Marie Vigil Background

Peter Heitmann writes:

Here is some follow up information regarding the mysterious Marie P. Vigil from Woodland Hills, CA.

It turns out that Marie Paula Vigil (nee Belanger) was born in Canada and lived in Quebec and Montreal, which is why her letters have comments about events in Canada, including the MLK Assassination, RFK and Zodiac.

Marie married Juan G. Vigil , who was born in New Mexico, but was actually a British citizen at this time when Juan applied for naturalization for Marie in Los Angeles County (link). Curiously, at the same time, the LA Court grants her citizenship with an attached document that states “this Court is satisfied with the fact that the petitioner has purposely misspelled her name on the application! Her actual birth name is Marie “Paule” Belanger, not Marie “Paula Belanger”. If you have membership at, you can see this 1949 petition for Naturalization here, and then flip back a couple pages on this link and you will see the addendum about here name being incorrectly spelled :

Smells like tradecraft going on here, and there may be an interesting reason why American born Juan G. Vigil current citizenship is British, as just a few years later in 1954 he is completing his radical design for a delta swept winged collapsable spacecraft with vertical takeoff capability. It is a design that he gains a Patent for in 1960, and then he immediately assigns this Patent to the Lockheed Corporation in Burbank California where he is working from 1958 through at least 1966.:

Official Gazette of the United States Patent Office
United States. Patent Office – 1962
3,065,937 COLLAPSIBLE SPACECRAFT Juan G. Vigil, Woodland Hills, Calif., assignor to Lockheed Aircraft Corporation, Burbank, Calif. Filed Apr. 18, 1960, Ser. No. 22,770 10 Claims. (CI. 244—46) 3,065,935 VERTICAL TAKE-OFF Delta-Shape fore wings …

Here is an image of the spacecraft design:

And then there is the second “Kook” letter from the RFK files, where I believe she leaves a clue as to why she is so involved with the lives of the Linkletter family. It turns out that Art Linkletter was a major investor for a large tract of land that became a Music Hall and Theatre for events and concerts in Woodland Hills, and it has quite a storied history.

The Valley Music Theater was a theater-in-the-round performing arts hall located in Woodland Hills, Los Angeles, California. It was just south of the Ventura Freeway at 20600 Ventura Boulevard, in the Chalk Hills of the western San Fernando Valley. The modernist style 2865-seat facility opened in 1964, and was demolished in 2007 by a developer for a condominium project.

According to Wikipedia, The Valley Music Theater was built in 1963, as a concrete shell structure, by pouring a concrete ‘dome’ over a rounded hill of soil, then excavating the soil away. The theater project was backed by entertainers Bob Hope and Art Linkletter, along with Hollywood’s Cy Warner.

The 2865-seat facility opened July 6, 1964 with The Sound of Music. The first year saw the theater mount 18 musicals, three comedies, a drama, as well as concerts with a combined audience of over 600,000.

Among the performers who appeared at the Valley Music Theater were Sammy Davis Jr., Johnny Carson, Don Rickles, Woody Allen, Ray Charles, Art Linkletter, Robert Goulet, Mitzi Gaynor, Eddie Fisher, Ike & Tina Turner, Peter, Paul & Mary, B.B. King, Lou Rawls, Three Dog Night, Jim Croce, and the Spiral Starecase. The Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, and The Doors appeared there together on February 22, 1967, and the theatre was featured as a music venue in the 1967 film, The Cool Ones.

One can clearly see Robert Linkletter and pals becoming an active part of the scene when he was in town. Additionally, 1967 saw his sister Dianne Linkletter appear in the foreshadowing movie with Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda, called “The Trip”. Here is a 6 minute clip to give you the feel of the events that the Linkletter’s lives were intersecting with during this intense and dangerous drug-fueled period of revolutionary music and movies that were quickly reshaping the collective consciousness of Hollywood in particular and Southern California in general.

By late 1967 the theater began to fall on hard times, and a controversy erupted with the City Council as Art Linkletter and a Councilman were accused of attempting to bribe the city into purchasing the Theatre. Eventually, Attorney General Evelle Younger said there is nothing to see here, and charges were eventually dismissed.

Perhaps this is when Mrs.Virgil become aware and seemingly obsessed of the business and social dealings of Art Linkletter and Robert Linkletter. It also perhaps explains how and why Marie Vigil is seeing, overhearing, and then later reporting very specific conversations of murder and mayhem she believes Robert Linkletter and his associates are involved in.

There is more to this story that will follow…..

Vigil’s Second Letter on RFK Assassination

Peter Heitmann writes:

Here is Mrs. Vigils second letter to LAPD in June 1968. She leaves a lot of clues that I doubt were followed up on by the Police Detectives. Also, in her other letter, she refers to a Jerry or Gerald following her around regarding Mexico. Could be Gerald (Jerry Patrick Hemmings), whose gang was in LA during this time period:

Re-typed below for readability

Woodland Hills June 19 1968

Chief Thomas Reddin,

L.A. Police Dept.

Dear Chief Reddin,

Now that some nice Police Officers are handling the investigation of the Sirhan case, I can admit the possibility of having seen him briefly a few days before his arrest for murder. It was at the Food Fair Market corner of Ventura and Winnetka. As I was waiting in line for checking out I felt someone very near, almost breathing down my neck. I turned around facing a very dark young man who was backing away. He then went to the liquor Dept. Although I had empty bottles to return, I decided not to. (This dark young man reminded me of Keno, the companion of Covelli who is very dead now. Keno, a horse trainer, Sirhan, a stable boy.) As I came out of the market, I saw a young woman of about 22, 5’7 coming out of the liquor Dept. She had on a white dress with purple polka dots and went to a pink car parked near the door of the liquor Dept. I remember mostly her long shapely legs as if she were a dancer. Maybe the girl who turned herself in knew her. Next to the pink car was a gardener’s truck with the driver hiding behind a newspaper. I had seen that particular truck before parked there and thought he was checking on my shopping habits at this market near my home. The truck’s license No. is N 25130. From the back, the driver seemed to be about 40, brown hair and not wearing the clothes gardeners usually wear.

A bullet hole behind the car reminds me of another dead man named Drankhan. Maybe he knew of the planned assassinations of leaders and wanted no part in them. Would this have been the cause of his death? Was he not possibly involved in the electronic rigging of the Friar’s Club, the reason why Ida Devine, (the bag woman from Life Magazine of September ’67) was warning Art at the Valley Music Theatre “so Bill won’t be caught, Bill cannot be there when they come.”

I saw on T.V. Jerry May being interviewed and I must say he is not the mysterious Jerry who did worked for Art Linkletter and possibly the D.A. whole James May was still in jail.

Another influx of Japanese, Linkleter imports maybe? Dentsu Advertising Ltd. of Japan opening L.A. offices,

Respectfully yours,


Mrs. J.G. Vigil

Marie Vigil Letter on RFK Assassination

A reader of this blog, Peter Heitmann, made an important discovery and has passed it along to me. He found a letter from “Mrs. Vigil” of Woodland Hills to the LAPD after the Robert Kennedy Assassination in June 1968. It was put in the “Kook” files and never saw the light of day. The letter is in the Mary Ferrell Archives:

The letter is re-typed below for readability:

Woodland Hills June 10 1968

Chief Thomas Reddin,

L.A. Police Dept.

Dear Chief Reddin,

What happened last week is a crime against humanity. At first I found comfort in the thought that at least I didn’t think anyone I had known had anything to do with it. Then, an old name, W.E.B. Du Bois Club came up. Was this Club founded in memory of a hated mother, as a back-up of Streetcar Named Desire? A Communist Front turning out killers? A fitting way for the son of Blanche Dubois to remember his mother by. Here is the connection between Sirhan and the man known to-day as Linkletter, the Dubois Club. Was he out of town or maybe out of the country and returning after the 6th, the reason for the deadline?

I found interesting and disconcerting the facts that James Ray was in Montreal after his escape from jail last year and in Toronto recently. Linkletter took many trips there within the past five years. Of interest also is the visit to Montreal by Edie Adams soon after the death of Dr. King. Could this glamorous, pregnant woman (I just read she is expecting in August) been carrying the pay-off money?

Jerry or Gerald who did follow me around for at least six months prior to Jame’s escape from jail bears a resemblance only with the old pictures of James Ray. They are about ten years apart in ages. I am inclined to believe that the picture taken in Mexico with dark glasses was the picture of Jerry. Two different men using the same identity.

What would be interesting to find out is if anyone connected with the Export-Import Field the world around has met with accidents within the past year. Now that Jack Trainer, a major exporter of tallow to Japan died in a helicopter crash, will Linkletter be the major exporter of tallow? When he sets up one of his men into business, he makes sure he is to be an instant success.

Does Linkletter own the Harbor? What was Keith Smith bragging about two years ago? Why was an Oriental handed out a contract without competitive bidding there? Why was another Oriental handed out another contract, (Library) again without competitive bidding? Is our new Coroner an Oriental? Also some special investigators, all men in key positions? Is this the way Communists operate? When this country is down, Linkletter will be standing on top of it. It seems he has upgraded himself through killing people. At best, he lies daily on television.

I suggest someone look through those old files of unsolved murder victims starting with Elizabeth Short who died with the initials of Blanche Dubois carved upon her. That’s where we will find the man who can to-day have our leaders killed and destroy our country.

Respectfully yours,

Mrs. Vigil

It appears that the Linkletter she was referring to was not Robert, but his father Art. The references to the W.E.B. Club, Blanche Dubois, and Elizabeth Short (the Black Dahlia) are mystifying to me. Perhaps readers of this blog can help me follow up on these leads.

Peter Heitmann writes regarding a Marie Vigil relative stationed in Pueblo, Colorado where serial killer Edmund Kemper went to after his murders:

Also, I believe her husband or relative was an Air Force Chaplain stationed in Pueblo, Colorado, which is where another Santa Cruz serial killer, Edmund Kemper, drove to after he killed his mother in Santa Cruz. Supposedly, he then drove to Pueblo Colorado and immediately went to a pay phone and called the Santa Cruz Police to tell them he is the murderer they are looking for and that he is at a payphone in Pueblo, Colorado, where he was promptly arrested and driven back to Santa Cruz by none other than the DA in Santa Cruz, Peter Chang!! When Kemper saw him in Colorado, he said hi Peter, because he knew DA Chang and the entire Santa Cruz PD VERY WELL…

Here is a video of Kemper in court, handing a letter to reporters while handcuffed that was sent to him by CREEP, Nixon’s committee to reelect the President. Watch the entire 2:00 video to the end, including curious comments from his court appointed attorney, the same attorney that “defended” the alleged killer of Dr. Ohta and his family:

Kemper was certainly part of a mind controlled operation that proved successful and useful …. and Mrs. Vigil from Woodland Hills is a interesting player in these crimes… could she be related to Frank Vigil, of CIA Contra Crack/Cocaine fame in the late 70’s and early 80’s in Los Angeles?

Too bad the investigators thought she was a “Kook”.. or did they know who she was already, and had Manny Pena bury her letters in the Kook File of the RFK investigation.

The CIA and the Texas School Book Depository

Claude Capehart, CIA hitman and leader of the Chowchilla kidnap team that included the Zodiac Killer, was inside the Texas School Book Depository (TSBD) on November 22, 1963. He was probably the blonde-haired man armed with with a rifle in the fifth floor window closest to the east side of the building. Next to him was another man wearing a brown suitcoat.

Also inside the building was Lee Harvey Oswald, whom Capehart said was not a shooter. According to former CIA accountant James B. Wilcott, testifying before the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA), Oswald “was a regular employee, receiving a full-time salary for agent work for doing CIA operational work.” A memorandum by Warren Commission general counsel J. Lee Rankin said that Oswald’s CIA payroll number was 110669. In the last six weeks of his life, Oswald worked as an order filler for the Texas School Book Depository (TSBD), where his immediate supervisor, William Shelley, was also an operative for the CIA.

With three CIA agents on the same premises, a careful scrutiny of the company they worked for is needed to understand what happened the day President Kennedy was killed.

To read the full article, go to the website below:

The Zodiac Killer and the CIA

An agent for the Central Intelligence Agency moved into a dairy and cotton farming community of 4500 people situated within the San Joaquin Valley of California. Shortly after his arrival, the town became the epicenter of a shocking event that almost wrecked the Democratic Party’s effort to win back the White House. [1]

Democratic prospects for the 1976 election brightened as the approval rating of incumbent President Gerald Ford sank to a new low of 37% (according to a Gallup poll), [2] following revelations of scandalous illegalities committed by the CIA during his and Richard Nixon’s administrations. According to a New York Times article by Seymour Hersh that came out on December 22, 1974, a special unit of the CIA had collected files on 10,000 American citizens in order to stem antiwar marches and rallies. This was a violation of the agency’s statutory charter restricting its activities to foreign intelligence. [3] In response to the article, the president created a commission to investigate the CIA, headed by Vice President Nelson Rockefeller. Believing that the Rockefeller Commission was essentially a whitewash, Democratic Senators Hubert Humphrey and Frank Church called for an independent congressional investigation. On January 27, 1975, the Senate voted 82 to 4 to establish a committee to investigate not only the CIA, but also the FBI, the Defense Intelligence Agency, and the National Security Agency. Senator Frank Church was the chairman, Senator John Tower was vice-chairman, and Senator Walter Mondale was one of the members on the panel.

One month later, Daniel Schorr reported on CBS News that the CIA was involved in assassination plots against foreign leaders. This disclosure became an additional matter to be investigated by the Church Committee. President Ford feared that further disclosures could result in the crippling of the CIA. William Colby, Director of the CIA, said on May 12, 1975, “These last two months have placed American intelligence in danger. The almost hysterical excitement surrounding any news story mentioning CIA or referring even to a perfectly legitimate activity of CIA has raised a question whether secret intelligence operations can be conducted by the United States.”

Democratic candidates critical of the CIA such as Hubert Humphrey, Jimmy Carter, Frank Church, and Fred Harris were gaining in popularity, while prospects for the Republicans were looking dim. As the president struggled to improve his public image, his expected opponent in the primaries, ex-Governor Ronald Reagan, was having a difficult time persuading voters that he had a firm grasp of the complexities of national and world affairs. Although he could be a rousing speaker, an October 30, 1975 column by Evans and Novak said that “a succession of stunningly inept performances by Reagan” had revealed that he was “still unprepared for the demanding change from banquet speaker to presidential candidate.” For example, at a press conference in New Haven, Connecticut, Reagan “was uncharacteristically at a loss for words when asked this predicable question: How could he support federal aid to Lockheed Aircraft but not New York City?” More stumbles occurred during a speech for the World Affairs Council in Philadelphia, where Reagan “flubbed repeatedly and eight times referred to the Third World as ‘the Third World War’ (describing his error as ‘Freudian’).”

If the Democrats win the White House, the CIA had much to lose. It might be severely restricted in its activities, or it might even face total abolition, as called for by former Senator Fred Harris. What was needed to revive the power and prestige of the CIA as a bulwark of national security was a dramatic and headline-grabbing event to change the course of national politics.

By the spring of 1976, Jimmy Carter had garnered enough delegates during the primaries to win the nomination. On Thursday morning, July 15, 9:00 am EST, Carter told assembled reporters at the Democratic National Convention in New York City that he was accepting his party’s nomination and that he had chosen Senator Walter Mondale, a former member of the Church Committee, to be his running mate.

Nine and a half hours later, near the town of Chowchilla, a team of kidnappers wearing nylon stockings over their heads stopped a school bus travelling on a country road. They herded the driver and twenty-six children off the bus and into two vans, one green and one white. There were at least four men, according to ten-year-old Jeffrey Brown and his eight-year-old sister Jennifer. One man sat in the driver’s seat of the white van while two other men stood on each side of the rear double-entry doors. After filling the white van with captives, they herded the remaining captives into the green van driven by a fourth man. The captives were transported to a rock quarry in Alameda County, where they were put inside a buried moving van. Although the abductors were careful in securing the access hole with a pair of one-hundred-pound truck batteries and an enormous mound of dirt, they did not count on the ingenuity and industry of the driver and children in finding a way to escape. Once they got out, they gave law enforcement authorities specific details on the physical appearance of their abductors.

A man named “Jerry” was 5 foot 7, 23 to 27 years old, very thin, collar length brown hair, light complexion, moustache, goatee, hairy mole on the right side of his chin. He wore white gloves, a white T-shirt, blue corduroy pants, cowboy boots, and silver watch. A blue-green tattoo was on his right wrist. An all-points bulletin issued by law enforcement authorities on July 18 identified this man as Jerry McCune.

Jeffrey Brown got a good look at the man who took over the driver’s seat of the bus and drove it to a slough by the side of the road, where the two vans waited to load the captives. The driver of the bus, Jeffrey said, “had a straw dress hat on and black thick-framed glasses. He had a round chin and looked kind of skinny, scrawny. He had black hair. He had sideburns, a one-inch scar on his right cheek, and a chipped front tooth.” Other witnesses said he was about 5 foot 6 and between 28 to 45 years old. He wore white gloves, a blue-checkered shirt, brown pants, and blue tennis shoes. Underneath his shirt was a pillow to give him an obese appearance. Using information given by Jeffrey, a deputy in the Alameda Sheriff’s Department drew the composite sketch below, released on July 19. It shows resemblance to the composite sketch of the Zodiac Killer on the right.

Zodiac Chowchilla                                Zodiac

Revelation of the existence of evidence that the Zodiac Killer was involved came from television newscaster Stan Bohrman, who announced on the 6:00 news that a ransom letter found by police bore the markings of the Zodiac Killer. As discussed in the article “Who was the Zodiac Killer?”, a Woodland Hills woman identified Robert Linkletter, son of Hollywood entertainer Art Linkletter, as the Zodiac Killer.

Leading the abduction team was a big man, 6 foot 1 or 2, about 50 years old, 220 pounds. According to Jeffrey Brown, he was “tall, kind of blocky. He was broad-shouldered, eyes far apart and baggy. The guy looked like he was real solid, and he had yellow pimples on his face. His chin was kind of square. He had light brown hair. He had kind of a pug nose that’s wide – sort of flattened out as though broken. He had a short gun. It looked like a sawed-off shotgun.” He wore white gloves, a tan short-sleeve shirt, light tan corduroy pants, light brown belt with horsehead buckle, and cowboy boots. Grayish brown hair and moustache showed through the nylon. On his right arm was the tattoo of a green wreath with the initials “N.O.W.” in the center. Investigators believed that he was the “mastermind” behind the kidnapping. [4] Using information given by Jeffrey Brown, [5] a deputy in the Alameda Sheriff’s Department drew the sketch below, which was released on July 19:

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Three days after releasing the sketches, Alameda authorities issued an all-points bulletin for the arrest of three men: Richard Schoenfeld, his brother James, and Fred Newhall Woods. That same day, District Attorney Lowell Jensen repudiated reports of additional kidnappers. He said, “Anybody who fixes the number of suspects at more than the three mentioned is dealing in pure speculation.”

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From left to right, Richard Schoenfeld, his brother James, and Fred Newhall Woods

Strangely enough, none of the suspects mentioned had gray hair, glasses, tattoos, scar on right cheek, chipped tooth, hairy mole, or went by the name of “Jerry.” Neither were they as short as 5 foot 6 or 7, nor were they older than 25. 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.” Mae Brussell telephoned officials in Madera and Alameda Counties trying to get an explanation, but they all gave her the run-around. Whatever part these men played in the Chowchilla plot, if any, they were obviously not the ones seen by the bus driver and the twenty-six children.

Pushing the legal machinery toward a conviction of the patsies was State Attorney General Evelle Younger. Prior to becoming the attorney general, he was the district attorney of Los Angeles County. A week after the assassination of Senator Robert F. Kennedy, Younger presided at a press conference where Deputy Police Chief Robert Houghton announced the formation of a special task force, Special Unit Senator, to investigate the case. In charge of the unit’s day-to-day responsibilities was Lieutenant Manuel Pena, a man who had close ties to the CIA. His subordinate, Sgt. Hank Hernandez, was a central figure in the CIA’s “Unified Police Command” in Latin America, interrogating opponents of brutal regimes. Routinely suppressed by Pena and Hernandez was any evidence of a second gunman shooting the senator from behind. According to Lisa Pease, CIA contractor Robert Maheu organized the assassination plot. [6]

 Cooperating with Younger on the Chowchilla case was Lowell Jensen, District Attorney for Alameda County. Jensen’s county had jurisdiction over the case, because that was where the victims were held captive. Madera County, where the victims were kidnapped, also had jurisdiction. The district attorney for that county was, until recently, James Hanhart, who had occupied the office since 1966. Three months earlier, he made a surprise announcement to the Board of Supervisors that he was resigning and going into private law practice. He left the office on May 31, leaving a deputy district attorney to take over as substitute until county supervisors could find a replacement. They had twenty-six applicants to consider. [7]

Younger contacted the Madera supervisors and urged them to hire David Minier, a private attorney with a “clean bill of health.” He was the district attorney for Santa Barbara County from 1969 to 1975, where he acquired the reputation of being a tough prosecutor, advocating maximum charges and maximum sentences, especially for drug offenders. Younger’s glowing recommendation persuaded the supervisors to hire the Santa Barbara lawyer. His appointment was reported in the Los Angeles Times on July 21, six days after the kidnapping.

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David Minier

Suspicious of the circumstances leading to the appointment, a Madera grand jury began an investigation in December of 1977. They found out that the attorney general had withheld from the supervisors information regarding Minier’s fraudulent land deals. He also failed to disclose Minier’s dealings with two convicted drug dealers. Thames Gundy, a 20-year-old college student, tried to sell LSD to an undercover agent in a Studio City motel on March 10, 1970. In his possession were 40,000 tablets of LSD, worth $250,000. Also arrested that same night was Thames’ girlfriend, Leah Wheeler, at the couple’s home in Goleta, a suburb of Santa Barbara. Inside their home was 1000 LSD tablets, plus heroin and marijuana. Although it was customary for Minier to call for the harshest of penalties, in this particular case, he went out of his way to see to it that the couple got very lenient treatment. He interceded on Gundy’s behalf with Los Angeles authorities,  resulting in a sentence of only four years of probation. Leah Wheeler got three years of probation. The grateful couple subsequently provided the district attorney three loans totaling $13,310. Another loan of $15,000 came from Leah’s father. As a result of these revelations in local newspapers, Minier lost his bid for a third term as district attorney in the November 1974 election. [8]

Ignorant of these allegations, the supervisors gladly appointed Minier to become the new district attorney with a start date of September 1. Meanwhile, the three defendants pleaded innocent to all charges. After a closed-door investigation, the Madera grand jury issued an indictment against the three men on August 26. Two months later, a change of venue motion made by defense attorneys moved the trial from Madera to the city of Oakland in Alameda County, where Minier and Jensen served as co-prosecutors.

After many delays, pre-trial hearings finally began in July 1977. It was expected that the 4800 pieces of evidence that the prosecution had collected would soon enter the public domain, including the ransom note that had the markings of the Zodiac Killer. But that was not to be. On July 25, the courtroom was cleared for four hours while defense attorneys went into a huddle with their clients. When it was over, all three defendants, in a surprise move, decided to plead guilty on twenty-seven charges of kidnapping but retained their pleas of innocence on five counts of bodily injury. According to the San Francisco Examiner, “The defense team intimated that the open-court disclosure of the ransom note and [kidnap] plans, coupled with the personal inspection of evidence at Santa Rita, prompted the change of pleas.” After hearing testimony on bodily injury to the victims, Judge Leo Deegan decided that three of the victims had indeed suffered harm. He sentenced the three men to life in prison with no possibility for parole on December 15, 1977. [9]

Fresh from a successful prosecution of the case, Minier easily won a four-year term as district attorney in the November 1978 election. His victory did not end his troubles with the Madera grand jury. It issued a report on July 5, 1979, accusing him of obstruction of justice, abusing his office, and manipulating the criminal justice system. He escaped prosecution, largely because he had the strong support of Sheriff Ed Bates, a prominent figure in the Chowchilla kidnapping case. The sheriff wanted him to stay on the job, because his prosecution of law-breakers was exceptionally rigorous and unyielding.

Minier continued on as district attorney until his election to another office thirteen years later. Considering that his benefactor was Evelle Younger, a man who was instrumental in covering up the facts of a CIA conspiracy to murder Robert Kennedy, it is strange to find David Minier making a serious effort to expose a CIA conspiracy behind the assassination of Robert’s brother, John Kennedy. In 1988, Minier began looking into the background of a former resident of Chowchilla, who was alleged to be an agent for the CIA and a participant in the assassination of President Kennedy.

The mysterious stranger who caught the district attorney’s attention was Claude Barnes Capehart. He moved into Chowchilla in 1976, ostensibly to start a well-drilling business. Accompanying him was his wife Roberta, to whom he had been married since 1959, if not earlier. Shortly after moving there, the couple split up and Roberta married an older man. A brief notice in the Nevada State Journal and the Reno Gazette-Journal, June 25, 1976, showed that Roberta Battey Capehart, age 53, and Cecil Newell, age 63, living in Dos Palos (26 miles from Chowchilla), got a marriage license. After the break up with his wife, Capehart led “a quiet life,” according to Dale Fore, a sergeant in the sheriff’s department, who met the newcomer either before or after the Chowchilla story broke. Fore was the sheriff’s chief investigator on the Chowchilla kidnapping case.

On February 3, 1977, the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA), a congressional probe looking into the deaths of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, was given a green light by the House Rules Committee to begin its investigations. About the same time, Capehart went to the sheriff’s office and spoke to Sergeant Dale Fore. Frightened for his life, he said that he needed police protection. Two men wearing dark suits, coming from back East, either New York or Cleveland, had been sent to kill him. He would not say why he feared these men, except that it had something to do with some work he did for the CIA in New York. During his talk with Fore, he revealed some other things. He claimed he was a hitman for the CIA. In 1963 the CIA gave him an assignment to be in Dallas on the day President Kennedy was killed. Ten years later, the CIA sent him to Chile where a military coup overthrew the government of Salvador Allende. [10]

Sgt. Fore looked into the matter but could find no trace of suspicious characters having arrived in town. He then spoke to Roberta. She said that after the two men left, her ex-husband threatened her, evidently thinking that she was somehow responsible for their coming. Although skeptical, Fore nevertheless considered Capehart “an interesting guy.” He contacted a friend in the FBI to get further information. His friend told him not to bother. The man was a fake, he said.

A year later, Roberta dumped Cecil and moved to Las Vegas. Sometime afterwards, she and Claude got remarried. A notice in the Reno Gazette-Journal of May 24, 1978, said that “Claude B. Capehart, 53, of Chowchilla and Roberta B. Capehart, 55, of Las Vegas” took out a marriage license.

The domestic tranquility of the newly remarried couple was seriously disturbed three months later by an article that appeared in the Fresno Bee. On July 31, 1978, the newspaper ran a story on the HSCA. Included with the article were photographs of three men wanted in connection with the assassination of President Kennedy.

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One picture shows a dark-haired man sitting on a street curb in Dealey Plaza moments after the assassination. The middle picture is a side view of a man wearing a suitcoat. He has light or gray hair, an aquiline nose, and appears to be in his late 40s or early 50s. The third picture shows, according to the UPI article, a “handsome, apparently blond-haired man in his 20s or early 30s. He appears to be wearing a jacket over a dark turtleneck sweater or pullover.” The latter two men were in Mexico City in the fall of 1963 at the same time Lee Harvey Oswald was there.

Three days after Capehart saw the article, he fled to Las Vegas, leaving Roberta behind. Frightened and distressed, she went to see Dale Fore and showed him the newspaper article. One picture, according to Fore, was a “dead ringer” for Capehart. He would have been 39 years old in 1963. A picture of an older Capehart on the findagrave website shows close resemblance to the blonde-haired man.

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Capehart was absolutely paranoid about having his picture taken. So much so, Roberta said, that even his California driver’s license lacked a picture as required by law. Fore made an inquiry with the Department of Motor Vehicles. Yes, they said, his license lacked a picture, but no one could explain why. Convinced that the man was not a fake as his friend in the FBI led him to believe, Fore took a statement from Roberta and tape-recorded the interview.

She said that Capehart had a handgun with silencer, automatic weapons, a cyanide pistol, [11] and passports under an assumed name. Among his private papers were several pages of ciphers or codes. [12] Roberta made copies of these codes on separate sheets of paper and turned them over to Fore. She said that Claude worked on the Glomar Explorer, a deep-sea research vessel built under the sponsorship of the CIA. Claude told her that he had been “in” on the plot to kill Kennedy and that he was inside the Texas School Book Depository. Lee Harvey Oswald, he said, did not fire any of the shots. Roberta feared that making these statements put her life in danger, so she cautioned Fore to keep her name confidential. When he telephoned the HSCA office to relay this information, he told them emphatically not to make Roberta’s name public.

Several months later, Fore was in Washington DC for a training course with the FBI. Since the office of the HSCA was nearby, he met with Dick Billings, the editorial chief for the final report. Also at the meeting were some officials from the FBI. Fore loaned them the newspaper article with the alleged photo of Capehart, a tape recording of his interview with Mrs. Capehart, interview notes, and the cypher sheets. When they met for a second time, several weeks later, Billings and the FBI men returned some of Fore’s  evidence, but they refused to give him the cypher sheets, claiming they were “classified government codes.” Fore then returned to Madera. Afterwards, he heard that someone burglarized the HSCA office and stole the cypher sheets.

Fore retired from the sheriff’s department in 1987 and became a private investigator. He told District Attorney Minier about his experience with Capehart. Intrigued, Minier did some additional research. He interviewed Roberta and found her to be credible. He found sources that confirmed her husband’s assignment on the Glomar Explorer. An FBI contact also confirmed that he was indeed employed by the CIA. After gathering this information, Fore and Minier were prepared to interview Capehart himself. Having learned that he had just moved into a new home in Pahrump, Nevada, they arranged to have a meeting with him on January 3, 1989. A few hours before their arrival, Capehart, at age 64, dropped dead of a heart attack. The death of his wife in 1992 dried up another source of information. The only source left that could confirm Capehart’s employment with the CIA was the CIA itself.

In November 1991, Minier became the newly elected Municipal Court Judge of Chowchilla. Three months later, he submitted a request to the CIA through the Freedom of Information Act to produce any documents regarding Capehart’s employment with the agency. In June 1994, he expanded his request to include records concerning his activities, assignments, actions, and whereabouts during the month of November 1963. The CIA denied his request on the grounds of national security. Undeterred, Minier filed a lawsuit against the CIA at the federal district court in Fresno. Acting as “a private citizen engaging in historical research,” he said in his court papers, “The CIA should not be allowed to continue its bad faith hide-and-seek game of publicly proclaiming openness while stonewalling legitimate requests for information relating to the assassination.” When the CIA got a summary judgment on January 20, 1995. Minier took his suit to the appellate court in San Francisco. His appeal was turned down on July 8, 1996. At this point, it seemed that the Capehart records would never see the light of day, but in 1998 the CIA released a smattering of documents, providing a small amount of details about his life and employment history. [13]

Two pages of a biographical resume dated November 20, 1963 shows that Claude Barnes Capehart was born on October 15, 1924 in Okemah, Oklahoma; his address was 4815 Carmen Blvd., Las Vegas, Nevada; his wife’s maiden name was Roberta Battey; his height and weight were 6 feet 1 inch and 220 pounds; his hair was brown; and his eyes were blue. Another document shows that he graduated from a high school in Tranquility, California (a small town about 47 miles south of Chowchilla). He joined the army in 1943 and served for three years, attaining the rank of sergeant. From 1961 to 1972, he worked intermittently as a drilling operator, motorman, derrickman, and heavy forklift operator for Reynolds Electrical and Engineering, a Las Vegas corporation that managed the Nevada Test Site, where nuclear devices were tested. In September 1972 he and his wife moved to New Jersey, where he worked in nearby New York City on the North River Pollution Control Project as supervisor on a barge equipped with drilling equipment. He left this job in June 1973. In October 1973 he began working for Global Marine, which designed, built, and operated the Glomar Explorer. He departed from Global Marine on July 9, 1975.

From what can be gathered from the extant documents, the CIA had destroyed or suppressed any information confirming his employment with the CIA. Also erased was any mention of his activities in Mexico City, Dallas, or Santiago, Chile. Of course, documents of greatest interest to Fore and Minier, had they surfaced, would be the ones referring not to November 1963 but July 1976. As investigator and prosecutor in the Chowchilla kidnapping case, they must have known they were putting patsies in prison so that the real culprits could go free.

In 1963, Capehart was working for Reynolds Electrical and Engineering in Las Vegas. It was probably in between intermittent periods of employment that the CIA sent him to Dallas to take part in the assassination of President Kennedy. He told his wife that he was inside the Texas School Book Depository at the time of the shooting. He might have been the gunman seen at the most easterly window of the fifth floor, not the sixth (as claimed by the Warren Commission). According to a spectator on the street, Carolyn Walther, the gunman was a blonde or light-brown haired man, wearing a white shirt, visible through the open lower part of the window. He had a rifle in his hands. It did not have a telescope sight nor a leather sling. Standing next to the blonde-haired man was another man wearing a brown suitcoat. Walther could not see his face, for it was obscured by the closed upper portion of the window. Confirming Walther’s observations were two more spectators, Ronald Fischer and Robert Edwards, who saw a man with light-colored hair and a light-colored open-neck shirt at a window on the fifth floor. Since Capehart had blonde or light-brown hair, he might be one of the two unaccounted-for strangers inside the building. As for the other man wearing a brown suitcoat, he took an elevator down to the first floor and ran out the back door, running in a southerly direction. Another witness who saw him said he had black hair, was 5 feet 8 to 10 inches tall, 155 to 165 pounds, age about late twenties or early thirties. This could not have been Capehart, who according to his biographical resume was 6 foot 1 inch, 220 pounds, in his late thirties and had brown hair. Evidently, there were only two strangers in the building. The remaining people who were inside the building that day had legitimate business and were all accounted for by the police.

Capehart told Fore he had an assignment in Chile when the government of Salvador Allende was overthrown. Records released by the CIA shows missing time from June 1973 to October 1973. In this time slot can be put his CIA assignment to Chile. According to the Berkeley Barb, September 1974, 234 Special Forces personnel (Green Berets) and 14 Army Rangers, under the direction of 34 CIA agents, stormed the Moneda palace in Santiago and murdered President Allende. The military task force trained at a super-secret base near Fort Ord and at Fort Gulik in the Panama Canal Zone.

From October 1973 to July 1975 he was employed with Global Marine. The company built a ship specially designed for the CIA to recover sunken vessels. It was used in 1974 to recover a Soviet submarine, the K-129, that sank in the Pacific Ocean. It was probably also used to recover treasure from the Awa Maru, a Japanese freighter that was authorized by the Red Cross to serve as a hospital ship. It was sunk in the Taiwan Strait on April 1, 1945 by the Queenfish, an American submarine. Out of 2009 people on board the ship, only one survivor was picked up. The Awa Maru reportedly had $5 billion dollars-worth of diamonds, artifacts, cash, gold, platinum and other metals. In 1977 the People’s Republic of China successfully located the site of the wrecked ship and three years later launched one of the biggest salvage efforts in history. No treasure was found.

Nothing regarding Capehart’s activities, assignments, actions, or whereabouts after his departure from Global Marine in July 1975 was among the documents released by the CIA. For this period, we have the statements made by Fore and Minier to the press and the HSCA. Claude Capehart was in Chowchilla in 1976, where he met Fore either before or after the seizure of the school bus. The run-up to the kidnapping began during the fall of 1975 with the purchase of the vehicles used in the kidnapping. His departure from Global Marine on July 9, 1975 gives him time to be involved in the preparation, planning, and financial outlays for the operation. It is significant that his age, height, weight, and hair color – 51 years old, 6 foot 1 inch, 220 pounds, light brown hair – are a perfect match for the mastermind of the kidnapping.

That such heavy hitters as the Zodiac Killer and a CIA assassin would be among the members of a team committed to the kidnapping of schoolchildren is an indication of the importance and urgency of the operation. [14] The team acted in obedience to an executive order that must have come from the highest levels of government and society. The goal was to stop the momentum of the Democrats in the presidential race by committing a headline-grabbing atrocity and using the press to channel the blame toward leftist terror organizations such as the Weatherman or the New World Liberation Front. If the kidnapping plan had succeeded, Jimmy Carter would be forced to go on the defensive trying to distance himself and his party from leftist radicals prone to violence. The Republicans would regain the initiative and probably surge on to victory in the November election. Riding on their coattails would be the CIA. No longer battered by revelations of scandals, the CIA would once again be able to conduct its covert operations unfettered. These hopes fell apart with the unexpected escape of the bus driver and the children. The voices of the victims quickly turned on the true culprits of the crime, who turned out to be ultra-right, white supremacist ideologues. When the driver and school children dug their way to freedom, they not only saved themselves they also saved Jimmy Carter and the Democratic Party.

Capehart memorial picture

Capehart memorial picture (Roberta)

Endnotes and References

  1. Much of this article came from newspaper articles too numerous to cite individually. To find sources, go to or and use their search engines.
  2. The poll was taken January 10-13, 1975. The previous poll on December 6-9, 1974 showed Ford with a 42% approval rating.
  3. Two weeks before the Chowchilla kidnapping, on July 1, Attorney General Younger wrote a letter to the Director of the CIA, George H.W. Bush, proposing that state law enforcement agencies link up with the CIA to improve methods of surveillance and intelligence gathering. Bush’s reply on August 2, 1976 requested further information on the proposal, to which he appended the following handwritten message: “Ev. Sorry we didn’t get a chance to really visit at the [Bohemian] Grove. I want to help on the above if we can get the lawyers happy! GB” In the meantime, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit on July 21 accusing Younger of coordinating a nationwide “spy club” and keeping secret dossiers on the political activities of dissident people or organizations, such as Jerry Rubin, or the Students for a Democratic Society and the Brown Berets.
  4. In earlier news reports, the leader was said to have an eagle tattoo. On July 26, the Chicago Tribune said, The man believed to be the leader of the abduction team had earlier been described as 50 years old, 6 feet tall, with gray hair and an eagle tattoo on his right arm. However, the Chicago Tribune has learned that re-questioning of the victims disclosed that the tattoo was actually a green wreath with the initials “N.O.W.” in the center.
  5. Jeffery Brown, the most observant and talkative of the twenty-six children, died at the age of fifteen in a freak accident. A news item in the Madera Tribune on June 13, 1981 said that Jeffrey was helping his father load beef into a truck for his father’s food locker business. A bolt on the truck’s hoist broke, pinning the teenager between the freshly slaughtered beef and the loading truck. Sgt. Dale Fore, Madera County Sheriff’s deputy-coroner, was mentioned as a source for this article.
  6. See Lisa Pease’s book, A Lie Too Big to Fail: The Real History of the Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, published 2018 by Feral House.
  7. News item in the Los Angeles Times, July 21, 1976. Also “The Strange Ascendancy of David Minier” by Bill Coate in the Madera Tribune, July 2, 2016.
  8. Grand jury investigation of Minier reported in the Sacramento Bee and Fresno Bee, September 14, 1978. The unusually lenient treatment that Gundy and Wheeler received might be due to an association with an intelligence organization. According to Peter Coyote, narrating the documentary “Hippies” on the History Channel, “Some on the left even theorized that the hippies were the end result of a plot by the CIA to neutralize the anti-war movement with LSD, turning potential protestors into self-absorbed navel-gazers.” (From Black Terror White Soldiers: Islam Fascism and the New Age be David Livingstone, p 426).
  9. On November 4, 1981, California’s appellate court overturned the three counts of bodily harm. This made the defendants eligible for parole. Richard Schoenfeld was released in June 20, 2012. His brother James was released August 7, 2015. Fred Woods was denied parole on October 8, 2019. His next parole hearing will be in 2024.
  10. Sources for the story of Claude Capehart are in (1) “Judge sues over JFK information” San Francisco Chronicle July 5, 1996; (2) “Fresno judge develops own theory in JFK assassination” in Press Democrat (Santa Rosa) Nov. 27, 1994; and (3) “The Capehart Caper” in Probe magazine, November-December 1996.
  11. The cyanide pistol was mentioned by Ian Fleming, author of spy thrillers, in an interview for Playboy. He said it was “more or less a water pistol filled with liquid cyanide . . . a particular good stunt, because a man can be killed while, say, climbing stairs, and when he’s found, the cyanide dissipates and leaves no trace. It’s natural to assume that he has had a heart failure climbing the stairs.” Fritz Bauer, a former attorney general for the State of Hesse in Frankfurt and a survivor of Auschwitz, died from a cyanide spray. When he tipped off the Mossad about the presence of Adolf Eichmann in Buenos Aires, Heinrich Mueller, Nazi security chief in South America and Europe, ordered his death. According to Paul Manning in his book Martin Bormann, Nazi in Exile, “His body was found in his bathtub and listed as ‘death by heart attack’ by the Frankfurt police. The real cause: cyanide spray that induces heart stoppage without detection.” A modified version of the weapon was used either by the KGB or agents working for Reinhard Gehlen to kill two Ukrainian activists in Munich, Germany in 1957 and 1959. The American Volunteer Group, recruited by Nelson Bunker Hunt in the 1960s, used the cyanide gun to eliminate leftist or liberal politicians in the United States. (Spooks, Jim Hougan, pp. 55-56 also General Walker and the Murder of President Kennedy by Jeffrey H. Caulfield, p. 292-293). The picture below is a cyanide pistol used by the Gestapo during World War II. (Globe-Gazette (Mason City, Iowa) March 6, 1967)

Untitled 6

  1. The Zodiac Killer also had an interest in ciphers. He sent a three part 408-character cipher message to three newspapers on August 2 and 3, 1969 that was later partially decoded by amateur cryptologists Donald G. Harden and his wife Bettye. In November 1969 he sent a cipher of 340 characters. It is one of the greatest unsolved ciphers of all time. Its sophistication manifests military or intelligence agency training.
  2. Capehart documents can be found at the website
  3. Another CIA spook associated with the Zodiac Killer, aka Robert Linkletter, was Reeve Whitson. They were partners together in the design and production of the child-proof safety cap for medicine bottles. Tom O’Neill learned this from Art Linkletter, while doing research on the Manson Family murders. Email from O’Neill, October 26, 2019. I highly recommend O’Neill’s book Chaos: Charles Manson and the Secret History of the Sixties.





























Zodiac Killer at the Tate House

On the morning of August 9, 1969, Winifred Chapman, a house maid employed by Sharon Tate and Roman Polanski, entered the house at 10050 Cielo Drive between 8:00 and 8:30 to begin her day of work. She went through the dining room toward the living room. Author of the book Helter Skelter, Vincent Bugliosi, details what happened next.… Continue reading “Zodiac Killer at the Tate House”

“Then she stopped suddenly, her progress impeded by two large blue steamer trunks, which hadn’t been there when she had left the previous afternoon – and by what she saw.

There appeared to be blood on the trunks, on the floor next to them, and on two towels in the entryway. She couldn’t see the entire living room – a long couch cut off the area in front of the fireplace – but everywhere she could see she saw the red splashes. The front door was ajar. Looking out she saw several pools of blood on the flagstone porch. And, farther on, on the lawn, she saw a body.”

What Winifred did not notice in the living room as she gazed in horror at the evident signs of furious butchery was a pair of eyeglasses on the carpet next to the steamer trunks. The position of the glasses was singularly odd and precariously upright – lenses down, ear frames sticking up, perpendicular to the floor.

When the police arrived, they found in the house and on the grounds the bodies of Sharon Tate, Jay Sebring, Wojciech Frykowski, Abigail Folger and Steve Parent. Two months later, the police would make the claim that one man killed all five people and that the glasses found in the house belonged to him.

The man who owned them had very myopic vision. It had shatter-proof lenses and heavy, amber-colored, tortoise-shelled rims. The left ear frame was slightly higher than the right, a customized feature made to fit his ears. Scratches on the lenses indicated carelessness and much physical activity. Unidentifiable fingerprint smudges were on the glasses but no blood stains. In the photo below the glasses can be seen in close proximity to the right side of the lower trunk.

trunks 1

In the background is the front hall and beyond that the open front door with the word PIG written in Sharon Tate’s blood. On the carpet near the glasses, but not visible in the photo, were two small pieces of wood that broke off from the grip of a Longhorn revolver. The assailant had used the butt end of the revolver to beat the head of Frykowski. Despite blows to the head, knife and bullet wounds, Frykowski somehow stumbled out of the living room, out the front door, and onto the lawn, where he expired. Below is a detective pointing to a blood spot left by Frykowski as he went into the front hall. It was identified as Frykowski’s by his blood type (Type B).

detective pointing

The diagram below shows the location of the glasses in relation to the steamer trunks, the front door, the couch, and the bodies of Sebring, Tate, and Frykowski.

tate house floorplan

The trunks that blocked the way of Winifred Chapman were not that way prior to the murders. After she left to go home the previous afternoon, a deliveryman from Air Dispatch brought the trunks to the house about 4:30. They contained Sharon’s clothing, which Roman sent to her from London. Since Sharon was at that time taking a nap, a gardener working outside named Tom Vargas signed for them. Vargas took them inside and neatly stacked them by the living room entrance. Then he too left to go home.

Later that same night, four people of the Charles Manson Family – Tex Watson, Susan Atkins, Linda Kasabian, and Patricia Krenwinkel – took Johnny Swartz’s 1959 Ford and drove it to the Tate house. About a quarter to midnight, Tex shinnied up a telephone pole and cut the wires to the house. Then he, Susan, Linda, and Patricia endeavored to advance stealthily toward the house. Instead of pushing the button of the electrically operated gate which sounded a bell when opened, they climbed up an embankment next to the gate and came down the other side.

Meanwhile, Steve Parent, a friend of William Garretson, the caretaker living in the guest house in the back part of the lot, had ended his visit and had gotten into his car. He was driving toward the gate when he was stopped by Tex. Through the driver side window, Tex shot Parent multiple times, hitting him in the head and chest. Then he and the three women brutally killed Tate, Frykowski, Folger, and Sebring. During the massacre, the caretaker in the guest house listened to his stereo and wrote letters. Three dogs were in the guest house with him. Their constant barking through the night did not alarm him, for, as he said, they often barked at night.

After accomplishing their deadly work in forty-five minutes or less, the killers left the house and got back into their car. They drove about two miles and found a house with a garden hose. As they washed themselves off, dogs at the house began barking, awakening the owner Rudolph Weber, who noted the time as 1:00 am. He went outside to see what was going on and saw four young people in dark clothing using his hose. As he approached, the four got back into their car and quickly drove away. Weber shined his flashlight on the license plate. The number, GYY 435, belonged to Johnny Swartz’s car.

A comparison of the accounts of that night by Susan Atkins and Linda Kasabian shows that a fifth person wearing glasses did not accompany the group into the Tate house. On the other hand, both women were apparently ignorant of the mysterious glasses standing upright by the steamer trunks. On October 23, 1969, a lieutenant of the Los Angeles Police Department disclosed to the press the existence of the glasses and that it was believed that the man who owned them committed the murders at the Tate house. This led to a conversation between Atkins and Roseanne Walker, both of whom were inmates at Sybil Brand Institute. (Atkins was in jail for auto theft and taking part in the murder of Gary Hinman.) According to Walker’s testimony at the Manson Family trial in October 1970:

Well, the newscast was on and there was something about a pair of glasses that was at the scene of the murder. And I remember stating, I said “Well, they’ll catch whoever did it.”

And she said, “Why, just because they found a pair of glasses ?”

And I said, “Yeah, they can find out all kinds of things from those glasses” I said. And I said “When they found that pair of glasses, they are going to find him.”

She said “Suppose they found the person that owns those glasses there, supposing they find him and they blame him for it” she said, “wouldn’t that be too much if they blamed him for the murders and the only thing he was guilty of was dropping a pair of sunglasses there.”

Susan’s belief that what the police found were sunglasses and not prescription glasses indirectly confirms her lack of awareness of how the glasses came into the house or who owned them.

Originally the news media touted the glasses as a major breakthrough in the case. By early December, it became an almost forgotten loose end when police charged five people with normal vision for the murders at the Tate and LaBianca houses: Charles Manson, Tex Watson, Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel, and Linda Kasabian.

Still puzzled by the glasses was a journalist named Ed Sanders, who was covering the Manson Family trial for the Los Angeles Free Press. The glasses along with other unresolved clues led him to believe that there was a second intrusion into the house. He wrote in his book The Family, “I was very certain that the scene as found by the police was different from the one left by the killers. I was certain that the scene had been disturbed after the murders.” To prove his point, he noted the following discrepancies:

  • The disarray of the steamer trunks blocking the living room entrance.
  • A stain of blood extending from one side of the upper trunk to the top of the bottom trunk. It was Sebring’s blood, yet Susan Atkins said he never moved from the spot where he was killed. This spot was at a distance too far for a blood dripping to reach the trunks.
  • The previously mentioned, unidentified eyeglasses near the trunks.
  • The towel placed over the head of Jay Sebring.
  • Fingerprints of some unidentified intruder on the freshly painted window sill of the nursery,
  • The length of rope extending from Sharon Tate to Jay Sebring lacked the slack needed for her to stand and move around as she supposedly did, according to Atkins.
  • Spatters of blood from Sharon in the front hall and on the door sill and a large pool of her blood on the front porch to the left of the door mat.
  • Another pool of blood on the north edge of the porch that was Sebring’s. Supposedly, neither Sharon nor Jay ever left the living room.
  • A bloody boot heel print on the flagstone front porch. It was not made by the police, nor was it made by any of the four killers, who were all barefoot (according to defense attorney Paul Fitzgerald in his closing argument at the Manson trial).

Sanders shared his hunch of a second entry with Paul Fitzgerald and asked him to ask Manson if he had gone to the Tate House after the murders. His hunch was confirmed, when Manson said, “I went back to see what my children did.” He also admitted leaving the glasses “to create confusion.”

In Nuel Emmons’ book “Manson in His Own Words”, Manson gave further details of a second entry into the house. He also reveals the existence of a mysterious partner who accompanied him to the crime scene:

“Returning to the scene of any crime is risky business, so instead of turning up Cielo Drive, we drove past and looked up the hill to see if there was any activity that might indicate the police had arrived. Everything was quiet. Still not wanting to be too obvious, we parked the car a short distance away and walked to the premises. We entered the grounds by climbing over the fence, as the kids had done. As Sadie and Tex had said, the first victim’s car was off the driveway a short distance from the gate. Going by Tex’s description of how he had approached the car and how he had pushed it, I carefully wiped the car clean of possible fingerprints without disturbing the body of the boy who lay dead inside.

“Approaching a house where you know there are dead bodies has a spine-chilling effect, and I think if I had been alone, I might have forgotten about continuing any farther. My partner probably felt the same way, but neither of us spoke and we did go on to see the whole gory mess. Tex and Sadie’s description had been accurate. What I was seeing was not a scene from a movie or some horrible acid fantasy, but real people who would never see the morning’s sun. I’d had thoughts of creating a scene more in keeping with a black-against-white retaliation, but in looking around, I lost the heart to carry out my plans. The two of us took towels and wiped every place a fingerprint could have been left. I then placed the towel I was using over the head of the man inside the room. My partner had an old pair of eyeglasses which we often used as a magnifying glass or as a device to start a fire when matches weren’t available. We carefully wiped the glasses free of prints and dropped them on the floor, so that, when discovered, they would be a misleading clue for the police. Within an hour and twenty minutes after leaving Spahn, we were back. The sun was already bringing the light of day as I crawled in bed with Stephanie.”

A second entry into the house goes far in resolving the discrepancies noted by Sanders, such as face towel over Sebring’s head, the fingerprints on the freshly painted windowsill of the nursery, the disturbed steamer trunks, and the glasses next to them.

The bloodstains of Sebring and Tate on the trunks, in the front hall, and on the porch are more difficult to explain. Tex and his female partners left the scene by 12:30 or 12:45. They probably got back to Spahn Ranch and spoke with Manson around 2:00 am. Thus Manson and his partner might have arrived at the Tate house by 3:00. The bleeding from the victims’ bodies should have stopped long before then. Once dead, the heart stops pumping. So if Manson and his partner had moved the bodies around, they could not have left the extensive blood stains that were noted by crime scene investigators.

The only solution to the problem is that Sharon and Jay were still alive when Manson and his partner came to the house. Tex, Susan, and Patricia might have thought they had killed them, but that does not mean that they were actually dead. One might think that multiple stab wounds would effectively kill someone, yet that is not always true. The following is a post entitled “Stab Wounds Don’t Always Kill” from a website called Crime Fiction Writer’s Blog

“Writers often ask me questions about various traumas and how they will affect the victim. Maybe it’s a gunshot wound, or a knife wound, or a blow to the head, or even a push down the stairs. The problem with answering these questions is that almost anything can happen. A gunshot wound can be a minor flesh wound, or it can be immediately fatal — usually if it enters the heart, the brain, on the upper portion of the spinal cord. The gunshot wound could cause damage to internal organs such as the lungs or liver and the victim could bleed to death rapidly, or slowly, or not at all. The same can be said of knife wounds and blunt trauma. Ask any emergency room physician and they will tell you that these types of injuries come in 1000 flavors.”

A case in point is the Zodiac Killer attack at Lake Berryessa on September 27, 1969. He stabbed Cecelia Shepard ten times, mortally wounding her, yet she lived two more days, long enough to answer questions from the police. Her companion Bryan Hartnell was stabbed six times. He survived the attack by feigning death. After the Zodiac Killer departed he then moved toward the road, first by walking and then by crawling. He was crying for help by the side of the road, when a passing park ranger found him and called for an ambulance.

It is therefore not unreasonable to postulate that Sharon Tate and Jay Sebring somehow survived the multiple injuries they suffered. Tex, Susan, and Patricia might have thought they were dead, but perhaps they only appeared to be dead. They might have lost consciousness and woke later, or they might have feigned death like Hartnell.

Assuming this scenario to be true, the surviving victims’ first impulse, after the attackers were gone, would be to seek help. Perhaps one of them stumbled or crawled to reach the nearest telephone. There was one on the desk in the living room, but of course the phone line was dead. The next course of action would be to go outside and see if they could somehow call for the caretaker or any of the neighbors nearby. Loss of blood would make walking or crawling slow and arduous. Probably Sebring paused long enough by the steamer trunks to leave a blood stain. The blood drippings are perpendicular to the bottom edge of the trunk, as can be seen in the photo below. This would mean that the two trunks were not in the haphazard disarray as seen in the picture.

trunks 2

When they reached the front porch and walkway, they stopped. Loss of strength kept them from going further. Below is a photograph of Sharon’s blood stains on the door sill and porch

porch of tate

The next photo shows a large pool of blood, probably Sebring’s.

pool of blood

Although immobilized, they could, like Hartnell, still cry for help. In the first  investigation report of the murders in the Tate house there is mention of a police station getting a report of a screaming woman.

When Manson and his partner arrived on the scene, they would have seen the couple still alive on the porch. Resolved to make sure no one was still alive when the police came, they dragged Sharon and Jay back into the living room and delivered the final stab wounds causing immediate death. A stab wound to Jay’s neck cut his aorta, and three stab wounds to Sharon’s chest penetrated her heart. A rope burn on her face indicated that she was hanging from a rope at the time of her death.

Sights and sounds connected with the second entry into the house did not go unnoticed by those on the outside.

Between 2:00 and 3:00, Emmett Steele who lived at 9951 Beverly Grove Drive heard his two dogs barking and howling. He went out to calm the dogs, checked around the area, and could see nothing except a lavender Volkswagen-type dune buggy and a black foreign-type motorcycle, possibly a Triumph, parked nearby. He had seen the dune buggy and the motorcycle a number of times before over the past six weeks in the late night and early morning hours. (Dune buggies were a favored mode of transportation for the Manson Family.)

At about 4:00, Carlos Gill, 9955 Beverly Grove Drive, two houses down from Emmett Steele’s house, was awake and writing letters. He heard the sound of three or four persons arguing at the Tate residence. He could see the front of the house from his bedroom window on the opposite side of Benedict Canyon, about a fourth to one-half  mile away. The argument increased in volume and became more heated. It lasted approximately one minute and then subsided abruptly. He said that the severity of the argument so frightened him that he closed the window and went immediately to bed.

Officer Bullington of Bel Air Patrol heard three shots, spaced several seconds apart. He was parked in front of 2175 Summit Ridge Drive. He contacted Mr. Karlson of Bel Air Patrol by radio, who noted the time as 4:11. Karlson called the West Los Angeles Desk and reported this to an officer. The officer replied, “I hope we don’t have a murder. We just had a woman screaming call in that area.”

According to the official narrative, Tex used his Longhorn revolver to fire four rounds into Parent, one into Sebring, and two into Frykowski. All this occurred in the hour after midnight. What Bullington heard at 4:10 am were gunshots made by Manson and his partner. The several seconds between shots is indicative of a purpose other than bringing someone down. Perhaps they were shooting into the bodies of Frykowski, Folger, and Parent to test whether or not any of them had a response. If they did, then Manson and his partner would dispatch them accordingly.

As a macabre gest, the partner left a spare pair of glasses by the steamer trunks. Although it clearly linked him to the murders in the Tate house, he probably expected the police to cover up this clue rather than untangle the confusion it created. Unexpectedly, however, in a rare departure from the Keystone Kop incompetence typical for this case, the police decided to put out a public notice of the existence of the glasses and their attempt to find the owner. This momentary flash of clarity disappeared, however, and in the months that followed, the police buried this piece of evidence. When Paul Fitzgerald, defense attorney for Patricia Krenwinkel, wanted to know more about the glasses, the police refused to cooperate. In a news article printed May 29, 1970 Fitzgerald complained to a journalist that the police were ignoring – and withholding – information and photographs of two vital pieces of evidence, the glasses and the bloody boot heel print.

In his closing argument on December 28, 1970, Fitzgerald said that someone other than Charles Manson and his three women co-defendants killed the actress and six others. He said that the pair of eyeglasses found at the Tate mansion had not been connected to an owner. “Those glasses,” he said, “were introduced into that residence by the person or persons actually responsible for the deaths.” He also said that the pools of blood on the porch indicated that Sharon and Jay were bleeding outside the house for some reason, even though the prosecution alleged them to have died inside.

The identity of the owner of the glasses would continue to remain a mystery until the following year when Marie Vigil wrote two letters to the Redwood City Tribune during the time of the John Frazier trial. She said that the man who lost his glasses at the Tate house was the Zodiac Killer, also known as Robert Linkletter. One of these letters was picked up by conspiracy researcher Mae Brussell, who in turn revealed the contents of the letter on several of her weekly broadcasts, particularly in September 1980 after the death of Linkletter on September 12.


Pictures in this article are from the photo archive of



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.

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


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.


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.”


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]


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 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.


  1. Much of this article came from newspaper articles too numerous to cite individually. To find sources, go to or 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
  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