ZODIAC Mistake # 3

It’s really ZODIAC’s No 1 mistake, but I am not going chronologically.  It made me stick to my suspect and follow the trail. My person of interest had a short career in the Air Force. Though he made officer, he was separated under his 4 years at only 1st Lieutenant. He didn’t make Vietnam. He remained for most of his career at Lackland AFB, where wing walkers were the standard issue.

He was separated at the hospital, for reasons I cannot as yet entirely satisfy myself.

But he did have one accomplishment– the small arms EXPERT ribbon. The requirements are outlined thusly:

“Qualification as expert with the pistol (M-9/M-11) requires 41 hits out of 45 rounds on target, with at least 25 hits within a 10-inch circle on the torso of the target and six hits within a six-inch circle on the head of the target.”

This was not his mistake. The mistake was in shooting up Betty Lou Jensen as though she was the torso of a target. Solano County investigators were a little taken aback by the grouping of the bullets in her back. They followed a circular pattern, a grouping one would see in target practice. I won’t show the morgue photo here, but this is an outline someone did on the web.

LHR_-_Betty_Lou_Jensen_-_bullet_wounds_Morgue_tracing

Considering the one in her heart had to be the last one, The ZODIAC shot in a tight pattern, probably pulling to the right. The result of his nasty little pencil flashlight? Possibly. But it remains essentially a 10 inch grouping as that required in formal military marksmanship training, the grouping also being essential to achieving the small arms Expert ribbon, the highest rank of military marksman.

*         *          *

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.

Advertisements

ZODIAC’s Mistake #2

Those who have followed my ZODIAC investigation for the last 4 years know that by 2012 I had already settled on a suspect that I was relatively sure of. I put one of his pics up and gave him the alias “Beard” for a variety of reason. Unlike with EAR/ONS more recently I have not been releasing snippets of facts discovered or clues uncovered as I went along. From the point of view of publicity and grandstanding, ZODIAC is a nightmare case. It has become a real life comic strip, both in the factual and negative meaning of that term.

One thing I had made clear. I believed my suspect came from afar to his killing fields. I did not believe he was a Vallejo native. I believed he may have known some of the rural areas from game and recreation shooting. He enlisted in the Air Force in Oakland and then short of his 4 years he was separated from the Service at the hospital. His sole earned medal was the small arms Expert marksmanship ribbon, which means he was a superb aim with the standard issue Colt M11 semi auto .45 pistol.

I proposed that ZODIAC drove at least 1 hour distances, perhaps even coming from Sacramento to the Lake Herman Road and Columbus Parkway area. His crime spree would soon tell us that he would certainly drive long distances in subsequent attacks. Lake Berryessa is far more than an hour away from Vallejo. San Francisco is at least that, at least to Presidio Heights, from Vallejo.

This same pattern was, in fact, visible from the beginning. Lake Herman Road and Columbus Parkway don’t reveal this to us, but the little postmark on his boasting letters do.

ZODIAC mailed his poison pen pal letters from San Francisco almost exclusively.  There is no doubt of this. The envelops remain today. The postmarks are intact.

This, of course, helps my approach to the investigation and why I went outside the dragnet to a suspect who could only be placed around Sacramento at the time or his mother’s house in the Bay Area.

The postmarks underscore for everybody that ZODIAC was cerebral enough when he first began his letter writing to travel quite a distance. If you believe he was local to Benicia or Vallejo, he traveled quite a distance to mail the letters in San Francisco. The opposite is true as well. If he lived in SF he traveled about an hour or, for Lake Berryessa, more than 2 hours to his killing fields.

ZJuly4

We must accept that simply because ZODIAC began in the rural backroads of Vallejo and Benicia does not mean that he came from there. Those two roads, as I showed in an earlier post, aren’t just backroads. They are main rural roads to 3 major highways in and out of the Bay Area.

ZODIAC, naturally, thought he was being clever in posting his letters from the metropolis. Up to a point he was. ZODIAC knew to go to the most populated area from which to mail them, where someone simply dropping off a letter would go unnoticed. But he revealed for us that from the very beginning he traveled. Which direction? With my own suspect, I naturally believe in a certain direction. But my own conviction does not alter the fact that ZODIAC’s letter mailing identifies him as a man who traveled distances to carry off aspects of his game of death.

The dragnet must widen and at the same time take some local clues into consideration. For one, the first TV newscasts showing a composite were telecast between October 3 and October 7, 1969. After this time, ZODIAC gets a hair cut. I do not know how far such newscasts were broadcast. I doubt as far as Sacramento, but they may have been. They were certainly broadcast in the Bay Area, including the Contra Costa Corridor. They also appeared in print, but I do not know in what papers. ZODIAC must have seen them. If they weren’t broadcast or in print in Sacramento, it means ZODIAC was in the Bay Area as well.

My suspect’s mother lived in the Bay Area, where my suspect had actually gone to school and then enlisted into the Air Force in 1963.

How does one place a suspect at a given location in such a huge area as the Bay Area at a given moment on a dark night? No one can, then or now. But by realizing that ZODIAC was more cerebral than given credit for, we can broaden the dragnet and justify looking at suspects that were never considered before.

*         *          *

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.

ZODIAC’s Mistake #1

In order to unravel the identity of a villain both then and now it is necessary to examine both his pattern and his mistakes.

In the above photo we see Tennessee Street, Vallejo, 1969, a few blocks past where it intersects with Tuolomne. It was at the gas station at Tuolomne and Springs where ZODIAC stopped and parked and called from the phone booth to boast to the police operator (Nancy Slover) that he had just murdered two kids in a parked car at Blue Rock Springs Park (July 4, 1969).

Eager to prove he was their killer and the killer of the “teenagers” in December 1968, he was happy to respond to Chief Jack Stiltz’s request in the Examiner that he send more verifying information. He elaborated on points only the killer and the police should have known. In his letter he stated that “The man who told you that my car was brown was a negro about 40-45 shabbly  dressed. I was at the phone booth haveing some fun with the Vallejo cops when he was walking by. When I hung the phone up the dam X@ began to ring +  that drew his attention to me + my car.”

ZODIAC was wrong.

As his crime spree would unfold it became obvious that ZODIAC was in quite a state after he committed his murders. He didn’t really take stock of the scene afterward. He walked away from the couple at Lake Berryessa and didn’t seem to hear them speaking to each other. When he called at Napa to boast of this crime he thought he had killed them both. It was the same at Blue Rock Springs Park. Not only hadn’t he killed his victims, he hadn’t noticed that Mike Mageau had fallen out of Dee Ferrin’s Corvair and saw ZODIAC’s car pull away. He said it looked light brown and similar to Dee’s Corvair.

It is from Mageau that Vallejo PD suspected ZODIAC had a brown car. When ZODIAC offered that tidbit above about “the shabbly negro” in his letter, thinking he was offering them something exclusive, all he really did was confirm he had a brown car. We have the possibility  that the car was a Corvair, but thanks to ZODIAC we don’t have to rely on Mageau’s impression the car was brown. He foolishly confirmed it.

“Had” or “used,” however?  Did he have a brown Corvair sedan, the two door version of Dee’s coupe? James Owen said that the car he saw next to Faraday’s Rambler back in December 1968 was neither big nor small and “no chrome” in its bumper. The Corvair was certainly a low chrome car. The coupe was small, but the sedan was mid size.

65corvairrear

At Lake Berryessa ZODIAC would be identified with a car that seems to be a 66 or 67 Chevy Impala, sky blue in color. It was considered a car that a young man of his age would not have.

67Chevroletimpalaskyblue

The witnesses seem to have been right to associate ZODIAC with that car and with the heavy set young man they saw driving it. After the broadcast of the Napa composites in early October 1969, ZODIAC saw fit to change his appearance. He got a crew cut– a radically different hairstyle than that which he had at Lake Berryessa.Cronkite-Zodiac

Thus we have 2 cars with which to associate ZODIAC. One it seems was unlikely to be his. But whose were they? Were they his or not? Either way they are a clue.

ZODIAC’s mistake at the phone booth in Vallejo is telling. However,  in our next ZODIAC post we will look rather at one of his most obvious clues. Only until now can it be looked at as a mistake.

*         *          *

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.