In the Robert Graysmith book Kathleen stated upon the offer of help by the man "He seemed like a reliable person. Nobody that looked in anyway freaky," and afterwards, after she was offered a ride "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 the keys in the ignition, which the man offered to and subsequently 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.
Usually in any crime scene, 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 are often faded, or have become embellished with non-facts, as our minds 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 near Highway 132. When the man was still en scene a semi-truck arrived, followed a short time later by a woman, who drove her to Patterson Police Station, approximately 30 minutes away from Highway 132, 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 30 minute journey to the police station and an extra 15 minutes thrown in for good measure, giving a total of 2 1/4 hours, leaves us a heavy shortfall. An 11.15 pm starting time plus 2 1/4 hours, takes us to 1.30 am, not 2.30 am, as recorded on the police statement. This has subsequently been padded out in the 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 the account or at the very least raises serious questions.
It is though 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, but the lives of her unborn child and 8 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.
The depiction of the crime in many documentaries has led us to believe that Kathleen Johns wheel came off after being sabotaged by the '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."
Zodiac 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 unstable wheel. A hubcap later retrieved and dusted for fingerprints.
Another thing that did not happen that night, are stories that her vehicle was found burnt out at a different location to where she was abducted. This is a false representation, borne 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 corrected in Detective Bauer's report indicating 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.
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 1-3 hour journey around the outskirts of Tracy, before eventually returning her to exactly the same location she was abducted, 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 is wrong, or at best unusual, as it contains 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 in situ, there is no way the abductor could have driven immediately from her 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. 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.
11.45 pm- Kathleen Johns flagged down by suspect.
11.50 pm- Kathleen Johns accepts lift from suspect.
01.50 am- After 2 hours 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.