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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 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 twenty-five years

Zodiac Killer at the Tate House

Zodiac Doubles

A lookalike decoy, or double, is an old trick used by criminals, spies, celebrities, and politicians. A double takes the public spotlight off a particular person, so that he or she can go places or do things undetected. The resemblance can be enhanced by plastic surgery, hair dyes, wigs, make-up, and/or by training the double to speak and act like the person they are impersonating.

Stuntman Vic Armstrong doubled for Harrison Ford in the first three Indiana Jones films. He looked so much like Ford that the film crew kept mistaking him for the real actor. 

British soldier M.E. Clifton James was a lookalike impersonator for General Bernard “Monty” Montgomery during World War II in order to confuse the Germans.

General Montgomery on the left, Clifton James on the right


James was later the subject of a movie called “I was Monty’s Double” in which James played the roles of both Monty and himself.

A bit actor named Brucks Randall looked so much like Howard Hughes that a Hughes employee, Gerald Chouinard, hired him to fool the public, the government, the press, and business associates as to the whereabouts of the reclusive billionaire.

Gustav Weler was a doppelganger for Adolph Hitler. Reports of what happened to him are conflicting. One version says that he died of a gunshot wound to the head during the Battle of Berlin in April 1945. Another version says that he survived the battle and was interviewed by Allied intelligence officers. 

James Earl Ray had several doubles in Toronto, Canada, where he hid for a month after the assassination of Martin Luther King. According to the official version, he picked at random for his aliases the names of Eric Galt, Paul Bridgman, James Willard, and Ramon Sneyd. What continues to confound lone assassin proponents is the fact that all four names belonged to real men living within a short distance of Ray’s apartment in Toronto. All four were approximately the same height, weight, and age as Ray and had dark hair. The facial resemblance of Eric Galt to Ray was particularly striking. Strengthening the resemblance even more was a nose job Ray received from a plastic surgeon in Los Angeles, one month before the assassination. Identically placed small scars on foreheads and right palms appeared on both men. According to author, William Pepper, Galt was an operative for U.S. Army Intelligence, working for Union Carbide on a top secret munitions project in Toronto. [1]

A double for Lee Harvey Oswald, often called the Second Oswald, appears frequently in books, articles, and websites dealing with the assassination of President Kennedy.

The chief suspect in the Jack the Ripper slayings, according to Scotland Yard, was a Polish barber-surgeon named Severin Klosowski, using the alias George Chapman. Klosowski had a double, a Russian named Alexander Pedachenko, who was also a barber-surgeon. The two men were remarkably similar in appearance and often used to assume each other’s identity.

While finding doubles for celebrities and other well-known public figures is a relatively easy task (“Hey, you look like Paul McCartney”), the process of locating and matching up doubles for spies, assassins, and terrorists, who dwell in the shadows of obscurity, requires the resources of powerful, well-organized, and well-funded intelligence agencies. Given the Zodiac Killer’s ties to such superspies and hitmen as Reeve Whitson and Claude Capehart, it is not unreasonable to suppose a secret unit within the national security establishment used the Zodiac Killer for hidden agenda purposes and deployed lookalikes to protect him from capture.

The possibility that the Zodiac Killer had a double emerged at the tail end of the last episode of a television series on the History Channel called The Hunt for the Zodiac Killer.

The series featured Sal LaBarbera, a retired LAPD homicide detective, and Ken Mains, a cold case expert who worked with an FBI task force. During the course of five episodes, Sal and Ken pored over old police files and news clippings, interviewed witnesses and police officers, and spoke to experts in DNA and handwriting analysis. They were aided by a team of cryptology experts using a supercomputer in an attempt to crack the Zodiac’s coded messages. By the end of the last episode, the code breakers seemed to have discovered a second cipher within the famous Z340 cipher (Zodiac cipher with 340 characters). 

At the end of the last episode, Sal and Ken expressed frustration over their lack of progress in pinning down the identity of the Zodiac Killer. They had narrowed their search to two suspects, Ross Sullivan and Lawrence Kane, but the evidence against either one was insufficient to make a final judgment. It was at this point that they began to consider an alternative solution. 

Sal: What we really need to do now is keep going. Explore the cipher within the cipher. Compare the Zodiac glove DNA to this new Riverside DNA. And of course, we keep pushing hard on our two primary suspects: Ross Sullivan and Lawrence Kane. I honestly couldn’t begin to rule either one of them out, which really begs the question: Is the reason this case has remained unsolved, is it because there is more than one Zodiac Killer?

Ken:  The journey continues.

Sal: You got that right, partner.

Three years have passed since this episode was aired on December 12, 2017, and no word of further episodes has emerged from the History Channel. 

Sal and Ken slightly lifted the lid of Pandora’s box and not one, but two, Zodiacs sprung out. Let us lift the lid a little more to see who else is in there.

Two letters written by Marie Vigil identify the Zodiac Killer as Robert Linkletter, the son of Hollywood entertainer Art Linkletter. She said:

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.

Robert Linkletter

Marie Vigil goes on to say that Linkletter looked exactly like John Frazier, the accused murderer of the Ohta family at their home in Santa Cruz on October 19, 1970. 

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.

In a picture released by the sheriff’s department shortly before his arrest, Frazier is wearing glasses.

John Frazier

With evidence of four Zodiacs on the table, could there be more? Upon lifting the lid to fully open, we see leaping out a surprising number of unsavory characters: Arthur Allen Leigh, Jack Tarrance, Richard Gaikoewski, George Hodel, Louis Joseph Myers, Robert Ivan Nichols, and Earl Van Best, Jr., and Bruce Davis. 

An examination of the evidence against every potential Zodiac is beyond the scope of this article. Sufficient to the task of demonstrating the existence of doubles is to combine Sal and Ken’s investigation of their two primary suspects with what is known about Linkletter through the letters of Marie Vigil. 

The face of Ross Sullivan had an uncanny resemblance to the composite sketch of the Zodiac Killer on the wanted poster made after the murder of Paul Stine, the cabdriver. The same crew cut, widow’s peak, and glasses appear in a picture of Sullivan.

Ross Sullivan and Zodiac Killer Poster

Sullivan was a library assistant at the Riverside City College, when on October 31, 1966 at 6:30 am the groundskeeper found the slashed and hacked body of a coed named Cheri Jo Bates just outside the library.

Four years later, Paul Avery, a newspaper reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle, got a tip from an anonymous source that the murder of Bates bore similarities to the modus operandi of the Zodiac Killer. 

Avery went to Riverside to check out this lead and turned up a lot of information. He wrote an article for the Chronicle indicating that there was indeed a connection. Four months later, the Zodiac Killer sent a letter to the Los Angeles Times, in which he acknowledged, “I do have to give them [the police, not Avery] credit for stumbling across my riverside activity.”

Another newspaper reporter, Dave Peterson, of the Vallejo Times-Herald, went to Riverside City College and spoke to people who worked in the  library. They told him that after Bates was killed, they immediately suspected fellow employee Ross Sullivan. They said he was a quiet, unsocial man, strange and creepy. He wrote a poem so morbid that it made the library staff uncomfortable. Although he was never in the military, he wore every day a long army jacket and military boots. He was “a huge guy,” about 6 foot 2 inches tall and weighing 250 to 300 pounds. He did not show up for work the day after the murder, and when he returned a few days later, he was wearing an entirely new set of clothes.

It is notable that near the body of Cheri Jo Bates was a footprint made by a military boot.

At the time Bates was killed, Sullivan was 25 years old. He was born in Syracuse, New York and for a time lived in Binghamton. When he was a teenager, he moved to Glendale, California. As a high school student, he played the lead role in a film project called “Deja Vive,” which was a psychological study of a student named Harvey. An article in the Los Angeles Times May 3, 1959 said that the student filmmakers staged a murder scene on Los Angeles Skid Row that was so realistic that someone called the police. The students did some fast talking to convince the police that they were just filming a scene for a movie.

After graduating from Glendale High School in 1961, Sullivan started attending Riverside City College as an English student. He took a class on cryptology, and he wrote an essay on how a person can disguise his handwriting. 

Less than a year after Bates was killed, probably during the summer of 1967, Sullivan transferred to a college in Northern California. A 1968 Santa Cruz city directory listed him as a food server at the University of California. His address was R512, 20th Street, Apartment 2. A newspaper item titled “Bizarre Behavior Leads to Arrest” dated March 5, 1968 reported that he had been arrested in Santa Cruz for indecent exposure and disorderly conduct.

Ross Sullivan was hospitalized several times for bipolar disorder and paranoid schizophrenia. When he was still in Riverside, just before his mother died, he was committed to Patton State Mental Hospital. He was in various institutions throughout his adult life. Due to his mental illness, he was placed under a conservatorship in 1973. 

Dave Peterson presented the information he had gathered on Sullivan to Dave Toschi, the San Francisco police officer assigned to the Zodiac case, and suggested that he check him out. How seriously Toschi took this information is unknown.

Sometime afterwards, Sullivan died at the age of 36, on September 29, 1977. He was employed as a dishwasher at a restaurant. His last address was 2177 17th Avenue, Santa Cruz.

Although Sullivan bore a striking resemblance to the composite sketch of the Zodiac, his huge size – 6 foot 2 inches, 250 to 300 pounds – presents a difficulty when trying to connect him to Zodiac crime scenes in Northern California.

A short, stocky man, 5 foot 8 or 9 inches tall, 195 to 200 pounds, much smaller than Sullivan, killed Darlene Ferrin and wounded Mike Mageau with a handgun at Blue Rock Springs Park in Vallejo on July 4, 1969. Bryan Hartnell, the survivor of the attack at Lake Berryessa on September 27, said the man who stabbed him and his girlfriend was about 5 foot 8 inches tall and 195 to 200 pounds. Three teenagers who witnessed the shooting of Paul Stine on October 11 said the killer was 5 foot 8 inches tall and heavy build. Kathleen Johns, who barely escaped the Zodiac Killer on March 22, 1970, said he was 5 foot 9 inches and 160 pounds. 

Sullivan’s huge size eliminates him as a suspect in the post-Riverside slayings. The other suspect whom Sal and Ken considered primary had a height and weight profile that is a better match. Lawrence Kane was 5 foot 9 inches tall and 170 pounds. Much of the information on Kane given below comes from a two-part article written for The San Francisco Examiner by Ryder MacDowell. Another valuable source is a great website called  lawrencekane.wordpress.com. [2]

Lawrence Kane

Kane was the subject of an investigation conducted by Harvey Hines, a police officer in Sonora, California. He first heard the name Larry Kane in 1974, while investigating the Zodiac Killer’s role in the disappearance of a 25-year-old nurse named Donna Lass in Stateline, Nevada on Lake Tahoe.

Lass had the night shift at the first aid station at the Sahara Hotel and Casino. Around 1:45 am on September 6, 1970, fifteen minutes before her shift ended, she changed from her uniform into her street clothes and started writing an entry in the logbook regarding her last patient. She wrote “c/o” (meaning “complains of”) which was supposed to be followed by the complaint of the patient. Instead, there was a scrawled line leading from the logbook entry down to the bottom of the page. She never returned to finish her entry. 

Twelve days later, on September 18, Donna’s mother, Mrs. Francis Lass, who was living in Beresford, South Dakota, received a phone call from an unknown person who told her “there was an emergency in Nevada.” The vague message apparently referred to her daughter. [3] The following day, Mr. Pilker and his wife, Mary, Donna’s sister, flew from Sioux Falls, South Dakota to San Francisco, where at the airport they met Jo Anne Goettsche, a friend of Donna’s. They got into Jo Anne’s car and drove to Lake Tahoe.

Jo Anne came to know Donna while the two worked as nurses in the surgical ward at the Letterman General Hospital in the Presidio, a military reservation within the city of San Francisco. Donna started working the graveyard shift there in September 1969. Jo Anne and Donna were roommates together. They were doing the night shift when cabdriver Paul Stine was killed.

Donna Lass applied for a job working as a nurse at the Sahara Hotel and Casino on May 25, 1970. She became interested in moving to Lake Tahoe after her friends Larry and Ann Lowe told her about the lovely views, the skiing, and the gambling at the casinos. They told her she could stay with them until she could find her own place to live. 

Lass started working as a nurse for the Sahara Hotel on June 6. Fellow employees remembered her as a clean-cut, attractive, dependable nurse, who took pride in her work. 

On September 3, she had a phone conversation with Jo Anne and spoke about her plans for an upcoming winter trip to Europe. The two friends agreed to spend Labor Day weekend together at Donna’s apartment.

Two days later, Jo Anne drove to Lake Tahoe to meet her friend at the end of her shift. When Jo Anne got there, she could not find Donna. She spent the night at a motel and hoped to find her the next day. Still having heard nothing from Donna and not knowing the address of her apartment, she gave up searching and returned to San Francisco. [4]

Two weeks later, Jo Anne was back at the Sahara Hotel with Mr. and Mrs. Pilker to question hotel and casino workers. No one had seen Donna since her shift ended at 2:00 am on September 6. They apparently did not think anything was wrong, because an unknown man called the hotel and said that Donna would not be coming to work because of an illness in the family. Contrary to what the man said, there was no illness in the family. 

At the first aid station, Donna’s uniform and work shoes were still there, untouched since the day she left.

They went to the Monte Verde apartment complex at 3893 Pioneer Trail Road just across the border in South Lake Tahoe, California. Mary Pilker knew where the apartment was, because she, her four small children, and her mother had visited Donna two weeks before Labor Day. 

Like her employer at the hotel, the landlord also got a call the same day from an unknown man saying that Donna left town because of an illness in the family. 

Everything in Donna’s apartment was found to be intact and undisturbed. In the closet were many new clothes she recently bought, still in their store-provided transparent plastic wrappings. The only items missing were her purse and checkbook. According to The Sacramento Bee dated September 26, 1970 Lass left behind a bank account of $500, a new car, and a large wardrobe of clothes.  

Donna’s car, a convertible model of a 1968 Chevrolet Camaro, was locked and parked in the spot reserved for her in the parking lot. It is possible that she did not take her car to work but chose instead to go to the casino on foot, which was a short walking distance of eight to ten minutes. 

Together these circumstances indicated that Donna might have been the victim of foul play. They went to the police station and filed a missing person report. Standard operating procedure was to wait 48 hours before the police would begin their investigation. Although they searched diligently, they failed to turn up any clues as to her whereabouts.

Newspapers picked up the story of the missing woman and gave her description. She was 5 foot 4 inches, 135 pounds, blue eyes, with brown-blonde frosted hair, probably wearing a navy blue pantsuit at the time she left the hotel. 

Ann Lowe told The Sacramento Bee that Donna Lass came to Lake Tahoe in early June. She first knew Donna at a Santa Barbara hospital, where the two women worked together as nurses from 1967 to 1969. From Santa Barbara, Ann and Larry moved to Lake Tahoe, while Donna moved to San Francisco. Ann described Donna as “shy and retiring.” Although she had many friends, she was not a party girl, never smoked, drank very little and generally was opposed to the free lifestyle of many of her contemporaries. She was not the kind of person who would run off somewhere without telling someone. She was very religious, going to church “every Sunday.” [5]

The church she went to was St. Mary in the Pines, an outdoor chapel surrounded by a thick stand of pine trees behind the Harrah’s Club. It had a shrine to the Virgin Mary and a small, white structure to house the altar. The pews were hewn logs. Our Lady of Tahoe Parish used the outdoor chapel during the summer. Winter services were held in various facilities provided by the Harrah’s Club. 

The name of the chapel has a strange echo in a Christmas card that was sent to Mary Pilker on December 27, 1974. The envelope had a “940” stamp, indicating it was mailed either in San Mateo County or Santa Clara County. The front of the card featured trees covered in snow. Inside the card and below the message “Holiday Greetings and Best Wishes for a Happy New Year,” was a handwritten note saying, “Best Wishes, St Donna & Guardian of the Pines.” Evidently the handwritten message was a sinister mockery of Donna’s religious devotion. The “Guardian of the Pines” might refer to her abductor and killer.

Six months after the disappearance of Donna Lass, The San Francisco Chronicle received a homemade postcard from the Zodiac Killer addressed to Paul Avery. It depicted a winter scene cut from a newspaper advertisement for a condominium development in Incline Village, Nevada. Words cut from newspapers were pasted over the sketch, including “Sierra Club,” “sought victim 12,” “peek through the pines,” and “pass around Lake Tahoe.” A hole punch was used to punch a hole in the top right quadrant of the card. The cross hair symbol of the Zodiac appears on the bottom right of the card. 

Sierra Club postcard

There seems to be no connection between the clues on the postcard and the disappearance of Donna Lass, yet law enforcement officials such as the Chief of Police of South Lake Tahoe, Ray Lauritzen, believed there was a connection. He sent detectives to Incline Village to look for clues, but they failed to find anything.

A preliminary police report showed that the words “Sierra Club” referred to the Clair Tappaan Lodge, located northwest of Lake Tahoe. Because that part of the Sierra was buried under several feet of snow, an investigation of the lodge had to wait until after the snow melted. 

Clair Tappaan was a private skiing lodge reserved mainly for the board of directors of the Sierra Club and their families as well as members in the top echelons of society. It was on Donner Pass Road near Norden, California, a tiny, unincorporated community with a post office. It was about eight miles west of Donner Memorial State Park, where an ill-fated pioneer wagon train was stuck for four months in winter snow from 1846 to 1847. Some of the famished pioneers resorted to cannibalism in order to survive. The lodge was built in 1932 near Donner Summit. It was named after a longtime official of the Sierra Club. Clair Taappan was the club’s fifth president from 1922 to 1924, and on the board of directors from 1912 until his death in 1932. 

Clair Taappan Lodge

The Sierra Club was an organization concerned with protecting the environment. It had roots in the white supremacy movement of the late 1800s. Among the founders were Berkeley professors Joseph LeConte and David Starr Jordan. They were eugenists who advocated forced sterilization of black people in order to preserve the purity of the white race. In July 2020, the executive director of the Sierra Club made a long overdue announcement repudiating the racism of the club’s founders. 

Publicity regarding the “Sierra Club” postcard and its connection to the Zodiac Killer prompted two women to come forward offering information to the police. Hines read the the interview reports and made the following notes:

“I again reviewed the two South Lake Tahoe supplemental police reports filed on March 25, 1971. These were filed after the Zodiac mailed the card claiming his 12th victim in the Tahoe area. The complaints in these reports were filed by two Tahoe residents, Mary Ida Hylander and Nancy Kapanos. Subjects came forward after seeing a television news cast stating that the Zodiac killer had sent a card claiming he had sought his 12th victim in the Tahoe area.

Subject Hylander at the time resided at 3337 Bruce Street, South Lake Tahoe. Her telephone number at the time was 544-6893. She was a Black Jack dealer at Harrahs Club. She said that sometime during the middle of October of 1970, she was having dinner with her two children at the International House of Pancakes on Highway 50 and Sonora Ave. in South Lake Tahoe. She states that a man who had been seated in the booth directly across from her approached her and made conversation. This male subject then asked what Zodiac signs her two children were born under and indicated that he was interested in astrology. He indicated astrology was his hobby and continued talking about the Zodiac signs. Hylander agreed to let the man read her Zodiac chart and gave him her telephone number so that he might contact her after he had prepared her Zodiac chart.

The man telephoned Hylander at approximately 1800 hours that evening and stated that he had her chart ready. Hylander wanted the information over the telephone. However, the subject stated he could not do this. He would have to read the chart to her in person. Hylander then gave the subject her residence address and he stated that he was coming over right away.  Hylander then became frightened and called her girlfriend, Nancy Kapanos. Kapanos was a Roulette Dealer at Harrahs Club.

A short time later, both women heard a car driving up in front of Hylander’s residence. After knocking the man was allowed to enter. He then produced a Zodiac chart. He, however, would not show it to Hylander except at a distance. He began relating astrological information and told Hylander, “Women don’t like you. People who you think are your friends really aren’t.” Then he looked at Kapanos indicating that he wished she would leave. Because of his strange actions, Kapanos stayed fearing to leave her friend alone with the subject. The man continued talking about Zodiac signs and stated he had recently read the chart of a murderer and continued talking about this subject, seemingly preoccupied with death. The subject contradicted himself several times. He was very evasive about questions asked of him by both women.

When he left he asked Hylander if she would have dinner and drinks with him at a future date. She told him she already had a boyfriend and declined. He then asked the Zodiac sign of her boyfriend. Upon learning the sign he stated that it was not compatible with Hylander’s. He then left the residence. However, before he left he gave Hylander a philosophical pamphlet to read. This pamphlet, entitled “It Works,” was written by R.H.J. [6] The man then wrote his name and address on the inside of the front cover of this pamphlet before giving it to Hylander. He wrote his name as Kent Williams with an address of General Delivery Stateline Post Office, South Lake Tahoe, CA. (note: Kent Williams was the name of the manager of the Tahoe Sierra Club in 1970. However, subsequent investigation determined that Williams was not the individual who approached Hylander.)

Both Hylander and Kapanos described the man as being a white male in his late 30’s to 40’s, approximately 5’9″ tall, 160 pounds, with regular length brown hair. They further described him as stocky with a pudgy stomach and wore plastic horn rimmed glasses. [He was well-spoken] and had a business like appearance. He said that he worked out of state selling real estate property. Kapanos said she saw the subject approximately one week later at the Stateline California Post Office.

In his two-part article, MacDowell provides another version of Hylander’s story.

Mary Hylander, a blackjack dealer, had met the man at a local International House of Pancakes, where, after initiating a conversation with her, he had offered to cast her astrological chart, declaring himself an authority on the zodiac.

That night as arranged, the man showed up at Hylander’s house with the finished chart. He was described as conservatively dressed, 5 foot 9, in his late 30s, with a slightly receding hairline and horn-rimmed glasses. He said he sold real estate in Arizona and lived in a studio apartment in nearby Stateline. He told her his name was Kent Williams.

Feeling uneasy about the rendezvous, Hylander had asked a friend, Nancy Kapanos, over for moral support. Kapanos’s presence annoyed the man, who proceeded to ramble for four hours about the signs of the zodiac. According to Hylander, he seemed obsessed with death and murder. At one point, he looked deeply into Hylander’s eyes and let loose with what struck her as a chilling non sequitur: that she would “die by water.” The odd revelation terrified Hylander. When she attempted to question the man, hoping to get some identifying information in case he was dangerous, he became evasive and contradicted himself repeatedly. Finally he left. [7]

Returning to the notes Hines made of the two supplemental police reports, he wrote:

Another witness told South Lake Tahoe police that sometime between the months of July and September 1970, she was at Shakey’s Pizza Parlour and was approached by a male subject approximately 38-40 years of age. She described him as having dark hair parted on the left side and was wearing plastic horn rimmed glasses. The man was carrying a book and kept referring to it. The witness did not recall the name of the book except it had the word “Psycho” and “Cybernetics” or words similar to that. [8] This subject engaged in conversation with the reporting party. He asked if they could go some place and talk. The woman refused. He continued in conversation, jumping from one thing to another and kept referring to a woman that he knew but would not say her name. The reporting party asked if he lived in the area and where he worked. He told her he sold land for a real estate company out of state. He did not tell her the name of the company. He said he lived at Stateline in a studio apartment.”

MacDowell’s version of the encounter at the pizza parlor is below:

The second report filed with the South Lake Tahoe Police Department recounted a similar encounter at a Shakey’s Pizza Parlour. A man of identical description sat down next to a woman (whose name does not appear in the report) and began talking about the signs of the zodiac. He said he lived nearby in a studio apartment and sold real estate out of state. He said he had been watching a woman at work who would be sorry for rejecting him. Numerous times he repeated that the woman in question “would be sorry.” He indicated that the woman’s and his zodiac signs were compatible. This was not the case, he insisted with the woman’s present boyfriend.

The woman at the pizza parlor made up an excuse to leave and hurried from the restaurant feeling unnerved. The encounter, she stated in the report, took place between July and September 1970.

After reading these reports, Hines went to the South Lake Tahoe Police Department in 1974 to find out what progress they had made in the Donna Lass case. He was amazed to learn that they had done nothing since the preliminary investigation three years earlier. They neither sent anyone to check out the Sierra Club lodge nor did they question Kent Williams, the manager of the lodge. 

Hines went to the Sahara Hotel and Casino and noted Lass’s unfinished entry in the nurses’ logbook at 1:50 a.m. The last person she saw before departing into the oblivion of the night was Joan Bentley and her husband from San Francisco. When they last saw the nurse at 1:40 am, she appeared to be in good spirits. 

Hines interviewed people who worked on the casino floor, in the restaurant, and in the hotel’s management offices. He asked if there was anyone who showed a particular interest in Donna and might possibly be involved in her disappearance. Three women, each of whom requesting anonymity, broached the same name: Larry Kane.

Three months before Lass disappeared, Kane and his mother moved from San Francisco to a studio apartment in Stateline. He got a job selling timeshares for condominiums in Arizona. The land development company he worked for was Lake Havasu Estates. His office was in the Sahara Hotel just down the hallway from the nurses’ station.

The circumstances of Kane’s move from San Francisco to Lake Tahoe, corresponding exactly to the circumstances of Lass’s move, namely the coincidental time, destination, and proximity of work stations, are indicative of a stalker. He spent an inordinate amount of time around the nurses’ station talking to Donna. He asked her out on at least one occasion, but whether or not they actually dated was unknown to the three women who spoke to Hines.

Kane was a loner, strange and creepy. His physical appearance was identical to the description given of “Kent Williams” by Hylander and the unnamed woman at the pizza parlor – fortyish with short hair receding slightly at the temples and sort of a pot belly. He was about 5 foot 9 inches tall, 170 pounds. He dressed conservatively and wore horn-rimmed glasses. When he spoke, he had good syntax and a large vocabulary. Evidently, the name Kent Williams was an alias.

After Donna disappeared, Kane left his job at the Sahara Hotel. The three women suspected that he was somehow involved in what happened to Donna.

Hines obtained a criminal records chart and a Department of Motor Vehicles report. They showed that Kane used at least ten different aliases at various times, including Larry Cain, Lawrence Barton, and Larry Kaye. He had three different social security numbers under different names, two different driver’s licenses, and two different birth dates. Through the late sixties and early seventies, he changed the spelling of his name from Kane to Cane, and back to Kane. Photos of him taken at various times indicated to Hines a startling ability to look different without apparent effort. (An alternative theory is that Kane found lookalikes to stand in for him, whenever a photograph was needed for identification.)

His birth name was Lawrence Klein. He was born in the Jewish section of Brooklyn, New York on April 26, 1924. Other birthdates he used were April 29, 1924, and April 29, 1922.

During World War II, he entered the U.S. Naval Reserve on February 12, 1943. He spent the better part of the year at a radio material school in Chicago, where he learned, among other things, enciphering and deciphering basic codes.

After seven months, a diagnosis of psychoneurosis hysteria led to his discharge from the Naval Reserve. His illness stemmed from worrying about his infirm and unstable mother. 

Upon his return to civilian life, Kane became a career criminal with a lengthy rap sheet. He started a business selling roofs and siding for homes, which became an opportunity to swindle householders. Between 1942 and 1968 he had been arrested seventeen times. On April 25, 1949 he was arrested for grand larceny and petty larceny in Albany, New York. Four months later, he was arrested for grand larceny in Mineola, New York. On June 16, 1952, he was arrested for burglary in New York City. News articles at the time said that Lawrence Kaye and a partner stole gems worth $19,000 from Shirley Carmel, the fiancé of his friend Johnny Johnston, a noted radio, television and Hollywood actor and singer. Kane had an addiction for luxuries and lived in a luxurious apartment in New York City.

In 1961 he and his mother moved to the San Francisco Bay area in California. The following year, he sustained a brain injury in a head-on collision with a cement truck in San Mateo. He received a left frontal crainioplasty.

His last arrest was in Redwood City for prowling as a peeping Tom on August 29, 1968. This was just four months before the Zodiac’s first murders in the San Francisco Bay area. On December 20, the Zodiac used a handgun to kill two teenagers sitting in a car, David Faraday and Betty Lou Jensen, on Lake Herman Road within the city limits of Benicia at 10:15 pm.

On July 4, 1969, the Zodiac Killer again used a handgun to kill Darlene Ferrin and severely wound her companion, Mike Mageau, at Blue Rock Springs Park in Vallejo. The gunman was about 25 to 30 years old, 5 foot 8 or 9 inches tall, 195 to 200 pounds, full face, wavy or curly light brown hair, wearing a blue shirt or sweater, not wearing glasses.

Six days later, Lawrence Kane went to see John Miles, a Pontiac dealer in Stockton, California, where he traded in his old car for a new Ambassador sedan, goldfish tan in color. According to Department of Motor Vehicle records, he was living in San Francisco in an apartment at 217 Eddy Street. Three blocks from his apartment was the Orpheum Theater, where the Lamplighters Theater Troup staged Gilbert and Sullivan musicals. At nearby Letterman Hospital future Zodiac victim Donna Lass began working as a nurse in September 1969. 

On September 27, the Zodiac Killer stabbed with a knife Cecelia Shepherd and Bryan Hartnell at Lake Berryessa. Hartnell, who survived the attack, described the assailant as about 5 foot 8 inches, light brown curly hair, possibly a wig, 26 to 30 years old, 195 to 200 lbs. 

Two weeks later, the Lamplighters were performing The Mikado, a comic opera especially favored by the Zodiac Killer. In a letter written on July 24, 1970, he alluded to a Mikado song sung by the High Executioner, who had a “little list” of annoying people he wanted to execute. The Mikado was playing at the Orpheum Theater on the night of October 11, when the Zodiac Killer murdered cab driver Paul Stine. 

As demonstrated by Sal and Ken, the fare on Stine’s taxicab meter showed that he picked up the Zodiac Killer 3.3 miles from the intersection of Washington and Cherry Streets, where the murder took place. Kane’s apartment was exactly 3.3 miles from Washington and Cherry Streets, which suggests that Stine picked up the Zodiac Killer at 217 Eddy Street.

Three teenagers observed the killing from an upper story window. A poster on the zodiackillersite.com named JDean identified two of the teenagers as Rebecca and Lyndsey Robbins. They described the killer as 25 to 30 years old, stocky build, 5 foot 8 to 9 inches tall, reddish brown hair, crew cut, wearing heavy rimmed glasses and dark clothing. [9]

Two police officers, Donald Foukes and Eric Zelms, saw a suspicious pedestrian within minutes of the slaying, walking toward the Presidio in the direction of Letterman Hospital. Foukes described the man as 35 to 45 years old, medium to heavy build, barrel-chested, 180 to 200 pounds, light colored hair, possibly graying in the rear, crew cut. He wore glasses, a dark blue zipper, waist length jacket, and brown woolen pants.

On March 22, 1970, Kathleen Johns saw the wanted poster of the Zodiac at a police station in Patterson and recognized him as the man who tried to kidnap her and her baby earlier that same night. She said he wore black, heavy-rimmed, plastic-lens 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. He was driving a late model sedan, tan in color.

Four months later, the Zodiac Killer made reference to his encounter with Kathleen Johns in his “Little List” letter. He said:

So now I have a little list, starting with that 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. 

At the time the “Little List” letter was sent, both Larry Kane and Donna Lass had been working at the Sahara Hotel for about a month. Kane and his mother were living in a studio apartment in Stateline, and Lass was living with Larry and Ann Lowe. 

In the year following the disappearance of Lass, her friend Larry Lowe got to know Larry Kane. An interview of Lowe appeared on the History Channel’s series on the Zodiac Killer. When Sal and Ken asked if he knew Larry Kane, he said:

Absolutely. That would have been about ’71. I opened a little tropical fish store, and within a month or so, this individual came in. I’d been to his place several times because he was always having trouble, “Larry, you’ve gotta come look at the fish,” and stuff. This guy, he had — he collected everything.  He had some swords. I’m pretty sure he had some guns, but I mean, there was all kinds of stuff he collected.

Ken: How about astrology stuff? 

Larry: I think he had a plaque or something of the zodiac, and  I think –

Ken: Whoa, a what? He had a what?

Larry: Like, a plaque, a round plaque of the zodiac on one of the walls.

Sal: What do you mean by zodiac, though?

Larry: I mean, isn’t there a zodiac calendar?

Ken: Okay. A round calendar.

Sal: Astrology calendar?

Larry: Yeah, that’s what I mean, astrology calendar.

Larry: He was raised by his mother. He didn’t really have a father.

Ken: What was his relationship with his mom? Did he talk about his mom a lot?

Larry: Yeah, he was obsessed with his mother.

Sal: Where did his mom live at the time?

Larry: Closer to the Bay area. He would go down at least once every month or every two months.

That same year, 1971, Kane moved out of Stateline, perhaps after the appearance of the “Sierra Club” postcard in the news media. 

Harvey Hines checked with the Nevada Real Estate Association and found out that Kane moved to Las Vegas. From 1971 to 1974, he sold real estate for Allen Dorfman, an organized crime figure from Chicago and stepson of Paul Dorfman, a friend of Jack Ruby. Allen Dorfman illegally used money from the pension fund of the Teamsters Union to make loans to casino owners and developers. He probably had ties to another mobster from Chicago, Charles Baron, an associate of Meyer Lansky and the official greeter for the Stardust Casino in Las Vegas. Baron was a close associate of Linkletter’s friend Reeve Whitson.

 Hines went to Las Vegas and asked Fred “Andy” Anderson of the Las Vegas Police Department whether any unsolved homicides in the area matched the Zodiac’s modus operandi. Anderson told of a lover’s lane kidnapping and murder on the night of April 27, 1974. Fifteen-year-old Dana Lull had been abducted at gunpoint at Red Rock Canyon near Las Vegas, while sitting in a car with her boyfriend, Roy Tophigh, on a deserted stretch of road at 10:36 pm. 

The suspect wore glasses, black suit, white shirt, tie, and black gloves and was armed with an automatic pistol. He approached the driver side of the car where Tophigh was sitting. As he held his gun on the couple, he took the keys out of the ignition and ordered Lull out of the car. As the suspect struggled with her, Tophigh escaped on foot. He saw the suspect force Lull into a sports car and drove off with her. The car was a 1968 convertible model, possibly a Triumph, white with a black cloth roof and a luggage rack. The car’s front grill was missing. The gunman was around 30 to 40 years old, 5 foot 9, 160 pounds, round face, short dark hair, wearing horn-rimmed glasses.

Later that night, an anonymous caller had rung up Lull’s parents and told them, “Your daughter is dead.”

One hour after the abduction, a Nye County sheriff’s deputy named Tom Hannah observed a sports car driving erratically on a lonely stretch of desert road. He pursued the vehicle and stopped it. An “exceedingly courteous driver” got out and proffered a temporary California driver’s license. He was wearing black gloves. The driver explained he had driven down from San Francisco and was very tired. During this exchange, Hannah noticed a young, sandy-haired woman slumped in the front seat of the car. Hannah assumed she was asleep. The woman remained motionless during the entire encounter. Hannah also observed a small bumper sticker on the back rear fender that read: “Save the Pupfish.” He let the suspect go with just a warning.

Two weeks later, Lull’s body was found by two young men exploring old mines in the Saddleback Mountains, 25 miles northwest of Needles, two miles north of Interstate 40. Her body was at the bottom of a 25 foot mine shaft. She had been shot once through the head with a .22 long jacket bullet (a type of ammunition favored by the Zodiac).

The police report described the case as a “possible Zodiac murder.”  Studying the case with Kane in mind as the suspect, Hines discovered a coincidence in locations. Lull’s body was in a mine shaft on Mountain Springs Road. Kane lived five miles from where Lull was abducted on Spring Mountain Road. The coincidence of names seemed to have been deliberately chosen. Furthermore, the names of the roads fit a Zodiac pattern for committing his crimes by a “body of water” (such as Lake Herman Road, Blue Rock Springs Park, Lake Berryessa, and Lake Tahoe).

Hines learned from Allen Dorfman that Kane’s favorite watering hole in Vegas was the Spring Inn on Spring Mountain Road, a short distance from Kane’s apartment. In a police report filed one month after Lull’s murder, Tophigh recognized his girlfriend’s abductor at the Spring Inn. As Tophigh was calling the police, the man left.

Shortly afterwards Kane sold his sports car to the Stockton auto dealer John Miles and moved back to Stateline, where he worked as a real estate broker.

Through the next two decades, Hines continued his effort to prove that Kane was the Zodiac Killer. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Hines located and interviewed six witnesses. Using standard police procedure, he showed each of them a photo line up of suspects.

Tom Hannah picked out the photo of Kane and said “I have no doubt that is the man I stopped. It’s his eyes and eyebrows. I could never forget them. I’ll stake my life on the fact that he’s the guy.” 

Roy Tophigh picked out the photo of Kane but said: “No, it’s been too long.” Hines asked him if any of the photos looked familiar. With his finger on the Kane photo, he said, “This guy, but I don’t know where. I can’t say he is the one that night.” Hines asked if he could say he is not the one. Tophigh said no. 

Linda Bowman, the eldest sister of Darlene Ferrin, reached for the photo of Kane and sobbed almost uncontrollably, saying repeatedly “Thank God, it’s over.” She repeatedly thanked Hines for solving the mystery. She recalled that when Kane smiled, only part of the his face moved, “like it was frozen.” Hines believed that this condition was consistent with someone who had a brain injury, such as what Kane suffered in 1962. 

Darlene’s other sister, Pam Huckabee, also picked out the photo of Kane. 

The two sisters remembered him as the man who kept pestering Darlene at the diner where she worked as a waitress and when she was at home. He was about twenty years older than her, conservatively dressed, and wore horn-rimmed glasses. One day he came to the house to attend a party Darlene was having. He looked conspicuous and out of place among her much younger guests, who were dressed in the casual, looser forms of clothing typically worn by hippies in the late sixties. Although Darlene was afraid of him, she remained friendly as a way of diffusing his threat. Her sisters remembered him sitting in his light colored Chevrolet sedan outside the house. On one occasion he stopped by to drop off a package. After Darlene was murdered, family and friends suspected that he was the one who killed her.

Don Foukes was one of the two officers who encountered and spoke to the Zodiac Killer after the Stine murder. (The other officer, Eric Zelms, was killed in the line of duty three months later.) Foukes lingered over the picture of Kane and said: “I’ve seen hundreds of photos since then, and this is the best likeness.” He could not make a positive identification adding that too much time had passed since he saw the Zodiac. Foukes described him as around 35 to 45 years old, 5 foot 9, medium to heavy build, barrel-chested, 180 to 200 pounds.

Kathleen Johns picked out the photo of Larry Kane and said, “It’s him, but I thought he was younger than this.”

All six witnesses picked the photo of Kane, but with varying degrees of certitude. Hannah, Bowen, and Huckabee were the most certain, but Tophigh was so uncertain that it is possible that he saw another man who looked like Kane.

Statements regarding the height and weight of the Zodiac are fairly consistent, but there is wide variation as to his age. Mageau, Hartnell, the three teenagers, and Johns said that he was around 26 to 30 years old. Tophigh said his age was somewhere between 30 and 40. On the other side, Foukes, Bowen and Huckabee remembered a middle-aged man about 35 to 45. Hannah may be added to the latter number, for he was absolutely certain the man he encountered was Kane, who in 1974 was 50 years old.

To resolve the discrepancies, let us assume a criminal partnership of two men, closely resembling one another, but one was approximately twenty years older. 

At Blue Rock Springs Park, surviving victim Mike Mageau said the man who shot him and Darlene Ferrin was 25 to 30 years old. Yet the man who was stalking Darlene was in his forties. 

The man who stabbed Cecelia Shepherd and Bryan Hartnell at Lake Berryessa was a young man, 25 to 30 years old.

The man seen by three teenagers killing Paul Stine was 25 to 30 years old. Yet the man seen by Officers Foukes and Zelms was 35 to 45.

The police report of Kathleen Johns shows that the man who tried to abduct her and her baby was around 30 years old.

Tophigh witnessed a young man who seized his girlfriend and drove off with her, but it was the middle-aged man who transported the dead or knocked out Lull across the state line into California.

Extrapolating from the above incidents, it appears that in the case of Donna Lass, Lawrence Kane was merely a stalker, but someone else, his young companion perhaps, was the kidnapper.

In 1969 and 1970 Robert Linkletter aka the Zodiac Killer was 24 to 25 years old. His connection to Lake Tahoe is indicated by Marie Vigil:

He stays sometimes at Lake Tahoe with his older sister, who is a widow.

The older sister was Dawn Linkletter. Her husband, John Zweyer, died of a gunshot wound to the head on July 15, 1969 near a body of water, a swimming pool in the backyard of their home in Hollywood. 

Robert’s parents had a permanent residence at Lake Tahoe. They owned a condominium in Alpine Meadows in Placer County, California, about 25 miles from the Sierra Club ski lodge. According to the Auburn Journal, Oct. 27, 1966, Art Linkletter was among the first to purchase a unit in the condominium complex adjacent to Alpine Motor Inn along the bank of the Truckee River.

After another sister, Diane Linkletter, fell to her death from a sixth floor window of an apartment building near Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles on October 4, 1969, Robert and his parents retreated to Lake Tahoe. They did not even attend the funeral, which occurred a few days prior to the murder of Paul Stine on October 11.

A Sierra Club connection was also mentioned by Marie Vigil:

[He] belongs to the Sierra Club, which is interested in the misuse of the environment.

As a Sierra Club member, he could stay anytime at the exclusive Clair Tappaan Lodge. Reasons to believe a link existed between the lodge and the Zodiac Killer include the following:

(1) The Zodiac Killer sent a postcard with the words “Sierra Club” and “Lake Tahoe” pasted on it.  

(2) Lawrence Kane used the name of the manager of the lodge, Kent Williams, as an alias.

A third reason emerged during an interview Hines had with Williams’ ex-wife. She said that near the lodge was an intricate arrangement of geometric figures using sticks and stones.

It was discovered in August 1976 by Otto Fredericks, a retired postmaster for the Norden post office. He found it as he was hiking on a trail past the lodge going northeast toward the Donner Ski Ranch. The strange design of the symbol was so intriguing that Fredericks took pictures of it. What he saw was a circle of wood fourteen feet in diameter enclosing a six-foot square of wood. Inside the square was a triangle of three sticks. Inside the triangle were thirteen stones arranged to form a cross.

Stone and wood configuration near Sierra Club lodge

The thirteen stones of the cross corresponds with the thirteen punched holes and the number 13 printed above a cross that appeared on a postcard sent by the Zodiac Killer to Paul Avery one month after the disappearance of Donna Lass. Although originally targeted to be victim 12, she was apparently spared by unknown circumstances. Eventually she became victim 13.

Thirteen hole postcard. Note the cross with the 13 above it.

The discovery made by the ex-postmaster plus the clues on the “Sierra Club” postcard indicated that the remains of Donna Lass were under or near the odd contrivance of wood and stones. Hines contacted the ex-postmaster to find out its precise location, so that he could see it for himself. By the time he got there,  the sticks and stones had apparently been removed. He returned later and, with the help of an employee of the lodge, dug the site up to a depth of four feet. The only thing they found was a damaged pair of sunglasses of the type worn by young women in the late 1960s. 

Whether or not the site ever contained the remains of Donna Lass cannot be proven. However, what can be demonstrated is that the site is evidence that the Sierra Club lodge harbored devotees of the Rosicrucian cult. The design of the wood and stone configuration accords with the Rosicrucian symbol – a cross entwined with a rose inside a triangle surrounded by a circle.

The Rosicrucian cult revived and practiced the mysteries of the Ancient Egyptians and believed in their concepts of the afterlife. In the tombs of the pharaohs were the bodies of servants, slain next to their master in order to serve them in the afterlife. [10]

The Zodiac Killer believed in an afterlife where people he killed would become his servants. In a message filled with misspellings, he wrote: “When I die I will be reborn in paradice and the I have killed will become my slaves I will not give you my name because you will try to sloi down or atop my collectiog of slaves for my afterlife.”

A discussion of the Rosicrucian connection to the Zodiac Killer is in a letter written by Dave Peterson to Harry Martin, publisher of the Napa Sentinel on October 25, 1992. He wrote:

When the symbols were described to me by Hines (I had been covering and investigating the Zodiac case since 1969 as a Vallejo Times-Herald police reporter now retired) I was able to identify them as symbols used by the Rosicrucian Society and pictured in their literature. The triangle and cross represented the Deity, although the society is not a religious organization. It calls itself an international mystic association and teaches astrology.

The use of Rosicrucian symbols by Zodiac confirmed my earlier discovery that Zodiac was a disciple of Aleister Crowley. He was a renegade Rosicrucian who led a breakaway cult called the Golden Dawn and was a notorious black magician.

Zodiac’s “killing hood” at Lake Berryessa displayed a crossed circle similar to Crowley’s ritual hooded robe featuring another crossed circle, the Rosy Cross of Roscrucianism.

Also, Zodiac had imitated Crowley’s writings in his “Book of the Law” and the “Book of Lies (how appropriate)” for his murderous vow to “kill slaves for his afterlife.” Crowley wrote, in part:

“… Therefore the Kings of the earth shall be Kings forever … the slaves shall serve … let my servants be few and secret … Let the evil ones be cast away .. I am the Magician and the Exorcist … My number is 11 (the number of magic and the date of the Stine murder in San Francisco) … Stamp down the wretched and the weak … Death for the dogs … I am unique and a conqueror … I am not of the slaves that perish …

Crowley a dope addict, urged his followers to torture and sacrifice the “slaves.” He was known in his time (1875-1947) as the “wickedest man alive.” His astrological sign was Libra, the same sign during the Lake Berryessa and Stine slayings. And he was an avowed reincartionist. [11]

Aleister Crowley was the founder of the Ordo Temple Oriental (OTO). According to author Maury Terry in his 1987 book The Ultimate Evil, the OTO was linked to the Process Church of the Final Judgment. Both organizations, said Terry, were part of a vast conspiracy of devil worshippers practicing ritual murders. Members of the Process Church were influential in developing and shaping the occult tendencies of Charles Manson and his Family.

A major concern for Charles Manson was the misuse of the natural environment. He propounded an ecological belief system called ATWA (an acronym for Air, Trees, Water, Animals and All The Way Alive). ATWA names the interrelated life-support systems of the Earth. His followers Lynette Fromme and Sandra Good used the term to name the forces of life which they believe hold the balance of the Earth. 

Fromme and Good in 1975 (just prior to Fromme’s attempted assassination of President Ford) made a proclamation that “The International People’s Court of Retribution” was going after rich capitalists who were polluting the planet, cutting down the redwoods, manufacturing aerosol sprays, and so on. They compiled a list of offenders and sent them threatening letters, saying they will suffer violent deaths.

A similar kind of letter appeared five years earlier, on October 19, 1970, when a team of killers invaded Dr. Ohta’s home in Santa Cruz and killed him, his secretary, his wife, and two sons. The bodies were then dumped into the swimming pool. According to Marie Vigil, the Ohta murders were the work of the Zodiac Killer. A typewritten note left on the windshield of Dr. Ohta’s car read: 

Halloween, 1970

Today World War 3 will begin as brought to you by the People of the Free Universe. From this day forward anyone and-or company who misuses the natural environment or destroys same will suffer the penalty of death by the People of The Free Universe. I and my comrades from this day forth will fight until death or freedom, against anything or anyone who does not support natural life on this planet. Materialism must die or mankind will.

 Knight of Wands, Knight of Cups, Night of Pentacles, Knight of Swords

In a Tarot deck of cards the four knights are face cards among fourteen cards of a suit. There are four suits in a deck: wands, cups, pentacles, and swords. The third knight in the above signature line lacked the initial k to form the ominous word “night.” The word “pentacles” refers to a five sided symbol used in witchcraft to summon the devil or his servants from the nether region.

Tarot was an occult system of divination by cards that came from gypsy fortune tellers. The hippie community picked up on the practice of Tarot, and from them it spread to cults embracing satanism, demonology, witchcraft, and the so-called black and gray magics. Tarot was in use among members of the Manson family. 

Aleister Crowley, who devised the Thoth variation of Tarot along with Lady Frieda Harris, said: “The origin of this pack of cards is very obscure. Some authorities seek to put it back as far as the ancient Egyptian Mysteries; others try to bring it forward as late as the fifteenth or even the sixteenth century … [but] The only theory of ultimate interest about the Tarot is that it is an admirable symbolic picture of the Universe, based on the data of the Holy Qabalah.”

Renaming a Tarot card “Night of Pentacles” is consistent with the Zodiac Killer’s fondness for words with devilish connotations. Consider the following:

1. Halloween. The founder of the Church of Satan in San Francisco, Anton LeVey, said that the two major Satanic holidays are Walpurgisnacht (May 1) and Halloween.

2. Mt. Diablo. This was the threatened location for a bomb to destroy a school bus full of children. 

3. Exorcist. A letter written on January 27, 1974 said that the Exorcist was his favorite movie. 

4. Pupfish. The only known habitat of an endangered species of pupfish, the Cyprinodon diabolis, is in Devil’s Hole, a water-filled cavern in the Nevada section of Death Valley National Monument.

5. Beelzebub. A five million dollar ransom note found in the home of one of the Chowchilla kidnappers had the markings of the Zodiac Killer. The note was signed, “We are Beelsabub,” a misspelling of the biblical name for the devil.

Halloween not only appears on the note found at the Ohta house, it also has significance in the murder of Cheri Jo Bates. Halloween implications can be discerned through a careful reading of an article that appeared in the January 1969 issue of Inside Detective. Another informative article is Wikipedia’s “The Murder of Cheri Jo Bates.” 

A groundskeeper found her body near the library of Riverside City College on October 31 at 6:30 in the morning. She was face down, fully clothed, savagely stabbed and hacked, on a dirt driveway between two weather-beaten, frame houses, unoccupied (used by the library for extra storage) off Terracina Street. Her clothing was stained with blood. A trail of dried blood led from the body to the street. 

The ground surrounding her body was churned up. According to one police detective, “The driveway adjacent to 3680 Terracina Street was so churned up, it looked like a tractor had been on the ground. The girl, who was very athletic, put up a terrific fight.”

Ten feet from the body was a Timex wristwatch with a broken band. It was a type sold only at military bases. The footprint of a military boot was nearby. The boot size was between eight and ten inches.

Bates’s car, a lime green Volkswagen Beatle, was in front of the library, about 75 yards from the entrance to the dirt driveway. The ignition wiring to the engine had been deliberately pulled loose, disabling the vehicle. Both the driver’s side and passenger windows were partly rolled down. There were two library books and a notebook on the front seat of the car. Several smeared, greasy palm prints and fingerprints were found upon the vehicle. These prints did not belong to Bates or any of her friends or relatives. They probably belonged to the murderer.

A coroner examined the body at 9:00 am. Numerous fragments of skin and brown hair were beneath the fingernails of her right hand. Bates evidently scratched her assailant’s arms, face, and head and tore off his wristwatch in a desperate effort to defend herself.

An autopsy revealed she had eaten roast beef for dinner and that it had been digested for two to four hours before she died. There was no evidence of sexual assault. The coroner placed the time of death about eight to twelve hours before his initial examination, or between 9:00 pm and 1:00 am. 

A woman who lived in an apartment a few doors from the dirt driveway told police she heard “screaming and yelling” at about 10:30, and “then I heard a muted scream and then a loud sound like an old car being started up – this was about two minutes after I heard the first scream.”

Two women acquainted with Bates were interviewed for a television news broadcast. They said that Bates told them that she was going to meet a boyfriend at the library. The police located the boyfriend and found that he was in San Francisco at the time of the murder. 

Police interviewed students who were at the library that Sunday. They said that Bates arrived at the library entrance at 5:40 pm and waited twenty minutes until the library opened. She went inside and checked out two books. Two women who knew her said she was not in the library when they came in between 6:30 and 6:40. 

Two weeks later, the police staged a reenactment of everyone who was at the library that Sunday evening with their cars parked in the exact spots they had them in. Seventy-five students were involved. All cars were accounted for, except one, a 1947 to 1952 Studebaker with light colored, oxidized paint. It was seen parked south of Terracina Street at 7:00 pm.

My theory to explain the facts assumes that Cheri Jo Bates met her boyfriend at the library – not the one in San Francisco, but another one. They went out on a date together, taking his car. Perhaps they went to a movie together. Perhaps they went to a restaurant afterwards, where she had roast beef. 

Between 10:00 and 10:30 the boyfriend drove her back to the library to leave her off where her car was parked. When her car would not start, they might have attempted to find out what was wrong. Perhaps at this point, they were surprised by someone and had to flee. They left the car, leaving the windows partly rolled down and the key in the ignition.

The boyfriend managed to escape on foot, but the man, or men, pursuing Bates caught up with her on the dirt driveway. She screamed as her attacker tried to silence her. In the ensuing struggle, she scratched her assailant in several places. Two minutes later there was a muted scream as she was being forced into the old Studebaker. She was taken elsewhere to be killed. If she had been killed on the driveway, there should have been a pool of blood around and under her body, but the only blood observed was the trail of blood leading from the street to the body. 

Given the temporal proximity of the devil’s holiday, she was probably kept alive until after midnight. [12] After she was killed, her body was transported back to the dirt driveway off Terracina Street. In the process of dumping the body, some droppings of blood fell from her saturated clothes. 

Because of the watch and footprint, police suspected that a serviceman was her killer. They questioned 154 airmen stationed at nearby March Air Force Base, who attended classes at the college but with no results.

Another possibility is that an ex-serviceman wearing military boots and a watch bought at a military base was the killer. 

Linkletter had enlisted in the Air Force in 1962 and was discharged in 1965. In the fall of 1966, he was working on bottle cap designs in an office located in Costa Mesa, a distance of about 45 miles from Riverside. The extent of the distance seems out of the way for someone to find a victim for Halloween. Yet during his service in the Air Force, he might have formed bonds and continuing relationships with like-minded airmen who still had time left on their enlistment. Such individuals might have become aware of Bates while taking courses at the college and steered Linkletter in her direction.

Given how ferociously Bates fought back, it probably took two men, at least, to subdue her and keep her from screaming. Perhaps Ross Sullivan, wearing army boots and jacket, was on hand to give assistance. 

According to Marie Vigil, Robert Linkletter aka the Zodiac Killer had been dropping bodies since 1966. Assisting him in the Ohta murders was lookalike decoy John Frazier. Evidence emerging from the other cases suggests that Sullivan and Kane were, like Frazier, also lookalike decoys. These secondary Zodiacs had the responsibility of tailing targeted victims to learn their schedules and habits. They exhibited bizarre and menacing behaviors to attract suspicion as a diversionary tactic. During the commission of a crime, they stood as lookouts to alert the killer of the approach of any interference. Afterwards they served as decoys to confuse eyewitnesses and police with their horn-rimmed glasses and lookalike appearances.  

 Postulating the existence of doubles seems to be the only way of resolving the discrepancies that continues to frustrate those seeking a solution to the mystery of the Zodiac Killer. If indeed he had doubles, then he was not just a lone killer, but rather he was a well-connected agent within the military, defense industry, and intelligence complex, otherwise known as the national security establishment.

Despite prodigious efforts, Harvey Hines failed to overcome law enforcement indifference to his claim that Lawrence Kane was the Zodiac Killer. In 1978 he resigned from the Sonora Police Department. He moved to Idaho and worked for a year as a sheriff’s deputy. Then he moved to Oregon, where he became a detective for a major private detective agency. Afterwards, he became a police officer for the City of Escalon near San Jose. When he retired, he moved his family to an eighty acre farm in rural Texas. He died on September 15, 2009 in Luling, Texas at the age of 76.

After living in Las Vegas from 1971 to 1974, Lawrence Kane returned to the Lake Tahoe area near Stateline. He was living in Zephyr Cove, Nevada when he died on May 20, 2010 at the age of 86.  

References and Notes:

  1. William Pepper is the author of a book on the assassination of Martin Luther King called Orders to Kill.
  2. The two-part article “On the Trail of the Zodiac Killer,” written by Ryder MacDowell, was published on May 8 and 15, 1994 for The San Francisco Examiner.
  3. San Francisco Examiner, September 26, 1970 provides the date when the Lass family got the message that there was an “emergency” regarding Donna.
  4. There is a discrepancy in Goettsche’s account that appears in Robert Graysmith’s book The Zodiac Unmasked. She said that Lass moved into her apartment one day before her disappearance. This implies that Lass was using the Lowes’ telephone on September 3. Goettsche’s account assumes that Lass had not yet set up a phone line in her newly rented apartment. On the other hand, Mary Pilker told newspapers that she knew where her sister’s apartment was, because she had visited Donna two weeks before Labor Day. Thus Lass was using her apartment phone when she spoke to her friend. If that was the case, then Goettsche merely had to call the apartment number to locate Donna rather than fruitlessly wandering around, hoping to find her. Of course, if she had tried to call, she might have realized that something was wrong and perhaps notified the hotel manager or the police.
  5. Lass’s church attendance is in The Sacramento Bee, September 24, 1970.
  6.  “It Works: The Famous Little Red Book that Makes Your Dreams Come True,” a 57 page pamphlet published in 1926 by RHJ recommended three simple steps: 1. Write down your dreams in a list; 2. Read your list morning, noon, and night; 3. Tell no one about it.
  7. MacDowell’s article changed the names of Hylander and Kapanos to Mary Hammond and Nancy Kantor
  8. Psycho-Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz, published in 1960 by Simon & Schuster, is a self-help book in which the reader will achieve a positive outcome through visualization of that positive outcome.
  9. JDean wrote:

“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 Robbons kids were the oldest, their statements were the 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 Stein’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 drivers door. Stein 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. Whe he was finished, Z calmly walked to Cherry St. and walked North.

Not many know this, but Lindsey (being 16. feeling immortal, and beleiving the susp 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, Palesetti, approached Lindsey and tried to extract what was happening. The other officer went to the cab and found the bloody victim. While Palesetti asking questions, Lindsey was trying to explain that the suspect was in sight on Cherry St. By the time Palesetti 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.

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

But, I want to tell you how the sketches came about. Within 48 hrs of the murder, Tochi 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 susp. 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 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.”

10. The Rosicrucian headquarters in San Jose, California has a museum that stores and displays the largest collection of Ancient Egyptian artifacts in the Western United States.

11. Robert Linkletter was also a Libra, born on October 15, 1944. 

12. Adrenalin in the blood, when it oxidizes, produces a chemical that has narcotic effects. Aldous Huxley in his 1954 book Doors of Preception wrote: “Adrenochrome, which is a product of the decomposition of adrenalin, can produce many of the symptoms observed in mescalin intoxication.”