Kathleen Johns was purportedly abducted on March 22nd 1970 and taken on a 2-hour journey around the outskirts of Tracy, California, before emerging from the vineyards bordering Highway 132 and South Bird Road and rescued by some people from Missouri. The vineyards were only a few hundred meters from her disabled and burnt out vehicle, and the site of her abduction. This would have been one of the rare instances where an abductor actually returned the victim to the site of their abduction. There are people who don't believe Kathleen Johns was abducted at all, claiming it was pure fiction. I shall let you decide.
Joe Stine, brother of victim Paul Stine, who was murdered in Presidio Heights on October 11th 1969 by the Zodiac Killer, issued a challenge from Modesto on a KPIX news report. He was asked on October 22nd 1969 "What is the feeling among them (law enforcement) and people here in the city that you may be drawing the Zodiac here unnecessarily". Joe Stine replied "I haven't even considered these people on this, I am very selfish on this". Joe Stine lived and worked in Modesto as a mechanic..
The Zodiac Killer had struck in the Bay Area four times, so what was the likelihood he would now bypass this area and other closer cities and make the 150 mile round trip to Modesto from Vallejo (assuming he lived there or close by). This was the first time the Zodiac Killer was publicly challenged by a murder victim's famiy member, drawing ire from investigators and some people in Modesto towards Joe Stine for effectively enticing the killer into their midst - and we know how Zodiac rose to being challenged or questioned in the newspapers. If we believe the account of Kathleen Johns, the next time the Zodiac would resurface would be in Modesto exactly 5 months later. If this abduction was the work of the Bay Area murderer, was this simply a coincidence or had the Zodiac Killer chosen Modesto deliberately to add to the frustrations of law enforcement and bring condemnation upon the brother of Paul Stine?
If the Zodiac Killer lived in the Bay Area, would he really travel this distance late at night solely for the purpose of disabling a woman's vehicle and taking her on a trip around Tracy for upwards of two hours, unless it was important to strike fear into the people of Modesto in a wilful and deliberate choice on his part? After the challenge by Joe Stine on October 22nd 1969, two communications would arrive at the San Francisco Chronicle. The first contained the hidden message of Paradice and Slaves, along with By Gun, By Rope, By Knife and By Fire clockwise in each quadrant, effectively mimicking the Halloween card that would arrive nearly one year later. The second correspondence opened with the words "This is the Zodiac speaking up to the end of Oct I have killed 7 people. I have grown rather angry with the police for their telling lies about me. So I shall change the way the collecting of slaves. I shall no longer announce to anyone. When I committ my murders, they shall look like routine robberies, killings of anger, + a few fake accidents, etc".
The Zodiac Killer had already completed his attacks using a gun, rope and knife in that order, so what were the odds that his next attack after the challenge by Joe Stine would be in Modesto, use fire as part of the crime and attempt to imitate a fake accident, thereby changing his way of collecting slaves. The answer may have come five months later on March 22nd 1970, when the abductor of Kathleen Johns took her into nearby Tracy, but inexplicably headed back towards Modesto before she escaped into a field along Highway 132. Then for some unexplained reason decided to set fire to her vehicle, even though there seemed no purpose in doing so. If the Zodiac Killer had deposited any fingerprints on her vehicle by "snapping off the lights, and pocketing the keys" as Robert Graysmith claimed in his book, then it was a far easier task to just wipe down the couple of places he touched. Setting fire to her vehicle by the side of Highway 132 to extinguish fingerprints was totally unnecessary, unless of course, the Zodiac Killer wanted to satisfy the "by fire" element in his agenda.
Was the Zodiac Killer's choice of disabling the wheel of Kathleen Johns vehicle and subsequent abduction, based somewhat on the article above, making the deliberate choice of taking her on a two-hour ride of terror in order to bring condemnation back onto Joe Stine for the challenge he laid down in the media. It would also have had the added "noze rubed in your booboos" effect for law enforcement, who were initially upset and perplexed by the actions of Joe Stine.
Did the Zodiac Killer pick up the trail of Kathleen Johns in Modesto as she passed near the area where Joe Stine worked at the Richfield Service Station at 706 Sutter Avenue? Her journey along Highway 99, before turning west onto Highway 132, would have taken her only 4,750 feet from the Richfield Service Station. If this were the case, then we have the challenge laid down by Joe Stine in Modesto, followed by two communications that included "by fire" and "fake accidents", with the Zodiac Killer turning up in Modesto within one mile of the Richfield Service Station and subsequently disabling Kathleen Johns vehicle before setting it on fire. Does such a departure from his previous crimes pour doubt on this as a Zodiac attack, or is the Modesto connection reason enough to forge a viable fifth attack into the hands of the Bay Area murderer?
If the Zodiac Killer was responsible for the Kathleen Johns abduction on March 22nd 1970, then where had he been and where was he going to at around 11:15 pm? If he was heading back to the Bay Area when he picked up Kathleen Johns trail, had he finished working late that night and the attack on the young woman was simply an opportunistic abduction? It certainly makes little sense that the Zodiac Killer would make a round trip of 140 miles from somewhere like Vallejo, just to abduct a woman on a lonely stetch of highway. In the Robert Graysmith book, Kathleen Johns route that night was as follows:"She had made her way up dusty Interstate 5 and onto Highway 99 just before Bakersfield, through Fresno, Merced and Modesto, where she swung left onto Highway 132, a rarely used road. In her rear view mirror she noticed a car she seemed to have picked up on her tail in Modesto. It was near midnight whe Kathleen slowed to let the car pass her. Abruptly, the driver behind began to blink his lights and honk his horn. When Kathleen ignored this, the stranger accelerated and pulled into the lane alongside her 1957 Chevrolet station wagon. He yelled through his open side passenger window that her left rear wheel was wobbling. "But I didn't stop, because it was dangerous out there. I waited until I got to the freeway, then I stopped by 5''. If this was an opportunistic attack by the Zodiac Killer, where had he come from? Kathleen Johns could have picked up this tail anywhere along Highway 132, so we should examine the location in and around Modesto more closely. Below is a map showing the route taken by Kathleen Johns.
You will notice on the map above I have added two notable military bases that are pertinent to Highway 132. Somebody leaving NASA Crows Landing and heading to the Bay Area, would enter Interstate 5, travel 23 miles and join Highway 132, just 0.8 miles before the location of where Kathleen Johns pulled over her vehicle. This location was marginally east of Bird Road.
Somebody leaving Castle Air Force Base would also have joined Highway 99 (just like Kathleen Johns) and headed 34 miles to Modesto and then took Highway 132. Bearing in mind Kathleen Johns described her abductor as a "clean shaven and very neatly dressed man, thinking he may have been a service man or something", the possibility he had left one of these military airfields in his wing walker boots or some other military footwear, is certainly worthy of considerarion. When he had convinced Kathleen to take a ride with him, she noted that the "stranger's shoes had been shined so brightly, 'spit-shined' that they reflected the yellow interior lights of the car". The most direct route from both of these military airfields drops right onto Highway 132 and the route that Kathleen Johns noticed she had picked up a tail that night. The map below shows the position where Kathleen Johns vehicle was discovered burnt out, and the exact location where somebody traveling from NASA Crows Landing would have picked up Highway 132.
Crow’s Landing is an auxiliary field that served Alameda Naval Air Station and NASA Ames Research Center / Moffett Field. It opened in 1942. From the 1960s to the 1990s NASA used it to conduct flight tests on experimental aircraft. The Navy also used its runways to simulate carrier landings, installing portable “Meatball” lights and arrestor cables. link. Howard Gillins recalled, “I was at Crows Landing from 5/68 to 6/70. I was assigned to the Crash Fire Rescue Dept under civilian Fire Chief Walt Latham. We had 1 SAR helo assigned at Crows Landing: an H-34 & later an H-2. We had at that time 50 enlisted (5 CPO including LCPO) 1 OIC (Lcdr) & 5 civilians. We built & occupied the Club / Rec Center / Ship Store. We provided daytime touch & go practices for the military aircraft & at night carrier landing practices. We supported the LSO, hot refueling & minor maintenance & repairs". link.
Castle Air Force Base (1941–1995) is a former United States Air Force Strategic Air Command base located northeast of Atwater, northwest of Merced and about 115 miles south of Sacramento, California. The base, located in unincorporated Merced County, was closed in 1995 pursuant to a Base Realignment and Closure Commission decision following the end of the Cold War and the disestablishment of Strategic Air Command. It is now known as the Castle Airport Aviation and Development Center. From April 1968 to April 1974, the 93rd operated a special B-52 replacement training unit to support SAC's B-52 operation in Southeast Asia. Also, the 328th and 329th Bomb Squadrons deployed to U-Tapao Royal Thai Navy Airfield, Thailand where they flew combat missions over Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos during the Vietnam War. link.
Crows Landing was an auxiliary airfield connected to Alameda Naval Air Station and Moffett Federal Airfield in Santa Clara County, both in the Bay Area where we know the Zodiac Killer operated. Did these military bases play any part in the Zodiac Killer's chosen profession, being contracted to work between the Patterson area, just south of Modesto, and the eastern fringe of San Francisco? This area of work would certainly facilitate his mailing of letters without too much deviation.
Just one month after the abduction of Kathleen Johns, the Zodiac Killer mailed the April 20th 1970 '13 Symbol' cipher, in which one of the characters resembled a circled 8. Some have considered it could represent an 8-ball or eightball, bearing in mind the July 26th 1970 'Little List' letter - in which Zodiac promised to place Kathleen Johns top of. In the 'Little List' letter, he quoted from The Mikado, that "all billiard players I shall have them play in a darkened dungeon cell with crooked cues and twisted shoes. Yes, I shall have great fun inflicting the most delicious of pain to my slaves". Two days prior to the 'Little List' letter he addressed Kathleen Johns, stating "So now I have a little list, starting with that woeman + her baby that I gave a rather intersting ride for a coupple howers one evening a few months back that ended in my burning her car where I found them". The above makes the connection to the military even more interesting, when we consider the design of the NASA Crows Landing military patch, and the 'circled 8' letter that followed the abduction of Kathleen Johns on March 22nd 1970.
It has been claimed by Kathleen Johns that she received phone calls and a Halloween card (likely October 1970) from the Zodiac Killer, addressed "To the woman in the blue station wagon". This greeting card may have been simultaneously mailed with the Halloween card to Paul Avery on October 27th 1970, so it would be interesting to search for correlations between the 10/27/70 Halloween card and the abduction of Kathleen Johns. If the two Halloween cards were mailed by the Zodiac Killer around the same timeframe, then the inclusion of "by fire" alongside "To the woman in the blue station wagon" would leave little doubt that the two are connected. Traveling clockwise around the 10/27/70 Halloween card, the Zodiac Killer presented the weapons he used in the correct order of their appearance up to March 23rd 1970 - By Gun, By Rope, By Knife and By Fire. The young woman apparently forwarded this card she received to newspaper reporter Paul Avery, but like everything else in the Zodiac case it disappeared into the ether (assuming her story is true). It has been claimed that if the Zodiac was responsible for the mailing of a Halloween card to Kathleen Johns, then he was responsible for her abduction, because no mention of her driving a blue station wagon was published in the newspapers. Without trawling the entire newspaper collection from 1970, I cannot verify this detail one way or another.
As has already been suggested, the Zodiac Killer (or her abductor) would have had ample time to rummage through her vehicle after her ordeal was over and search for any letters or documents that contained her address and telephone details. Having deposited his fingerprints all over her vehicle, this may explain why he thought it easier to torch her 1957 Chevrolet, and why he returned to her vehicle after the 2-hour abduction - to gather information for his future correspondence.
Kathleen Johns effectively contradicted herself when she named Lawrence Kane as her likely abductor that night, because he would have been 45 years of age on March 22nd 1970. She described her abductor as white, around 30 years of age, 5'9" in height, 160 lbs, dark hair, clean-cut and having the traits of a serviceman. So how can we reconcile this difference?
For people who still believe that the Zodiac Killer was 20-30 years of age during his attacks, while also believing that the Kathleen Johns abduction was the work of the Zodiac Killer, we have to consider the amount of time she spent in his vehicle and her detailed description regarding the interior of the vehicle. Kathleen described his car as messy and had noticed men's and children's clothing scattered about, along with 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 designed in the age range of 8-12 years. Unless the Zodiac Killer was a traveling salesman selling children's clothing, or had borrowed the vehicle, a reasonable assumption would be that these haphazardly scattered clothes were part of a family vehicle. If Kathleen Johns upper estimate of the clothing was correct at 12 years - and a 20 to 30 year Zodiac conceived this child - he would have been approximately 8 to 18 years of age at the time (12 to 22 at the lower estimate), making the case for a Zodiac Killer of at least 30 or above more believable. If you don't accept that these clothes were necessarily the clothing of the Zodiac Killer's chidren, then an alternative explanation is necessary.
In 1972, the average age of fathers of newborns in the U.S. was 27 - so if the Zodiac was the biological father of the 12-year-old who wore the clothing present in his vehicle, then the statistical average would suggest a killer of about 39 years of age in 1970, in closer proximity to the age of Lawrence Kane (who she identified as her abductor), and very close to the average age of 40 described by three sets of eyewitnesses at Presidio Heights.
Howard Davis wrote on the old zodiackiller.com message board that "This woman felt that the PD rednecks were put off by Kathleen Johns hippy appearance and really didn't put much credence or interest in her recounting the event of that night". Was the same conclusion on the appearance of Kathleen Johns drawn by the Zodiac Killer, who paraphrased the Gilbert & Sullivan's Mikado in his communication on July 26th 1970, opening with the lines from 'As Some Day it May Happen', performed by Ko-Ko. The beginning of Act One stated "As some day it may hapen that a victom must be found. I've got a little list. I've got a little list, of society offenders who might well be underground, who would never be missed, who would never be missed".
Did the Zodiac Killer regard Kathleen Johns hippy tendencies as part of the counterculture or underground movement that he had on his "little list".- people that wouldn't be missed? The letter mailed only two days earlier to the San Francisco Chronicle would suggest so. He wrote on July 24th 1970, threatening "This is the Zodiac speaking. I am rather unhappy because you people will not wear some nice (Zodiac symbol inserted) buttons. So now I have a little list, starting with that woeman + her baby that I gave a rather intersting ride for a coupple howers one evening a few months back that ended in my burning her car where I found them". The phrase "I now have a little list, starting with that woeman + her baby" appeared to suggest that her escape would be short-lived and that some day it might happen. It appeared that three months later she may still have been in his sights, when she apparently received a Halloween card from her abductor at her home address. He had promised to "start" with her and he wasn't finished yet.
The 'As Some Day it May Happen' verse ended with "But it really doesn't matter whom you place upon the list, for none of them be missed, none of them be missed". Sadly, Kathleen Johns is no longer with us and deeply missed by her loved ones - but fortunately for her family and friends, it wasn't at the hand of the Zodiac Killer.
The Zodiac Killer appeared to have targeted specific areas in his search for victims, such as the secluded areas of Lake Herman Road, the Blue Rock Springs parking lot and Lake Berryessa, as well as his venture into the theater district of Union Square to deliberately target a San Francisco taxicab driver. But if the Modesto abduction of Kathleen Johns was a Zodiac crime, and he lived in the Bay Area, or more specifically Vallejo, then he went to extraordinary lengths to perpetrate his fifth recorded attack. Modesto is 86 miles from the site of his first attack at Lake Herman Road. That is a 172 mile round trip from Benicia.
If the abduction was the only purpose of his visit, we would have to believe he left his residence at sometime around 9:30 pm on Sunday night at the latest, to travel for 1.5 to 2 hours to a random stretch of highway in Modesto, for the sole purpose of flagging down a passing motorist, when this same technique could have been applied anywhere from Martinez, Concord or Walnut Creek - or an area he was possibly more familiar with. Three to four hours of driving to and from the destination, plus a 2 hour abduction, would mean anywhere up to 6 hours driving, for what turned out to be nothing more than a 'joyride'. Unless of course, there was a purpose behind his visit to Modesto, and the Kathleen Johns abduction was a mere afterthought and spur of the moment decision on his way home.
On October 11th 1969, taxicab driver Paul Stine was murdered in Presidio Heights. On October 22nd 1969, the same day as the supposed Oakland PD phone call by Zodiac, requesting that either Melvin Belli or Francis Lee Bailey, high profile lawyers at the time, appear on a chat show hosted by Jim Dunbar, Joe Stine, brother of the victim, issued a challenge to Zodiac on a KPIX news report. It was reported in the San Francisco Chronicle the following day. Joe Stine stated "Zodiac has to be sick, a maniac. I hope that by offering myself as a target I can flush him out. I work at the Richfield Service Station at 706 Sutter Street in Modesto, near Rouse Street. I start at 7 am. I go to lunch at the Walk-In Chicken in a shopping center two blocks away, riding a bicycle along Sutter Street and leaving the station at noon each day. I go back to the service station and work until 5".
Joe Stine lived with his mother in Modesto.
During the interview on the KPIX news report, Joe Stine was asked: "What is your feeling among them or people in the city that you may be drawing the Zodiac here unnecessarily". Joe Stine stated that it was 99% likely the Zodiac wouldn't take up his challenge. It seemed unlikely, but exactly 5 months later the Zodiac appeared on Highway 132, west of Modesto. If this was Zodiac - was it a coincidence? Did the Zodiac make the journey to Modesto over the weekend of March 20th to the early hours of March 23rd (possibly even stopping over) with the express intention of taking up Joe Stine on his challenge and proving this 99% assertion incorrect?
Joe Stine rode a bicycle to work, that may have indicated his mother's residence was relatively close to the Richfield Service Station at Sutter Street. Had the Zodiac Killer traveled to Modesto and followed Joe Stine at any point over the weekend, thereby locating the residence of his mother - presumably Joe Stine would not have been working on a Sunday. Whatever the case, the attack never materialized. Then Kathleen Johns was abducted just shy of Bird Road on Highway 132, en route to Petaluma, and ironically, according to the police report, the suspect drove "west on Highway 132 and pulled into a Richfield service station that was closed". He surely must have been aware it was closed?
Kathleen Johns traveled from San Bernardino, California to Highway 132, via Highway 99, turning west just by downtown Modesto. She would have traveled on Highway 99, just 4,840 feet, or 1.48 km east of the Richfield Service Station where Joe Stine worked - and likely close to where he resided with his mother. Is this where Zodiac picked up her trail, somewhere along Highway 132, en route to his weekend residence, or on his way home to the Bay Area? This may be an unlikely scenario of events, but if the Modesto abduction of Kathleen Johns was unrelated to Joe Stine, why did the Zodiac Killer make a daunting 6 hour trek all over California just to flag down and give a ride to a random motorist, that he could have done anywhere? Additionally, do we put the abduction in Modesto as a coincidence, bearing in mind Joe Stine's connection to Modesto, and the previous attack was on his brother in San Francisco. Was it just a case of happenstance?
On Zodiac Killer Site forum there is an interesting letter highlighted- sent to the editor of the Modesto Bee newspaper. AK Wilks stated "Someone reacted to Joe Stine very strongly. Doug Oswell and I, and some others, wonder if this letter from AROUSED is actually the Zodiac" Joe Stine worked near ROUSE Street. Bearing in mind how Zodiac signed off some of his letters, it's worthy of consideration. The Modesto Bee communication can be viewed on the forum, or directly here.
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Kathleen Johns, seven months pregnant, and accompanied by her 10-month-old daughter Jennifer, were traveling along Highway 132, west of Modesto, en route to Petaluma, California to visit her sick mother, when she was 'abducted' and taken on a two-hour journey around the outskirts of Tracy. She claimed it was the notorious Zodiac Killer, identifying him from a wanted poster hanging at Patterson Police Station. It seems extremely odd that Kathleen Johns was taken on a two-hour journey around Tracy, California by an extremely dangerous individual, yet managed to escape into a field possibly as little as 400 meters from her abandoned car. In other words, she just happened to escape from the perpetrator's vehicle at the point she began her two-hour abduction. According to Robert Graysmith, who told her story in his Zodiac book. Kathleen Johns 'scooped up Jennifer and jumped from the car, dashed across the road, and leapt into an irrigation ditch surrounded by tall grass in the middle of a field. "It was all wine vineyard with a little gully and I just laid as flat as I could". As Gian Quasar stated in his excellent article "Johns made many mistakes in her retelling of the events that prove damning to her own initial story let alone the legend she later adopted. One very significant one is that she said when she escaped from “The ZODIAC” into the fields she plainly described them as vineyards (Graysmith). The only vineyards around 132 are at Bird Road. They are still there today. The only thing Johns has ever been able to clearly describe is the immediate area of where she initially stopped. No other place". link.
Using the measurements on Google maps, Kathleen Johns 1957 Chevrolet station wagon, parked just east of Bird Road, could have been as little as 300-400 meters from the location she escaped into the vineyard, assuming the abductor was returning from Tracy. Kathleen Johns stated in the Robert Graysmith book "I couldn't handle it anymore, so I decided the next time he came to one of those Hollywood stops - you know - not a complete stop - that he made at the different stop signs, I was going to jump out." Suddenly the car came to a halt. The man had inadvertently driven up a freeway offramp (A short section of road which allows vehicles to enter or exit a highway; also called entrance ramp or highway ramp). Somewhere in the location (shown in the link above or image below) we have the likelihood of an intersection 'offramp' and vineyard in close proximity to one another. The police report stated "Mrs Johns then got to a roadway or highway, this part is not clear to undersigned or to the Stanislaus Deputy, Mr Lovett, but finally did get back on highway or near Highway 132, where she was given a ride by some people from Missouri". Not being clear or able to remember you were rescued a mere stone's throw from your vehicle, could be useful in an abduction claim.
The premise here, is that Kathleen Johns was not abducted, and was able to recollect or describe the vineyards and the freeway offramp, because she abandoned her vehicle and walked to the vineyard nearby. This however, would require her to disable the lug nuts on her wheel and then set the car on fire, before leaving her vehicle and carrying her daughter into the field. We also have to consider that any rescuer traveling from east to west, would likely spot the burning vehicle before they discovered her by the roadside. The anonymous good Samaritan, despite Kathleen Johns harrowing experience over two uncomfortable hours, heavily pregnant and carrying a 10-month-old child, who took the time to rescue the pair, apparently and inexplicably didn't escort her into Patterson Police Station in a show of support and comfort. The police report mentioned nothing about this eyewitness because Kathleen Johns stated "when I got to this little one-horse town, she let me off in front of the police station". This seems extremely odd, bearing in mind the concern previously exhibited by her savior. Some people have suggested this may have been an insurance job by burning her vehicle, although this seems a hell of a lot of effort, 368 miles from her San Bernardino residence, to claim such a payout. Is it possible that this was something far more creative and designed for publicity, by feeding into the Zodiac Killer story for gain. There may be three possibilities, assuming Kathleen Johns didn't disable and destroy her own vehicle, particularly bearing in mind she was pregnant with a small child.
 Kathleen Johns traveled with another adult, who drove her near to, or by Patterson Police Station (where she just happened to spot a picture of Zodiac who resembled her abductor), then drove the vehicle back to the predetermined location, disabled the vehicle and set it alight, taking the car keys with them. The police never recovered the vehicle's keys.  Kathleen Johns was rescued by the good Samaritan and taken to Patterson Police Station, while the person who traveled with her remained near the vehicle. Once Kathleen had been rescued, the accomplice grabbed the car keys, then disabled and set fire to the vehicle.  Kathleen Johns was telling the truth, and she truly is a victim here.
But we have to consider the story told in Robert Graysmith's book: "Kathleen gathered up Jennifer and got into the man's car. Just as they were pulling out, she noticed that the lights to her car were still on and remembered that the keys were still in the ignition. The man smiled, went back to her car, snapped off the lights, and pocketed the keys". Despite him being friendly at this juncture, she failed to ask for her keys?
It was reported in the Modesto Bee newspaper that Kathleen Johns had "set out at 4:00 pm from San Bernardino". But was this true, or was it designed to place her on Highway 132 at 11.15 pm - the time stated in the police report as her time of abduction. Kathleen Johns was seven months pregnant with a 10-month-old child. Heavily pregnant women have to visit the toilet regularly, not withstanding the fact, she was driving a 1957 Chevrolet station wagon she described in the Robert Graysmith book as junky: "The man (supposedly Zodiac) started flashing his lights off and on. My car was such a clunker I figured something was wrong with it".
From San Bernardino to Bird Road is 368 miles. It would take just over 6 hours traveling non-stop at 60 mph to reach Bird Road. That would place Kathleen Johns being pulled over at around 10:00 pm. But she was driving a "clunky" 1957 Chevrolet station wagon and was pregnant with a small child in tow. It likely took longer. We will allow an hour extra (7 hours journey time), which give or take a few minutes, would mean that an approximate 4:00 pm departure time, has her traveling towards Bird Road around 11:15 pm. However, did the truth come out when relaxed and being interviewed by Robert Graysmith at a later date, when she was far more detailed : "Kathleen Johns bundled up her ten month-old daughter, Jennifer, and left her home in San Bernardino at 7:00 pm for the trip to Petaluma, a small dairy-farming community, where her sick mother lived. It was easier to travel at night while the baby slept".
If this was the true time, it would make the abduction claim virtually impossible. A 368 mile journey with such a vehicle, in her condition, could only be achieved in just over 4 hours (7:00 pm to 11:15 pm), if you were traveling at 86 mph non-stop. But if you took 7 hours (as described above), then you would arrive at Bird Road on Highway 132 at around 2:00 am, the approximate time she was 'rescued' and taken to Patterson Police Station, thereby making the abduction story now fiction. She is either driven by her accomplice to Patterson Police Department (20-30 minute journey), who drove the vehicle back, or she is picked up by the good Samaritan from Missouri and taken to the police department. Either way, she would now arrive at the Patterson Police Station at 2:30 am. The time recorded by Sergeant Charles J McNatt.
Donna Ann Lass disappeared without a trace on September 6th 1970 and is presumed murdered, possibly by the Zodiac Killer.
He would insinuate a connection on March 22nd 1971 when the 'Pines' card addressed to Paul Avery arrived at the San Francisco Chronicle. Donna Lass had been working as a nurse at the Sahara Tahoe Hotel & Casino, where she curiously vanished from at approximately 1:45 am, just before her shift was about to finish at 2:00 am. She had not traveled to work that day in her Chevrolet Camaro convertible, but chose to walk to work from a previous residence. Her abductor or abductors seemingly targeted the end of her shift - and in the hours after the crime - rang her employer and her landlord to state she had been called away due to a family illness. A story that was subsequently proved false. This certainly suggested that the phone caller was buying time before any investigation got underway, thereby strongly indicating a connection between Donna Lass and her assailant. The delay generated by such a call would enable the assailant to dispose of Donna Lass and/or possibly remove incriminating evidence from their vehicle or home address. This would heavily lean towards one thing - that the murderer was close enough to Donna Lass to expect the police to be knocking on his door sooner rather than later.
The gaps in Zodiac's timeline can likely indicate more about our killer than the actual murders themselves. In his timeline three notable delays in correspondence can be noted.
After the Lake Herman Road double murder of David Faraday and Betty Lou Jensen on December 20th 1968 he waited 6 1/2 months to communicate with the public. After the disputed Modesto abduction of Kathleen Johns on March 22nd 1970 he waited 4 months to lay claim to the crime. And finally, in the disappearance of Donna Lass it would be again 6 1/2 months before the 'Pines' card would arrive at the Chronicle. After Blue Rock Springs it was 27 days. After Lake Berryessa it was a matter of minutes, with the writing on the car door of Bryan Hartnell. The murder of Paul Stine in Presidio Heights, his last confirmed crime, was followed by correspondence only 2 days later. Were the delays in communication after Lake Herman Road, Modesto and Lake Tahoe indicative of applied caution on behalf of the Zodiac Killer? Lake Herman Road may be understandable, if indeed this was his first venture into murder. But what of Modesto and Lake Tahoe? Was the Zodiac Killer temporarily stationed in these areas through employment, and waited to return to the Bay Area before communicating with the newspapers to apply separation from the area?
Many people believe the Zodiac Killer lived in Vallejo, or in close proximity to it, while posting his correspondence from San Francisco on his way to and from work. His profession is an avenue worth exploring regarding the Modesto abduction of Kathleen Johns and the Lake Tahoe disappearance of Donna Lass, particularly in light of his delayed communications. If he traveled to either of these locations on a 'day trip', with no connection whatsoever to each area, then there would be no need for a combined delay of 10 1/2 months before his contact with the newspapers. The implication being, that these areas had greater significance to the killer than he would like us to know. This may be further borne out by the customary Zodiac phone call - but this time used to delay the investigation into the disappearance of Donna Lass, because he knew her enough to believe the police may pay him a visit.
The journey from Vallejo to South Lake Tahoe is a simple one, encompassing the two major highways of U.S. Route 80 and U.S Route 50. The latter runs past the apartment of Donna Lass at 3893 Pioneer Trail Road, the Paradice Motel (Halloween Card) and the once Sahara Tahoe Hotel. Shown here. This route also runs directly through Sacramento, notable for the murders of Judith Hakari, Nancy Bennallack and Carol Beth Hilburn on March 7th 1970, October 25th 1970 and November 14th 1970 respectively. All three of these murders have been suggested as possible Zodiac attacks. Can we connect San Francisco, Modesto and South Lake Tahoe in terms of the Zodiac Killer's profession?
The Naval Air Station Alameda is situated on San Francisco Bay, close to the Oakland Bay Bridge. However, during and since World War 2 it became headquarters for a system of auxiliary airfields, that included Crows Landing Naval Auxiliary Air Station and Fallon Auxiliary Airfield. The Naval Auxiliary Air Station Crows Landing is only 25 miles from the area where Kathleen Johns was abducted. If you exit NASA Crows Landing heading north on Interstate 5, it then joins Highway 132 only 0.8 miles before the point where Kathleen Johns was flagged over and where the vehicle was ultimately found burnt out. Zodiac would have entered Highway 132 just behind Kathleen Johns and trailed her for approximately 2 minutes, before he made his move.
Fallon Auxiliary Airfield is on a direct route through South Lake Tahoe to the east, on U.S Route 50. If the Zodiac Killer knew Donna Lass, he may have been stationed at this auxiliary airfield and frequented South Lake Tahoe. Investigators in Riverside also pursued the idea that the murderer of Cheri Jo Bates on October 30th 1966 may have worked at the March Air Reserve Base, Riverside, situated only 14 miles from the Terracina Drive crime scene. This was considered because of the military heel print discovered in the alleyway by the body of Cheri Jo Bates. This coupled with the military Wing Walker boot impressions found at Lake Berryessa on September 27th 1969 may indicate an Air Force connection, or indeed airplanes in general. After all, the Zodiac Killer did introduce himself with "This is the Zodiac speaking".
"An auxiliary force is an organized group supplementing but not directly incorporated in a regular military or police entity. It may comprise either civilian volunteers undertaking support functions or additional personnel directly performing military or police duties, usually on a part-time basis. Historically the designation "auxiliary" has also been given to foreign or allied troops in the service of a nation at war. In the context of colonial armies locally recruited irregulars were often described as auxiliaries". Source Wikipedia.
The immediate correspondence after the disappearance of Donna Lass was the '13 Hole' postcard on October 5th 1970. However, this was likely mailed in response to his 'Little List' letter of July 26th 1970 having not being featured in the newspapers. Both claimed 13 victims, so Donna Lass being abducted after July 26th 1970 cannot be the "big thirteenth". If she truly was a Zodiac victim, then she had to be victim number 14, dispelling the idea that the 'Halloween' card was a veiled threat towards San Francisco Chronicle reporter Paul Avery.
There is some validity to the idea that the 'Halloween' card was indicating the murder of Donna Lass. This correspondence and the 'Pines' card were both addressed to Paul Avery, and both made similar references. The 'Halloween' card featured a tree with an eye in the knothole, with the accompanying phrase "peek-a-boo you are doomed". The 'Pines' card held the phrases "peek through the pines", and the upside-down "around in the snow" - likely indicative of a burial or disposal site, along with the choice of skeletons on the 'Halloween' card almost two months after the crime. Did the Zodiac Killer work as an auxiliary at Riverside, Patterson, San Francisco and Fallon? The FBI certainly considered this possibility in a least three of the locations.
Kathleen Johns was supposedly abducted by the Zodiac Killer on March 22nd 1970, but what really happened on Highway 132 late that night? The first thing to examine is the very beginning when Kathleen accepted a lift from a complete stranger.
In the Robert Graysmith book, in her first contact with the man on Highway 132 she said "he seemed like a reliable person. Nobody that looked in anyway freaky", and continued "I really wouldn't have gotten in his car if I had had any bad vibes about it." It is therefore unusual that as they pulled away she remembered that she had left her keys in the ignition of her 1957 Chevrolet, which the man offered to and ultimately retrieved for her. According to the book "the man went back to the car, snapped off the lights and pocketed the keys". If Kathleen Johns had observed this, then why wouldn't she simply ask the man for the keys when he returned, after all, he seemed amiable up to this point? These keys were never recovered from the burnt out vehicle or from Kathleen Johns.
In most crimes, particularly regarding eyewitness testimony, it is imperative to retrieve information while memories are stronger. Often years later, such as the Robert Graysmith book 'Zodiac', memories have often faded or have become embellished with fiction as our minds attempt to fill in the gaps. So let us take a look at the police report detailing the interview with Kathleen Johns immediately following the abduction in the early hours of March 23rd 1970. It states the complainant approximated the beginning of the abduction at 11:15 pm, followed by a one, to one and a half hour drive around the outskirts of Tracy, CA, before she managed to escape into a nearby field back alongside Highway 132. According to Robert Graysmith, a semi-truck arrived and forced her abductor to drive off into the night, followed a short time later by "some people from Missouri" who drove Kathleen to Patterson Police Station, located approximately 20 minutes away from Highway 132 and recorded by the Sheriff's Department at 2:30 am.
This, however, places a serious strain on the timeline. Even a 90 minute abduction, a 20 minute journey to the police station and an extra 15 minutes thrown in for good measure, giving a total of 125 minutes (2 hours and 5 minutes), leaves us a heavy shortfall. An 11:15 pm abduction, plus 125 minutes, takes us to 1:20 am, not 2:30 am as recorded on the police statement. This has subsequently been padded out in the Robert Graysmith book to an abduction occurring close to midnight and an abduction lasting 2-3 hours, a massive change from the original police report that only sears holes in the validity of this account, or at the very least raises serious questions.
It seems inconceivable that a young woman would torch her own vehicle in the early hours of a cold March 23rd 1970 in the middle of nowhere, endangering not only herself and the lives of her unborn child and 10-month-old daughter Jennifer, to concoct a story of abduction, particularly at the hands of the Zodiac Killer. To deliberately interject herself into the Zodiac story for material gain would rely heavily on the Zodiac sketch being conveniently displayed on the wall of the Patterson Police Station for her to say "that's the man who abducted me", and presumably a police station she had previously never visited.
Interviewing Officer Charles McNatt would describe Kathleen Johns as screaming and hysterical, which no doubt she would be after her terrifying ordeal: "On the morning of 23rd March 1970, at about 02:30 hours Mrs Kathleen Johns was brought to the Patterson Police Department in a hysterical condition". All the more strange then, that the "people from Missouri" who picked her up, failed to accompany her into the police station to give her some moral support, particularly after going out of their way and driving her 20 minutes to the police station in the first place.
The depiction of this crime in many documentaries has led us to believe that Kathleen Johns wheel came off after being sabotaged by a 'good Samaritan', but there is no evidence to corroborate this. In fact, the opposite is true. In the police report it states that Mr Reed of 'Reed and Son Towing Services' found that "the right rear wheel had had only two lug bolts on it and both of these lug bolts were very loose. Mr Reed advised that he took two of the lug bolts from the right front wheel and put them on the back wheel and tightened the lug bolts up prior to towing the vehicle to his shop on Highway 50". The responsible had loosened the lug bolts but the wheel never actually detached from her vehicle - and Mr Reed makes no mention of retrieving a wheel along with its missing lug nuts, and reattaching it to Kathleen Johns car. The only thing that flew off her vehicle was the hubcap, dislodged by the instability of the wheel. A hubcap was later retrieved and dusted for fingerprints.
Another thing that did not happen that night, are claims that her vehicle was found burnt out at a different location to where she was abducted. This is a fiction straight from the book of Robert Graysmith. If we take a look at passages from the 'Zodiac' book, it states that Kathleen Johns was offered a lift "not more than a quarter of a mile away was an ARCO service station". Kathleen, according to Robert Graysmith's book, had been pulled over by the edge of Maze Road near Interstate 5. Deputy Lovett was incorrect in stating the vehicle was found 2 miles east of Interstate 5, but was corrected in Detective Bauer's report which indicated the burnt vehicle was located west of Interstate 5, further confirmed by Mr Reed from 'Reed and Son Towing Services' stating he "towed the vehicle in from Highway 132, just east of Bird Road". East of Bird Road is west of Interstate 5. See here on Google Maps. If we drop down to street level we see the vineyards that Kathleen Johns eventually escaped into, meaning she actually ended up in very close proximity to where she was abducted.
On the left we see the approximate location of the ARCO service station (marked in red) and the location of Kathleen Johns burnt out vehicle (marked in blue), both west of Interstate 5. In fact, in Robert Graysmith's book, Kathleen Johns describes seeing the ARCO sevice station in the distance, "not more than a quarter of a mile away", when in fact it was over two miles away.
If Deputy Lovett was correct in stating the vehicle was found 2 miles east of Interstate 5, then Kathleen Johns would have been pulled over by her assailant nearly 5 miles from the ARCO station and clearly out of visible range.
As Gian Quasar points out in the excellent Quester Files here: "when she escaped from “The ZODIAC” into the fields she plainly described them as vineyards (Graysmith). The only vineyards around 132 are at Bird Road. They are still there today. The only thing Johns has ever been able to clearly describe is the immediate area of where she initially stopped. No other place." The police report stated "Mrs Johns then got to a roadway or highway, this part is not clear to undersigned or to the Stanislaus Deputy, Mr Lovett, but finally did get back on highway or near Highway 132, where she was given a ride by some people from Missouri".
In essence, the abductor took Kathleen Johns on a 1-2 hour journey around the outskirts of Tracy, before eventually returning her to exactly the same location she was abducted, where her vehicle was burnt out and where she escaped into the vineyards. Of all the places to escape, just where your car was originally left. That could be interpreted as cynical, but it begs the question that something about this story doesn't sit well, as it contains so many inconsistencies that all cannot be attributed to hysteria. Since Kathleen Johns was discovered by the vineyards of Bird Road close to where her vehicle was 'abandoned', there is no way the abductor could have driven immediately from this location to her vehicle and set it ablaze, as this would have been noticed by, not only Kathleen Johns, but by the occupants of the vehicle that rescued her, who obviously were traveling along Highway 132 before spotting the semi-truck and the stricken Johns. There was clearly no mention of her vehicle being on fire in the police report prior to its discovery by Deputy Lovett. This can only mean one thing - that Zodiac was likely observing from a distance until the rescue and removal of Kathleen Johns from the area, before he torched her vehicle.
The Zodiac Killer would eventually lay claim to the abduction on July 24th 1970: "This is the Zodiac speaking.
I am rather unhappy because you people will not wear some nice ( Zodiac symbol inserted ) buttons. So now I have a little list, starting with that woeman + her baby that I gave a rather intersting ride for a coupple howers one evening a few months back that ended in my burning her car where I found them". But was it really Zodiac?
11.15 pm- Kathleen Johns flagged down by suspect.
11.20 pm- Kathleen Johns accepts lift from suspect.
01.50 am- After 2 hours and 30 minutes driving around Tracy, CA, Kathleen Johns escapes into vineyard.
01.55 am- Semi-truck arrives, Kathleen Johns reluctant to seek help from the male driver.
02.00 am- Second vehicle arrives with female occupant and rescues Kathleen Johns.
02.30 am- Kathleen Johns arrives at Patterson PD.
03.00 am- Deputy Lovett locates smoldering vehicle of Kathleen Johns.
We as humans fall into patterns or habits that may last for months, years, or even a lifetime, depending on our circumstances at any given point. The Zodiac Killer may have changed weapons, vehicles or his residency during his reign of terror from December of 1968 to his eventual drift into complete anonymity, so the concept of this article is to focus in on the last three chronological attacks he committed or claimed to have committed. That of Paul Stine, murdered in Presidio Heights, San Francisco on October 11th 1969, the abduction of Kathleen Johns near Modesto five months later, on March 22nd 1970 and finally the murder of Richard Radetich on June 19th 1970, in his police car near 643 Waller Street, San Francisco. These three attacks spanned an eighth month period, after which no future crimes were ever directly claimed by the Bay Area Killer. Two of these three crimes deviated from his previous attacks, in the sense the killer actually positioned himself within the vehicle with the victim - as a passenger in Presidio Heights and as the driver on Highway 132, near Modesto. But are the crimes linked in any other way? What follows are slim pickings, however we shall proceed.
A white car was noted precedent to the Lake Herman Road murders by several eyewitnesses, notably a 1959/60 Chevrolet Impala. The factory specifications show this 1960 model of Chevrolet was produced in Ermine White. The color has a distinctive brown hue, which is further enhanced under dim or artificial light conditions. Kathleen Johns described the assailant's vehicle as light tan.
On the same evening as the Kathleen Johns abduction, two men, Frederick Beaman and William Horton were traveling on Highway 132, near Highway 33 and Interstate 580, when a man passed them in a white 1959 Buick and continued about a mile down the road where he pulled up and attempted to flag them down. They continued on without stopping. The incident was reported to Sergeant Hall of the Stanislaus County Sheriff's Office on March 23rd 1970, the day after the Kathleen Johns abduction. They had read the abduction account in the Modesto Bee newspaper - and believing it to be relevant information - reported it to authorities. Whether these two vehicles are one and the same will never be known, however, three months later Richard Radetich was murdered and another white car would come into play.
The Zodiac Killer on April 20th 1970, in his '13 Symbol' cipher correspondence, intimated the murder of a policeman, stating "There is more glory in killing a cop than a cid because a cop can shoot back". Two months later, Richard Radetich was dead, gunned down by three shots from a .38 caliber revolver at point blank range through the driver side window of his vehicle while in the process of serving a parking ticket. A crime the Zodiac Killer would claim only seven days later. Curiously, a white car was spotted speeding away from the area of the murder that night. A gas station attendant recalled seeing a white Cadillac racing down Oak Street and entering Divisadero Street only 0.3 miles from the murder scene. Could this white car have been the one observed in the area of Highway 132? It's a stretch, so let us examine any parallels between the last two murders claimed by the Zodiac Killer, separated by only eight months and 2.5 miles. View here on Google Maps.
The Zodiac Killer traveled in Paul Stine's taxicab along Washington Street, yet when he exited from the crime scene and headed up Cherry Street, he effectively backtracked on himself. He headed east along Jackson Street, when he may as well have exited the taxicab at least one block earlier, the destination of Washington and Maple, written on the trip sheet. It's as though he had his plans changed by unforseen circumstances, or was leaving a 'buffer zone' to his vehicle or residence.
Parking his vehicle somewhere near to Jackson Street, to travel away to the theater district, then hail a taxicab to enable his return to Presidio Heights in order to commit a murder and make his escape by vehicle, has always seemed a convoluted way of perpetrating a crime. There are far easier ways of negotiating this crime.
The movements of the killer also suggested there was no vehicle lying in wait somewhere by Jackson Street, as eyewitness recollections and Zodiac ramblings in the Bus Bomb letter seem to indicate. Zodiac stated that he entered the park at Spruce Street "p.s. 2 cops pulled a goof abot 3 min after I left the cab. I was walking down the hill to the park when this cop car pulled up + one of them called me over + asked if I saw anyone acting suspicious or strange in the last 5 to 10 min + I said yes there was this man who was runnig by waveing a gun & the cops peeled rubber + went around the corner as I directed them + I disappeared into the park a block + a half away never to be seen again". This was corroborated by eyewitnesses in Spruce Street, who described a man similar in nature to the three teenagers and Donald Fouke, seen running into the Julius Khan playground entrance.
The Zodiac Killer would further state in the Bus Bomb letter that "The dogs never came with in 2 blocks of me + they were to the west". The sniffer dogs were assembled by the Julius Khan playground, so at this point in time Zodiac had obviously moved eastwards by two blocks, now placing him in the bushes opposite Laurel Street. The dogs were fanning across the park from the north, west and south (by the park entrance). The Zodiac Killer had only one option - the one he had most likely already planned - to head for the safety of home and so continued eastwards. His final directional statement was "there was only 2 groups of parking about 10 min apart then the motor cicles went by about 150 ft away going from south to north west". The only possible vantage point that appears to corroborate this statement are the bushes and trees bordering Presidio Boulevard (see here). From here the motorcycles circling the Presidio Park would be 150 feet from Zodiac, traveling along Presidio Boulevard from the 'south to the nothwest'.
"The S.F. Police could have caught me last night if they had searched the park properly instead of holding road races with their motorcicles seeing who could make the most noise. The car drivers should have just parked their cars and sat there quietly waiting for me to come out of cover". But they didn't, so Zodiac took his opportunity once the motorcycles had passed and exited the park via Presidio Boulevard into the Cow Hollow region on the eastern flank of the park. Was the killer's residence close by? Now of course, this is speculation and we cannot know for sure, but the Zodiac Killer's statements, allied to the eyewitness observations by Spruce Street are the only tangible snippets we have to go on regarding the events of October 11th 1969. Well almost....
The Paul Stine letter was mailed from the Inner Richmond area two days later, very close to Presidio Park. If indeed the Zodiac Killer lived in the Cow Hollow region bordering the park, this would certainly exhibit the least effort principle, where humans tend not to expend any extra energy to what is required - yet in the case of a serial killer using a measure of caution, applying a buffer zone to his activity is logical. In the case of Inner Richmond and Cow Hollow, this would be the bare minimum.
As stated earlier, a white Cadillac was observed speeding away from the Richard Radetich murder site, traveling on Oak Street, before turning north on Divisadero Street. The murderer had options after the killing, to travel east, west, north or south. The driver made three directional changes to enable a northerly heading on Divisadero Street. If the killer had proceeded north on Divisadero Street, he would eventually have passed Washington Street and Jackson Street into the Cow Hollow region on the eastern fringes of Presidio Park and aligned with the directional movements of the Zodiac Killer on October 11th 1969. It's weak, but it's all we have from the Zodiac and eyewitness testimony.
Finally, Alex Lewis secured the redacted FBI file naming Xenophon Anthony as a possible subject in the murder of Paul Stine on October 11th 1969, who resided at 3218 Jackson Street. This is the only subject named by an eyewitness regarding all four confirmed attacks - so from this standpoint it carries some measure of weight - although from here the trail appears to go cold again. 3218 Jackson Street however, is only 0.4 mile or 2 minutes west of Divisadero Street, and a stone's throw from Presidio Park.
The connections are weak, but the killer's movements are literally all we have to go on - and in both instances, that of the Richard Radetich and Paul Stine murder - a collision course somewhere along Jackson Street could be argued, along with a white vehicle, possibly identified three times inside of three months, from the Modesto abduction of Kathleen Johns to the murder of Richard Radetich by 643 Waller Street.
There are many basement properties along Divisadero Street, and steep inclines from at least two directions entering the intersections, so I wonder if the Zodiac stating "I have killed ten people to date. It would have been a lot more except that my bus bomb was a dud. I was swamped out by the rain we had a while back" could be a consideration.
Throughout the Zodiac Killer's correspondence the focus would remain on the San Francisco Chronicle, but did he work in the area, live there or possibly both. The jury is out.
In a previous article it was shown how the Zodiac Killer began mailing his later correspondence further afield, beginning on March 13th 1971, when the Zodiac Killer mailed the 'Los Angeles' letter from Pleasanton, Alameda County. This was followed by the 1974 letters, including the 'Citizen Card', again mailed from Alameda County, along with the 'Red Phantom' letter, postmarked San Rafael, Marin County on July 8th 1974. All had Interstate 580 in common, suggesting that the Zodiac Killer may have been mailing his letters to and from particular locations, that tied in with the military bases of Alameda Naval Air Station and Naval Auxiliary Field Crows Landing - the latter of which is situated only 24 miles from the intersection of Highway 132 and Interstate 5, the area where Kathleen Johns was abducted on March 22nd 1970. The connection we were trying to formulate was a military angle, the killer's reasons for being at specific locations at particular times and murders that took place close by to certain major travel routes. The killer, if murdering on the fly, needs ease of access and egress if at all possible, especially when you have avoided near capture, as experienced on October 11th 1969. To catch up on the previous article visit http://www.zodiacciphers.com/zodiac-news/en-route-to-san-francisco
The Zodiac Killer appeared to cease his murderous rampage by 1970, yet there were four murders, one abduction and a missing woman (likely murdered), all along one particular route - that of Interstate 5 and Interstate 80, which directly spans South Bird Road (the area of Kathleen Johns abduction), to the area where Donna Lass went missing from Stateline, Nevada on September 6th 1970, having finished her shift that day at the Sahara Tahoe Hotel. There were three murders in Sacramento.
Judith Hakari was a nurse at Sutter Hospital, who disappeared heading back to the Markston Apartments on March 7th 1970. Her body was later discovered by Ponderosa Way in Weimar, forty two miles away, along Interstate 80. Nancy Bennallack was murdered on October 25th 1970 in her apartment, just a stone's throw from where Judith Hakari lived, near Glendale Lane. Carol Beth Hilburn was murdered on November 14th 1970, last seen on Del Paso Boulevard and found on Ascot and 4th Street. These two areas are bisected by Interstate 80. Sandwiched in between these murders were the two abductions of Donna Lass and Kathleen Johns.
If we look at the relevant areas off Interstate 5 and Interstate 80, then we notice certain key features.
The site of Kathleen Johns abduction and where her vehicle was discovered burnt out, is only 1 mile or 2 minutes traveling time from Interstate 5. The residence of Judith Hakari and the area her body was discovered, not only were situated alongside Interstate 80, but Ponderosa Way is only 2 miles or 5 minutes from Interstate 80, and the Markston Apartments only 4 miles or 8 minutes from Interstate 80. Regarding Carol Beth Hilburn, Del Paso Boulevard is only 2.2 miles or 5 minutes traveling time to Interstate 80, and Ascot and 4th Street only 3 miles or 7 minutes from Interstate 80.
Interstate 80 continues on to Lake Tahoe, near the area where Donna Lass went missing on September 6th 1970. Six and a half months after her disappearance, the Pines card was mailed to the San Francisco Chronicle, purportedly from the Zodiac Killer. The search for Donna Lass was badly affected by the inclement weather in the months after her disappearance, highlighted by Police Chief Ray Lauritzen from the outset "We don't know where we're going to begin. There's a four or five foot pack of snow out there and it's still snowing heavily". The Pines Card made reference to the snow, but in a sinister way inferred Donna Lass may be buried under it - hence the phrase 'around in the snow' being placed at ground level and pasted upside down. In a newspaper article it stated that the site depicted on the Pines Card was from an advertisement published the previous Sunday by several newspapers. It was an artist's rendition of houses among the trees at a project at Incline Village, near Clair Tappaan Lodge, Norden, California - the address of which happens to be 19940 Donner Pass Road. Whether this name and that of the missing woman is a coincidence is unknown. But again, Clair Tappaan Lodge is situated right alongside Interstate 80, only 2.3 miles or 4 minutes by car, suggesting somebody traveling this route would likely have been familiar with this area and may well, as the 'Pines Card' suggested, held clues to a burial site.
On December 27th 1974, a Christmas card was mailed to Mary Pilker, Donna Lass' sister, portraying trees covered in snow. Once opened it revealed a message that was part of the card itself - 'Holiday Greetings and Best Wishes for a Happy New Year', followed by the handwriting "Best Wishes, St Donna & Guardian of the Pines".
Here is the card and here is the street view in winter from Donner Pass Road, outside Clair Tappaan Lodge.
On the 'Pines Card' mailed on March 22nd 1971, text on the card read;  'Sierra Club'  'Sought Victim 12'  'Peek through the pines'  'pass Lake Tahoe areas'  'around in the snow' (pasted upside down).
If we were reading hidden clues from this correspondence and searching for a possible burial site, then we have to follow its directions from the last sighting of Donna Lass at the Sahara Tahoe Hotel and Casino, and head towards the Clair Tappaan Lodge and the Sierra Club.
California State Route 89 skirts the western shores of Lake Tahoe towards Truckee, California and passes many 'Lake Tahoe Areas' en route. It finally joins Interstate 80 only 1.5 miles or 3 minutes from Donner Memorial State Park, in memory of the ill fated Donner Party.
Again, whether this was Zodiac's intention to direct us to a 'Donner Memorial' using a play on words, is sheer speculation.
But this area and the site of Clair Tappaan Lodge would certainly lend weight to the phrase 'Peek through the pines', as the lodge is literally yards from Donner Pass Road.
This brings us to the disappearance and ultimate murder of Phyllis O'Brien Carson on October 27th 1970 - a significant Zodiac date regarding the Halloween Card. Phyllis O'Brien Carson (32) was a young mother of four children, last seen after a night out at the Francis Truck Stop, French Camp, San Joaquin County, California. French Camp is a small community situated approximately ten minutes drive south of the town of Stockton CA and fifteen minutes north of Manteca CA. Since the construction of California State Route 120, Manteca had become a popular choice for workers from the main towns and cities, along with the Bay Area, as rising house prices forced people to search for cheaper alternatives. Interstate 5 and State Route 99 are integral commuter routes through California, with the I-5 the main highway on the west coast of America, linking to San Diego, Los Angeles and Sacramento. San Francisco lies 80 miles and a one-hour twenty minute drive due west from French Camp.
Phyllis had visited the popular bar, along with her brother and sister on October 27th 1970 - and later on during the evening placed a phone call to her home residence to check on her children, stating she was to receive a lift home from a friend. Sadly for Phyllis O'Brien Carson and her family, her journey home was never realized. She had vanished without a trace - that is until family members received the heartbreaking news just over three weeks later, on November 21st 1970, that her body had been discovered laying down an embankment near to Yettner Road, only five miles from the family residence. The cause of death and perpetrator remain unknown, but foul play was certain, as her body was partially clothed and seemingly thrown from a vehicle. However, robbery was apparently ruled out, as her belongings appeared untouched. Nobody from the bar has ever come forward to this day with a name of the mystery friend that Phyllis was supposed to have left with that night.
Interstate 5 bisects French Camp and Yettner Road - and it can be seen here on Google Maps how close both locations are to the main thoroughfare. Both less than half a mile. Almost as though the killer in all the above circumstances is simply passing by these areas via a main highway, that he has traveled many times before - possibly as a result of his profession.
The Modesto abduction of Kathleen Johns, whether or not this has a Zodiac connection, provides the closest link, in that the perpetrator of this crime chose to subject his victim to what appeared to be an aimless drive around the countryside of Tracy, CA, after which she escaped to a nearby field. Where the abductor was ultimately heading may never be known, but Tracy CA, San Joaquin County is a mere 15 to 20 minute drive from Yettner Road and only 15 miles due west from Manteca CA. Therefore, a familiarity with the area remains plausible. This now takes us back to the military connection.
Running right by NASA Crows Landing is Interstate 5, which then intersects with Highway 132 only 24 miles north - a journey of 22 minutes by car. In fact, Interstate 5 joins Highway 132 (the route Kathleen Johns fatefully took that night) only 0.8 miles shy of where she was abducted and ultimately where her car was found burnt out, near Bird Road.
'McClellan Air Force Base (1935–2001) is a former United States Air Force base located in the North Highlands area of Sacramento County, 7 miles (11 km) northeast of Sacramento, California. NAS Fallon in Nevada was originally built in 1942 as part of a defensive network to repel a feared Japanese invasion of the west coast. It was soon taken over by the Navy for training use and has been used as such ever since with the exception of the period of 1946 to 1951, during which it was used by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. During the years prior to 1972, the base was known as Naval Auxiliary Air Station and was heavily used during the Vietnam War by various squadrons that rotated through the base before deploying to carriers headed for Vietnam.' Taken from Wikipedia. These military connections run from Patterson in Stanislaus County to the east of Lake Tahoe. NAS Fallon is located just south of Interstate 80.
If the Zodiac Killer was responsible for the Modesto abduction of Kathleen Johns and the disappearance of Donna Lass, are these observations enough to convince us that he is the responsible. These two areas span 160 miles. The question being, did the Zodiac Killer travel from the Bay Area (if he lived there) to simply commit his crimes and return - or was he likely stationed at any one of these military bases that punctuated Interstate 5 and Interstate 80. His profession may have involved him traveling between these bases, either as a member of the military, a supplier to the military or an independent contractor, but nevertheless, a profession that created perpetual mobility throughout these areas of California. Interstate 80 and Interstate 5 may have played a role with respect to certain serial killers, but was the Zodiac Killer one of them?
The Modesto abduction of Kathleen Johns on March 22nd 1970 is a crime that divides the Zodiac community, despite the Bay Area killer confirming his involvement in the abduction in a letter mailed to the San Francisco Chronicle on July 24th 1970.
If the Zodiac Killer was a resident of San Francisco, Vallejo, Benicia or some nearby location, then his actions of traveling 160 to 180 miles round trip, solely for the purpose of abducting a woman at 11:15 pm at night, may appear a little extreme. This lays down a buffer zone of at least 90 miles from Vallejo. The idea of cruising around Highway 132, west of Modesto primarily for the purpose of hopefully encountering a suitable vehicle and occupant, at near midnight, appears a bit random for a killer who targeted locations. Unless of course, this wasn't his primary reason for being in the area that night and his abduction of Kathleen Johns was secondary and spur of the moment. This article will explore further the military angle and the premise that the Zodiac Killer was returning back to the Bay Area on March 22nd 1970, before chance intervened and the night took on an unexpected turn, as Kathleen Johns vehicle drove right across Zodiac's line of sight.
I recently contacted the FBI under the Freedom of Information Act to release the names held on this document, involving a suspect stationed in either the US Army or US Air Force in San Francisco, Riverside and Patterson. Unfortunately it was denied "The one page document that was released on the Vault was processed pursuant to the current Attorney General guidelines, therefore do not qualify for reprocessing at this time. For your information, Congress excluded three discrete categories of law enforcement and national security records from the requirements of the FOIA".
The following is an extension to the article Crows Landing and the Modesto Abduction expanding it just a little further. In particular, regarding the Alameda Naval Air Station bordering the eastern side of San Francisco. (shown here on Google Maps in relation to Pleasanton, which is located in Alameda County)
The vast bulk of the Zodiac Killer correspondence was postmarked San Francisco and mailed to the Chronicle newspaper, however, this changed in the later correspondence, particularly in 1974. Whether a change in profession initiated this deviation, or it was simply down to the Zodiac getting careless is open to speculation. After all, by this time he definitely believed he was "crackproof".
Almost everybody, including the Zodiac Killer, employ what is known as the least effort principle, that suggests a person will take the option of using less energy to accomplish a necessary task. In the case of mailing his correspondence, the killer certainly does not want to reveal key information about his home or work location from a standpoint of geographical profiling, but over time complacency and laziness can kick in, and mistakes can be made.
On March 13th 1971, the Zodiac Killer mailed the 'Los Angeles' letter from Pleasanton, Alameda County. The SLA letter was mailed on February 3rd 1974 from Los Angeles County. The following correspondence on May 8th 1974 was the 'Citizen Card', postmarked again from Alameda County, and finally came the 'Red Phantom' letter, postmarked San Rafael, Marin County on July 8th 1974. It is open to debate whether the later mailings were from the Zodiac Killer, but the 'Los Angeles' letter and 'Citizen Card' were both mailed from the same county despite a three year hiatus. But they all have another thing in common - that being Interstate 580 - which passes through Pleasanton, Alameda, the Naval Station and San Rafael in a direct route. It is almost as though the Zodiac Killer mailed them for convenience on his travels. See here on Google Maps.
Crucially though, Interstate 580 (an 80 mile highway) travels down alongside Tracy, California and the area where it is claimed the Zodiac Killer drove Kathleen Johns around for 1 or 2 hours, before she finally managed to escape near the vineyards alongside Bird Road. Interstate 580 joins up with Interstate 5 by Patterson, California, shown here on Google Maps, and the location of the police station where Kathleen Johns was taken after her apparent abduction. Kathleen Johns would recall that within the car, described 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 to 12 years. She described her abductor as white, about 30 years, 5'9" in height, 160 lbs, dark hair and clean-cut, having the traits of a serviceman. During her ordeal in the car she recalled his highly polished shoes that reflected the yellow lights from the car interior, likening them to Navy shoes. Not only is the area of Patterson mentioned in the FBI files above, but the military connection may be crucial regarding the abduction of Kathleen Johns, as well as the I-5 and I-580, and the Alameda Naval Air Station, that also has a connection to Patterson.
NASA Crows Landing Airport in Stanislaus County was previously known as Naval Auxiliary Landing Field Crows Landing. It was an auxiliary military facility linked with Alameda Naval Air Station, as was Vernalis Auxiliary Airfield. Both are shown here along California State Route 33, only 21 miles apart and bordering Interstate 5. After World War 2, Vernalis Airfield briefly remained open; however, Crows Landing would eventually take over its duties, on account of its concrete runways.
Running right by NASA Crows Landing is Interstate 5, which then intersects with Highway 132 only 24 miles north (a journey of 22 minutes by car). In fact, Interstate 5 joins Highway 132 (the route Kathleen Johns fatefully took that night) only 0.8 miles shy of where she was abducted and ultimately where her car was found burnt out, near Bird Road. The quickest route from NASA Crows Landing back to the Bay Area using main transport links, would be to travel north on Interstate 5, taking Interstate 580 on the western edge of Tracy, head west to Pleasanton, northwest to Alameda, passing Alameda Naval Base and continuing northwest to San Rafael. The latter of which all skirt the San Francisco Bay Area and more importantly, where the Zodiac Killer mailed three of his letters from 1971 onward. View on Google Maps.
If the Zodiac Killer was of military persuasion, responsible for the abduction of Kathleen Johns, and linked to the Patterson area via an auxiliary base, then it is easy to see how the Zodiac Killer, believing he was "crackproof", may have employed the least effort principle and mailed his correspondence en route to and from work, via the areas he passed through. Or was the Zodiac Killer trying to throw investigators off the trail by mailing his correspondence, outside of San Francisco, from different areas, but inadvertently had left a trail of breadcrumbs along Interstate 580? In respect to the later mailings and Interstate 580, a possible connection exists - but it was brief and possibly too small a sample to draw anything conclusive.
The Halloween card mailed on October 27th 1970 threatening a fourteenth victim, coincided with the disappearance of Phyllis O'Brien Carson (32), from the Francis Truck Stop, French Camp, San Joaquin County, California. French Camp lies only 15 miles from Tracey and 23 miles from Interstate 580. Unfortunately, Phyllis O'Brien Carson's body was discovered just over three weeks later on November 21st 1970. http://www.zodiacciphers.com/zodiac-news/east-of-pleasanton
Recently a military angle and the Zodiac Killer has been explored in Riverside, concerning the profession of Joseph Bates in the Corona Naval Ordnance Laboratory. The speculation was, that possibly somebody connected to Joseph Bates, or worked nearby, had the opportunity and means to commit the brutal stabbing of Cheri Jo Bates on October 30th 1966. There were naval warfare centers in the Corona area, particularly relevant, because of the boot impression found by Cheri Jo Bates' body, described by police; "Physical evidence found at our crime scene indicated that heel prints found by the body were made by a heel that was manufactured for military and other government agencies, including prisons." Couple that with the Zodiac crosshairs centered over Corona itself and we have a beginning. http://www.zodiacciphers.com/zodiac-news/the-crosshairs-over-riverside.
In addition, March Air Force Base was situated only 12 miles from Riverside City College Library, so plenty of military personnel were in close proximity to this particular crime scene. The Zodiac would then likely relocate to Northern California sometime after the Bates letters were mailed on April 30th 1967.
Fast forward one year and eight months, and the confirmed Zodiac Killer attacks began at Lake Herman Road and Blue Rock Springs Park, just 10 miles and 9 miles respectively from the Mare Island Naval Complex.
Alameda Naval Air Station is only 12 miles east of San Francisco, separated by the Oakland Bay Bridge and 40 miles from Benicia. If the Zodiac Killer resided in this area, then mailing his letters from San Francisco is but a short journey across the bay, yet still provides separation from the Presidio Heights area and a reasonable buffer zone to Lake Herman Road, Blue Rock Springs and Lake Berryessa, the latter of which revealed the murderer's footprints. To and from the crime scene on the shores of Lake Berryessa, ten and one half Wing Walker boot impressions were found (a type of military footwear used to walk on the wings of planes). The military connection is strengthening.
The Zodiac Killer may well have worked at the San Francisco Naval Shipyard located at Hunters Point, only 10 miles from the murder at Presidio Heights. The Navy discontinued use of the yard in 1974, when it was leased for commercial ship repairs.
Did the Zodiac work at Hunters Point before he was stationed in Alameda County? On May 8th 1974, the only Zodiac letter mailed from Alameda County would arrive at the San Francisco Chronicle, followed by the 'Red Phantom' letter on July 8th 1974 from San Rafael.
[See below] An FBI report from a confidential source mentioned a 'look alike' for Zodiac, who had served either in the US Army or US Air Force between June 1966 and August 1970, allegedly stationed in the San Francisco Bay Area and Riverside, California. This document also details the abduction of Kathleen Johns on March 22nd 1970 on Highway 132, west of Modesto and finishes by stating the 'subject' in question was reportedly stationed in Patterson at the time. Kathleen Johns described the man who abducted her that night, as possibly having a military connection, describing him as a "WMA, 160 lbs, approx 30 years, 5'9" in height, dark hair and clean-cut, rimmed plastic glasses, having the traits of a serviceman."
This crime has often divided the Zodiac community. If the Zodiac Killer lived in the Bay Area, it seems strange that he would drive a 180 mile round trip just to commit an abduction in the middle of nowhere. There is such as thing as a buffer zone employed by criminals, but 90 miles traveling distance, fast approaching midnight, appears unlikely - unless of course, he had an alternative reason to be there that night - he may have been returning home from visiting relatives, had been on a hunting or fishing trip, or any other form of recreation. It is unlikely he lived near Highway 132, as many communications would subsequently arrive during 1970, postmarked San Francisco. It is conceivable he made this journey daily, lived in two places, or had a profession that required mobility and flexibility. Was he returning to the Bay Area that night from an outpost connected to the military? This is the avenue we shall examine.
The FBI document mentions the subject may have been stationed in the Patterson area at the time. Whether this subject was the murderer or not, the military angle is still a valid one for Zodiac, bearing in mind Kathleen Johns said the person who abducted her, was the same man in the Presidio Heights sketch hanging on the wall of the Patterson Police Station. The Zodiac letter on the right stated "for a couple of hours one evening a few months back that ended in my burning her car where I found them."
Kathleen Johns was abducted on Highway 132, just west of the I-5 and Vernalis Road crossover point, near Bird Road and the same place her vehicle was ultimately found burnt out by police. If the Zodiac Killer was traveling on Highway 132, where had he come from that night? He was in possession of a flashlight - so had he been working late in a military facility, that would bring him out onto Highway 132 just behind Kathleen Johns circa 11.45 pm.
Only 25 miles south of the area where Kathleen Johns was abducted is the Naval Auxiliary Air Station Crows Landing in Patterson. Following World War II, Crows Landing became an Outlying Land Field to the Naval Air Station in Alameda, and later Moffett Field, near the south end of San Francisco. So another connection exists.
As you exit NASA Crows Landing to return to the Bay Area, the quickest route is immediately onto Interstate 5, which then joins Highway 132 only 1.4 miles before the point where Kathleen Johns was flagged over and where her vehicle was eventually discovered burnt out. The Zodiac Killer would have entered Highway 132 just behind Kathleen Johns and trailed her for approximately 2 minutes, before he made his move.
One last noteworthy observation is in respect to the immediate correspondence after the Modesto abduction. The '13 Symbol' cipher was mailed on April 20th 1970, one month after this abduction. Here is the code the Zodiac mailed.
And here is the Naval Auxiliary Air Station Crows Landing military patch
And here is the FBI file;
Kathleen Johns, pregnant and accompanied by her 10-month-old daughter Jennifer, were traveling along Highway 132, west of Modesto, en route to Petaluma, California, when the routine journey she had taken many times before, was to become slightly less routine. She was to make the near fatal mistake of stopping on a deserted highway at approximately 11:15 pm at night, ushered to the side of the road by a passing motorist flashing his headlights and gesturing towards her 1957 Chevrolet.
Believing he was indicating a fault with her vehicle, Kathleen Johns pulled over to the side of the road. The man reversed his vehicle, described as a light tan, late model, American made, 2-door, with old style California plates, and pulled up behind her, before approaching her vehicle. He explained that her wheel appeared loose, offering to tighten the lugs, to which she duly obliged. This error of judgement was to begin a chain of events that are still not fully understood to this day and have initiated countless years of debate, on whether the man who approached Kathleen Johns car that fateful night was actually the Zodiac Killer - and the 'proposed madman' responsible for unleashing terror in the Bay Area of Northern California, and bringing the 'Summer of Love' into the summer of fear just two short years later.
The man appeared to be tightening the lug bolts on Kathleen Johns 1957 Chevrolet, before bidding her farewell. However, after continuing her journey just a matter of yards along the road, she was forced to bring her vehicle to an abrupt full stop. It seemed that whatever the man had done resulted in her vehicle being temporarily disabled. A brief time later the man reappeared offering her further assistance and a lift to the nearest service station. Obviously, Kathleen Johns, stranded in the middle of nowhere with a 10-month-old infant, was left with limited options - and with an Arco Service Station nearby she reluctantly reluctantly accepted.
In Robert Graysmith's book Zodiac, he stated that when the responsible offered Kathleen a lift to the nearest service station "Kathleen gathered up Jennifer and got into the man's car. Just as they were pulling out, she noticed that the lights to her car were still on and remembered that the keys were still in the ignition. The man smiled, went back to her car, snapped off the lights, and pocketed the keys." This is where her supposed ordeal began.
In the police report she described the man as a white male adult, approximately 30 years, 5'9", 160 lbs, dark hair, wearing dark rimmed plastic glasses, a dark ski jacket and dark bell-bottomed pants. He was clean cut, having the traits of a serviceman. During her ordeal in the car she recalled his highly polished shoes reflecting the yellow lights from the car interior, likening them to Navy shoes. The suspect apparently then drove Kathleen Johns around the outskirts of Tracy, California for approximately 1-2 hours, failing to stop at any service stations, claiming they were either closed or 'not the right ones'. In the Stanislaus County police report on 3.23.1970 she said that her abductor "Drove around in the county area, possibly near Tracy for approximately one hour, to one and a half hours, and several times she had asked the suspect if he intended to stop at a station in order for her to seek help to have her vehicle repaired. Complainant stated the suspect was quite friendly with her, did not make any advances toward her, or threats toward her and when asked if he was going to stop he would merely elude the question and start talking about something else." On the flip side, she went on to say "She gets quite frightened, feeling that possibly the suspect intended to do some physical injury to her and that when the suspect stopped at a stop sign, the exact area or location unknown, she jumped from the vehicle carrying her daughter and ran into a field nearby, hiding from the suspect. Complainant said the suspect merely closed the door, and then had driven away." Kathleen Johns described the interior of the 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."
The Zodiac Killer had mercilessly slaughtered five victims in Benicia, Vallejo, Napa and San Francisco, either in total darkness, using a flashlight to limit his victims ability to recognize him or by the wearing of a disguise at Lake Berryessa, claiming that "The police shall never catch me, because I have been too clever for them. I look like the description passed out only when I do my thing, the rest of the time I look entirle different. I shall not tell you what my descise consists of when I kill". But in the instance of Kathleen Johns, we have a supposed abductor sitting right next to her for at least one hour, failing to do anything meaningful. He was in possession of "a black rubber handled flashlight", yet despite a pregnant Kathleen Johns, carrying her 10-month-old daughter, running into a field of darkness, "the suspect merely closed the door, and then had driven away." The Zodiac Killer was clearly losing his touch or he wasn't the Zodiac at all. The sheer fact that Kathleen Johns escaped at virtually the same location she was abducted, with at least 60 minutes of meaningless inaction in between, takes some explaining.
Earlier in proceedings, Kathleen Johns stated in the police report that the suspect "went west on Highway 132 and pulled into a Richfield service station that was closed. It is believed by undersigned to be Chrisman Road," and "at one time they did come into a lighted city, which she believed to be Tracy". The question has to be asked - if the responsible wasn't really trying to assist her, why would he drive into a service station? If he knew in advance it was closed, one would assume he therefore drove into the service station and away from the road with malicious intent. But again, he did nothing.
The police report went on to read "Mrs Johns then got to a roadway or highway, this part is not clear to undersigned or to the Stanislaus Deputy, Mr Lovett, but finally did get back on highway or near Highway 132, where she was given a ride by some people from Missouri". If Kathleen Johns was back on Highway 132, the suspect had effectively driven to Tracy for an extended period of time, achieved nothing, and then had doubled back to Highway 132. After being rescued by the edge of the roadside, she was taken by "some people from Missouri" to Patterson Police Station, where she noticed the Presidio Heights sketch of the Zodiac Killer on the bulletin board and declared "that was the man who picked her and her daughter up." Her car would be eventually located by Deputy Lovett burnt out near Bird Road, slightly west of Interstate 5, at the exact spot she received assistance in the late hours of the previous night. It had not been moved, despite some claims you will read on the internet. Mr Reed of 'Reed and Son Towing Services' advised "that he personally had not observed any keys in the vehicle when he towed the vehicle in from Highway 132, just east of Bird Road."
The 'abductor' of Kathleen Johns had apparently left her in the field and returned back to her car and torched it. In the police report it states "On the morning of 23rd March 1970, at about 02.30 hours Mrs Kathleen Johns was brought to the Patterson Police Department in a hysterical condition." Patterson Police Station is approximately a 20 minute journey from where her she was rescued. Therefore she was likely rescued by the people from Missouri at about 2:10 am and taken southeast to the police station. This gives us a vague timeline.
Kathleen Johns entered the suspect's vehicle around 11:15 pm, then she was driven in and around Tracy for upwards of 90 minutes (according to her statement), before she managed to escape. This would place her in the field at 12:45 am at the latest, one hour and 25 minutes before she received help. Even at the higher end estimate of a 2 hour journey around Tracy, she is now in the field at 01:15 am, at least 55 minutes before help arrived. Had the suspect left Kathleen Johns and immediately traveled the short distance to burn her vehicle, it is reasonable to suggest that anybody rescuing her and driving on Highway 132 in a westerly direction, would have passed the torched vehicle. According to this timeline, she would have been in the field for 55-85 minutes, therefore by the time of her rescue, her car may have already been burning. She didn't mention the burning vehicle to law enforcement, so it's likely this route to Patterson Police Station was taken by the unknown people from Missouri, thereby avoiding Highway 132 and the burning vehicle. However, a burning car just a few hundred meters away, one could argue, would have been visible at night. The only other possibility, is the suspect waited a prolonged period of time before torching Kathleen Johns car - but why?
During the murder of Cheri Jo Bates in Riverside in 1966, it seemed strange that Cheri, after supposedly being offered assistance when her Volkswagen failed to start, would then leave her vehicle unlocked with the windows down, her study books on the seat and her keys still in the ignition, and then wander off down an alley. That's because it likely never happened the way it was conceived to have gone down. Likewise, Robert Graysmith stated "Kathleen gathered up Jennifer and got into the man's car. Just as they were pulling out, she noticed that the lights to her car were still on and remembered that the keys were still in the ignition. The man smiled, went back to her car, snapped off the lights, and pocketed the keys." Why would she have left her lights on and the keys in the ignition? Understandably, she may have been panicking or upset, but when the man supposedly returned to his vehicle, he would have offered them to Kathleen, or at the very least she would have asked for them. The keys incidentally were never recovered.
Tracy is a 20 mile round trip from the intersection of Bird Road and Highway 132. What was the end game of the suspect:  apparently driving aimlessly around for 1-2 hours and ultimately ending up back at square one,  driving to the closed Richfield Station and  allowing Kathleen Johns, clutching her 10-month-old daughter, to evade his clutches so easily. We only have Kathleen Johns word that there was ever an abduction at all.
Then we have the mystery people from Missouri, who after supposedly finding the pregnant and extremely upset Kathleen Johns with a small child, seemingly couldn't be bothered to accompany her into Patterson Police Station for moral support. They had taken the time to rescue her and drive her the 20 minute journey to the police station, but couldn't walk the final few yards. They have never been located. It has been suggested that insurance was at the heart of this matter, but this seems rather an elaborate way of going about this, when there are far simpler ways - so one tends to dismiss this avenue.
Admittedly, the account of Kathleen Johns may not be accurate in all details, which is totally understandable. By her statements, she had been abducted close to midnight, she was terrified and her fate lay in the balance throughout. Howard Davis wrote on the ZodiacKiller.com forum "I blame the police reporting and the fact that she, no doubt, was filled with emotion and did not remember every detail or sequence of events, as is demanded by some cold hardcore Zodiac researcher sitting in a stuffed chair behind the computer! Picture perfect testimony they demand. Well, many are not, due to mental/emotional trauma, etc. At one point in our interview, she had to stop when she was describing the abduction, as her eyes were filled with tears and her voice was choked with emotion." One cannot argue with that.
According to Harvey Hines, a retired law enforcement officer, Kathleen Johns would in 1992 identify Lawrence Kane as the man who abducted her on March 22nd 1970. Hines details it in his report here. This can also be seen here in a Zodiac documentary entitled 'Hard Copy-Tracking the Zodiac Killer'. However, the problem with this identification, is that Kathleen Johns described the abductor in the police report at "approximately 30 years". Lawrence Kane was born in 1924, so would have been nearly 46 years of age by the time Kathleen Johns reported this incident. Furthermore, his likeness to the Presidio Heights sketch of the Zodiac Killer is questionable. It may be a case of over zealous enthusiasm on the part of Harvey Hines and Kathleen Johns eagerness to please. Attempting to identity your 'abductor' from a selection of photographs, some 22 years after the event, is fraught with danger, as Detective George Bawart did with Michael Mageau in 1992, in attempting to identity Arthur Leigh Allen as his attacker.
Four months after the Modesto abduction, the Zodiac Killer would lay claim to the Kathleen Johns abduction, stating in a letter mailed to the San Francisco Chronicle on July 24th 1970 "This is the Zodiac speaking. I am rather unhappy because you people will not wear some nice Zodiac buttons. So now I have a little list, starting with that woeman + her baby that I gave a rather intersting ride for a coupple howers one evening a few months back that ended in my burning her car where I found them." Although the letter writer provides no details of the abduction that weren't already described in the newspaper reports, one could suggest that this bolsters the case of the Zodiac Killer being responsible for the abduction of Kathleen Johns. Why would a previously merciless killer, who loved to boast of his exploits, admit to a crime where he was seemingly outfoxed by a young pregnant woman carrying a 10-month-old child? On March 22nd 1970 he failed to kill Kathleen Johns and appeared to allow her to easily escape across a field during a hesitation filled night. But then we are assuming his intention was to kill her all along, when maybe he didn't.
Several months prior to the Kathleen Johns abduction, Zodiac mailed a letter to the San Francisco Chronicle on November 9th 1969 stating "I have grown rather angry with the police for their telling lies about me. So I shall change the way the collecting of slaves. I shall no longer announce to anyone. When I committ my murders, they shall look like routine robberies, killings of anger, + a few fake accidents, etc." When he loosened the lugs on Kathleen Johns vehicle, maybe this was his idea of a 'fake accident', albeit a fake accident that never quite materialized as he had planned.
The following article is attributed to Gregory Haugevik, a regular contributor to this site:
I've noticed that in addition to the instance of Kathleen Johns' purported escape from the Zodiac Killer, there have been some other famous cases in which would-be victims of serial murderers have found the good fortune to elude the malevolent intentions of the killer in their midst.. I happened to catch a documentary about the Green River Killer and was impressed by the story surrounding Rebecca Garde Guay: "In 1984, Rebecca Garde Guay actually came forward to police to say that she had been assaulted two years prior by a man who tried to kill her with a chokehold. Not only did Guay know Ridgway's place of employment (he had shown her an identification card), but she also picked him out of a book of photos. What's worse, Ridgway had the sheer gall to admit having "dated" Guay and even choking her."
The documentary stated that Garde Guay's testimony led police to interview and conduct a lie-detector test on suspect Gary Ridgway, the man she identified as her attacker. Ridgway, who was finally arrested and convicted for the Green River murders approximately 20 years later, passed the polygraph test, and with his unassuming manner and appearance duped police into believing his complete innocence.
The parallel here with Kathleen Johns' situation vis-a-vis the Zodiac Killer case is to me quite striking. Johns, too, got away from her abductor. Some years later Johns went on to state with great conviction that her captor was Zodiac suspect Lawrence Kane. For assorted reasons, however, just as with Ridgway in the Green River case, Kane was casually evaluated and ultimately exonerated of suspicion by law enforcement authorities.
In another, although perhaps slightly less credible, example (the story was sold to a tabloid publication), there is a woman named Mary Willis who allegedly slipped the grasp of the BTK killer in 1981. She reported the incident to police but nothing came of it. When BTK was arrested more than 20 years later, Willis was positive this was the man who had nearly taken her life.
I find it interesting that it's perhaps not entirely uncommon for there to be prospective victims who have managed to flee serial killers and their testimony has been mostly overlooked or dismissed as being inconclusive. Garde Guay had correctly identified the Green River Killer and yet it took decades before her claim was substantiated. In the examples given, I think we can demonstate there are empirical precedents that should help lend better credibility to Kathleen Johns' telling of events. The Zodiac did, after all, outright admit in a letter that he drove a woman and her baby on a meandering ride before finally burning her car. I take his word on this, coupled with Johns' vivid memory of the terrifying, 2-hour-long encounter. All roads might seem leading to Lawrence Kane in view of these circumstances...
Another notable correlation between the now solved Green River murders and the still open Zodiac case concerns the matter of suspect evaluation. In the early years of Green River, a man by the name of Melvin Foster became the chief suspect of homicide detectives. Foster even failed a lie detector he was administered and had his house searched searched twice by police. One of the initial signals that tipped-off police about Foster as a strong suspect was his desire to "help" with solving the case. The FBI has long maintained that serial killers will frequently volunteer their services to authorities to aid in their own capture. This very same rationale was applied to the Zodiac case when prime suspect Arthur Leigh Allen politely offered to assist the SFPD with their investigations after he'd been questioned. That he did so was one of the principal reasons law enforcement continued their dogged efforts at finding a way of connecting Allen to the Zodiac murders--a pursuit which, like Foster, included searches of Allen residencies, as well as his submission to a polygraph test. Allen passed his test.
In conclusion, it's often been the consensus opinion that the Zodiac Killer is most likely a person who has never come under the radar of law enforcement and is doubtful to be any of the known suspects. A counterpoint to this argument takes the form of Green River Killer, Gary Ridgway. Ridgway had long been a suspect--and a cleared one, at that--before forensic evidence eventually caught up with him and proved his guilt. In light of such knowledge, there is sound reason to believe the Zodiac Killer needn't be an elusive mystery man hidden beneath the earth, but could very well be one of the select few public suspects we've looked at hundreds of times. The key, as always, is in the forensics. By having DNA tested only one popular suspect, Allen, a massive disservice is being done toward the goal of closing this case and bringing peace to the families it has affected. There are lessons to be drawn from comparable serial killer cases which have been solved. It can only serve us well to apply such studies toward deciphering the Zodiac's riddle.
The Truth About the Green River Killer: http://www.alternet.org/story/17171/the_truth_about_the_green_river_killer
Woman Tells of Escape from BTK: http://www2.ljworld.com/news/2005/sep/20/woman_tells_escape_btk/?print
The Green River Killer - Full Documentary
Hunting the Green River Killer
The Green River Killer Gary Ridgway
The Green River Killer-Serial Killer-Full Documentary
Mugshots:Gary Ridgway-The Green River Killer
Serial Killer:Gary Leon Ridgway:The Green River Killer
The Zodiac Killer began his series of crimes with the double murder of David Faraday and Betty Lou Jensen on December 20th 1968, followed by the Blue Rock Springs attack on July 4th 1969, killing Darlene Ferrin and seriously injuring Michael Mageau. The killer confirmed these murders with details provided in three letters he sent to the San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco Examiner and Vallejo Times Herald on July 31st 1969. His next attack would be in the remote region of Lake Berryessa on Bryan Hartnell and Cecelia Shepard and although there appeared to be no reference to this crime in any of his subsequent correspondence, he wasted no time laying claim to the lakeside attack, writing on Bryan Hartnell's car door within minutes of the crime. His final confirmed murder was that of Paul Stine at Presidio Heights on October 11th 1969, only fourteen days after the Lake Berryessa attack and one cannot help thinking his focus had turned quickly after his third attack, straight into the planning phase of the Presidio Heights murder, after all his dramatic costume driven attack and the recollection of surviving witness Bryan Hartnell, had given him all the publicity he could have wished for. Again, after the Presidio Heights murder he wasted no time in contacting the newspapers, writing to the San Francisco Chronicle only two days later. In other words, his first letter immediate of three of the crimes, laid claim to each one of them, with the exception of Lake Berryessa, however he still laid claim to it, in the form of written communication on the car door. Therefore, although questioned as a Zodiac crime, it made perfect sense to analyze his immediate correspondence after the Modesto abduction of Kathleen Johns and see if this cryptic letter in any way suggested a link to it.
This letter contained the 13 Symbol Cipher, mailed to the San Francisco Chronicle on April 20th 1970, just one month after the Kathleen Johns incident on March 22nd 1970.
Technically a full moon is really only full for an instant in time. As we approach a full moon it is said to be waxing and as it diminishes it is said to be waning. A Waxing Gibbous denotes 95% illumination approaching a full moon and a Waning Gibbous denotes 95% illumination as we leave the full moon, everything in between can be regarded as varying degrees of a full moon.
Therefore in the calendar above there is one full moon phase in Aries, before the Zodiac sign of Taurus takes over on April 20th, 21st and 22nd. This may explain the 3 to 1 configuration present on the 13 Symbol Cipher. We now have seven dates of relevance, March 22nd 1970, April 19th, 20th, 21st and 22nd, July 24th 1970 and March 22nd 1971, but whether any significance can be attributed, remains questionable.
The March 22nd 1971 Pines Card may also have strong ties to the Zodiac horoscope signs, in its very wording and ultimately provide us with a further link back to the 13 Symbol Cipher and its three circled symbols once again. SEE HERE.
It has often been speculated upon, that four of the symbols in this cipher may be interpreted as three circled Taurus symbols (shown in red) and one inverted Aries symbol (shown in blue). But how could these four symbols in any way connect to the Kathleen Johns abduction.
The following observation will not claim a solution, just a line of thought to be considered for discussion.
In this letter the Zodiac Killer claimed to have 'killed ten people to date'. Had he murdered Kathleen Johns and her infant daughter Jennifer, this total would have read 12.
Kathleen Johns was abducted on March 22nd 1970 and on the following anniversary of this crime, March 22nd 1971, the Pines Card was received at the San Francisco Chronicle, claiming to have 'Sought victim 12'.
There are four crucial dates at play here. March 22nd, detailed twice above, April 20th 1970, the mailing date of the 13 Symbol Cipher and July 24th 1970, the date of the correspondence the Zodiac Killer mailed, claiming responsibility for the abduction of Kathleen Johns. Bearing in mind the Zodiac horoscope signs, possibly present on the 13 Symbol Cipher, were the dates on the Zodiac calendar in any way relevant to these events.
Firstly April 20th, the 13 Symbol Cipher date is the beginning of Taurus on the Zodiac calendar. The abduction of Kathleen Johns on March 22nd 1970 is one day after the beginning of Aries on the Zodiac calendar. The Kathleen Johns letter on July 24th 1970 is one day after the beginning of Leo on the Zodiac calendar. Three horoscope dates, all within one day of the Zodiac Killer timeline. Four, if you include the Pines Card anniversary.
The 13 Symbol Cipher was sent in the April of 1970 to the San Francisco Chronicle, so let us look at at the Moon phases and lunar calendar of San Francisco from the relevant time period. But before we do, it is important to note that the Zodiac Killer circled his three Taurus symbols and the symbol for a full moon, is basically a white circle.
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