INT. CONFERENCE ROOM -- DAY
Graysmith settles into his chair opposite a PANEL of SEVEN AGENTS. The lead one, JOHNSON, runs the meeting.
AGENT JOHNSONMr. Graysmith, thank you for coming. These are the agents who will be running the Zodiac investigation. I understand you have some... concerns you'd like to raise with us?
The other agents exchange looks. Who does this Graysmith guy think he is?
GRAYSMITHI just want to say my piece, then I'll leave you alone. AGENT JOHNSONFrom what we've come to understand, you have a history of not leaving things alone.
Laughter all around. Graysmith smiles in acknowledgment. Knowing he's being ridiculed.
GRAYSMITHFair enough. You mind if I stand? I think better when I'm standing.
Agent Johnson motions for him to do so. Graysmith rises.
GRAYSMITH (CONT'D)I'm not in law enforcement. I've had no formal investigative training. Like a friend of mine once said, I "drew funny pictures for a living". So what the hell am I doing here standing in front of you, right?
More chuckles from the Agents.
GRAYSMITH (CONT'D)A lot of words have been used to describe the Zodiac. Phantom. Mirage. Ghost. I am here because I believe he is none of these things. The truth is, the Zodiac is a fifty year old man, working in Vallejo at a hardware store. His name is Robert Hall Starr.
Graysmith begins pacing as he talks.
GRAYSMITH (CONT'D)When the first Zodiac letter was received in 1968, it contained a cipher that promised when translated to name the killer. When the translation was complete a grouping of leftover letters was found at the bottom.
He produces a paper with the letters on them:
GRAYSMITHMost people assume this was some sort of word jumble - the letters when unscrambled would give us a clue about the killer - "Robert Hemphill", "Van M. Blackmen", "I Am O. Riet". The problem is that none of these people exist. If anything it's typical Zodiac. A mystery with no solution. A dead end at the end of a dead end- AGENT JOHNSONIt certainly does not spell "Robert Hall Starr". GRAYSMITHNo. But let's talk about Starr. Born in Honolulu, December 18 1933 into a Naval family that moved around a lot. They settled in Vallejo where Starr attended high school. His favorite short story was "The Most Dangerous Game" and he was known for trapping and torturing small animals. During this time, he became intensely jealous of a classmate named Robert Emmett. They had words. After graduation Emmet was swept up in the counterculture movement and became a hippie. He later moved to Germany- AGENT JOHNSONMr. Graysmith, are we nearing a point here? GRAYSMITHThe point is, Starr hated Robert Emmet- AGENT JOHNSONDid Starr kill him? GRAYSMITHNo- AGENT JOHNSONHurt or threaten him in anyway? GRAYSMITHNo, but- AGENT JOHNSONThen I fail to see why a suspect's childhood rival has any bearing on the deaths of up to fifty people.
Silence. Graysmith, quietly:
GRAYSMITHI forgot to tell you the most interesting solution to the word jumble.
Graysmith turns the jumble paper over. Printed on the back:
ROBERT EMMET THE HIPPIE
GRAYSMITH (CONT'D)At the time the letter was received, Starr's "childhood rival" Robert Emmett was a hippie living in Germany.
If this is just a coincidence, it's the first of many.
Johnson, chastened. The Agents stare at the paper. Listening, now.
GRAYSMITH (CONT'D)Like his father, Starr did a stint in the Navy. During this time, he received code training and lessons in marksmanship. He was discharged less than honorably after a fight he got into with a civilian that one source has identified as Bryan Hartnell, later a Zodiac victim at Lake Barryessa. Following his discharge, Starr began teaching, working both with children and mental patients at the Atescendero Hospital for the Criminally Insane, located just noth of Riverside Community College. In 1966, a woman named Cheri Jo Bates was found murdered in the parking lot of the Riverside College Library. Her father and the police were taunted by letters that used similar phrasing to the Zodiac letters. Because of the timing of the killing, the police came to the conclusion that Cheri Jo must have known her attacker. This would become a pattern in the Zodiac killings. Starr has been confirmed by several sources to have been in Riverside at the time - one of only a few major Zodiac suspects to be place there.
The Agent, writing. Taking notes now.
GRAYSMITH (CONT'D)On December 18 of 1968, Starr received two birthday gifts from his mother - a Zodiac watch and a ring with the letter "Z" emblazoned on it, identical to one worn by the Count Zaroff character in the 1932 silent film adaptation of "The Most Dangerous Game". Two days later, the first official Zodiac murders were committed in Starr's hometown of Vallejo on Lake Herman Road - a lover's lane. David Farraday and Betty Lou Jensen were shot to death while running from their car.
Graysmith hands out CRIME SCENE PHOTOS.
GRAYSMITH (CONT'D)Betty Lou was shot five times, a moving target with a tight grouping of entrance wounds, an impossible feat for someone who was not an excellent marksman. By this time Starr had become an avid hunter and it has been confirmed that he owned a .22, the same caliber of weapon that killed David and Betty Lou. The biggest mystery, though, was not how a man could pull off such precise marksmanship, but how he could do it total darkness, as it was pitch black at the scene at the time.
More scribbling from the Agents.
GRAYSMITH (CONT'D)Twelve days after the murder, Starr had a conversation with one of his hunting friends, Ryan Cheney. The short story of "The Most Dangerous Game" came up and Starr asked Cheney if he had ever considered hunting people. Starr said if he ever did, he would kill couples on lover's lanes in the dark, by using a weapon with a flashlight taped to the barrel so he could sight his targets at night. He also told Cheney he would get women on the freeway to stop by indicating they had some problems with their tires, and then loosen their lug nuts so the tire would fall off and he could take them captive - a method later used on Zodiac survivor Kathleen Johns. Starr then theorized a third form of attack to be carried out on school children - he would shoot them as they came off a bus.
The scribbling has gone quiet now. The Agents, staring.
When Cheney asked Starr how anyone could get away with this, Starr said he would disguise his handwriting and write the police letters to confuse and taunt them, naming himself "The Zodiac" and using the symbol from the watch his mother gave him. He showed Cheney the watch and the ring.
This conversation occurred in January of 1969, eight months before the first Zodiac letters arrived and the killer gave himself the name.
Silence. The Agents, stunned.
AGENT JOHNSONAnd this- this is confirmed? GRAYSMITHMr. Cheney has taken a polygraph test and passed it.
None of the Agents know what to say.
GRAYSMITH (CONT'D)But between the conversation with Mr. Cheney and the first Zodiac letter came the July 4th murder of another Vallejo native, Darlene Ferrin. Which brings us to the geography of Vallejo.
Graysmith puts a MAP OF VALLEJO on an easel. Pointing to various locations as he continues:
GRAYSMITH (CONT'D)Starr's mother's house, his main residence, is here. Less than half a block away is this International House of Pancakes where Darlene Ferrin worked. Cheney confirms that Starr ate there regularly and once pointed out Darlene to him saying that "he thought he had a shot with that waitress." Later, after Darlene got married, she acquired a job at Terry's Restaurant, here. Starr became a regular there as well. Several patrons at Terry's have confirmed a man named "Bob" would sit at the counter and flirt with Darlene. This same man showed up at Darlene's house in a full suit for the painting party - which is located here, six blocks from Starr's house and on the same block as the Vallejo Police Station. This "Bob" has been sending Darlene gifts for months, including a ream of fabric that Darlene sewed into the outfit she was wearing on the night she died. This is the same outfit that Zodiac was able to describe in great detail in his first letter, even though the killer did not spend nearly enough time by the car to memorize what Darlene was wearing according to surviving victim Mike Mageau.
Graysmith holds up YEARBOOK PHOTOS of Darlene and Betty Lou.
GRAYSMITH (CONT'D)At the time of their murder, Betty Lou Jensen and Darlene Ferrin looked almost identical. One theory is that Starr mistook Betty Lou for Darlene in December and killed her. Another is that Betty Lou was a dry run for Darlene. In either case, nearly identical crimes - both couples in cars in Vallejo killed at lover's lanes not fifteen minutes from one another. Then, on July 31st, Zodiac wrote us.
Graysmith holds up copies of the letters.
GRAYSMITH (CONT'D)He took credit for the two Vallejo attacks and detailed his methods, which were identical to the ones Starr described to Cheney in January. He included the cipher which contained the name of Starr's high school rival Robert Emmett. And he promised he'd kill again. Six weeks later he did.
More crime scene photos - this time, Lake Berryessa.
GRAYSMITH (CONT'D)September 27, 1969, Bryan Hartnell and Cecelia Shepard at Lake Berryessa. Cecelia was a former student of Riverside Community, the same college that Cheri Jo Bates was murdered at. Several people confirmed the two had known each other. Footprints found at the scene were traced to a type of boot called Wing walkers, which are only sold at military instillations and cannot be purchased without a military I.D. - Starr had one. The bootprints were measured at size 10 and a half. Starr's shoe size is 10 and a half. On the day of the attack, Bryan Hartnell was driving a white convertible Volkswagen Harmann Ghia. Several years ago, Starr purchased an identical white convertible Volkswagen Kharmann Ghia.
Graysmith produces a sketch of ZODIAC'S EXECUTIONER COSTUME.
GRAYSMITH (CONT'D)Hartnell survived the attack, and described the outfit as what Zodiac was wearing - it's identical to the costume worn by the character Count Zaroff in "The Most Dangerous Game", right down to the "Z" ring that Starr's mother gave him for his birthday. The last time this film played in the Bay Area before the murders was in May 1969 in a theater with a giant Zodiac symbol adorning it's ceiling. This theater advertised with hand drawn posters which almost perfectly match the handwriting style of the Zodiac letters.
He passes the Agents a poster.
GRAYSMITH (CONT'D)I believe Starr, an admittedly avid fan of the story, attended the film and took some of the discarded posters. He then used an enlarger to trace his letters off the poster to disguise his handwriting. It has already been confirmed that an enlarger was used in the manufacture of the ciphers - it stands to reason that it could have been used to disguise the Zodiac handwriting as well - which Starr claimed to Cheney that he would do. It's important to note that several of Starr's friends have confirmed he owns an enlarger.
Graysmith pauses take a drink of water. Then continues.
GRAYSMITH (CONT'D)Up till Berryessa, we've been able to place Starr at every murder scene - one in Riverside, two in Vallejo. But this could still be a coincidence, right? Riverside and Vallejo are both small cities with thousands of people in them. One man among thousands doesn't prove anything. On that day at Berryessa, however, there were only twelve people surrounding the twenty five mile man made lake.
He shows the Agent's a photo of Starr.
GRAYSMITH (CONT'D)When questioned by police, Starr told them he had been planning on going up to Berryessa on the day of the murder but then changed his mind. However, five of the twelve people there have identified him from this photograph as being there that day.
Let me say that again - five separate eyewitnesses put Robert Starr at a murder site only accessible to twelve people in the world. And when he returned to Vallejo later that day, Starr's sister-in-law remember seeing a bloody knife sitting on the passenger seat in his car. When she questioned him about it, Starr replied that he had "used it to kill some chickens". Hartnell's words to Zodiac when he asked which of the two teenagers he should stab first? "Do me first. I'm chicken."
Graysmith walk back to the table and picks up another crime scene photo. This one is of a cab. Paul Stine.
GRAYSMITH (CONT'D)Exactly two weeks later, cab driver Paul Stine was shot to death by the Zodiac in San Francisco. This incident has always been the most baffling to detectives as it seems to break the profile - while the attack occurred in a car it did not involve a woman or take place in a secluded location. For Zodiac, it made no sense. According to a friend of Starr's named Ralph Spinelli, Starr bragged to him following Berryessa that he was in fact that Zodiac Killer, and that to prove it, he was going to, and I quote - "go to San Francisco and kill a cabbie." AGENT JOHNSONSpinelli said this on the record? GRAYSMITHYes. Now - it's been established that Zodiac shot Stine, wiped down the cab, and then was spotted by two children in the house accorss the street. The composite sketch done of him bears an incredible resemblance to Starr, but it still doesn't physically place Starr at the murder scene as he was with all the others. When polices arrived, they let loose several K-9 units who tracked Zodiac's following the shooting - directly into the Presidio Naval Park where the dogs lost the scent. People have speculated for years that Zodiac took this route because of his knowledge of the area from his Navy days, however an examination of apartment records in the area have recently revealed this fact - At the time of the Stine murder an apartment was being rented on the other side of the park by a man who put this name on the lease.
He hands the Agents apartment records. Pointing to one name. Robert B Starr
GRAYSMITHIf you draw a line between the murder site and this apartment, it follows almost exactly the escape route Zodiac took through the park.
Graysmith lets this sink in for a moment.
GRAYSMITH (CONT’D)Now, if all this is true, why is Starr still walking around free? Two reasons. Handwriting and fingerprints. They never matched. Handwriting we've already discussed. Let's talk fingerprints.
He passes out blown up copies of two prints.
GRAYSMITH (CONT'D)For years, law enforcement officials have cleared Zodiac suspects using a bloody print from Paul Stine's cab. It is considered gospel that only the killer could have left this print. Sounds logical, right? Wrong. Take a look at this photo.
He shows them a PHOTO of the crime scene. Cops everywhere, Stine already on the sidewalk, onlookers next to the cab.
GRAYSMITH (CONT’D)Look at the police barrier, right next to the cab, whose windows are open. Any one of these onlookers could have reached in for a souvenir and left their print there. It's important to note that the rest of the cab was wiped down by Zodiac, yet this one print was left in plain view.
He walks back to the desk as the Agents examine the photo.
GRAYSMITH (CONT'D)Not only does this print not match Starr, it does not match any of the other twenty-five hundred Zodiac suspects that four separate police departments have questioned over a period of more than fifteen years. Nor does it match any criminal in the United States Police or FBI fingerprint database. The odds that a sexual sadist killer was never arrested and fingerprinted on even a misdemeanor charge in his entire life are beyond astronomical, they are ludicrous. The only conclusion available is that these are not the prints of the Zodiac Killer.
Graysmith walks back to the desk and holds up a sheaf of letters.
GRAYSMITH (CONT'D)Over the next year and a half, Zodiac wrote almost a letter a month. In these he threatened school children, just as Starr told Cheney he would. He mentioned Kathleen Johns, a woman who was almost abducted in the same manner Starr told Cheney he would. He threatened bombings - Starr had taining and knowledge of explosives. And then the letters suddenly stopped. Why? Because in June of 1971, Inspectors Toschi and Armstrong searched Starr's trailer in Santa Rosa. Before they questioned Starr? Almost a letter a month. After? Silence.
Holding up more letters.
GRAYSMITH (CONT'D)Until 1974. Starr feels safe. No arrest. Zodiac writes again. Three letters over the summer. But then they stop again for three years. Again, why? Because Starr is arrested at the end o the summer on child molestation charges and sent to Atescedero. His sentence? Three years.
Starr is paroled in late 1977. He immediately writes Toschi as himself, the only suspect out of twenty five hundred to do this. Months later Zodiac writes again, breaking his silence. He claims that he is now in control of all things. And this is the last we have heard of him.
Silence. Graysmith exhales.
GRAYSMITH (CONT’D)Robert Starr still lives with his moth in Vallejo, down in a basement like the one Zodiac described. He works at a hardware store. And everyone I know whose life has touched his has been destoryed. Not just the victims, but the investigators as well. Bill Armstrong ended up quitting the force. Paul Avery left the Chronicle and his health has been going south ever since Zodiac threatened him. Dave Toschi, a man who was going to be Chief of Police, had his entire career obliterated in a day. All of them good men who just wanted to catch a killer.
All of them victims.
AGENT JOHNSONWhat about you?
Graysmith looks at the floor. Considering it. Slowly:
GRAYSMITHI have lost my job, my house, and my wife. I have lost everything, and I am still convinced I have done right - because this man did wrong. I have spent over a decade looking for him. The mirage. The phantom. The ghost...
Graysmith looks up at the panel.
GRAYSMITH (CONT'D)Robert Starr was everywhere I looked.
INT. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE -- CORRIDORS -- DAY
Graysmith walks through the hall towards the front entrance.
AGENT JOHNSON (O.S.)Mr. Graysmith!
Graysmith turns to see Agent Smith running to catch up.
AGENT JOHNSON (CONT’D)(out of breath)
That... that was amazing... We were wondering if maybe you could stay a couple hours, discuss your theories in more detail?
A beat. And then Graysmith hands Johnson the files.
GRAYSMITHSorry. I gotta go pick up my kids.
Graysmith turns and walks away.