The attack at Lake Berryessa has come under heavy scrutiny, in particular the handwriting on the car door of Bryan Hartnell's white 1956 Volkswagen Karmann Ghia. Was it really the Zodiac's or a copycat or even that the killer wrote it at all and further speculation that the phone call in Napa may not have been him either, so here we will return to basics once more and contemplate what we do know, before moving on.
Writing on the car door was found (see inset), believed to have been penned by the Zodiac Killer after the attack. But crucially there was no mention of any blood being retrieved and analyzed from the car door under later forensic examination. Some fingerprints however were retrieved. Bryan Hartnell clearly states, under interview, he cannot remember whether the attacker wore gloves or not. So let us examine this conundrum.
If the killer had not wore gloves, then any fingerprints on the car door, one may argue, could surely have not been his.
He had struck, with force, both victims using a long bladed knife at least 16 times, possibly securing them with his free hand, thrusting the knife back and forward, in what was described as a frenzied attack, yet no blood whatsoever transferred onto either hand. So if the fingerprints on the car door were his, are we to believe that all the blood released at the scene of the horrific attack simply bypassed both his striking and accompanying hand, or he had wiped his hands down so thoroughly after the attack, that he had removed every last trace. If he had donned gloves during the attack and leaned on the car door, blood smears would be evident, which they were not. If he had worn gloves during the attack, which seems the most likely from a standpoint of gripping the knife, as well as concealing his fingerprints, then removing them, to now lean on the car door in the aftermath seems, on the face of it rather stupid. He had covered his entire body with a costume to conceal his identity, yet left his hands exposed to plaster the car door with blood free fingerprints and palm prints. Does this sound logical. If he wore gloves, he clearly didn't want his writing hand to smear blood onto the car door where he was trying to write, and unless he was ambidextrous, he was no doubt writing with the same hand he ferociously attacked Cecelia Shepard and Bryan Hartnell with. The same hand that was closest to any blood spatter and impact area. However if he was ambidextrous and chose to write on the car door with his least preferred hand or alternative hand, then his writing may justifiably vary from its usual pattern, that he wrote his letters with.
In terms of the writing, our next task is to sit at a table with pen and paper at hand and write the Zodiac wording from the car door, and then follow this up by squatting in front of a wall, with some paper pinned to it, and write the same wording, without resting your palm and see the results. It will not be the same and never will be, let alone all the contributing factors that faced the Zodiac Killer at Lake Berryessa on September 27th 1969.
The final option suggested by some, is that he wrote on the car door before attacking the couple. This would circumvent the blood issue, but would have relied heavily upon his modus operandi going exactly to plan as he intended, which it would seem it did, otherwise the only smear on the car door may have been in black ink.
To view a comprehensive discussion on this topic and pursue other lines of reasoning, please visit the following thread at the ZodiacKillerSite Forum. Or click the banner below, to join or access the main index page.