Featured

Who was the Zodiac Killer?

In 1980 conspiracy researcher Mae Brussell identified Robert Linkletter, son of the famous Hollywood entertainer and celebrity Art Linkletter as the Zodiac Killer. Brussell’s source of information was a letter from a woman who lived in Woodland Hills who knew Robert personally and also knew him as the Zodiac.

Zodiac, a serial killer in the San Francisco Bay area, wrote a series of letters to local newspapers boasting of his murders and appending sophisticated cryptograms that defied the best efforts of amateur and professional codebreakers. Using many deliberately misspelled words, he made mocking jabs at the police, laughed at their futile efforts to catch him, and described in detail how he would dispatch future victims. In a letter sent to the San Francisco Chronicle on October 13, 1969, he wrote, “School children make nice targets, I think I shall wipe out a school bus some morning.” A letter sent to the same newspaper on June 26, 1970 threatened that if people did not start wearing Zodiac buttons, he would punish them “by anilating a full School Buss.” The disappearance of a school bus full of children in 1976 prompted many to believe that this was the work of the Zodiac. It also prompted Mae Brussell to reveal on her weekly program Dialogue: Conspiracy the existence of a letter that identified the Zodiac by his real name. [1]

The afternoon of July 15, the last day of summer school at Dairyland Elementary in the farming community of Chowchilla, a school bus departed with thirty-one children, ages ranging from five to fourteen. Traveling on ruler-straight roads past cotton fields and almond groves, the driver, Frank Ray, dropped off five youngsters at three separate stops.

Proceeding west on Avenue 21 toward the intersection at Road 15, he noticed a white van straddling the road with its door open. As he came around to pass, he saw jumping out of the van a man wearing a nylon stocking mask and brandishing a shotgun and revolver. He signaled Ray to stop the bus and in a deep voice demanded that he open the door. He was a big man, 6 foot 2, medium to heavy build, tan short-sleeve shirt, white gloves, light tan corduroy pants, light brown belt with horsehead buckle, cowboy boots, and an eagle tattoo on his right arm. Grayish white hair and moustache were discernible through the nylon. He appeared to be about 50 years old.

Two more men wearing stocking masks came out of the van. One of them was armed with a pump shotgun, about 23 to 27 years old, very thin, 5 foot 7, collar length brown hair, light complexion, moustache, and a hairy mole on the right side of his chin. He wore a white T-shirt, white gloves, blue corduroy pants, cowboy boots, and silver watch. He had a blue-green tattoo on his right wrist. He spoke with a foreign accent, possibly French. He came into the bus and ordered Ray to go to the back seat.

The third man was unarmed, stocky, 5 foot 6, white hat, white gloves, blue-checkered shirt, brown pants, and blue tennis shoes. Over his mask, he wore black, thick-framed glasses. His age might have been anywhere from 28 to 45. He had sideburns, a one-inch scar on his right cheek, and a chipped front tooth. His stocky appearance was deceptive, for up close one boy observed that he had “a pillow stuffed in his shirt to make him look fat.” He settled into the driver’s seat and took control of the wheel.

Continuing west about a mile, the bus and van turned left into a clearing off the road and drove into a dry creek bed. After hiding the bus in a heavy thicket of bamboo, the three men herded their captives into the white van and into a green van parked nearby. As Ray climbed in through the back doors of the green van, he glanced at the license plate number of the white van.

Chowchilla bamboo grove

Aerial view of the bamboo grove where kidnappers abandoned the school bus.

Neither Ray nor the children could see where they were going – plywood and a coat of paint blocked the windows. They sped along highways for many hours, never stopping at a gas station. Those who needed to urinate had to do so in their pants. Several times along the way, the abductors stopped to put more fuel in the gas tanks from gas cans stowed onboard. After eleven hours on the road, they finally stopped at their destination. They told Ray and the children to get out and directed them to descend a ladder through a three-foot opening in the ground into an underground chamber. As they went in, one by one, a man asked for their names, ages, parent’s names, and took from each a shoe or an article of clothing.

Using a flashlight given to him to guide the children in, Ray could see that they were inside the trailer of a truck about eight feet wide and sixteen feet long, buried underground. He saw some mattresses and box springs, two wooden boxes with holes on top that served as improvised toilets, ten five-gallon containers of water, some dry breakfast food, bags of potato chips, two loaves of bread, and six 4×4 vertical posts that extended eight feet from floor to ceiling. Mounted in two holes, one cut through the front and the other through the right side, were battery-operated fans that circulated air through flexible hoses, four inches in diameter. (One hose was thirty-five-feet long, hidden from view in the branches of a tree.)

After pulling up the ladder, the captors put a heavy metal plate on top of the hole and weighed it down with a pair of hundred-pound truck batteries and a wooden box full of dirt. Using wire-cutters, they cut cables holding back a wire-mesh fence. An avalanche of dirt and gravel poured down upon the roof of the trailer, covering the plate, batteries and box to a depth of six to seven feet above the roof of the trailer. Inside, the captives watched fearfully as the ceiling buckled from the weight of earthen material, but the standing posts kept the roof from collapsing.

Trapped in the darkness of their dungeon with only the flashlight and a candle for illumination, children cried from terror and despair. As the hours dragged on, the heat inside rose to an oppressive level. The makeshift ventilation system was inadequate for proper airflow. One of the air vents stopped working, and the children gathered together trying to breathe around the one air vent remaining. Many were coughing from the lack of fresh air, or vomiting amid the odors of urine and filth.

As the driver and children viewed with increasing alarm the horror of their situation, in the world outside they became the number one news story, pushing aside Jimmy Carter’s speech accepting the nomination for president at the Democratic Convention in New York City. One major news development was the discovery of the missing bus just before dark by an airplane doing an aerial search. Reporters found people who blamed the kidnapping on black radicals or anti-capitalist leftists. An anonymous person called the San Francisco Chronicle and said “Chowchilla, Weatherman,” obviously referring to a radical leftist group. A spokeswoman for New World Liberation Front, when questioned by reporters, denied that the group had anything to do with the kidnapping. The following day, a group of birdwatchers found children’s notebooks, shoes, clothing, and Frank Ray’s wallet and pants, on an embankment near Saratoga in the Santa Cruz Mountains. The discovery indicated that hippies dwelling in communes nearby might be responsible for the kidnapping.

Meanwhile, the people of Chowchilla prayed for their children. God heard their prayers, and a miracle occurred.

After some hours passed, the sound of shoes above the captives ceased. The kidnappers had apparently left the site. After waiting for what seemed an eternity, the oldest boy, Mike Marshall, age fourteen years, decided he was going to dig his way to freedom. The bus driver, who had already given up in hopeless despair, discouraged him from trying and told him that their time had come “to kick the bucket.” Mike refused to give up.

He kicked one of the box springs apart and found a suitable stick of wood, eighteen inches long. Piling up mattresses to reach the plate covering the hole in the ceiling, he dug and clawed around the plate. At last Ray and another boy came to help. Using all their strength, they pushed up on the plate and managed to open a gap sufficient to jam a stick underneath it. The gap was enough to enable continued digging. As they dug upward, increasing amounts of earth trickled down. Periodically the diggers doused themselves with water to keep from passing out in the suffocating heat.

Their efforts were finally rewarded when they saw a streak of sunlight and felt the fresh cool air. Continuing to tunnel upward, they moved the plate and opened a space large enough for a boy to squeeze through. It was 7 pm, and the sun was still up. He saw around him the heavy machinery of a rock quarry. It had been sixteen hours since they descended into their underground tomb. After climbing out, Ray and the children wandered around until they found a welder on a nearby elevator, who notified the police.

The quarry belonged to the California Rock and Gravel Company, near the city of Livermore in Alameda County, 95 miles north of Chowchilla. Since travel time from Chowchilla to Livermore was normally an hour and a half, the eleven hours on the road indicated the abductors used a roundabout way to get to the quarry.

Chowchilla trailer

Interior view of trailer.

Once they returned everyone home, law enforcement officials began collecting information. The bus driver remembered the last three digits of the license plate for the white van, 414. This corresponded with the license number 1C91414, obtained from an insurance secretary in Los Banos, Mrs. Mary Phillips. She had observed a suspicious white van parked in front of her Chowchilla office the evening of July 14. It was still in the same spot when she came back the following morning. At about 1:30 in the afternoon a second van identical in every way except in color parked next to the white van. A passenger got out and conferred with the driver of the white van for a few minutes. There appeared to be an exchange of money. Then the passenger climbed behind the wheel of the white van, and the two vehicles left the area and headed east on Highway 152. Before the vans drove off, Mrs. Phillips jotted on a piece of paper the license number of the white van. She gave this information to sheriff’s officers later that same day after hearing about the disappearance of the children and bus driver. 

The solid lead of the plate number enabled investigators to trace the two vans to a San Jose warehouse. An unidentified individual purchased them at an auction of military vehicles in Alameda on November 24, 1975. The trailer used to entomb the captives came from a moving and storage company in Palo Alto, purchased four days before the two vans. The man who bought it used the alias “Mark Hall,” and gave a non-existent address.

Thanks to information garnered from the driver and children, apprehension of the culprits was almost within reach. They were not, as initially believed, scruffy hippies or hotheaded radicals. Frederick Newhall Woods III, a member of one of California’s wealthiest and most prominent families, rented the San Jose warehouse where the two vans were found. He was also the owner of the rock quarry. His home was sixty miles from the quarry in Portola Valley, a lavish estate in San Mateo County – 100 acres of oak-studded rolling hills near Stanford University. Woods was a major stockholder in the Newhall Land and Farming Co., which had enormous investments in agriculture, cattle, oil, gas, and real estate. Its best-known asset was Magic Mountain, a popular and immensely profitable amusement park near Los Angeles. In May 1976, just two months earlier, it opened a spectacular rollercoaster ride called the Great American Revolution.

Newhall estate

Vehicles and buildings on the Portola Valley estate of Frederick Newhall Woods III.

Some sixty lawmen armed with riot guns, tear gas, and automatic weapons surrounded the family home in Portola Valley to search for evidence. Welcoming them graciously was an elderly couple, Mr. and Mrs. Woods, the only persons around. As they searched, they gazed with curiosity at the dusty, rusting, second-hand vehicles lined up in rows among the buildings, including Malibus, Impalas, Thunderbirds, station wagons, jeeps, bulldozer, fire engine, red hearse, orange vans, school bus, tow truck, an Allied Van Lines moving trailer, vintage campers, police cars, police motorcycles, many in working order. These vehicles, numbering about a hundred, might have been used in other previously unknown criminal activities, according to a suggestion made by Mae Brussell on one of her programs [2]. Among the vehicles on the property was a World War Two-era truck-tractor that matched the buried trailer in the Livermore quarry. With the help of a bulldozer, it was used to pull the trailer out of the pit.

Chowchilla quarry

Truck-tractor found at the Portola Valley estate being used to haul trailer out of pit at the rock quarry

A search of the main house yielded a paper bag with the scribbled names of the twenty-six children and a ransom note demanding five million dollars. All totaled, from various locations searched, investigators piled up “an astronomical amount of physical evidence,” according to a spokesman for the Alameda County sheriff’s office. According to the Sacramento Bee and the Fresno Bee, at least seven members of a gun and drug cult, sons of wealthy San Mateo County families, were suspects in the hijacking of the school bus. Soon after this article appeared, the police took into custody three suspects:

(1) Frederick Newhall Woods IV, son of the quarry owner, 25 years old, 6 foot, 145 pounds, brown hair and blue eyes;

(2) James Schoenfeld, son of a podiatrist in Atherton, 25 years old, 6 foot, 170 pounds, red hair and blue eyes;

(3) James’ brother Richard Schoenfeld, 22 years old, 5 foot 11 inches, 150 pounds, blonde hair and blue eyes.

Whatever part these men had in the Chowchilla plot, if any, they were not the ones seen by Ray and the children. According to AP reporter Mike Dunston on July 26, “The victims’ descriptions of their abductors appeared quite different from the descriptions of the Schoenfeld brothers and Woods in an all-points bulletin issued Thursday night.… Investigators said some of the apparent discrepancies in the original descriptions can be explained, but they declined to offer an explanation.”

Chowchilla kidnappers

Left to right: Frederick Woods IV, James Schoenfeld, and Richard Schoenfeld leaving courthouse August 26, 1976.

Law enforcement officials assigned to the case got an earful from Mae Brussell, who pointed out to them that the suspects arrested lacked the specific details mentioned by the bus driver and the children – gray hair, glasses, tattoos, chipped tooth, hairy mole, foreign accent, shortness of stature. They tried to brush her off with superficially plausible explanations or evasive non-sequiturs. An assistant to the Alameda County Sheriff said the children were too young to give credible descriptions of people.

“What about the bus driver?”

“Oh, the bus driver? He has no concept of what was involved, or who was involved.” [3]

On August 2, the expiration of a gag order on evidence found at the Woods estate allowed sources within law enforcement to provide reporters of the Sacramento Bee and the Fresno Bee a few more specifics. The ransom note demanding five million dollars was signed, “We are Beelsabub,” a misspelling of Beelzebub, which is the biblical name for the devil. Several other documents contained “strange references to Satan,” and others were coded in Sanskrit. Also found were paraphernalia indicating an obsession with satanic ritual. The following day, Stan Bohrman, on the six o’clock news for a television station in San Francisco, reported on these same findings, but he went one step further by mentioning the Zodiac. He said, “The [ransom] letter found in the home of Frederick Woods resembled the writing of the Zodiac killer. The markings above and below the letter and references to the occult were on this letter.” The importance of this information can be measured by how quickly it was suppressed. Repeat broadcasts of this announcement for the seven o’clock and the eleven o’clock news were cancelled, Bohrman was fired, and the Zodiac connection made no further appearances in the news media. [4]

Since schoolchildren were a prime target of the Zodiac, the Zodiac-style markings on the ransom note is another clue to his participation in the hijacking of the Chowchilla bus. A comparison of the Zodiac on the left shows resemblance to a composite sketch made of the kidnapper wearing the hat and glasses.

Zodiac                          Zodiac Chowchilla

Heavy dark-rimmed glasses are a characteristic feature of the Zodiac. Bryan Hartnell, who survived an attack on September 27, 1969 near Vallejo, said the Zodiac was wearing a black executioner-style outfit. Over his hood, he had clip-on sunglasses and underneath the hood was another pair of glasses. The killer was about 5 foot 8 inches, light brown curly hair, possibly a wig, 26 to 30 years old, 195 to 200 lbs.

The composite sketch of the Zodiac wearing heavy, horn-rimmed glasses came from three teenagers who witnessed the murder of cab driver Paul Stine in San Francisco on October 11, 1969. They said he was about 25 to 30 years old, 5 foot 8 to 9 inches tall, heavy build, short brown hair.

Kathleen Johns saw the composite sketch of the Zodiac on a poster at a local police station in Patterson and recognized him as the man who tried to kidnap her and her baby on March 22, 1970. She said he wore black, heavy-rimmed, plastic-lensed glasses held firmly in place by a thin band of elastic around his head. He was about 30 years old, 5 foot 9 inches, 160 pounds, short dark hair, jaw “not weak”, dark windbreaker jacket, navy blue bell-bottom pants, military shoes highly polished. After surreptitiously disabling her car, he posed as someone trying to help and lured her and her baby into his own car. Alarmed by his menacing manner, she managed to get out of the car and escape with her baby at a freeway off-ramp. Four months later, the Zodiac wrote in a letter, “So I now have a little list, starting with the woeman + her baby that I gave a rather intersting ride for a couple howers one evening a few months back that ended in my burning her car where I found them.”

A man wearing black-rimmed glasses, overweight, 5 foot 8 inches, curly hair, neatly dressed, frightened Darlene Ferrin with his visits. [5] Mike Mageau, boyfriend of Darlene and survivor of the shooting on July 4, 1969, said that the shooter was about 5 feet 8 inches, “real heavy set, beefy build… possibly 195 to 200, or maybe even larger… short curly hair, light brown almost blond”, combed up in a pompadour style. Mageau further said he was not wearing glasses. Evidently, the Zodiac did not need them all the time.

Glasses of a similar type was a prominent feature in the Manson case. When Charles Manson announced to his followers at Spahn Ranch on August 8, 1969 “Now is the time for Helter Skelter,” he told Tex Watson, Patricia Krenwinkel, Susan Atkins, and Linda Kasabian to get knives and changes of clothes. Shortly after midnight, they entered the home of actress Sharon Tate at 10500 Cielo Drive in Benedict Canyon and brutally murdered her and four other people. The following night the same four and two others killed Leo and Rosemary LaBianca at 3301 Waverly Drive in the Los Feliz Hills.

Originally, the police believed the slaughter at the Tate house was the work of one man. A clue to his identity was a pair of glasses found in the living room.  A lieutenant for the Los Angeles Police Department, Robert Helder, showed them to the press on October 23 and said that the killer probably lost them during the struggle with the victims. There were fingerprint smudges on it but no identifiable ridges. The owner was extremely near-sighted and could not operate a vehicle without them. An unusual feature was the plastic lenses. Unlike glass lenses, plastic resisted shattering and was the choice of very active people such as athletes. The amber-colored, horn-rimmed frames were of a specific type manufactured by the American Optical Corp. The customized bend of the temple shafts showed that the left ear was about one-fourth to one-half inch higher than the right. Police sent flyers to thousands of eye doctors, hoping that someone might provide information about the man who bought them. (The article Zodiac Killer at the Tate House has more details on the glasses.)

Glasses Tate House

Glasses found at the Tate house.

What the news media hailed as a major breakthrough in October quickly became an almost forgotten loose end in December after the arrest of Charles Manson, Tex Watson, Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel, and Linda Kasabian, none of whom wore glasses.

When the case came to trial, prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi feared that defense attorneys might bring up the glasses and make the reasonable assertion that at least one killer was still at large. From that standpoint, they could argue that the wrong people were on trial. [6] Augmenting the effectiveness of this strategy would be to identify and locate the doctor who prescribed the glasses. That man, as will be shown below, was Dr. Victor Ohta, a wealthy ophthalmologist in the town of Soquel in the Santa Cruz area, 350 miles north of Los Angeles. As one of the state’s busiest eye surgeons, he specialized in the removal of cataracts. He and his family lived in a secluded mansion designed by Aaron Green, a disciple of Frank Lloyd Wright, on a hilltop ten-acre site overlooking Monterey Bay.

On October 19, 1970, three days before the glasses came up during the testimony of prosecution witness Roseanne Walker at the Manson family trial, [7] Mrs. Ohta was driving her green Oldsmobile station wagon home at about 5:00 pm. Calvin Penrod, a sales manager for mobile home parks, who knew Mrs. Ohta, was driving in close proximity to her car and noticed she had three passengers, young people with long hair. Behind Mrs. Ohta in the back seat was a man with a moustache; next to him was a woman with straight, long black hair; and a second man sat in the rear compartment behind the back seat. As it shortly turned out, the three passengers were highly trained, well-prepared killers. At the house they bound, blindfolded, and shot from behind Dr. and Mrs. Ohta, their two young sons, and the doctor’s secretary. Then they set fire to the house. The fierce blaze attracted the attention of two sheriff’s deputies, who called the fire department. Firemen attempting to reach the scene found both driveways blocked, one by Dr. Ohta’s Rolls Royce and the other by the secretary’s Continental, with the ignition keys snapped off in both locks. By the time they could push the cars aside, the mansion had already suffered extensive damage. While looking for a source of water, they found five bodies in the swimming pool.

Ohta map

Map showing locations of the murder site and sightings of Mrs. Ohta’s car

On the windshield of the Rolls Royce was a note, typed on Dr. Ohta’s typewriter, declaring war against those who “misuse the environment,” presumably referring to the bulldozers used to cut a driveway on the steep wooded hillside and to clear off a place for the mansion. Signing the note were Knight of Wands, Knight of Cups, Knight of Pentacles, and Knight of Swords, figures represented on tarot cards. Pentacles is a five-sided figure associated with witchcraft and Satan. It appeared to be a note written by crazed hippies enamored with the environment and the occult.

Mrs. Ohta’s station wagon served as the getaway car, driven wildly, nearly running other cars off the road. Witnesses saw three long-haired people in the careening car. At a campsite in the Bonny Doon area, witnesses saw three long-haired people, one of them a woman, near the station wagon. The following day the car was about a mile inside the Rincon railroad tunnel. An off-schedule Southern Pacific switch engine banged into it at 4:45 pm. Someone had driven it into the tunnel and set the seat cushions on fire (a destructive act similar to what happened to Kathleen Johns’ car). The engineer put out the flames with a fire extinguisher and then used his engine to push the car out of the tunnel. The motor was still warm from recent use. Three sets of footprints led from the spot where the car was abandoned to outside the tunnel.

Mrs Ohtas car

Mrs. Ohta’s car at the entrance to the railroad tunnel

Alerted by a tip from “three long-haired persons” who provided the address of a woman who in turn gave directions to her husband’s tiny ramshackle hut in a wooded area in the Santa Cruz Mountains, sheriff’s deputies arrested John Linley Frazier, an auto mechanic who had dropped out of society and was living the hippie life-style. As soon as they took him into custody, the search for more suspects was discontinued. When newsmen asked District Attorney Peter Chang how one man could have bound, blindfolded, and shot five people with two pistols, a .38 and a .22, he said, “It sounds ridiculous, but it’s possible that it happened.”

Originally, Frazier denied killing the Ohtas. He said that three persons went into the Ohta house while he waited outside at the driveway entrance. He changed his story later, confessing to a psychologist that he killed the Ohtas single-handedly. The original story is probably the correct one, and his role that day was to serve as lookout.

According to a letter written by a woman who lived in Woodland Hills (near Los Angeles), Dr. Ohta was the man who prescribed the glasses found at the Tate house, and the owner was none other than the Zodiac himself. In late September 1970, less than a month prior to the Ohta slayings, she saw the Zodiac with Frazier in Woodland Hills. They “looked exactly alike” except that the Zodiac wore glasses. The implication is that Frazier was a Zodiac double. If he wore glasses, the resemblance would be greater. Pictures of Frazier at the time of his capture and all during his trial show him without glasses. However, a driver’s license photo released by the sheriff’s department shortly before his capture shows him wearing glasses. Perhaps he needed them to drive a car, yet the weird Zodiac-like appearance is certainly striking.

Frazier no glasses                       Frazier glasses

The author of the letter goes on to identify the Zodiac by his real name and said that he was a member of a white supremacist organization called the International White Guard.

Somehow a copy of this letter came into the possession of Mae Brussell. On July 19, 1976, she called up Sherwood Morrill, a documents specialist for the Bureau of Criminal Identification in Sacramento and chief expert on the handwriting of the Zodiac. She read the letter to him and stated her belief that the Zodiac was involved in the Chowchilla case. He was not a deranged man working alone, as commonly believed, but rather he was part of a group of extreme rightwing fascist killers. She urged him to be on the lookout for a ransom note and check it for Zodiac handwriting characteristics. (A few days later, newspapers reported the finding of a ransom note at the Woods house. Bohrman’s revelation of the Zodiac markings would not emerge until almost two weeks later.)

After speaking with Morrill, she called David Toschi, the detective for the San Francisco Police Department in charge of the Zodiac files. After reading the letter, she asked him if he knew the name of the man identified as the Zodiac. He said he did. As she continued to ask more questions, he became increasingly angry, rude, and hostile.

Brussell                                                                            Toschi

   Mae Brussell                                                                                          David Toschi

“We had that name five years ago” [1971].

Has he been cleared?”

“No, he has not been cleared.”

“Has he ever been arrested or called before a grand jury?”

“No, he has never been arrested or called before a grand jury.

“Have you asked him any questions about it?”

“No, we’re not asking him any questions.”

“Have you seen the composite sketch of the Chowchilla suspect wearing the hat and eyeglasses, who looks like the Zodiac?”

“Where did you see that picture?”

“On the front page of the San Francisco Examiner. Did you talk to the Chowchilla police department?”

“I am not involved in the Chowchilla case.”

“If the Chowchilla authorities and the Los Angeles authorities think the Zodiac might be involved, how come you have not thought of it?”

Toschi said they would never bring him in, and he had no interest in pursuing Brussell’s proffered lead. [8] (Five days later, his partner, Bill Armstrong, suddenly quit and transferred to the Bunco division, leaving Toschi to become the only San Francisco detective working on the Zodiac case. [9] The dispute between them might, or might not, have something to do with a Zodiac connection to Chowchilla.)

While relating these conversations on her Dialogue: Conspiracy program on radio station KRLB in Carmel, Brussell never mentioned the name of the woman who wrote the letter and only said that she lived in Woodland Hills and worked as a school bus driver. She did however reveal the name of the Zodiac – after an interval of four years.

On September 12, 1980, Robert Preston Linkletter, son of television interviewer and Hollywood celebrity Art Linkletter, was at his apartment, where his mother came to visit him. An hour later, he got into his car, a 1979 Saab. With him was his lawyer, Charles Crozier. Shortly after leaving his apartment, as he was driving west on Santa Monica Boulevard near Thayer Avenue, Gracie Jones travelling eastbound in a 1976 Buick crossed the center divider and rammed head on into the Saab. Robert died an hour later at the Los Angeles New Hospital from chest injuries. His passenger, Mr. Crozier, survived the accident, suffering from rib and face injuries. Jones’ explanation was that a car made a U-turn in front of her, forcing her to swerve into oncoming traffic. In January 1981, she pleaded no contest to the charge of vehicular manslaughter and was given a year probation.

Linkletter family

The Linkletter family. Behind Art in the back are Jack, his wife Lois, Robert, and Dawn. In front are Diane and Sharon.

The letter that Brussell read on her program of September 28, 1980 was the second of two letters written by the Woodland Hills woman. Excerpts of the earlier letter appeared in an article on the front page of the Redwood City Tribune, Saturday, November 20, 1971.

RWC heading 2

RWC title

Below is the complete article:

Letter-Writer Links Frazier and ‘Zodiac’

By Duane Sandul, Tribune Staff Writer [10]

The Zodiac killer also was an accomplice of John Linley Frazier in the mass murders of Soquel eye surgeon Victor Ohta and four others on Oct. 19, 1970, a woman from Woodland Hills claims in a letter to the Tribune.

The woman, Mrs. Marie Vigil, asked the Tribune to forward the letter to Frazier’s attorney.

She said that Dr. Ohta once prescribed glasses for the Zodiac killer, sought for multiple murders in San Francisco. Mrs. Vigil identified the Zodiac killer as Robert Linkletter and said she saw Linkletter with Frazier before the Ohta murders.

She said she knew Linkletter as a man who has been killing since 1966 but declined to elaborate in a telephone conversation with the Tribune from her San Fernando Valley home. She said she had not intended her letter to become public information but as “confidential” to the defense.

James Jackson, attorney for Frazier, said last night the letter writer “probably is eccentric,” but that he would have an agent “check out the letter.”

“I’ve received seemingly wild letters before which indeed did help produce witnesses,” Jackson said. He added he had received other letters linking the Zodiac killer with Ohta.

The typewritten letter claims that the Zodiac killer also is one of the killers of Sharon Tate and the LaBiancas. Charles Manson and his “family” were convicted for those murders earlier this year.

When the Tribune spoke with Mrs. Vigil, she declined to discuss specifics “over the telephone.”

Frazier’s trial, shifted to Redwood City from Santa Cruz by order of the California Supreme Court, ended Wednesday. The four-man, eight-woman jury which must decide his guilt or innocence will begin deliberations Friday.

Frazier has pleaded innocent and innocent by reason of insanity.

Mrs. Vigil, who said she is over 50 years old, told the Tribune she had reported her information to police departments linking the Zodiac killer with Frazier although she wouldn’t say which police departments.

Sgt. Frank Witt of the Woodland Police Department told the Tribune police have no record of Mrs. Vigil filing a report with them.

Asked why she thought Frazier and the Zodiac killer are accomplices, Mrs. Vigil said, “Because they were together.” She added, “I’ve seen them; they were in Woodland Hills.”

She would give no further information about her acquaintance with the “Zodiac killer.”

Excerpts from the letter:

“I do have some information about the accomplice of Frazier. He is Robert Linkletter, one of the killers of Miss Tate, La Bianca never brought to trial here, the killer who lost one pair of glasses the night of the Tate killings.

“Less than one month prior to the execution of Dr. and Mrs. Ohta and three other people, Robert was with them here one Sunday pointing me out to them because I knew those glasses did belonged (sic) to him. Dr. Ohta must have prescribed them. A few days later, I was to see Robert again with Frazier driving a light-colored van, kind of old. Robert was driving, was also wearing a blonde wig and some round oversized glasses with pink lenses …

“If the two daughters of Dr. and Mrs. Ohta know of some connection with their father and Robert Linkletter, their lives are in danger …. [11]

“… This killer has been dropping bodies since 1966, a knife killing in Riverside he has admitted. He moves constantly from San Diego to the High Sierra killing here and there. He must believe the Law and Order is willing to cover up all of his murders

Sincerely,

Mrs. Marie P. Vigil” [12]

According to the above excerpts, Robert Linkletter had a discussion with Dr. and Mrs. Ohta on a Sunday in late September. Mrs. Vigil apparently was not part of this discussion but somewhere nearby, close enough so that Robert could point her out as someone who knew about the glasses at the Tate house. A few days later she saw him with Frazier.

The last paragraph says he “has been dropping bodies since 1966, a knife killing in Riverside he has admitted.” On October 30, 1966, Cheri Jo Bates, a student of Riverside Community College, was brutally beaten and stabbed to death. One month later, nearly identical typewritten letters were mailed to the Riverside police and the Riverside Press-Enterprise, titled “The Confession,” describing how he killed her. A third letter, handwritten, was sent to Cheri Jo’s father, Joseph Bates. It said, “Bates had to die, there will be more,” and it was signed with the letter “Z.” Going on an anonymous tip, Paul Avery wrote an article for the San Francisco Chronicle on November 16, 1970, linking the Zodiac to the Bates murder. Five months later, on March 13, 1971, the Zodiac mailed a letter to the Los Angeles Times acknowledging he had indeed killed Bates.

Avery further said in his article that a janitor found a poem carved into the bottom side of a desktop in the Riverside College library. [13] Its language and handwriting resembled that of the Zodiac. Titled “Sick of living/unwilling to die,” it was signed with the initials rh. It is possible that the h was originally an l. There are three h’s in the poem. The first two were made with a continuous motion without lifting the pen, and the descending part of the arch ends at, or near, the baseline. Unlike the first two h’s, the slight overlap of the left foot of the arch on the vertical line in the third h indicates a two-step operation. Furthermore, the termination of the descending part of the arch in the first two h’s have an assurance that is lacking in the third h, with the right side of the arch trailing hesitantly below the baseline. Since Sherwood Morrill saw distortion and disguise in the formation of letters in the letter to Joseph Bates, the initials at the end of the desktop poem might been subjected to the same treatment to disguise the writer’s identity.

First h                    Second h                      initials

Vigil said that Robert travelled constantly between San Diego and the High Sierra. In the second letter that will be quoted below, he is said to have sometimes stayed with his sister at Lake Tahoe and that he was a member of the Sierra Club. His parents often spent their weekends at a skiing cabin in Alpine Meadows.

Six weeks prior to the Ohta massacre, on September 6, 1970, Donna Lass, a nurse at the Sahara Tahoe hotel and casino, disappeared. Six months later, the Zodiac sent a postcard to the San Francisco Chronicle claiming responsibility for the nurse’s disappearance. The postcard was a collage featuring a scene from an advertisement for Forest Pines condominiums in Incline Village and pasted letters and texts from magazines including one that read “Sierra Club.”

Lake Tahoe postcard

Vigil wrote her second letter on November 21, 1971 to Judge Charles Franich, the presiding judge of the Frazier trial, forwarded through the Redwood City Tribune. [14] Apparently it never appeared in print, and its contents are only known through Mae Brussell. She read excerpts on two of her programs, sometimes word for word, sometimes paraphrasing, in order to leave out information she wanted to keep confidential. Below is one excerpt:

“The Los Angeles Times of today finally had a story about the trial and murder of the Ohtas and their secretary. You asked if I was certain it was John Frazier who was with Robert Linkletter. They were here in Woodland Hills less than a month prior to those killings. He looked exactly like Frazier, when they were arrested, except for one thing. He also wears glasses. About the van, there were two people in the car and it was Robert who was driving it. I do not recall something in the newspaper about that at the time.

According to Frazier’s original story, he drove a white van to the Ohta house where he met three persons. They went into the house, while Frazier stood in the driveway. After they came out, Frazier drove Mrs. Ohta’s car. Witnesses saw three people in the car. That leaves one to drive the white van. Probably on the following day, in accordance with Vigil’s letter, two people were in the white van and the other two were in Mrs. Ohta’s car as they drove toward the railroad tunnel.

I have some reason to believe that Robert was driving north just last Thursday. So if you are observant, you will see him snickering in the courtroom to see how his murders are done and taken care of. He is the man that John Frazier is trying to find at the rear of the courtroom. Does Frazier know about the organization of killers called the International White Guard? Does he fear his wife will be killed if he were to name Robert Linkletter and his father as being heavy in this honorable organization of killers?

 On the day “Robert was driving north,” Thursday, November 18, the court had gone into recess. Frazier apparently expected to see him prior to the recess. The Los Angeles Times article mentioned in the letter, dated November 21, said, “Frazier’s appearance in court seems strangely in contrast to the magnitude of the crime he is accused of. Much of the time, the 5-foot, 6-inch defendant sits slumped in his chair, turned from the judge and jury, focusing his soft hazel eyes impassively toward the rear of the sparsely occupied courtroom.”

Linkletter might have been in the back of the courtroom on Monday to hear the closing arguments. He might have been “snickering” as the jury convicted Frazier of mass murder on November 29. Ten days later, the same jury declared him legally sane, leaving the way clear for the judge to impose the death penalty on December 30. His sentence was later commuted to life imprisonment after the California Supreme Court abolished the death penalty on February 18, 1972.

Robert was also identified as the Zodiac by his sister three days before her death. She had read his first message, that was partly coded. I never believed that she committed suicide any more than her brother-in-law, John Zweyer, did. He had been shot by Robert. These two  were witnesses the night of the Tate murders. John did turn down a bribe that was offered to him concerning the killings. These are the kind of killers that this state has been cultivating and nurturing.

Robert is 27. Sometimes he lets his beard grow. He wears a wig, and sometimes he looks almost bald. Within the past two years, I have seen him in all colors and wig lengths. I know him as Robert Linkletter and also as the Zodiac. I drive a school bus in Los Angeles, and I used to see him on Van Nuys and Ventura Boulevards. He sometimes waits for me on Ventura Boulevard, driving on my way to pick up some children from school. He follows behind and then moves to the side until he is sure I recognize him. Someone must know how smart he is.

He stays sometimes at Lake Tahoe with his older sister, who is a widow, and belongs to the Sierra Club, which is interested in the misuse of the environment.

This Robert, may I say, has the eyes and fingerprints that should be checked. Also I believe Dr. Ohta must have prescribed those glasses that were lost the night of the Tate murders.

A plea of not guilty by reason of insanity is no defense at all [referring to Frazier], because of the horror of those murders. They should convict everyone who is brought in before the courts.

 Zweyer

John and Dawn Zweyer

John Zweyer married Robert’s older sister Dawn in 1959 at the Westwood Methodist Church in Los Angeles. John was a lieutenant in the Air Force, serving as a public information officer at Stead AFB, just north of Reno, Nevada. After getting out of the Air Force, he and his wife moved to Hollywood where he became an insurance salesman. On July 15, 1969, he died of a gunshot wound to the head beside the swimming pool of their home while his wife was on the phone. The coroner ruled it as “a possible suicide.” Supposedly his failing insurance company was the cause of his depression. A more probable cause for his death was murder.

As read by Mae Brussell, the letter seems to say that Zweyer was a witness the night of the Tate murders. Probably while simultaneously reading aloud and condensing parts of the letter, she had accidentally conflated key sentences and obscured the original message. Perhaps what Vigil actually said was that Zweyer was a witness to the planning stage of the impending massacre, and his refusal to be silenced by a bribe was the reason he had to be killed.

On October 3, three months after her brother-in-law died, Diane Linkletter, a roving Hollywood reporter, left the doctor’s office in a cheerful mood. “Suicide seemed as far from her mind as the sun,” her doctor said afterwards. Later that night, at 3:00 am, her friend Ed Durston got a call from Diane asking him to come to her apartment, which was on the sixth floor of the Shoreham Towers in West Hollywood. He went there and found her to be “extremely emotional, extremely despondent, and very irrational.” Six hours later, while Durston was still there, she called Robert and told him she felt like committing suicide. He told her to calm down and said that he would be right over. Robert then spoke to Durston and asked if he could handle her until he got there. He said he could. For a few moments, Diane seemed to relax and even seemed cheerful. Then without warning, she rushed toward the kitchen window. Durston tried to grab the belt loop of her dress but could not prevent her from jumping out. Robert arrived on the scene shortly after the ambulance took her away. A private funeral service was scheduled for Tuesday, October 7, but Robert, his father, and his mother did not attend, having gone into seclusion at their cabin at Lake Tahoe.

According to Vigil, Diane Linkletter died because of what she knew about the Tate murders. She certainly had a connection to the Sharon Tate milieu. Her name was in the address book of Abigail Folger, one of the five victims killed at the Tate house. Diane’s live-in boyfriend of several months, Harvey F. Dareff, allegedly went to the Cielo house on August 8, shortly before the massacre, to buy or sell drugs. [15] A Los Angeles Police Department homicide lieutenant admitted to UPI reporter Vernon Scott, “Yes, Diane Linkletter knew Abigail Folger, and probably was an acquaintance of Sharon Tate.” Diane’s friend, Ed Durston, knew Polish filmmaker Voityck Frokowski, another victim in the Tate house. According to Vernon Scott, “Only one element ties the death of Miss Linkletter with the multiple murders in the canyon home of Miss Tate and her director husband, Roman Polanski – drugs.” The article again quotes the lieutenant regarding this Hollywood subculture, describing it as “a patchwork of peripheral celebrities such as Sebring and Miss Tate, offspring of movie stars and jet setters, hangers-on (Frokowski) and the cast-off children of the big rich. . . . The Hollywood-oriented 600 to 800 go in for bigger kicks, the eerie, weird and freaked-out. They are not militants, protestors or idealists. They groove to their own bag and stick together in the event of a bad trip.”

According to Art Linkletter, his daughter was going with a group that was experimenting with drugs and died from the effects of ingesting LSD. He blamed LSD advocate Timothy Leary and the music industry, particularly the Beatles, for fostering a tolerance for dangerous drugs. The drug-induced suicide version of his daughter’s death was later contradicted by the autopsy report. Coroner Thomas Noguchi said, “We have not been able to pick up any trace of lysergic acid, heroin, marijuana, any narcotics or alcohol in the body of Diane Linkletter at this time.”

Monti

The day after Diane’s funeral, October 8, Toni “Connie” Monti, apparently depressed by the death of Diane, took her own life with an overdose of pills, according to her husband Nick Monti. He said he and his wife were friends of Miss Linkletter. This was contradicted by Sheriff’s Lt. Richard Griffin, who said, “There was no indication she even knew the Linkletter girl.” Connie’s mother disputed the suicide version of her daughter’s death and said she never took drugs and would never consider taking her own life. Perhaps the true reason behind her death is the fact that she lived in an apartment across the street from Shoreham Towers at 1211 N. Horn Ave. From this vantage point, she might have seen Diane’s fatal plunge. An interesting coincidence is that Ed Durston also lived at 1211 N. Horn Ave. [16]

Untitled

According to Vigil, Diane identified her brother as the Zodiac three days before her death and read the “first message, that was partly coded”. Her discovery would have been several days after the slaying of a woman and the severe wounding of a man at Lake Berryessa on September 27. The weekend following Diane’s death, the Zodiac killed cab driver Paul Stine in San Francisco on October 11. The “first message, that was partly coded” had a 408-character cryptogram and was sent to three newspapers in the San Francisco Bay area on August 1. Three days later, a Vallejo newspaper dated August 4, printed the contents of a letter mailed to the San Francisco Examiner, which said, “This is the Zodiac speaking,” the first time the Zodiac name become public. Four days later Manson sent four of his followers to the home of Sharon Tate. Linkletter was also at the Tate house that fatal night and somehow lost his glasses. As mentioned earlier, the right temple stem of the glasses found at the Tate house was lower than the left. A picture of Linkletter showing both ears appears in the Minnesota Star Tribune on November 19, 1965. Since newspaper editors sometimes reverse pictures for various reasons, I have taken the liberty of changing the picture to an alternative orientation. It shows the right ear lower than the left.

RL 1965 front view

Robert Linkletter was born in San Francisco on October 15, 1944. He was a “free-spirited, curious explorer,” according to his brother Jack, very capable of designing and making things. As a teenager, he built his own electric guitar, when his father refused to buy him one. He went to Santa Monica City College, where he acted in a musical comedy. His goal was to become a theater arts major at the University of Southern California and then become an actor. Instead of going to college, he became the guitarist for a surfing music band, called the Cornells. From December 1962 to November 1963, the band released four singles and one record. In May 1963, it appeared on a television show called “I’ve Got a Secret.” Their secret was “We’re all the sons of Hollywood celebrities.”

Linkletter went into the Air Force, spending some time in Australia. During the last six months of his enlistment, he was at Sheppard Air Force base in Wichita Falls, Texas. At that time, war protest songs such as Barry Maguire’s “Eve of Destruction” and Bob Dylan’s “Blowing in the Wind” were becoming popular. Linkletter believed such songs, put out by “radical nuts,” had a depressing effect not only on military morale, but also on the nation as a whole, even to the extent of causing the Watts riot of 1965. He also hated “long-haired freaks” like the Beetles. When he left the Air Force in October 1965, he began a nationwide tour singing songs with a “positive” outlook, speaking out against war protesters, and urging people not to give in to the demoralizing influence of those dominating the pop music field.

RL 1965

From Detroit Free Press, November 26, 1965

Linkletter was a prolific inventor, with many patents to his credit. His best-known invention was the childproof safety cap for bottles containing medications. After his death, his father set up “Robert Linkletter Associates” to promote the safety cap and placed as its head Charles Crozier (the attorney who was with Robert in his fatal crash). In 1983, the company was expected to produce eight billion caps for the pharmaceutical industry.

A search of the newspapers.com website shows no pictures of Robert for the six years following November 1965. Then on December 13, 1971, his picture appeared in the Los Angeles Times – smiling like Cesar Romero playing the Joker in the TV series Batman. The accompanying article said he had joined the board of trustees for Los Amigos del Pueblo, a citizen’s group dedicated to preserving and restoring historic landmarks of the Old Plaza, the birthplace of Los Angeles.

RL 1971

The timing of this odd picture is interesting. On January 25, 1971, a jury found Manson and his female co-defendants guilty of murder. Defense attorney Paul Fitzgerald brought up the eyeglasses during the closing arguments at the trial, but no attempt was made to identify the owner. Neither was the owner identified during the trial of Tex Watson, who was convicted of murder on October 13, 1971. In 1971 detective David Toschi became aware of Linkletter but never questioned nor arrested him. In July of 1971 Donald Cheney told Manhattan police that his friend Arthur Leigh Allen used the name Zodiac and said he liked to kill people. Allen then became a prime suspect in the Zodiac case. On December 9, 1971, a jury found Frazier legally sane, which meant either the gas chamber or life imprisonment. Considering the favorable outcome of these related events, it is no wonder that he is smiling.

In September 1980, a few days before his fatal accident, Robert attended a social event at the Westwood Methodist Church in Los Angeles. Prince Peter of Greece and Denmark (cousin of Prince Philip, married to Queen Elizabeth) bestowed the Commander Cross of Merit on General Omar Bradley [17] and Michael DeBakey, a heart surgeon, and on Alice Tyler, the honor of Dame of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem. She was the widow of John C. Tyler, one of the founders of Farmers Insurance Group. In 1973, she established the prestigious Tyler Ecology Award to honor individuals who had done significant work in preserving the environment (such as Russell Train, President of the World Wildlife Fund). Included with the article was a picture of Robert Linkletter congratulating Mrs. Tyler. The caption read, “This is the last photo of Robert Linkletter before his tragic accident a few days later . . . He was a favorite of Mrs. Tyler.” [18]

RL and Mrs. Tyler

Robert Linkletter mingled easily among the rich and powerful. He was also a man of many talents – singing, acting, guitar playing, inventing useful things. It is hard to believe that he could be the Zodiac. Yet the letters of Marie P. Vigil, corroborated by Mae Brussell’s interview of David Toschi, indicate that he was. The letters further show that he participated in the slaying of the Ohta family, and that he worked with the Manson family in murdering people at the Cielo and Waverly residences. As a member of the International White Guard, he would have been simpatico with Charles Manson, who believed in the superiority of the white race.

For those who believed in equality of rights regardless of skin color, the emergence in 1975 of a civil rights advocate for president offered a bright future. Governor Jimmy Carter from Georgia had received the endorsement of many black leaders. His principal rival was George Wallace, who was making his fourth run for president as a Democratic candidate. Despite health problems, Wallace’s role as spoiler looked promising until he suffered a setback at the Florida Democratic Convention in Orlando on November 16. A straw ballot poll of delegates gave Carter a whopping victory over Wallace. White supremacists must have seen the handwriting on the wall and believed they needed to do something to stop Carter’s march to the White House. Conceiving the diabolical idea of kidnapping a school bus, they began making arrangements by purchasing a trailer on the 20th of November and, four days later, two vans.

The Democratic National Convention of 1976 was notable for heartfelt demonstrations of racial inclusiveness. It opened on July 11 with a rousing speech by Barbara Jordan, the first African American woman to be the keynote speaker, and it closed on July 15 with a fiery benediction by Martin Luther King, Sr., which led delegates to join hands in an emotional finale, singing “We Shall Overcome.” The seizure of the school bus in Chowchilla was deliberately timed to coincide with the evening when Carter would make his acceptance speech. It effectively stole the news media spotlight just when he needed it most. His staff lost many opportunities for news updates, sound bites, and interviews with reporters to kick off the campaign. Another feature of this plot was putting the blame for the kidnapping and possible murder of twenty-six children and their bus driver on black radicals and radical leftists. The racial harmony that prevailed at the convention would dissolve in the aftermath into an ugly display of dissension and finger pointing. What saved Carter and the Democratic Party from a ruinous debacle was the unforeseen use of a piece of wood to prop open the plate so that the captives in the trailer could tunnel their way to freedom.

Just as in 1972 a piece of tape on a hotel door fundamentally changed the politics of the country by bringing down a president and his administration, so a short piece of wood prevented the overturning of a dynamic movement toward a more integrated society in 1976.

Sources

  1. Much of this article came from newspaper articles too numerous to cite individually. To find sources, go to newspapers.com or newspaperarchives.com and use their search engines.
  2. Dialogue: Conspiracy, July 26, 1976 at 16:20. This and other programs are accessible at the Worldwatchers Archive website.
  3. Dialogue: Conspiracy, August 2, 1976 at 34:30.
  4. Dialogue: Conspiracy, August 9, 1976 at 07.20; September 13, 1976 at 00.58; and July 11, 1977 at 34:30. On his popular late night television show in Los Angeles, Stan Bohrman interviewed Raymond Broshears, a friend of David Ferrie, who said he met a “Bert” who turned out to be Clay Shaw. Shortly after this interview, the television station fired him. In 1975 he interviewed the brother of Manuel Pena, a key figure in the police investigation of the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy. According to the brother, Manuel Pena was in the CIA.
  5. Graysmith, Robert, The Zodiac, Berkley Books, 1987, pp. 17-19.
  6. Bugliosi, Vincent, Helter Skelter, W.W. Norton and Co., 1974, pp. 106, 109, 380. On May 26, 1970 Paul Fitzgerald, defense attorney for Patricia Krenwinkel submitted a formal motion charging that the police and district attorney investigators were withholding from the defense photographs of the location of the glasses in the Tate house. Seven months later, on December 28, Fitzgerald mentioned the glasses during his final argument, saying that the person who owned those glasses was the true perpetrator of the crime. This argument proved unavailing, for on January 25, 1971 the jury found all four defendants, Manson, Watson, Atkins, and Krenwinkel guilty of first degree murder.
  7. According to the testimony of Roseanne Walker, she and Atkins heard a newscast about the glasses in October 1969. Susan’s comment was “Suppose they found the person. Wouldn’t it be too much if they found the person that owned the glasses? The only thing they were guilty of was dropping a pair of glasses there.”
  8. Dialogue: Conspiracy, July 19, 1976 at 27:50; July 11, 1977 at 34:30; July 14, 1978 on side one at 05:58; September 21, 1980 on side two at 23:41; and September 28, 1980 on side two at 03:18.
  9. Graysmith, Robert, The Zodiac, Berkley Books, 1987, pp. 197.
  10. One daughter, Taura Ohta, “committed suicide” by taking an overdose of pills and asphyxiating herself with carbon monoxide in her garage on May 27, 1977. Dr. Ohta’s mother, Aiko Ohta, age 78, “committed suicide” by hanging herself in the bathroom on December 5, 1979. The other daughter, Lark, is still alive but lives in seclusion, according to the website Santa Cruz Ghost Hunters.
  11. Duane Sandul was a reporter for the Redwood City Tribune and the San Mateo Times until 1985. He then became a public relations consultant for the Port of Redwood City for 30 years. When he retired in 2016, he moved to San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. I was able to contact Mr. Sandul by telephone. When asked about the article, he said he has no memory of writing it nor of any of the details mentioned in the article.
  12. A search of the internet shows a Marie P. Vigil, who at one time lived at 20412 Lander Drive, Woodland Hills, died at the age of 98 in Fort Myers, Florida on November 11, 2015.
  13. Graysmith, Robert, The Zodiac, Berkley Books, 1987, pp. 170-173.
  14. Dialogue: Conspiracy, July 14, 1978 on side one at 12:03 and September 28, 1980 on side two at 03:18.
  15. “Second Homicide Investigation Progress Report” on the website vdocuments.net.
  16. Ed Durston was implicated in another mysterious death, that of blonde actress Carol Wayne who appeared as the “Matinee Girl” on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show. They were in Mexico in the resort town of Manzanillo for a vacation. She disappeared, and he returned to Los Angeles. Three days later, her bloated body was found in Santiago Bay. The official version was that she accidentally drowned while swimming, even though she was deathly afraid of swimming. Mexican police believed she was murdered but were never able to question the mysterious Durston. From John Austen, Hollywood’s Greatest Mysteries, S.P.I. Books, 1994, pp. 87-99.
  17. Omar Bradley was chairman of the board of Bulova watches from 1958 to 1973. On June 4, 1968 twenty-three Bulova salesmen were in the Ambassador Hotel the night Robert F. Kennedy was shot. Two of the salesmen might have been CIA agents. From Shane O’Sullivan, Who Killed Bobby? Sterling Publishing, 2008, pp. 471-474.
  18. Los Angeles Times, supplement section, October 19, 1980.

Author: William Weston, researcher of conspiracies for over 25 years. Among articles written are “On the Death of JFK: Spider’s Web at the Trade Mart” and “The USS Indianapolis Conspiracy.”

Zodiac Killer at the Tate House

Second Zodiac on Jackson Street

The Zodiac Killer wrote a letter to the San Francisco Chronicle on October 12, 1969.

This is the Zodiac speaking.

I am the murderer of the taxi driver over by Washington St & Maple St last night, to prove this here is a blood stained piece of his shirt. I am the same man who did in the people in the north bay area.

The S.F. Police could have caught me last night if they had searched the park properly instead of holding road races with their motorcicles seeing who could make the most noise. The car drivers should have just parked their cars and sat there quietly waiting for me to come out of cover.

School children make nice targets, I think I shall wipe out a school bus some morning. Just shoot out the front tire & then pick off the kiddies as they come bouncing out.

On November 8, he sent to the San Francisco Chronicle a cryptogram with 340 characters and a greeting card that featured a pen that looks like a dead body hanging from a noose and dripping blood. On the front, the card said:

Sorry I havent written but I just washed my pen and can’t do a thing with it.  

On the other side it said:

This is the Zodiac speaking. I though you would need a good laugh before you hear the bad news. You won’t get the news for a while yet. P.S. Could you print this new cipher on your frunt page. I get awfully lonely when I am ignored, so lonely I could do my Thing!!!!!! 

It was signed with the Zodiac’s familiar crossed circle symbol followed by “Des July Aug Sept Oct = 7.” The number seven indicates the total number of victims: David Faraday and Betty Lou Jensen in December, Darlene Ferrin in July, Cecelia Shepard in September, Paul Stine in October, and at least one more, perhaps two, in August.

A seven-page letter and a second piece of Stine’s blood-stained shirt was sent the next day.

This is the Zodiac speaking

Up to the end of Oct I have killed 7 people. I have grown rather angry with the police for their telling lies about me. So I shall change the way the collecting of slaves. I shall no longer announce to anyone. When I comitt my murders, they shall look like routine robberies, killings of anger, & a few fake accidents, etc.

The police shall never catch me, because I have been too clever for them.

I look like the description passed out only when I do my thing, the rest of the time I look entirle different. I shall not tell you what my descise consists of when I kill

As of yet I have left no fingerprints behind me contrary to what the police say in my killings I wear transparent finger tip guards. All it is is 2 coats of airplane cement coated on my finger tips—quite unnoticible & very efective

my killing tools have been boughten through the mail order outfits before the ban went into efect. Except one & it was bought out of the state.

So as you can see the police don’t have much to work on. If you wonder why I was wipeing the cab down I was leaving fake clews for the police to run all over town with, as one might say, I gave the cops som bussy work to do to keep them happy. I enjoy needling the blue pigs. Hey blue pig I was in the park—you were useing fire trucks to mask the sound of your cruzeing prowl cars. The dogs never came with in 2 blocks of me & they were to the west & there was only 2 groups of parking about 10 min apart then the motor cicles went by about 150 ft away going from south to north west.

Must print in paper ps. 2 cops pulled a goof abot 3 min after I left the cab. I was walking down the hill to the park when this cop car pulled up & one of them called me over & asked if I saw anyone acting suspicious or strange in the last 5 to 10 min & I said yes there was this man who was runnig by waveing a gun & the cops peeled rubber & went around the corner as I directed them & I disappeared into the park a block & a half away never to be seen again.

Hey pig doesnt it rile you up to have your noze rubed in your booboos?

If you cops think I’m going to take on a bus the way I stated I was, you deserve to have holes in your head.

The last part of the letter sets forth a plan to blow up a school bus.

In summary, after shooting the driver, the Zodiac wiped down the cab to leave “false clews” for the police. Then he began walking toward a park and on the way met two officers who “pulled a goof.” While at the park, he spent some time watching a massive police effort to catch him. 

Although having the appearance of an authentic account, his letters fail to address key issues: (1) conflicting eyewitness descriptions, specifically age, weight, and hair color; (2) lack of blood on clothing; and (3) time and distance factors that put him in two separate places at the same time. 

People wrestling with these problems on blogs and forums have debated various solutions, such as unreliable witnesses, incompetent policemen, or unsynchronized watches. They may succeed in explaining one or two of the key issues but not all three.

My own efforts to solve the conundrums have led me to abandon the single perpetrator theory and presume the existence of a decoy who facilitated the escape of the Zodiac by confusing and diverting the police. He bore a resemblance to the killer, but was twenty years older and about twenty pounds heavier. 

A middle-aged man appears as a suspect in a police report written the following morning. The incident occurred at approximately 9:55 pm on October 11, 1969. The name of the victim was originally “Stine, Thomas L.” but was subsequently changed to “Stine, Paul L.” Reporting officers were Armond Pelissetti and Frank Peda. The reportee was 16 years old, living at 3899 Washington Street. The name and phone number of the reportee were crossed out. The substance of the report is as follows:

Upon responding to the above location officers Peda and Pelissetti found Yellow Cab #912 parked at the northeast corner of Washington St. at the corner of Cherry St. The reportee, together with two other witnesses, xxxxxxxx, age 14, and xxxxxxxx, age 13, same address and phone number as the reportee, stated that they saw the below described suspect in the front seat of the Yellow Cab, mid to passenger side, with the victim slumped partially over his lap. The suspect appeared to be searching the victim’s pockets. (Witnesses never heard a gun shot.) The suspect then appeared to be wiping (fingerprints) on the interior of the cab, leaning over the victim to the driver’s compartment. The suspect then exited the cab by the passenger side front door, also wiping with a white rag, possibly a handkerchief. The suspect then walked around the cab to the driver’s side and proceeded to wipe the exterior of the left door area. The suspect then fled (walking) north on Cherry St. toward the Presidio of S.F. R/Os immediately checked the interior of the cab and found the victim to be slumped over the front seat with the upper torso in the passenger side, head resting on the floorboard, facing north. Ambulance was summoned, Code three, and other units requested for an immediate search of the area. Description was obtained from reportee, whose observation point was directly over the street (50 ft.) and unobstructed. Description was broadcast and numerous units responded to institute a search of the area. P.E.H. ambulance #82 responded, steward Dousette, victim was examined and pronounced dead at 10:10 pm. Inspector Krake responded and summoned dog units and a fire department “spotlight” vehicle to assist in the search. R/Os called for the Crime Lab, Coroner, Yellow Cab officials, and a tow.

Assistant traffic manager of Yellow Cab, Leroy Sweet responded and gave reporting officers the victim’s identification. Mr. Sweet further stated the last dispatch given the victim was at 9:45 pm to 500 9th Ave. apt. 1. Victim allegedly never arrived at the above location as the dispatch was reassigned to another cab at 9:58. R/Os noted that the meter of the cab was running, indicating that the victim possibly picked up another fare (suspect) en route to his original assignment. (The meter read $6.25 at exactly 10:46 pm.) A check with the Yellow Cab Co. revealed the victim arrived at work at approximately 8:45 pm and had only one fare prior, that being from Pier 64 to the Air Terminal. Sgt. Falk responded G-10. Homicide inspectors Armstrong and Toschi responded and took charge. G-40 Lt. Kiel also responded. The military police headquarters of the Presidio of S.F. was notified and an intense search of the Julius Kahn area was made by several dog units, other Richmond and C.P. units – to no avail. The coroner responded Deputy Schultz and Kindred and took charge of the deceased. Coroner’s receipt attached this report. Crime lab responded and took necessary photographs of the preserved scene – Dagitz and Kirkindal – all physical evidence was retained by crime lab for I.D. The auto, Yellow Cab # 912 Calif. Lic. Y17413, was towed to the Hall, impounded for homicide for prints. Tow slip attached this report. Room 100 was notified, given description, and advised to have broadcast continuous throughout the morning as per inspector Armstrong’s direction. Crime lab’s initial investigation showed that the victim was devoid of any U.S. currency, nor did he have the possession of a wallet, the ignition keys for the cab were also missing.

The Suspect: WMA, in his forties, 5’8”, heavy build, reddish blond “crewcut” hair, wearing eyeglasses, dark brown trousers, dark (navy blue or black) “Parka” jacket, dark shoes.

Suspect should have many blood stains on his person and clothing, suspect may also be in possession of the keys to the Yellow Cab, possibly belonging to the victim. Suspect is armed with a gun. Last seen walking north on Cherry St. from Washington St.

Loss: to be determined. All property of the victim in the possession of coroner. Physical evidence property retained by crime lab. Yellow Cab #912 towed to Hall for homicide for prints.

Intersection of Washington and Cherry Streets.
Paul Stine’s taxi was near the mailbox on the left corner. The house where the teenagers lived at
3899 Washington Street was the house on the corner on the right.

A middle-aged man also appears in two identically worded articles written for the San Francisco Examiner and the San Francisco Chronicle on October 12. Even the headlines are the same.

Cabbie Slain in Presidio Hts.

A Yellow Cab driver was found shot to death in his cab last night, the victim of an apparent robbery attempt in Presidio Heights.

He was identified by the company as T.L. Stine.

Police said three youngsters saw a scuffle near the cab, which was stopped on Washington Street near Cherry Street, about 10 p.m.

They said they saw a man wipe off parts of the cab with a handkerchief, after going through the victim’s pockets, then dash up Cherry Street in the direction of the Presidio.

Later reports indicated someone was seen running into Julius Kahn playground in the Presidio, and all seven police dog units were pressed into the search.

The suspect was described as white, about 40, 170 pounds, a blond crewcut, wearing glasses. He was wearing dark shoes, and dark grey trousers and jacket.

Company officials said Stine apparently picked up a fare on the street while en route to a call on Ninth Avenue.

He was shot in the back of the head, apparently with a .38 caliber revolver. The engine and meter of the cab still were running.

A short item in the Los Angeles Times of October 13 said:

A San Francisco cab driver was shot to death in the fashionable Pacific Heights district. Police said Yellow Cab driver Paul Stine, 29, was shot to death with a large caliber pistol. Police dogs combed the woods in the San Francisco Presidio for a middle-aged, blond man seen jumping over the wall around the military reservation shortly after Stine was shot.

In an October 14 article in the San Francisco Examiner, the middle-aged man disappears, and a young man takes his place.

Sketch Made of Killer in Taxi Slaying

Original Sketch

Composite drawing of the suspect wanted in the Saturday night slaying of Yellow Cab driver Paul Lee Stine has been released by Homicide Inspectors William Armstrong and David Tosche. 

The suspect who got $10 or $11, is described as a white male, 25-30 years old, 5″8′ or 5 feet 9 inches tall, weighing 150 pounds. He has reddish brown hair which he wears in a crew cut, and was wearing heavy-rimmed glasses and a navy blue or black jacket at the time of the slaying.

Stine, of 1842 Fell St., was 29 years old. He had been working 9 p.m.-5 a.m. as a Yellow Cab driver for the last several months to pay his way through San Francisco State College, where he was a Ph.D. candidate in English. He was also a part-time insurance agent.

The next day, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that it had received a letter from the Zodiac Killer, plus a blood-stained piece of shirt from the slain cab driver.  The article goes on to say:

Police said Stine picked up a man in downtown San Francisco at about 9:30 p.m. Saturday. The fare sat in the front seat and ordered a destination in the Presidio Heights area. 

At Washington and Cherry streets, the man drew a 9-millimeter automatic. With the car stopped, the man pointed the gun at Stine’s cheek and pulled the trigger, killing the driver instantly, police said.

Stine was robbed of his wallet and the murderer ripped a piece from the tail of the driver’s gray-and-white-striped shirt.

Witnesses said they saw the man wiping down the door and interior of the cab with a cloth – presumably the piece of shirt – before he started north on foot along Cherry Street.

The man was described as a white male, 25 to 30 years old, about five-feet-eight or -nine, with reddish brown, crewcut hair. He was wearing heavy-rimmed glasses and a navy blue or black jacket.

A large contingent of police with dogs and searchlights scoured the area around Cherry Street, which includes the wooded south boundary of the Presidio and Julius Kahn playground.

The unsuccessful efforts apparently amused the killer.

Omitted from the article was the last paragraph of the Zodiac’s letter threatening to shoot the front tire of a school bus and “pick off the kiddies as they come bouncing out.” Publication of this threat appeared on October 17. News media also reported that the police had revised the description. Captain Martin Lee, Chief of Inspectors, said that the Zodiac was 35 to 45 years old, approximately five feet eight inches, heavy build, short brown hair, possibly with a red tint, wearing glasses. A new composite sketch, altered from the original to make the face look older, was put into circulation.

Amended Sketch

A glimpse into the circumstances that led to the making of both the original and amended sketches appeared in a post on zodiackillersite.com. The author, James Dean, a retired detective from the Vallejo Police Department, identified Lindsey Robbins, age 16, and his sister Rebecca, age 13, as among the sources for the composite sketch. Using his forum name JDean, he wrote on April 25, 2010 (with slight editing):

But I want to tell you how the sketches came about. Within 48 hrs of the murder, Toschi had recruited a young uniformed cop named Juan Morales, who was said to be a good artist. He asked him to talk to the kids and see if he could work-up a composite of the suspect. Morales sat down with all the kids and slowly developed the first sketch. Most of his input he took from the two oldest (L&R). Within a day or so, someone (not sure who) decided it was a bad idea to have multiple people contribute to a composite. So Morales sat down with the kids again and after a time, determined that Rebecca was the most artistically inclined, and the most observant of facial features. So, he did the final sketch from only Rebecca. When done, all the kids looked at it individually and agreed that it was VERY close to the man they saw on that night.

I hope that helps somewhat in clearing up lots of speculation and rumor about the “eyewitnesses.” This is the best info taken directly from the kids themselves, albeit, some 40 years later.

Both kids (L&R) are remarkable people. Rebecca is a fashion designer in S.F. (artistic eye) and Lindsey is a successful building contractor in Marin County.

They claim they don’t often think about that night, but will never forget it.

P.S. Morales quit SFPD a few years later. From my best info, he went through a nasty divorce and moved to Mexico to get away from alimony & child support. He is believed to still be in Mexico.

Contrary to the negative statement about multiple witnesses, a forensic artist who limits himself to the recollections of a single person deprives himself of correcting observations from other witnesses. The memory of any individual may play tricks on his or her recall, such as erasing a facial detail, amplifying another, or altering a specific feature. Although artistic talent and/or a superior ability to remember faces certainly have value, they should never exclude the input of other witnesses who may have had a closer, or a more prolonged, view of the subject.

The alteration made to the sketch of the Zodiac relied on the input of a single witness, set apart from the others. In normal circumstances the second sketch would be deemed inferior to the first. However, it must be acknowledged that the alteration accords better with the police report description of a middle-aged man given by the 16-year-old reportee living at 3899 Washington Street. JDean identified this person as Lindsey Robbins. Although apparently conclusive in determining the suspect’s age, the document is nonetheless odd in that it has Lindsey telling the police that the suspect was in his forties when shortly afterwards he is among those guiding Morales in the making of a sketch featuring a man in his twenties. 

Some researchers believe that Lindsey correctly told the police that the suspect was in his forties, but during the session that led to the drawing of the face, he was perhaps not paying attention and somehow failed to notice the mistake the sketch artist made.

On the other hand, if Lindsey clearly and unmistakably told the sketch artist what the suspect looked like, then there must be something wrong with the police report.

An examination of the description portion of the document indicates two anomalies. First, the baseline of the first line of the description block is lower than the heading “SUSPECT:” Second, the space after the colon is too narrow when compared to other word spaces. It therefore appears that someone had typed another description on a separate sheet of paper, cut it out, and pasted it over the original. To view the whole document, click here.

Second page of police report. Note the placement of the description block.

The description of a middle-aged man did not come from Lindsey on October 12 but on October 16 from two patrolmen, Donald Fouke and Eric Zelms. On page 107 of his book Zodiac, author Robert Graysmith wrote:

At 9:00 a.m. October 16, Fouke and Zelms, the two radio men who had seen the stocky man walking into the Presidio, realized that they must have passed the killer. They filed an initial report with their captain, this was sent as an interdepartmental communication to Armstrong and Toschi. The two patrolmen were “shattered and filled with despair.”

With the help of the two patrolmen, a second composite drawing of the Zodiac was made. The amended drawing now showed a man thirty-five to forty-five years old with a thicker jaw. He weighed two hundred pounds or more, was barrel-chested, and wore a navy blue or black waist-length zippered jacket. He was noted as being about five feet eight or nine, with reddish-brown, crew-cut hair, and wearing heavy rimmed glasses. 

The patrolmen’s report and statement were placed in confidential files; S.F.P.D. officially denied that Zodiac had ever been seen by any patrolmen. The denial stands to this day. Several sources have told me, “Zodiac had undoubtedly been almost captured by S.F. Police.” The police have never been able to explain why a second composite drawing suddenly had to be made.

The main source for the second sketch was not the 13-year-girl. Apparently, she was merely a front for decision-makers who wanted the face to look older. 

Commenting on the description and composite sketch, the Zodiac said, “I look like the description passed out only when I do my thing, the rest of the time I look entirle different. I shall not tell you what my descise consists of when I kill.” His letter was published in the San Francisco Chronicle on November 12. It prompted Fouke to write a scratch, or memorandum. 

I respectfully wish to report the following, that while responding to the area of Cherry and Washington Streets a suspect fitting the description of the Zodiac Killer was observed by officer Fouke walking in an easterly direction on Jackson Street and then turn north on Maple Street. 

The suspect that was observed by officer Fouke was a WMA 35-45 Yrs about 5’10”, 180-200 lbs. Medium heavy build – Barrel chested – Medium complexion – Light-colored hair possibly greying in rear (May have been lighting that caused this effect.) Crew cut – Wearing glasses – Dressed in dark blue waist length zipper type jacket (Navy or royal blue) Elastic cuffs and waist band zipped part way up. Brown wool pants, pleated type, baggy in rear (rust brown). May have been wearing low-cut shoes. 

Subject at no time appeared to be in a hurry, walked with a shuffling lope, slightly bent forward, head down. The subject’s general appearance to classify him as a group would be that he might be of Welsh ancestry. 

My partner that night was officer Zelms #1348 of Richmond station. I do not know if he observed this subject or not.

Fouke was the driver of the patrol car. It is curious that he would claim uncertainty on the matter of whether or not his partner saw the subject, since Zelms, from where he was seated, would have had a closer, more direct view of the subject. Before his untimely death on January 1, 1970, he confided to his wife that he and Fouke had indeed stopped the Zodiac and spoke with him. Alex Lewis, using the forum name Welsh Chappie, wrote an article about information garnered by researcher Howard Davis from Eric Zelms’ wife Diane in an article called “Zodiac: Cool, Calm, Collected & Then Gone” on October 1, 2016 for zodiaccyphers.com.

Her late husband not only spoke to her about this incident on October 11, but had done so at length and stated that after it became clear that it was actually Zodiac responsible and that in all probability the white male they spoke with. Diane said this had a profound impact on Eric to the point where right up to the day he died, he carried the P.H. composite with him, every time he was on duty taking it everywhere just in case, said Diane, he came across him again. Diane stated that she is aware Don Fouke adamantly denies stopping to speak with a man that night and Diane said she cannot speak as to Fouke’s statement on this issue but could, she said, speak about what her late husband Eric had said about it. 

Diane stated that her late husband had told her that as he and Don were coming up the hill, he (not Don) noticed a male on the sidewalk and drew Don’s attention to his sighting and Don slowed. Eric then called this man over. Diane recalls Eric saying:

 “He was just your average looking guy, nothing stood out about him. We spoke to him face to face. I saw no sign of nervousness with him, nothing at all to make Don and I suspicious of him. He spoke softly and in a calm voice and he answered all of our questions. We had absolutely no reason to be suspicious of him that night at all.”

Fouke had the opportunity to inspect the subject’s clothes, noticing even small details. What he did not see were spots of blood. His fellow officer, Armond Pelissetti, saw copious amounts of blood inside the taxi cab and could not believe that the man whom Fouke saw was the same one who shot the driver. On an episode of Cold Case Files aired on January 8, 2001, Pelissetti said:

The other unit stopped somebody, a white man, and asked if he had seen anything suspicious, or anybody in the area, and that person said, ‘YES, a man just ran into the Presidio.’ … The conjecture is that this was the Zodiac. Was it? I don’t know. He didn’t see any blood on that person’s clothing, and believe me, based on the crime scene, there would have been a lot of blood on that person.”

From a 2007 documentary This is the Zodiac Speaking, Pelissetti said:

Fouke was very clear as to what the person was wearing. Well, it just so happens that area is extremely well-lit and I cannot imagine him not seeing the shine of blood on the clothing if it had been the Zodiac. I feel bad for him if he believes that was the Zodiac. I don’t think it was.

Some researchers argue that the clothes indeed had blood spots but located only on the left side – the side that was next to the slain cab driver. According to this reasoning, officers in a patrol car traveling west on Jackson Street could not see the left side of someone walking east on the north side of the street.

Let us assume for the sake of the argument that Fouke and Zelms could not see the left side. They still however had a clear view of the front. At the crime scene moments earlier, witnesses saw a man seated next to the driver on the front seat of the cab. The driver was not upright but had slumped sideways with his head on the lap of the other man. Not visible was a flow of blood exiting a wound in the driver’s right cheek and spilling onto the other man’s shirt and pants. Further exposure to blood would have occurred during the process of cutting off a large piece from the backside of Stine’s shirt.

The man seen by Fouke and Zelms was not the one inside the cab with the dying driver. Neither was he an innocent pedestrian, for he deliberately confused and misled two officers searching for an escaping assailant. 

Additional evidence that the murder of Stine was the work of two men emerges from an analysis of time and distance factors by Richard Grinnell on his website zodiaccyphers.com, He has written many pieces on this topic but the one I recommend the most is “Second Zodiac on Jackson Street?” posted on October 8, 2017. 

A major component of the timeline is an observation made by Lindsey Robbins. He saw the Zodiac walking on Cherry Street at the same time he was speaking to Pelissetti. From the aforementioned post written by JDean (again with slight editing):

I have talked to the Robbins kids extensively and they are a remarkable couple of kids. …Some background… This is an upperclass neighborhood (Duh!) The Robbins father was (maybe still is) a renowned surgeon. At the time of the murder, the senior Robbins was about a block away attending a formal dinner at the Belgian Embassy. You can begin to get the status and education of the family. The kids (Lindsey and Rebecca were 16 and 13 respectively) were having friends over for TV, popcorn, games, etc. There was no alcohol as some have suggested.

As both Robbins kids were the oldest, their statements were given the most weight. Also they were the least traumatized by the event. One of the kids (not sure which) noticed a cab parked outside (in that now famous spot) with the interior lights on. . . . ..the first kid at the window said the driver looked “sick, or something”. Lindsey and Rebecca went to the window and saw the driver laying across the front seat, head toward the passenger door. His head was in the lap of another man (passenger). Rebecca saw blood and said out loud, “he’s stabbing that man.” She was seeing blood on the victim and saw the glint of a knife, so she assumed a stabbing was taking place. (No shots were heard by anyone.)

We know now that Z was cutting off a large piece of Stine’s shirt with the knife.

At this time, Lindsey went downstairs to get a better look at what was happening, while one of the kids upstairs called the police. Downstairs, the lights were off, so Lindsey knew he could not be seen from the outside. He got close to the window and watched his actions. He was shortly joined by Rebecca. They both watched and observed in silence as Z pushed the driver to an upright position behind the steering wheel, exited the car and walked around the rear of the car and opened the driver’s door. Stine had fallen over onto the seat and Z pulled him back up into the seated position and had some difficulty keeping him upright. Once upright, he was seen to have a rag, or something like a handkerchief and began to wipe down the door area and leaning over the driver, part of the dashboard. When he was finished, Z calmly walked to Cherry St. and walked north.

Not many know this, but Lindsey (being 16. feeling immortal, and believing the suspect to be armed with only a knife) ran out his door to see where Z was going. He ran to the corner of Cherry and watched as Z continued his casual pace right up to the corner of Jackson & Cherry.

At this exact point, the first SFPD car arrives with two officers. One, Pelissetti, approached Lindsey and tried to extract what was happening. The other officer went to the cab and found the bloody victim. While Pelissetti was asking questions, Lindsey was trying to explain that the suspect was in sight on Cherry St. By the time Pelissetti got the point, they both looked and the Z was gone.

The assumption was Z continued north into Presidio Park and the resultant search extensively covered this area.

Pelissetti followed a different path east on Jackson in the event Z had turned east. What happened next is for another story.

Pelissetti gave his version of what happened in 2007.

I was the first officer that responded on the scene. I was working with the officer, who has since deceased, Frank Peda, an excellent police officer, and we responded to a radio call, told us that a cab driver was being robbed and/or assaulted at the corner of Cherry and Washington Streets in Pacific Heights.

We fortunately were very close and responded to that corner and were able to do so red light and siren at 9:55 at night and got there very quickly. I parked the car in the middle of the intersection facing the Yellow Cab that was sitting a little bit back from the corner of Cherry Street on Washington facing west on Washington. There were three children that were heading over to the car. They weren’t too far away. I made the assumption they were coming from the home on the corner and I was correct and I then herded them immediately back to that alcove. I didn’t know if the suspect was still there. The description that came out over the air was of an NMA, Negro Male Adult, at the time. The only person that could have given that information would have been the child who called it in to police dispatch. Whether somebody wrote it incorrectly and the child actually said white guy, I don’t know.

Went to the cab. I could see Mr. Paul Stine who had slumped over the front seat with his head into the well on the passenger side in the front. There was blood all over the cab, on him. Now I was 99.9 percent certain he was dead and it was at that point that I retook the description of the suspect and that’s when I was told it was a white male. I couldn’t get to the radio fast enough at that point to let everybody else know. The kids that told me that said that whoever had done this crime left the cab, went out the door, seemed to be wiping the cab down, reaching into the cab and then ambling or walking down Cherry Street in a northerly direction, kind of towards the Presidio.

Looking north on Cherry Street. The wall and trees of the Presidio are in the background.

Pelissetti said that he and his partner heard the erroneous broadcast concerning a black man at 9:55 pm. The police report has 9:55 as the approximate time of the incident and 9:58 when it was reported. The actual time of the broadcast does not have to be precisely determined. It could be 9:55, or 9:58, or something in between. What is important is that the dispatcher’s call sent two units speeding toward the intersection of Washington and Cherry Streets at exactly the same time.

In an interview given for the 2007 documentary, Fouke said:

My regular partner was off. I don’t recall the reason why he was not working that night. However, Eric Zelms was assigned as my partner that night. We were patrolling the eastern side of the Richmond District, going northbound on Presidio Avenue. We had passed Washington Street when a broadcast came in of a shooting at Cherry and Washington Street.

We turned west on Jackson Street. As we approached Maple Street, I noticed on the north side of the street a white male adult, dressed in a derby, or three-quarter waist length jacket with elastic at the waist and on the cuffs and a regular flap-down collar. He had a crewcut. He was wearing rust-colored pleated trousers. He had on engineering type boots [which was] a low-cut shoe, three-quarters of the way in length, tan in color.

The distance from Presidio Avenue and Washington Street to the intersection of Jackson and Maple is 0.5 miles. The distance to the crime scene is 0.15 miles further. Fouke said that they were going 35 to 45 miles per hour in a 25 mile per hour zone. Assuming the time of the dispatcher’s call was 9:58, then Fouke and Zelms would have reached Jackson and Maple at 9:59.  

Zodiac wrote that he met two patrolmen three minutes after leaving the cab. Using 9:59 as a reference point, he would have left the cab at 9:56. One minute later he was at or near the corner of Jackson Street where he was still visible to Lindsey Robbins. This was also the time when Pelissetti and Peda arrived on the scene, got out of their car, and interacted with the teenagers. 

If the dispatcher’s call was at 9:58, then Pelissetti and Peda would have arrived at 9:59. At that particular moment, the Zodiac was no longer in view, having already turned the corner at Jackson Street. Pelissetti and Peda would have had to arrive two minutes earlier at 9:57 to be able to see the Zodiac.

Consider now the same scenario from a different standpoint. If the Zodiac left the cab two minutes later, at 9:58, he would have been visible to Lindsey as he was speaking to Pelissetti. However, this would delay the time of the Zodiac’s arrival at Jackson and Maple from 9:59 to 10:01. Again there is a discrepancy of two minutes, for Fouke and Zelms had already gone through the intersection at 9:59. 

Assuming once more that the dispatcher’s call was at 9:58 and that the Zodiac left the cab at 9:58, then at 9:59 he was still within Lindsay’s view as he turned the corner of Jackson Street on the west side of the block. Also at 9:59 he was on the east side of the block at Maple Street speaking with Fouke and Zelms. The distance between both ends of the block is a walking time of two minutes. The timeline unavoidably puts the Zodiac in two separate places at the same time. This of course is impossible. There must have been two Zodiacs.

Reading again the part in the Zodiac’s letter that said he met “2 cops” who “pulled a goof,” it appears that he concealed the existence of his accomplice by claiming that he was the one who met the two patrolmen. By merging his own actions with those of his decoy, the author of the letter projected the image of a lone operator larger than life, capable of terrifying and ingenious things. 

Looking at the situation from the Zodiac’s point of view when he was on Cherry Street walking toward Jackson Street, he might have heard the siren and seen the flashing red light of a police car. He might have seen a teenager talking to a police officer and pointing in his direction. When he got to the corner of Jackson Street, he might have looked east and seen a police car pull up next to his decoy at the other end of the block. He had a decision to make. If he turned right and started walking east on Jackson Street, he would have risked detection by officers in the patrol car (Fouke and Zelms) who might have seen his bloody clothes in that “extremely well-lit” area. If he continued north on Cherry toward the Presidio, he faced the risk of getting spotted by the police officer behind him as he climbed over the wall. If he turned left, going west on Jackson Street, his chances for a successful escape were still not good. Nevertheless, somehow, some way, he pulled off an extraordinary feat, disappearing from the area, like a phantom in the night.

When Pelissetti found out which direction the gunman went, he decided to go after him. In the 2007 documentary, he said:

I walked that way myself. I did not run because there are innumerable alcoves and parked cars. So I went down, following every technique in the book so I didn’t get my head blown off. Got down to the corner of Jackson Street. Had to make a choice. I was on the east side of the street, so I turned right to the east. Went up in that direction. I couldn’t see anybody in either direction nor could I see anybody scaling a wall into the Presidio. I got all the way down to the next corner, which was Maple. Decision number two: which way to go? To the left toward the Presidio? Saw absolutely nothing. It was much darker there. I figured the chance of finding somebody was almost nil. I turned to the right and saw a man walking his dog. He was somewhat older than the description I had, a whole lot thinner, and he had absolutely no blood on his clothes. I asked that gentleman if he saw anybody walking in the area and he told me no.

At that point Officer Don Fouke, who was accompanied by what I believe was the rookie officer, Eric Zelms, at the time, pulled up pretty quickly in their police car, called out to me, did I know anything about where the suspect could be. I told him no.

I got back to the scene and it was sometime shortly thereafter that the ambulance crew, the coroner, a fire truck, Inspector Walt Krake of homicide detail, and then about three or four minutes or five minutes thereafter Inspector Dave Toschi and Bill Armstrong, two of the best, arrived at the scene. I briefed Inspector Toschi. “You seem to be taking the lead on the investigation.” As we walked over to the car, I assured him nobody had contaminated the scene and then I went about uniformed business and let him take care of his detective work. I spoke to Officer Fouke later that evening and was unaware that he stopped anybody, black, white, or any other color. However, in subsequent conversations with him he told me he did stop somebody.

In the decades to follow, Fouke was still reluctant to admit that he spoke to the Zodiac. In the 2007 documentary, he said:

The initial radio description of the suspect was that of a black male, five foot ten or something like that. Seeing it was a white male in an affluent neighborhood walking along the street, we didn’t think it was the suspect. So we proceeded the next block at which was Jackson and Cherry, turned southbound on Cherry Street and saw Armond Pelissetti, one of the officers who had responded directly to the scene.

He stopped us and said he was looking for the white male that had just gone down the street. There was a little conversation about what the initial description was, and he said “No, he was a white male.” I then used a slang term and said, “Oh, that was the suspect.”

We turned to get to the Presidio, and my reasoning on that was because turning down Maple would lead through the Presidio wall directly into Julius Kahn Playground which had a lot of foliage. So we turned and went down looking for the alleged suspect in the area of Julius Kahn Playground. Nothing was observed.

Fouke said that when he saw the suspect, he was driving at a speed of 35 to 40 miles per hour.

. . . slowed down as we passed him, I don’t know, we were still rolling, saw that it was a white male, step on the gas, 5, 10, 15 seconds tops from first spotting him to passing him.

We never stopped the man, we never talked to him. That is an emphatic statement by me. I wouldn’t make the denial. 

In the 1989 documentary “Crimes of the Century,” Fouke had a different version of how and where he learned that the suspect was white.

We proceeded on Jackson Street towards Arguello continuing our search. As we arrived at Arguello Street the description of the suspect was changed to a white male adult. Believing this suspect was possibly the one involved in the shooting, we entered the Presidio of San Francisco and conducted a search on West Pacific Avenue, the opposite side of the wall and the last direction we observed the suspect going. We did not find the suspect.

The 1989 version shows that Fouke and Zelms were diverted from going directly to the crime scene and made a search of the south boundary of the Presidio along West Pacific Avenue. The best explanation for this diversion is that the Zodiac had indeed spoken to them and given them false information. Fouke tried to hide the diversion in 2007 by attributing to Pelissetti, and not to the dispatcher, his first awareness that the suspect was white. It is true that Fouke had a conversation with Pelissetti, but it was after he searched West Pacific Avenue, not before. 

Contrary to what Graysmith said about Fouke and Zelms contacting homicide investigators on October 16, Fouke dated his first communication one month later, or about the time when he wrote the scratch on November 12.

One month later when the composite drawing came out at Richmond station and was posted on the wall, he looks similar to the man that I had seen on October 11. I then wrote a scratch, an interdepartmental memorandum, to my lieutenant to forward to Homicide Division, so that they would have the additional information about the appearance of the suspect. 

We did not stop the Zodiac. We didn’t stop anyone. I wish Eric Zelms were alive today to tell you so. 

It is purported in the works [of Graysmith] of Zodiac Unmasked that I tearfully told Inspector Toschi, “You know, Dave, we could have been killed that night.” I never spoke to Toschi that l personally know of or remember. He may have been the inspector who came out and asked me about the composite drawing and I told him the suspect was older and heavier. Beyond that I had no further contact with the investigation.

A reconstruction of what really happened on Jackson Street would start with the Zodiac’s letter. He said, “I was walking down the hill to the park when this cop car pulled up & one of them called me over & asked if I saw anyone acting suspicious or strange in the last 5 to 10 min & I said yes there was this man who was runnig by waveing a gun & the cops peeled rubber & went around the corner as I directed them.” 

Fouke and Zelms were under the impression that the gunman was black. As they drove toward Arguello Boulevard, they heard over the radio that the suspect was white. They went into the Presidio to look for him, proceeding east along West Pacific Avenue.to the Julius Kahn playground. After searching that area, they went back to Jackson and Maple Streets, where they had a conversation with Pelissetti who had just seen a man walking his dog. Pelissetti confirmed to them that the gunman was white. At that point, Fouke had no doubt that the pedestrian they spoke to on Jackson Street was the suspect they were seeking. For some reason, he chose not to mention the encounter to Pelissetti.

A few days later (not a month later), Fouke saw a composite sketch of the Zodiac posted on the wall at Richmond station and noted that the face looked similar to the man he saw on Jackson Street. He submitted a scratch, or interdepartmental communication, to his lieutenant on October 16. He also told an investigator that the composite sketch was similar to the man he saw but was “older and heavier.”

It was at this point that homicide investigators realized that they were dealing with, not one, but two Zodiacs. 

In an effort to rescue the single perpetrator theory, the SFPD decided to make the young man disappear and to concentrate on the older man. This involved making the aforementioned changes to the police report and the composite sketch. They also changed the date on Fouke’s scratch from October 16 to November 12. When the tampering of the official record was done, the SFPD could then deny that any patrolmen spoke to the Zodiac.  

Undoubtedly, the man who spoke to Fouke and Zelms was stocky and middle-aged. Fouke’s scratch said that he turned left at the corner, going north in the direction of the Presidio, an unsecured military reservation that in 1969 was the headquarters of the Sixth Army. Using the Zodiac’s letter as a guide, the decoy went one and a half blocks and then entered a park. This probably meant that he went one block north on Maple, jumped over the Presidio wall, turned right on West Pacific Avenue, went half a block toward Spruce Street, and then crossed Pacific Avenue to enter the park. Witnesses unnamed by newspapers saw a blond, middle-aged man jump over the Presidio wall and run through the Julius Kahn park and playground, ostentatiously looking like a fleeing criminal for the benefit of those watching him. After completing his task as a decoy, he probably disappeared into the dense foliage of the park and proceeded to a nearby car and drove away. 

When last seen, the Zodiac was casually walking north on Cherry Street. Where he went after that is a matter of speculation. My guess is that he entered a safe house somewhere in the vicinity of the intersection of Cherry and Jackson Streets. There he could wash the blood off, put on fresh clothes, and perhaps don a disguise. He might even venture out to enjoy the spectacle of a full-scale manhunt. As described in his letters, he entered the Presidio and went to the Julius Kahn park and playground (which belonged to the Army but was leased to the city). From a vantage point east of the parking lot, he could watch police cars, motorcycles, dog units madly crisscrossing the area in search of him. In his letter, he boasted that the dogs never came within two blocks of him. His location therefore was somewhere in the park, north of the Laurel Street cul-de-sac and two blocks east of the Presidio wall entrance at Spruce Street , where dog units assembled in the parking lot.

The night-shift sergeant in charge of the dogs, Charles Beene, gave an interesting account of the search for Stine’s killer to a reporter for the Billings Gazette. In an article dated March 13, 2007 and entitled “Retired Cop Recalls Brush with the Zodiac,” Lance Benzel wrote:

Beene and his crew [of five dog handlers] arrived 40 minutes after the shooting was reported and were immediately discouraged by what they found. Police officers and an Army platoon were crisscrossing the Presidio in squad cars and motorcycles; if the killer had left a scent trail for Beene and his fellow dog handlers, it was not a leap to assume it had long since dissipated.

Add the stiff ocean breezes and it was virtually a foregone conclusion.

“As soon as we saw the set-up and the officers driving all over the park and all over the playground, a couple of the guys said, ‘Ah sarge, we don’t have a chance,’ ” Beene recalled of that night. “I said, ‘We’re the experts, we’ll give them the best search that we can.’ “

Beene, handling his canine partner Darius, divided the park into three zones and directed the other dog handlers to search the middle third while the cops and soldiers took the opposite zones. Chances of finding the killer were “slight and none,” especially if he had been on the run for the full 40 minutes, Beene said. Predictably, the trail had gone cold and the search was called off a few hours later.

The man who shot Paul Stine was 25 to 30 years old, 5 feet 8 or 5 feet 9 inches tall, weighing 150 pounds. He had reddish brown hair which he wore in a crew cut. He wore heavy-rimmed glasses and a navy blue or black jacket. 

The decoy was in his forties, 5 feet 8 inches, heavy build. He had reddish blond hair which he wore in a crew cut. He wore eyeglasses, dark brown trousers, dark (navy blue or black) “Parka” jacket, and dark shoes.

According to Marie Vigil, the Zodiac Killer was Robert Linkletter. On October 11, he was four days shy of his 25th birthday. He was therefore the young man wearing heavy rimmed glasses seen in the cab with the body of Paul Stine. Two months earlier he left a pair of heavy rimmed glasses at the Tate house the morning of August 10. He was probably the one who killed Sharon Tate and Jay Sebring.

The heavy-set, middle-aged man seen by Fouke and Zelms was probably Lawrence Kane, who in 1969 was 45 years old. He was the one who stalked Darlene Ferrin, prior to her murder at Blue Rock Springs Park in Vallejo on July 4, 1969. At the time of the Stine murder, he was living in San Francisco at 217 Eddy Street, not far from Union Square, where Stine picked up his fare, presumed to be the Zodiac. Harry Hines gathered much evidence indicating Kane was stalking Donna Lass prior to her disappearance on September 6, 1970 from the Sahara Hotel and Casino in Stateline, Nevada. He was also involved in the abduction and murder of Dana Lull in Las Vegas on April 27, 1974.

The possibility of a safe house in the vicinity of Cherry and Jackson Streets broadens the plot to kill Stine to more than just the Zodiac and his decoy. A discussion of the conspiratorial aspects of the case will be reserved for a future article.