It can be said with confidence that Michael Mageau's recall of the events that night are sketchy, often contradicting himself in the police report, nevertheless, his description of the killer is as follows: On page 6 of the police report Michael stated "A white man drove up in a car, got out, walked up to the car, shined flashlight inside and started shooting. Man was older than me". On page 10 of the police report Michael stated "Subject was not blubbery fat, but real beefy, possibly 195-200, or maybe even larger. Stated he had short curly hair, light brown, almost blond. States he just saw subject's face from the profile, side view, and does not recall seeing a front view. Michael reemphasized that he really did not get a good look at subject other than his profile. Stated subject was a white male, approximately 26-30 years". It is fair to say, this is understandable, as the killer carried a high-powered flashlight and began firing immediately upon arriving at the passenger side door of the Corvair.
Bryan Hartnell survived the vicious stabbing at Lake Berryessa, whereas Cecelia Shepard sadly died two days after the attack. Cecelia Shepard saw the assailant unmasked at a distance for a brief period, but during the close quarter interaction with the young couple the Zodiac Killer was masked throughout. Bryan Hartnell's recollections were stated on page 23 of the police report: "Victim thought suspect was possibly 20-30 years of age by voice concept".
The question here, is how reliable is pinpointing somebody's age by the sound of their voice, and probably why a 10-year estimation range is given. Then finally, at Presidio Heights on October 11th 1969, the police got the best descriptions to date, when the Zodiac Killer continued his murderous campaign two weeks later in the heart of San Francisco.
The three teenagers were attributed with the description of the killer as "A white male, 25-30 years old, 5'8" to 5'9", stocky build, reddish-brown hair worn in a crew cut, heavy rimmed glasses and dark clothing". Although this conflicts with the description in the police report.
Donald Fouke in his typed memorandum from November 12th 1969 stated he was a "WMA, 35-45 yrs, about 5'10", 180-200 lbs, medium heavy build, barrel chested, medium complexion, light colored hair possibly graying in rear, crew cut, wearing glasses". Donald Fouke corroborated the teenagers sketch of the killer in the 2007 documentary with the addendum that the killer was "likely older and heavier".
Summing up: Michael Mageau viewed what could be described as a fleeting glimpse of the killer, Bryan Hartnell estimated his age range on voice analysis, whereas the three teenagers and Officer Donald Fouke viewed the killer for an extended period. The three teenagers, although affected by distance and street lighting, got an unrestricted view of the murderer for at least 3-5 seconds as the killer exited the taxicab, wiped down the passenger side and headed toward the driver side door. This is the time period where the teenagers got a full frontal, unobscured view of the Zodiac Killer's face.
Officer Donald Fouke on the other hand, stated he observed the suspect as he approached the intersection of Jackson and Maple. He stated in the 2007 This is the Zodiac Speaking documentary, that he "Slowed down as we passed him, we were still rolling, saw that it was a white male, step on the gas, 5, 10, 15 seconds tops from first spotting him to passing him". Combined, the three teenagers and Officer Donald Fouke got the longest view of the Zodiac Killer by far. The question being, do we place more credence in Officer Donald Fouke's description, being a police officer trained in observation and being distinctly closer to the Zodiac Killer than the three teenagers.
If we take only people who actually saw Zodiac, then it is approximately 32 years. If we take the two longer sightings at Presidio Heights then it's 32.5 years. This gives us an age range of 30-33 years of age.
If we value Officer Donald Fouke's description, being a trained observer, over the three teenagers, then this estimation of 32.5 years would rise. It is important to factor in the time each eyewitness was observing the killer, in association with the distance they observed the killer from. In this respect, Donald Fouke viewed the suspect closer and longer, followed by the teenagers, and then Michael Mageau, who never furnished a sketch of the suspect at the time. If we attribute credibility to the eyewitnesses in this format, then the likelihood is that Officer Donald Fouke's sighting would take top billing and raise the likely age of the Zodiac to the high 30s.
It has been speculated that Officer Donald Fouke stopped the Zodiac Killer, based upon him continuing toward Arguello Boulevard rather than turning south into Cherry Street when responding to the crime, The Zodiac claimed he was stopped in the Bus Bomb letter on November 9th 1969, stating "2 cops pulled a goof". Later statements by Officer Armond Pelissetti in the documentary This is the Zodiac Speaking indicated as such. Reported statements of Diane Zelms (wife of Eric Zelms), who Eric allegedly told they stopped the Zodiac that night, along with Donald Fouke's extensive description of the suspect walking on Jackson Street, appeared to suggest Zodiac was questioned that night. If this was the case, then Donald Fouke's eyewitness description of "35-45 years" in accompaniment to the age of "about 40" reported in the October 12th San Francisco Chronicle by other eyewitnesses, would carry far greater weight, placing Zodiac in the median range of 40-41 years of age. If you believe the Zodiac Killer was stopped, then it is more likely the Zodiac Killer is of the higher age range, in direct contradiction to the younger Zodiac suggested by the other eyewitnesses. It is also important to remember that Donald Fouke stated in his memorandum one month after the murder of Paul Stine, that the unknown male on Jackson Street was "possibly graying in the rear", which coupled with a description of a widows peak, may suggest a man at least in his 30s. The average age for a man to start graying is 30-35 years.
The question to be asked, is which eyewitnesses do you lend the most credence to? The median values averaged out, suggests the Zodiac Killer was likely 30-33 years of age in 1969. However, I personally tend toward the eyewitness testimony of Officer Donald Fouke, with an estimated range of 35-45 years.
Taking this, and everything else into account, my conclusion is that the Zodiac Killer was approximately 40 years of age in 1969.
THIS ARTICLE HAS BEEN BEEN REEXAMINED IN 2019 TO OFFER GREATER REASONING TO THE ESTIMATED AGE OF 40. THE THREE TEENAGE EYEWITNESSES NEVER STATED THE SUSPECT WAS 25 TO 30 YEARS OF AGE.
THE AGE OF THE ZODIAC WAS 40 IN 69.
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