The timing of events on the night of October 11, 1969, has been the subject of debate for decades. Those who argue that Don Fouke and Eric Zelms did not stop the Zodiac point to the narrow window of opportunity as reason to believe there was not enough time. Fouke’s accusers claim that he and Zelms had plenty of time to stop the Zodiac.
Officer Pelissetti said that he was nearby when he heard the radio call and responded at 9:58 PM. In interviews with this author and others, Pelissetti stated that he arrived on the scene, talked with a witness, saw the body in the cab and then proceeded north on Cherry Street toward Jackson Street. Officer Fouke said that he and Officer Zelms were also nearby when he heard the radio broadcast. Fouke claimed that he saw the suspect as he was driving on Jackson Street. The narrow margin of time leaves little room for the encounter described by the Zodiac:
“2 cops pulled a goof abot 3 min after I left the cab. I was walking down the hill to the park when this cop car pulled up + one of them called me over + asked if I saw anyone acting suspicious or strange in the last 5 to 10 min + I said yes there was this man who was runnig by waveing a gun & the cops peeled rubber + went around the corner as I directed them.”
In the Zodiac’s version of the story, the patrol car “pulled up” and one of the officer’s called him over to ask if he saw anyone acting suspicious or strange. The Zodiac responded that he saw a man running and waving a gun. The police officers then sped off around the corner as the killer directed. This exchange must have lasted at least 10 seconds if not longer. This exchange would much longer in any scenario where the officers actually climbed out of the patrol car, walked to the killer, talked, ran back to the car and sped off. The Zodiac himself claimed that his exchange occurred approximately 2 to 3 minutes after he left the crime scene. A video of the Zodiac’s possible escape route shows that an individual can walk at a slow and casual pace from the intersection of Washington and Cherry Streets to the intersection of Jackson and Maple in less than 3 minutes.
One of the witnesses claimed that he ran out into the street and saw the Zodiac walking north to the intersection of Jackson and Cherry Streets. According to this version of the story, the first police officers arrived at the crime scene as the Zodiac reached Jackson Street. The witness told Pelissetti that the Zodiac was walking north on Cherry Street so Pelissetti followed. Pelissetti claimed that he encountered Fouke and Zelms by the time he reached Jackson Street. The witness account and Pelissetti’s statements leave virtually no time for any significant encounter between the Fouke, Zelms and the Zodiac.
Pelissetti also claimed that Fouke did not mention seeing anyone. Fouke would most likely tell Pelissetti if he had just talked to someone who claimed to have seen the killer fleeing with a gun, especially if that encounter had occurred just seconds earlier. At that time, Fouke and Zelms had no reason to lie to Pelissetti about stopping someone who did not match the broadcast description of the suspect. The fact that a man was running with a gun would be crucial information to all responding officers who might confront an armed suspect. Fouke and Zelms had no reason to conceal this information, and no one knew that the Zodiac was involved at that time. Like all responding officers, Pelissetti heard the broadcast describing the suspect as a black man. Fouke and Zelms allegedly encountered a white man. The fact that the suspect did not match the description and was also armed would be crucial information and withholding this information would endanger the lives of all responding officers. Fouke and Zelms had no reason to deliberately withhold vital information and no reason to deliberately endanger the lives of their fellow officers.
The timing indicated that the story of a Zodiac stop was not compatible with the known facts, common sense, or logic. Even in an implausible scenario where the officers did stop and talk to the Zodiac, they had no reason to withhold this information and doing so would endanger other officers. Fouke and Zelms had nothing to gain by withholding this information, yet Pelissetti claimed that Fouke did not mention stopping anyone. According to Pelissetti, Fouke and Zelms were not speeding as the Zodiac claimed. Zodiac was capable of lying about this or any other detail so his account cannot be accepted as fact.
The witness statement that the victim’s head was on the killer’s lap indicated that the killer would most likely have a significant amount of blood on his clothing. Photographs taken at the crime scene show that Stine bled profusely in the moments after he was shot in the head. Fouke and Zelms would most likely notice blood on the man’s clothing in a face to face encounter. A man with blood on his lap and other areas would most likely be reluctant to engage in a face to face encounter with armed police officers responding to the scene of a robbery.
The witness also the Zodiac lingered at the scene long enough to prop up Stine’s body, walk to the driver’s side, open the driver’s door, and wipe a cloth or rag on that side of the cab. The telephone call to police was made during this time. The witness reportedly went downstairs and watched the killer for some time before he opened the door, walked into the street and observed the killer walking north on Cherry Street. According to this witness, Pelissetti and his partner Frank Peda arrived as the killer reached Jackson Street. By this timing of events, the radio broadcast description of the killer occurred while the killer was still at the crime scene. By this timing, the Zodiac was approximately 30 seconds-to-one minute ahead of Pelissetti. Pelissetti stated that three children were approaching the cab when he arrived. By this version of events, the phone call to police had ended since all three witnesses were already in the street, approximately 15 feet away from the cab.
In his interview for a 2007 documentary, Pelissetti stated that he walked all the way to the intersection of Jackson and Maple streets before encountering Officers Fouke and Zelms. In an interview with this author, Pelissetti stated that the encounter occurred at the intersection of Jackson and Cherry Streets. Don Fouke claimed that the encounter occurred at the intersection of Jackson and Cherry Streets. According to Pelissetti, he was already at the intersection of Jackson and Maple Streets when Fouke and Zelms arrived at that intersection. Fouke claimed that he had seen the suspect near the intersection of Jackson and Cherry Streets. Pelissetti would have seen the encounter with the Zodiac but he told this author that he did not see Fouke and Zelms talking to anyone. The Zodiac claimed that the police sped off around the corner, meaning that the alleged encounter must have taken place further east on Jackson Street. By Pelissetti’s account, Fouke and Zelms had just seen the Zodiac and took off speeding down half a block to find Pelissetti. The story of an encounter beyond the intersection of Jackson and Maple Streets would conflict with the witness statement that the killer was at Jackson and Cherry when Pelissetti arrived. Otherwise, one would be forced to conclude that Fouke and Zelms had already driven around in a wide circle and came back to the intersection at Jackson and Maple by the time Pelissetti arrived. Once again, the scenario was implausible at best.
The stories told by the witness, Officer Pelissetti and Don Fouke do not make sense in a scenario where Fouke and Zelms stopped the Zodiac. Fouke’s statement is not in conflict with the witness account, but Pelissetti offered conflicting accounts which are also in conflict with the statements by Fouke and the witness. The Zodiac’s story contradicted the statements by these three witnesses. The timing of the events offered by these three witnesses indicated that the alleged stop of the killer could not have occurred.
NEXT: THE TASK OF FILLING IN THE BLANKS