3 – FACT vs. FINCHER – Scene by Scene – 21 thru 30

Scene 21 – “Basement for future use”

Toschi worries about the case at home and calls Armstrong with the insight that basements are rate in Northern California. Armstrong says he will check into the angle and Toschi hangs up the phone.

Scene 22 – The Melvin Mistake

Christmas music plays as Toschi and Armstrong arrive at the home of Melvin Belli. Inside, they find the melodramatic attorney sitting behind his desk and holding a new letter from the Zodiac. Belli reads the letter to the inspectors who are not happy with him. Belli says that the people have a right to know about the letter and Toschi says, “Which is why you contacted the Chronicle.”

Armstrong asks when the letter arrived and Belli says that the envelope came during “the middle of last week.” He believed that the Zodiac had chosen to write to his home because he had been unable to contact Belli at the TV station or “here.” Armstrong asks, “He tried to contact you here?” Belli responds, “Several times,” and explains, “I was out but he spoke with my housekeeper.” Armstrong then runs off to question the housekeeper.

FINCHER: Belli is in San Francisco. Christmas music plays in the background. One week after the letter arrived on December 23 places this scene on December 30, 1969. The film shows Belli sitting in his home, holding and reading from the letter. Toschi chastises Belli for contacting the Chronicle before notifying the police. Belli then tells the inspectors that the Zodiac had called his home several times and spoken with his housekeeper.

FACT: On December 20, 1969, Melvin Belli left San Francisco en route to Germany, where he attended a conference of military lawyers. Belli remained in Munich throughout the week, and was still there when the Zodiac’s letter arrived at Belli’s San Francisco home on December 23. The housekeeper forwarded the letter to Belli’s office where it arrived several days later. Belli’s staff opened the envelope, which contained another letter and another piece of Paul Stine’s blood soaked shirt. The staff immediately notified the police. Armstrong and Toschi took possession of the evidence and experts determined that the scrap of cloth came from Stine’s shirt and that the handwriting matched that of the Zodiac.

Chronicle reporter Paul Avery contacted Melvin Belli in Munich by telephone on December 28, 1969. The attorney informed Avery that an assistant had flown to Germany and provided him with a copy of the Zodiac’s letter. Belli told Avery that he had left for Germany on December 20, 1969, and would remain in Munich. After his conversation with Belli on December 28, 1969, Avery then wrote, “Belli said he is scheduled to remain in Europe for several weeks – he has a trial starting next week in Naples, and then plans to fly to Algiers (Africa) to confer with fugitive Black Panther Eldridge Cleaver …”

CONCLUSION: The facts demonstrate that Belli was in Munich, Germany, and not in San Francisco, when the Zodiac’s letter arrived at his home on December 23, 1969. He was not at his home and did not touch the Zodiac letter, nor did he contact the Chronicle before alerting authorities. Belli did not tell police about phone calls to his home at that time because no such calls had occurred. The FBI files indicate that Belli’s housekeeper did not report receiving any phone calls from someone claiming to be the Zodiac at the time in question but several weeks later in January 1970.

Scene 23 – Kathleen Johns – “March 22, 1970 – 2 ½ Months Later”

This scene depicts one of the most controversial incidents of the Zodiac story – the purported abduction of Kathleen Johns. According to the official reports documenting this incident, Johns claimed that she had encountered a strange man who had threatened her life, and that the man looked like the Zodiac.

The film shows Johns driving along a dark road when another car approaches with its horn blaring. The driver signals for Johns to pull over and she guides the car to the side of the road. After he stops behind her vehicle, the driver approaches and informs Johns that the rear wheel of her station wagon is loose. He offers to tighten the lug nuts and, after he apparently does so, he sends Johns on her way. When the rear wheel then slips away from the station wagon, forcing Johns to side of the road, the stranger offers to drive her to a nearby gas station for help.

Johns gathers her infant daughter and climbs into the man’s car. He is surprised to see her with the child but heads down the road. He drives past a seemingly open gas station, making Johns suspicious. She asks if he often helps strangers and the man responds that people do not need help after meeting him. He then threatens Johns’ life and tells the frightened mother that he is going to throw the child out of the open window.

A motorist and a truck driver later find a traumatized Johns hiding along the side of the road, fearful that the stranger would return to harm her baby.

NOTE: This timing of events places the scene in Belli’s home approximately 2 ½ months before March 22, 1970, or, in the second week of January. The timing of the events concurs with the known facts concerning the calls to Belli’s home and the conversation between “the Zodiac” and Belli’s housekeeper. According to the FBI reports, the first documented report of any calls to the home of Melvin Belli took place in the second week of January 1970, or 2 ½ months prior to the Johns incident.

Scene 24 – Graysmith and Avery Go To The Library

A series of audio voice-overs illustrates the passage of time and the various letters sent by the Zodiac. One letter mentions an interesting ride with a woman and her baby in an obvious reference to the Johns incident. Graysmith asks Avery why the Zodiac waited so long to claim responsibility for the botched abduction and Avery responds that the Zodiac is lying. The two then travel to a library where Avery shows Graysmith an article from The Modesto Bee newspaper that contains all of the details regarding the Johns incident. Avery explains that the Zodiac simply used the details provided in the article to take credit for a crime he did not commit. He then shows Graysmith another article that states the Zodiac took credit for the murder of a San Francisco police officer.

Avery says, “Zodiac didn’t do it, but he took credit for it anyway.” The reporter then reveals that his discovery that a wristwatch, named Zodiac, is the only place where the name Zodiac and the crossed-circle symbol used by the Zodiac killer appear together.

FINCHER: Avery claims that the articles concerning Johns and Radetich prove that the Zodiac attempted to take credit for crimes he did not commit. Avery also states that the watch is the only place where the Zodiac’s name and symbol appear together.

FACT: While the Zodiac’s claim to have abducted Johns continues to be the subject of debate, Inspector William Armstrong told a television producer in 1988 that it was likely Johns had encountered the Zodiac. Debate concerning Zodiac’s involvement in this incident continues.

The Zodiac never claimed he had killed Officer Radetich, and he never even mentioned the shooting of a police officer or Radetich’s name. In a letter mailed to the Chronicle, the Zodiac had written that he had “shot a man sitting in a parked car using a .38.” Radetich was sitting in his patrol car when an unidentified gunman shot him using a .38 caliber weapon. The only attempt to link Zodiac to the shooting of Officer Richard Radetich was an article that appeared in The San Francisco Chronicle titled “Zodiac Says He Killed S.F Officer.” The author of the article was Paul Avery.

For many years, speculation and theories have attempted to explain the origins of the Zodiac’s chosen name and symbol. Suspect Arthur Leigh Allen wore a “Zodiac” wristwatch, as Avery described. This watch is not the only place where the name and the symbol appear together. The Zodiac boat company also used the name and the crossed-circle symbol. Ford Motors introduced a car named “The Zodiac” that had a hood ornament similar to the killer’s crossed-circle symbol. Yet most attempts to explain the origins of the name and the symbol ignore the most obvious explanation – one discovered by police in the early weeks of the investigation.

The name “Zodiac” is derived from the Greek word “zodiakos,” which, translated, means “a circle of animals.” The American Heritage Dictionary (1983) offers the following definitions:

zodiac: n. 1.a. A band of the celestial sphere, extending about eight degrees to either side of the ecliptic (the sun’s path), that represents the path of the principal planets, the moon and the sun. b. In astrology, this band divided into 12 equal parts called signs, each 30 degrees wide, bearing the name of a constellation for which it was originally named. 2. A diagram or figure representing the zodiac. (Gk. zodion small represented figure). zodiacal, adj.

In astrology, the crossed-circle symbol is used to represent the Zodiac, and, therefore, is called a Zodiac. Astrologers use this symbol in all aspects of astrology and, in order create a natal chart or “read” a horoscope, one must begin by drawing a crossed-circle, or, a Zodiac.

Captain Martin Lee of the San Francisco Police Department told reporters that investigators had consulted astrologers regarding the Zodiac’s name and symbols. “We have made two or three inquiries of people in that business to gain information on what particular signs might mean. In fact, it was just a day or so ago that we learned that little symbol of the circle with the cross in the center of it, uh, what they told us is that this symbolizes the center of the universe, and this is called ‘The Sign of the Zodiac.'”

Put simply, the crossed-circle symbol IS a Zodiac. Well documented throughout history, the astrological origin of the name and symbol inspired the companies that manufactured the Zodiac watches and Zodiac boats to use the name and the symbol together. The Zodiac used other astrological symbols in his coded messages, indicating that an interest or knowledge of astrology may have inspired his decision to use the name and the symbol.

The Zodiac watch may have inspired the Zodiac killer, as Avery claims in the film, but the watch is not the only place where the name and symbol appear together, nor is it the most logical explanation for the Zodiac’s choice of his name and symbol.

Scene 25 – Happy Birthday, Bill

Inspectors Toschi and Armstrong sit in a car at the intersection of Washington and Cherry. Armstrong laments that the Chief has ended the security for local school buses. Toschi wishes his partner a happy birthday.

Scene 26 – Graysmith, the “Retard”

Cartoonist Robert Graysmith is shocked to learn that his fellow Chronicle employees refer to him as “retard.” The sound from a television attracts Graysmith’s attention and Avery explains that the woman on the screen is Vallejo Mayor Florence Douglas. The mayor criticizes police for overlooking clues concerning the killing of victim Darlene Ferrin. Avery opens an envelope addressed to him and is horrified to find a taunting Halloween card and another scrap of Stine’s shirt. Toschi and Armstrong arrive to collect the card and Avery asks to carry a gun.

FINCHER: The mayor of Vallejo is concerned that police have overlooked clues in the Ferrin murder case. Paul Avery opens the envelope mailed by the Zodiac.

FACT: The mayor of Vallejo did voice such concerns at a press conference. Florence Douglas based her opinions on information provided by Ferrin’s mother, and a psychic. According to the mother, Darlene had made a rather cryptic comment on the night she was killed: “You might read about me in the paper tomorrow.” Darlene’s mother did not remember this important information in the days, weeks or months after her daughter was murdered. In fact, the woman was only able to recall Darlene’s statements with the assistance of the psychic. Darlene’s mother did not contact police with this important information.

Paul Avery did not open the envelope that contained the famous Halloween card from the Zodiac. In an interview for a 1989 television program, Avery explained how the events had actually unfolded. “The two homicide inspectors working the Zodiac case came in and tapped me on the shoulder, and pulled me outside, and said, uh, ‘We received another letter from the Chron-er, from the Zodiac, and it was addressed to you.'” This envelope did not contain a piece of Paul Stine’s shirt as seen in the film.

Scene 27 – Graysmith and Avery At Home on the Range

Avery tries out his new pistol at the firing range while Graysmith reads an article about “I Am Not Paul Avery” buttons. The reporter tells the cartoonist that he received an anonymous tip regarding a possible Zodiac murder in Riverside.

Scene 28 – Melanie Misses the Warning Signs

Graysmith arrives at a restaurant for his first date with Melanie. After they introduce themselves, Graysmith explains that he is working with reporter Paul Avery on the Zodiac murder case. He tells Melanie about Paul’s trip to Riverside to check on the anonymous tip. Melanie points out that the tipster could be Zodiac, and, soon, Graysmith is worried about Avery. After calling Avery’s home from a payphone, Melanie accompanies Graysmith to his apartment where they await news from the missing reporter. Hours later, the phone finally rings, and Avery tells Graysmith that he has important news.

FINCHER: Graysmith spends his first date with Melanie worrying about Avery, and they wait together by the phone all night.

FACT: Graysmith and Avery had no relationship whatsoever, so Graysmith did not spend any time at the gun range with the reporter and he did not spend his first date with his future wife worrying for Avery’s safety. Graysmith himself said that this scene is purely fictional.

Scene 29 – The Riverside Connection

Toschi and Armstrong are stunned to see reporter Paul Avery on television claiming that he has discovered a Zodiac crime in Riverside, California. The inspectors arrange to fly to Riverside to investigate and, once on the plane, the men run into Agent Mel Nicolai of the Department of Justice. Nicolai asks the inspectors why he learned about this development from the newspaper. Paul Avery appears and attempts to socialize with the investigators but the men snub the reporter.

Inside the offices of the Riverside police department, Toschi, Armstrong, Nicolai and Napa County Sheriff’s investigator Ken Narlow listen as the local lawmen provide the details regarding the possible “Zodiac” murder. Student Cheri Jo Bates was reportedly last seen leaving the Riverside City College library with an unidentified male on the night of October 30, 1966. A groundskeeper found her body the next day, and an autopsy revealed that the killer had used a small knife to stab Bates to death. After the murder, a local newspaper received a typed letter titled “The Confession.” The letter provided a detailed description of Bates’ murder. Six months later, a local newspaper, the police and even Bates’ father all received handwritten notes apparently sent by the killer. A college employee later discovered a desk with a strange poem written on its surface.

Handwriting expert Sherwood Morrill concluded that the Zodiac had written the letters and the desktop poem, but the local cops are not convinced. Toschi scolds the Riverside police for cooperating with reporter Paul Avery. The men leave the police station and find Avery outside the building, still looking for information. Toschi scolds Avery for interfering with the investigation and the two have a heated exchange. The inspector leaves Avery by saying, “Go fuck yourself.”

FINCHER: Investigators greet Sherwood Morrill’s conclusions with skepticism. Riverside police state that victim Cheri Jo Bates was last seen leaving the library with an unidentified male.

FACT: Sherwood Morrill’s conclusions were the subject of debate, but, while some experts refuted his findings, others confirmed his conclusion that the Zodiac was responsible for the Riverside writings.

Witnesses did not report that Cheri Jo Bates left the library with an unidentified male. While some have speculated that the killer met Bates inside the library, the evidence indicates that the killer waited outside in the parking lot. The killer had tampered with Bates’ car, and investigators believed he used this situation to engage the victim and offer his assistance. In fact, the so-called “Confession” letter described a similar scenario.

Scene 30 – Crackpots

Inspectors Toschi and Armstrong face a seemingly endless supply of kooks and crackpots offering clues to the Zodiac’s identity.


IntroductionPart 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5Part 6Part 7Part 8 – Conclusion