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:
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
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.”
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.
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.