Zodiac Crimes

Cheri Jo Bates: A Zodiac crime or just an inspiration?

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Eighteen-year-old Cheri Jo Bates was murdered near the library of Riverside City College in Riverside, California, on the night of October 30, 1966. One month later, someone sent a typed letter to the Riverside Press Enterprise newspaper which read:

THE CONFESSION
By ______________________________

SHE WAS YOUNG AND BEAUTIFUL. BUT NOW SHE IS BATTERED AND DEAD. SHE IS NOT THE FIRST AND SHE WILL NOT BE THE LAST. I LAY WAKE NIGHTS THINKING ABOUT MY NEXT VICTIM. MAYBE SHE WILL BE THE BEAUTIFUL BLOND THAT BABYSITS NEAR THE LITTLE STORE AND WALKS DOWN THE DARK ALLEY EACH EVENING ABOUT SEVEN. OR MAYBE SHE WILL BE THE SHAPELY BLUE EYED BROWNETT THAT SAID NO WHEN I ASKED HER FOR A DATE IN HIGH SCHOOL. BUT MAYBE IT WILL NOT BE EITHER. BUT I SHALL CUT OFF HER FEMALE DEPARTS AND DEPOSIT THEM FOR THE WHOLE CITY TO SEE. SO DON’T MAKE IT EASY FOR ME. KEEP YOUR SISTERS, DAUGHTERS, AND WIVE OFF THE STREETS AND ALLEYS. MISS BATES WAS STUPID. SHE WENT TO THE SLAUGHTER LIKE A LAMB. SHE DID NOT PUT UP A STRUGGLE. BUT I DID. IT WAS A BALL. I FIRST PULLED THE MIDDLE WIRE FROM THE DISTRIBUTOR. THEN I WAITED FOR HER IN THE LIBRARY AND FOLLOWED HER OUT AFTER ABOUT TWO MINUTS. THE BATTERY MUST HAVE BEEN ABOUT DEAD BY THEN I OFFERED TO HELP. SHE WAS THEN VERY WILLING TO TALK WITH 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 ME HAND OVER HER MOUTH AND MY OTHER HAND WITH A SMALL KNIFE AT HER THROAT. SHE WENT VERY WILLINGLY. HER BREAST FELT VERY WARM AND FIRM UNDER MY HANDS, BUT ONLY ONE THING WAS ON MY MIND. MAKING HER PAY FOR THE BRUSH OFFS THAT SHE HAD GIVEN ME DURING THE YEARS PRIOR. SHE DIED HARD. SHE SQUIRMED AND SHOOK AS I CHOAKED HER, AND HER LIPS TWICHED. SHE LET OUT A SCREAM ONCE AND I KICKED HER HEAD TO SHUT HER UP. I PLUNGED THE KNIFE INTO HER AND IT BROKE. I THEN FINISHED THE JOB BY CUTTING HER THROAT. I AM NOT SICK. I AM INSANE. BUT THAT WILL NOT STOP THE GAME. THIS LETTER SHOULD BE PUBLISHED FOR ALL TO READ IT. IT JUST MIGHT SAVE THAT GIRL IN THE ALLEY. BUT THAT’S UP TO YOU. IT WILL BE ON YOUR CONSCIENCE. NOT MINE. YES I DID MAKE THAT CALL TO YOU ALSO. IT WAS JUST A WARNING. BEWARE … I AM STALKING YOUR GIRLS NOW.

CC. CHIEF OF POLICE
ENTERPRISE

Police believed that the author of the confession had killed Bates and wrote, “The person who wrote the confession is aware of facts about the homicide that only the killer would know. There is no doubt that the person who wrote the confession letter is our homicide suspect.”

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Six months after the receipt of the “Confession,” three handwritten letters arrived at the Riverside Police Department, the local newspaper, and the home of Cheri Jo’s father, Joseph Bates. The first two read, “Bates had to die. There will be more.” A small symbol resembling the letter Z appeared at the bottom of each page. The third letter simply read, “She had to die. There will be more.” A desk found in the Riverside City College library included a morbid poem which was also attributed to the same author.

After the Zodiac murders began in Northern California, Riverside authorities noted the similarities to the Bates murder and contacted Zodiac investigators to discuss the possibility of a connection between the two cases. Sherwood Morrill, questioned documents examiner for the California Department of Justice, compared the Riverside notes with the Zodiac’s handwriting and concluded that the Zodiac was responsible for the Riverside messages. Riverside police initially embraced the theory that Zodiac killer Bates but later reversed course and accused a man who had allegedly known the victim. According to some theories, Bates was killed by Zodiac while others claim that the Zodiac was not involved in the murder but had written the Riverside messages and falsely claimed credit for the murder. Despite the denials from Riverside authorities, many people still believe that Cheri Jo Bates was killed by the Zodiac.

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Many observers noted the similarities between the language in the Zodiac case and the Riverside murder. The Zodiac used a ruse to lure some victims, and the author of the “Confession” letter stated that he disabled Cheri Jo’s car in order to create a ruse of offering his assistance and a ride. The Riverside writer sent three virtually identical handwritten letters, and the Zodiac sent three virtually identical handwritten messages.  The Riverside writer used the phrase, “I shall,” as did the Zodiac.  The author of the Riverside “Confession” wrote, “SHE SQUIRMED AND SHOOK AS I CHOAKED HER, AND HER LIPS TWICHED.” In his letter of July 26, 1970, the Zodiac wrote: “Some I shall tie over ant hills and watch them scream + twich and squirm.” Similarities between the Zodiac’s handwriting and the writing of the Riverside messages fueled speculation that Cheri Jo Bates may have been an early Zodiac victim.

In January 1969, the true crime magazine Inside Detective published a six-page story about the unsolved murder of student Cheri Jo Bates near Riverside City College on October 20, 1966. The article included information about the crime as well as a photograph of the infamous “Confession” letter. Did Zodiac kill Bates and read this article to relive his crime, or was he simply inspired by the Bates case and went on to commit the Zodiac crimes by imitating the work of the Riverside killer/author?

Read the Inside Detective article about the Bates mystery and consider the possibilities.

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In Cold Blood: The Murder of Paul Stine

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Forty-seven years ago, Paul Stine picked up a passenger in San Francisco, possibly near the intersection of Mason and Geary. Stine recorded the intended destination as the intersection of Washington and Maple, in the upscale neighborhood known as Presidio Heights. For some reason, the cab stopped one block further west at the intersection of Washington and Cherry.

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Paul Stine was twenty-nine years old, a student, and a husband. Driving the cab was paying the bills but he had other aspirations. When the passenger climbed into the cab shortly before 10:00 PM, Stine most likely thought that he would simply deliver the man to the designated destination, earn a little cash, and move on to the next fare.

No one knows if Stine and the passenger talked during the drive. The man had experience deceiving people. Just two weeks earlier, the man appeared at a popular recreation area wearing a strange hooded costume featuring a white crossed-circle. The man approached a young couple and told them that he had escaped from a prison and needed money and a car so he could flee to Mexico. He reassured the victims that he just wanted to rob them and tied them up so that he could make his escape. He then produced a foot-long knife and stabbed the victims.

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When he was finished, the man walked over to the victim’s car and used a black marker to write a message on the passenger door. A large crossed-circle was followed by the dates of two previous attacks and the location “Vallejo.” Then, the killer added the date, the time, and words, “by knife.” He then traveled more than twenty miles to a payphone where he called police to report the crime.

Paul Stine may have heard about the man who called himself “the Zodiac,” but he had no reason to suspect that the deranged killer was sitting in his cab. The passenger apparently waited until they reached the final destination to reveal his true purpose. The man took out a gun and shot Stine in the head.

Across the street, some kids watched as the man handled the driver’s seemingly lifeless body. He got out of the cab and walked around to the driver’s side where he appeared to wipe the vehicle with a cloth or a rag. The man then walked away, taking with him a large piece of Stine’s blood-stained shirt.

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The crime appeared to be a routine robbery and murder until an envelope arrived at the office of the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper. The letter inside stated, “This is the Zodiac speaking. I am the murderer of the taxi driver over by Washington & Maple St. last night. To prove this here is a blood stained piece of his shirt.” The envelope did contain a piece of Stine’s shirt which established a direct connection between the writer and Stine’s murder.

The Zodiac deviated from his previous pattern of attacking young couples in areas known as “lovers lane” spots. Paul Stine was a cab driver, working alone and just doing his job when he was killed in a residential neighborhood. The killer previously used his own car and attacked two couples sitting in parked vehicles. Paul Stine was driving his cab and he transported the killer to the scene of murder. The killer had not taken anything from the other victims but he did remove a piece of Stine’s shirt.

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In subsequent letters, the Zodiac stated that he would no longer announce his murders and that he would disguise his crimes as routine robberies, killings of anger and fake accidents. References to other victims fueled speculation that the Zodiac continued killing but authorities were unable to confirm any Zodiac crimes after the murder of Paul Stine. Other Zodiac mailings included more scraps of Stine’s shirt but the Zodiac apparently kept the still-missing piece along with the keys to the cab and Paul Stine’s wallet.

The only known police sketch of the killer was produced by witnesses in the Stine case. Police believed that fingerprints found on the outside of the cab belonged to the Zodiac. The letter and the piece of Stine’s shirt provided a direct link between the murder and the writer of the Zodiac letters. Forty-seven years later, the Zodiac crimes remain unsolved and the case is part of true crime history. The murder of Paul Stine serves as a window into the past and a rare glimpse of the mysterious Zodiac killer

* * * 

Michael Butterfield is a writer and a recognized expert on the unsolved “Zodiac” crimes. He has served as a media source and consultant for news articles, television documentaries, and director David Fincher’s major motion picture Zodiac. Michael Butterfield appears in the Zodiac documentary Case Reopened and The History Channel series MysteryQuest. He has been a featured guest on Ireland’s Sean Moncrieff Show and House of Mystery with Alan R. Warren. He is also a contributing author for the eZine True Crime: Case Files, True Crime Magazine, and the two volume collection of essays titled A History of Evil in Popular Culture, both available at Amazon.com.

Click on the links below to view official documents, photographs, police sketches, newspaper articles, videos and more about this unsolved case.

THE VICTIM

Paul Stine

THE SCENE OF THE CRIME

Washington and Cherry Streets – October, 1969

THE CRIME SCENE

Crime Scene Photographs

THE EVIDENCE

Paul Stine’s Shirt

The Fingerprints

THE INVESTIGATORS and OTHERS

San Francisco Investigators and Others

THE SUSPECT SKETCHES

Sketches of the Suspect

THE ZODIAC’S LETTERS

The Zodiac’s Envelope and Letter

THE ARTICLES

Newspaper Stories and Other Material

THE JOE STINE FILES

Paul Stine’s Brother Joe

THE DOCUMENTS

Paul Stine: Record of Death

Paul Stine: Certificate of Death

Report by SFPD Officer Armand Pelissetti

Excerpt from Dept. of Justice Report on Stine Case

Memo on the Zodiac Sighting by SFPD Officer Don Fouke

THE VIDEOS

Paul Stine’s Cab

The Crime Scene: Washington and Cherry Streets

A Possible Escape Route

SFPD Officer Don Fouke on the Zodiac Sighting

SFPD Captain Martin Lee on the Zodiac’s Threat to Attack a School Bus

SFPD Captain Martin Lee on the Zodiac’s Crossed-Circle Symbol

SFPD Captain Martin Lee on the Zodiac’s State of Mind

Lake Berryessa: A Survivor’s Story

LB-Z

Forty-seven years ago, college students Cecelia Shepard and Bryan Hartnell were sitting by Lake Berryessa enjoying a relaxing visit. They did not know that a man was nearby, watching and waiting for the right moment to set his plan in motion.

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Bryan heard some noise and asked Cecelia to look around for the source. She saw a man as he moved behind a tree. Cecelia and Bryan dismissed the man as harmless and did not notice as he donned a dark hood featuring the symbol of a white crossed-circle.

The stranger came prepared with a some pre-cut lengths of clothesline to restrain Bryan and Cecelia. On his belt, a sheath held a foot-long knife and the holster for the gun in his hand. The man needed the gun to prevent Bryan and Cecelia from running away if they began to suspect his true intentions. He would lie to them and keep them calm with the promise that he meant no harm. Once they complied and were subdued, the man would no longer need the gun and could proceed with his plan.

The hooded stranger moved toward the couple. Cecelia saw him coming and said, “Oh my God, he’s got a gun.” Bryan and Cecelia watched as the hooded stranger walked onto the narrow patch of land surrounded by water and blocked their only escape route.

Bryan and Cecelia stared at the man with a gun in his hand. Later, Bryan Hartnell would write a transcript of his conversation with the stranger.

FOR NAPA COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE
-DIALOGUE BETWEEN AN UNKNOWN ASSAILANT AND BRYAN HARTNELL ( and Cecelia Shepard )

CECELIA: What do you want?
ASSAILANT: Now take it easy– all I want’s your money. There is nothing to worry about– all I want is your money.
BRYAN: O.K.– whatever you say, I want you to know that I will cooperate so you don’t have to worry – whatever you say we’ll do. Do you want us to come up with our hands up or down?
ASSAILANT: Just don’t make any fast moves– come up slowly.
BRYAN: But we don’t have any money – all I have is 75 cents.
ASSAILANT: That doesn’t matter– every little bit helps ( pause )– I’m on my way to Mexico– I escaped from Deer Lodge Prison in Montana, Deer Lodge. I need some money to get there.
BRYAN: You’re welcome to the money I have, but isn’t there something else I can do for you? Give you a check or get some more?
ASSAILANT: No.
BRYAN: I can give you my phone number and you can call me.
ASSAILANT: ( no reply )
BRYAN: I want to get in contact with you. I am a sociology major and maybe I can even offer you more help than you think you need.
ASSAILANT: No.
BRYAN: Well, is there any other thing you need?
ASSAILANT: Yes. One more thing– I want your car keys. My car is hot.
BRYAN: (Reaching into pockets, then patting his first front then back pockets) I guess in all the excitement I don’t remember where I put them. Let’s see. Are they in my shirt, in the ignition, on the blanket… Say! Would you answer a question for me? I’ve always wondered. On TV movies and in an article in the Reader’s Digest they say that thieves really keep their guns loaded?
ASSAILANT: ( excited slightly ) Yes, it is! ( then calmed and matter-of-fact ) I killed a couple of men before.
BRYAN: What? I didn’t hear you…
ASSAILANT: I killed a couple of guards getting out of prison. And I’m not afraid to kill again.
CECELIA: Bryan– do what he says!
ASSAILANT: Now I want the girl to tie you up.
[A]: (reaches for rope that he pulls from back pocket)
BRYAN: This is really strange. I wonder why someone hasn’t thought of this before. I’ll bet there’s good money in it.
ASSAILANT: ( no reply )
BRYAN: What was the name of that prison?
ASSAILANT: ( no reply )
BRYAN: No really, what did you say the name of it was? I’m just curious.
ASSAILANT: ( begrudgingly ) Deer Lodge in Montana.
( There must have been some dialogue at this point but I can’t remember any until we are both tied up. )
ASSAILANT: Now I want you both to lay face down so I can tie up your feet.
BRYAN: Come on– we could be out here for a long time and it could get cold at night.
ASSAILANT: Come on– get down!
BRYAN: Listen, I didn’t complain when you tied our hands, but this is ridiculous…
ASSAILANT: I told you…
BRYAN: We aren’t going anywhere– Anyway, I don’t think that it’s necessary ( or – Aw, come on, we don’t want to. )
ASSAILANT: ( pointing gun directly at me at point blank range ) I told you to get down!
BRYAN: Your hands are shaking? Are you nervous?
ASSAILANT: Yes, I guess so. ( laughs in a very relaxed manner )
BRYAN: Well, I guess that I’d be nervous, too.
( Then after we were tied and hog-tied )
BRYAN: Now that everything is all said and done, could you show me that your gun is loaded? (Or, and probably this: “Now that all is said and done, was that gun really loaded?”)
ASSAILANT: Yes, it was! ( or ) Sure, I’ll show you. ( He then opened cartridge or whatever )
(That was the last thing I remember him saying.)

( signed ) BRYAN HARTNELL

Later, Bryan described what happened next. “And so I saw him put away his gun, and I was turning to say something to Celia, and all of a sudden I felt my back…just…no, I don’t think I saw him pull it out… I don’t remember… I think I saw him whip it out his knife and just start stabbing me in the back… CHOMP, CHOMP, CHOMP, CHOMP! I was just (makes guttural sound)… you know, that kind of a sound..”

The man kept stabbing until Bryan feigned death. The man then stabbed Cecelia over and over again. When he was finished, the stranger walked back to the road. He took out a black marker and wrote a message on the passenger door of Bryan’s white Volkswagen Karmann Ghia.

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A passing fisherman alerted authorities and Bryan and Cecelia were later taken to a hospital. At 7:40 PM, the Napa Police Department received a call from a telephone booth at a local car wash. Officer David Slaight answered the call.

The voice of a young man addressed Slaight in a calm, deliberate tone. “I want to report a murder– no, a double murder. They are two miles north of park headquarters. They were in a white Volkswagen Kharmann Ghia.” Slaight waited for the man to continue, but the declaration was followed by silence. After a brief pause, he asked, “Where are you now?” The voice grew quiet as the mysterious caller replied, “I’m the one who did it.” The caller then set the receiver down, leaving the line open. Police traced the call but the man was gone.

Bryan described the costume and the crossed-circle symbol, and the message on the car door also included a crossed-circle. Authorities recognized the symbol as the signature of a murderer who sent taunting letters to Bay Area newspapers and claimed that he was responsible for the shootings of two young couples. He threatened to kill again if the newspapers did not print a cipher which he claimed would reveal his identity. When deciphered, the message began with the words, “I like killing people because it’s so much fun.” The writer also referred to collecting “slaves” for his afterlife. Police asked the writer to send another letter with details about the crimes to prove that he was responsible. Days later, another letter arrived, but this time the writer coined a phrase which would become infamous in true crime history, “This is the Zodiac speaking.” The evidence indicated that Bryan and Cecelia were the next victims in the Zodiac’s deadly fantasy.

Cecelia Shepard died, but Bryan Hartnell survived. Bryan’s story was the only reason that the world learned about the killer’s bizarre costume and the odd conversation before the attack. This brief glimpse remains the best portrait of the Zodiac available, and Bryan’s account remains a chilling look into the mind of the killer. The man pointed a gun and Bryan said, “Your hands are shaking, Are you nervous?” The man laughed and replied, “Yes, I guess so.” The man was nervous because he knew what was going to happen next.

The evidence demonstrated that the killer had planned carefully by pre-cutting the sections of clothesline he used to restrain the victims. The gun forced the victims to submit to the killer’s demands. The lie about the simple robbery lulled the victims into a false sense of security. Accepting the lie, the victims allowed themselves to be tied and subdued. Once they were no longer a threat, the killer stabbed the victims without warning or provocation. The killer then walked away and wrote a message on Bryan’s car. After the attack, the killer travelled more than twenty-five miles and called police to report the crime from a payphone. All of these actions indicated that the Zodiac planned this crime.

The killer‘s interaction with Bryan and Cecelia demonstrated his ability to improvise and remain calm while deceiving the victims. In the next attack, the killer shot a cab driver who believed he was delivering a harmless passenger to a routine destination. This crime indicated the killer’s desire or need for deception and his ability to manipulate his victims. The first and second attacks were ambush-style shootings which further indicated the killer’s use of deception and surprise. Bryan and Cecelia followed the killer’s instructions because they had been deceived, and the Zodiac relied on this deception to execute his plans. After the attack, Bryan played over the events in his mind and questioned his decisions. “I mean I wanted to get that gun,” he said. “There was a time when I think I could have gotten it.” On that day, the Zodiac came prepared to carry out a cold-blooded attack which included the brutal stabbing of innocent people. Bryan thought he was dealing with a common criminal, but the Zodiac most likely planned for that scenario and Bryan could have died in any attempt to escape.

The story of what happened at Lake Berryessa could have died with Bryan Hartnell. The blade of the knife came close to his heart, but a matter of inches helped Bryan survive to share his personal nightmare and his encounter with the most-wanted serial killer in American history. Bryan’s account provided the only look at the Zodiac in action, and his story remains a crucial tool in all efforts to understand the unsolved mystery.

————–

Michael Butterfield is a writer and a recognized expert on the unsolved “Zodiac” crimes. He has served as a media source and consultant for news articles, television documentaries, and director David Fincher’s major motion picture Zodiac. Michael Butterfield appears in the Zodiac documentary Case Reopened and The History Channel series MysteryQuest. He has been a featured guest on Ireland’s Sean Moncrieff Show, The Fringe Radio Show, and House of Mystery with Alan R. Warren. He is also a contributing author for the eZine True Crime: Case Files and the two volume collection of essays titled A History of Evil in Popular Culture, both available at Amazon.com.

—————–

Read more about the Lake Berryessa case:

 

THE VICTIMS

* Bryan Hartnell and Cecelia Shepard

THE SCENE OF THE CRIME

* Lake Berryessa, September 1969

The Zodiac’s Message: The Car Door

* Photographs of the car door

* Video of the car door

The Evidence:

* The Boot Prints and Clothesline

The Phone Booth

* Photographs of the Phone Used By The Zodiac to Call The Napa Police Department

THE SUSPECT and PERSONS OF INTEREST

* Sketches of the Zodiac in costume and a man seen at the lake

THE DOCUMENTS

Read the reports produced by the Napa County Sheriff’s Department and other agencies, including:

* NCSD Report: Ken Narlow and others (19 pages)

* NCSD Report: Hal Snook (4 pages)

* NCSD Report: Collins and Land (6 pages – one page missing)

* NCSD Report: RE: the three girls at the lake (1 page)

* NCSD Report: RE: Gun used by the Zodiac (1 page)

* Napa Police Department: Report by Dispatcher David Slaight re: Zodiac call (1 page)

* FBI Report: re: Fingerprints (3 pages)

* CA Dept. Of Justice/CII Report (2 pages)

* CA Highway Patrol Report: RE: Bryan Hartnell’s car (1 page)

* Transcript: Interview with Bryan Hartnell (13 pages)

* Transcript: Written account by Bryan Hartnell (2 pages)

VIDEOS

* Video of the car door

* Interview with Park Ranger William White

* Interviews with NCSD Capt. Donald Townsend

* Bryan Hartnell’s Hospital Interview for TV News

MYSTERYQUEST: Pierre Bidou and The Lake Herman Road Murders

The recent History Channel broadcast MYSTERYQUEST included footage taken during interviews with the original investigators at the actual crime scenes. Unfortunately, the program focused more on a theory and a suspect than the case itself and, therefore, viewers never heard these men tell their stories, share their memories, or offer their insights. Anyone who researches the Zodiac crimes would welcome the opportunity to tour the crime scenes with retired investigators Pierre Bidou, Ed Rust, and Ken Narlow, and the experience was, to say the least, unforgettable. Both Rust and Narlow have given many media interviews in the past, but Pierre Bidou has rarely spoken about what he witnessed on that dark night in December, 1968. Since viewers of MYSTERYQUEST missed this opportunity, I’d like to share a few highlights from our visit to the crime scene on Lake Herman Road.

Four decades ago, Bidou worked for the Benicia Police Department, and on the night of the murders, he and another officer were in a patrol car, on the road. “…we got the call from the dispatcher that an accident, or something, had occurred on Lake Herman Road, so we turned around and came by.”

At the scene, a Rambler station wagon sat parked on the side of the road, the passenger door open and the window rolled down. In the darkness, Bidou noticed the bodies of David Faraday and Betty Lou Jensen lying on the ground; Faraday was still breathing and clinging to life while Jensen had already died from the five gunshot wounds in her back. Faraday was taken to the hospital but did not survive the damage caused by one bullet fired into his skull. Shell casings found at the scene– and the number of wounds identified on the victims– indicated that the assailant had fired at least 10 shots; six entered the bodies of Faraday and Jensen, two were lodged in the Rambler station wagon, and two more had apparently disappeared into the cold night air.

The subsequent investigation failed to uncover any significant leads or evidence. Initially, investigators considered the possibility that the victims had been killed by someone who had known the victims and sought revenge for some perceived slight or wrong. One of Jensen’s high school boyfriends quickly became a suspect according to local gossip, but investigation proved that the boy had no access to a vehicle that night and most likely did not commit the crime. Authorities were forced to conclude that the two teenagers had been killed by a stranger in an apparently random act of inexplicable violence. Bidou stated that it would not be unusual to find young couples parked at the lovers’ lane spot. I asked, “If you were familiar with this area, would you expect to find couples out here at night?” Bidou answered, “Yes.”

David and Betty Lou had not planned to be on Lake Herman Road that night; in fact, they had promised Mr. and Mrs. Jensen that they would return home by 11:00 PM. However, a passing motorist saw the couple parked at the crime scene shortly after 11:00PM, and when another driver passed minutes later, another vehicle was parked along side Faraday’s Rambler station wagon. Despite the brief sighting of the killer’s vehicle, police were unable to produce any further information. “We never got a decent description of the vehicle,” Bidou explained.

Bidou offered his opinion on the theory that the killer chose the location or the victims at random. “I don’t believe personally that he was just passing by, and the kids were just here. I think, it was planned out, by him, for whatever sadistic reason, to some extent…”

Shortly before the murders on Lake Herman Road, Bidou had been involved in the investigation of marijuana distribution in the area; he recalled, “We even looked at the person who was involved.” I asked Bidou about the theory that David Faraday had been targeted by the pot dealer he allegedly confronted at a local restaurant. “There was nothing to it,” he replied. “Nothing came of it.”

When asked about other theories raised over the decades, Bidou endorsed none. He also dismissed the claim that authorities had obtained a credible confession from a suspect then in custody for another crime. The retired investigator laughed aloud at the notion that the notorious Manson family of killers were somehow behind the Zodiac crimes. “I don’t believe in that theory, either.”

The MYSTERYQUEST production was based in a Benicia hotel, located on the corner where witness Stella Borges had stopped to talk with local police on the night of December 20, 1968. Most of the interviews for the program were filmed in one of the hotel rooms, so a cast of Zodiac characters passed through the lobby at various times, including former police dispatcher Nancy Slover and retired detective Ed Rust of the Vallejo Police Department. As we chatted in the lobby, Rust expressed his doubts that the Zodiac was responsible for the murders on Lake Herman Road. When I asked him to explain the reasons for his doubts, Rust could only cite the fact that some of the investigators who had worked on that case did not believe that the Zodiac had committed the crime.

Prior to the interview at the Lake Herman Road crime scene with Bidou, criminalist Paul Holes also raised the possibility that the murders were not committed by the same individual responsible for the Zodiac crimes. Holes speculated that the Zodiac may have had access to a police teletype which contained the details of the Lake Herman Road crime. At the crime scene, Holes asked Bidou about the details provided in the teletype, and Bidou answered without hesitation, “It was sketchy.” He further explained that this was the result of a deliberate decision to keep certain details from the public so not to aid the killer by releasing information about their investigation and to avoid false confessions.

The notion that the Zodiac simply took credit for the crime has persisted for years, so I asked Bidou for his opinion on the issue. Could the details in the Zodiac’s letters come from a false confessor armed with information contained in news accounts or the police teletype? Bidou answered, “No, I don’t think so … there was too much detail.” After examining the case for decades, Bidou was convinced that the crimes were, in fact, connected. “I do believe the Zodiac was responsible.”

Like so many others, he admitted that he had no idea who the Zodiac was or what had happened to him. “Who knows if the Zodiac is alive today, or is incarcerated for something else, or if he just stopped killing.”

The passing years had not diminished Bidou’s hope that the killer would someday be identified. As I listened to him describe his memories from forty years ago, I could see in his eyes that need for answers. Like Rust and Narlow, Bidou carried the weight of the unsolved crimes on his face, in his shoulders, and in his voice. The notion that the murderer responsible for so much bloodshed, so much terror, and so much grief, was still walking among us greatly troubled the retired investigator. Bidou looked up at the clear blue sky and quietly sighed. “I want to see the case closed.”

I am grateful that I had the opportunity to meet with Pierre Bidou and listen as he shared his memories of that horrific night more than four decades ago. Like Bidou, I want to see the case closed. If there is any justice in this world or the next, the cowardly killer who claimed the lives of David Faraday, Betty Lou Jensen, and so many others, will someday be called to account for the carnage and sorrow he has created.