LAKE HERMAN ROAD: 50 Years Later


“Fifty years is a long time.”

I have heard these words several times in the last few weeks whenever I mention the fact that this December 20th will mark the 50th anniversary of the Zodiac murders on Lake Herman Road. On that night in 1968, two teenagers set out on their first date together but they never came home again. For whatever reason, someone decided to kill the young couple as they sat in a parked vehicle at a lovers lane spot. The search for the killer eventually became the hunt for one of the most elusive and terrifying serial killers in American history. Half a century after the two teenagers were murdered, many people can remember the events but the names of the victims are often lost in the margins of the history books.


David Faraday and Betty Lou Jensen

David Faraday was the all-American kid, seventeen years old, a good student, a Boy Scout, a handsome young man. According to some reports, David once confronted a marijuana dealer and threatened to report the man to police. Like many teenage boys, David began dating and soon found himself attracted to a young girl. Betty Lou Jensen was sixteen years old, a talented artist and a popular student with many friends. Betty Lou and David met at a youth function and soon he was visiting her at school. The relationship blossomed but also aroused jealousy in another young boy who liked Betty Lou. The boy confronted David and they argued over the girl. David was determined to continue the relationship and planned to take Betty Lou out on her first date. 

The couple talked about attending a Christmas event and they promised Betty Lou’s parents to return by 11:00 PM. According to some accounts, David and Betty Lou were planning to attend a party with some other students but, for some reason, the couple traveled to Lake Herman Road and parked David’s Rambler station wagon at a lovers lane spot. Passing drivers noted the presence of the Rambler, but one driver stopped his vehicle and stepped out onto the cold ground. No one knows exactly what happened that night, the precise chain of events unknown, but the evidence revealed that the two teenagers were trapped in a violent attack. 

The Rambler’s passenger door was open. A bullet had penetrated the roof of the vehicle, and another bullet passed through a back window. Ten shell casings were found around the crime scene. David’s body was found on the ground near the back wheel on the passenger side. One bullet had penetrated his skull behind the left ear and entered his brain. Betty Lou’s body was found further away from the station wagon, an indication that she tried to run away but the killer shot her five times in the right side of her back. Betty Lou died in the darkness, but David was still breathing when police officers later arrived at the scene. He was unresponsive and died before reaching the hospital.


Friends of the victims organized a reward fund to help identify the killer.

The murders horrified the community afraid that a mad gunman was on the loose. An investigation led to the young boy who argued with David Faraday over his relationship with Betty Lou. Investigators learned that the boy had an alibi, so the search for the killer continued as the case faded from the headlines. By the summer of 1969, many observers wondered if the mystery would ever be solved yet they had no idea that the nightmare had just begun.

On the night of July 4, 1969, twenty-two year old Darlene Ferrin and her friend, nineteen year old Michael Mageau, sat inside a brown Corvair at Blue Rock Springs Park, located approximately two miles northwest of the crime scene on Lake Herman Road. Shortly after midnight, another vehicle parked behind the Corvair and the driver stepped out. Michael and Darlene initially thought the figure approaching the passenger window with a bright light was a police officer, but they were shocked by a sudden burst of gunfire and a swarm of bullets flying into the car. Michael was shot in the jaw and leapt into the backseat only to be hit again. Bullets hit Darlene as she sat behind the steering wheel. The gunman started to walk away but returned when Michael cried out in pain. The man fired several more shots into the car and then walked back to his car and drove away. At 12:40 AM, Vallejo police dispatcher answered a call from a man who claimed he was responsible for the shooting at Blue Rock Springs Park. The dispatcher was surprised when the man claimed he was also responsible for the murders on Lake Herman Road. The possible link between the two shootings was fueled by a subsequent letter from someone who claimed to be the killer.


The payphone used by the Zodiac and the letter taking credit for the Lake Herman Road murders.

The man who called himself “The Zodiac” took center stage in the following media frenzy surrounding the ongoing crime spree.  The fact that the murders remained unsolved was accepted as a simple consequence of the harsh realities in the sensational and seemingly endless Zodiac mystery.

On December 20th, 1968, David Faraday and Betty Lou Jensen set out on their first date together as typical American teenagers and ended the night as tragic characters in a legendary true crime story. Had they lived, David and Betty Lou might be in their late sixties today, senior citizens looking back on a long and happy life with their children and grandchildren. Instead, one is left to contemplate all the events they never experienced, the high school graduation, the college years, the first job, marriage, or building a family. The families and friends of the victims have grown old without them, keeping their memories alive and waiting for answers. The continued hope for justice is tempered by the disappointing knowledge that the murders of David and Betty Lou may only be solved if and when the identity of America’s most elusive serial killer is finally revealed. Half a century after the brutal killings on Lake Herman Road, the newspaper headline from 1968 is a sad reminder that the story remains the same: TEENAGERS’ SLAYER STILL AT LARGE.

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Learn more about the unsolved murders of Betty Lou Jensen and David Faraday with newspaper articles, crime scene photographs, police reports, and more at

LAKE HERMAN ROAD: Photographs, Videos, Newspaper Articles and Official Documents


David Faraday and Betty Lou Jensen


The Scene of the Crime: 1968


The Crime Scene: December 20, 1968

The Crime Scene: Police Sketches


Shell Casings and Jensen Dress

The Rambler


The Investigators and Others


Newspaper Articles and Other Material


Death Certificates and Morgue Photographs

Benicia Police Dept: Report by Capt. Daniel Pitta (2 pages)

Solano County Sheriff’s Office Report (76 pages)

CA Dept. of Justice / CII Report – Ballistics (3 pages)


The Funeral of David Faraday

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.


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


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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.