I would like to thank Deb from Zodiac Killer Site forum for supplying me with the Vallejo directory records from 1969. The Zodiac Killer may have lived within a 10-15 minute walking radius of the payphone. Here are the relevant streets from the north side. Click the visual on the left side of 'Download File' to view directly on this site. Once opened, click again to magnify.
It was considered that the Zodiac Killer after attacking Darlene Ferrin and Michael Mageau at Blue Rock Springs on July 4th 1969, drove back to his residence and walked to the Springs and Tuolumne payphone from the north side. This premise was covered extensively in the article 'I Want to Tell You a Story'.
I would like to thank Deb from Zodiac Killer Site forum for supplying me with the Vallejo directory records from 1969. The Zodiac Killer may have lived within a 10-15 minute walking radius of the payphone. Here are the relevant streets from the north side. Click the visual on the left side of 'Download File' to view directly on this site. Once opened, click again to magnify.
Searching an ever growing and endless suspect list with limited DNA evidence for the identity of the Zodiac Killer, is akin to looking for a needle in a haystack, and that haystack is getting larger every year. DNA may eventually help us in the future, but we need to narrow the suspect pool, not make it larger. There have been many studies on serial killers down the years, and although these observations cannot be applied to every serial killer, there are patterns that exist which can be used to narrow down the search for the killer's base or home location. Applying what limited details we believe of the killer- the vehicle, age range and description, handwriting and occupation, coupled with possible fingerprints, palm prints and a partial DNA code (if reliable)- if we can then identify a small enough sample of the population to test, we may just strike lucky. Even if the killer has died, he may have had children from whom DNA could be acquired, and using modern forensic genetic fingerprinting it may provide a link to the murderer.
The Kathleen Johns abduction lies on the periphery of the Zodiac crimes, but if her journey around the outskirts of Tracey, California into the early morning hours of March 23rd 1970 was at the hands of the Zodiac Killer, then she may have provided us with some vital information. She described the interior of his vehicle "as messy- she had noticed men's and children's clothing scattered about, books and papers, a black rubber handled flashlight, and two colored plastic scouring pads on the console dashboard. Kathleen estimated that the smaller patterned T-shirts were of the age range 8-12 years."
If these clothes were not part of his profession, he may have had children- adding another layer to consider when searching for a likely residence and home location. In an initial whittling down process, we could consider married men with at least one child in the age range of 8-12 years in 1970, living in the geographical area we have identified. Throw in what we think we know of the killer, such as age, weight, glasses, vehicle etc, and the suspect list would narrow to only a handful of people.
Kim Rossmo, the pioneer of geographical profiling, hit the nail on the head regarding one possible location, stating "There's a number of possibilities. But remember, Rancho Vallejo was possibly 26,000 people at that time, of which only 13,000 will be male, and only a certain proportion of those are of the correct age, and a certain portion of those are only going to be white. Then we start looking at the neighborhoods involved, we have a pretty small subset. Then we start combining that with some of the personal and behavioral descriptors, and then we work in the vehicle information. If this case was active today, it would not be too difficult to find this person." Narrow the original pool down to just a few thousand, and a much smaller radius, and the needle becomes more visible. This is a much more viable option than widening the suspect pool year on year, further muddying the waters.
This will be collating several previous articles under one banner, throwing in a little extra for good measure, and then the book will be closed on this matter. We need to narrow the search, not widen it. That is why geographical profiling could be our last hope, using the mechanics of the human mind to unravel the pattern of the killer. None of the following is certain, but if we add brick by brick, we may reveal the house.
A recent survey in Germany studied the locations of serial killer victims in respect to the killer's home residence and found that 63% of the time the killer lived within a 6 mile traveling distance to the crime scene. Other studies suggest a 5 mile radius.
The serial killer generally begins his crimes closer to home- in the case of San Francisco, this is the Zodiac Killer's final crime- it therefore should be one of the furthest from his home location. Lake Herman Road is 5.17 miles from the Springs and Tuolumne payphone. Blue Rock Springs Park is 2.83 miles from the payphone. Therefore both crimes sit within a 6 mile radius. The Zodiac Killer may have made two phone calls from this location and therefore should be our first port of call.
If the killer had a normal Monday to Friday, 9-5 profession, it would be understandable that he would be less likely to venture any great distance on the Friday as compared to the Saturday (using the least effort principle). Which is exactly what he may have done in the commission of his first two crimes.
The phone call is interesting for a number of reasons, notably for the fact it was made approximately 40 minutes after the crime, despite the payphone being only 10 minutes from Blue Rock Springs Park. Many have claimed the Zodiac Killer wasn't familiar with this area of Vallejo, as he failed to mention Blue Rock Springs- only a "public park". The directions given in the phone call are equally used as evidence he was unfamiliar with the area. Many assume the Zodiac Killer was incorrect in his directions to Blue Rock Springs, thereby by default, assume that police dispatcher Nancy Slover was perfectly accurate in remembering the exact message word for word. She wasn't expecting that a killer claiming four victims was about to call that morning, and therefore cannot be expected to recall verbatim what he said, because according to her, he had spoken over her as she tried to get the details.
The message was recalled as "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". It was therefore deemed incorrect. However, if you just add a comma or break into the message, it makes perfect sense if the Zodiac Killer is directing the police from the station to Columbus Parkway.
"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."
Changing just one word, makes the message even clearer "I wish to report a double murder. If you will go one mile east...... on Columbus Parkway by 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." We assume Zodiac got the message wrong rather than Nancy Slover hearing or recalling the message wrong. We have no problem coming to this conclusion concerning the dispatcher taking an incorrect message at Presidio Heights, sending out a radio dispatch "to be on the lookout for a negro male adult."
The Zodiac Killer didn't get the directions wrong, he got the distance wrong, as he did at Lake Berryessa:"I want to report a murder, no, a double murder. They are two miles north of Park Headquarters. They were in a white Volkswagen Karmann Ghia" and after a brief pause uttered the words "I'm the one that did it". On both occasions he was slightly over a mile off.
The Zodiac Killer mailed three letters to the newspapers on July 31st 1969 with confirmation of the attacks at Lake Herman Road and Blue Rock Springs Park. The author stated "This is the murderer of the 2 teenagers last Christmass at Lake Herman + the girl on the 4th of July near the golf course in Vallejo." His compass directions were totally accurate in describing the position of Betty Lou Jensen in the turnout on December 20th 1968. He added "the girl was on her right side feet to the west." In the November 9th 1969 'Bus Bomb' letter after the Paul Stine murder, he again got his compass directions spot on: "The dogs never came with in 2 blocks of me + they were to the west" and "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" (describing Presidio Boulevard in the park).
So why do we assume that he managed to completely get his bearings incorrect during the phone call to Nancy Slover.
He knew the parking lot at Blue Rock Springs was near the golf course. He also was directing the police east from the station to Columbus Parkway. He clearly had knowledge of where the police station and Columbus Parkway were, and in relation to one another, despite the fact he had committed the attack only 40 minutes earlier. The killer had plenty of time after the Lake Herman Road and Presidio Heights murders to look at a map and get his compass directions correct, yet here, he had only 40 minutes before the payphone call. He could have studied a map before the Blue Rock Springs Park attack, but had this been the case, why would he have got the directions wrong, as many claim. Equally, had he studied a map beforehand, then he would have known the "public park" by name. The fact that he got his compass directions correct in every instance, it could be argued he was very familiar with the location of the police station, Columbus Parkway and very likely the parking lot.
Then he sent the 'Debut of Zodiac' letter, received on August 4th 1969- probably the most important correspondence he ever composed:
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.
This will be a deliberately exaggerated interpretation of this correspondence to highlight its misdirection.
In the latter part of the correspondence dealing with Lake Herman Road, the author doesn't mention anything regarding the shots into the David Faraday Rambler, forcing the couple from the vehicle, or his headlights illuminating the turnout to aid his visibility. However, in his story of Blue Rock Springs Park, he uses the word "car" on four occasions.
He begins the 'message' by referring to the vehicle of Darlene Ferrin: "On the 4th of July I did not open the car door." He then reminds us about his vehicle as he leaves the parking lot, leading us into the payphone incident- almost selling it as one continuous sequence: "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."
It is extremely strange that the killer didn't want to draw attention to his car, when in the very next sentence he is drawing attention to his car: "The man who told police that my car was brown was a negro." The police report and newspapers never mentioned any negro male eyewitness, so it was extremely generous of the Zodiac Killer to confirm Michael Mageau's testimony of a brown car, by offering up this valuable second eyewitness to the newspapers and police. One could believe this male negro eyewitness never existed, yet the Zodiac was to make sure he was real by adding valuable extra details. To prove he was the killer in the July 31st 1969 letters he gave "some facts which only I + the police know." In the August 4th 1969 'Debut of Zodiac' letter he was doing exactly the same thing: "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." The age, color and attire of this eyewitness are entirely unnecessary details designed to convince the reader this man is real. So real, he even reported the Zodiac to police.
The author has now imprinted the word "car" in our head three times. Don't forget that he is still in his vehicle, despite the fact this payphone is only 10 minutes from the parking lot, and 40 minutes has elapsed at this point. But if you were in any doubt whatsoever that the killer is still in his vehicle, remember, the eyewitness "was walking by." The Zodiac missed a trick here.
He should have said "the very observant negro man was slowing walking by clocking the color of my car."
Then the Zodiac put the icing on the cake, mentioning his car for a fourth time: "When I hung the phone up the damn thing began to ring & that drew his attention to me + my car." How convenient that the phone rang and drew the attention of the eyewitness, who just happened to be walking by. The killer could have written "When I hung the phone up the damn thing began to ring & that drew his attention to me", but chose to add in his vehicle again, as if we'd forgotten he was in his brown car. The reason behind all this misdirection- is that the Zodiac Killer had driven from Blue Rock Springs Park to his residence first and walked to the payphone. He wanted the police to believe he was still in his vehicle, thereby not revealing that his residence was but a walking distance from the Springs and Tuolumne payphone.
The Zodiac Killer was extremely helpful in confirming Michael Mageau's testimony of a brown vehicle by creating the fictitious negro eyewitness. Whether the killer was in his vehicle or not while making the payphone call to Nancy Slover, he certainly wanted to sell us the fact it was "brown" in color. That is because it was anything but brown. The above vehicle demonstrates how an 'Ermine White Chevrolet' spotted in the Lake Herman Road turnout at 10.00 pm on December 20th 1968, would have appeared to Michael Mageau at midnight in the Blue Rock Springs parking lot. In a prominent newspaper article Michael Mageau described the vehicle as a "1958 or 1959 Falcon. The color was brown or bronze." In the police report he stated "he could not see the color or anything as it was too dark out there." Michael was clearly not confident of the vehicle that parked behind him that night, but if the vehicle was 'Ermine White', it is easy to understand how this could be mistaken for brown under the conditions experienced within the parking lot that night. The Zodiac Killer, knowing he was driving a white vehicle, was only too happy to confirm Michael Mageau's description of his vehicle in the 'Debut of Zodiac' letter. The Zodiac, in his mind, had not only successfully placed his vehicle at the payphone, but had changed its color also. A very successful letter indeed.
There will be many that will disagree with this analysis, but it is designed as an example of narrowing the search field down to a few hundred or few thousand men, who we can then narrow further based on what we have learned about the Zodiac Killer to this point in time. Find the location and find the killer.
Using the geographic profiling developed by Kim Rossmo, such as 'buffer zones', 'least effort principle' and 'circle theory of environmental range,' we can give ourselves a more realistic search field, using the psychology of the human mind, or more specifically the mind of Zodiac to work against him. The alternative is to keep adding suspects year on year, taking the journey down many blind alleys, before you realize- it is the avenue you should be searching for. The End.
This website contains no advertisements. To help keep it running, any donations, however small, would be greatly appreciated. Thank you. Richard.
The description of the assailant's vehicle at Blue Rock Springs Park on July 4th 1969 by Michael Mageau is probably deemed by most observers to be unreliable at best. The vehicle on page 1 of the police report lists Corvair-Mustang as an option.
In a prominent newspaper article Michael Mageau described the vehicle as a "1958 or 1959 Falcon. The color was brown or bronze."
The poliice report on page 8 describes the vehicle five minutes before the shooting: "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'." He added "He could not see the car too clearly, however the shape of the car looked similar to the car that Dea owns, a Corvair. He could not see the color or anything as it was too dark out there".
On page 9 the vehicle returns: "Five minutes later the vehicle pulled up approximately 10 feet behind and to the right side of Dea's car. The vehicle's lights were left on and the subject got out and walked toward the car. He had a large high-powered flashlight, the kind you carry with a handle. He only saw the rear portion of it (as it left the crime scene), this rear part appearing to be a vehicle similar to or the same type as Dea's car, a Corvair. Also a very similar color, possibly a little bit lighter brown."
Although sketchy, he refers to the vehicle looking similar to Darlene Ferrin's Corvair on both occasions- but clearly, that doesn't mean it was.
This crime has been constantly referenced as the most likely of the four Zodiac attacks to have not been chosen at random, in regards to Darlene Ferrin. The suggestion being, that the murderer of five took the time to blend some 'personal business' into his random killings. The strange phone calls on July 5th 1969 testament to this fact. However, many disagree with the notion that the murderer of Darlene Ferrin knew his victim.
One cannot deny that there were unexplained events at Lake Herman Road prior to the murders. Some will claim an absolute conviction of exactly what transpired on December 20th 1968, above all others. This is not possible- unless you were there.
There were several pertinent vehicles (at least three) in the run up to the double murder of David Faraday and Betty Lou Jensen, with an unknown number of occupants who failed to come forward in the ensuing police investigation. There may or may not be an innocent explanation for their failure to do so- as could be said of Blue Rock Springs, if the second vehicle observed by Michael Mageau was independent of the first.
Why would a stalker of Darlene Ferrin target the passenger side of the brown Corvair where Michael Mageau was sitting, having supposedly already driven up to the driver side of the Corvair only 5 minutes earlier. Why target Mageau at all?
Darlene Ferrin was struck 5 times directly, and Michael Mageau 4 times, of whom, most people believe received the initial two shots fired that night. The killer then retreated and returned, shooting both victims twice more. Once Michael Mageau had been shot twice and had retreated to the rear of the vehicle, with Darlene Ferrin completely disabled in the driver seat, there was little further threat from the male. On the face of it, both or neither appeared to be the primary target that night.
The first vehicle pulled up on the left side of the Corvair and apparently extinguished its headlights. The Blue Rock Springs parking lot was totally empty at this point, so this act could understandably be perceived as unnerving and suspicious. If there was any time to primarily target Darlene Ferrin, or the couple, this was it. With the passenger side window down and parked alongside, it would have have taken literally seconds to lean out of your window, taking aim at the driver side of the Corvair from distance, and in addition, would have negated any risk of blood transfer. Leaving the vehicle via the passenger side, a matter of seconds more.
The act of driving away to survey Columbus Parkway for vehicles (suggested by some) and then returning back to the parking lot, leaves you in the identical position before you left, therefore makes little sense as an explanation to why the vehicle departed and returned 5 minutes later.
It has been speculated as to whether the couple were followed to the parking lot that night. Michael Mageau stated that after they parked up "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."
Where was the supposed vehicle trailing them to the parking lot? Had somebody followed them, surely they would have been present in the parking lot just after the couple parked up and before the young kids arrived, but Michael Mageau mentioned nobody else at this juncture, other than the young kids letting firecrackers off. The vehicle that pulled alongside them arrived at least five minutes after Darlene Ferrin first parked up. If this was the vehicle supposedly following them, the driver would presumably have parked alongside them, in the few minutes before the young kids arrived.
Robert Graysmith stated in his book that after Darlene picked up Michael, the young man uttered the words "we're being followed." Darlene sped off towards Blue Rock Springs. The car raced behind them at full speed. Darlene kept turning to lose the stranger. When they arrived in the parking lot, they sat in the parking lot only a moment, when the other auto, similar in design to the Corvair, pulled up alongside them. This is fiction.
There was no mention of them being chased in the police report, and apparently the kids letting off firecrackers had now mysteriously evaporated from the timeline.
If the two vehicles observed by Michael Mageau were one and the same, occupied by the Zodiac Killer, are we to believe he departed the parking lot to retrieve his weapon- the killing tool integral to his other three attacks- and this crime was simply spur of the moment. If this were the case, what was he doing lurking in a parking lot at midnight unprepared in the first instance, if not for pre-planned ill intent. If already armed, leaving and returning makes little sense- his time is now.
In five minutes, the vehicle parked alongside the Corvair, assuming the Zodiac Killer didn't travel home to retrieve the weapon he already should have had, apparently is leaving and returning for no purpose other than hesitation. Unless the Zodiac Killer had second thoughts, which seems unlikely, one could assert the vehicle that parked alongside the Corvair five minutes prior to the attack is incidental and irrelevant to the murder that night- only becoming a vehicle of note because of what transpired a few minutes later. Michael Mageau's recollection of the vehicle, bearing in mind what he had endured during the attack, may have become more suspicious in his mind when he recounted the night's events at Kaiser Hospital.
Could Michael Mageau's description of the vehicle driving away after the attack been subconsciously transferred to the first vehicle, which had now moved suspiciously within 6 or 8 feet of Darlene Ferrin's Corvair, with extinguished headlights. The 'innocent' motorist observed in the parking lot on July 4th 1969 had suddenly become integral to the story that night, with imagination the key driver.
The same could be said of James Owen on Lake Herman Road. In his first statement to police he recalled that "he saw two cars parked near the entrance to the pumping station. He stated the car parked nearest was a 1955 or 1956 station wagon, boxy type, neutral in color. The other was parked to the right and abreast of the station wagon. The cars were about ten feet apart. He stated he could not give a description of the make or color of the other car."
In his second statement, the vehicles had closed up to a menacing 3-4 feet, with a shot now being heard about a quarter of a mile beyond the turnout.
The story of July 4th 1969 would be far simpler without the first vehicle 'appearing suspicious', but to move it further away from brown Corvair, with the headlights switched on, as inferred, could also be construed as imagination, which leaves us back to where we started.
The Zodiac Killer changed his approach from Lake Herman Road to Blue Rock Springs, in that, he decided to open fire on Michael Mageau and Darlene Ferrin on July 4th 1969 while they remained seated in their vehicle. Did his plans at Lake Herman Road backfire to some extent, that forced such a change. He may have wanted more control over the victims by keeping them boxed in their vehicle. But did the weather and the actions of Michael Mageau ultimately force the Zodiac Killer into a critical mistake, when he decided to return to the 1963 brown Corvair of Darlene Ferrin, to fire off his final four shots. A choice that would inadvertently reveal the likely home location of the Zodiac Killer.
We have previously examined the possibility of a phone call being placed after the Lake Herman Road double murder, at the exact same payphone at Springs and Tuolumne, described as a 'crank call' by Pierre Bidou. It was determined, that this being the Zodiac Killer, it had the possibility of shifting the time of the Lake Herman Road murders approximately 5-6 minutes earlier than previously thought, allowing the killer to head in the direction of Vallejo before Stella Borges left her ranch and declaring that she had passed no vehicles en route. After the first two attacks the killer would be heading toward Springs Road on both occasions, turning west and heading for the payphone to place his call, before taking refuge at his residence. The early murders of a serial killer are more likely to be closer to home, before he gains in confidence and ventures further afield, placing the area around the payphone of great interest.
Despite the understandable sketchy recollections of Michael Mageau, he may very well be the unlikely savior here. His description of the assailant's clothing and his reflex decision to seek refuge in the back seat of the Corvair may have been the undoing of the killer.
Michael stated two things in the police report. Firstly: "Subject appeared to be short, possibly 5'8", was real heavy set, beefy build. States subject was not blubbery fat, but real beefy, possibly 195 to 200, or maybe even larger. Stated he had short curly hair, light brown, almost blond. He was wearing a short-sleeved shirt, blue in color. Cannot remember if it was light or dark blue." Secondly: "States that he tried to climb over the back seat to get away from the shooting and subject kept shooting him again and again. States subject finally quit shooting him and apparently turned the gun on Dea and started shooting her again and again. States subject then turned around and started to walk back to his vehicle which still had the headlights on. Michael stated he could not tell if he meant to yell at the subject or if he just yelled from pain, but he let out some kind of yell. At this time, the subject apparently hearing him, came back to the car and shot Michael two more times, once in the back and once in the left leg. States the subject then turned the gun on Dea and shot her twice more." This final action by the killer may unwittingly have changed the course of the next 40 minutes.
The time of the year couldn't have been more different from the Lake Herman Road attack- the murders at Lake Herman Road committed in sub-zero temperatures of 22 degrees Fahrenheit, and Blue Rock Springs in very agreeable temperatures that averaged above 80 degrees Fahrenheit for much of the day, which is why the killer was described as "wearing a short-sleeved shirt, blue in color," something he was unlikely to have been wearing the night of December 20th 1968.
It is my guess the assailant's shirt was relatively light in color, and when Michael Mageau "let out some kind of yell", it forced the killer into something he hadn't planned to do- interact closely with the crime scene.
At Lake Herman Road the killer shot David Faraday once in the head, and Betty Lou Jensen while she was running for her life. His contact or interaction with the Rambler and victims was kept to a minimum. This was likely his intention at Blue Rock Springs when firing through the open window of the Corvair, but Michael Mageau effectively refusing to die and letting out a yell, would inadvertently scupper his well laid plans.
The first shots at Michael Mageau struck him in the neck (facial area) and once in the shoulder, before he clambered over the seat to the rear of the vehicle, in an attempt to escape the initial barrage. The killer also fired three direct shots at Darlene Ferrin, but struck her far more. Michael Mageau would have been bleeding heavily at this point, more than likely coating the passenger seat in blood as he clambered over it to seek refuge in the rear of the vehicle. The killer after firing five shots, retreated, but after hearing Michael Mageau yell, returned to the vehicle and leaned into the open window and over the front passenger seat, in all likelihood smearing blood on his "light blue short-sleeved shirt" and arms from the top of the seat. To angle the gun, striking Michael Mageau in the lower regions, and leaving two spent casings on the rear floorboard of the Corvair, he likely had to lean a reasonable distance into the vehicle. He then delivered the final two shots into Darlene Ferrin. This final action by the killer may very well have created blood transfer to his shirt and body, and ultimately transferred it to his vehicle. The wise choice, is now, not to make his planned phone call immediately after departing the scene of the crime, exiting his vehicle and entering the payphone covered in blood, but to travel home and get cleaned up, thereby minimizing the obvious risk when placing the call.
Investigators must have considered the possibility of the Zodiac Killer living in the proximity of the payphone because of the time disparity of a payphone only 10 minutes from the crime scene, yet a phone call being placed 40 minutes subsequent to the attack. They must have toyed with the idea, that the killer had remained in the vicinity.
They certainly must have searched for eyewitnesses to the phone call, and likely canvassed the surrounding area. It is highly probable that they knocked on the door of the killer and chatted with him briefly. Although Michael Mageau's description of the killer and his vehicle were sketchy, they had some loose indicators to rule out certain people. The investigators probably combed the area around the payphone for a brown Corvair, or a vehicle resembling it.
Nearly one month later, the Zodiac sent three coded segments in three letters on July 31st 1969 to the San Francisco Examiner, San Francisco Chronicle and Vallejo-Times Herald, giving details of the first two crimes to prove he was the actual killer. However, the Zodiac Killer was doubted as to whether the letter writer and killer were one and the same, and Police Chief Jack E Stiltz still wanted more proof, as detailed in the Saturday August 2nd 1969 San Francisco Chronicle. He requested the writer to send a second letter "with more facts to prove it." This may have proved the perfect opportunity for the killer to switch the emphasis away from his home locality.
He created the perfect phantom witness of a "negro about 40-45 rather shabbly dressed," who he would not only describe in unnecessary detail, but fortunately a witness that would verify twice that Zodiac was in a car, and it was brown in color. The Zodiac Killer has never been so forthcoming. By placing himself in his vehicle, he gives the impression he could have lived anywhere, as opposed to a killer who probably walked to the payphone. The unaccounted time between the Blue Rock Springs attack and the placement of the phone call, may be indicative of a killer cleaning himself up and removing the bloodied clothing, resulting from his return to Darlene Ferrin's Corvair for the final four shots. And Michael Mageau was the trigger.
Kim Rossmo talked about the possible home locations for the Zodiac Killer using Rigel: "There's a number of possibilities. But remember, Rancho Vallejo was possibly 26,000 people at that time, of which only 13,000 will be male, and only a certain proportion of those are of the correct age, and a certain portion of those are only going to be white. Then we start looking at the neighborhoods involved, we have a pretty small subset. Then we start combining that with some of the personal and behavioral descriptors, and then we work in the vehicle information. If this case was active today, it would not be too difficult to find this person." Apply this to a 20 minute walking radius of the payphone and you can see it's a very real avenue of investigation, if you can acquire the details of residency. Zodiac Killer-Geographic Profiling.
See also: A Stone's Throw Away.
Using the police reports and autopsy of Darlene Ferrin we can reconstruct the mechanics of the crime scene at Blue Rock Springs Park on July 4th 1969. Michael Mageau was struck four times and survived, but Darlene Ferrin received nine entry wounds and seven exit wounds from five direct hits. The police recovered nine shell casings from the crime scene, seven to the right side of the brown Corvair and two on the floorboard of the rear passenger area. The diagrams below will show the possible order of events that night, followed by a more detailed examination.
 and  The widely held belief is that Michael Mageau was targeted first during the initial barrage of gunfire, but the autopsy report of Darlene Ferrin may suggest otherwise. The young woman received 4 entry and 4 exit wounds to both arms, indicating that she may have had both arms on the steering wheel when the first bullet was discharged. Each bullet entered the right arm and exited, before striking the left arm and exiting, creating the 4 entry and exit wounds described at autopsy. If the killer had targeted Michael Mageau first, it is extremely unlikely that Darlene Ferrin's first reaction would have been to turn the key in the ignition and place her hands on the steering wheel in an attempt to pull away. There simply would not have been enough time to achieve such a feat, not withstanding the fact, that the natural reaction after seeing Michael Mageau shot, would have been to turn away from the direction of fire. Had this been the case, the wound pattern to the arms of Darlene Ferrin would be harder to explain. The killer fired off the first two shots into the vehicle, firstly striking Darlene Ferrin just above the right wrist as she was gripping the steering wheel. Her right arm came across her upper body towards her face (either manually or by the resultant force), as the second bullet entered her right upper arm 5 1/2 inches above the elbow on the lateral side, exiting and striking her left upper arm 3 1/4 inches above the elbow.
 and  When the killer opened fire on Darlene Ferrin, Michael Mageau turned away, lowering his body from the barrel of the gun. After the initial two shots, the killer then turned the gun on Michael. He was struck twice, once in the neck (facial area) and once in the shoulder, before propelling himself to the rear of the vehicle in an attempt to escape the barrage. Both of these bullets exited his body, striking Darlene Ferrin in the torso. The two bullets lost momentum after passing through Mageau and had reduced velocity when they entered Darlene Ferrin, thereby remaining in her body. #1 was removed from the right second rib. #2 was removed from the seventh and eighth rib left. These were the only two bullets recovered from Darlene Ferrin at autopsy.
A letter was received by the San Francisco Examiner on July 4th 1969 in which Zodiac described his attack "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." Michael described these two shots in the police report: "He heard a muffled sound and felt a pain in his back and his neck area. He states he heard some more muffled sounds, sounding like a gun with a silencer on it, and felt pains in his body, his back and around his neck. States he tried to climb over the back seat to get away from the shooting." The killer had now fired 4 shots. Michael Mageau had been struck twice, and Darlene Ferrin had received 6 entry wounds and 4 exit wounds.
 After Michael Mageau had found temporary refuge in the rear of the Corvair, the Zodiac Killer fired the fifth shot into Darlene Ferrin's torso. The bullet exited her body. She now had 7 entry wounds and 5 exit wounds. The killer then retreated according to Michael Mageau. But this was to be a brief respite.
 and  The Zodiac Killer returned to the passenger side window and leaned into the vehicle, and extended his arm over the front seats to fire 2 more shots at Michael Mageau, striking him in the thigh and hip. These two expended casings fell onto the rear floorboard. The Zodiac described this as "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."
 and  The killer then turned back to Darlene Ferrin, firing off the final 2 shots. Both of these bullets struck her torso and exited on through. She had now received a devastating 9 entry wounds and 7 exit wounds, as described in the autopsy.
Two of the final four shots were likely aimed at Michael Mageau first, as he explained to officers that he "could not tell if he meant to yell at the subject or if he just yelled from pain, but he let out some type of yell. At this time, the subject apparently hearing him, came back to the car and shot Michael two more times, once in the back and once in the left leg. States the subject then turned the gun on Dea and shot her twice more." Michael Mageau had actually been struck in the thigh and hip.
The killer then retreated into the night. Just under 40 minutes later, the Zodiac would announce himself to the world in a chilling phone call to police dispatcher Nancy Slover.
Here is a depiction of the entry wounds (black circles) and exit wounds (red circles) to the arms of Darlene Ferrin.
The first shot traveled as shown, creating 2 entry and exit wounds. The second shot is more difficult to explain.
In order to make any sense of this wound pattern, imagine that we need to make these four circles approximately line up.
The white arrow would depict how Darlene Ferrin's arm came across her body, placing it at extremely acute angle to the shooter (the act of turning away). The four circles are now lined up, producing 2 entry and exit wounds. The bullet entered 5 1/2 inches above the right elbow and exited 1 1/4 inches distal to the right elbow. It then entered 3 1/4 inches above the left elbow and exited the opposite side.
The first shot didn't necessarily strike Darlene Ferrin while she was holding the steering wheel, but it is a strong possibility. The right forearm was struck 3 1/2 inches above the wrist, entering the left forearm 2 inches above the wrist.
This however, is only one possible explanation. If you have any comments regarding this analysis, please let me know.
The following will be a further in depth examination of the area around the payphone at the intersection of Springs Road and Tuolumne Street, where the Zodiac Killer placed a phone call to police dispatcher Nancy Slover at 12.40 am on July 5th 1969.
Firstly, we will take a closer look into the possibility the Zodiac Killer placed three phone calls, rather than the accepted two, beginning on December 20th 1968, shortly after the double murder of David Faraday and Betty Lou Jensen on Lake Herman Road.
Pierre Bidou, one of the responding officers to the Lake Herman Road murders was interviewed by the Benicia Herald, in which was stated "Bidou and his partner had served a warrant on a Lake Herman Road cabin Dec. 20, 1968, and were on their way to deposit some marijuana in the police department’s evidence locker when they were dispatched back to Lake Herman Road. Initially, they were told a woman was lying outside a car; they thought they were being sent to a crash. Police at first speculated it might have been a crank call, but the officers headed back north. But when they arrived, Bidou realized it was no crank call and no car accident. Instead, it was a sinister crime scene."
If true, somebody may have phoned the police to report a car accident- although it was perceived as a crank call.
Clearly, something must have triggered this belief, as a car accident is not something to be taken lightly, yet it was perceived as suspect. This phone call (if placed) must have been received between the time of the murders and 11.25 pm, the earliest time that Captain Daniel Pitta received the disturbing account of Stella Medeiros and then radioed in to police headquarters. There should be no conceivable reason why a respected officer of the law, radioing in on police frequency the account of Stella Medeiros, about bodies on the ground, should be construed as a crank call, unless shortly before or around the same time, they had received another incoming call pertaining to a car accident on Lake Herman Road. If this phone call had been placed by an unknown party, they would have rang police literally minutes after the murders.
The last person to pass the fateful turnout prior to the murders was James Owen, estimated between 11.09-11.14 pm. The phone call, if the murderer, would indicate the payphone used, would have been approximately 10 to 15 minutes away from the Lake Herman Road turnout, had he traveled directly there. This is because Officer Pierre Bidou received the information about the crank call as he and his partner were "on their way to deposit some marijuana in the police department’s evidence locker," after which they immediately returned back to Lake Herman Road. We know his approximate time of arrival at the crime scene, and therefore the approximate time he was dispatched to it. This ties nicely with a potential phone call from the Zodiac Killer, messaged from the exact payphone he used after the Blue Rock Springs Park attack on Michael Mageau and Darlene Ferrin. This payphone is 11-13 minutes traveling time from the Lake Herman Road turnout.
If this call was the Zodiac Killer, why didn't he just lay claim to the murders, as he had done in his two following attacks. He may simply have just gained pleasure by calling it in and describing it as a car accident, toying with police, or does his following two phone calls give us a clue.
If he had spotted a potential eyewitness near the payphone, he may have instinctively changed the message from a double murder to a car accident, thereby avoiding any future ramifications, had he somehow been traced. He then would have only been a concerned citizen. Did this influence his method of operation on July 5th 1969.
In the August 4th 1969 'Debut of Zodiac' letter he stated "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."
There are several reasons to believe the Zodiac Killer invented this eyewitness, but not the ringing payphone. The way he constructs this passage of text may be extremely well thought out, to give the impression he was still in his vehicle, as opposed to on foot. Had he parked his vehicle at his residence and walked to the payphone, the last thing he wants to do is reveal this to investigators, as reconstructing the timeline would place his residence in the very near vicinity.
The first section of the passage is effectively true- he drove away from the scene of the crime in his car. He then immediately reinforces the idea to police that he is still in his vehicle, by offering up a potential eyewitness to the said vehicle and giving up unnecessary details about the eyewitness in an attempt to make him more real, such as his age range and mode of dress. Information that not only could be helpful to police in possibly tracking the eyewitness down, but also an eyewitness who potentially could reinforce the notion his vehicle was brown (knowing he would never be found, because he didn't exist). The Zodiac Killer, having read the newspaper reports of his vehicle being described as brown by Michael Mageau, is effectively using the negro male to corroborate the color of his vehicle- which may indicate his vehicle was anything but brown. A killer offering up useful information to investigators has to be viewed with suspicion.
Finally, just in case the police hadn't got the message, he delivers his car into the passage for a third time: "When I hung the phone up the damn thing began to ring & that drew his attention to me + my car." The phone rang, but there was no vehicle. The ringing payphone could have drawn attention to him in the early morning hours, and may have been the reason he left the receiver off the hook at 1231 Main Street, Napa, after the Lake Berryessa attack on Bryan Hartnell and Cecelia Shepard. The ringing payphone was the perfect opportunity to fictitiously place his brown car at the payphone and corroborate the 'fact' by an over-detailed description of an eyewitness. Using this hypothesis and the time of the shooting, would likely place the killer's residence within a 15-20 minute walking radius of the payphone. His experiences after the Lake Herman Road murders may have influenced his decision to place the phone call without his car in tow, and lessen the risk of his vehicle being connected to that location.
After the Lake Berryessa attack, the Zodiac Killer was possibly heading along California State Route 29 towards Vallejo, where many observers believe he lived. The western edge of Tuolumne Street, by Flosden Acres, borders this route, so would take the killer to the area just north of the payphone. Whether he took this route is obviously unknown, but his directional movement after the first two crimes may possibly suggest this is a viable option.
The Zodiac Killer in all likelihood didn't know any of his victims, but this cannot be totally ruled out. David Faraday was present on Sonoma Boulevard four hours prior to his murder. The 4th July 1969 annual parade in Vallejo began at 10.00 am and traveled south on Sonoma Boulevard. Darlene Ferrin went to the lighted boat parade the evening of her death.
Ricardo Gomez of MK Zodiac has written an excellent article on this topic, with a possible connection to the Zodiac 408 cipher and the Zodiac 'buttons'.
On page 31 of the LHR police report it states "Joe was interviewed at the Faraday residence, 1930 Sereno Drive. He was a personal friend of David. He states David had no enemies to his knowledge. David met Betty Lou approximately a week ago at the Pythian Castle where they were decorating the hall for a social event."
On page 53 it states "Mrs Faraday stated she did not know Betty Lou that she and David had only been going together for a short time, she had never met Betty Lou. She stated she did not know of any enemies David may have had. She stated that on Friday night at 7.10 pm David drove his sister Debbie to a meeting of the Rainbow Girls at the Pythian Castle on Sonoma Boulevard, and David came back home at 7.20 pm and left again at 7.30 pm. Responding officer talked to Debbie Faraday, WFJ 16 years, sister of David. She relates the following David told her on the afternoon of Friday 12/20/68 that he was going out to Lake Herman Road that night because a bunch of the kids were going out there that night."
What is the likelihood Zodiac resided close to the intersection of Springs Road and Tuolumne Street, and had crossed paths with some of his victims in this neighborhood. Did his profession give him intimate knowledge of the movements or plans of his young victims.
A serial killer usually begins his crimes close to home, somewhere he is familiar with, before he eventually gains in confidence and ventures further afield. So, if the Zodiac Killer had lived in Vallejo near the payphone, he would use victim availability, least effort principle and a buffer zone to select his first attacks (both on Friday), particularly if he worked 9-5, Monday to Friday, in which time constraints would obviously have a bearing.
A recent survey in Germany studied the locations of serial killer victims in respect to the killer's home residence and found that 63% of the time the killer lived within a 6 mile traveling distance to the crime scene. So putting all these factors together, we could expect the Zodiac Killer's first murders at Lake Herman Road on December 20th 1968 and Blue Rock Springs Park on July 4th 1969 to be only a matter of a few miles from his house. The payphone is 6.2 miles from the turnout at Lake Herman Road and 3.6 miles from Blue Rock Springs Park.
We also have to consider that if the Zodiac Killer lived further away from the payphone area, such as American Canyon, Napa or San Francisco, why didn't he apply a greater buffer zone from the crime scene to his choice of payphone, as opposed to making the phone call only 3.6 miles (2.85 miles as the crow flies) from the crime scene and extremely close to the police station. Possibly because in his early crimes he chose to take less risk- his objective being to head home almost immediately to discard the weapon and secure his vehicle. His third and fourth crimes showed increased confidence, but crucially both were on a Saturday, therefore he was less constrained by time, had he worked during the week.
The Zodiac Killer's first two attacks in remote areas may have indicated that he trolled Lake Herman Road and Columbus Parkway looking to find victims. This would suggest a prior knowledge of these areas being frequented by courting couples.
"David told Debbie on the afternoon of Friday 12/20/68 that he was going out to Lake Herman Road that night because a bunch of the kids were going out there that night." Was the killer aware of these plans? Did he track Darlene Ferrin after the parade?
It may be unlikely, but these questions have to be asked.
Additionally, would a killer who didn't live in the near vicinity of the crimes, have such a good grasp of his spatial awareness.
In the July 31st 1969 letters he stated the "Girl was lyeing on right side feet to west," and contrary to popular belief, his payphone directions were also fairly accurate, if taken from either the payphone or police station. He stated "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" When you insert a break or comma after "east", the directions are perfectly fine, other than "one mile east" should have been "two miles east." Columbus Parkway is east of the payphone and police station. His compass directions were correct in both instances. He could of course (if unsure) have checked a map prior to the Blue Rock Springs attack, but that would rely on knowing in advance exactly where his attack was going to take place. He could have checked a map after the attack and before the payphone call. Or he could have known the area well.
This is a continuation from the article 'The Fictitious Negro Male' examining the crucial 40 minutes after the Blue Rock Springs Park shooting of Michael Mageau (19) and Darlene Ferrin (22) on July 4th 1969, which left Michael Mageau fighting for his life and Darlene Ferrin dead from five direct gunshot wounds. The killer would place a payphone call from the intersection of Springs Road and Tuolumne Street at 12.40 am, only 40 minutes after the attack in the parking lot.
Exactly one month after the double shooting, the murderer mailed the 'Debut of Zodiac' letter to the San Francisco Examiner, received on August 4th 1969. It is in this introductory letter that the killer may have inadvertently revealed the area in which he lived. Many may not share my optimism, but any assistance anybody can offer in terms of material or research regarding this matter would be greatly appreciated. I am looking for 1969 land registry records, phone books or directories, that contain names and addresses of individuals who lived in a 10-15 minute walking radius of the payphone at the Springs and Tuolumne intersection.
This is what the Zodiac Killer stated in the 'Debut of Zodiac' letter:
"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."
After Michael Mageau had been shot he recalled exiting Darlene Ferrin's brown Corvair and lying alongside the vehicle, giving a rudimentary description of the assailant's vehicle as it pulled out of the parking lot at Blue Rock Springs. The killer adamantly denied leaving the scene "with squealling tires + raceing engine as described in the Vallejo paper," insisting he didn't want to draw attention to his vehicle, in direct contrast to the message the letter appeared to be pushing by the payphone.
On leaving the crime scene, he was now in possession of the 'smoking gun', and the wise choice may well have been to offload his weapon and vehicle at his residence and walk to the payphone, carrying much less risk. He knew Mageau or Ferrin would unlikely be able to give a description, on account of the tactics he employed, in particular the flashlight he used to blind the victims, however his vehicle was not afforded the same protection as he exited the parking lot, something he was infinitely aware of. He seemed confident in his phone call that he was reporting a "double murder," but whether or not he contemplated that Michael Mageau may still alive, and this was just the statement of a braggart, is open to question.
In the 'Debut of Zodiac' letter the killer seemingly goes out of his way to feature the payphone call, highlighting a negro male that spotted him after he hung up the receiver. This negro male was never mentioned in the extensive 75 page police report, or by any investigators connected with the case. The negro male also never featured in any newspaper articles up to the August 4th 1969 letter. This was called out in the Vallejo News Chronicle on Monday August 4th 1969, which stated "The car's description was given to police by Mageau, not a phone call witness, as related in the letter. However, there could have been such a witness near the phone booth."
Whether the police had identified a negro male eyewitness or not, it appeared that Zodiac wanted to capitalize on the fact he was spotted, by going into unnecessary detail on the man's age and attire: "The man who told police that my car was brown was a negro about 40-45 rather shabbly dressed." Having effectively agreed that his vehicle was brown, he went on to highlight his vehicle once more: "When I hung the phone up the damn thing began to ring & that drew his attention to me + my car." The Zodiac Killer seemed intent on corroborating the description of his vehicle by Michael Mageau, by backing it up with the negro male eyewitness, who saw exactly the same color of vehicle. This is particularly helpful on behalf of the killer, unless of course he was pushing a false narrative, in that the negro male eyewitness didn't exist and his vehicle wasn't brown. In addition the phrase "When I hung the phone up the damn thing began to ring & that drew his attention to me + my car," is particularly telling, unnecessarily adding "my car" at the end. We already know he had a vehicle, the negro male had apparently identified it as brown. The superfluous addition of this content may very well be deliberate, to convince the reader the killer had pulled up to the Springs and Tuolumne payphone after the double shooting and placed the phone call with his vehicle in tow, when in fact he was on foot. We know he didn't drive directly to the payphone, because the payphone is situated only 10 minutes from the Blue Rock Springs parking lot, yet the phone call was logged 40 minutes after the attack.
The phone call could have been made from anywhere, rather than alongside Springs Road, a prominent route traversing the crime scene and downtown Vallejo, in close proximity to the police station. However, the killer chose to remain in the vicinity at least 30 minutes beyond what was necessary. That is, unless he lived nearby and chose to remove his vehicle and weapon from his person, before making what was seemingly a predetermined decision to announce himself to the world.
A killer choosing to drive from Blue Rock Springs Park to somewhere within a 10-15 minute walking radius of the payphone would take 10 minutes. With 15 minutes to park his vehicle, change his attire, conceal his weapon and ready himself, would leave approximately 15 minutes to walk to the payphone with his imaginary "brown car" in tow and make the phone call to police dispatcher Nancy Slover.
The premise of 10-15 minutes walking time is based on the killer applying a 'buffer zone' to his residence. He clearly didn't want to place a call in extremely close proximity to where he lived, but would also be constrained by his wanting to return to his residence in reasonable time after placing the call. Hence the estimate of 10-15 minutes as a starting point.
After the Lake Herman Road murders it was intimated by Officer Pierre Bidou that a crank call was received shortly after the killings, referring to a 'car accident' along that particular stretch of road. Had this been the Zodiac Killer, it would had to have been placed just prior to the official police message called in by Captain Daniel Pitta shortly after 11.25 pm. If the killer of David Faraday and Betty Lou Jensen had again placed the phone call at the Springs and Tuolumne intersection, then this 10-12 minute journey would have him leaving the turnout at the correct time based on the eyewitness accounts that night. However, by making this phone call before returning home, could have been indicative of a man confident he left no victims alive in this case, in contrast to Michael Mageau, who had extricated himself from the vehicle. This would certainly elevate the payphone's significance as a common denominator over the first two Zodiac crimes, and dispel the idea the Zodiac waited 6 1/2 months before contacting the police, if it were true.
The Zodiac's exasperation in the letter seemingly implied a familiarity with the area of Lake Herman Road, stating "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."
His compass directions from the Springs and Tuolumne payphone and/or the police station also showed familiarity with his location at this intersection. He knew the Blue Rock Springs parking lot was east of his location, situated alongside Columbus Parkway. This is what he actually said to police dispatcher Nancy Slover, with the all important pause or comma inserted into the dialogue, that changes the whole context of the phone call:
"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."
Unless the killer had prepared in advance by looking at a map, his directional knowledge of his immediate surroundings only 40 minutes after the attack was correct. Had he driven to a location unknown to him, the likelihood of him knowing his relative position to the crime scene using compass markers would be highly unlikely. Additionally, his targeting of lone courting couples, may also suggest an intrinsic knowledge of his hunting ground.
There appears little or no benefit in making an incriminating phone call, claiming four murders, from a payphone only 10 minutes from the crime scene, when the killer could have been 40 minutes away at this point, placing the call in a region of relative security. The fact that he traveled so little distance in 40 minutes, meant he did something else for a large percentage of this time and may well imply a connection to the area.
Cross-referencing names of residents (within the 15 minute walking radius) in 1969, with ancestry records, may turn up individuals who previously resided in Riverside in 1966 during the murder of Cheri Jo Bates on October 30th, or possibly other key locations. If anybody can provide assistance in this search it would be greatly appreciated.
This is a follow up article exploring the idea a phone call was placed approximately 10-12 minutes after the Lake Herman Road murders of David Faraday and Betty Lou Jensen on December 20th 1968, using the concept of a 'laughing killer' and the disputed 1986 'Zodiac' letter to the San Francisco Chronicle. Many magazine and newspaper articles are littered with basic errors regarding the Zodiac case, however some recurring themes not widely recognized as fact are present in many.
The Tuscaloosa News ran an article on October 17th 1969, just 20 days after the Lake Berryessa attack on Bryan Hartnell and Cecelia Shepard. It stated 'Then the man said "I'm going to have to stab you people." Hartnell said "Please stab me first, I'm chicken. I couldn't stand to see her stabbed." The man told him "I'll do just that." He stabbed Hartnell until he passed out. The poor girl, she just had to watch. Then he knifed her until she fainted. When he stabbed Hartnell it was deliberate. When he stabbed the girl he laughed in a frenzy. Hartnell had been stabbed 10 times with a thin 12-inch blade. Miss Shepard, whose writhing provoked her attacker to laughter, had been stabbed 24 times.'
One can see the embellishment in the fact the newspaper reported 34 stab wounds as opposed to 16, so did the killer really laugh in a frenzy during his attack on Cecelia Shepard.
The second article involves the Argosy Magazine dated September 1970 and the murder of Paul Stine on October 11th 1969, two weeks after the Berryessa attack. The following is extremely unlikely, but was a section of the October 13th 1969 letter omitted from public consumption in similar fashion to the phrase 'by knife' written on the car door of Bryan Hartnell's Karmann Ghia, to provoke a reaction from the killer. It is highly doubtful, and likely sensationalized reporting, however this magazine article actually adds a phrase attributed to the killer, written in the October 13th 1969 Paul Stine letter to the San Francisco Chronicle. The article read 'Four days after the murder of Paul Stine yet another scrawled letter arrived at the San Francisco Chronicle. With it was a bloodstained piece of cloth, later established by laboratory technicians as a small part of the missing swatch ripped from Stine's shirt. The rambling letter, signed with the crossed-circle symbol, began, as had the others, with "This is the Zodiac Speaking." The writer went on to say that he was the killer of the cabbie-student, adding "and to prove it, here is a piece of his shirt." The letter also disclosed that the fugitive, from some nearby hiding place, had watched with uncontrollable amusement while police searched the area. He said "they could have caught me if they had done it right, instead of dashing around waiting for me to come out of cover. I like to died laughing."
The Argosy Magazine article continued with reflections of the Lake Berryessa stabbing 'The mention of laughter at a murder scene struck a responsive chord in the minds of the manhunters. During his recovery, young Hartnell had told Napa sleuths that "the man in the hood" had laughed diabolically as he plunged his knife again and again into Miss Shepard beside the lake.' This would be repeated in the Coronet Magazine in October 1973 where it described the following 'He held an automatic pistol on them, tied them securely with plastic-coated clothesline, and then stabbed them repeatedly, laughing hysterically as they thrashed and rolled in pain.'
The Front Page Detective Magazine article of February 1970 stated "He (the killer) dropped to his knees and slowly, deliberately, forcefully plunged a 12-inch, double edged knife into Bryan's back 10 times. When the youth fainted in pain, the killer turned on the girl. His demeanor changed, kneeling beside her, he laughed wildly as he plunged the dagger 20 times into her back in a frenzied assault."
In April of 1974 Detective Cases Magazine covered the Berryessa stabbing: "He ordered Miss Shepard to tie up Hartnell, then he bound the girl, hands and ankles. The gun had been replaced with a knife and when both victims were securely trussed, the hooded monster began plunging the weapon repeatedly into first, the man, then, the girl, accompanying each thrust with a maniacal laugh. For what seemed an eternity to the horrified, screaming, helpless victims, the merciless butchery continued. Their torturer first slashed, then stabbed as his hideous laughter echoed along the banks of the lake."
Officer Pierre Bidou remembered a 'crank call' after the Lake Herman Road murders. He described this to the Benicia Herald newspaper ""Bidou and his partner had served a warrant on a Lake Herman Road cabin Dec. 20, 1968, and were on their way to deposit some marijuana in the police department’s evidence locker when they were dispatched back to Lake Herman Road. Initially, they were told a woman was lying outside a car; they thought they were being sent to a crash. Police at first speculated it might have been a crank call, but the officers headed back north. But when they arrived, Bidou realized it was no crank call and no car accident. Instead, it was a sinister crime scene."
Officer Pierre Bidou also recalled this 'car accident' to Zodiac investigator Michael Butterfield. “…we got the call from the dispatcher that an accident, or something, had occurred on Lake Herman Road, so we turned around and came by.” Source.
This is from a previous article: 'When Stella Medeiros observed the crime scene at 11.20 pm, she raced off to seek help in Benicia, eventually locating Captain Daniel Pitta at the Enco Gas Station on East 2nd Street. This is 3.4 miles from the turnout, an estimated journey time of 5 minutes on Google Maps. She is obviously driving faster than normal and flags down Captain Daniel Pitta probably slightly shy of 11.25 pm, allowing her to give her account and for Captain Daniel Pitta to head to the crime scene by 11.28 pm. In the course of this, the information would have been relayed to Benicia Police Department.
So where did the supposition of a crank call or a car accident originate from. The description given by Stella Medeiros may have been interpreted as a car crash originally and relayed this way, but why would a radio message from a respected officer of the law be interpreted as a crank call. He was a captain reporting an incident on official police channels. Betty Lou Jensen and David Faraday are lying prostrate in the turnout, whether a crash or not, why would Pierre Bidou be under any illusion of a crank call, unless a payphone call had come in slightly earlier than the radio message from Captain Daniel Pitta. The Zodiac Killer made phone calls after both his subsequent attacks, so why not this one. The only difference being, he called it in as a car accident, unwilling to show his hand as the murderer.
Had James Owen passed the turnout around 11.08-11.09 pm, and the Zodiac Killer had exited the turnout somewhere between 11.12-11.14 pm and headed to Vallejo via Springs Road, his journey time to the payphone at the intersection of Springs and Tuolumne would be approximately 10-12 minutes, placing the 'crank call' at 11.22-11.24 pm, just prior to Stella Borges' meeting with Captain Daniel Pitta at 11.25 pm. The 'crank call' and the radio message from Captain Daniel Pitta would have been received in close proximity, leading to the confusion. The crank call being received slightly before the official police radio message.
This is where the 'laughing killer' and the phone call intersect in the aftermath of the Lake Herman Road murders. The Argosy Magazine wasn't finished yet. It continued on further '"The man in the hood" had laughed diabolically as he plunged his knife again and again into Miss Shepard beside the lake. He had also laughed in his phone call to Vallejo Police in December 1968.' Does this validate the claim by Pierre Bidou. If the Zodiac Killer had laughed down the phone, could this be why the dispatcher had interpreted it as a crank call. Additionally, the article stated the phone call was made to Vallejo Police, exactly as the phone call would be 6 1/2 months later, after the Blue Rock Springs Park attack on July 4th 1969.
Russell Butterbach of the Solano County Sheriff's Department and his partner Wayne Waterman were just heading onto Lake Herman Road, when they received a call from the sergeant to go to the Hells Angels pad on Warren Avenue, Vallejo. After approximately 30 minutes they then received a double 187 on Lake Herman Road.
If a crank phone call from the killer was received after the Lake Herman Road double shooting, then the time of this call, likely just before 11.25 pm, ties in perfectly with a 10-12 minute journey from the turnout to the Springs and Tuolumne payphone.
This wasn't the only time that the Zodiac Killer may have directed police to the scene of an accident.
The following is nothing new, but is a further re-examination of the critical period after the Blue Rock Springs Park and Lake Herman Road attacks, focusing in on 'two phone calls' made shortly after each crime. It will place particular emphasis on the area around the Springs/Tuolumne payphone, and the possibility the killer's residence on foot, was mere minutes away. We shall also look again at the wording of the Zodiac Killer in the 'Debut of Zodiac' letter received by the San Francisco Examiner on August 4th 1969. Here is what we noted in a previous article:
'In the 'Debut of Zodiac' letter received by the San Francisco Examiner on August 4th 1969, the Zodiac Killer stated;
"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." This negro male was never traced and did not feature in the police report. The details of his age range and what he was wearing, on the face of it appear unnecessary, unless of course the Zodiac Killer was deliberately creating a fictional character who just so happened to observe his brown car. Bearing in mind Zodiac had likely read newspaper reports of Michael Mageau detailing a brown car in the parking lot of Blue Rock Springs, what better way to corroborate his sighting by further implanting the seed of a brown car into the minds of investigators, by the hand of this fictional eyewitness. If Zodiac's vehicle was 'Ermine White' then clearly this is to his advantage. Voluntarily offering the color of his vehicle as brown, if in fact it was brown, must be viewed with suspicion'.
Two other things strike you about this section of correspondence. The Zodiac's willingness to accept he made an error of judgment when he hung up the phone, unless of course he had an ulterior motive for it.
In his communications to police the Zodiac would never refer to his victims by name, calling them boy, girl, teenagers or taxicab driver. He only expanded on their descriptions when attempting to verify he was the killer, or in this case to verify he was spotted in his "brown car", by a "40-45 year old shabbily dressed negro male." Indeed, very helpful descriptions by the murderer, yet somewhat unnecessary. What had the killer to gain by adding this superfluous information, other than to benefit himself. He made specific reference to "that drew his attention to me + my car", when he could simply have said "that drew his attention to me". The killer appeared to be emphasizing that not only was he in his car, but it was also brown, just like Mageau had described. By placing himself at the payphone in his vehicle approximately 40 minutes after the attack, when it was only 10 minutes from the Blue Rock Springs parking lot, may have suggested to police that he drove to the payphone and could live almost anywhere. Or was that what he wanted them to believe, by being so utterly unselfish and extremely forthright, in adding in the detailed eyewitness and his brown car parked nearby. When in fact he was on foot, and had placed the phone call after returning home, ditching his weapon, vehicle and clothing (which may have received blood transfer from the shooting).
The downside of a killer resident in downtown Vallejo, American Canyon or Benicia, is that, had he driven home to these locations to ditch his clothing and weapon, he would effectively be driving back towards or nearer to the crime scene to place the phone call. What killer would make a phone call after a murder extremely close to his residence? A killer who was implanting the seed of a brown car, when in fact it was white and not there.
The content of the phone call may also be telling. The directions he gave were correct, apart from the distance. He stated "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"
This appears incorrect on first reading, whether from the payphone or the police station, but by inserting one break or comma, the directions make perfect sense. "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" Or by changing one word regarding the recollection of Nancy Slover. "I wish to report a double murder. If you will go one mile east..... on Columbus Parkway by 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"
However, is the killer playing down his familiarity with this particular payphone by placing it one mile west of Columbus Parkway, when its true distance is 2 miles.
Let us consider the Zodiac Killer lived in a residence extremely close to the payphone, but how close? If he drove to a residence ten minutes from Blue Rock Springs, would he be prepared to walk 20-30 minutes to the payphone, and place the call, knowing he had the equivalent journey back home. In distance terms, one mile from the payphone. Or would he more likely venture 5 or 10 minutes. Could the 'crank call' made after the Lake Herman Road double murder help us, and did the Zodiac Killer place this phone call on foot, from the exact same payphone. This much shallower timeline may place his residence yards from Springs and Tuolumne.
The timeline of Lake Herman Road is debatable, but it is fairly certain that James Owen passed the turnout at 11.08-11.10 pm and heard a shot 30 seconds later. This being the case puts the killer in the turnout at around 11.10 pm.
Stella Medeiros spotting the bodies in the turnout, raced off to Benicia and flagged down Officer Daniel Pitta. This has been argued between 11.19-11.25 pm (Officer Daniel Pitta's police report states 11.25 pm). The dispatch to Benicia Police Department was shortly after. It is widely believed to be around 11.28-11.30 pm.
"Bidou and his partner had served a warrant on a Lake Herman Road cabin Dec. 20, 1968, and were on their way to deposit some marijuana in the police department’s evidence locker when they were dispatched back to Lake Herman Road. Initially, they were told a woman was lying outside a car; they thought they were being sent to a crash. Police at first speculated it might have been a crank call, but the officers headed back north. But when they arrived, Bidou realized it was no crank call and no car accident. Instead, it was a sinister crime scene."
But why, in the plural, had "police at first suspected it was a crank call." What gave them this idea, after all this incident was radioed in by an experienced officer. Was the supposition of a crank call, which police "first suspected," allayed when the radio message arrived moments later from Officer Daniel Pitta. Had this been called in by Zodiac? Had this been called in from the payphone at Springs and Tuolumne, just as it was to be some six and a half months later? If police first suspected this was a crank call, then it was likely called in before Officer Daniel Pitta radioed in, whose confirmation would effectively quash the idea it was a hoax, as police first suspected.
The journey time from the Gate #10 turnout to Springs and Tuolumne is 12 minutes. Had the Zodiac Killer left the turnout at approximately 11.10 pm or shortly thereafter, let us say 11.11-11.12 pm, then the killer was able to place the phone call 12 minutes later at 11.23-11.24 pm, before Daniel Pitta radioed in, leading to the initial confusion experienced by police officers and the assumption it was a crank call. The Zodiac Killer may even have had a extra 3-5 minute window to travel home, ditch his vehicle and weapon, and walk to the payphone. Whatever the case, the author of the 'Debut Letter' was seemingly eager to sell us a narrative.
The white Chevrolet Impala spotted at Lake Herman Road has been considered a prime candidate for involvement in the murders of David Faraday and Betty Lou Jensen on December 20th 1968. But what are the chances that this vehicle was the one that pulled into the parking lot on two occasions at Blue Rock Springs Park on July 4th 1969 and was instrumental in the attack on Michael Mageau and Darlene Ferrin. Frank Gasser (69) and Robert Connelly (27), along with Bingo Wesner, were in agreement that they spotted a white Chevrolet Impala parked in the turnout circa 10.00 pm at Lake Herman Road. These were older gentlemen who clearly knew the vehicle they had observed, as it was corroborated, whereas Michael Mageau (19) was altogether vague, on not only the assailant's description, but was indecisive on the vehicle he observed that night. He evidently was not an avid car enthusiast. Factor in the traumatic night's events and it is not surprising his recollection of details are sketchy at best.
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'. " He added "He could not see the car too clearly, however the shape of the car looked similar to the car that Dea owns, a Corvair. He could not see the color or anything as it was too dark out there".
The vehicle was only 6-8 feet away but he couldn't make out the "color or anything", but it looked similar to Darlene Ferrin's Corvair. It seems he didn't really know and may have just been trying to please the police by giving them something, rather than nothing.
The next statement he gave puts it into context "The car then drove off at a fairly fast rate of speed. Five minutes later the vehicle pulled up approximately 10 feet behind and to the right side of Dea's car. The vehicle's lights were left on and the subject got out and walked toward the car. He had a large high-powered flashlight, the kind you carry with a handle." The assailant's vehicle was directly behind, facing the Corvair, in an extremely dark parking lot, and Michael Mageau had both the headlights from the other vehicle and a high-powered flashlight in his eyes. There is absolutely no way he could determine with confidence what vehicle was parked behind them. If he couldn't determine the "color or anything" of the vehicle parked 6-8 feet to the left 5 minutes earlier, when his vision was unobstructed, he had no chance here.
After the assailant had shot the couple he drove away. Michael again described the vehicle "He only saw the rear portion of it, this rear part appearing to be a vehicle similar to or the same type as Dea's car, a Corvair. Also a very similar color, possibly a little bit lighter brown." These descriptions are less than convincing. The first page of the police report details the assailant's vehicle as a Corvair or Mustang. In a later newspaper article Michael Mageau described the vehicle as a "1958 or 1959 Falcon. The color was brown or bronze." It is apparent he was simply unsure of what vehicle he observed that night, which under the circumstances is totally understandable. But did Michael Mageau get the color correct. The answer could possibly be yes, but he was incorrect. By that I mean, his eyes saw brown, when in fact the color was closer to white.
The factory specifications of a 1959 or 1960 Chevrolet Impala show the vehicle was manufactured with a set range of colors.
One of which was 'Ermine White'. This color has a distinctive off white appearance.
On the right is a 1963 Corvette in 'Ermine White'.
It can be clearly seen that it has a distinct brown hue, although it is classified as white. In the image below I have created a night setting closer to that experienced by Michael Mageau. The 'Ermine White' vehicle takes on a distinctly more medium brown or bronze color, similar to the Corvair driven by Darlene Ferrin. This could easily account for the discrepancies in identification between Robert Connelly, Bingo Wesner and Michael Mageau. particularly considering the circumstances Michael Mageau faced that night.
Because of Michael Mageau's uncertainty, it is certainly possible the vehicle he encountered that night could have been the same vehicle observed at Lake Herman Road, a 1959 or 1960 white Chevrolet Impala, and go a long way in linking both these crimes together.
But was the vehicle that pulled alongside Darlene Ferin's Corvair only 6-8 feet to the left, the same vehicle that returned 5 minutes later and parked 10 feet behind. The answer is yet to be determined, but the curious behavior of the first sighting in an empty parking lot just prior to the shooting seems to suggest the two may very well be connected.
Raymond Grant- The White Chevrolet Impala.
In the 'Debut of Zodiac' letter received by the San Francisco Examiner on August 4th 1969, the Zodiac Killer stated;
"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." This negro male was never traced and did not feature in the police report.
The details of his age range and what he was wearing, on the face of it appear unnecessary, unless of course the Zodiac Killer was deliberately creating a fictional character who just so happened to observe his brown car. Bearing in mind Zodiac had likely read newspaper reports of Michael Mageau detailing a brown car in the parking lot of Blue Rock Springs, what better way to corroborate his sighting by further implanting the seed of a brown car into the minds of investigators, by the hand of this fictional eyewitness. If Zodiac's vehicle was 'Ermine White' then clearly this is to his advantage. Voluntarily offering the color of his vehicle as brown, if in fact it was brown, must be viewed with suspicion.
This website contains no advertisements. To help keep it running, any donations, however small, would be greatly appreciated. Thank you. Richard.
This site is constructed and authored by Richard Grinell from Coventry, England.
On a cold, dark night back on December 20th 1968, a young couple were enjoying a late night out, parked up in their Rambler, on a lonely gravel turnout, just off the unlit, narrow winding road of Lake Herman, when an unknown assailant shattered the tranquil night time air, gunning down both David Faraday and Betty Lou Jensen in cold blood and unleashing an unparalleled horror on a community, the like of which had never been seen before.