2 – Darlene Ferrin MYTHS: The Painting Party, The Stalker & “Andrew Todd Walker”

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In May 1977, Vallejo Police Lt. Jim Husted received a tip from a confidential informant regarding the Ferrin case. Husted’s report read, “Upon reviewing information submitted there seems to be sufficient cause to initiate an investigation to ascertain the validity of this information. Information consists of the following points which are only brief inquiries into the background of the alleged suspect. This information is viewed as circumstantial at best, but sufficient to require follow-up investigation.”

The suspect was fifty-seven years old, wore glasses and kept his large crop of dark hair combed in a pompadour. Walker had severed in the military from January 1942 through November 1945. He allegedly received training in codes and taught cryptography. Walker lived in Suisun, California and worked as a real estate salesman in Fairfield. According to a report by the Solano County Sheriff’s Office, “Walker” was seen “hanging around the rest stop area on Hunters Hill engaging in homosexual activities.” Sgt. Les Lundblad, who investigated the shootings on Lake Herman Road, had interviewed Walker regarding the incidents, as well as his “hostile manner towards a CHP officer.” This officer had reported Walker to authorities after the suspect played a game of “cat and mouse” with his vehicle on a freeway one night. Robert Graysmith’s book Zodiac featured a chapter devoted to this suspect using the pseudonym “Andrew Todd Walker.” Former California Highway Patrol Officer Lyndon Lafferty was the first to suspect “Walker” and he later published his own book about this suspect titled “The Zodiac Killer Cover-Up (aka The Silenced Badge).” [ Read the police reports regarding “Andrew Todd Walker.” ]

Lt. Husted reported, “[Walker] apparently knew the family of [Darlene Ferrin] as a mysterious caller. Placed three separate calls within 1 ½ hours after Darlene Ferrin’s death to each of the family members. These calls were made before media announcement of the murder and made certain references indicating the caller knew Darlene.” According to the Vallejo police reports, Darlene’s in-laws, Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Ferrin, reported that they had received an anonymous phone call on the night Darlene was killed. The call was made before the media released the names of the victims but long after the victims had been identified at the scene. The Ferrins stated that the caller said nothing; only the sound of heavy breathing could be heard over the line. Since the caller had not spoken, he could not have “made certain references indicating the caller knew Darlene,” as Husted’s report stated. A similar call had been placed to Darlene’s home approximately ninety minutes after the shooting at Blue Rock Springs Park. At the time of the investigation, police did not consider these calls to be suspicious, and instead believed that the calls were most likely made by a concerned friend or perhaps even a reporter after news spread that someone named Ferrin had been shot. Darlene’s husband, Dean Ferrin, stated that no one had ever believed that the calls were made by the killer and that police had expressed no interest in the source of these calls. Police reports confirm Dean’s statements. Years later, Darlene’s younger brother Leo stated that he had placed these telephone calls while attempting to find Darlene because he was in search of marijuana and thought she could help him.

Vallejo Police Lt. Jim Husted’s report also documented an interview with another informant. “A young woman by the name of Karen was a babysitter for the deceased Darlene Ferrin during the months of January through May of 1969,” Husted wrote. Karen recalled an incident in the Ferrin home that took place sometime in February or March 1969. “[Karen] stated she was babysitting approximately 10:00 pm one night, was looking out the front window of the Ferrin’s apartment, and she noticed a man whom she took to be middle-aged sitting in a white American-made sedan watching the apartment. She stated he was there for several hours but left before Dean returned from work shortly after midnight. She stated she could not really describe this individual and only knew he was middle-aged because he either turned on the inside car light or lit a cigarette so that she got a partial look at the man.”

Karen claimed that “the following day she related this incident to Darlene Ferrin who at the time (was) recalled in the bathroom putting on her makeup to go out. Darlene asked her what the car and the man looked like, and after relating a description to her, Dee said something to the effect, ‘I guess he’s checking up on me again. I heard he was back from out of state.’ Followed by, ‘He doesn’t want anyone to know what I (meaning Darlene) saw him do. I saw him murder someone.” Karen added that “Dee appeared to be genuinely frightened of this individual and mentioned sometime that he had been checking up on her at Terry’s Restaurant where Darlene was employed.”

If true, Karen’s story indicated that someone had been watching and perhaps stalking Darlene in the months before she was killed. However, Karen had not shared this story with police at the time of her murder, nor did she report the suspect during the years that followed. Karen only came forward with this strange story after rumors about Darlene, and stories about her stalker, had been circulating throughout Vallejo, thanks to the efforts of Darlene’s sisters, Pam and Linda. Karen was unable to describe the stranger or remember his name. Husted’s report read, “Karen stated that Dee sometime during this conversation mentioned the man’s name, and that the first name was very short, three or four letters and that the second name was just slightly longer. The name was quite common.”

Police then questioned Darlene’s family, friends and coworkers in an effort to identify the stranger. Some witnesses claimed to recognize Walker as a man who allegedly “spent many hours at the restaurant where Darlene worked as a waitress.” Husted explained that “this has been verified by a VPD Officer, Officer [Steve] Baldino who picked the subject’s picture out of a lineup indicating he had been seen in there conversing with the deceased.” Police then interviewed Darlene’s sisters, Pam and Linda. Both sisters recalled a “painting party” held at Darlene’s home several months before her murder, and a mysterious, well-dressed man who attended and scared Darlene. Linda reportedly identified Walker as the sinister stranger but Pam disagreed. When asked about the party, Steve Baldino told investigators that he was a guest. Police then asked the babysitter, Karen, if she was willing to undergo hypnosis to remember more about the party and the stranger she had seen in front of Darlene’s house.

Lt. Husted consulted Lt. Larry Haynes of the Concord Police Department. Haynes had been received training in hypnosis at the Law Enforcement Hypnotic Institute of the Los Angeles Police Department. Haynes agreed to meet with Karen, and the session took place on June 6, 1977, at 1:00 pm. The meeting was recorded with a video camera and a tape recorder. Husted described the session in his report. “Lieutenant Haynes, after inducing a hypnotic trance, explored certain areas of concern, particularly the discussion had with Darlene Ferrin while putting on her makeup in regard to the person she saw murder someone. From that particular questioning, Karen was able to recall a general description of the male in his vehicle. The description was a heavy set, middle-aged white male adult, very round face, curly, wavy dark brown hair. The vehicle was a white sedan with a large windshield. She couldn’t recall whether or not the subject had on glasses or whether or not the subject smoked. She was a given a post hypnotic suggestion that if the subject she perceived while in the trance was, in fact, our suspect, that she would be able to pick him out of a lineup at a later date. She has no idea who the suspect is at this point. She was also given instructions that she would remember the face that she perceived in the trance, and that she would assist in producing a composite with a police artist.”

Haynes probed further into Karen’s memory. “In regard to the painting party which took place in May of 1969 at 1300 Virginia, the new residence of Darlene Ferrin, it was determined that [Karen] was, in fact, there taking care of Darlene Ferrin’s [daughter] and that the three unidentified white males arrived, and that she soon left the residence, due to the fact she was uncomfortable with these strange individuals. It’s not certain whether any of these individuals may or may not have been the suspect. She did indicate that they were young.” Despite the fact that Karen claimed that the “three unidentified white males” were “young,” later versions of the painting party story would focus on the individual allegedly seen by Steve Baldino and Darlene’s sisters Pam and Linda — a sinister, well-dressed yet older man.

Linda and Baldino had both initially identified Walker, but the identifications were not sufficient to warrant Walker’s arrest. He remained a subject of interest, but the investigation of the suspect came to an end. The experience left some investigators questioning the credibility of the witnesses. Linda told investigators that the menacing stranger had been following and bothering Darlene and brought her gifts he purchased in Mexico. In 1969, Linda mentioned a man who brought Darlene presents from Tia Juanna, but she had said that the man was named “Lee” and further described him as one of Darlene’s “three closest friends,” and not a menacing stranger. Linda had never told police that this man had been bothering or following her sister, and she never shared this important information in the eight years since the murder. Linda had identified Walker as Darlene’s stalker, yet, years later, she identified suspect Larry Kane as the same stalker. During an appearance at a public event, Linda once shouted, “Do you want to know who the Zodiac is? It’s Larry Kane.”

Pam would later claim that she had seen this mysterious man on at least eight occasions, and that Darlene warned her to stay away from him because he was a murderer. Like Linda, Pam failed to mention this potentially important information during her many interviews with police, and her selective silence and sensational stories cast doubt on her credibility. Vallejo police detective George Bawart had come to know Pam after investigating claims that she was the victim of harassment by an anonymous and threatening stalker. Bawart once told a television producer that Pam was “nutso.” Darlene’s husband Dean Ferrin told the same producer that Pam and Linda were prone to prevarication. Pam had claimed that Darlene’s cousin Sue Ayers had visited surviving victim Michael Mageau as he recovered in the hospital. According to Pam, Mike told Sue that he and Darlene had seen chased to the crime scene and the gunman had uttered Darlene’s nickname, “Dee,” just before the shooting started. Sue Ayers has since denied that she spoke to Mike at the hospital and denied that she had ever told anyone such a story. She also said that Linda and Pam were not credible witnesses and that the two sisters were responsible for many of the myths regarding the life and death of Darlene Ferrin. Both Pam and Linda would later befriend Sandy Betts, who claimed that she had been the victim of harassment at the hands of suspect Larry Kane and other suspects. Authorities had investigated these claims and determined that Betts was not a credible person. Retired reporter Dave Peterson often repeated many of the stories told by Pam and Linda, including the myth that Darlene had been spending more money than she could have made as a waitress. This claim was based on the notion that Darlene had magically obtained a large sum of money in order to buy a house, yet Darlene’s husband Dean explained that they had purchased the home with the financial assistance of Darlene’s father. Peterson was convinced that Darlene had known the Zodiac and that her alleged involvement in a satanic cult had somehow led to her murder. Peterson became an associate of Howard Davis, who claimed that the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office and other officials had orchestrated a massive conspiracy to conceal the connection between the Zodiac murders and the notorious Manson “family” of cult killers.

Officer Steve Baldino claimed that he had heard the tape recording of the Zodiac’s telephone call to Vallejo police on the night of the Ferrin murder. In an interview for the tabloid television show NOW IT CAN BE TOLD, Baldino said, “I heard it – I know there was a tape because I heard it, I think it was that night.” He added, “That tape is apparently now missing.” Darlene’s sister Pam and others also claimed to have heard the infamous tape. Baldino complained about incompetence and corruption within the Vallejo Police Department, and once stated, “I have found over the years that some people there did not care about the truth.” Rumors regarding the recording circulated in the years after the 1977 investigation, and Steve Baldino repeated the story to anyone who would listen. Author Robert Graysmith included Baldino’s story in the book Zodiac and created the legend of the Zodiac voice recording. In his book, Graysmith states that Vallejo police Detective Jack Mulanax had searched for the recording, and the detective later stated that he never found any evidence that such a recording had ever existed. None of the Vallejo police reports mentioned the recording which would have identified the Zodiac, and Baldino was the only member of the Vallejo Police Department who had ever claimed that the recording existed. Former Vallejo police dispatcher Nancy Slover answered the Zodiac’s call to the Vallejo Police Department, and she denied that she had ever played such a tape for Baldino or anyone else. She emphatically stated that the tape had never existed. Slover explained that the Vallejo Police Department did not have the equipment to record incoming phone calls in 1969, and that anyone who had worked for the department at that time would be aware that such a tape could not and did not exist.

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A segment of the then-popular syndicated talk show The Sally Jessy Raphael Show featured Robert Graysmith, author of Zodiac, and Pam, the sister of Zodiac victim Darlene Ferrin. During the broadcast, Pam describes the “ordeal” of ongoing harassment from a mysterious stalker. Despite the fact that Graysmith based much of his book on the stories told by Pam, he attempted to distance himself from her as she shared more incredible stories with the studio audience. Pam said, “Well, the night that [Darlene] was killed, she had come to the house, our mom and dad’s house, and I was there with the little baby, he was only ten days old. She had told my mom, ‘Remember that killing I told you about a few years ago, well, it’s gonna be in the papers tomorrow so don’t be surprised.’ With that in mind, I looked at Darlene and I said, ‘What are you talking about?’ and she said, ‘Never mind, Pam, you get home with that baby. You shouldn’t be out.’ So, my dad comes walking in the room and he says, ‘Darlene are you scaring mom with those horror stories again. You get out of here, you get home.’ So, with that, she leaves, she doesn’t tell her story, because she ends up dead at ten after twelve.” Pam never told this story to police.

[ Watch The SALLY JESSY RAPHAEL SHOW: Part 1 / Part 2 ]

Darlene’s sisters Pam and Linda told many stories over the years and, by 1998, their younger sister Christina reportedly changed her version of events. In 1969, police interviewed Christina regarding the events on the night of Darlene’s murder. According to the police report, Christina accompanied Darlene on a drive to Ceasar’s restaurant and then on to Terry’s restaurant. Darlene then took Christina home before driving to pick up Michael Mageau. The Vallejo police report regarding Christina’s interview states: “Interviewed Christina SUENNEN… stated that she and her sister had gone from “Ceaser’s” to Terry’s on Magazine St. Stated that at no time did Darlene speak to anyone other that some of the girls she works with at Terry’s. Could add nothing to the above.” Three decades later, Christina was interviewed by Detective Johnny Smith and Manson/Zodiac theorist Howard Davis. The website TheZodiacMansonConnection.com stated: “On New Year’s Day 1998, Detective Johnny Smith and Dr. Howard Davis met with Darlene Ferrin’s younger sister, Christina. She told them that [Manson family member] Bruce Davis looked exactly like the man she saw Darlene arguing with about 45 minutes before Darlene was killed by Zodiac!” Christina had never mentioned this alleged argument when she was interviewed by police in 1969 or at any other time. Christina’s version of events changed after Robert Graysmith’s best-selling book and other accounts had stated that Darlene had argued with a mysterious stranger shortly before she was killed. No one had ever reported such argument or incident to police and no credible evidence existed that Darlene had argued with anyone on the night she was murdered.

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The stories about the recording, the painting party, the anonymous phone calls on the night of the murder, and the sinister stranger who terrified Darlene served as the foundations of the growing myth that Darlene had known her killer. The theory depended upon the false assumption that police had failed to properly investigate the murder of Darlene Ferrin. The few critics of the investigation failed to note that the police could not investigate leads which witnesses never bothered to report and that police had already investigated many of the dubious claims made by Darlene’s sisters and others. Years of investigation had failed to produce any credible evidence that Darlene had been the victim of a stalker or that she had known the Zodiac. The myths persisted, and the story of the painting party expanded to include Ron Allen (the brother of suspect Arthur Leigh Allen), as well as the sinister, older stranger wearing a suit. Several of the named guests –including Ron Allen– denied that they had ever attended such a party, but the story was featured in Robert Graysmith’s book Zodiac. After reading Graysmith’s book, Arthur Leigh Allen’s original accuser Don Cheney claimed that Allen’s brother and sister-in-law had attended such a party with Allen and that the suspect had worn a suit. Both Ron Allen and his wife refuted Cheney’s claims. Cheney’s new story served as a classic example of the problem which continued to plague the Zodiac mystery and continued to confuse the public in search of facts about the unsolved case. Pam, Linda and a few others spread sensational stories which were then reported as fact in Graysmith’s best-selling book Zodiac. The fact that Graysmith’s book had been published and became a best-seller was cited as proof its factual accuracy and the author’s credibility. The media then used Graysmith’s revisionist account as a source for more news reports, lending further credibility to Graysmith’s version of the story and the claims made by Pam, Linda and others. These media reports then influenced amateur sleuths and Internet crime buffs who perpetuated these myths and invented new theories of their own based on those myths. In turn, the Internet speculation and rumors fueled more myths which were then reported by the media. By the year 2007, many of these myths were included in the film adaptation of Graysmith’s book, thereby spreading these stories to millions of viewers across the globe and creating more Internet speculation. These Internet crime buffs then embraced the movie version of the story and cited the fact that the film was based on Graysmith’s book as proof of its accuracy. In turn, observers then concluded that Graysmith’s book must be factually accurate because the book was turned into a Hollywood film. Despite the overwhelming evidence which proves that Graysmith’s version of the Zodiac story is distorted, biased and factually inaccurate, the public and the media continue to cite the author’s revisionist account as fact and continue to spread the myths regarding the life and death of Darlene Ferrin. These myths were also prominently featured in Geraldo Rivera’s tabloid television show NOW IT CAN BE TOLD.

NEXT – NOW IT CAN BE TOLD: The Rest of the Story