The penitentiary Edward Edwards was referring to was Old Montana State Prison, approximately three and a half miles west of Deer Lodge. Donald Lee Bujok had spent eleven years at the prison, serving time for the brutal slaying of Deputy Otto Fossen, shot five times in the neck and chest, in the small town of Joplin, Montana, on October 5th 1957.
Built in 1871, Old Montana State Prison suffered badly with overcrowding, and prisoners daily life mirrored the bleak walls that confined them. The only solace was sought through work related activities and occasional visits to the W.A. Clark Theater, built in 1919, under the governance of Warden Conley. It seated around 600 and hosted a variety of events, that included traveling theater groups, movies, concerts and religious services, providing temporary relief to inmates, who for the most part relied heavily on introspection to wile away the harsh realities that became an everyday occurrence.
Donald Lee Bujok was no exception to this rule, performing many jobs within the prison, notably a kitchen clerk, upholsterer and garment maker, but in an attempt to escape his reality, may have ascended to an altogether different level of existence, driven by a fascination for Egyptian literature and science fiction, apparent in the striking memoirs of Edward Wayne Edwards. Donald Lee Bujok, strangled by the rigors of daily life in prison, sought his escapism into the non material realm of fantasy, embracing an afterlife, that would eventually be realized a few years later, in the very real world of Northern California, one dark December night in 1968.
The shadow of Old Montana Prison became the embodiment of all things evil, when the headlights of the car driven by Donald Lee Bujok flickered across the dark twisting road of Lake Herman on December 20th 1968 and his route to paradise, that he had sought for eleven years, was just moments away, Sadly it came at great cost and the paradise sought by the Zodiac Killer, was the paradise lost by so many, in the the wake of Northern California's most reviled and elusive killer. A chapter that has left its mark for over four decades and one that began in memories recalled within the writings of Edward Wayne Edwards autobiography, Metamorphosis of a Criminal.
Kevin Robert Brooks has examined, in depth, the early life of Donald Lee Bujok, that may have seeded the very inception of the Zodiac Killer, through to the numerous letters and cards he sent to the San Francisco Chronicle, along with other associated publications, and believes his search for America's most notorious serial killer may be coming to an end.
One such letter he has analyzed, may possibly have marked the final chapter of this story, sent to the San Francisco Chronicle on January 29th 1974, that of the 'Exorcist' letter, believed by many to be the Zodiac Killer's final letter and impending epitaph.
The Zodiac Killer throughout his correspondence exhibited an overt interest in theatrics, never more so than the 'Little List' letter he mailed to the San Francisco Chronicle on July 26th 1970, paraphrasing extracts from The Mikado, a two part comic opera by Gilbert and Sullivan, which opened for the public on March 14th 1885, and was hugely successful running for 672 performances at the Savoy Theatre in London.
In his later correspondence, his interest in the movies came to the forefront, mentioning the film Badlands, Red Phantom (El Espectro Rojo), possibly The Car, in an unauthenticated letter sent on Wednesday October 28th 1987 and the 'Exorcist' letter, ridiculing the William Friedkin horror film, released in 1973.
But this correspondence encompassed both, reciting lines from The Mikado's Tit Willow, as well as embodying the movie angle into its design. The author also added Asian style characters at the foot of the letter, reminiscent of Japanese stylism.
The Zodiac Killer used a blue felt tip pen when writing this letter, causing occasional filling on the circular letters.
Kevin Robert Brooks believes the F style symbol, to be the word 'To', and when the symbols are reorganized, they spell the words 'To Kill'.
Just above the symbols he wrote "PS if I do not see this note in your paper, I will do something nasty, which you know I'm capable of doing."
He said something eerily familiar in his first correspondence to authorities, when he mailed Part Two, of his three part 408 Cipher, to the San Francisco Chronicle on July 31st 1969. On that occasion he wrote "Here is part of a cipher, the other 2 parts of this cipher are being mailed to the editors of the Vallejo Times and SF Examiner. I want you to print this cipher on the front page of your paper. In this cipher is my idenity. If you do not print this cipher by the afternoon of Fry.1st of Aug 69, I will go on a kill ram-Page Fry. night. I will cruse around all weekend killing lone people in the
In both examples the threat of non publication would result in further consequences. On July 31st 1969 the threat was murder, so why should it be any different here, thereby completing the phrase "PS if I do not see this note in your paper, I will do something nasty, which you know I'm capable of doing. To Kill".
Another striking comparison can be found in authenticated correspondence Donald Lee Bujok mailed to the Billings Gazette in Montana on June 2nd 1974, just over four months after the receipt of this letter.
It also ridiculed the idea of demonic possession stating "If his work was impressive enough, we could then extend his services to Deer Lodge. Just think of the money we could save by releasing de-possessed people who would no longer require confinement" and "Exorcism? Evil Spirits? Possession? I have a word to describe this so called phenomenon, but I'll use the initials BS, because I don't think the editor would print my expletive."
Of course Donald Lee Bujok wrote many letters to the Billings Gazette and while some showed parallels to the Zodiac Killer letters, many did not. However this correspondence to the Billings Gazette held a little more.
He began this letter with the wording
"I have been reading and hearing all about the Exorcist in Billings."
In the 'Exorcist' letter he began with
"I saw and think the Exorcist was the best satirical comedy that I have ever seen". Very similar in phraseology.
He also makes reference to Deer Lodge Prison. Significant, as this was purportedly
mentioned by the attacker at Lake Berryessa on September 27th 1969.
Thanks to Kevin Robert Brooks.
Below is a sketch created by Kevin Robert Brooks, taken from a photograph of Donald Lee Bujok aged in his late 40's.