ALLEN: The Informant
By December of 1990, 50 year old career criminal Ralph Spinelli faced up to 30 years in prison for nine armed robberies. In an attempt to escape punishment for his crimes, Spinelli told police that he was prepared to reveal the name of the Zodiac killer if “some type of deal is made regarding his offenses.” Detective Jim Overstreet called the Vallejo Police Department to report Spinelli’s claim, and was referred to Detective George Bawart. The Vallejo Police Department had retained Bawart on “a contract type basis to do follow up” on leads in the Zodiac case after his retirement in September of 1989.
Detective Bawart spoke to Detective Overstreet to get the details of Spinelli’s arrest as well as his story, and then called VPD Captain Roy Conway to explain the unfolding scenario. Conway had been a sergeant with the VPD in 1969, and had been present at the scene of the shooting at Blue Rock Springs Park. According to a VPD report, Ralph Spinelli was well known to both Conway and Bawart, as his family was prominent in the Vallejo Area in the 1940’s, 1950’s, and 1960’s, and thought to have connections with Organized Crime. Spinelli had a history of prior arrests, and had served two years in prison for the armed robberies of several Oregon restaurants in 1972.
Conway and Bawart met with Spinelli at the Santa Clara County jail in January of 1991. The prisoner refused to identify “the person he knew as the Zodiac without first being offered a deal; wherein, all charges against him were dropped.” Spinelli was informed that neither Conway nor Bawart would agree to his terms, and was then “asked how he knew the individual he would not name was the Zodiac?”
According to Spinelli, the unnamed individual had told him that “he was going to San Francisco and kill a cab driver. The next day or so, a cab driver was killed in San Francisco, and the Zodiac took credit for it.”
Captain Conway and detective Bawart pressed Spinelli to identify the individual in question, but he would only agree to give the man’s name to his public defender, Craig Kennedy. Conway later wrote: “Throughout January 1991, subsequent meetings were held with Craig Kennedy and Craig Kennedy’s immediate boss Bryan Schechmeister regarding the information Spinelli had. They refused to divulge any further information without some concrete deal being given to Ralph Spinelli which we refused to do.”
The stalemate came to an end on January 31, 1991, when Capt. Conway “received a phone call from Craig Kennedy. He indicated that the name given to him by Ralph Spinelli was Lee Allen.”
Once again, Allen was the subject of yet another seemingly incredulous story, which, if true, indicated he possessed prior knowledge of the Zodiac crimes. Once again, Allen is said to announced his murderous intentions in advance. Once again, the VPD launched another investigation of Arthur Leigh Allen.
NEXT – ALLEN: Another Investigation