Today is the 32nd anniversary of the callous double murder of Koy Ien Saechao and Choy Fow Salee just north of Sacramento.
This is a follow up, looking in greater detail at the claimed Zodiac letter mailed to the San Francisco Chronicle on May 6th 1986. This letter may not be by the hand of the Zodiac Killer or the two unfortunate victims described within it, but without doubt this letter is detailing the murders of Laotian couple Koy Ien Saechao (48) and Choy Fow Salee (40).
The couple had left their residence in Dorman Avenue, Yuba City (approximately 39 miles north of Sacramento) for the 195 mile (3 hour) journey to Merced County to visit their son in hospital. Later that day, April 22nd 1986, they would make the exhausting three hour journey back home - or so they thought. Somebody would change these plans as they approached the interchange of Highway 99 and I-5 Sacramento, just north of the city. For whatever reason, the pair decided to pull over onto the hard shoulder of the freeway, and a decision that would ultimately prove deadly. A merciless killer approached their vehicle and unloaded 15 bullets into the car, blowing out both front side windows in a relentless barrage of gunfire. Small caliber shell casings were strewn beside the vehicle. Koy Ien Saechao and Choy Fow Salee were left with no chance of survival at the hands of a brutal killer or killers.
The couple were only 45-50 minutes away from their home location during their 3 hour 10 minute journey from Merced - which may indicate that they decided to take a rest momentarily - or were possibly signaled to the side of the freeway by a trailing motorist, not dissimilar to the tactic employed in the abduction of Kathleen Johns on March 22nd 1970. The killer/s may have approached from the rear of Koy Ien Saechao and Choy Fow Salee's vehicle in similar fashion to the Modesto attack, or in the case of Darlene Ferrin and Michael Mageau at Blue Rock Springs on July 4th 1969, where in identical fashion, the killer approached the passenger side of the vehicle and unleashed a deadly attack on the defenseless young couple, firing off nine shots from a 9mm Luger. The double murder of David Faraday and Betty Lou Jensen on December 20th 1968 was also perpetrated by a killer approaching the victims vehicle.
If the killer was the 'hitchhiker', then this 'mystery man' likely drove his vehicle north to East Nicolaus and informed the Highway Patrol Officer of this crash in absence of his vehicle. Relaying this information to the officer with his vehicle in tow may not have been the desired option. The claim of being a hitchhiker separates him from his vehicle and distances himself from the yet to be discovered double murder, which he described as an accident to likely avoid being dragged in deeper.
This was not unlike the phone call, possibly received after the Lake Herman Road double murder: "Bidou and his partner had served a warrant on a Lake Herman Road cabin Dec. 20, 1968, and were on their way to deposit some marijuana in the police department’s evidence locker when they were dispatched back to Lake Herman Road. Initially, they were told a woman was lying outside a car; they thought they were being sent to a crash. Police at first speculated it might have been a crank call, but the officers headed back north. But when they arrived, Bidou realized it was no crank call and no car accident. Instead, it was a sinister crime scene".
Was the Zodiac Killer employing a similar tactic on April 22nd 1986, especially considering this time he is face-to-face with a Highway Patrol Officer and doesn't want to be detained? Whether this officer took any details from the hitchhiker, or gave a description is unknown, but the author of the 1986 letter may have referenced this encounter "two weeks" later.
The Zodiac Killer was certainly keen on informing the police of his murders, as demonstrated by his payphone calls after both the Blue Rock Springs and Lake Berryessa attacks, when on both occasions he directed the police to the scene of the crime.
On April 24th 1986, the Santa Cruz Sentinel reported on these crimes, stating "The man and woman found shot to death in a parked car just north of Sacramento have been identified as a refugee from Laos and a friend who lived in Yuba City. They were identified Wednesday as Choy Fow Saelee, 40, and Koy Ien Saechao, 48. Their bodies were found Tuesday at the junction of Interstate 5 and California Route 99 after a hitchhiker tipped a California Highway Patrol officer to what he called an accident. The victims' four children and 10-month-old grandchild have been placed with the Sutter County Children's Protective Services. They also had three grown children". Sacramento Police spokesman Bob Burns added "there is still no known motive for the slayings. They may have been the victims of a random killer. The hitchhiker is still being sought".
A letter arrived at the San Francisco Chronicle, postmarked May 6th 1986. It stated:
"This is the Zodiac speaking. I am still out here an crackproof. I want you to know about my latest slaves that I have collected about two weeks ago up by Sacramento Ca. I will give you clue to help you with the mystry. They were killed by a freeway. The Blue Meannies almost caught me. The body count is growing now 100+ all over the state of Ca and Na".
The 1986 letter stated "the blue meannies almost caught me".
The police confirmed that a Highway Patrol Officer was directed to the scene of the crime under the pretense of an accident by a hitchhiker. This letter may very well have been inferring as much, mocking the police once again for letting him on his way, not dissimilar to the October 13th 1969 Paul Stine letter and subsequent 'Bus Bomb' letter, in which the killer stated "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. The S.F. Police could have caught me last night if they had searched the park properly".
The quality of collection and storage of evidence in 1986 should have moved on from the late 1960s, with less degraded biological material hopefully still available in this case. With advancements in the retrieval of DNA from ever smaller samples - such as bullet casings - all hope is not necessarily lost. If this crime was committed by the Zodiac Killer, then there is an outside chance that the identity of the Bay Area murder may still be resting in fifteen crucial places.
Devon Stuart Olson confessed to the murder of the Yuba couple, apparently providing investigators with details of the crime, however, little connected him to the crime and he was never charged..Sergeant James Lewis in 2001 reiterated that none of Olson's statements matched to any of the crimes he claimed and he wasn't charged in these murders.