The movie was based upon the real life events of Charles Raymond Starkweather (20) and his girlfriend Caril Ann Fugate (14), a pair of spree killers who went on a two month rampage killing numerous people, beginning in 1957 and culminating in 1958, including Fugate's entire family in the area of Nebraska and Wyoming, before they were finally captured. Starkweather was sentenced to death and died in the electric chair just after midnight at Nebraska State Penitentiary on June 25th 1959, while Fugate received a life sentence, eventually commuted, allowing her to be released in June 1976.
If this letter was genuine Zodiac correspondence, what was it about the movie Badlands that struck a chord with the killer of at least five people between December 20th 1968 and October 11th 1969. Was there anything in the movie or case history of these murderers, that sparked the trigger behind the Zodiac Killer, he now appeared to be at odds with.
Charles Raymond Starkweather was afflicted early on in his life with several handicaps, including bow leggedness, severe myopia, bordering on blindness and a speech impediment, which unsurprisingly led to bullying and teasing at Saratoga Elementary School, Everett Junior High School and Lincoln High School. The tables however would eventually be turned, as Starkweather grew from the bullied to the bully, in reaction to his years of torment at the hand of classmates.
He assimilated an identity based on the actor James Dean, famous for his starring role in the 1955 movie 'Rebel Without a Cause', even sweeping his hair back in similar fashion.
This next section will be looking for any correlation between the killer in Northern California and the Starkweather and Fugate murder spree.
We have previously considered that the Zodiac Killer may have suffered with a speech impediment, and we know the Zodiac Killer's voice was only heard by three people. Two police dispatchers, Dave Slaight and Nancy Slover took calls from the killer minutes after the Lake Berryessa and Blue Rock Springs Attacks, along with the surviving victim of the Lake Berressa Attack, Bryan Hartnell. Was our killer identifying or empathizing with Charles Starkweather in any way, however small.
Nancy Slover described the voice as mature, without accent, who spoke even but consistent, soft but forceful, as if reading from a script. Bryan Hartnell stated that the man spoke with a drawl, a form of slow drawn out speech pattern, and later during an interview described the man's voice as a "unique way of talking". It has been surmised that the Zodiac Killer may have been afflicted with a moderate speech impediment, that he controlled in later years by speaking in a deliberate monotone fashion, not unlike the voice described by both Nancy Slover and Bryan Hartnell.
Kevin Robert Brooks highlighted that his prime suspect Donald Lee Bujok suffered progressive bullying at school on account of his speech impediment, that may have carved out the resentment that he carried forward into his adult life, not unlike Charles Starkweather before him.
Donald Lee Bujok himself became marginalized from society, eventually serving eleven years in Old Montana State Prison for the brutal slaying of Deputy Otto Fossen in Joplin, Montana on October 5th 1957. This murder incidentally was shown by Kevin Robert Brooks to have occurred exactly 13 years to the day prior to the mailing of the 13 Hole Postcard in 1970. A card exacted with 13 deliberate punch holes within its design. See here for an explanation. A fellow prisoner. Edward Wayne Edwards later described in his book 'Metamorphosis of a Criminal' that another inmate, Donald Lee Bujok, referred to the fact that anybody he killed would serve as his slave the afterlife, becoming Edward Edwards most uncomfortable memory while serving time at the prison.
As stated earlier Charles Starkweather flicked back his hair at the front in an attempt to mimic his idol James Dean. As a reference point it should be noted that Michael Mageau, who survived the Blue Rock Springs shooting, described his assailant as having short curly hair, in a military style cut, combed up in a kind of pompadour, light brown, almost blond.
There is no suggestion of any correlation between the nature of the crimes in 1958 and the Zodiac Killer attacks over a decade later, although interesting observations have been noted from time to time. Here is an example from Zodiackiller.com.
But there is another one, although it must be stressed this is only an observation and no credence should be necessarily given to whether or not a link exists.
Charles Starkweather's final victim was attacked and murdered in his car, as was the Zodiac's. This final act ultimately was to bring about the demise of Charles Starkweather, whereas the Zodiac Killer exited the scene of Washington and Cherry Streets, never to be seen again and the rest, as they say, is history.
During the morning of January 29th 1958, Starkweather and Fugate were fleeing towards the state of Wyoming, near Douglas, but they needed to get rid of their 1957 Packard Patrician, as it was attracting too much attention. They spotted a traveling salesman Merle Collison (37) sleeping in his Buick and demanded that he relinquish his vehicle, but when he refused Starkweather shot him nine times in total, three times in the face. (View crime scene photograph). However he could not drive the Buick, as he was unfamiliar with its push pedal emergency brake system. When a passer-by offered his assistance Starkweather produced his rifle and the two men ended up wrestling with each other. At that exact moment Deputy Sheriff William Romer appeared on the scene, giving Fugate her opportunity to run to the Sheriff shouting "He's killed a man". Starkweather got back in the Packard and sped off into the distance. After a brief chase of speeds in excess of 100 miles an hour, finally law enforcement officers shot out the Packard's back window, injuring Charles Starkweather with shards of flying glass. He mistakenly thought he had been shot and surrendered meekly.
Despite the fact the final murders from the Starkweather and Zodiac case are different in many ways, the license plates of the Packard and Paul Stine's taxi cab bear striking similarities. Paul Stine's licence plate number was Y-17413. The Packard's was 2-17415, numerically only two different. Make of it what you will.
However we cannot ignore, that if the Badlands Letter is authentic Zodiac correspondence, then there may be a reason why he singled out this film, along with the previous Exorcist Letter for special attention.
The Exorcist Letter of January 29th 1974, curiously was sent on the exact 16th anniversary of the ultimate demise of Charles Raymond Starkweather, sadly though, the day that Merle Collison lost his life.