THE CASE OF THE ZODIAC KILLER
By Tim Lambert
The Zodiac was an unknown serial killer in California in the late 1960s and early 1970s. On 20 December 1968 David Faraday aged 17 and Betty Lou Jensen were in a car on Lake Herman Road near Vallejo, California. The Zodiac Killer approached and shot David. Betty Lou attempted to flee but she was also shot. The Zodiac Killer struck again on 4 July 1969. Darlene Ferrin, aged 22 and Mike Mageau, aged 19 were in a car in Blue Rock Springs Park when the Zodiac Killer approached and shot them. Fortunately Mike survived. Less than an hour later a man phone the police and claimed he was the killer. He also claimed responsibility for the two murders the previous year. Mike Mageau was able to describe the killer. He was about 5 feet 8 inches tall and stocky. He had brown curly hair.
On 1 August 1969 letters arrived at three newspapers claiming to be from the killer. They all contained one third of a sheet of paper with a message in code. They were signed with a crossed circle. The police were unable to decipher the code. However a high school teacher named Donald Harden and his wife Bettye managed to do so. Meanwhile on 7 August a newspaper received another letter. This time the killer called himself The Zodiac.
The Zodiac Killer struck again on 27 September 1969 by Lake Berryessa, California. Cecelia Shepard aged 22 and Bryan Hartnel aged 20 were relaxing when a man approached. He was wearing a black hood with a crossed circle on his chest. He was holding a gun. The man tied them up then stabbed them. He also wrote a message on the side of their car. He wrote the dates of the previous murders and wrote that day's date with the words 'by knife'. He also drew a crossed circle. A fisherman heard their cries and summoned help. However Ceceilia died. Again the Zodiac Killer called the police from a phone booth to claim responsibility. The next victim was a cab driver called Paul Stine. On 11 October 1969 Stine picked up a passenger in San Francisco. Stine drove him to Cherry Street but the Zodiac then shot him in the head. Witnesses saw a man wipe the car down and walk away towards a park called The Presidio. Then on 14 October a newspaper received another letter claiming to be from the Zodiac Killer. It contained a piece of Stine's shirt and the writer threatened to kill children on a school bus. The Zodiac Killer sent several more letters over the following month.
Then on 22 March 1971 Kathleen Johns was driving with her daughter southeast of San Francisco when a car pulled alongside. The driver motioned to Kathleen. She stopped and the other driver got out and told her there was something wrong with one of her wheels. He offered to tighten the lug nuts but instead he loosened them. When Kathleen drove off the wheel came off her car. The man then offered to drive her and her daughter to a gas station. However he drove off the road and started threatening to kill her. Fortunately Kathleen managed to escape from the car and hid in a field. She identified a picture of the Zodiac Killer drawn from witnesses descriptions as the man who sabotaged her car. In July 1971 the Zodiac Killer sent another letter claiming responsibility for the abduction.
The Zodiac Killer last sent a letter to a newspaper in January 1974. He was never identified and the case remains a mystery.
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A history of California