Unbeknownst at the time, this crime was just the start of a bloody campaign of terror by the now infamous Zodiac Killer, that would in a little over six months become all too apparent, when police dispatcher Nancy Slover received a phone call from the killer at 12.40 am, on the morning of July 5th 1969.
The Blue Rock Springs and Lake Berryessa attacks saw two of the victims survive and the final confirmed murder at Presidio Heights had key witnesses view the killer, exiting the taxi of murder victim Paul Stine and heading north along Cherry Street, but the Lake Herman Road double murder was altogether different, in that there were actually no witnesses of the crime in progress. The subsequent analysis of the crime scene was the only story to be told. Several witnesses traveling along Lake Herman Road that night passed by the scene, but by chance failed to spot the killer, in what must have been a slender corridor of time for the Zodiac Killer to have committed the murders and depart the remote turnout, heading back towards Benicia or Vallejo without being seen.
In a previous post, Morf13 calculated the actual time difference between James Owen passing the location, driving towards Humble Oil in Benicia for his graveyard shift and seeing no bodies in the turnout, and the arrival of Stella Borges (Medeiros), who discovered the two victims, may have been as little as six minutes or less, a very small window of time for the Zodiac Killer to unleash his horror and make good his escape.
James Owen had his car radio on low that night when he passed the gravel turnout and according to a police statement taken on 24th December 1968, he definitely saw two cars, parked within 3-4 feet of each other, with no persons in or around them. Approximately one quarter of a mile beyond the turnout 'he thought he heard a shot'.
Therefore if this second car belonged to the Zodiac Killer, then he, along with Betty Lou Jensen and David Faraday must have been either hiding between the cars or somewhere else out of sight when James Owen's car was seen approaching.
Once James Owen passed, the Zodiac Killer then waited 30 seconds (approx time to travel one quarter of a mile at 30 mph), before
James Owen mentions no gunshots in his first statement to police on 21st December 1968, but three days later he states that 'he thought he heard a shot'. On a quiet country road at approximately 11.14 pm at night, the killer only waited 30 seconds after James Owen had passed before firing off numerous rounds from a .22 caliber weapon. But Owen supposedly only heard one. After James Owen passed the turnout, are we to conclude the Zodiac Killer only shot David Faraday (the shot James Owen heard), then waited a certain length of time until James Owen was out of earshot, then murdered Betty Lou Jensen.
The sequence of events makes little sense from either perspective and in all probability James Owen heard nothing. This also raises questions. James Owen in his first statement describes two cars 10 feet apart, one was a 1956 or 1957 station wagon, boxy type with a neutral color, but was unable to provide any meaningful description of the other car. This became 3-4 feet in the second statement, but the report also uses the phrase 'He definitely saw two cars'. Why the emphasis on definitely. Was he questioned on this fact.
The widely believed sequence of events is that the Zodiac Killer approached in his car, forced the couple to leave their vehicle from the passenger side door, initially shot David Faraday at close range or after a very brief struggle, and as Betty Lou Jensen ran for her life, she was gunned down by five shots to her back, finally succumbing approximately 34 feet to the west side of the gravel turnout. She fell backwards, her head finally resting 28'6" from the rear bumper of the Rambler station wagon. He then departed the scene.
Stella Borges (Medeiros) lived 1.5 miles west of the Lake Herman Road turnout (Borges Ranch). It was calculated she had passed the turnout at 11.20 pm, indicating she had left the Borges Ranch at 11.17 pm. Mike Morford, a keen Zodiac investigator stated "Borges drove off immediately at speeds of 60-70 mph towards Benicia to get help, where she eventually ran into Benicia Police Officer Pitta. From Pitta’s report, he notes that Borges flagged him down at approximately 11:25 pm. Pitta then raced to the scene arriving there at about 11:28 pm. This is apparently how they established that Borges took 5 minutes to find and make contact with Pitta. They now think that Borges was actually at the scene at 11:20 pm."
At 11.17 pm when Stella Borges left her ranch, the Zodiac Killer was either in the process of leaving the turnout or had likely already left the turnout approximately one minute ago. Had he chosen to turn left and head towards Vallejo he would have passed Stella Borges along Lake Herman Road. She reported passing no other vehicles.
The Zodiac Killer therefore, if this sequence of events is correct, turned right and headed off east toward Benicia. He had a four minute jump on her, so after she discovered the bodies, despite traveling at speeds of 60-70 mph, she never was likely to view the taillights of the Zodiac Killer. He had disappeared into the night. This was not the last time he was going to get lucky.
Thanks to Mike Morford.