Behind A Stranger When He Calls

Starting in December 1977, some of the past victims of EAR began to receive phone calls. These were not like the hang-up phone calls many of them had received before they were struck. Those kind had been so common amongst the victims that it was later judged by detectives to be one of EAR’s methods for determining the schedule of his intended victims. At a contrast, these December 1977 calls were from someone who spoke. Victim No. 21 picked up the phone to hear: “Merry Christmas. It’s me again.” It was a hoarse whisper, similar to the way EAR inflicted terror into his victims in person.

Others were soon to receive these strange phone calls. Even one of the Stockton victims received one. Each call basically was of the same kind– their purpose was to instill terror in the past victims.

Sac Co. Sheriffs anticipated others victims may receive the calls. They had traps put on some of the phones. The caller took the bait, without knowing there was bait.

DSC07488-25%

On January 2, 1978, he called Victim No. 1. She had been raped back on June 18, 1976. It was now a year and a half from that point of terror. She hit the record button on the tape recorder affixed to the phone every time it rang and before she picked up. During that evening we got lucky. The perp called. She hit the recorder and picked up.

What she heard we shall hear. A voice intentionally strained pulses of heavy breathing. The caller’s mouth was close to the receiver. He continued to breathe in and out. Then he spoke. It is a very young voice. I think a little too young. But EAR was thought to have a higher pitched or boyish voice, and the recording reflects that.

8 heavy breaths:

Gonna kill you. . .gonna kill you. . .gonna kkkill you . . .

Bitch. . .bitch. . .bitch. . .bitch. . .bitch . . .fuckin’ whore . . .

Aside from being a young voice, it seems as if it is a bit congested.

It is what is behind this caller’s call that still has investigative meaning. I do not mean his motive to inspire terror. People are speaking in the background. There appears to be two women and one man.

For argument’s sake, I will list the caller hereafter as EAR. We know this was an evening call on Monday. Business would be closing at this time of evening, and the voices in the background seem to reflect this. EAR seems indoors. A machine winds over a few times around 1:02 in the recording. We must assume that EAR felt he was in a location where no one would simply walk into him. Is he in some back office and the voices behind him are either in a main office or warehouse?

The recording begins. The words below are subject to interpretation. It is hard to pick up the dialog.

Woman No 1 to (unknown): “Were you combing a book?”

Garbled due to heavy breathing of EAR.

@33 seconds (Woman No 1) “He’s going to tell me about paying on a loan. . .”

Garbled . . .

@42  (Woman No 1) Garbled . . . “go off and make a payment. . .”

@45 seconds  Man (speaking already) “OK . . .” garbled.

@46 Woman No 2 (loudly calling) “Edward, out of here first.”

Sounds of some rolling (metal?) door ratcheting down a few notches.

@55 seconds (Woman No 1) “I, I don’t know how . . .”

@1:02 Some type of machine commences briefly.

@1:08 (Woman No 1) “When you get the comb, I dare you to enter the (Sands?) tomorrow.”

@1:13 (Woman No 2, loudly calling) “Hey, Jethro, Que es?”

There is much garbled or low dialog between these snippets, and some of what I list is subject to interpretation, but it is enough to stimulate some solid leads.  The names are the most intriguing leads there are, of course.

But to the point of this article, rather than the process of following clues.

Clearly, the “loud woman” had some authority. As they are closing, she tells Edward he’s to go first. This is in keeping with the time of evening and leaving off work. Woman No 1  is going off somewhere to make a payment.

The word “comb” is curious. Is it “coaming a boat?” Neither interpretation fit at the end, where Woman No 1 sounds as if she is speaking to Woman No 2 (loud, authoritative woman) about if she gets a “comb.” It must have some other meaning. I have re-listened with earphones time and time again, but I cannot pick up clearly the word that sounds like “Sands.”

The question is, is our man EAR remaining inside? It sounds as if Woman No 2 is instructing people out and she has to lock up. Then is EAR outside at a payphone and this is picked up in the background? What then is that sound @1:02 into the tape?

There are no sounds of traffic.

The voices sound indoors. Does EAR (for argument’s sake) have authority to remain? Or is he in an upstairs office, such as those that have a window that look out over a warehouse bay, and would he actually leave by the front office space door and not out the warehouse?  If indoors, he certainly didn’t feel those who were clearly audible to him in the background could just walk in on him.

IS this even EAR? Or is it a crank? If a crank, how did he get the phone numbers of the victims, even the phone number of a Stockton victim? Around this same time Excitement’s Crave is mailed to the Mayor, the police, and a news station.

I will continue to listen to it more and more, and append any further results on here. There are other snippets I suspect I have down pretty clearly, but I did not write them out. I did not want to lead anybody. I thought this would be enough to start others examining it in this context and perhaps much more can be gleaned.

*         *          *

Since 1990 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. 

Excitement’s Crave

Several pages remain unfinished on the EAR/ONS section of The Quester Files. One, in particular, is the page for the poem “Excitement’s Crave.” The poem was typed on onion skin legal size paper and copies sent in to the Sacramento Bee, KVIE Channel 6, and the Mayor of Sacramento’s office, on December 11, 1977.  All three copies were identical and signed by the “East Area Rapist.” It’s not unusual that a crank should do this during a very publicized crime spree. Erratic minds usually have no circumspection and think they are witty and that all society should witness their talents.

But even if not by EAR, how much might truly reflect his own attitude about his crime spree?

21
EAR, as he looked at Attack No. 21

Excitement’s Crave


All those mortal’s surviving birth
Upon facing maturity,
Take inventory of their worth
To prevailing society.

Choosing values becomes a task;
Oneself must seek satisfaction.
The selected route will unmask
Character when plans take action

Accepting some work to perform
At fixed pay, but promise for more,
Is a recognized social norm,
As is decorum, seeking lore.

Achieving while others lifting
Should be cause for deserving fame.
Leisure tempts excitement seeking,
What’s right and expected seems tame.

“Jessie James” has been seen by all,
And “Son of Sam” has an author.
Others now feel temptations call.
Sacramento should make an offer.

To make a movie of my life
That will pay for my planned exile.
Just now I’d like to add the wife
Of a Mafia lord to my file.

Your East Area Rapist
And deserving pest
See you in the press or on T.V.

I think we can all agree the writer is a ghastly poet. Only one line was noteworthy at the time the sheriff investigators looked at it. EAR had recently struck in Sandbar Circle, adding victim No. 21 to his list. She was married to an Italian family and her father-in-law from Italy was visiting. Was this enough connection for EAR to write the “wife of a mafia lord” in his poem? It wasn’t public knowledge at the time that the victims were Italian, but EAR had known it. Apparently had stalked the home enough that he knew they were Catholics and Italians. A St. Christopher medal was found in the house that did not belong to the family. Little things like that were almost like calling cards.

However, this does not mean EAR wrote the poem. We must remember the 1970s’ craze with Mafia, thanks to the Godfather and numerous other movies detailing the soap opera life and times of the Cosa Nostra, not to mention how the Mafia headlined the news repeatedly. An attack on a Mafia don’s wife would be the ultimate risky attack. After all the poem is named “Excitement’s crave.”

DSC01630-25%
Sandbar Circle looking down to No 21.

 

In light of my belief the EAR was quite young, the first stanza is the most interesting now.

All those mortal’s surviving birth
Upon facing maturity,
Take inventory of their worth
To prevailing society.

The writer does imply that the choice to become the East Area Rapist was made when rather young.

DSC01645-50%
Behind No 21 on the levy walk. It is unchanged today.

 

It would have been nice if this was handwritten. Then it could be compared to the notepaper left behind in Danville, which possibly could have come from EAR as he fled an aborted attack. A comparison would at least tell us the EAR had written it.

I doubt EAR wrote it, but I’m sure it captures some of his attitude. I can’t imagine anything less than thrill motivating someone to continue such a complex crime spree. It must have given him great excitement to plan all of this and then finally to carry it out. No other sadistic mind seems to come close. EAR’s crime spree wasn’t that of an average housebreaker or rapist. It was his thrill hobby. Little of his Stalking MO was public knowledge. The public had little knowledge of the extent to which he went to militarily assess and assault a house.

The Mafia don reference is really not the most interesting verse in the poem. No. 21 had been attacked the May before. Now in December the reference to wanting the wife of a mafia lord would have little meaning since it was months after the fact that EAR had struck an Italian family.

The substance of the poem is that a young man has chosen something out of the norm to get his kicks and now thinks he rates with Son of Sam or Jesse James as a great outlaw. The attack on the mafia lord’s wife is couched in the language of someone who is confident and fearless and loves challenges. A boastful prank or the EAR?

In our next EAR post, unless there is an important update, we will look at the phone calls.

*         *          *

Since 1990 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. 

HorrorScope — Foreword

This is the Foreword of HorrorScope. This is by no means final.  . . . But it gives you an idea.

 

Foreword

This is the Zodiac Speaking

 

Civilization had never seen such a thing before. A counterculture within the younger generation was spreading like a contagion. They cast off the conformity of the “establishment” to become dropouts, long-haired hippies, anti-war flower children and radical student yippies. San Francisco was the center. An elegant society tiptoed around the psychedelic flamboyance of peace, love and drugs, wondering when this fad was going to ebb. Yet a year and a half after the momentous Summer of Love there was no end in sight. The river of youth had become a torrent, entering the city’s tenderloin and parks to reside in “Love-ins,” to adorn themselves in symbols, ty-dye, Indian feathers, to smoke hashish, and to hear the preaching of the Age of Aquarius.

There could be nothing more at a contrast to this mixture of giddy colors and staid culture, diamond tiaras, minks and daisies behind the ear, than a midnight, lonely rural road near Vallejo, a utilitarian city across the bay. Now in December 1968 the mainstream youth still looked like their parents— clean cut guys with thick-rimmed glasses, and gals with elaborate coiffured hairdos. They still necked at petting spots. This was an accepted “taboo.” Lovers’ lanes were still unofficially designated.

Shots rang out. Gun powder flashed. Two teenagers lay dead, a boy and a girl. These were the victims. The victims were John and Jane Q. Citizen, not tunic wearing gurus and licentious members of “Love-ins.” Kids at a petting spot on a backroad. Here the terror began. Like a drop that starts a ripple, it began here in this drab unlikely place and grew wider and wider until it sent San Francisco and the metropolitan Bay Area into a panic.

For 7 months the killer did nothing. He was fomenting his game. Then he struck again in the summer of ’69. Soon he proclaimed himself to the world as though he was some pompous comic strip villain:

 

This is the Zodiac Speaking

      From this point forward this mysterious and egotistical villain made a very public game out of murder. He didn’t stop with his sinister confessions to police operators. Under threat of a metropolitan wide murder spree, he manipulated the newspapers to print cryptograms of astrological and old style code symbols. He taunted police that his identity lay therein, and he intrigued the public to guess where he’d strike next. A metropolitan area sat down to try and figure it out. When decoded, all and sundry read the gleeful but simple syntax: “I like killing people because it is so much fun.”

With each new victim there came a jubilant boast in the form of a letter, message, or tally of victims. Sometimes a cipher was included, which he expected the Bay Area to decode and play his game. His murder spree lasted for only a short time, but his love for terror kept him writing these poison pen letters. For years he kept the Bay Area in suspense with his threats. “Be sure to print this part . . . or I’ll do my thing.” Each new letter he sent to the press was introduced as an oracle: “This is the Zodiac Speaking.” Each was sluiced with sarcasm, and with his dark humor each in its way was a sinister chuckle. Each in turn was signed by the symbol of the celestial Zodiac— a circle with a crosshair through it. It looked little different from a gunsight, and the double meaning was no doubt intended. Then he played the ultimate hand in his game. He vanished. To this day the San Francisco Bay Area has never forgotten, and the most bragged about murders in history remain unsolved.

 

Zod-icon--July31-VallejoTimes-small

 

This is The ‘Zodiac’ Killer. He is inexorably linked with the summer and tumultuous autumn of 1969, but his legacy is decades of anxiety that he’d return, decades of frustration that a killer escaped justice; not just a killer, but the most boastful, haughty killer in the annals of crime. “The police shall never catch me,” he boasted in one letter, “because I have been too clever for them.” He won. He got away. The faded ink of his bragging rubs this fact into our face even today.

Who was this killer? Why did he stop? He has been silent over 40 years now. It has been so long now that Zodiac’s era and therewith the context of his crimes has been obscured by a folklore that has created a master villain in the likeness of Dr. Moriarty, the nemesis of the erstwhile Sherlock Holmes.

Yet the truth is that of a pudgy little man sniggering over his poison pen letters while his TV screen flickered with images of pall bearers carrying out his victims to the hearse. The truth is that of a strange outcast who was completely untouched by the great events of his time.

Man’s first step on the moon, the Manson murders, the antiestablishment movement— nothing contemporary found place in his writings. Only once did he make reference to current events, and this was so his tongue-in-cheek humor could dovetail on it. Peace symbols were popular, he said; others wore “black power” or “Melvin eats bluber.” He wanted to see the Bay Area wear his Zodiac buttons. It would cheer him up and this would keep him from striking again. “Please no nasty ones like melvin’s. Thank you.”

Little is known of this villain, but enough was pieced together to draw the portrait of an odd, festering misfit. In 1969, in appearance there was still a stark difference between the mainstream and the counterculture. Guys still wore their tight, sleek slacks, button-down collar shirts, short hair parted and combed to one side. Gals wore some elaborate hairstyle, often like their mother. Miniskirts came “in” in 1966 and were still “in” in 1968-69. Guys wore thick rimmed glasses; gals cat-eyes. If you were the mainstream you looked like the above; if you were a hippie, you looked “way out.” Yet the Zodiac was neither. In age he was unquestionably under 30 years old— a difficult age to categorize. He was too young to be the establishment; too old to be the counterculture. Nevertheless, even for 1969 he was, for one of his age, a strange amalgam. His hair was stylized, a fashion that went out in the early ’60s. He wore baggy, pleated wool dress pants— the norm for the mid-1950s. He mixed this formality with a touch of current and casual— a thin cotton sport jacket. Strangely, he then added more incongruity by wearing high rim Air Force Wing Walker shoes, standard issue for cadets at Lackland AFB in Texas. He was under 6 foot tall but a heavy 225 pounds— chunky like a gorilla with a young, big face with high cheekbones.

This is the man who bragged he liked to hunt people because man was ‘the most dangerous game of all” and yet he only had the courage, if that word can be used, to pump full of holes kids at lovers’ lanes. He hid his big face under the mantel of the night and behind the bright splatter of a flashlight and fired away at his victims. The reality of The Zodiac Killer was shot up cars and kids at remote petting spots.

From such scenes he ghostly vanished, hurried to confess to police operators, or to his lair to scribble his boasting letters and set in motion his publicity game

It would be unwise to judge Zodiac based on his appearance. For all of his uncouth look, somehow, equally mysterious, that frumpy gorilla neatly managed to melt into the very different background of mainstream life and evade an enormous dragnet.

In fact, Zodiac devoted enormous time and effort to carry off his crimes. For one slaying in daytime he hid his round face under a sinister black hood. It hung down incongruously over his shabby appearance and thereon was neatly sewn the symbol of the celestial Zodiac. Since the victims were by no means meant to survive (one was stabbed 6 times, the other 21), we were never to know he had dressed like this. But one of them survived to give us the account. Obviously, this outfit meant something purely to him. The Zodiac’s crime spree clearly was a bit more complex than merely a means to publicity.

What ultimately was Zodiac’s game?

The need to expose this killer is enormous. It is not the narrow piety to bring closure to the victims’ families. Nor is it simply for the sake of closing the book on a case of crime. The ‘Zodiac’ Killer played a game with the public. He did not murder to merely give himself a thrill. His victims were antes in a game of murder and seek. Such a braggart is unique in the annals of crime. He threw the gauntlet down and forced society to play his terror game. This gauntlet, as all gauntlets, must eventually be picked up and slapped in his face, even if that face is only the reputation of a long passed respected citizen.

This is the complete chronicle of The Zodiac Killer crime spree. This is not an anodyne compilation of the history of The Zodiac Killer and of those events, sometimes decades later, engineered by people who have attempted to write themselves into it, together the above amounting to little more than a journal of urban folklore. This is the investigative thesis that vividly recreates the crimes and times of the Zodiac, and that leads to the outing of the man behind the mask, the killer behind the pompous preamble “This is the Zodiac Speaking.”

In this volume I will deliver the body of the Zodiac. But it takes more to get at the soul— why he killed and why he stopped. Was he a reluctant killer? Was the terror campaign a ruse to cover some other motive? Were the deaths necessary in some greater scheme or ritual? The questions may not seem as important after the killer’s hood is removed. To unmask the Zodiac is to reveal more than the soul of the killer. It is to isolate the pudgy, insecure madman from the pomp of his publicity. This will destroy his evil soul. The result is an empty hood devoid of any substance of the theatrical master controller that he created from dark shadows. It leaves us with his true image, the one he drew for himself in the cowardly barbarity of his crimes.

Tribunican Potestes

Off the usual beat here since this blog basically reflects my hobby “Kolchaking,”  but let me reveal a little classical education. For those who watched the Republican debates last night, this may give you some insights on why the sudden death of Antonin Scalia (or any supreme court justice) is so significant.

Many of you know the political system. In knowing this you know that a supreme court justice rules upon laws as pertaining to the Constitution, that is, they weigh all laws coming before them to see if they conform to the Constitution. Many, however, do not know the origins of this power.

It is called tribunican potestes or, that is, the power of the tribune. It originates with the Tribunis Plebis of the Roman Republic.

The fledgling America had no real precedence for Republic since ancient Rome, and ancient Rome was not so distant in the minds of the Neoclassical Age in which the American revolution took place. At the time of the late 18th century ancient Rome was still a giant model of efficiency and origination. No nation had ever equaled her ability to unite and govern so many people. At her height Rome was a city of a million people governing an empire of hundred million people. To this date, no nation had surpassed that. That would only come with the latter half of the 19th century.

No political system of due process can really be that dynamic. All must take into consideration human nature and political efficiency. Thus even if the founding fathers did not have it utmost in their mind, they created a system that in many respects mirrored the Roman Republic.

The greatest power in the Republic was not the Consulate, as we often think. When it came to legislature it was the power of the tribune. Ten tribunes sat in the Senate. They had the power to call out Veto!  over any legislation. That is power. In Latin it means “I forbid!”

Power is not ultimately had in what you set in order. True power is maintained by the unchallenged ability to forbid. You can let everybody else go about and do good things, but when they start doing something bad, you can say Veto! That is an ideal snapshot of veto, of course. The power to forbid can be used for any reason.

In the Roman Republic, a politician could not hold a public office for over a year or year and a half, and he could not hold the same office twice in a row. Senators scrambled to try and get the office of Tribunis Plebis– Tribune of the People; that precious power to cry out I forbid! and halt the legislation before the Senate.

When Imperators evolved in Rome to become what we today call Emperors, their power was not based on being conferred with the powers of Consul. They were granted lifelong power of Tribunis Plebis, that precious power to forbid.

Likewise the American Republic saw the power to forbid as being the big deal. But the idea of it being unlimited was not so appealing. The idea of Senators holding the office seemed impractical since there were only two per state. Members of the House of Representative holding such power seemed foolhardy since anybody could be elected to that job.

The American Republic was also heavily influenced by British parliament and its two house concept. This was quite different from the Romans. America, however, was more influenced by its national attitude of suspicion against the concept of Government. The Constitution put in place the system of government. The Amendments put in place the restrictions on this government.

Instead of 10 members, the Supreme Court was given 9 members so there could be no tie in voting. They were given tribunican potestes, that precious power to forbid. But instead of unlimited power they were bound to the Constitution. If any law came in conflict with the Constitution, they could veto it. They don’t use that word. They don’t cry out I forbid! They declare the Constitution forbids– true tribunican power, anchored, however, to a document.

supremecourt

The Supreme Court. A purely Roman building, from the tiles out front (inspired by basic Roman marble designs) to the tiles on the roof.

You can understand now the power of the Supreme Court. It is ancient, though adapted in the 18th century. Chained to a document though they are, the justices have the unquestioned power to forbid on its behalf any legislation or lower court ruling. Add to this an element that many find increasingly disturbing. Unlike the Roman tribunes who held elected office for a relatively short time, a Supreme Court Justice sits for life.

Since the beginning of civilization, all law is written against he perpetrator. All law has this in common. “Thou Shalt Not.”  No law is written against he victim. There is no law that says “thou shalt not be killed.” It is written “thou shalt not kill.”

The Amendments to the American Constitution took this form. Rights came from Nature and Nature’s God, as the Deists of the time put it. The Constitution’s amendments were written in the negative to forbid the government, which was viewed as the potential perpetrator, from interfering with natural rights; in other words, the healthy instincts in humans. Law’s purpose was to forbid the unhealthy instincts and passions.

a_Constitution-Day

The Supreme Court with its tribunican potestes was to preserve this document, unchanging from the point of its ratification, and forbid any legislation or legislature that attempted to interfere with them.

The 7 Articles of the Constitution are greeted with a shrug. The States greeted them with a collective moan. But the addition of the Amendments, those that do so much forbidding and those that demand the government recognize rights, put the Constitution over and got it passed.

This is why the document is so famous to Americans. It forbids the government to mess with the people’s natural rights and it requires that other rights be specified as guaranteed. With this you can see why the Supreme Court, the American incarnation of the Tribunis Plebis, is so powerful and crucial. The Constitution is ultimately defended by only 9 persons.

The Strokes of the ZODIAC

A 3-stroke “k” is a rarity. Few people write a normal letter “k” with three strokes. A 2-stroke “y” is also rare. ZODIAC wrote in this manner. But ZODIAC also used a 2- stroke capital “M”– also seemingly quite uncommon.

It is sometimes hard to detect, but in every letter he made his capital “m” this way. When in 2008 Ricardo Gomez discovered that ZODIAC had imitated Mel Belli’s house address font on his letter to the flamboyant attorney, it revealed one of ZODIAC’s subtle touches in his game.

Zodiacenvelope-LATimes-March-13-1971

When ZODIAC wrote the LA Times and implicitly claimed the Bates killing as one of his ‘Riverside activity’ he wrote on the envelope in large letters AIR MAIL. It is the only  example of his printing on a large scale. The “M” is 2-stroke, per usual. But what was his point? Was this another subtle touch?

The nasty “Bates Had to Die” notes that were mailed in April 1967 were all noteworthy for an 2-stroke “M”.  They remain hotly debated as the work of ZODIAC. Few believe he had killed Bates. But there are those who believe he may have shown his taste for the macabre by writing the notes, a thrill he later fed by going out and committing murders so he could indulge in his bragging game of poison pen pal bragging.

 

If it is true it is a clue, of course. But it is also a clue that ZODIAC felt it could never be traced to the real him otherwise he would never have boasted of a link. Did he truly believe he was too clever for the police and could get away with this? Time has indicated he was. But did this belief blind sight him as well, leading him to make a clumsy mistake?  ZODIAC will not prove too clever for history.

*         *          *

Since 1990 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. 

Black Spartacus

The sweating jungle curls and slithers its way through the ruins. The plaster is almost gone. The stone is etched and pockmarked. Streaked by mold, peaks of frilly weeds, the ramparts and concourses strain from the verdant heights.

This is all that remains to speak of the passing of a fascinating dichotomy known as King Christopher of Haiti. His humble origins to his rise as an emperor of the islands has intrigued me ever since I as a kid read my mom’s old book Seven League Boots by Richard Halliburton. The great traveler visited Haiti in the 1930s and described the sliver of ruins left to recall this Napoleonic era slave empire.

Christophe boldly took control of Haiti, robed his ex slaves in the attire of a Napoleonic imperial court, and started a composite culture that picked and chose what it liked. Like Napoleon he saw his own empire collapse in his life. But for a time a slave was king. For a time a humble man aspired to greatness and knew how to carry it while he was there.

haiti32

Aspiration comes from the soul. Desire from the heart. Choice from the mind. How did a black slave rise to fame, build castles and palaces, fight to keep them, struggle, expand, lead, fail?

This is to be the subject of a screenplay I am writing. I have not written one since last year when I had to rewrite an indy SCI-FI.  My Hollywood contacts are gone, but let’s see if I can’t stimulate some interest in a large scale production of tropic, technicolor grandeur, French Imperial opulence, and the sweeping CGI panorama of a slave rebellion turned into a bejeweled, silken court.

As I write this work, I will give updates here as I progress. I will share pictures of Haiti and historic pictures of those characters involved. The story of Black Spartacus is long overdue in film.

Southern Exposure– ZODIAC & Riverside

I’m not one of those who truly believes in a ZODIAC connection with the murder of Cheri Jo Bates. But I’m also not sure if Riverside PD’s confidence in their suspect is warranted. I don’t know all the details about this suspect, but let’s look at some details/logistics here regarding the crime.

PHOTO_8098956_119137_16673969_ap

On October 30, 1966, Riverside City College co-ed Cheri Jo Bates was brutally murdered by someone who had set out to kill her. She was spending that Sunday evening at the college library. When she came out around 9 p.m. her green Beatle wouldn’t start. After she ran down the battery trying to get it to start, someone must have come along to help her. She went with him down the street and then between two old abandoned houses on a dirt driveway. Here in the shadows that person seized her and savagely stabbed her and almost cut off her head. She was not molested, robbed or anything else. She was murdered, and she put up a hell of a fight first.

The crime was most definitely premeditated. The police had discovered her Volkswagen’s engine had been tampered with. The central coil on the distributor cap had been removed, causing the engine to not turn over. The killer had waited some time/somewhere in order to assist her at the right time. He then escorted her, ostensibly to give her a lift in his car or offer her a phone.

Bates --The_Crime_Scene-3

The killer later confessed. Apparently there was a phone call to the police station. However, it took him a month to put it in print. He typed the confession  letter all in CAPS.  Riverside PD accepted the “confession letter” as genuine because the confession letter writer wrote that he had removed the central coil from the Beatle distributor cap. There was no remorse. On the contrary, the writer was a bit tongue-in-cheek with some elements of the confession.

Here is the confession letter content:

BY____________

SHE WAS YOUNG AND BEAUTIFUL BUT NOW SHE IS BATTERED AND DEAD. SHE IS NOT THE FIRST AND SHE WILL NOT BE THE LAST I LAY AWAKE NIGHTS THINKING ABOUT MY NEXT VICTIM. MAYBE SHE WILL BE THE BEAUTIFUL BLOND THAT BABYSITS NEAR THE LITTLE STORE AND WALKS DOWN THE DARK ALLEY EACH EVENING ABOUT SEVEN. OR MAYBE SHE WILL BE THE SHAPELY BLUE EYED BROWNETT THAT SAID NO WHEN I ASKED HER FOR A DATE IN HIGH SCHOOL. BUT MAYBE IT WILL NOT BE EITHER. BUT I SHALL CUT OFF HER FEMALE PARTS AND DEPOSIT THEM FOR THE WHOLE CITY TO SEE. SO DON’T MAKE IT TO EASY FOR ME. KEEP YOUR SISTERS, DAUGHTERS, AND WIVES OFF THE STREETS AND ALLEYS. MISS BATES WAS STUPID. SHE WENT TO THE SLAUGHTER LIKE A LAMB. SHE
DID NOT PUT UP A STRUGGLE. BUT I DID. IT WAS A BALL. I FIRST PULLED THE MIDDLE WIRE FROM THE DISTRIBUTOR. THEN I WAITED FOR HER IN THE LIBRARY AND FOLLOWED HER OUT AFTER ABOUT TWO MINUTS. THE BATTERY MUST HAVE BEEN ABOUT DEAD BY THEN. I THEN OFFERED TO HELP. SHE WAS THEN VERY WILLING TO TALK TO ME. I TOLD HER THAT MY CAR WAS DOWN THE STREET AND THAT I WOULD GIVE HER A LIFT HOME. WHEN WE WERE AWAY FROM THE LIBRARY WALKING, I SAID IT WAS ABOUT TIME. SHE ASKED ME “ABOUT TIME FOR WHAT”. I SAID IT WAS ABOUT TIME FOR HER TO DIE. I GRABBED HER AROUND THE NECK WITH MY HAND OVER HER MOUTH AND MY OTHER HAND WITH A SMALL
KNIFE AT HER THROAT. SHE WENT VERY WILLINGLY. HER BREAST FELT VERY WARM AND FIRM UNDER MY HANDS, BUT ONLY ONE THING WAS ON MY MIND. MAKING HER PAY FOR THE BRUSH OFFS THAT SHE HAD GIVEN ME DURING THE YEARS PRIOR. SHE DIED HARD. SHE SQUIRMED AND SHOOK AS I CHOAKED HER, AND HER LIPS TWICHED. SHE LET OUT A SCREAM ONCE AND I KICKED HER HEAD TO SHUT HER UP. I PLUNGED THE KNIFE INTO HER AND IT BROKE. I THEN FINISHED THE JOB BY CUTTING HER THROAT. I AM NOT SICK. I AM INSANE. BUT THAT WILL NOT STOP THE GAME. THIS LETTER SHOULD BE PUBLISHED FOR
ALL TO READ IT. IT JUST MIGHT SAVE THAT GIRL IN THE ALLEY. BUT THAT’S UP TO YOU. IT WILL BE ON YOUR CONSCIENCE. NOT MINE. YES, I DID MAKE THAT CALL TO YOU ALSO. IT WAS JUST A WARNING. BEWARE…I AM STALKING YOUR GIRLS NOW.

CC. CHIEF OF POLICE
ENTERPRISE

The confession letter writer had typed the confession note using several sheets of carbon and several sheets of paper.  He mailed the bottom copy. This effectively blurred the print and would make it hard to determine what type of typewriter was responsible. This is pretty clever. This tells us two things. The typewriter was at the college and was limited to certain staff or students taking certain classes; or, it was a private typewriter of a person who felt they would be a natural suspect. Otherwise what’s the point? The Riverside police are not going to do a dragnet of the town and subpoena all typewriters.

The confession letter is odd. On one hand its point is to make the writer look a stranger to Bates. He makes himself look as though he is a predator ready and waiting to kill others. Then, the latter part of the letter makes it look as if he had known her.

Clever or stupid? The first part of the letter would make one think that the killer had known her and was now trying to make it look as if she was just one in a line of victims of a homicidal maniac. The latter part is the reverse. It makes it look as if she was the victim of personal revenge.

“By_____” is nice and taunting, tongue-in-cheek, so is the professional CC to police. A creep obviously, but what type of creep? A creep she knew? A creep she didn’t know? “Beware . . . I am stalking your girls now.” Well, it never happened in Riverside again. No serial arose stalking Jane Q. Citizen.

Frankly, the note appears to have a lot of bogus elements in it. The police came to suspect her killer was a jilted boyfriend.

Indeed, taking just a few clues that are known it seems that Bates’ killer knew her. You see, her books were found on the front seat of her Volkswagen. Then, there was a scream heard around 10:30 p.m. that night in the area by residents. Bates left the library around 9 p.m. when it closed. If she was the source of the scream, where had she been for at least an hour? The books, the books, you see. They are a major clue. If someone had offered to take her home, why not take the books she needed and just checked out? She leaves them in her car. Whatever offer she was given, it wasn’t for a ride home.

But where would she have gone with someone she knew? Did she even know her car had been tampered with? Had he approached her first? They return an hour or so later. She tries to start her car. It won’t turn over. He looks at the engine, feigns examining it, gets grime on his hands, says its dead. She gets out. He closes the driver’s door. It is said there was a grimy hand print on the door.  What does he say now? What do they do?

The last part is hard to imagine. He would have parked next to her. They would not need to walk down the street any distance. (I do not know exactly where she had parked).

In any case, there is little reason to believe all the details in the confession letter. It is designed to make us believe this happened right after closing. Blindly accepting this confession,  one attributes to this killer the enormous assumption that he knew she would remain in the library until closing. How could a stranger be certain? Tampering with a motor is an awful lot of premeditation by the killer based on the assumption the victim would be alone after the library closed. However, if her killer knew her, and they went somewhere first, then it all works.

For the scenario above to work with a stranger, one must propose that this stranger came up to her and said he lived nearby in the block of homes next to the college, not that he had a car. (The college was soon to take some of these over next to the Quad where the library was located.) He offered her a phone to call for help. She need only follow him to the homes and up the dirt driveway to the alley behind the other homes. Here he could kill her. This explains why she left her books in the car. However, this doesn’t explain the lost hour.

If Cheri Bates went somewhere with someone she knew for over an hour, then returned, we can explain the screams at 10:30 p.m. We can explain the books in her car. We can also explain something else. An old car was heard to start after the scream, so it is said. We can also explain why the killer felt safe to attack.  At 10:30 p.m. no one would be around. A number of students had left the library at closing. It would not have been safe to attack Bates soon after the library closed.

It all comes down to that “lost hour.” If that is accurate, then Bates went somewhere with someone she knew. If not, then she was led into the alleyway under false pretenses soon after leaving the library, and the killer was lucky he had tampered with the car of a pretty girl who happened to be alone.

The area where Bates had been murdered was scheduled for demolishing soon. Beyond these two old porch front homes the college was going to put in a parking lot. Presently, it was an area of narrow alleys and driveways and old rickety fences and yards.

The aerials give you an example of the change. The one on the left is from 1966, the year Bates was murdered. The one on the right is from 1967, and it shows the new parking lot. Many of the homes had been bulldozed. The library was in the quad and the two homes are those to the left of it on Terracina Drive, the road in front of the quad.

As it stands there is more than one way to interpret the slim number of clues. Was her killer a stranger or someone she knew? Was she led up that dirt driveway or was she dragged there after they returned?

Years later this incident becomes more complicated. It becomes associated with The ZODIAC. After ZODIAC became a famous serial villain in 1969, a local in Riverside tried to convince Riverside PD that ZODIAC was to blame, but they wouldn’t pursue it. This “nameless person” finally contacted Paul Avery in November 1970. Having just received the “Halloween Card,” Avery broke the story of a possible connection. Avery’s Halloween Card had gained national news. Now on the heels of that he broke a new story about another possible ZODIAC murder. This put the Bates murder in a large spotlight and popularly linked it with ZODIAC despite the fact an investigation thereafter could not make a link.

Months later in March 1971 ZODIAC, tardy as usual, takes credit and claims there are “a hell of a lot more down there.”  He did not write this to the Chronicle as usual. He wrote to the LA Times. The postmark was not San Francisco as usual. It was Pleasanton, in the Contra Costa Corridor to the south of Mt. Diablo. Since ZODIAC often took credit for crimes he had not committed, his claim doesn’t mean that he really was responsible for Bates’ murder.

The links to ZODIAC are not based on any crime scene MO. He did not begin as a contact killer. The murderer of Bates was a contact killer who engaged in a savage struggle with her. The similarities are in the “publicity campaign” the killer or a crank wages.

The similarities often cited are these: ZODIAC confessed on the phone (twice). So did the Riverside killer. ZODIAC’s confession cryptogram was also contradictory.  (He enjoys hunting people, he says, because they are the most dangerous game, though he shot only unarmed teens at petting spots. Then his confession cipher declares they shall be his slaves in the afterlife.  One logically doesn’t follow the other.) The ZODIAC took a while to form his written confessions. He didn’t bother for 7 months after his first murders. Then he confesses to the first two strikes a month after the second attack. The “confession letter” writer waited a month. Batesnote

ZODIAC wrote notes for months and months after his murders. Something of a similar nature happened with the Bates murder. In April 1967 three notes are mailed, one to her grieving father, one to the police and one to the local paper the Press Enterprise. They are brief. “Bates had to die. There will be more.” Essentially the same warning of the confession letter.

The envelopes bear excess postage.

None of the above, however, truly constitute a similarity. Though written months after the murder, these letters were sent after the Press Enterprise did a comprehensive article on the case. This was not ZODIAC’s style. ZODIAC took months to dovetail on other crimes when falsely claiming responsibility. (Two months after the Caller-Sam fiasco with Mel Belli, ZODIAC imitates him. Months after the Kathleen Johns incident, ZODIAC takes credit.) The notes above were a quick response to a resurgence of press in the case.  Although they bear excessive postage, there is no link with ZODIAC. Double postage was a signature sign in mailing his letters. But that’s not what is seen on the envelopes here in Riverside. Letters cost 5 cents to post in 1966. The writer put two 4 cent stamps on the letters to cover it. So there is no real overt connection between the envelopes and ZODIAC.

Similarities in printing have been noticed. In the Bates notes the writer must have held the pencil high up and arthritically scrawled the lines that made up the letters. It’s one way to disguise printing. That it was a disguise there should be no question. Two of the notes are signed with an elegantly drawn symbol that looks like some kind of rune. It is a stark contrast to the childish scrawl. The rune is not a Z as some try and claim. It has the style of calligraphy.

The ‘Zodiac’ Killer disguised his printing, but his last accepted note (Red Phantom) was far more elegant his others. He showed a calligraphy style more than once.

There is no question that there is a flavor of ZODIAC here in the confession letter and the notes. But is it merely the logistics of crank letter writing that cause the similarity?

Experts argue over whether the scrawling capital letters on the “Bates had to die” notes were written by ZODIAC. Some believe they were. Even those who do not believe he killed Bates think he might have written the notes. It was his way of getting a thrill by proxy. This may eventually have inspired him to start his own crime spree in Vallejo and take it to the level of a terror campaign. The envelopes bear Riverside postmarks. It seems a local wrote them. This would mean he was from Riverside. That is a valuable clue, if true.

There are, however, more differences than similarities. The Riverside “confession letter” writer shows more sophistication in hiding not only the typewriter but, if they are by one and the same, also the printing on the notes. Again, this suggests he fears being a natural suspect. ZODIAC seems to have no such fear in northern Cal. where his victims were strangers. He didn’t seem to have fear with this case either, since he took credit for it. If there was a solid connection would he do that?

ZODIAC can fit as a viable suspect only if we accept Bates’ murderer was a relative stranger to her.

Cheri_Jo_Bates_-_RCC_Desktop_poem_SCALE
2 stroke “k” and a 1 stroke “y”– not ZODIAC’s style, though he seems to have disguised his printing in his letters to the Chronicle.

Although this scenario does not explain the lost hour, and a few other do-dads, it must be noted that a connection with a disturbed student at the college was made months later in 1967 when writing on a desk was found in a storage area. No one knows exactly when it had been written. It is a poem. It is called a “morbid poem.” Sherwood Morrill was shown it. He thought it was ZODIAC’s writing. Others disagreed.

Was this written by the killer or the crank who sent the notes? Or are they one and the same?

Does all this tie in or are these coincidences? It is the hardcore crime scene evidence that must take precedence in any consideration. This evidence speaks both ways, but mostly in favor of someone who knew her.

This short from 1978 captures the mystique of the ‘Zodiac Killer’ better than any other. There are errors in some details, but it really captures the spirit of the crime spree and the character that must have been behind it. It also shows how highly placed Bates murder became in the theorizing.