I have stressed it over and over again that those serial villains who have committed very high profiled crime sprees and yet nevertheless get away completely represent the exception, and the greatest exception they have is that they were the unsuspected. They didn’t fit the mold of the festering psychopath in dark shadows. A few of such high profiled cases that were later solved by hard investigation and confirmed by DNA have underscored this.
Two of the biggies for which I have become the center of public investigation show that same exception. Although my suspect for ZODIAC is not widely known, the age of my premier POI for EAR/ONS is.
This is what surprises people the most, even those who think he is the culprit. At the beginning of his crime spree he was a mere 17. Not only that but he was a senior in high School at least 35 minutes from where he first began to strike. Traveling criminals are acceptable, but the age of 17 and a senior seems pushing it, especially for the extent of the crime spree in which he engaged. Though EAR began in the summer of 76, with school out, EAR continued in the fall and spring, ratcheting up his spree to 5 victims in May 1977 alone. Instinctively this seems hard to reconcile with a graduating senior.
However, let’s look at a comparative here. The case of Karl Warner. At 17 years of age he committed perhaps the most savage knifings in the history of California, if not the nation. Like all serials, he was a coward and predator. His victims were Kathy Snoozy (15) and Deborah Furlong (14). He collectively stabbed them 300 times with what seemed to be a pocket knife.
The date was August 3, 1969. Debbie and Kathy rode their bikes from their Canoas East homes, a new subdivision in south San Jose California at the lower tip of the Bay Area. They road down Cahalan Drive. It dead ended after Santa Theresa at a hillock crowned with many old oaks. All the homes around were new. Few even had their yards put in yet.
This 1968 aerial shows the knoll or hillock that is today Foothills Park. Kathy Snoozy lived on Azule; Debbie Furlong on Briarcliff
This is where all the kids came to have their picnics and enjoy the lazy summer afternoons. Dirt bikers frequently road about the hillock. Though it was thinly connected with the range of hills dividing this area with the Almaden Valley, it stood forward.
When the young pair failed to return that evening, the Furlong and Snoozy families got worried. The sheriffs had been called and Glen Furlong went out looking. The hillock was the only place kids could play, so he went there. When he arrived he saw sheriffs standing at the top of the hillock in the shadow of the trees as dusk was falling. With them stood the dirt bikers. They had found the bodies earlier in the afternoon. His daughter and Kathy Snoozy had been “savagely stabbed.”
Today. The development has continued almost around it.
This was a tragic affair, and many even tried to associate ZODIAC with it. But the culprit was later found after 18 year old Kathy Bilek was murdered in nearby Saratoga in April 1971 at Villa Montalvo Park. She had been stabbed 49 times with a small knife.
The report of a young woman who had previously run away from Karl Warner at this park helped lead the chief of detectives, Barton Collins, to Warner. He was just soon to turn 19 years old. In appearance and profile Warner was the last one they’d ever have suspected. Had it not been for his earlier brush with a potential victim he probably would have had a long and evil murder career.
Warner was clean cut, handsome, tall, quite intelligence, excellent at math and was building his own computer at college in San Jose. He had a sport car with a long custom antenna like a buggy whip. It was so distinctive that a ranger at the park remembered the car and because he had thought this young man acted odd on an earlier occasion when visiting the park he had taken down the license number.
In terms of geography, Warner fit Collins’ profile. He was sure in August 1969 that Snoozy and Furlong’s killer lived in their new development. Warner, in fact, had lived on Shawnee at that time with his parents. He was on the block behind Kathy Snoozy’s home on Azule.
How to explain a talented, intelligent 17 year old strolling about the hillock (now apparently Foothills Park) and deciding to butcher two pretty, innocent girls? He did it. Then about a year and a half later murdered an 18 year old, who had simply gone to read a book at a famous wooded park in Saratoga.
Since August 1969 he had been the exception, even though he must have frequently been seen in the neighborhood coming and going from home. But he was clean cut and a faithful employee at the burger stand where he had then worked. The unsuspected.
Age and appearance should never fool us.
Warner was a loner. That was the one thing about him that stood out.
EAR was a loner. That can be safely deduced.
Instinctively, the first detectives on the case thought he had to be a local Rancho Cordova teen. His first attack on Paseo didn’t seem sophisticated that June 18 of 1976. But he refined himself. He continued to broaden the area in which he attacked. Soon the sheriffs were disposed to believe he must have been older. But the original evidence and clues say he was not. He continued to ride bikes a lot. He drove junkers. He sounded young in voice.
EAR/ONS stands out for how calculating he became. He didn’t go berserk with a pocket knife in public places. He carefully thought out his attacks. He stuck to a routine and showed himself far more premeditated and calculating than Warner had ever been. He also didn’t kill. He liked terror. When he did turn murderer, he planned his attacks months apart.
One thing is apparent in EAR’s crime spree. He traveled the highways a lot. All of his attacks in Contra Costa underscore this. His Stockton, Modesto, Davis, strikes likewise. Then in So. Cal, he maintained the same pattern– he kept close to two main highways and struck over the length of the Los Angeles area.
The pattern from 1976 onward is that of a young man growing older and getting more independent. The age of 17 for the beginner should have never been a point to disqualify a person of interest. He may have been smarter than other 17 year olds turned killer, but today 40 years later thousands still ponder the case of the EAR/ONS and wonder who he is. Warner has been ensconced in a prison for 45 years. Over and over again EAR/ONS has proved he was an exception to the rule, far more than just in looks. He knew to travel. He was at home in the night. He knew to strike indoors.
I have followed many clues, and all have led me in one direction. On the surface this led to an improbable suspect who was outside of the dragnet 35 minutes away but knew the area well where EAR began and concentrated. After 50 rapes and perhaps 12 murders, over some 10 years, then obscurity and mystery, we should not be surprised the culprit shall prove to be an exception to the rule.
* * *
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.