unsolved

The Hunt for the Zodiac Killer – Episode #2 – Riverside, Santa Barbara, Kathleen Johns, and Larry Kane

Episode #2 of the History channel documentary series The Hunt for the Zodiac Killer examined three suspected “Zodiac” crimes, including the unsolved murder of Riverside City College coed Cheri Jo Bates in 1966, the unsolved murders of teenagers Robert Domingos and Linda Edwards in Santa Barbara in 1963, and the alleged abduction of Kathleen Johns in 1970.

Riverside-Bates-Pants-Suzanna-Ryan-Forensic-Serologist

Forensic serologist Suzanna Ryan opens an evidence bag containing the pants worn by suspected Zodiac victim Cheri Jo Bates.

Riverside-Bates-Pants-examination

Ryan points to circles drawn onto the pants in areas where previously forensic testing occurred.

Bates-Pants-Bloodstain-closeup

Kenneth Mains points to a small blood stain on the pants which he believes indicates that the killer may have cut himself during the attack on Cheri Jo Bates. Further testing would be necessary to determine if the bloodstain might contain DNA evidence which could identify the killer.

Riverside-Bates-pants-bloodstain-examination

Ryan uses a cotton swab to remove a small portion of the blood stain. The swab is then exposed to a chemical which reveals the presence of blood.

Linda-Edwards-Robert-Domingos-Crime-Scene

Episode #2 also includes an examination of the unsolved 1963 murders of teenagers Robert Domingos and Linda Edwards near Santa Barbara. Some investigators noted similiatries between this case and the Zodiac attack on a young couple at Lake Berryessa in 1969.

Santa-Barbara-John-Averitt-Police-Psychologist-Crime-Scene

Cold case investigators Sal LaBarbera and Kenneth Mains meet with police psychologist John Averitt to discuss the Domingos/Edwards case at the scene of the crime.

Kathleen-Johns-Interview-Kenneth-Mains

In March 1970, Kathleen Johns claimed that she was abducted by a man resembling the police sketch of the Zodiac. Months later, a Zodiac letter seemed to confirm the killer’s connection to the Johns case. In phone call with Kenneth Mains, Kathleen’s daughter says that her mother had once identified a man named Larry Kane.

Hunt-For-Zodiac-Ep3-Kane-Rust-Lass-Lake-Tahoe

Episode #3 of The Hunt for the Zodiac Killer examines Larry Kane’s possible connections to the 1970 disappearance of Donna Lass in Lake Tahoe, Nevada. In March 1971, a suspected Zodiac message referred to Lake Tahoe and “victim 12,” feeling speculation that the Zodiac may have killed Lass. Sal LaBarbera and Kenneth Mains meet with police to learn more about the Lass case, and they also visit retired Vallejo police detective Ed Rust to discuss Kane as a possible Zodiac suspect. LaBarbera and Mains travel to Lake Tahoe and attempt to find Donna Lass’s gravesite using the clues from the suspected “Zodiac” postcard.

Hunt-for-Zodiac-Ep3-Bomb-Experts-Mt-Diablo

Episode #3 also includes an examination of the Zodiac’s bomb diagrams. Zodiac claimed that a map of Mt. Diablo and a 32-symbol cipher could be used to locate a buried bomb.

Episode #3 of The Hunt for the Zodiac Killer airs Tuesday November 28 on the History channel.

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

CJB-ZKF-Inspiration

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.”

Bates-Letters-ZKF

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.

Riverside-Zodiac-Comparison-ZKF

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.

Cheri-Jo-Bates-Inside-Detective-1 Cheri-Jo-Bates-Inside-Detective-2 Cheri-Jo-Bates-Inside-Detective-3 Cheri-Jo-Bates-Inside-Detective-4 Cheri-Jo-Bates-Inside-Detective-5 Cheri-Jo-Bates-Inside-Detective-6 Cheri-Jo-Bates-Inside-Detective-7

THE MOST DANGEROUS DADDY OF ALL: Debunking Gary Stewart

Like many infamous unsolved cases, the Zodiac mystery draws its share of those who claim to have the solution. In more recent years, a new phenomenon has dominated media reports, the “daddy did it” claims from children who seek publicity. Several people have “identified” their fathers or stepfathers as the Zodiac killer, and this trend has fueled repeated media cycles with a publicity tour for the accuser. Gary Stewart stepped into the spotlight when he identified his father as the Zodiac killer. Stewart’s claims may have seemed compelling to some observers but his story was all too familiar.

Deborah Perez made headlines when she claimed that her father Guy Ward Hendrickson was the Zodiac. She also claimed that she accompanied him during some of the crimes and had even written some of the Zodiac’s letters. Law enforcement agencies did not agree with Perez’s conclusions and other people came forward to report that she had also claimed to be the daughter of President John F. Kennedy.

Dennis Kaufman claimed that his stepfather Jack Tarrance was the Zodiac. Kaufman offered many theories linking Tarrance to other infamous crimes and even produced a hooded costume and rolls of film which allegedly linked the suspect to the Zodiac murders and other killings. Law enforcement agencies were not impressed and ultimately ignored Kaufman’s ongoing media circus.

Retired detective turned writer Steve Hodel found fame when he claimed that his father was responsible for the infamous “Black Dahlia” murder in 1947. The best-selling book Black Dahlia Avenger offered evidence said to link George Hodel to the crime, including photographs found among George Hodel’s possessions which Steve Hodel claimed depicted “Dahlia” victim Elizabeth Short. Skeptics disagreed and members of Short’s family eventually stated that the woman in Hodel’s photographs was not Elizabeth. Hodel then published another book titled Most Evil which claimed that George Hodel was also the Zodiac killer. This book featured many claims which proved false and most of Hodel’s theory was easily debunked.

Perez, Kaufman, Hodel and others all claimed that handwriting experts-for-hire determined that their suspects had written the Zodiac letters. Each claimed that compelling evidence proved that they had identified the Zodiac but none offered such evidence. All of these individuals spoke with certainty that they had solved the mystery when the facts proved otherwise. Yet, all of these people were celebrated by media with little interest in the facts and an ongoing need for sensational content. The authors and their publicists know that most people do not know enough about the Zodiac case to adequately scrutinize these sensational claims.

Part I: A REASON TO BELIEVE

Many books have been written about the Zodiac mystery but few received the publicity surrounding the release of Gary Stewart’s book titled The Most Dangerous Animal Of All. With co-author Susan Mustafa, Stewart described the search for his biological father, Earl Van Best, and his eventual conclusion that the same man was also the Zodiac killer. Stewart was interviewed on numerous television and radio programs and his solution was praised by many readers who posted positive reviews on Amazon.com.

I listened to one radio broadcast as a woman described how she had read Stewart’s book and was utterly convinced that he had solved the case. The host agreed with the caller and hoped that the San Francisco Police Department would conduct tests to determine if Best’s DNA matched a partial DNA profile obtained from the envelopes mailed by the Zodiac. Stewart repeatedly said that he wanted a DNA comparison and believed that the results would prove he had identified the killer. Other listeners did not realize that there were two major problems with Stewart’s version of the story.

1) The partial DNA profile obtained by the San Francisco Police Department is only a partial profile, meaning, it can only be used to exclude a suspect as the source of the DNA. The information is not sufficient to provide a conclusive match to any one person. And, some people believe that others who handled the envelopes were potentials sources of the DNA.

2) DNA tests should be conducted on viable suspects who have been implicated by other credible evidence. The SFPD cannot afford to test the DNA belonging to every suspect identified by attention seekers and opportunists. Doing so would only encourage others to come forward with false claims which waste law enforcement resources.

Gary Stewart would require hard evidence if DNA tests could not positively identify the Zodiac killer. Such evidence would be necessary prior to accusing a suspect, but Stewart’s book offered no reason to accept his solution to the case.

Part II: NO SIGN OF THE ZODIAC

Page 322 of the book The Most Dangerous Animal Of All described Gary Stewart’s meeting with his co-author Susan Mustafa. Stewart asked if Mustafa was interested in writing his Zodiac book and the author reportedly replied, “I’m not willing to put my reputation on the line unless I believe what I’m writing.” The resulting book was then marketed as the solution to the Zodiac mystery. Unsuspecting readers might be impressed by the book and its claims but the facts told a different story.

In the book’s introduction, Stewart wrote that he conducted twelve years of research and intended to leave “no doubt as to the identity” of the Zodiac. Part one of the book included approximately one hundred and thirty pages devoted to the life of Earl Van Best. At the age of twenty-eight, Best married fourteen year-old Judy Chandler. Best was eventually arrested on statutory rape charges and was sent to prison. Articles about Best and Chandler appeared in The San Francisco Chronicle newspaper called the story “the Ice Cream Romance” because Best and Chandler met in an ice cream parlor. Chandler gave birth to Gary Stewart and joined Best after his release from prison. However, she later took then four year-old Gary and left Best to escape the abusive relationship. Decades later, Stewart watched a television show about the unsolved mystery and realized that Best somewhat resembled the police sketch of the Zodiac suspect.

Stewart and Mustafa suggested a link between Best and Chronicle writer Paul Avery. According to the book, Avery authored a series of articles about the so-called “Ice Cream Romance” and Best was somehow offended. Best, as the Zodiac, then sent a threatening Halloween card to Avery. However, Stewart and Mustafa presented no evidence that Avery was the author and other information indicated that Avery did not write the “Ice Cream” articles.

The authors claimed that Van Best’s name appeared in the Zodiac’s ciphers. The book presented a photograph of the Zodiac’s first cipher and the symbols surrounding the word “best” in the deciphered text. The symbols V and E are substituted for the letters B and E in the deciphered text. In Stewart’s illustration, the two lines of symbols above the word “best” are highlighted to emphasis the letters J and R. According to Stewart, this configuration implied the name of his father, Earl Van Best, Jr. This strained interpretation was hardly conclusive and relied on the assumption that the Zodiac intended for his name to be noticed in both the original symbols and deciphered text together at the same time. The initials were not in the proper order and the lines containing the letters J and R were not the same as the line which contained the letters V and E.

Stewart and Mustafa further claimed that another Zodiac cipher implicated Best. The still-unsolved cipher contained thirteen symbols. The name Earl Van Best, Jr. contained thirteen letters. Stewart viewed this as more than coincidence and posted this “evidence” on his website. However, he did not provide any reason to believe that the thirteen symbols actually represented the letters in the Van Best name. Like other Zodiac theorists, Stewart simply assumed a connection which favored his pre-selected conclusion. Other theorists noted that the Zodiac’s first cipher contained eighteen symbols of apparent gibberish which could somehow contain the killer’s identity. Infamous “Unabomber” Ted Kaczynski was identified as a potential Zodiac suspect at one time, and the name Theodore J. Kaczynski contains eighteen letters. The same method could be used to find a “match” to many other names.

According to the book, Susan Mustafa’s literary agent found Best’s name in the Zodiac’s so-called “340 cipher.” He located a backward letter B and then began looking for the other letters, eventually discovering the entire name “Earl Van Best Junior.” The agent used a series of unidentified symbols to form the word “Junior.” Stewart and Mustafa assured readers that the agent tried to repeat the same results with other names but failed. This cipher solution may have seemed compelling but the methods used to achieve the results were designed to favor the desired outcome. Mustafa’s literary agent simply assigned his own predetermined letters of the alphabet to his chosen symbols in the Zodiac’s “340” cipher. This solution also assumed that the triangle symbol in the cipher represented the letter A, that a half-filled circle represented the letter E, that an “I” symbol represented the letter L, and that the “V” symbol in the cipher represented the letter U. Without these assumptions, the literary agent could not construct Best’s name. The agent wanted to find Best’s name and then made his own assumptions in order find Best’s name. No one else would have any reason to look for Best’s name in the cipher and no one would make the same assumptions while attempting to solve the cipher. According to the logic used by Stewart and the literary agent, the Zodiac’s cipher could only be solved by someone who already knew the identify of the Zodiac killer.

Stewart, Mustafa and the literary agent offered no legitimate reason to believe that their methods were sound other than the fact that those methods achieved the desired results.

Part III: THE END OF THE ZODIAC MYSTERY

Gary Stewart’s book offered the only “direct evidence” said to link Earl Van Best, Jr. to the Zodiac crimes. On page 329, Stewart and co-author Susan Mustafa stated that Lieutenant Bob Garrett examined the fingerprints found at the scene of the Zodiac’s last known crime, the killing of cab driver Paul Stine in San Francisco. Garrett stated that he could not make a positive match between the possible Zodiac fingerprints and the fingerprints of Earl Van Best. Instead, Garrett provided a visual comparison for Stewart and Mustafa which showed a possible Zodiac fingerprint and Best’s fingerprint. According to Stewart and Mustafa, both fingerprints showed what appeared to be a scar. However, Garrett was forced to reverse the Zodiac fingerprint in order to align the possible scar on the correct side in order to match the same possible scar on the Best fingerprint. Stewart and Mustafa believed that the aligned scars on both fingerprints served as compelling evidence that Best killed Paul Stine.

A report written by SFPD Inspector William Hamlet described the fingerprints found at the crime scene:

“All of the latent prints in our case were obtained from a taxi cab. The latent prints that show traces of blood are believed to be prints of the suspect. The latent prints from right front door handle are also believed to be prints of the suspect. These prints are circled with a red pen. The other latent prints many of which are very good prints, may or may not be the prints of the suspect in this case”

The fingerprint isolated and compared by Stewart, Mustafa and Garrett was not among those latent fingerprints which were circled in red as stated in the SFPD report. The fingerprint was found at the crime scene but no one knew if that fingerprint actually belonged to the killer. Further, the only way to link Earl Van Best to the crime relied on assuming that the print was left by the killer and then reversing the image of that print. As a further stretch, the assumption that the print was valid and the reversal of the image did not produce any match between the fingerprint found at the crime scene and Best’s fingerprint. The reversal only changed the placement and alignment of a line which may or not be a scar. The faint line which appears to run through the fingerprint in question could have been produced by some feature or indentation on the surface of the cab where the print was obtained.

The methods used to achieve the favorable results were unreliable and self-serving. Stewart and Mustafa had no reason to believe that experienced police officers had somehow reversed the fingerprint. The authors simply assumed that such a reversal had occurred and then reversed the image to suit their needs. The fingerprint evidence did not link Earl Van Best to the murder of Paul Stine.

Stewart and Mustafa also consulted document examiner Mike Wakshull. Wakshull initially thought the evidence was not sufficient to reach a conclusion, however, he quickly changed his mind and concluded that Earl Van Best, Jr. had written the Zodiac letters. Wakshull stated, “I am virtually certain that the writer of the marriage certificate between Earl Van Best Jr. and Judith Chandler is the same writer as the writer of the Zodiac letters.” Wakshull was not hesitant in his conclusion; he even published his own book with a title that left no room for doubt– The End of the Zodiac Mystery.

In his book, Wakshull described his methods and the handwriting samples used in his examination. Wakshull wrote, “The only writing from Van on the first and the third marriage certificates was his signature. Regarding the second marriage certificate, Judith had attested to Gary that Van completed all the information except the witnesses’ signatures, including her printed name.” Wakshull then explained that he “had only four documents for comparison, three of them containing only Van’s signatures.” The fourth document was the marriage certificate reportedly completed by Best himself. This marriage certificate was included in the photograph section of Stewart’s book but the image was very small. At least four different photograph exhibits of handwriting comparisons between the Zodiac’s writing and Best’s writing cited this marriage certificate as evidence.

According to Wakshull, Judy Chandler claimed that Earl Van Best completed and signed the marriage certificate. Shortly after the publicatios of Stewart’s book, Zodiac theorist Mike Rodelli reported that he had contacted the church where Stewart’s parents had married. According to a church source, the writing on the marriage certificate was that of Reverend Edward Fliger, the man who had presided over the marriage ceremony of Earl Van Best and Judy Chandler. Other samples of Filger’s writing on other marriage certificates were remarkably similar to the writing on Best’s marriage certificate. Wakshull claimed that the writing on the marriage certificate was that of the Zodiac killer. According to Wakshull’s conclusion, Filger had written the Zodiac letters.

Wakshull’s conclusion that Best had written the Zodiac letters relied heavily on the assumption that Best was responsible for the writing on the marriage certificate, and any conclusion based on that mistaken assumption could not be valid. The removal of the Best/Chandler marriage certificate from the known writing samples of Earl Van Best, Jr. left Wakshull with only three signatures to compare to the Zodiac’s writing. Therefore, certain letters of the alphabet were not available in the Best signatures to compare with the same letters which appeared in the Zodiac writings. Three signatures were not sufficient to form a valid conclusion.

The evidence presented in his book did not support Stewart’s claims that his father was the Zodiac killer.

Part IV: THE DEVIL YOU KNOW

According to Gary Stewart, Earl Van Best, Jr. killed several human beings and then escaped justice. Stewart wanted the San Francisco Police Department to conduct DNA tests to determine if Best’s DNA matched a partial DNA profile obtained from envelopes which contained Zodiac communications. The SFPD would not oblige Stewart and instead ignored his claims. Stewart had to explain why authorities did not accept his solution to the mystery and he offered an answer. Co-author Susan Mustafa hinted at this explanation in an interview published in The Advocate. “The book involves a bit of the SFPD not wanting to cooperate for a reason that’s the hook of the book,” Mustafa said. “You’ve got to read the book for that.”

Stewart’s mother Judy divorced Earl Van Best Jr. and later married a man named Rotea Gilford, a man often described as the first African-American investigator to work in the San Francisco Police Department. In Stewart’s scenario, the Best-Gilford connection embarrassed the SFPD, perhaps enough to conceal the fact that Van Best was one of the most notorious serial killers in American history. In support of this conspiracy theory, Stewart claimed that the SFPD possessed a secret file containing the horrifying truth about the life and crimes of Earl Van Best Jr.

According to Stewart, his mother Judy wanted to see the San Francisco Police Department file on Best, but a police representative refused, saying, “I am not going to reveal what is in that file. It would make what he did to you look inconsequential.” Judy then turned to her husband’s former partner, Earl Sanders. On page 242 of his book, Stewart stated that Judy met with Sanders and then called her son to report, “He says he can’t tell us what your father did. He says what your father did was so heinous that it would destroy us.” Stewart did not learn the contents of the SFPD file on Best but his public comments indicated that he believed the secret file contained some link between his father and the Zodiac crimes.

In his book, Stewart stressed an alleged connection between Best and the infamous satanist Anton Lavey. In 1966, Lavey founded The Church of Satan in celebration of what he declared to be Anno Satanas, the first year of the Age of Satan. Lavey’s sensational publicity stunts earned him a reputation as an American bogeyman, but Stewart offered no evidence that Lavey or Van Best were responsible for any murders. In a television interview, San Francisco Chronicle reporter Paul Avery mentioned that members of The Church of Satan had once suspected another member may have been the Zodiac. Avery joked that “the Zodiac was so bad, even The Church of Satan didn’t want him.” Avery’s comments notwithstanding, no one had presented any evidence which linked the Zodiac to The Church of Satan or any occult activity of any kind.

Stewart also claimed that Earl Van Best Jr. was connected to Bobby Beausoleil, a biker linked to the “family” of killers led by Charles Manson. Beausoleil was convicted for his role in the murder of music teacher Gary Hinman. Beausoleil was also known for his appearance in the film Lucifer Rising along side author and director Kenneth Anger and singer Marianne Faithfull. Steve “Clem” Grogan, another member of the Manson “family” performed in a band with Beausoleil and was also convicted for killing Hinman. In his book, Stewart wrote that he received an email in which Beausoleil stated that he had “jammed” with Best and other musicians. Stewart did not present any evidence to indicate these relationships connected Best to the Zodiac crimes. Instead, the emphasis on these relationships relied on the old ploy of guilt by association.

Stewart was apparently unable to link Best to any crime other than the original statutory rape charges regarding Stewart’s mother Judy. The “heinous” truth allegedly concealed in Best’s police file has not been revealed, but Stewart believed that the SFPD’s refusal to reveal its contents could be evidence of an ongoing cover-up. Stewart also implied that this cover-up was linked to the SFPD announcement that the case had been “closed” in 2004. In fact, the case status was only “inactive,” meaning that the department would not devote substantial resources to the cold case without a new lead or new evidence.

Stewart was not the first to claim “cover-up.” Steve Hodel claimed that his father George Hodel was California’s Zodiac killer, the “Black Dahlia” killer of Los Angeles, and Chicago’s notorious “Lipstick killer.” According to Hodel’s version of the story, the arrest of his father would expose corruption and destroy the careers of important officials who allowed him to escape justice. Dennis Kaufman claimed that authorities knew that his step-father Jack Tarrance was the Zodiac but conspired to conceal this fact for unknown reasons. Blaine Blaine aka “Goldcatcher” claimed that Napa County Sheriff’s Department investigator Ken Narlow, Department of Justice Agent Fred Shirasago and others were conspiring to discredit Blaine and help his suspect escape justice. Howard Davis claimed that officials inside the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office conspired to conceal the connection between the Zodiac crimes and Bruce Davis, a member of the infamous “family” of killers led by Charles Manson. Hodel, Blaine, Kaufman and Davis did not provide any credible evidence to support their continuing claims of conspiracies and official cover-ups.

Gary Stewart offered no credible evidence to indicate that his father was responsible for the Zodiac crimes. Instead, he insisted that the San Francisco Police Department conduct DNA tests to prove whether or not Earl Van Best, Jr. was the Zodiac. The implied conspiracy to conceal the heinous truth about Best’s secrets was a convenient excuse to explain the lack of evidence to support Stewart’s claims.

Part V: STEWART’S TRUTH DEBUNKED

Despite his earlier contact with Lieutenant John Hennessy, the San Francisco Police Department has expressed no interest in any further examination of the claims made by Gary Stewart. Despite the publicity surrounding the release of his book, Gary Stewart failed to convince anyone but uninformed readers. WIthin days of its release, much of the “evidence” presented in Stewart’s book was debunked and dismissed. Even Stewart’s mother Judy was not convinced. According to Stewart, Judy “cannot imagine that Van could be capable of such violence.” Judy reportedly referred to Stewart’s Zodiac claims as “fiction.”

During his many media interviews, Gary Stewart consistently stated his certainly that Earl Van Best, Jr. was the Zodiac. Stewart referred to his claims as “the truth about my life.” In a CNN interview with Erin Burnett, Stewart boasted, “I believe for the first time in the history of this case that I have presented more evidence than has ever been presented on any one suspect.” Stewart’s certainty was not justified by the evidence.

A handwriting expert examined alleged samples of Best’s writing and determined that Best had written the Zodiac letters. One of these handwriting samples was apparently written by someone other than Best, casting serious doubts on the conclusions of the expert. The cipher solutions by Stewart and his literary agent relied on unreliable methods which could be used by others to reach their own preconceived results. Beyond the story of the relationship between his mother and father, Stewart offered no evidence that Earl Van Best was responsible for any crimes. Alleged connections between Best, satanist Anton Lavey and Manson associate Bobby Boeuseliel could not link Best to the Zodiac murders.

The only remaining “evidence” said to link Best to the Zodiac crimes seemed to be little more than trivia:

* Best somewhat resembled the composite sketch of the Zodiac.

* Best was reportedly in California during the time of the Zodiac crimes.

* Best liked Gilbert and Sullivan operas.

* Best had some interest in ciphers when he was younger.

* Best allegedly knew a satanist and allegedly played music with a murderer.

* Best was an immoral person who may have committed crimes.

This list was not conclusive or compelling. Similar lists could be said to implicate other suspects. Stewart’s self-serving cipher solutions, creative fingerprint claims, and invalid handwriting analysis were easily debunked, leaving only the trivia to justify the ongoing accusation that Earl Van Best, Jr. was the Zodiac killer. Contrary to his boasts during the CNN interview, Gary Stewart did not present any credible evidence to indicate that his father was the Zodiac.

Stewart’s co-author Susan Mustafa staked her reputation on the book and its claims. “I’m a true-crime writer. I have a reputation for research and accuracy,” Mustafa said. “If I didn’t believe this, I would never put my reputation on the line for it.” According to the story told in the book The Most Dangerous Animal Of All, Stewart and Mustafa never possessed any credible evidence to link Best to the Zodiac crimes.

An article in People magazine featured a photograph of a confident Gary Stewart along with the quote, “I know people are going to try and shoot this down.” Stewart’s baseless claims made an easy target for critics and his “evidence” collapsed under minimal scrutiny. Unfortunately, most media reports and book reviews did not scrutinize Stewart’s claims. The campaign launched by the publisher, Harper Collins, ensured that Gary Stewart and his claims would saturate the media just as the book was released to the public. However, Harper Collins managed to keep the release secret until The Most Dangerous Animal Of All hit the market, thereby ensuring that critics could not dismantle Stewart’s claims before unsuspecting readers purchased the book. Stewart’s book was rated by 4 out of 5 stars on Amazon.com with the following review from the Baton Rouge Advocate: “A compelling work of true crime that makes a strong case for Best being responsible for the series of murders and horrifying threats that paralyzed San Francisco with fear in the late 1960s and early 1970s.” Another featured review from Kirkus called Stewart’s book “convincing.” The case against Earl Van Best, Jr. could only appear strong and convincing to those who did not know that Stewart’s evidence was not compelling at all. Stewart’s claims were easily debunked but this fact was not reported by the media. The name Earl Van Best, Jr. joined George Hodel, Guy Ward Hendrickson, Jack Tarrance and the other fathers accused by their own children, and Gary Stewart’s book became just another sad chapter in the ongoing story of the unsolved Zodiac murders.

RELATED LINKS:

David Oranchak’s article The Most Pattern-Seeking Animal of All

Gary Stewart’s Website The Most Dangerous Animal of All: http://themostdangerousanimalofall.com/the-evidence/

CNN story about Gary Stewart: http://www.cnn.com/2014/05/13/us/lousiana-man-book-father-zodiac-killer/index.html?hpt=hp_t2

CNN blog about Gary Stewart’s claims: http://outfront.blogs.cnn.com/2014/05/15/author-evidence-proves-father-was-the-zodiac-killer/

SF Gate article about Stewart: http://blog.sfgate.com/crime/2014/05/15/new-zodiac-tips-dad-did-it-no-the-other-guy-did-it/

SF Gate article about Stewart: http://www.sfgate.com/crime/article/Woman-Dad-was-the-Zodiac-and-I-can-prove-it-3162785.php

SF Gate article about Best scandal: http://blog.sfgate.com/crime/2014/05/22/zodiac-suspects-sex-scandal-shocks-cops/

News Story about Stewart: https://diva.sfsu.edu/collections/sfbatv/bundles/208846

The Advocate: http://theadvocate.com/home/9165392-125/in-new-book-baton-rouge

YouTube News Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0SEzyMjrcZg

YouTube News Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uVyc0PF0kDI

DailyMail UK article about retired SFPD Inspector David Toschi: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2629558/Retired-detective-led-Zodiac-Killer-case-inspired-Steve-McQueens-character-Bullitt-says-hell-look-book-claims-notorious-murderer.html

NYMag.com article: http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2014/05/zodiac-killer-is-my-father-claims-new-book.html

The Wire article: http://www.thewire.com/national/2014/05/a-brief-history-of-people-who-claimed-to-know-the-zodiac-killers-identity/370058/

Newsweek article: http://www.newsweek.com/how-harpercollins-kept-book-claiming-out-zodiac-killer-secret-entire-year-251606

Stewart Radio Interview: http://tunein.com/radio/Dark-Matter-Radio-Network-s211941/

RIVERSIDE ACTIVITY: Unsolved Mysteries

Cheri-Jo-Bates-ZKF

The murder of Cheri Jo Bates remains one of the most controversial chapters in the history of the Zodiac mystery. Bates was murdered near the Riverside City College library on the night of October 30, 1966. One month later, someone mailed an envelope to the Riverside Press-Enterprise newspaper which contained a letter titled “The Confession.” The writer described the murder and claimed responsibility for the crime. Police believed that the killer was the author of the confession letter. Six months after the murder, three virtually identical handwritten letters were sent to the newspaper, Riverside police and the father of Cheri Jo Bates. The text read, “Bates had to die. There will be more.” (The letter to Mr. Bates began, “She had to die…”) Each of these letters featured a small symbol at the bottom of the page which appeared similar to the letter “Z.”

In October 1969, the Zodiac crimes were widely reported in the news and eventually the Riverside Police Department noted similarities to the unsolved Bates case. Chief Thomas Kinkead contacted Special Agent Mel Nicolai at the California Department of Justice, who assisted the various law enforcement agencies involved in the Zodiac investigation. Kinkead shared the details regarding the Bates murder and Nicolai directed the chief to the Napa County Sheriff’s Office. Kinkead spoke to Sheriff Earl Randoll by telephone on October 17, 1969. Kinkead then sent a letter which provided the basic facts regarding the Bates murder and the written communications from someone who claimed to be the killer. Kinkead’s letter read in part:

There are numerous similarities in your homicide and our Inv. 352-481. I thought you should be aware that we are working a similar type homicide investigation. If you are able to determine by handwriting comparison or by any other means that your homicide suspect is the same as ours, please advice. I will notify you of the results in comparing your latent lifts with ours as soon as I hear from the FBI. I hope this information may aid in your investigation. Please be assured of our complete cooperation in all matters of mutual interest.”

Fingerprints related to the Bates case were compared to the fingerprints related to the Zodiac investigation but no match was found. However, the prints in both cases did not represent every part of every finger on both hands so the possibility existed that the prints could not be matched at all. Despite the apparent lack of a connection between the fingerprint evidence, the various law enforcement agencies strongly believed that the Zodiac may have killed Bates. Questioned Document Examiner Sherwood Morrill concluded that the Zodiac was responsible for writings attributed to the Bates killer as well as a morbid poem etched into a desk discovered in the Riverside City College library. Morrill’s conclusion would be supported and challenged by other experts in later years, but many people believed that the Zodiac was the most likely suspect in the Bates murder.

Bates-Library-Note

THE RIVERSIDE CONNECTION

In November 1970, the San Francisco Chronicle published a story by reporter Paul Avery which revealed the possible connection between the Zodiac killer and the Bates murder. The so-called “Riverside connection” was widely reported and, although some members of the RPD expressed skepticism or doubt about the connection, the department’s communications with the FBI and other agencies indicated an interest in this theory. In later years, Riverside authorities abandoned the suspected connection between the Bates murder and the Zodiac crimes in favor of the theory that Bates was killed by someone she had known. The department dedicated its time and resources to this theory and denied that their case was connected to the Zodiac. On May 20, 1982, the Riverside Police Department issued a press release which read in part:

In November of 1981, new information came to light which resulted in the assignment of four investigators to work full time on this case. These investigators recontacted numerous persons who were either known the victim or were known to associate with an individual we believe responsible for this crime. Current past known associates have been interviewed in depth. All of the physical evidence related to this crime has been re-evaluated and some instances forensically examined… The alleged connection with the “Zodiac” by certain media and inquisitive individuals was anticipated when a decision was made to release this information. The showing of very old composites and the review of previously examined cryptic writings by some of the media, have resulted in considerable interest by the rest of the media whose knowledge of the “Zodiac” is based on out-dated information linking this investigation with those referred to as “Zodiac” cases. Speculation and creative reporting of this kind could conceivably hamper successful prosecution. The person we believe responsible for the slaying of Cheri Jo Bates is not the individual other law enforcement authorities believe responsible for the so called “Zodiac” killings.

The Riverside Police Department blamed “the media” and “inquisitive individuals” for the notion of a connection between the Zodiac killer and the Bates murder. The RPD press release did not mention the fact that the department had previously informed the Department of Justice, the FBI and other agencies that the RPD believed there could be a connection between the Zodiac killer and the Bates murder. In fact, no one had suggested such a connection existed until the Riverside Police Department contacted the Department of Justice in 1969. The DOJ then issued a report, based in part on the information provided by the RPD, which included the Bates murder as a possible Zodiac crime.

In 1999, Riverside police hoped to solve the Bates murder and end speculation of a possible Zodiac connection. Investigators obtained samples from their suspect for DNA comparisons with evidence found at the scene of the crime. Riverside police sent requests to the FBI and the Department of Justice for assistance. These documents revealed the results of forensic tests.

DOJ / FBI – Submission by Riverside Police Department – 4-1-99

Victim murdered at City College, died of multiple stab wounds to neck. Possible forged letter by Zodiac claiming responsibility for homicide. Suspect hair removed from victim’s hand at autopsy. DNA extracted from hair. Whole blood sample taken from suspect.

The document also specified the evidence as “mitochondrial” DNA discovered in the “Hair from blood clot found at base of Cheri Jo Bates’ right thumb.” Samples taken from the suspect were then compared with this evidence and the results were reported in a subsequent FBI document dated June 21, 1999.

The four (4) brown Caucasian head hair fragments found in specimen Q1 are microscopically dissimilar to hairs in the submitted known head hair sample (K3). Accordingly, these hairs could not be associated to CHERI JO BATES, the identified source of the K3 hairs. These hairs have been preserved on a glass microscope slide for possible future comparisons. No hairs microscopically dissimilar to hairs in the submitted known head hair sample from the victim (K3) were found on the Q4 glass microscope slide. No other hair and fiber examinations were conducted.

Further information was reported by the Bureau on March 13, 2000:

Results of examinations: A mitochondrial DNA (mt DNA) sequence was obtained from the Q1.1 hair from the blood clot at the base of CHERI JO BATES’ right thumb and the K1 blood sample from [REDACTED] (positions 73-340). The mtDNA sequence obtained from specimen Q1.1 is different from the mtDNA sequence obtained from specimen K1. Therefore, [name REDACTED] can be eliminated as the source of the Q1.1 hair. There was insufficient mtDNA present for a mtDNA sequence to be obtained from K3.1 and K3.2 head hairs from CHERI JO BATES. No other mtDNA examinations were conducted.

Riverside investigators had hoped that the DNA comparison would finally link the suspect to the Bates murder, but the results proved that the suspect was “eliminated as the source” of the hair found in the hand of the victim. Some sources had claimed that other damning evidence had implicated the RPD suspect in the murder of Cheri Jo Bates. All of the so-called “evidence” consisted of stories told by individuals who did not report this seemingly-important information to authorities at the time of the original investigation. According to some sources, these witnesses also submitted to polygraph examinations and the results were either inconclusive or indicated some degree of deception. The lack of credible and substantial evidence implicating the suspect in the crime seemed even more troubling after the DNA a comparison had excluded the suspect. The exclusionary evidence was obtained from the hairs found on the victim’s hand, a strong indication that the hair belonged to the killer. This hair was not similar to the hair of the RPD suspect and the DNA testing proved that the hair did not belong to him. Common sense, logic, the facts and the evidence indicated that the RPD suspect did not kill Cheri Jo Bates and, instead, pointed to other potential suspects and an alternate theory of the crime.

RCC-library

THE REST OF THE STORY

I made my first trip to Riverside in January, 1999, before the RPD conducted the DNA comparisons. I contacted Steve Shumway, the detective then in charge of the case, and stated the purpose of my inquiry. Shumway replied, “Is this the same Michael Butterfield who wrote this article I have in front of me?” He then said, (paraphrase), “You’re taking some pretty tough shots at us here.” I did my best to explain my position on the issues but the detective was clearly not interested in discussing any possible link between the Zodiac and the Bates murder.

At the time, rumors had circulated that the department was developing a strong case against their favored suspect, a man identified on the Internet by the name of “Bob Barnett,” who was first identified as a suspect in 1968. According to the police version of events, Barnett had dated Bates in the weeks before her death. Barnett himself denied that he had ever dated Bates at all. Police sources claimed that Barnett had fought with the victim in public and even slapped Bates across the face in front of witnesses. Further, on the night of the murder, Barnett purportedly told others, “That bitch is going to the library.” Bates was killed near the Riverside City College library on the same night.

According to some sources, unidentified witnesses allegedly told police that Barnett had confessed to killing Bates, and, one witness allegedly claimed that he had visited the crime scene with Barnett on the night of the murder. Other rumors linked Barnett to a watch which was similar to the one found at the crime scene and the military boot prints found near the victim’s body. Despite this seemingly damning evidence against Barnett, police never filed charges against Barnett, and the reason may have been simple– the evidence and witnesses were questionable, at best.

During our conversation, Detective Shumway claimed that Cheri Jo Bates was the victim of a “rage-killing” and had been killed by someone she had known. To support that theory of the crime, Shumway claimed that Bates had been stabbed as many as forty-two times. This scenario was disturbing, for a variety of reasons. If the detective’s claim was true, the RPD had managed to withhold those details over decades. The savagery and overkill attributed to the Bates killer was not compatible with the Zodiac crimes. The Zodiac did not engage in acts of overkill or torture and his behavior indicated that he did not inflict wounds in order to satisfy a sadistic appetite. That fact would suggest that the Zodiac was not responsible for the Bates murder but the RPD never mentioned this during the many years spent denying any connection existed. If Bates had been stabbed over forty times, that fact did not necessarily indicate that she had known the killer– many killers have inflicted such violence on victims they did not know prior to the moment of the attack.

After my trip to Riverside, the report detailing the autopsy of Cheri Jo Bates surfaced on the Internet. The report clearly refuted the scenario that Bates had been stabbed as many as forty-two times. The report indicated that the actual number of stab wounds was far less than forty-two, and, despite the violence unleashed on the victim, the notion that the murder was an act of personal rage by someone who had known Bates was not supported by the facts. The theory endorsed by the Riverside police no longer seemed plausible. In fact, the autopsy report did more to support the version of the crime as described in the anonymous “confession” letter.

In its communications to the Department of Justice and the FBI in 1999, the Riverside Police Department referred to a “possible forged letter by Zodiac claiming responsibility for homicide.” The wording appears to make a clear distinction between a Zodiac “hoax” letter and a letter written by the Zodiac. The word “forged” indicates that the RPD believed that the Zodiac had written the “confession” letter and other writings to claim responsibility for a crime he did not commit. In this RPD scenario, Barnett had killed Bates but the Zodiac wrote to declare that he had done so. Ironically, the author of the confession wrote that Bates had dismissed him for “years,” thereby implicating someone who had known Bates just as the RPD later believed.

In its 1982 press release, the RPD complained that the media and other “inquisitive individuals” had incorrectly linked the Zodiac to the investigation of the Bates murder. According to the RPD, those who claimed a connection existed between the two cases had based their conclusions on “out-dated information”. However, the wording of the 1999 FBI/DOJ document indicates that the RPD believed the Zodiac was responsible for the “confession” letter and other “cryptic writings” associated with the Bates case. If correct, that conclusion clearly demonstrated a substantial link between the Zodiac and the Bates case, even if the Zodiac did not kill Bates. In 1966, the RPD concluded that the author of the “confession” letter possessed knowledge of the Bates murder which was known only to the killer. In 1999, the RPD appeared to concede that the Zodiac may have written the “confession.” Even if the Zodiac did not kill Bates, his interest in the case and his apparent access to sufficient information needed to “forge” a convincing “confession” would undoubtedly be of interest to anyone investigating either of the two cases. If the Zodiac did send the Riverside writings, forensic testing of those documents could produce evidence which could identify the Zodiac. The fact that one of the most notorious serial killers in modern American history apparently began his career by mailing letters claiming responsibility for the Bates murder would strongly suggest that a thorough investigation would explore the potential connections between the Bates murder and the Zodiac killer.

Confession-envelope

SIGNS OF THE ZODIAC

At the time of the original Zodiac investigation, Special Agent Nicolai prepared a report for the Department of Justice which included information about the crimes linked to the Zodiac. The Bates case was cited along with the other four known attacks in the San Francisco Bay Area. The DOJ report referred to the writings related to the Bates murder.

Suspect mailed typewritten confession letter from Riverside to the Police Department and Riverside Enterprise newspaper on November 29th, 1966, claiming to the perpetrator of the crime. Three additional handprinted letters were mailed in Riverside by the suspect on April 30th, 1967, again claiming the Bates homicide and indicating there would be more.”

After the Bates murder, Riverside police, the local newspaper and Bates’ father received three virtually identical handwritten letters in April 1967. The Zodiac’s first written attempt to communicate consisted of three virtually identical handwritten letters mailed in July, 1969. 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.” Theories regarding a possible link between the Zodiac and Bates crimes did not appear in news reports until three month after the Zodiac had misspelled the same word in the same manner as the author of the “Confession.”

Similarities in handwriting also indicated that one person may have been responsible for the Riverside writings and the Zodiac communications. Sherwood Morrill’s conclusion may have been refuted by other experts, but Questioned Document Examiner John Shimoda contradicted Morrill’s opinion only to reverse himself and conclude that the Zodiac may have written the Bates communications. Then, an FBI expert also concluded that the same person was most likely responsible for the Bates and Zodiac writings.

In his letter to Napa investigators, RPD Chief Kinkead 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.” The letter was clear: the RPD had “no doubt” that the killer wrote the confession. The facts known only to the killer purportedly included the references in the confession to the tampering of the victim’s car. Some skeptics have argued that these details were available in newspaper accounts published after the murder and that some unknown individual used that information in a morbid hoax. However, this argument assumed that someone had taken the time to carefully craft a clever and detailed hoax when the simplest explanation was that the “confession” was written by the killer.

Some skeptics speculated that the “Confession” may have been written by the someone who wished to deflect suspicion from an individual who had known the victim. However, the author of the “Confession” clearly stated that the murder was his way of “MAKING HER PAY FOR THE BRUSH OFFS THAT SHE HAD GIVEN ME DURING THE YEARS PRIOR.” Rather than lead authorities to a stranger, the author directed them straight to a rejected suitor, a jilted lover, an angry acquaintance or even an obsessive friend who had known the victim for “years.” A suspect who wished to re-direct the investigation would logically attempt to implicate a stranger rather than those who knew the victim. Investigators who believed that Bates knew the killer would undoubtedly investigate those who had known Bates, including the author of the confession. A stranger who wished to mis-direct the investigation would implicate someone who had known the victim, knowing full well that the investigators would never be on the right track as long as they searched for a connection between the victim and the killer.

If Bates was not killed by someone she had known, then the Zodiac, or someone very much like him, remained the most likely suspect. Handwritings experts concluded that the Zodiac was responsible for the Riverside writings, but logic also pointed to the Zodiac for other reasons. The attention to anniversaries was consistent in both the Riverside writings and the Zodiac communications. The confession letter was sent approximately one month after the murder of Cheri Jo Bates. The three other letters were mailed approximately six months after the crime. The Zodiac mailed a letter on the one year anniversary of the murders on Lake Herman Road. The Riverside writer sent three handwritten letters at the same time and so did the Zodiac. Print impressions of a military-style boot were found at the scene of the Bates murder, and military-style boot prints were also found at the scene of the Zodiac attack at Lake Berryessa. The person who killed Bates tampered with her car. The Zodiac claimed he was responsible for the abduction of Kathleen Johns, and the suspect in that crime had also tampered with the victim’s car. The person who killed Bates had apparently used a ruse and/or lie to lure the victim. The Zodiac had used a ruse in the Berryessa attack and the murder of the cab driver. The person who abducted Johns had also used a ruse. The author of the confession letter claimed that he had placed a telephone call to authorities. The Zodiac called local police after two of his attacks. The author of the confession letter mailed his communications to both the police and a local newspaper. The Zodiac contacted police by phone and sent letters to newspapers. The first Riverside communication, the confession letter, included a puzzle for a byline, “By _________________,” as if readers were supposed to fill in the blanks with the identity of the author. The Zodiac’s first communications included a puzzle in the form of a coded message which purportedly contained the identity of the author. Both writers warned of future attacks and expressed a desire to see their writings published.

There-will-be-more

PAST AS PROLOGUE

History has repeatedly demonstrated that many infamous killers have been linked to earlier crimes. Robert Yates was convicted of murdering several women in Spokane, Washington, but he had also killed a young couple many years earlier. Arthur Shawcross murdered many women near Rochester, New York, but he had also killed a young boy many years earlier. Dennis Rader murdered two children and their parents years before he sexually assaulted and killed several women as the “BTK” strangler. Authorities had developed their own suspects in the family slayings but a letter from “BTK” claimed responsibility for the crime. Investigators initially dismissed and resisted the possibility that the “BTK” strangler was responsible for killing the family but eventually acknowledged the connection between the two cases. The murder of another suspected BTK victim was initially linked to the killer but expert profilers were certain that he was not responsible for that crime. Years later, BTK sent an envelope which contained photographs he had taken while killing the same victim.

On March 13, 1971, the Zodiac sent a letter to The Los Angeles Times which referred to the Bates murder: “I do have to give them credit for stumbling across my riverside activity, but they are only finding the easy ones, there are a hell of a lot more down there.” The use of the word “easy” implied that the Zodiac believed his connection to the Bates murder and related writings was obvious. The handwriting similarities led some experts to conclude that the Zodiac was responsible for the Riverside writings, and, Riverside police seemed to confirm this conclusion when referring to the same material as a “possible forged letter by Zodiac“. For whatever reason, the Zodiac chose to confirm his connection to the Bates murder. Some skeptics choose to dismiss the Zodiac/Bates connection as the dishonest boast of an egomaniacal serial killer eager to take credit for crimes he did not commit while exaggerating his body count. The alternative scenario dictates that the Zodiac was telling the truth.

At the time of the Zodiac crimes, news reports linked the killer to the murders of two young girls but the Zodiac did not claim credit for that crime. Media stories also linked the Zodiac to the murder of a San Francisco police officer but the Zodiac did not claim credit for that killing. In fact, the Zodiac only communicated to confirm his connection to two crimes linked to him by the media– the Bates and Johns cases. A killer who wanted to exaggerate the number of his victims could easily achieve that goal by taking advantage of the many opportunities provided by media speculation.

The Zodiac was linked to many murders but he only claimed credit for six specific crimes:

1) the murder of Cheri Jo Bates in Riverside, CA: 10/30/66

2) the murders of Betty Lou Jensen & David Faraday near Benicia, CA: 12/20/68

3) the murder of Darlene Ferrin & wounding of Michael Mageau in Vallejo, CA: 7/4/69

4) the murder of Cecelia Shepard & wounding of Bryan Hartnell at Lake Berryessa, CA: 9/27/69

5) the murder of Paul Stine in San Francisco, CA: 10/11/69

6) the alleged abduction of Kathleen Johns near Patterson, CA: 3/22/70

A killer who wished to falsely inflate his body count also risked being discredited if he claimed responsibility for a crime he did not commit and then that case was subsequently solved. Media reports suggested that the Zodiac was responsible for the murder of two young girls but police arrested another suspect in that case. More media speculation linked the Zodiac to the murder of a police officer but authorities identified another suspect in that case. In fact, the Zodiac claimed that he was responsible for six specific crimes and all six of those crimes remain unsolved. If he did lie about his connection to those six crimes, the Zodiac had remarkable luck when selecting those crimes for which he would falsely claim credit. The Zodiac claimed responsibility for those six specific crimes and those six crimes remain unsolved. That fact, when weighed with the other evidence, serves as good reason to believe that the Zodiac may have been responsible for those crimes.

Over the years, the RPD strongly denied any connection between the Bates murder and the Zodiac killer. The RPD was always in a difficult position: If the Zodiac was responsible for the Bates murder, then the failure to solve that case left the killer free to commit the subsequent Zodiac crimes. If the Zodiac did not kill Bates, then the RPD had seemingly wasted time and resources on the continued pursuit of that theory during the earlier years of the investigation. The Riverside Police Department complained about the “speculation and creative reporting” which linked the Zodiac and Bates cases but ignored the obvious and undeniable irony. The Riverside Police Department first suggested that a connection existed between the Bates murder and the Zodiac crimes, and, ironically, the department then spent years running from its creation.

The murder of Cheri Jo Bates remains unsolved. Unless the RPD is withholding other evidence which proves that there is no connection between the Bates murder and the Zodiac crimes, the evidence indicates that the Zodiac may be the most logical suspect. The Zodiac claimed that he was responsible for the Bates murder as well as five other events– the murders on Lake Herman Road, the shootings at Blue Rock Springs Park, the stabbings at Lake Berryessa, the killing of a cab driver in San Francisco and the abduction of Kathleen Johns. Like the Bates case, all of these crimes remain unsolved, and the Zodiac remains the only logical suspect.

 

— Copyright 2013 ZodiacKillerFacts.com — 

————————————————

RELATED LINKS:

THE ZODIAC CRIMES

RIVERSIDE: Photographs, Official Documents and Other Material

THE VICTIM

Cheri Jo Bates

The CRIME SCENE

The Crime Scene

The LIBRARY

Riverside City College Library

The Police Reenactment

The CAR

Cheri Jo’s Volkswagen Bug

The LETTERS

The “Confession” Letter

The Three Letters

The Desktop Poem

The Story of the “Patricia Hautz” Letter

The DOCUMENTS

The Autopsy Report and Death Certificate

Riverside Police Department: Letter on Possible Zodiac Connection

Department of Justice Report Excerpts

FBI Reports on Letters

RPD/FBI/DOJ Documents – RPD Suspect

Newspaper Articles: Paul Avery & The Riverside Connection

ZodiacKillerFACTS.com BLOG:

CHERI JO BATES & The ZODIAC: Unsolved Crimes & Unanswered Questions

CHERI JO BATES: Another Anniversary

———————————-

Visit ZodiacKillerFACTS.com for more information about the unsolved “Zodiac” crimes.