Finger of Guilt —

DNA– that silver bullet. That genetic fingerprint on the smoking gun. However, for cold cases it can be the pot at the end of the rainbow. Just how to finally get to it?

Those who have followed my investigation on both EAR/ONS and ZODIAC– but especially on EAR/ONS– know the difficulty near 40 years later in trying to prove guilt. It may be easy to write a book and let an accusation dangle out like a gossipy tongue, but it is difficult to prove guilt by any legal means of the word.

It comes down to DNA . . . and DNA can only come from “Probable Cause.” For a living suspect you don’t need as much, but for a dead one you need a lot. Familial DNA is hard, but especially hard in a family where only one female remains alive. The DNA gang like male DNA– son, nephew, brother, dad. Such is the case facing me now. How do I keep a POI from becoming The Prime Suspect  . . . and remaining nothing but the prime suspect?

EAR composite 1976. Possibly wearing a wig.
EAR composite 1976. Possibly wearing a wig.

For EAR/ONS several steps have led us here. They have led us to someone who fits everything required— age, appearance, Volkswagens, Carmichael, auto mechanics and wrecking and then eventually (openly) security. He fits in even being the unsuspected in 1976, but he also seems improbable. But this is because we have only one solid location for him– Placerville and high school. This is hardly a detailed map of his daily and nightly agenda.

Composites are dependent on the witnesses’ accuracy, light, shadow, and the artists’ abilities. With EAR/ONS, however, we have been lucky. There are enough of them that they can be averaged. Collectively they tell us he had a long face and an interesting mouth and lower jaw. His nose was average. This should not surprise us since he was seen with his tight ski masks on and no one ever noted that he had a large nose. From the timeline of his attacks and composites he seems to have had short hair parted on the right, as the composite, below, would indicate. He seems to have worn a wig on occasion, as the composite above indicates.

This, too, fits the POI. From a solitary picture, the approximate date of its taking being known, we know that the POI maintained his shorter hair parted on the right at a time when the above composite was drawn. It clearly seems a wig, which would be necessary if this POI is the actual EAR/ONS. We also know the POI had an interesting cross bite and mouth area, fitting the composites.


Robert Neville adjusted an old police composite to give us a living image of EAR/ONS, California's most mysterious serial predator.

With ZODIAC we only have a couple of composites. They must be balanced by knowledge of his age and weight, the latter estimated from his footprints at Lake Berryessa. He also had a big face.

Both ZODIAC and EAR/ONS share a few frustrating things: detailed movements. It is impossible after all these years to put someone on the tarmac at the scene of a drive-by shooting (ZODIAC) or on a given street and house (EAR/ONS). If each drove a distance to the scene of his respective crimes, then they were outside of the probable dragnet anyway back then. This fits both of my POI– ZODIAC POI driving from Sacramento to an area he knew; EAR/ONS POI driving from Placerville to an area he grew up and where the family maintained property and connections.

ZODIAC POI’s death was complications from diabetes and pulmonary problems. EAR POI’s death still needs some exploring before it becomes relevant. EAR was thought to have an unusual disease or drug addiction that set the bloodhounds off. The POI of great current interest died relatively young at 49.

Both EAR/ONS and ZODIAC share the same problem with DNA. There is no male DNA in each case.

Without familial DNA, what is next? How much “probable cause” do you think it takes to get an exhumation? Imagine.

. . . But there is one way to cheat. It also comes from the body, sorta.

Handwriting. ZODIAC left lots of printing. EAR possibly left handwriting and a map. In essence, this could provide the “Finger of Guilt.” Enough anyway to spur an official investigation onwards.

The records manager with the state department (BSIS) responsible for regulating the security profession has been helpful. It has been confirmed by the license number and name that the EAR/ONS POI was not in security professionally prior to 1989. The license is long expired. The Bureau carries paperwork for only 10 years then incinerates it. I was hoping, but suddenly stifled. There’s no chance of uncovering reports or some test or form he filled out to get a sample of his writing.

For ZODIAC I still wait to see if the state department he was later associated with can come up with printing or handwriting.

I can make a good argument for both, but short of handwriting there isn’t “probable cause” to go for DNA or exhumation.

I must forsake following my suspect’s footprints. I must follow their fingers.


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