“Why not seize the pleasure at once? -- How often is happiness destroyed by preparation, foolish preparation!” - Jane Austen.
Like the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel the Zodiac mystery never fails to stoke our interest with the possibility of resolution; only for the candle to abruptly extinguish itself as we hasten in our approach. Among the most puzzling incidents the case has to offer is unraveling just what happened on the night of October 11, 1969 when the phantom murderer claimed the life of San Francisco cab driver Paul Stine. My intention here will not be to rehash the events of this night, but rather to offer evidence I feel is supportive of the conclusion that Zodiac made a spontaneous decision to shoot Mr. Stine, rather than it being an act that was well-orchestrated and planned -- as very clearly seems to have occured some two weeks prior during the Lake Berryessa stabbings.
The first point I have in arguing Zodiac's spontaneity on this occasion has to do with why he was seen wiping down the vehicle in the aftermath of the murder. One may disagree, but Zodiac has often been credited as being a thinking-man's criminal. His intricate ciphers and general ability to have gone uncaptured might suggest a degree of acumen or sophistication on his part. As such, if shooting Paul Stine was highly deliberate, wouldn't he have worn gloves throughout the entire event? The abandoned pair of gloves found in the backseat notwithstanding (we don't know whom these belonged to, they were a small size and could have been left behind by an earlier passenger) Zodiac's hands were obviously uncovered since he found himself inside the cab cradling a mortally wounded Stine while risking being spotted by any passerby or police officer as he wasted valuable time trying to remove his fingerprints.
3: His initial reason for cutting the shirt. In my opinion this was done because Zodiac needed a material to wipe his fingerprints from the taxi. The police report says he was using a white rag or handkerchief to clean the vehicle. This was observed by the teens at the window, some 60 feet away; for all anyone knows it could have been Stine's shirt which was doubling as a print remover. After the murder, when Zodiac arrived home, he realized he still had the bloodied shirt and then thought how mailing out pieces of it would serve as a great way of proving he was the killer to the police and media.
It's anybody's guess as to why Zodiac decided to take the life of Paul Stine on this Saturday night in early autumn. Could they have had a disagreement while en route to their destination? Did Zodiac inadvertently say something to Mr. Stine which he feared compromised his secret identity? There are undoubtedly any number of scenarios which are equally plausible. However, the slipshod nature of the killer's modus operandi during this incident is a sharp departure from the careful and precise methodology which seem to define his previous known crimes. The fact that he came within a wisp of being apprehended this night -- the first and only time we can say this of him -- only underscores my belief that his decision to murder Paul Stine took place in the spur of the moment.
by Gregory Haugevik