most likely picked up his second fare somewhere in the vicinity of the Mason and Geary intersection or Union Square, corroborating the testimony of Leroy Sweet, who sent the last radio dispatch to Paul Stine. In fact, there is good evidence to believe the Zodiac Killer entered the taxicab outside the Westin St. Francis Hotel, situated on Powell and Geary Streets in Union Square.
The taxicab driver had logged in Washington and Maple as the destination on his way bill/trip sheet, but had pulled up just shy of the intersection of Washington and Cherry Streets at 9:55 pm, adjacent to the 3898 Washington Street residence in the wealthy district of Presidio Heights, where his passenger drew a gun and shot Paul Stine to the right side of his head, killing him instantly.
From a house on the opposite side of the street, three teenage eyewitnesses saw the unfolding events of that night as the killer removed a rear section of the victim's shirt, as well as wiping down various parts of the taxicab interior, including the driver side compartment. Upon leaving the vehicle, he was further observed wiping down the exterior right front passenger door and driver side door handles. Soon after, the teenagers rang the police (recorded at 9:58 pm), but unfortunately crossed wires or misinterpretation by the police dispatcher regarding the specifics of the crime, meant that the dispatcher had mistakenly informed patrolmen to be on the lookout out for a negro male adult, ultimately allowing the murderer of Paul Stine to escape the clutches of law enforcement as he ambled down Jackson Street, one block from the crime scene. Unknown at the time, this was to become the best and ultimately last chance of ever capturing the elusive Zodiac Killer.
From their vantage point of 50/60 feet away, the three teenagers described the suspect to the police dispatcher as a "WMA, in his early forties, 5'8'', heavy build, reddish-blond "crew-cut" hair, wearing eyeglasses, dark brown trousers, dark (navy blue or black) "Parka" jacket, dark shoes". but the false description unfortunately gave the Zodiac Killer a lucky break, from which he took full advantage.
So, when responding officers scouring the area observed a heavyset white male, approximately 5'10'' in height, 35-45 years and 180 to 200 lbs, walking near the intersection of Jackson and Maple Street, no alarm bells rang, and the Zodiac Killer dissolved into the night.
According to eyewitnesses, the Zodiac Killer after exiting the taxicab walked unhurried to Cherry Street, headed north to Jackson Street, before turning right and heading east towards the Jackson and Maple Street intersection. Two police officers on duty that night, Donald Fouke (image) and Eric Zelms, had been patrolling the Eastern Richmond district traveling northbound on Presidio Avenue just past Washington Street, when they received a radio broadcast of what was thought at the time to be an assault and robbery on a taxicab driver near the Washington and Cherry intersection. The two officers proceeded on towards Jackson Street, turned west and were just approaching the intersection of Jackson and Maple when Donald Fouke noticed a white male sporting a crew cut, wearing a three quarter length navy blue jacket with an elastic waist, rust colored or brown pleated trousers and tan engineering style footwear. The man was on the north side of the street.just shy of the intersection.
In a second version of events that night, Donald Fouke recalled the white male entering a stairwell, believed to be 3712 Jackson Street. Although, this observation in the 2007 documentary 'This is the Zodiac Speaking' is contradictory to his memorandum issued on November 12th 1969, stating the unknown white male to be approaching the intersection of Jackson and Maple - without mention of the stairwell incident. His memorandum stated "I respectfully wish to report the following, that responding to the area of Cherry and Washington Streets a suspect fitting the description of the Zodiac Killer was observed by officer Fouke walking in an easterly direction on Jackson Street and then turn north on Maple Street". November 12th 1969.
When he approached the white male on Jackson Street, he would ultimately claim his suspicions were not aroused, as the radio dispatcher had issued the misleading description of a negro male adult, so he continued along Jackson Street to Cherry Street and headed south towards the scene of the crime. It was at this point, at the top of Cherry Street, that Donald Fouke and Eric Zelms were flagged down by another patrolman, Armond Pelissetti, who was the first respondent (along with Frank Peda) to the crime scene. In the 2007 Zodiac documentary, Donald Fouke recalled "He stopped us and said that he was looking for the white male that had just gone down the street. There was a little conversation about what the initial description was and he said no he was a white male, I then used a slang term and said oh that was the suspect".
When both officers received the original police broadcast their first instincts were to head to the Washington and Cherry crime scene, however, something may have changed. Many people say memories become blurred with time, so we will head backwards to the 1989 'Crimes of the Century' documentary, eighteen years prior to the 2007 Zodiac documentary and see what Officer Donald Fouke stated on that occasion. It should in theory be a little more accurate. Here is the important section of the documentary, where Officer Donald Fouke outlines how the events unfolded that night. https://youtu.be/_A3kD-j25jQ?t=57s
He stated "We proceeded on Jackson Street towards Arguello continuing our search. As we arrived at Arguello Street the description of the suspect was changed to a white male adult, (and) believing this suspect was possibly the one involved in the shooting, we entered the Presidio of San Francisco and conducted a search on West Pacific Avenue, the opposite side of the wall and the last direction we observed the suspect going. We did not find the suspect".
Clearly the two accounts differ markedly and from the standpoint of common sense, turning southbound on Cherry Street seemed the correct course of action - after all he was responding to an assault and robbery of a taxicab driver at Washington and Cherry - and Donald Fouke was unaware at this point in time that Armond Pelissetti had responded to the crime scene before him. So, what was he doing as he claimed in the 1989 'Crimes of the Century' documentary, heading towards Arguello Boulevard and West Pacific Avenue, away from a crime scene he should have been urgently heading towards. The weight of evidence, in particular the timeline, suggests Donald Fouke, whether he stopped and spoke to Zodiac or not, traveled on to Arguello Boulevard and east on West Pacific Avenue towards the Julius Khan playground, before returning to meet Armond Pelissetti at the north end of Cherry Street. The fact that Donald Fouke headed away from a crime scene to which he should have been responding, could be argued as strong evidence that the officer was directed this way by the Zodiac Killer, who informed him of a "man who was runnig by waveing a gun & the cops peeled rubber".
VIEW IN FULL SCREEN
Whatever the exact order of events, it was concluded the killer may have taken refuge in the wooded area of the Julius Kahn Playground. Despite an extensive search of the locale, nothing came to light, despite the killer bragging in a later communication that he was indeed hiding in the park and that "two cops pulled a goof". See Bus Bomb Letter.
Officer Armond Pelissetti and his partner Frank Peda, also on duty that night, responded "red light and siren" to the crime scene and were first to arrive. The two officers were extremely close by (traveling west on Washington Street) and parked on the intersection of Washington and Cherry. Armond Pelissetti exited his vehicle and noticed three teenagers in the vicinity of the crime scene, so he ushered the children back across the street to the alcove of their residence. At this point, he was of the understanding he was looking for a negro male adult suspect. He went over to the taxicab and observed Paul Stine lying slumped over the front passenger seat with his head resting on the floorboard of the passenger side and was 99.9% certain he was dead.
It is then he retook the description of the suspect. In the 2007 'This is the Zodiac Speaking' documentary he stated "it was then I was told it was a white male, I couldn't get to the radio fast enough at that point to let everybody else know. The kids had told me whoever had done this crime had left the cab, went out the door and seemed to be wiping the cab down and reaching into the cab and ambling or walking down Cherry Street in a northerly direction, kind of towards the Presidio. I walked that way myself, I did not run because there are innumerable alcoves and parked cars, so I went down following every technique I knew so I didn't get my head blown off".. He proceeded to walk up Cherry Street searching for the suspect (met Donald Fouke) and then continued east along Jackson Street up to the Jackson/Maple intersection, where he observed a man walking a dog.
However, this person did not fit the description of the suspect, appearing older and thinner, and devoid of any blood spatter on his clothing. Armond Pelissetti questioned the man on whether he had noticed anyone in the area while walking his dog - or seen any suspicious activity - but the dog walker was unable to provide any assistance and the trail went cold. Armond Pelissetti returned to the crime scene, and shortly thereafter an ambulance arrived and pronounced Paul Stine expired at 10:10 pm. Incidentally, the photographs of Paul Stine shown on this page, do not show his glasses present on his face as some people have claimed. The reason being; they cannot be observed on the body of Paul Stine. See here (view with caution).
Inspector Krake organised specialized dog units to make a sweep of the Presidio Park, in alliance with the military police headquarters of the San Francisco Presidio and accompanied by spotlight fire trucks. The subsequent search of the park came up empty handed, much to the amusement of the Zodiac Killer, who mocked the police in a letter mailed to the San Francisco Chronicle just two days later - and again in the Bus Bomb Letter mailed on November 9th 1969.
Excerpt from the Bus Bomb letter "2 cops pulled a goof abot 3 min after I left the cab. I was walking down the hill to the park when this cop car pulled up + one of them called me over + asked if I saw anyone acting suspicious or strange in the last 5 to 10 min + I said yes there was this man who was runnig by waveing a gun & the cops peeled rubber + went around the corner as I directed them + I disappeared into the park a block + a half away never to be seen again".
One and a half blocks from the 'meeting' with Donald Fouke and Eric Zelms, would have placed the Zodiac Killer entering the Julius Khan playground adjacent to Spruce Street, mentioned in an October 12th 1969 San Francisco Chronicle article entitled 'Cabbie Slain in Presidio Hts', highlighting further eyewitnesses. This article details a sighting of a man scurrying into the playground by Spruce Street, as does an account in Robert Graysmith's Zodiac book "The detectives heard from neighbors that a stocky figure was seen dashing across Julius Khan playground and into the dense undergrowth of the Presidio. The dog patrol units, seven of the best search dogs in the country, gathered at the front entrance of the Presidio and were deployed one at a time in various directions. Armstrong and Toschi considered the possibilities. Had the killer gone quickly through the dark woods and emerged from the Presidio at Richardson Avenue, and taken Highway 101 past Fort Point onto the Golden Gate Bridge and vanished into Marin County".
Meanwhile, Inspectors Dave Toschi and Bill Armstrong arrived at the crime scene by Washington and Cherry to spearhead the manhunt, mobilizing a search of the surrounding roads and Presidio park. Dog units gathered at two points - by the Julius Khan playground and Arguello Boulevard, highlighted again by Zodiac in the Bus Bomb letter:
"Hey blue pig I was in the park -- you were useing fire trucks to mask the sound of your cruzeing prowl cars. The dogs never came with in 2 blocks of me + they were to the west + there was only 2 groups of parking about 10 min apart then the motor cicles went by about 150 ft away going from south to north west".
Fingerprints were taken from various parts of the taxicab, including the door handles, but the most significant find were the blooded prints retrieved from the door post between the driver side door and left rear passenger door. These fingerprints are believed to be from the Zodiac Killer. What circumstances arose for him to have touched this particular section of the taxicab is open to question.
Evidence throughout the case, including handwriting analysis, points to the fact the Zodiac Killer was right-handed, consistent with a shot to the right side of Paul Stine's head from the rear of the taxicab. It has been considered by Zodiac enthusiasts that the killer of Paul Stine was not usual of most passengers who traveled in Stine's cab, possibly having traveled in the front seat of the taxicab. Despite this conjecture, there is little to no supporting evidence to substantiate such a hypothesis. In fact, the evidence is to the contrary. When Paul Stine's body was extricated from the taxicab by medical personnel, his A-Z street guide lying on the front passenger seat under his body was dragged out and fell onto the road (shown in the photograph in the right sidebar of this page). It is therefore most unlikely the Zodiac Killer sat on this throughout his journey from Union Square.
After the murder, the killer removed a swatch of Paul Stine's shirt which was then mailed along with a letter to the San Francisco Chronicle two days later. The Zodiac also took the taxicab keys, along with Paul Stine's wallet. They have never been recovered.
The three teenage eyewitnesses, along with a police sketch artist, drew up a composite picture of the man they witnessed that night. Then for reasons not fully understood, a second amended composite was released to the public five days later, marginally older in appearance and placed alongside the original.(see here).
Bill Armstrong and Dave Toschi were assigned to the case - one which undeniably left its mark on many officers who tried and ultimately failed to bring a resolution to the Zodiac enigma. Dave Toschi photograph.
Two more pieces of Paul Stine's shirt were mailed with the Zodiac communications. The next piece was mailed with the Bus Bomb letter on November 9th 1969, and the final piece with the Melvin Belli letter on December 20th 1969 (FBI document). It has been widely touted in the Zodiac community that only two pieces of shirt were ever mailed - in the October 13th 1969 and December 20th 1969 letters - but this is incorrect. Paul Avery, a San Francisco Chronicle reporter, made a report indicating a shirt piece was mailed on November 8th 1969 with the Dripping Pen card - but he was one day out. Robert Graysmith, author of two Zodiac books, also wrote in Zodiac Unmasked: "SFPD Lab #2. Includes square of Stine's shirt. Postmark: PM 8 NOV 1969." And finally, two newspaper articles and a Youtube interview also stated a third shirt piece had been mailed.
First Stine Letter and Bus Threat October 13th 1969
In this Zodiac correspondence to the San Francisco Chronicle, the killer mailed the section of Paul Stine's shirt he had removed shortly after the killing as proof of his involvement, along with a further threat to kill schoolchildren stating; "I think I shall wipe out a school bus some morning, just shoot out the front tire & then pick off the kiddies as they come bouncing out". This led to widespread fear and panic, with nobody prepared to take the threats lightly. The Zodiac had certainly proved himself a merciless killer. In response to this latest communication the police mobilized armed guards, the tracking of school buses, along with increased surveillance in the surrounding areas.
Second Stine Letter November 9th 1969
The Zodiac yet again alludes to the Paul Stine murder on November 9th 1969 in seven pages of correspondence, mailed one day after his Dripping Pen card and 340 cipher was received. In it he claimed police had stopped him minutes after the killing of Paul Stine and let him on his way, stating "two cops pulled a goof". Apparently, the police dispatcher had mistakenly sent out a radio message to be on the lookout for a negro male adult. See Bus Bomb Letter
There would be no more chances to capture the Zodiac Killer and the mystery has now remained unresolved for just over half a century.
#1. Upon responding to the above location officers Peda and Pelissetti found Yellow Cab #912 parked at the northeast corner of Washington St. at the corner of Cherry St. The reportee together with two other witnesses, age 14, and age 13, same address and phone as reportee, stated that they saw the below described suspect in the front seat of the Yellow cab, mid to passenger side, with the victim slumped partially over his lap. The suspect appeared to be searching the victim's pockets. (Witnesses never heard a gun shot). The suspect then appeared to be wiping (fingerprints) on the interior of the cab, leaning over the victim to the driver's compartment. The suspect then exited the cab by the passenger side front door, also wiping with a white rag, possibly a handkerchief. The suspect then walked around the cab to the driver's side and proceeded to wipe the exterior of the left door area. The suspect then fled (walking) north on Cherry St. toward the Presidio on S.F. R/Os immediately checked the interior of the cab and found the victim to be slumped over the front seat with his upper torso in the passenger side, head resting on the floorboard, facing north. Ambulance was summoned, Code three, and other units were requested for an immediate search of the area. Description was obtained from reportees, whose observation point was directly across the street (50 ft.) and unobstructed. Description was broadcast and numerous units responded to institute a search of the area. P.E.H. ambulance #82 responded, steward Dousette, victim was examined and pronounced dead at 10:10 pm. Inspector Krake responded and summoned dog units and a fire department 'spotlight' vehicle to assist in the search. R/Os called for the Crime Lab, Coroner, Yellow cab officials, and a tow. Assistant traffic manager of Yellow Cab, LeRoy Sweet responded and gave reporting officers the victim's identification. Mr. Sweet further stated the last dispatch given the victim was at 9:45 pm to 500 9th Ave. apt. #1. Victim allegedly never arrived at the above location as the dispatch was reassigned to another cab at 9:58 pm. R/Os noted that the meter of the cab was running, indicating that the victim possibly picked up another fare (suspect) en route to his original assignment. (The meter read $ 6.25 at exactly 10:46 pm) A check with the Yellow Cab Co. revealed the victim arrived at work at approximately 8:45 pm and had only one fare prior, that being from Pier 64 to the Air Terminal. Sgt. Falk responded in G-10. Homicide inspectors Armstrong and Toschi responded and took charge. G-40, Lt. Kiel also responded. The military police headquarters of the Presidio of S.F. was notified and an intense search of the Julius Kahn area was made by seven dog units, other Richmond and C.P. units - to no avail. The coroner responded, Deputy Schultz and Kindred and took charge of the necessary photographs of the preserved scene - Dagitz and Kirkindal - all physical evidence was retained by crime lab for I.D. The auto, Yellow Cab #912 Calif. Lic. Y17413, was towed to the Hall, impounded for homicide for prints. Tow slip attached this report. Room 100 was notified, given descriptioon, and advised to have broadcast continuous throughout the morning as par insp Armstrong's direction. Crime lab's initial investigation showed that the victim was devoid of any U.S. Currency, nor did he have the possession of a wallet; the ignition keys for the cab were also missing.
#2. Suspect: WMA, in his early forties, 5'8'', heavy build, reddish-blond "crew-cut" hair, wearing eyeglasses, dark brown trousers, dark (navy blue or black) "Parka" jacket, dark shoes. Suspect should have many blood stains on his person and clothing, suspect may also be in possession of the keys to the Yellow Cab, possibly has wallet belonging to the victim. Suspect is armed with a gun. Last seen walking north on Cherry St. from Washington St.
#3. LOSS to be determined. All property of the victim in possession of coroner. Physical evidence property retained by crime lab. Yellow Cab #912 towed to Hall for homicide for prints.
Dated 6.29 am 12th October 1969.
Trace the killer's steps through the backstreets of Presidio Heights along Washington and Cherry Streets, after the brutal slaying of taxicab driver Paul Stine. Possibly the closest police ever came to capturing the elusive Zodiac Killer.
This was believed to be the final attack by the infamous Zodiac Killer, however it is thought by many to be just the start of a long and bloody campaign. CLICK HERE.
CLICK LETTER TO ENLARGE
WORDING ON THE LETTER
This is the Zodiac speaking.
I am the murderer of the taxi driver over by Washington St + Maple St last night, to prove this here is a blood stained piece of his shirt. I am the same man who did in the people in the north bay area.
The S.F. Police could have caught me last night if they had searched the park properly instead of holding road races with their motorcicles seeing who could make the most noise. The car drivers should have just parked their cars and sat there quietly waiting for me to come out of cover.
School children make nice targets, I think I shall wipe out a school bus some morning. Just shoot out the front tire + then pick off the kiddies as they come bouncing out.
Paul Stine A Victim of Opportunity - The background, timeline and conclusions we can draw from the events of Presidio Heights, written by Michael Kelleher and presented by the hugely successful website 'The Zodiac Revisited'.
The Quester Files - An in depth overview of the murder of Paul Stine in Presidio Heights, with detailed crime scene analysis and photographs.
In Memory of Paul Stine - Entitled 'No Justice for the Dead', Michael Butterfield writes a sincere acknowledgment to the memory of Paul Stine, often overlooked in world of Zodiac sleuthing.
Paul Stine, 40 years Later - California Beat article outlining the events and the challenge laid down to the killer by Paul Stine's older brother Joe Charles Stine.
Paul Holes and the Murder of Paul Stine - Written by Michael Butterfield, and examining the possibility that Paul Stine was not shot at the intersection of Washington and Cherry Streets, but one block East on Washington and Maple Streets, where the taxi driver had originally logged in as the destination.
Interesting article associated with the Presidio Heights murder
1969 Photograph from witnesses perspective at approx 60 feet.
1963 June 4th- Domingos/Edwards Murders
1966 October 30th-The Cheri Jo Bates Murder
1966 November 29th -The Confession Letter
1966 December- Riverside Desktop Poem
1967 April 30th- Bates Had to Die Letter
1968 December 20th- 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 August 10th- Concerned Citizen Card
1969 September 27th- Lake Berryessa Attack
1969 October 11th- Presidio Heights Murder
1969 October 13th-The Paul Stine Letters
1969 October 22nd-Call to Chat Show
1969 November 8th- Dripping Pen Card and
340 Cipher (unsolved)
1969 November 9th-The Bus Bomb Letter
1969 November 21st- San Jose Code Letter
1969 November 28th- Betsy Aardsma Murder
1969 December 7th-The Fairfield Letter
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- 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
1971 Unknown- The 148 Character Cipher
1971 July 13th-The Monticello 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
Unknown DMV Letter (possibly November 1971)
13 Hole Postcard
148 Character Cipher
2001 Happy New Year Card
Arthur Leigh Allen
Blue Rock Springs Attack
Bus Bomb Letter
Call To Chat Show
Cheri Jo Bates
Concerned Citizen Card
Debut Of Zodiac Letter
Donald Lee Bujok
Earl Van Best Jr
Forecast For Cancer
Forecast For Leo
General News Articles
Gilbert And Sullivan
Kevin Robert Brooks
Lake Berryessa Attack
Lake Herman Road Murders
Lake Tahoe Disappearance
Los Angeles Letter
Melvin Belli Letter
Mike Morford (Morf13)
My Name Is Letter
Possible Zodiac Attacks
Possible Zodiac Letters
Post An Article Here
Presidio Heights Murder
Red Phantom Letter
Riverside Desktop Poem
Robert Salem Murder
San Jose Code Letter
Scotch Tape Letter
Tamalpais Valley Attack
Telegraph Avenue Incident
The 340 Cipher
The 408 Cipher
The Celebrity Cypher
The Little List
You Are Next Letter
Zodiac Letters Poll