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.
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.
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.
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.
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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.