ZODIAC Observed. . . but not Explained

As I plug along in HorrorScope you’ll all be able to guess where I am by my posts here.

ZODIAC has been called “the most cerebral killer”– this is an after-the-fact assessment. His first attacks merely look like he took advantage of kids at petting spots and was little more than a drive-by shooter who got out of his car quickly in these cases. If anything was cerebral here it was his choice of Columbus Parkway and Lake Herman Road– two main backroads that allowed several ways to escape. He could appear to be local, but these roads were rural arteries to 3 major highways.

However, with the Lake Berryessa attack he became more cerebral. He planned out in advance his interaction with his victims and selected the general area carefully. It must also have taken him some time to devise and create that ceremonial hood.  He was thinking and preplanning far more now, perhaps weeks in advance.

This is evident in his San Francisco attack. He must have spent some time figuring out the length of the cab ride and the best location for 10 p.m. at night to shoot a cabbie and escape.  He either parked his car up by Jackson somewhere or had a hideout nearby in Presidio Heights. Then in early evening or late afternoon walked to Mason and Geary (about 3 miles). To Washington and Maple in Presidio Heights he told the cabbie, Paul Stine, to go. They drove together for the three miles through traffic. The ride was probably 10 minutes. . .

Paul Stine


. . .Then in our reenactments he just shoots Stine.  In these reenactments we imagine him in the backseat. Why?

ZODIAC was observed.

He was observed to wipe off the passenger side door with what looked like a kerchief. If he had been in the backseat when he shot Stine why not simply use the handkerchief he was observed to have and open the back door with it and then open the front door with it?

Rather his actions give us the impression that ZODIAC sat in the front seat for the whole ride and was not wearing gloves.

The kids in the upper windows of the house across Washington Street see him sitting in the front seat and rifling the cab driver. They believe he is robbing the cab driver and they call the fuzz. ZODIAC looks like he is then wiping down the wheel and dashboard area. Why?


It’s been theorized that he shifted the car into park after he killed Stine. Perhaps. But why do we assume it was here at Cherry?

The kids heard no gunshot.

Why not at Maple, the actual destination? When he reached into his pocket to pay the fare at Washington and Maple he pulled out his gun, told Stine to shift and then remove his feet from the pedals. After Stine acquiesces, thinking this is a robbery, ZODIAC then blows his brains out.

Records show that the cab ride was to Washington and Maple.  If it is here at Maple that ZODIAC kills Stine, then  ZODIAC would lean over, shift the car into D and drive it on to Cherry one block ahead. If any sound is heard at Washington and Maple, anyone looking out their window would see nothing but a cab slowly moving through the intersection. Nothing to get excited about.

ZODIAC pulls over at Cherry, shifts. He rifles Stine, rips the shirt piece off and takes the wallet and keys. He wipes down where he touched. He gets out and wipes off the front passenger door where he had got in at Mason and Geary and then walks around, as he is observed to do, and wipes off the driver’s side door. Why the latter?

Stine_s_cab_-left passenger_side door handle

There is a bloody print. All Zodiologists know of it. Why would there be a bloody print? ZODIAC later claimed he was making fake clues on the cab door, and says he did not leave any finger prints.  But who believes a ZODIAC letter?

So why would ZODIAC need to wipe down the driver’s side door?

The villain who called himself The ZODIAC was becoming far more cerebral in his murders now. His game of death revealed his calculating mind back in July when he sent those 3 letters to major newspapers, each containing a third of his cryptogram. It must have taken him the better part of a week to devise this, formulate the code, draw a rough copy and then neatly draw 3 parts.

Stine's_cab in police garage

With Lake Berryessa and then with San Francisco we see ZODIAC becoming equally cerebral in planning more complex attacks.

Then he suddenly stops and continues his publicity campaign of poison pen letters to the Chronicle.

Though this raises many questions, the one here is important in recreating the events before ZODIAC is observed. Why the driver’s side door? Why did he need to wipe anything here?

*         *          *

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.


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