The Zodiac Killer wrote a letter to the San Francisco Chronicle on October 12, 1969.
This is the Zodiac speaking.
I am the murderer of the taxi driver over by Washington St & Maple St last night, to prove this here is a blood stained piece of his shirt. I am the same man who did in the people in the north bay area.
The S.F. Police could have caught me last night if they had searched the park properly instead of holding road races with their motorcicles seeing who could make the most noise. The car drivers should have just parked their cars and sat there quietly waiting for me to come out of cover.
School children make nice targets, I think I shall wipe out a school bus some morning. Just shoot out the front tire & then pick off the kiddies as they come bouncing out.
On November 8, he sent to the San Francisco Chronicle a cryptogram with 340 characters and a greeting card that featured a pen that looks like a dead body hanging from a noose and dripping blood. On the front, the card said:
Sorry I havent written but I just washed my pen and can’t do a thing with it.
On the other side it said:
This is the Zodiac speaking. I though you would need a good laugh before you hear the bad news. You won’t get the news for a while yet. P.S. Could you print this new cipher on your frunt page. I get awfully lonely when I am ignored, so lonely I could do my Thing!!!!!!
It was signed with the Zodiac’s familiar crossed circle symbol followed by “Des July Aug Sept Oct = 7.” The number seven indicates the total number of victims: David Faraday and Betty Lou Jensen in December, Darlene Ferrin in July, Cecelia Shepard in September, Paul Stine in October, and at least one more, perhaps two, in August.
A seven-page letter and a second piece of Stine’s blood-stained shirt was sent the next day.
This is the Zodiac speaking
Up to the end of Oct I have killed 7 people. I have grown rather angry with the police for their telling lies about me. So I shall change the way the collecting of slaves. I shall no longer announce to anyone. When I comitt my murders, they shall look like routine robberies, killings of anger, & a few fake accidents, etc.
The police shall never catch me, because I have been too clever for them.
I look like the description passed out only when I do my thing, the rest of the time I look entirle different. I shall not tell you what my descise consists of when I kill
As of yet I have left no fingerprints behind me contrary to what the police say in my killings I wear transparent finger tip guards. All it is is 2 coats of airplane cement coated on my finger tips—quite unnoticible & very efective
my killing tools have been boughten through the mail order outfits before the ban went into efect. Except one & it was bought out of the state.
So as you can see the police don’t have much to work on. If you wonder why I was wipeing the cab down I was leaving fake clews for the police to run all over town with, as one might say, I gave the cops som bussy work to do to keep them happy. I enjoy needling the blue pigs. Hey blue pig I was in the park—you were useing fire trucks to mask the sound of your cruzeing prowl cars. The dogs never came with in 2 blocks of me & they were to the west & there was only 2 groups of parking about 10 min apart then the motor cicles went by about 150 ft away going from south to north west.
Must print in paper ps. 2 cops pulled a goof abot 3 min after I left the cab. I was walking down the hill to the park when this cop car pulled up & one of them called me over & asked if I saw anyone acting suspicious or strange in the last 5 to 10 min & I said yes there was this man who was runnig by waveing a gun & the cops peeled rubber & went around the corner as I directed them & I disappeared into the park a block & a half away never to be seen again.
Hey pig doesnt it rile you up to have your noze rubed in your booboos?
If you cops think I’m going to take on a bus the way I stated I was, you deserve to have holes in your head.
The last part of the letter sets forth a plan to blow up a school bus.
In summary, after shooting the driver, the Zodiac wiped down the cab to leave “false clews” for the police. Then he began walking toward a park and on the way met two officers who “pulled a goof.” While at the park, he spent some time watching a massive police effort to catch him.
Although having the appearance of an authentic account, his letters fail to address key issues: (1) conflicting eyewitness descriptions, specifically age, weight, and hair color; (2) lack of blood on clothing; and (3) time and distance factors that put him in two separate places at the same time.
People wrestling with these problems on blogs and forums have debated various solutions, such as unreliable witnesses, incompetent policemen, or unsynchronized watches. They may succeed in explaining one or two of the key issues but not all three.
My own efforts to solve the conundrums have led me to abandon the single perpetrator theory and presume the existence of a decoy who facilitated the escape of the Zodiac by confusing and diverting the police. He bore a resemblance to the killer, but was twenty years older and about twenty pounds heavier.
A middle-aged man appears as a suspect in a police report written the following morning. The incident occurred at approximately 9:55 pm on October 11, 1969. The name of the victim was originally “Stine, Thomas L.” but was subsequently changed to “Stine, Paul L.” Reporting officers were Armond Pelissetti and Frank Peda. The reportee was 16 years old, living at 3899 Washington Street. The name and phone number of the reportee were crossed out. The substance of the report is as follows:
Upon responding to the above location officers Peda and Pelissetti found Yellow Cab #912 parked at the northeast corner of Washington St. at the corner of Cherry St. The reportee, together with two other witnesses, xxxxxxxx, age 14, and xxxxxxxx, age 13, same address and phone number as the reportee, stated that they saw the below described suspect in the front seat of the Yellow Cab, mid to passenger side, with the victim slumped partially over his lap. The suspect appeared to be searching the victim’s pockets. (Witnesses never heard a gun shot.) The suspect then appeared to be wiping (fingerprints) on the interior of the cab, leaning over the victim to the driver’s compartment. The suspect then exited the cab by the passenger side front door, also wiping with a white rag, possibly a handkerchief. The suspect then walked around the cab to the driver’s side and proceeded to wipe the exterior of the left door area. The suspect then fled (walking) north on Cherry St. toward the Presidio of S.F. R/Os immediately checked the interior of the cab and found the victim to be slumped over the front seat with the upper torso in the passenger side, head resting on the floorboard, facing north. Ambulance was summoned, Code three, and other units requested for an immediate search of the area. Description was obtained from reportee, whose observation point was directly over the street (50 ft.) and unobstructed. Description was broadcast and numerous units responded to institute a search of the area. P.E.H. ambulance #82 responded, steward Dousette, victim was examined and pronounced dead at 10:10 pm. Inspector Krake responded and summoned dog units and a fire department “spotlight” vehicle to assist in the search. R/Os called for the Crime Lab, Coroner, Yellow Cab officials, and a tow.
Assistant traffic manager of Yellow Cab, Leroy Sweet responded and gave reporting officers the victim’s identification. Mr. Sweet further stated the last dispatch given the victim was at 9:45 pm to 500 9th Ave. apt. 1. Victim allegedly never arrived at the above location as the dispatch was reassigned to another cab at 9:58. R/Os noted that the meter of the cab was running, indicating that the victim possibly picked up another fare (suspect) en route to his original assignment. (The meter read $6.25 at exactly 10:46 pm.) A check with the Yellow Cab Co. revealed the victim arrived at work at approximately 8:45 pm and had only one fare prior, that being from Pier 64 to the Air Terminal. Sgt. Falk responded G-10. Homicide inspectors Armstrong and Toschi responded and took charge. G-40 Lt. Kiel also responded. The military police headquarters of the Presidio of S.F. was notified and an intense search of the Julius Kahn area was made by several dog units, other Richmond and C.P. units – to no avail. The coroner responded Deputy Schultz and Kindred and took charge of the deceased. Coroner’s receipt attached this report. Crime lab responded and took necessary photographs of the preserved scene – Dagitz and Kirkindal – all physical evidence was retained by crime lab for I.D. The auto, Yellow Cab # 912 Calif. Lic. Y17413, was towed to the Hall, impounded for homicide for prints. Tow slip attached this report. Room 100 was notified, given description, and advised to have broadcast continuous throughout the morning as per inspector Armstrong’s direction. Crime lab’s initial investigation showed that the victim was devoid of any U.S. currency, nor did he have the possession of a wallet, the ignition keys for the cab were also missing.
The Suspect: WMA, in his forties, 5’8”, heavy build, reddish blond “crewcut” hair, wearing eyeglasses, dark brown trousers, dark (navy blue or black) “Parka” jacket, dark shoes.
Suspect should have many blood stains on his person and clothing, suspect may also be in possession of the keys to the Yellow Cab, possibly belonging to the victim. Suspect is armed with a gun. Last seen walking north on Cherry St. from Washington St.
Loss: to be determined. All property of the victim in the possession of coroner. Physical evidence property retained by crime lab. Yellow Cab #912 towed to Hall for homicide for prints.
A middle-aged man also appears in two identically worded articles written for the San Francisco Examiner and the San Francisco Chronicle on October 12. Even the headlines are the same.
Cabbie Slain in Presidio Hts.
A Yellow Cab driver was found shot to death in his cab last night, the victim of an apparent robbery attempt in Presidio Heights.
He was identified by the company as T.L. Stine.
Police said three youngsters saw a scuffle near the cab, which was stopped on Washington Street near Cherry Street, about 10 p.m.
They said they saw a man wipe off parts of the cab with a handkerchief, after going through the victim’s pockets, then dash up Cherry Street in the direction of the Presidio.
Later reports indicated someone was seen running into Julius Kahn playground in the Presidio, and all seven police dog units were pressed into the search.
The suspect was described as white, about 40, 170 pounds, a blond crewcut, wearing glasses. He was wearing dark shoes, and dark grey trousers and jacket.
Company officials said Stine apparently picked up a fare on the street while en route to a call on Ninth Avenue.
He was shot in the back of the head, apparently with a .38 caliber revolver. The engine and meter of the cab still were running.
A short item in the Los Angeles Times of October 13 said:
A San Francisco cab driver was shot to death in the fashionable Pacific Heights district. Police said Yellow Cab driver Paul Stine, 29, was shot to death with a large caliber pistol. Police dogs combed the woods in the San Francisco Presidio for a middle-aged, blond man seen jumping over the wall around the military reservation shortly after Stine was shot.
In an October 14 article in the San Francisco Examiner, the middle-aged man disappears, and a young man takes his place.
Sketch Made of Killer in Taxi Slaying
Composite drawing of the suspect wanted in the Saturday night slaying of Yellow Cab driver Paul Lee Stine has been released by Homicide Inspectors William Armstrong and David Toschi.
The suspect who got $10 or $11, is described as a white male, 25-30 years old, 5″8′ or 5 feet 9 inches tall, weighing 150 pounds. He has reddish brown hair which he wears in a crew cut, and was wearing heavy-rimmed glasses and a navy blue or black jacket at the time of the slaying.
Stine, of 1842 Fell St., was 29 years old. He had been working 9 p.m.-5 a.m. as a Yellow Cab driver for the last several months to pay his way through San Francisco State College, where he was a Ph.D. candidate in English. He was also a part-time insurance agent.
The next day, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that it had received a letter from the Zodiac Killer, plus a blood-stained piece of shirt from the slain cab driver. The article goes on to say:
Police said Stine picked up a man in downtown San Francisco at about 9:30 p.m. Saturday. The fare sat in the front seat and ordered a destination in the Presidio Heights area.
At Washington and Cherry streets, the man drew a 9-millimeter automatic. With the car stopped, the man pointed the gun at Stine’s cheek and pulled the trigger, killing the driver instantly, police said.
Stine was robbed of his wallet and the murderer ripped a piece from the tail of the driver’s gray-and-white-striped shirt.
Witnesses said they saw the man wiping down the door and interior of the cab with a cloth – presumably the piece of shirt – before he started north on foot along Cherry Street.
The man was described as a white male, 25 to 30 years old, about five-feet-eight or -nine, with reddish brown, crewcut hair. He was wearing heavy-rimmed glasses and a navy blue or black jacket.
A large contingent of police with dogs and searchlights scoured the area around Cherry Street, which includes the wooded south boundary of the Presidio and Julius Kahn playground.
The unsuccessful efforts apparently amused the killer.
Omitted from the article was the last paragraph of the Zodiac’s letter threatening to shoot the front tire of a school bus and “pick off the kiddies as they come bouncing out.” Publication of this threat appeared on October 17. News media also reported that the police had revised the description. Captain Martin Lee, Chief of Inspectors, said that the Zodiac was 35 to 45 years old, approximately five feet eight inches, heavy build, short brown hair, possibly with a red tint, wearing glasses. A new composite sketch, altered from the original to make the face look older, was put into circulation.
A glimpse into the circumstances that led to the making of both the original and amended sketches appeared in a post on zodiackillersite.com. The author, James Dean, a retired detective from the Vallejo Police Department, identified Lindsey Robbins, age 16, and his sister Rebecca, age 13, as among the sources for the composite sketch. Using his forum name JDean, he wrote on April 25, 2010 (with slight editing):
But I want to tell you how the sketches came about. Within 48 hrs of the murder, Toschi had recruited a young uniformed cop named Juan Morales, who was said to be a good artist. He asked him to talk to the kids and see if he could work-up a composite of the suspect. Morales sat down with all the kids and slowly developed the first sketch. Most of his input he took from the two oldest (L&R). Within a day or so, someone (not sure who) decided it was a bad idea to have multiple people contribute to a composite. So Morales sat down with the kids again and after a time, determined that Rebecca was the most artistically inclined, and the most observant of facial features. So, he did the final sketch from only Rebecca. When done, all the kids looked at it individually and agreed that it was VERY close to the man they saw on that night.
I hope that helps somewhat in clearing up lots of speculation and rumor about the “eyewitnesses.” This is the best info taken directly from the kids themselves, albeit, some 40 years later.
Both kids (L&R) are remarkable people. Rebecca is a fashion designer in S.F. (artistic eye) and Lindsey is a successful building contractor in Marin County.
They claim they don’t often think about that night, but will never forget it.
P.S. Morales quit SFPD a few years later. From my best info, he went through a nasty divorce and moved to Mexico to get away from alimony & child support. He is believed to still be in Mexico.
Contrary to the negative statement about multiple witnesses, a forensic artist who limits himself to the recollections of a single person deprives himself of correcting observations from other witnesses. The memory of any individual may play tricks on his or her recall, such as erasing a facial detail, amplifying another, or altering a specific feature. Although artistic talent and/or a superior ability to remember faces certainly have value, they should never exclude the input of other witnesses who may have had a closer, or a more prolonged, view of the subject.
The alteration made to the sketch of the Zodiac relied on the input of a single witness, set apart from the others. In normal circumstances the second sketch would be deemed inferior to the first. However, it must be acknowledged that the alteration accords better with the police report description of a middle-aged man given by the 16-year-old reportee living at 3899 Washington Street. JDean identified this person as Lindsey Robbins. Although apparently conclusive in determining the suspect’s age, the document is nonetheless odd in that it has Lindsey telling the police that the suspect was in his forties when shortly afterwards he is among those guiding Morales in the making of a sketch featuring a man in his twenties.
Some researchers believe that Lindsey correctly told the police that the suspect was in his forties, but during the session that led to the drawing of the face, he was perhaps not paying attention and somehow failed to notice the mistake the sketch artist made.
On the other hand, if Lindsey clearly and unmistakably told the sketch artist what the suspect looked like, then there must be something wrong with the police report.
An examination of the description portion of the document indicates two anomalies. First, the baseline of the first line of the description block is lower than the heading “SUSPECT:” Second, the space after the colon is too narrow when compared to other word spaces. It therefore appears that someone had typed another description on a separate sheet of paper, cut it out, and pasted it over the original. To view the whole document, click here.
The description of a middle-aged man did not come from Lindsey on October 12 but on October 16 from two patrolmen, Donald Fouke and Eric Zelms. On page 107 of his book Zodiac, author Robert Graysmith wrote:
At 9:00 a.m. October 16, Fouke and Zelms, the two radio men who had seen the stocky man walking into the Presidio, realized that they must have passed the killer. They filed an initial report with their captain, this was sent as an interdepartmental communication to Armstrong and Toschi. The two patrolmen were “shattered and filled with despair.”
With the help of the two patrolmen, a second composite drawing of the Zodiac was made. The amended drawing now showed a man thirty-five to forty-five years old with a thicker jaw. He weighed two hundred pounds or more, was barrel-chested, and wore a navy blue or black waist-length zippered jacket. He was noted as being about five feet eight or nine, with reddish-brown, crew-cut hair, and wearing heavy rimmed glasses.
The patrolmen’s report and statement were placed in confidential files; S.F.P.D. officially denied that Zodiac had ever been seen by any patrolmen. The denial stands to this day. Several sources have told me, “Zodiac had undoubtedly been almost captured by S.F. Police.” The police have never been able to explain why a second composite drawing suddenly had to be made.
The main source for the second sketch was not the 13-year-girl. Apparently, she was merely a front for decision-makers who wanted the face to look older.
Commenting on the description and composite sketch, the Zodiac said, “I look like the description passed out only when I do my thing, the rest of the time I look entirle different. I shall not tell you what my descise consists of when I kill.” His letter was published in the San Francisco Chronicle on November 12. It prompted Fouke to write a scratch, or memorandum.
I respectfully wish to report the following, that while responding to the area of Cherry and Washington Streets a suspect fitting the description of the Zodiac Killer was observed by officer Fouke walking in an easterly direction on Jackson Street and then turn north on Maple Street.
The suspect that was observed by officer Fouke was a WMA 35-45 Yrs about 5’10”, 180-200 lbs. Medium heavy build – Barrel chested – Medium complexion – Light-colored hair possibly greying in rear (May have been lighting that caused this effect.) Crew cut – Wearing glasses – Dressed in dark blue waist length zipper type jacket (Navy or royal blue) Elastic cuffs and waist band zipped part way up. Brown wool pants, pleated type, baggy in rear (rust brown). May have been wearing low-cut shoes.
Subject at no time appeared to be in a hurry, walked with a shuffling lope, slightly bent forward, head down. The subject’s general appearance to classify him as a group would be that he might be of Welsh ancestry.
My partner that night was officer Zelms #1348 of Richmond station. I do not know if he observed this subject or not.
Fouke was the driver of the patrol car. It is curious that he would claim uncertainty on the matter of whether or not his partner saw the subject, since Zelms, from where he was seated, would have had a closer, more direct view of the subject. Before his untimely death on January 1, 1970, he confided to his wife that he and Fouke had indeed stopped the Zodiac and spoke with him. Alex Lewis, using the forum name Welsh Chappie, wrote an article about information garnered by researcher Howard Davis from Eric Zelms’ wife Diane in an article called “Zodiac: Cool, Calm, Collected & Then Gone” on October 1, 2016 for zodiaccyphers.com.
Her late husband not only spoke to her about this incident on October 11, but had done so at length and stated that after it became clear that it was actually Zodiac responsible and that in all probability the white male they spoke with. Diane said this had a profound impact on Eric to the point where right up to the day he died, he carried the P.H. composite with him, every time he was on duty taking it everywhere just in case, said Diane, he came across him again. Diane stated that she is aware Don Fouke adamantly denies stopping to speak with a man that night and Diane said she cannot speak as to Fouke’s statement on this issue but could, she said, speak about what her late husband Eric had said about it.
Diane stated that her late husband had told her that as he and Don were coming up the hill, he (not Don) noticed a male on the sidewalk and drew Don’s attention to his sighting and Don slowed. Eric then called this man over. Diane recalls Eric saying:
“He was just your average looking guy, nothing stood out about him. We spoke to him face to face. I saw no sign of nervousness with him, nothing at all to make Don and I suspicious of him. He spoke softly and in a calm voice and he answered all of our questions. We had absolutely no reason to be suspicious of him that night at all.”
Fouke had the opportunity to inspect the subject’s clothes, noticing even small details. What he did not see were spots of blood. His fellow officer, Armond Pelissetti, saw copious amounts of blood inside the taxi cab and could not believe that the man whom Fouke saw was the same one who shot the driver. On an episode of Cold Case Files aired on January 8, 2001, Pelissetti said:
The other unit stopped somebody, a white man, and asked if he had seen anything suspicious, or anybody in the area, and that person said, ‘YES, a man just ran into the Presidio.’ … The conjecture is that this was the Zodiac. Was it? I don’t know. He didn’t see any blood on that person’s clothing, and believe me, based on the crime scene, there would have been a lot of blood on that person.”
From a 2007 documentary This is the Zodiac Speaking, Pelissetti said:
Fouke was very clear as to what the person was wearing. Well, it just so happens that area is extremely well-lit and I cannot imagine him not seeing the shine of blood on the clothing if it had been the Zodiac. I feel bad for him if he believes that was the Zodiac. I don’t think it was.
Some researchers argue that the clothes indeed had blood spots but located only on the left side – the side that was next to the slain cab driver. According to this reasoning, officers in a patrol car traveling west on Jackson Street could not see the left side of someone walking east on the north side of the street.
Let us assume for the sake of the argument that Fouke and Zelms could not see the left side. They still however had a clear view of the front. At the crime scene moments earlier, witnesses saw a man seated next to the driver on the front seat of the cab. The driver was not upright but had slumped sideways with his head on the lap of the other man. Not visible was a flow of blood exiting a wound in the driver’s right cheek and spilling onto the other man’s shirt and pants. Further exposure to blood would have occurred during the process of cutting off a large piece from the backside of Stine’s shirt.
The man seen by Fouke and Zelms was not the one inside the cab with the dying driver. Neither was he an innocent pedestrian, for he deliberately confused and misled two officers searching for an escaping assailant.
Additional evidence that the murder of Stine was the work of two men emerges from an analysis of time and distance factors by Richard Grinnell on his website zodiaccyphers.com, He has written many pieces on this topic but the one I recommend the most is “Second Zodiac on Jackson Street?” posted on October 8, 2017.
A major component of the timeline is an observation made by Lindsey Robbins. He saw the Zodiac walking on Cherry Street at the same time he was speaking to Pelissetti. From the aforementioned post written by JDean (again with slight editing):
I have talked to the Robbins kids extensively and they are a remarkable couple of kids. …Some background… This is an upperclass neighborhood (Duh!) The Robbins father was (maybe still is) a renowned surgeon. At the time of the murder, the senior Robbins was about a block away attending a formal dinner at the Belgian Embassy. You can begin to get the status and education of the family. The kids (Lindsey and Rebecca were 16 and 13 respectively) were having friends over for TV, popcorn, games, etc. There was no alcohol as some have suggested.
As both Robbins kids were the oldest, their statements were given the most weight. Also they were the least traumatized by the event. One of the kids (not sure which) noticed a cab parked outside (in that now famous spot) with the interior lights on. . . . ..the first kid at the window said the driver looked “sick, or something”. Lindsey and Rebecca went to the window and saw the driver laying across the front seat, head toward the passenger door. His head was in the lap of another man (passenger). Rebecca saw blood and said out loud, “he’s stabbing that man.” She was seeing blood on the victim and saw the glint of a knife, so she assumed a stabbing was taking place. (No shots were heard by anyone.)
We know now that Z was cutting off a large piece of Stine’s shirt with the knife.
At this time, Lindsey went downstairs to get a better look at what was happening, while one of the kids upstairs called the police. Downstairs, the lights were off, so Lindsey knew he could not be seen from the outside. He got close to the window and watched his actions. He was shortly joined by Rebecca. They both watched and observed in silence as Z pushed the driver to an upright position behind the steering wheel, exited the car and walked around the rear of the car and opened the driver’s door. Stine had fallen over onto the seat and Z pulled him back up into the seated position and had some difficulty keeping him upright. Once upright, he was seen to have a rag, or something like a handkerchief and began to wipe down the door area and leaning over the driver, part of the dashboard. When he was finished, Z calmly walked to Cherry St. and walked north.
Not many know this, but Lindsey (being 16. feeling immortal, and believing the suspect to be armed with only a knife) ran out his door to see where Z was going. He ran to the corner of Cherry and watched as Z continued his casual pace right up to the corner of Jackson & Cherry.
At this exact point, the first SFPD car arrives with two officers. One, Pelissetti, approached Lindsey and tried to extract what was happening. The other officer went to the cab and found the bloody victim. While Pelissetti was asking questions, Lindsey was trying to explain that the suspect was in sight on Cherry St. By the time Pelissetti got the point, they both looked and the Z was gone.
The assumption was Z continued north into Presidio Park and the resultant search extensively covered this area.
Pelissetti followed a different path east on Jackson in the event Z had turned east. What happened next is for another story.
Pelissetti gave his version of what happened in 2007.
I was the first officer that responded on the scene. I was working with the officer, who has since deceased, Frank Peda, an excellent police officer, and we responded to a radio call, told us that a cab driver was being robbed and/or assaulted at the corner of Cherry and Washington Streets in Pacific Heights.
We fortunately were very close and responded to that corner and were able to do so red light and siren at 9:55 at night and got there very quickly. I parked the car in the middle of the intersection facing the Yellow Cab that was sitting a little bit back from the corner of Cherry Street on Washington facing west on Washington. There were three children that were heading over to the car. They weren’t too far away. I made the assumption they were coming from the home on the corner and I was correct and I then herded them immediately back to that alcove. I didn’t know if the suspect was still there. The description that came out over the air was of an NMA, Negro Male Adult, at the time. The only person that could have given that information would have been the child who called it in to police dispatch. Whether somebody wrote it incorrectly and the child actually said white guy, I don’t know.
Went to the cab. I could see Mr. Paul Stine who had slumped over the front seat with his head into the well on the passenger side in the front. There was blood all over the cab, on him. Now I was 99.9 percent certain he was dead and it was at that point that I retook the description of the suspect and that’s when I was told it was a white male. I couldn’t get to the radio fast enough at that point to let everybody else know. The kids that told me that said that whoever had done this crime left the cab, went out the door, seemed to be wiping the cab down, reaching into the cab and then ambling or walking down Cherry Street in a northerly direction, kind of towards the Presidio.
Pelissetti said that he and his partner heard the erroneous broadcast concerning a black man at 9:55 pm. The police report has 9:55 as the approximate time of the incident and 9:58 when it was reported. The actual time of the broadcast does not have to be precisely determined. It could be 9:55, or 9:58, or something in between. What is important is that the dispatcher’s call sent two units speeding toward the intersection of Washington and Cherry Streets at exactly the same time.
In an interview given for the 2007 documentary, Fouke said:
My regular partner was off. I don’t recall the reason why he was not working that night. However, Eric Zelms was assigned as my partner that night. We were patrolling the eastern side of the Richmond District, going northbound on Presidio Avenue. We had passed Washington Street when a broadcast came in of a shooting at Cherry and Washington Street.
We turned west on Jackson Street. As we approached Maple Street, I noticed on the north side of the street a white male adult, dressed in a derby, or three-quarter waist length jacket with elastic at the waist and on the cuffs and a regular flap-down collar. He had a crewcut. He was wearing rust-colored pleated trousers. He had on engineering type boots [which was] a low-cut shoe, three-quarters of the way in length, tan in color.
The distance from Presidio Avenue and Washington Street to the intersection of Jackson and Maple is 0.5 miles. The distance to the crime scene is 0.15 miles further. Fouke said that they were going 35 to 45 miles per hour in a 25 mile per hour zone. Assuming the time of the dispatcher’s call was 9:58, then Fouke and Zelms would have reached Jackson and Maple at 9:59.
Zodiac wrote that he met two patrolmen three minutes after leaving the cab. Using 9:59 as a reference point, he would have left the cab at 9:56. One minute later he was at or near the corner of Jackson Street where he was still visible to Lindsey Robbins. This was also the time when Pelissetti and Peda arrived on the scene, got out of their car, and interacted with the teenagers.
If the dispatcher’s call was at 9:58, then Pelissetti and Peda would have arrived at 9:59. At that particular moment, the Zodiac was no longer in view, having already turned the corner at Jackson Street. Pelissetti and Peda would have had to arrive two minutes earlier at 9:57 to be able to see the Zodiac.
Consider now the same scenario from a different standpoint. If the Zodiac left the cab two minutes later, at 9:58, he would have been visible to Lindsey as he was speaking to Pelissetti. However, this would delay the time of the Zodiac’s arrival at Jackson and Maple from 9:59 to 10:01. Again there is a discrepancy of two minutes, for Fouke and Zelms had already gone through the intersection at 9:59.
Assuming once more that the dispatcher’s call was at 9:58 and that the Zodiac left the cab at 9:58, then at 9:59 he was still within Lindsay’s view as he turned the corner of Jackson Street on the west side of the block. Also at 9:59 he was on the east side of the block at Maple Street speaking with Fouke and Zelms. The distance between both ends of the block is a walking time of two minutes. The timeline unavoidably puts the Zodiac in two separate places at the same time. This of course is impossible. There must have been two Zodiacs.
Reading again the part in the Zodiac’s letter that said he met “2 cops” who “pulled a goof,” it appears that he concealed the existence of his accomplice by claiming that he was the one who met the two patrolmen. By merging his own actions with those of his decoy, the author of the letter projected the image of a lone operator larger than life, capable of terrifying and ingenious things.
Looking at the situation from the Zodiac’s point of view when he was on Cherry Street walking toward Jackson Street, he might have heard the siren and seen the flashing red light of a police car. He might have seen a teenager talking to a police officer and pointing in his direction. When he got to the corner of Jackson Street, he might have looked east and seen a police car pull up next to his decoy at the other end of the block. He had a decision to make. If he turned right and started walking east on Jackson Street, he would have risked detection by officers in the patrol car (Fouke and Zelms) who might have seen his bloody clothes in that “extremely well-lit” area. If he continued north on Cherry toward the Presidio, he faced the risk of getting spotted by the police officer behind him as he climbed over the wall. If he turned left, going west on Jackson Street, his chances for a successful escape were still not good. Nevertheless, somehow, some way, he pulled off an extraordinary feat, disappearing from the area, like a phantom in the night.
When Pelissetti found out which direction the gunman went, he decided to go after him. In the 2007 documentary, he said:
I walked that way myself. I did not run because there are innumerable alcoves and parked cars. So I went down, following every technique in the book so I didn’t get my head blown off. Got down to the corner of Jackson Street. Had to make a choice. I was on the east side of the street, so I turned right to the east. Went up in that direction. I couldn’t see anybody in either direction nor could I see anybody scaling a wall into the Presidio. I got all the way down to the next corner, which was Maple. Decision number two: which way to go? To the left toward the Presidio? Saw absolutely nothing. It was much darker there. I figured the chance of finding somebody was almost nil. I turned to the right and saw a man walking his dog. He was somewhat older than the description I had, a whole lot thinner, and he had absolutely no blood on his clothes. I asked that gentleman if he saw anybody walking in the area and he told me no.
At that point Officer Don Fouke, who was accompanied by what I believe was the rookie officer, Eric Zelms, at the time, pulled up pretty quickly in their police car, called out to me, did I know anything about where the suspect could be. I told him no.
I got back to the scene and it was sometime shortly thereafter that the ambulance crew, the coroner, a fire truck, Inspector Walt Krake of homicide detail, and then about three or four minutes or five minutes thereafter Inspector Dave Toschi and Bill Armstrong, two of the best, arrived at the scene. I briefed Inspector Toschi. “You seem to be taking the lead on the investigation.” As we walked over to the car, I assured him nobody had contaminated the scene and then I went about uniformed business and let him take care of his detective work. I spoke to Officer Fouke later that evening and was unaware that he stopped anybody, black, white, or any other color. However, in subsequent conversations with him he told me he did stop somebody.
In the decades to follow, Fouke was still reluctant to admit that he spoke to the Zodiac. In the 2007 documentary, he said:
The initial radio description of the suspect was that of a black male, five foot ten or something like that. Seeing it was a white male in an affluent neighborhood walking along the street, we didn’t think it was the suspect. So we proceeded the next block at which was Jackson and Cherry, turned southbound on Cherry Street and saw Armond Pelissetti, one of the officers who had responded directly to the scene.
He stopped us and said he was looking for the white male that had just gone down the street. There was a little conversation about what the initial description was, and he said “No, he was a white male.” I then used a slang term and said, “Oh, that was the suspect.”
We turned to get to the Presidio, and my reasoning on that was because turning down Maple would lead through the Presidio wall directly into Julius Kahn Playground which had a lot of foliage. So we turned and went down looking for the alleged suspect in the area of Julius Kahn Playground. Nothing was observed.
Fouke said that when he saw the suspect, he was driving at a speed of 35 to 40 miles per hour.
. . . slowed down as we passed him, I don’t know, we were still rolling, saw that it was a white male, step on the gas, 5, 10, 15 seconds tops from first spotting him to passing him.
We never stopped the man, we never talked to him. That is an emphatic statement by me. I wouldn’t make the denial.
In the 1989 documentary “Crimes of the Century,” Fouke had a different version of how and where he learned that the suspect was white.
We proceeded on Jackson Street towards Arguello continuing our search. As we arrived at Arguello Street the description of the suspect was changed to a white male adult. Believing this suspect was possibly the one involved in the shooting, we entered the Presidio of San Francisco and conducted a search on West Pacific Avenue, the opposite side of the wall and the last direction we observed the suspect going. We did not find the suspect.
The 1989 version shows that Fouke and Zelms were diverted from going directly to the crime scene and made a search of the south boundary of the Presidio along West Pacific Avenue. The best explanation for this diversion is that the Zodiac had indeed spoken to them and given them false information. Fouke tried to hide the diversion in 2007 by attributing to Pelissetti, and not to the dispatcher, his first awareness that the suspect was white. It is true that Fouke had a conversation with Pelissetti, but it was after he searched West Pacific Avenue, not before.
Contrary to what Graysmith said about Fouke and Zelms contacting homicide investigators on October 16, Fouke dated his first communication one month later, or about the time when he wrote the scratch on November 12.
One month later when the composite drawing came out at Richmond station and was posted on the wall, he looks similar to the man that I had seen on October 11. I then wrote a scratch, an interdepartmental memorandum, to my lieutenant to forward to Homicide Division, so that they would have the additional information about the appearance of the suspect.
We did not stop the Zodiac. We didn’t stop anyone. I wish Eric Zelms were alive today to tell you so.
It is purported in the works [of Graysmith] of Zodiac Unmasked that I tearfully told Inspector Toschi, “You know, Dave, we could have been killed that night.” I never spoke to Toschi that l personally know of or remember. He may have been the inspector who came out and asked me about the composite drawing and I told him the suspect was older and heavier. Beyond that I had no further contact with the investigation.
A reconstruction of what really happened on Jackson Street would start with the Zodiac’s letter. He said, “I was walking down the hill to the park when this cop car pulled up & one of them called me over & asked if I saw anyone acting suspicious or strange in the last 5 to 10 min & I said yes there was this man who was runnig by waveing a gun & the cops peeled rubber & went around the corner as I directed them.”
Fouke and Zelms were under the impression that the gunman was black. As they drove toward Arguello Boulevard, they heard over the radio that the suspect was white. They went into the Presidio to look for him, proceeding east along West Pacific Avenue to the Julius Kahn playground. After searching that area, they went back to Jackson and Maple Streets, where they had a conversation with Pelissetti who had just seen a man walking his dog. Pelissetti confirmed to them that the gunman was white. At that point, Fouke had no doubt that the pedestrian they spoke to on Jackson Street was the suspect they were seeking. For some reason, he chose not to mention the encounter to Pelissetti.
A few days later (not a month later), Fouke saw a composite sketch of the Zodiac posted on the wall at Richmond station and noted that the face looked similar to the man he saw on Jackson Street. He submitted a scratch, or interdepartmental communication, to his lieutenant on October 16. He also told an investigator that the composite sketch was similar to the man he saw but was “older and heavier.”
It was at this point that homicide investigators realized that they were dealing with, not one, but two Zodiacs.
In an effort to rescue the single perpetrator theory, the SFPD decided to make the young man disappear and to concentrate on the older man. This involved making the aforementioned changes to the police report and the composite sketch. They also changed the date on Fouke’s scratch from October 16 to November 12. When the tampering of the official record was done, the SFPD could then deny that any patrolmen spoke to the Zodiac.
Undoubtedly, the man who spoke to Fouke and Zelms was stocky and middle-aged. Fouke’s scratch said that he turned left at the corner, going north in the direction of the Presidio, an unsecured military reservation that in 1969 was the headquarters of the Sixth Army. Using the Zodiac’s letter as a guide, the decoy went one and a half blocks and then entered a park. This probably meant that he went one block north on Maple, jumped over the Presidio wall, turned right on West Pacific Avenue, went half a block toward Spruce Street, and then crossed Pacific Avenue to enter the park. Witnesses unnamed by newspapers saw a blond, middle-aged man jump over the Presidio wall and run through the Julius Kahn park and playground, ostentatiously looking like a fleeing criminal for the benefit of those watching him. After completing his task as a decoy, he probably disappeared into the dense foliage of the park and proceeded to a nearby car and drove away.
When last seen, the Zodiac was casually walking north on Cherry Street. Where he went after that is a matter of speculation. My guess is that he entered a safe house somewhere in the vicinity of the intersection of Cherry and Jackson Streets. There he could wash the blood off, put on fresh clothes, and perhaps don a disguise. He might even venture out to enjoy the spectacle of a full-scale manhunt. As described in his letters, he entered the Presidio and went to the Julius Kahn park and playground (which belonged to the Army but was leased to the city). From a vantage point east of the parking lot, he could watch police cars, motorcycles, dog units madly crisscrossing the area in search of him. In his letter, he boasted that the dogs never came within two blocks of him. His location therefore was somewhere in the park, north of the Laurel Street cul-de-sac and two blocks east of the Presidio wall entrance at Spruce Street , where dog units assembled in the parking lot.
The night-shift sergeant in charge of the dogs, Charles Beene, gave an interesting account of the search for Stine’s killer to a reporter for the Billings Gazette. In an article dated March 13, 2007 and entitled “Retired Cop Recalls Brush with the Zodiac,” Lance Benzel wrote:
Beene and his crew [of five dog handlers] arrived 40 minutes after the shooting was reported and were immediately discouraged by what they found. Police officers and an Army platoon were crisscrossing the Presidio in squad cars and motorcycles; if the killer had left a scent trail for Beene and his fellow dog handlers, it was not a leap to assume it had long since dissipated.
Add the stiff ocean breezes and it was virtually a foregone conclusion.
“As soon as we saw the set-up and the officers driving all over the park and all over the playground, a couple of the guys said, ‘Ah sarge, we don’t have a chance,’ ” Beene recalled of that night. “I said, ‘We’re the experts, we’ll give them the best search that we can.’ “
Beene, handling his canine partner Darius, divided the park into three zones and directed the other dog handlers to search the middle third while the cops and soldiers took the opposite zones. Chances of finding the killer were “slight and none,” especially if he had been on the run for the full 40 minutes, Beene said. Predictably, the trail had gone cold and the search was called off a few hours later.
The man who shot Paul Stine was 25 to 30 years old, 5 feet 8 or 5 feet 9 inches tall, weighing 150 pounds. He had reddish brown hair which he wore in a crew cut. He wore heavy-rimmed glasses and a navy blue or black jacket.
The decoy was in his forties, 5 feet 8 inches, heavy build. He had reddish blond hair which he wore in a crew cut. He wore eyeglasses, dark brown trousers, dark (navy blue or black) “Parka” jacket, and dark shoes.
According to Marie Vigil, the Zodiac Killer was Robert Linkletter. On October 11, he was four days shy of his 25th birthday. He was therefore the young man wearing heavy rimmed glasses seen in the cab with the body of Paul Stine. Two months earlier he left a pair of heavy rimmed glasses at the Tate house the morning of August 10. He was probably the one who killed Sharon Tate and Jay Sebring.
The heavy-set, middle-aged man seen by Fouke and Zelms was probably Lawrence Kane, who in 1969 was 45 years old. He was the one who stalked Darlene Ferrin, prior to her murder at Blue Rock Springs Park in Vallejo on July 4, 1969. At the time of the Stine murder, he was living in San Francisco at 217 Eddy Street, not far from Union Square, where Stine picked up his fare, presumed to be the Zodiac. Harry Hines gathered much evidence indicating Kane was stalking Donna Lass prior to her disappearance on September 6, 1970 from the Sahara Hotel and Casino in Stateline, Nevada. He was also involved in the abduction and murder of Dana Lull in Las Vegas on April 27, 1974.
The possibility of a safe house in the vicinity of Cherry and Jackson Streets broadens the plot to kill Stine to more than just the Zodiac and his decoy. A discussion of the conspiratorial aspects of the case will be reserved for a future article.