Detective Sergeant David Bonine stated that a close friend of Cheri Jo Bates saw her drive past in her lime green Volkswagen Beetle shortly after 6:00 pm, heading toward the Riverside City College on Magnolia Avenue. The friend waved at her, but apparently she failed to notice and did not reciprocate the gesture. A second report from about the same time period was relayed to police from an Air Force man who lived close to Riverside City College library. He was passed by a lime green Volkswagen Beetle, driven by a blond female up an alley parallel to Magnolia, east of the Shelly-Lynn Apartments. Her vehicle was being followed closely by a 1965-66 bronze Oldsmobile. The topography has changed a bit since 1966, but the alleyway likely ran parallel to the Shelly-Lynn Apartments at 4710 Magnolia Avenue. For the Air Force man to notice not only the Volkswagen Beetle of Cheri Jo Bates, but remember the vehicle trailing her, could be suggestive that the observation was significant in his mind. Had Cheri Jo Bates been followed from her 4195 Via San Jose residence by somebody she knew and taken the unconventional route down the alleyway parallel to Magnolia Avenue on her approach to the library, then it's possible she realized or recognised the trailing vehicle or occupant? This location may have held extra significance some 4 1/2 hours later.
Anybody who had ill-intent in their mind and were determined to disable the Volkswagen Beetle later that evening - or had simply targeted the young woman - would have been wise to separate their vehicle from the area around the library annex. Having it spotted close to the library entrance would not have been the ideal choice. If the Air Force man had noticed the significance of the vehicle to the rear of the Volkswagen Beetle, then quite possibly Cheri Jo Bates had too - and why she chose the unconventional approach to the library to see if her suspicions of a trailing vehicle from her residence were based in reality or not. This observation was ably pointed out by Zodiac researcher Ray Grant. The person in the trailing 1965-66 bronze Oldsmobile may have realized or known that Cheri Jo Bates was heading to the library that evening and curtailed his pursuit in the alleyway parallel to Magnolia Avenue, close to the Shelly-Lynn Apartments. This hypothesis hasn't been plucked out of thin air, as will be demonstrated later. Below is a map of the relevant locations.
The distance from Cheri Jo Bates' body to Terracina Drive and west to the alleyway close to the Shelly-Lynn Apartments is 383 feet. At an average walking speed of 4.6 feet per second, this journey would take 83 seconds (1 minutes 23 seconds). The Confession letter stated (if the killer) that "she let out a scream once and I kicked her in the head to shut her up. I plunged the knife into her and it broke. I then finished the job out cutting her throat". If the scream was approximately 30 seconds prior to the end of the attack, then we simply add this to the exit journey of the killer to the alleyway in proximity to the Shelly-Lynn Apartments - giving us a total of 1 minute and 53 seconds. Allowing a few seconds for the killer to walk along the alleyway close to the Shelly-Lynn Apartments, enter his vehicle and turn the key in the ignition, we can see how there are two minutes of silence between "awful scream" and vehicle "starting up". If the vehicle had been parked behind Cheri Jo Bates' vehicle some 75 yards east of the alleyway, then the description of a vehicle "starting up" approximately 600 feet from the Shelly-Lynn Apartments would be harder to swallow. This, in all likelihood, makes the observation of a Tucker Torpedo parked behind the Volkswagen Beetle at 9:00 pm (described by Graysmith in his book) and the sighting of a Studebaker on Riverside Avenue at 7:00 pm, an irrelevance. An awful scream will easily pierce the night air from 350 feet away, but for a vehicle to be heard, likely places it much closer to the Shelly-Lynn Apartments. The timing fits perfectly, as described in the Confession letter and the newspaper accounts of the young female tenant.
It stated that "at the murder scene, drops of blood were leading from the body to Terracina Street, indicating to the detectives that the murderer had walked back to the street following the slaying". This indicates that if the killer had parked his vehicle nearby, it was either parked east or west of the murder scene, via Terracina Drive. The author of the Confession letter would give us the answer (if we believe the Confession letter was the killer). The author stated "She was then very willing to talk to me. I told her that my car was down the street and that I would give her a lift home. When we were away from the library walking, I said it was about time. She asked me "about time for what". I said it was about time for her to die. I grabbed her around the neck with my hand over her mouth and my other hand with a small knife at her throat".
Cheri Jo Bates' Volkswagen Beetle was parked 75 yards east of the ill-fated alleyway, indicating that when the killer was stating "my car was down the street and that I would give her a lift home", it must have been in the direction of the alleyway, heading west. This would also tie in with an assailant parking his vehicle near the Shelly-Lynn Apartments. However, when he reached the ill-fated alleyway, he stated in the Confession letter "When we were away from the library walking, I said it was about time. She asked me "about time for what". I said it was about time for her to die. I grabbed her around the neck with my hand over her mouth and my other hand with a small knife at her throat. She went very willingly". This is when she was likely dragged or coerced into the darkness of the alleyway to her death (or more likely, forced from her vehicle shortly after her return, having rolled the windows, placed her books on the passenger seat and attempted to start it). After the killer had slit her throat, he effectively continued his journey by re-entering Terracina Drive and then headed west to the Shelly-Lynn Apartments, where the young female tenant heard his vehicle "starting up" two minutes after the "awful scream". Here is the sound of a 1965 Oldsmobile Cutlass 442.
After the murder of Paul Stine in Presidio Heights, three independent sets of eyewitnesses within a 5 minute window described a killer of approximately 40 years of age. If the Zodiac Killer was the murderer of Cheri Jo Bates it would have made him about 37 years of age in 1966, in direct conflict to the Confession letter author, who stated "Maybe she will be the shapely blue eyed brunett that said no when I asked her for a date in high school" and the claim of "Making her pay for all the brush offs that she had given me during the years prior". If the Bay Area murderer, he was clearly attempting to paint a picture of a killer of comparable age to Cheri Jo Bates - so was this all he was lying about? If he had read the newspaper reports of an "old car starting up" and "two minutes" of silence after the scream, it wouldn't have been that difficult to weave the description of him offering the young girl a lift into his story. He likely realized that the reports of a car "starting up" was being told by a female from the Shelly-Lynn Apartments, so integrated this into his re-telling of events, of heading west along Terracina Drive. By pretending he was of similar age to Cheri Jo Bates and getting angry "for all the brush offs", along with adding a fictitious vehicle, he is effectively doing what he may have done in the Debut of Zodiac letter some three years later.
"The man who told police that my car was brown was a negro about 40-45 rather shabbly dressed. I was in this phone booth having some fun with the Vallejo cop when he was walking by. When I hung the phone up the damn X@ thing began to ring & that drew his attention to me + my car". Adding your vehicle into the equation, being over descriptive and feigning anger, could be interpreted as a killer being rather too helpful - and a killer on foot - who lived close to the crime scene on both occasions.