Those of you who follow me know I don’t care for syrupy memorials. If the dead could speak, they would say “Go get the guy.” But today is the anniversary of The ZODIAC Killer’s first strike, this the one on Lake Herman Road, 1968. ZODIAC didn’t admit to it until he called after he attacked at Blue Rock Springs Park on July 4, 1969, where he shot Mike Mageau and killed Dee Ferrin.
Even to this day, in a sense, the murders of David Faraday and Betty Lou Jensen have been overlooked. Dee Ferrin’s vivacious character has led to the legend of Darlene in Vallejo; the exotic nature of ZODIAC’s attack at Lake Berryessa has made the black hooded executioner his image today; the murder of Paul Stine in San Francisco introduces us to the cosmopolitan world of San Francisco at a very unique time in history. By contrast, the murder of two teens at a necking spot on bland, rural Lake Herman Road offers very little. In the movie Zodiac (2007) it doesn’t even find re-creation. The film begins with Dee Ferrin and Mike Mageau’s attack at Blue Rock Springs Park.
Yet, on the contrary, ZODIAC’s first attack offers much. It was not impulsive in any strict sense, though it may have been opportunistic. I say ZODIAC was prowling and he already knew or quickly deduced that the pump turn out was a petting spot. He may only have had a .22 caliber with him, but he came to kill. Not only that he came to experience killing.
The shot in the back window, the shot in the roof over the back passenger side door have been said to have been fired in order to get young Faraday and Jensen out of the car. No reason to disagree. He only had a .22 and he wasn’t going to shoot through windows. It was cold out that night, 10 degrees below freezing. He fired the shots, no doubt after shouting at them. All seem to agree.
But notice the placement of those shots. They were in the back window and the roof just over the frame of the rear door. ZODIAC didn’t want to hit one of them. He was careful not to fire near them. He wanted them out.
Nothing indicates that David Faraday was shot as soon as they got out the front passenger’s side door. (ZODIAC must have ordered them out that door.) Indeed that would have been too swift. Faraday’s class ring, moreover, was found almost pulled off his finger. He had been shot once in the head behind the left ear at close range (there was powder burn). He was shot while lying down. Everything indicates that the middle weight wrestler at Vallejo High tried to wrestle the gun from the assailant. He failed. He went down clutching onto ZODIAC– almost losing his ring from gripping and pulling– and on the ground it was goodbye. The hulking, moon-face ZODIAC fired into his head point blank and Faraday’s arms released and fell down.
I do not know what Betty Lou was doing during this time. But soon ZODIAC told her to run. He shot first while she was close enough for her bright purple dress to take one grain of gun powder. He shot her 5 times. She was running away to the West. Yet when her body was found, her feet were facing West. The physics of momentum cannot be violated. If she fell while running away, she would fall forward. She didn’t. She fell backwards. This means that ZODIAC kept pumping bullets into her until she staggered and finally after the last bullet she plumped down on her side.
This is ZODIAC’s first attack.
ZODIAC learned from his mistakes. He had parked next to Faraday’s station wagon. Perhaps David had started the car and was backing out. At Blue Rock Springs he parked behind Dee Ferrin. He used not a .22 caliber here but a 9 millimeter luger. It was warm and summer and the windows were down. He just walked up and started shooting. He ripped it out of there into Vallejo to confess to both crimes, those of Faraday and Jensen 6 months before and now these. His farewell to the police operator was taunting.
This isn’t the place to debate the meaning of those 6 months of silence. I have desired to make it plain here that he came to kill.
Contemporary photos of Lake Herman Road. The turnout was at the top of the rise, quite prominent and hard to miss a car there. A sheriff’s car is parked in the turnout in the second photo.
However, it must said that it was unlikely that there would be lovers at the lovers’ lane on Lake Herman Road that night. If ZODIAC was prowling, he may not have had that turnout initially in mind. Where else was he thinking? I don’t know. The turnout may have been something impulsive in that regard, but ZODIAC wanted to experience murder firsthand.
Blue Rock Springs Park is just the opposite. It was 4th of July 1969. The probability someone would be there was much more.
I have maintained that ZODIAC only had a cursory knowledge of the backroads and was not a local Vallejoan. Think of these attack locations. A turnout that is very visible in a bend of the road to the highway. A famous local park on 4th of July. It too on the other major backroad (Columbus Parkway) to a highway. Not a lot of stalking needed to be done to come across kids at both locations.
From the clues and evidence, I see someone who came to kill and who seized opportunities. Why? I don’t know. I could easily venture a guess had he not gotten so theatrical at Lake Berryessa. That attack has always thrown a kink into theorizing.
ZODIAC’s murders became a means to an end for public boasting. But here at Lake Herman Road he seemed to want to take his time with the victims. He wanted them out. He may have demanded that Jensen run rather than taking it point blank.
Suffice it to say here that Lake Herman Road and the Faraday/Jensen murders should not be overlooked. That ZODIAC knew these backroads, yet not so well, is an enormous clue. So is the fact that Faraday knew to fight back and try and wrestle the gun. He is the only one to have ever challenged ZODIAC. There was a big man in that little 17 year old.
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For 25 years Gian J. Quasar has investigated a broad range of mysterious subjects, from strange disappearances to serial murders, earning in that time the unique distinction of being likened to “the real life Kolchak.” However, he is much more at home with being called The Quester. “He’s bloody eccentric, an historian with no qualifications who sticks his nose into affairs and gets results.” He is the author of several books, one of which inspired a Resolution in Congress.