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Zodiac Killer – Timeline

The first murders widely attributed to the Zodiac Killer were the shootings of high school students Betty Lou Jensen and David Faraday on December 20, 1968, on Lake Herman Road, just inside Benicia city limits.

Lake Herman Road attack

The first murders widely attributed to the Zodiac Killer were the shootings of high school students Betty Lou Jensen and David Faraday on December 20, 1968, on Lake Herman Road, just inside Benicia city limits.

The couple were on their first date and planned to attend a Christmas concert at Hogan High about three blocks from Jensen's home. The couple, instead, visited a friend before stopping at a local restaurant, and then driving out on Lake Herman Road. At about 10:15& p.m., Faraday parked his mother's Rambler in a gravel turnout, which was a well-known lovers' lane.

Shortly after 11:00& p.m., their bodies were found by Stella Borges, who lived nearby. The Solano County Sheriff's Department investigated the crime but no leads developed.

Utilizing available forensic data, Robert Graysmith postulated that another car pulled into the turnout, just prior to 11:00 and parked beside the couple. The killer apparently exited the second car and walked toward the Rambler, possibly ordering the couple out of the Rambler. Jensen appeared to have exited the car first, yet when Faraday was halfway out, the killer apparently shot Faraday in the head. Fleeing from the killer, Jensen was gunned down twenty-eight feet from the car with five shots through her back. The killer then drove off.

Blue Rock Springs attack

Just before midnight on July 4, 1969, Darlene Ferrin and Michael Mageau drove into the Blue Rock Springs Park in Vallejo, four miles from the Lake Herman Road murder site, and parked. While the couple sat in Ferrin's car, a second car drove into the lot and parked alongside them, almost immediately driving away. Returning about 10 minutes later, this second car parked behind them. The driver of the second car then exited the vehicle, approaching the passenger side door of Ferrin's car, carrying a flashlight and a 9 mm Luger. First, the killer directed the flashlight into Mageau's and Ferrin's eyes, before shooting each of the victims 3 times. When Mageau moaned in pain, the killer returned and shot each victim 2 more times before driving off.

On July 5, 1969, at 12:40& a.m., a man phoned the Vallejo Police Department to report and claim responsibility for the attack. He also took credit for the murders of Jensen and Faraday six-and-a-half months earlier. The police traced the call to a phone booth at a gas station at Springs Road and Tuolumne, about three-tenths of a mile from Ferrin's home and only a few blocks from the Vallejo Police Department.

Ferrin was pronounced dead at the hospital. Mageau survived the attack despite being shot in the face, neck, and chest.

The Zodiac letters begin

= 10, SFPD = 0".

Zodiac sent a greeting card postmarked 28 April 1970, to the ''Chronicle''. Written on the card was, "I hope you enjoy yourselves when I have my BLAST", followed by the Zodiac's cross circle signature. On the back of the card, the Zodiac threatened to use his bus bomb soon unless the newspaper published the full details he wrote. He also wanted to start seeing people wearing "some nice Zodiac butons [''sic'']".

In a letter postmarked June 26, 1970, the Zodiac stated he was upset that he did not see people wearing Zodiac buttons. He wrote, "I shot a man sitting in a parked car with a .38." The Zodiac was possibly referring to the murder of Sgt. Richard Radetich, a week earlier, on 19 June. At 05:25, Radetich was writing a parking ticket in his squad car when an assailant shot him in the head with a .38-caliber pistol. Radetich died 15 hours later. SFPD denies the Zodiac was involved in this murder; it remains unsolved.

Included with the letter was a Phillips 66 map of the San Francisco Bay Area. On the image of Mount Diablo, the Zodiac had drawn a crossed-circle similar to the ones he had included in previous correspondence. At the top of the crossed circle, he placed a zero, and then a three, six, and a nine, so the annotation resembled a clock face. The accompanying instructions stated that the zero was "to be set to Mag. N." The letter also included a 32-letter cipher that the killer claimed would, in conjunction with the code, lead to the location of a bomb he had buried and set to go off in the autumn. The bomb was never located. The killer had signed the note with " = 12, SFPD = 0."

In a letter to the ''Chronicle'' postmarked July 24, 1970, the Zodiac took credit for Kathleen Johns' abduction, four months after the incident.

In a July 26, 1970 letter, the Zodiac paraphrased a song from ''The Mikado'', adding his own lyrics about making a "little list" of the ways he planned to torture his "slaves" in "paradice." The letter was signed with a large, exaggerated cross circle symbol and a new score: " = 13, SFPD = 0." A final note at the bottom of the letter stated, "P.S. The Mt. Diablo code concerns Radians + # inches along the radians." In 1981, a close examination of the radian hint by Zodiac researcher Gareth Penn led to the discovery that a radian angle, when placed over the map per Zodiac's instructions, pointed to the locations of two Zodiac attacks.

On October 7, 1970, the ''Chronicle'' received a three-by-five inch card signed by the Zodiac with the drawn with blood. The card's message was formed by pasting words and letters from an edition of the ''Chronicle'', and thirteen holes were punched across the card. Inspectors Armstrong and Toschi agreed it was "highly probable" the card came from the Zodiac.

Zodiac letter to Chronicle reporter Paul Avery

On October 27, 1970, ''Chronicle'' reporter Paul Avery (who had been covering the Zodiac case) received a Halloween card signed with a letter 'Z' and the Zodiac's cross circle symbol. Handwritten on the card was the note "Peek-a-boo, you are doomed". The threat was taken seriously and received a front-page story on the ''Chronicle''. Soon after receiving this letter, Avery received an anonymous letter alerting him to the similarities between the Zodiac's activities and the unsolved murder of Cheri Jo Bates, which had occurred four years earlier at the city college in Riverside in the Greater Los Angeles Area, more than 400 miles south of San Francisco. He reported his findings in the ''Chronicle'' on 16 November 1970.

Riverside attack

On October 30, 1966, 18-year-old Bates spent the evening at the campus library annex until it closed at 21:00. Neighbors reported hearing a scream around 22:30. Bates was found dead the next morning, a short distance from the library, between two abandoned houses slated to be demolished for campus renovations. The wires in her Volkswagen's distributor cap had been pulled out. She was brutally beaten and stabbed to death. A man's Timex watch with a torn wristband was found nearby. The watch had stopped at 12:24, but police believe the attack occurred much earlier.

A month later, on November 29, 1966, nearly identical typewritten letters were mailed to the Riverside police and the Riverside Press-Enterprise, titled "The Confession". The author claimed responsibility for the Bates murder, providing details of the crime not released to the public. The author warned that Bates "is not the first and she will not be the last".

In December 1966, a poem was discovered carved into the bottom side of a desktop in the Riverside City College library. Titled "Sick of living/unwilling to die", the poem's language and handwriting resembled those of the Zodiac's letters. It was signed with what were assumed to be the initials, "rh". Sherwood Morrill, California's top "Questioned Documents" examiner, expressed his opinion that the poem was written by the Zodiac.

On April 30, 1967, the six-month anniversary of Bates' murder, Bates' father Joseph, the Press-Enterprise, and the Riverside police all received nearly identical letters. In handwritten scrawl, the Press-Enterprise and police copies read, "Bates had to die there will be more", with a small scribble at the bottom that resembled the letter 'Z'. Joseph Bates' copy read "She had to die there will be more" without a "Z" signature.

On March 13, 1971, nearly four months after Paul Avery's first article on Bates, the Zodiac mailed a letter to the ''Los Angeles Times''. In the letter he credited the police, instead of Avery, for discovering his "Riverside activity, but they are only finding the easy ones, there are a hell of a lot more down there".

The connection between Cheri Jo Bates, Riverside, and the Zodiac remains uncertain. Paul Avery and the Riverside Police Department maintain that the Bates homicide was not committed by the Zodiac, but did concede some of the Bates letters may have been his work to falsely claim credit.

Lake Tahoe disappearance

On March 22, 1971 a postcard to the ''Chronicle'', addressed to "Paul Averly", and believed to be from the Zodiac, appeared to take credit for the disappearance of Donna Lass on September 6, 1970. Made from a collage of advertisements and magazine lettering, it featured a scene from an advertisement for Forest Pines condominiums and the text "Sierra Club," "Sought Victim 12," "peek through the pines," "pass Lake Tahoe areas," and "around in the snow." Zodiac's cross circle symbol was in the place of the usual return address.

Lass was a nurse at the Sierra Tahoe hotel and casino. She worked until about 2:00& a.m. on September 6, 1970, treating her last patient at 1:40. Later that same day, both Lass's employer and her landlord received phone calls from an unknown male falsely claiming Lass had left town due to a family emergency. Lass was never found. What appeared to be a grave site was discovered near the Claire Tappan Lodge in Norden, California, on Sierra Club property, but an excavation yielded only a pair of sunglasses.

No evidence has been uncovered to definitively connect Donna Lass' disappearance with the Zodiac Killer.

Santa Barbara attack

In a ''Vallejo Times-Herald'' story appearing on 13 November 1972, Santa Barbara Sheriff's Detective Bill Baker (ret.) postulated that the murders of a young couple in Santa Barbara County might have been the work of the Zodiac killer.

On June 4, 1963, high-school senior Robert Domingos and fiancée Linda Edwards were shot to death on a beach near Lompoc, having skipped school that day for "Senior Ditch Day". Police believed that the assailant attempted to bind the victims, but when they freed themselves and attempted to flee, the killer shot them repeatedly in the back and chest with a .22-caliber weapon. The killer then placed their bodies in a small shack and tried, unsuccessfully, to burn it down.

Final Zodiac letters

After the "Pines" card, the Zodiac remained silent for nearly three years. The ''Chronicle'' then received a letter from the Zodiac, postmarked January 29, 1974, praising ''The Exorcist'' as "the best saterical comidy [sic]" that he had ever seen. The letter included a snippet of verse from ''The Mikado'' and an unusual symbol at the bottom that has remained unexplained by researchers. Zodiac concluded the letter with a new score, "Me = 37, SFPD = 0".

The ''Chronicle'' received another letter postmarked February 14, 1974, informing the editor that the initials for the Symbionese Liberation Army spelled out an Old Norse word meaning "kill". However, the handwriting was not authenticated as the Zodiac's.

A letter to the ''Chronicle'', postmarked May 8, 1974, featured a complaint that the movie ''Badlands'' was "murder-glorification" and asked the paper to cut its advertisements. Signed only "A citizen", the handwriting, tone, and surface irony were all similar to earlier Zodiac communications.

The ''Chronicle'' subsequently received an anonymous letter postmarked July 8, 1974, complaining about one of its columnists, Marco Spinelli. The letter was signed "the Red Phantom (red with rage)". The Zodiac's authorship of this letter is debated.

A letter, dated April 24, 1978, was initially deemed authentic, but was declared a hoax less than three months later by three experts. In recent years, however, this letter has been deemed authentic. Dave Toschi, the SFPD homicide detective who had worked the case since the Stine murder, was thought to have forged the letter, because author Armistead Maupin believed the letter to be similar to "fan mail" he received in 1976 which he believed was authoured by Toschi. While he admitted to writing the fan mail, Toschi denied forging the Zodiac letter and was eventually cleared of any charges. The authenticity of this letter remains unverified.

On March 3, 2007, an American Greetings Christmas card sent to the ''Chronicle'', postmarked 1990 in Eureka had recently been discovered in their photo files by editorial assistant Daniel King. Inside the envelope, with the card, was a photocopy of two U.S. Postal keys on a magnet keychain. The handwriting on the envelope resembles Zodiac's print, but was declared inauthentic by forensic document examiner Lloyd Cunningham. Not all Zodiac experts, however, agree with Cunningham's analysis. There is no return address on the envelope nor is his crossed-circle signature to be found. The card itself is unmarked. The ''Chronicle'' turned over all the material to the Vallejo Police Department for further analysis.


Adapted from the Wikipedia article Zodiac Killer, under the G. N. U. Free Documentation License. Please also see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki




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