Although no hard facts tie Rick Marshall to any of the crimes and communications of the Zodiac Killer, here is some information to consider with regards to one of the featured suspects in the 2007 Zodiac film, directed by David Fincher and starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Robert Downy Jr and Mark Ruffalo.
Richard Reed Marshall was born Joe Don Dickey in Lubbock, Texas on March 13th 1926 (03.13.1926 - 09.08.2008), which would have made him 43 years of age in 1969. Regarding the murder of taxicab driver Paul Stine on October 11th 1969, the three teenagers were the only eyewitnesses to contribute a description to the typed police report the following morning, of a "man last seen walking north on Cherry St. from Washington St". They described a suspect in his "early forties". Officer Donald Fouke, who observed the suspect barely three minutes later on Jackson Street, described somebody between 35 and 45 years of age. Then just two further minutes later, eyewitnesses overlooking the Julius Khan playground (probably from the houses in Spruce Street) stated the man was "about forty". All these eyewitnesses gave near identical descriptions of clothing, weight, hair color and style, and the wearing of glasses. Their average age of 40 matches closely the age of Richard Marshall in 1969.
He lived in the key areas during the majority of the attacks, residing in Riverside in close proximity to the murder scene of Cheri Jo Bates in 1966 and in a basement residence at 143 Scott Street, San Francisco, just a few miles from the Washington and Cherry Street intersection where taxicab driver Paul Stine was murdered in Presidio Heights with a single shot to the head. The killer requisitioned the taxicab at the corner of Mason and Geary Street, also in close proximity to the Scott Street residence. On November 9th 1969, the Zodiac Killer would reference his "basement" when describing the bomb he was preparing to blow up school buses. He stated "What you do not know is whether the death machine is at the sight or whether it is being stored in my basement for future use".
Rick Marshall's home at 143 Scott Street was also just 450 feet (by crow) from the murder site of Sergeant Richard Radetich, who was gunned down by three shots while seated in his patrol car. The Zodiac Killer would lay claim to this murder on June 26th 1970 when he mailed the Button letter to the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper. He also occupied a residence at 2821 Bush Street, less than one mile (by crow) from the murder site of Paul Stine. He would later move to Front Street, San Rafael in Marin County. Rick Marshall lived in San Francisco Bay Area for 20 years, between 1969 and 1989.
He lived in San Jose at 1309 Oakland Road, just five miles (as the crow flies) from the Oak Hill Memorial Park & Cemetery and burial site of Kathy Ann Snoozy (15) at 300 Curtner Avenue, situated by the neighborhood of Monticello. Another of his his residences in the 1960s was 841 Almaden Avenue, San Jose, just two miles from the Oak Hill Memorial Park.
This area is significant because the Zodiac Killer would insinuate his involvement in the August 3rd 1969 murders of Kathy Snoozy and Deborah Furlong in San Jose by the addition of "Aug" on the November 8th 1969 Dripping Pen card. The Zodiac Killer wasn't reponsible for their murders, but continued the pretence of his involvement right through 1969, until the middle of 1971. This would become even more apparent with his mailing of the Monticello card on July 13th 1971, suggesting his involvement in another murder in the Villa Montalvo woods in Saratoga, just ten miles west of the Monticello neighborhood. The Zodiac Killer referenced San Jose on may occasions, usually through subtle clues in his communications - and as such - the idea that the Bay Area murderer may have had a loose connection to San Jose in Santa Clara County. The Kathy Snoozy, Deborah Furlong and Kathy Bilek murders were eventually connected to Karl Francis Werner, who was ultimately jailed for life.
In the early 1960s Richard Marshall was listed as living at 206 1/2 W. Maple St. Fullerton in Los Angeles. I have found a 206 W. Maple Street in Glendale, Los Angeles, but not in Fullerton. Glendale was 5 miles (by crow) from the KHJ-TV Studios at 5515 Melrose Avenue, to which a purported Zodiac letter was mailed to on May 2nd 1978, dubbed the Channel 9 letter. The area of Fullerton is bordered by the city of Anaheim, from where the Channel 9 letter was mailed from. Was he visiting old friends in the area and mailing these outlier letters? The follow up communication to the Channel 9 letter was also mailed from Los Angeles on July 19th 1978. It was christened the "Scotch Tape" letter.
The Zodiac Killer's Los Angeles letter was mailed on the 45th birthday of Richard Marshall. It was also mailed on the release date of the film Vanishing Point, on March 13th 1971. In the letter, Zodiac wrote "If the Blue Meannies are evere going to catch me, they had best get off their fat asses + do something". The Vanishing Point film trailer featured a radio host from KOW reporting the police chase of Kowalski, stating "And there goes the Challenger being chased by the Blue, Blue Meanies on wheels." The film trailer also stated "They want to get him and put him away, but there'll have to catch him first." Richard Marshall was a ham radio enthusiast and had a love of films.
There are some odd coincidences between the Vanishing Point film and the disappearance of Donna Lass on September 6th 1970 - and resulting Pines card, mailed just nine days after the Los Angeles letter on March 22nd 1971. These coincidences, must however, be taken with a pinch of salt. The final scene in the Vanishing Point movie was filmed in Cisco, Utah, but in the film it was portrayed as Cisco, California. This is the location that the film's main character, Kowalski, met his death. Cisco, California is 11.7 miles west of Clair Tappaan Lodge, the Sierra Club identified by former detective Harvey Hines as the location depicted on the Pines Card, in all likelihood mailed by the Zodiac Killer on March 22nd 1971, referencing the disappearance and likely murder of Donna Lass. Cisco was 15 miles west of the Donner Memorial State Park. In another strange case of zynchronisity, the officer overseeing the conclusion to Kowalski's death after he ran his 1970 Dodge Challenger into the roadblock of bulldozers, was the character Deputy Collins played by Robert Donner. The Dodge Challenger was substituted in the film for the final crash scene with an explosives laden 1967 Chevrolet Camaro. The vehicle driven by Donna Lass at the time she vanished from Lake Tahoe was a 1968 Chevrolet Camaro.
Richard Marshall was also listed (although unlikely in 1970) under the address of 1077 Riverside Drive, Reno, Nevada, situated 20 miles north of Incline Village bordering Lake Tahoe. A newspaper article stated in respect to the missing Donna Lass, that "the site depicted on the 'Pines card' was from an advertisement published last Sunday by several newspapers. It was an artist's rendition of houses among the trees at a Boise Cascade Company project at Incline Village, where construction has just begun on the development. While much of the Sierra area is under several feet of snow, Incline Village has only two feet on the ground. Police went to the area to determine if a search is possible".
Formed in 1961, the Lyric Photoplay Film Society were dedicated individuals on a mission to preserve the great silent movies of yesteryear, which often degraded with the passage of time, having been filmed on cellulose nitrate and were therefore extremely combustible. Inspired by a big Wurlitzer pipe organ, its first members included Edward Millington Stout III, Vernon Gregory and Richard Marshall, but it was Gregory who found the Wurlitzer in Chicago. The Wurlitzer was originally manufactured for performances at the Chicago State Lake Theatre. It was then transported back to the Bay Area of San Francisco, destined for Gregory's Piedmont residence, however, because of its size it was reconsidered for the Portrero Hill Theater. This plan was again scuppered due to building code restrictions, with the Wurlitzer finally ending up at the San Francisco Avenue Theatre in 1966 with the assistance of Rick Marshall. It is here it would delight the audiences of the day, accompanying many of the classic silent films before the Avenue Theatre, hampered by neighborhood conditions, closed for the final time on December 22nd 1984. Rick Marshall would give an insight on his thoughts: "The people who made these movies were people out to hustle and make a buck. They had no idea they were creating the only truly modern art form. It all came about quite accidentally. But it is no less meaningful and valuable because of it".
At the time Rick Marshall was employed as an engineer for the Bay Area radio station KTIM, in addition to his running of the Avenue Movie Theatre, which included projectionist work that specialized in silent movies. One of his favorite films was the 1908 Pathé Frères The Red Phantom (also known as The Red Spectre, Le Spectre Rouge or El Especto Rojo) highlighted as a potential Zodiac correspondence when the Red Phantom Letter was mailed from San Rafael, Marin County to the San Francisco Chronicle on July 8th 1974. The Zodiac Killer had a penchant for the theatrical, appearing in costume at Lake Berryessa on September 27th 1969 and citing Gilbert & Sullivan's The Mikado twice in his July 26th 1970 letter. The 1974 Exorcist letter would feature film and theater, the Citizen card expressed consternation at the 1973 Badlands movie and the Red Phantom letter, likewise, may have been referencing a theatrical release of the film El Espectro Rojo or The Red Phantom, as detailed by Tom Voigt on his website Zodiackiller.com. This provides another avenue of inspiration behind the Red Phantom pseudonym chosen by the July 8th 1974 author. It is certainly in keeping with the film and theater angle, heavily laden in the 1974 communications. El Espectro Rojo or The Red Phantom played at the Port Theater in Mill Valley, Marin County on the 27th and 28th April 1974, just three months prior to the arrival of the Red Phantom letter.
Of course, the old film connection may have extended to the 1932 RKO production of The Most Dangerous Game, based upon the 1924 short story by Richard Connell. The book and film told the story of General Zaroff, a man who would hunt humans for sport on a deserted island. When the Zodiac Killer opened up his campaign of terror in the July and August of 1969, he mailed a three-part cryptogram to three Bay Area newspapers containing the lines "I like killing people because it is so much fun - it is more fun than killing wild game in the forest because man is the most dangerous animal of all - to kill something gives me the most thrilling experience".
The upkeep and viability of the Avenue Theatre was a constant battle, with Marshall having to recruit volunteer juvenile offenders to assist in its daily running. The theater funded the running of old movies on Tuesday and Wednesday by showing more contemporary productions for the rest of the week. The Avenue Theater at 2650 San Bruno Avenue, San Francisco opened its doors to the paying public on July 27th 1927, and was situated approximately 4.5 miles from the Mason and Geary Street intersection in the theater district, where Paul Stine fatefully picked up the Zodiac Killer on October 11th 1969. See on Google Maps.
View the movie poster handwritten by Rick Marshall for two upcoming Charlie Chaplin shows at the Avenue Theatre, entitled Caught in a Cabaret (1914) and The Property Man (1914). On the Zodiac Killer Site forum, Rick Marshall's handwriting is analyzed alongside the October 13th 1969 'Paul Stine' letter, the November 9th 1969 Bus Bomb letter and the SLA. letter on February 3rd 1974, all mailed to the San Francisco Chronicle. To view this interesting thread visit here.
A vague cinematic link is also present in the 1933 film Charlie Chan at Treasure Island, in which Charlie Chan investigates the suspicious death of a writer, along with a telegram sent by the mysterious hypnotist Dr. Zodiac, who is believed to have been blackmailing his clients. While Charlie Chan is traveling to San Francisco by plane, a friend of Charlie, novelist Paul Essex, dies aboard the aircraft after receiving a radiogram warning him not to ignore "Zodiac". This sends Charlie Chan, played by Sidney Toler, into another puzzling mystery set on San Francisco's Treasure Island during the Golden Gate International Exposition.
It has also been suggested that if Rick Marshall were the Zodiac Killer he could possibly have gained his inspiration for the Zodiac crosshairs logo from his projectionist work at the Avenue Movie Theatre. A film leader is a section of film attached to the head or tail of a roll of film to help its threading into a projector. This often involved a number countdown for television and motion picture productions. View Universal Film Leader.
He was also allegedly in possession of a Royal Typewriter, which is another link to the Zodiac case with respect to the typed 'Confession' letter sent to the Riverside Homicide Detail and Riverside Press Enterprise on November 29th 1966. A letter that graphically describes the repeated stabbing and murder of Cheri Jo Bates on October 30th 1966 outside the Riverside City College library.
The Exorcist Letter, widely believed to be the last authenticated correspondence from the Zodiac Killer, was mailed on January 29th 1974 after a three year hiatus by the killer. The communication would yet again finish with a veiled threat, that included strange oriental style characters at the foot of the correspondence, said to marry up closely to ones used on KTIM call letters.
The Exorcist letter stated "Signed, yours truley: He plunged him self into the billowy wave and an echo arose from the sucides grave tit willo tit willo tit willo". It has been considered that the paraphrasing of The Mikado verse Tit-Willow after the author "signed, yours truley", was indicative of an author who was pointing out that his identity was contained within the verse. The verse is about a Dicky-bird singing Willow, titwillow, titwillow - even containing the line "Now I feel just as sure as I'm sure that my name isn't Willow, titwillow, titwillow". Richard Marshall was born Joe Don Dickey.
Robert Graysmith, who spent ten years researching for his book Zodiac, has ultimately confirmed he visited the home of a man who knew Rick Marshall and ended up in the homeowner's basement, where he described hearing footsteps in the above room which unsettled him - as the owner had reassured him they were alone. This man was Bob Vaughn (see below), a professional organist who played in silent movie theaters, turning up at the San Bruno Avenue Theatre in 1968, as well as playing at the Port Theater where Rick Marshall worked in 1974, along with the Roxie Theater in San Francisco. This was depicted in the 2007 David Fincher Zodiac film to be the person responsible for the handwriting on the movie theater posters, however, Bob Vaughn would have been too old to be the Zodiac Killer based on eyewitness testimony, and was never regarded as a credible suspect by law enforcement.
Speculation circulated in certain quarters that Rick Marshall may have had an accomplice in the Zodiac crimes, which included Richard Gaikowski because of his love of classic films also - and his running of the Roxie Theatre in the Bay area.
Rick Marshall was an engineer, had a knowledge of electrics and was an avid ham radio enthusiast. It has been suggested that his familiarity with electrical diagrams would have enabled him to construct such material as depicted in the Bus Bomb diagram, mailed to the San Francisco Chronicle on April 20th 1970. As a ham radio operator or amateur radio enthusiast, he would have took to the airwaves for private recreation on a non-commercial basis. See here. Ken Narlow, one of the lead Zodiac investigators, studied Rick Marshall on account of the apparent fascination the Zodiac Killer had with The Mikado and the silent movie connection, but ultimately concluded that Rick Marshall was not a viable suspect. If we believe some of the fingerprints held on file are the actual prints of the killer, such as the bloody partial fingerprint retrieved from the left dividing panel on Paul Stine's taxicab, then we have to exclude Rick Marshall as the Zodiac Killer because his fingerprints failed to match.
Rick Marshall was 63 years old when interviewed for a television documentary in 1989, (seen here on the right), in which he said "I must have a double floating around, I hope the poor guy doesn't look like me, but the fact is, the characteristics you just mentioned fit me almost to a tee, I really am startled at the mass and accuracy of the detail, and obviously if they had been that forthcoming about that at the time I would have understood why they were investigating me, my innocence not withstanding, the details do fit". This Crimes of the Century video showing the Richard Marshall interview, begins at 1 minute and 14 seconds. See also the Rick Marshall extracts from the film Zodiac here.
Rick Marshall was investigated by the Napa County Police Department, although nothing tangible emerged and Marshall was in later years cleared from ongoing investigations shortly before his death in Marin County in 2008. He was also subject to an FBI investigation, but his records were expunged in 1993 and no files remain.
Robert Graysmith was a political cartoonist for the San Francisco Chronicle when the Zodiac Killer story broke, becoming obsessed with the unfolding mystery - an obsession that would eventually cost him his marriage. His fascination with the case, along with detailed information he had collected down the years led him to write his first Zodiac book, released in 1986, following this up with Zodiac Unmasked in 2002. In the 1986 book, Robert Graysmith would refer to Richard Marshall as Donald Jeff Andrews.
Charles Fleischer (Bob Vaughn) "This tip is how you got it in your head that Rick is the Zodiac".
Jake Gyllenhaal (Robert Graysmith) "That and the poster"
CF; "The poster"
JG; "The poster that Rick drew, the handwriting is the closest that we have ever come to a match".
CF; "Rick didn't draw any posters".
JG; "No, he drew this one"
CF; "Mr Graysmith, I do the posters myself".
This was the unnerving moment in the 2007 film Zodiac that Robert Graysmith, played by actor Jake Gyllenhaal, realized the uncomfortable possibility that he may actually be sitting in the home of the Zodiac Killer - but what is the truth? Robert Graysmith claims this encounter with Bob Vaughn took place.
Bob Vaughn, born in San Francisco on February 8th 1911, was a theater organist from an early age, having played at many venues including the Avenue Theatre at 2650 San Bruno Avenue, San Francisco - situated just off US Route 101, approximately 4 miles south of the Mason and Geary Street intersection, and a 7 mile drive to the Washington and Cherry Street intersection. He was the accompaniment to many movies in the silent film era, dating back as early as 1927, before the work eventually dried up, accentuated by the inevitable arrival of the 'talking film'. He was subsequently forced into a career change, working for the Immigration and Naturalization Service for thirty years, which dealt with checking and evaluating people at an official port of entry, as well as assessing applications for permanent residency. By the early years of 1960 he had moved back to San Francisco, working alongside Rick Marshall, a projectionist at the Avenue Theatre. Opening on July 20th 1927, it funded the running of old movies on Tuesday and Wednesday by showing more contemporary productions for the rest of the week, and where Bob Vaughn excelled as a pipe organist.
When the Avenue Theatre ceased operating in 1984 Bob Vaughn would continue, performing at the Castro Theatre at 429 Castro Street, the UC Theatre at 2036 University Avenue and the Towne Theatre at 1433 The Alameda, San Jose, where he stayed until 1999.
Bob Vaughn (90) died in Bakersfield, California on January 4th 2002, however, his legacy remains - that of an exemplary musician, thrilling the captive audiences of a bygone era - but certainly not the Zodiac Killer as the sequence in the 2007 David Fincher film would want us to believe.
When the first murders occurred on December 20th 1968 at Lake Herman Road, Bob Vaughn would have been 57 years of age, yet his name has still cropped up on many Zodiac discussion boards by association with Rick Marshall - but that is about as far as it can be taken. As for the Avenue Theatre, which closed its doors on December 22nd 1984, the nearest it came to the Zodiac case other than Rick Marshall, is quite possibly when Paul Stine passed nearby on US Route 101 at approximately 9:30 pm on October 11th 1969 - his likely route from San Francisco International Airport to the theater district, after dropping off his final paying fare that fateful night.