Peak Through the Pines– ZODIAC Folklore

One of the first things I had to get used to in true crime and cold case studies were emails from people asking me, in the case of The ‘Zodiac’ Killer anyway, why my take was so different. It wasn’t different. Well, if it was it was because I just followed the clues and evidence and limited myself to official documentation. I had read Graysmith’s books, but they aren’t that reliable. In other words, I avoided the legend.

I set out to investigate mysteries in an attempt to solve them. Otherwise what’s the point? I can get some chill and thrill reading mysteries on my own. I don’t need to contribute my own rewording of the same franchise.

When one enters the public forum they have to have some goal outside of their own self satisfaction. I have learned much from those who have shared their adventures and investigations into intriguing subjects. I like to share as well. But it can’t just be my own experience. The information must be reflective of the common goal of all those who truly want to see the issue, whichever issue it may be, addressed– to solve it or to help toward that end significantly.

The ‘Zodiac’ Killer saga was just that– a saga, a drama of legend and constant regurgitation of folklore rather than investigating and analyzing. This did not apply to everybody, but it was certainly the material that dominated published accounts.

One particular bit of folklore was ZODIAC and Donna Lass, a nurse who had vanished from the Lake Tahoe area. On March 22, 1971, a postcard  was sent to Paul Avery purporting to be from ZODIAC. It was a picture of an advertisement about a housing development at Incline Village around Lake Tahoe. On it was written, among other things, “Sought victim 12.” The implication was that ZODIAC had picked off his 12th victim around this area. Coupled with the illustration showing the development deep in snow, the inference was the body was buried somewhere around the development.DonnaLass

At the end of his June 26, 1970, letter (which included the map), of the previous year, ZODIAC’s score was 12 and SFPD as always was 0. In his next letter, that of July 26, 1970, ZODIAC gives himself the score of 13 and SFPD, naturally, zero. By agreement with SFPD the Chronicle did not publish these letters to see what ZODIAC would do.

On October 5, 1970, a postcard was mailed to the Chronicle claiming to be from the ZODIAC in which it also claimed that “The pace isn’t any slower! In fact, it’s just one big thirteen”  like that number was just achieved. The ZODIAC had not sent a card like this in before. This card had no handwriting. It was the usual crude communication of anonymity– cut and past sentences and words from newspaper clippings. The writer’s ignorance about the summer 1970 letters also made it suspicious.

The  Chronicle would publish these summer 1970 letters later that month.

On  March 22, 1971, the “Sought Victim 12” postcard would be sent to Avery. It was of a similar type to the October 5, 1970, postcard. “Sought victim 12” was incredibly obsolete now. On March 13, 1971, ZODIAC was already claiming 17 plus to the LA Times.

It is hard, if not impossible, to picture ZODIAC being behind those postcards. It is equally impossible to imagine how Donna Lass got associated with being Victim 12. ZODIAC already claimed Victim 12 in June 1970. Lass did not vanish until September 1970. She could not possibly fit as Victim 12.

Cronkite-Zodiac
Walter Cronkite presents to the nation the first composite on what Zodiac could look like.

. . . But a hoaxer wouldn’t know that Victim 12 and 13 were already claimed months before in the summer of 1970. So when that October 5 postcard claimed Victim 13 it was a dead giveaway something was wrong. But this same hoaxer could try and make Donna Lass, who vanished just the month before in September, fit as Victim 12, in a similar style of postcard later. This hoaxer clearly didn’t stay in touch with the latest reportings on the ZODIAC. This wasn’t a retro reminder from ZODIAC to wait for the spring thaw in order to find Lass’ body from last autumn. He had already claimed Victim 12 months before Lass vanished. He would not have made that kind of mistake. And even if he did, Donna Lass still couldn’t be Victim 12.

Still the case of the disappearance of Donna Lass is perpetually regurgitated with ZODIAC, and her name is listed as a possible suspect.

Enough of this. Put a period on her case and link her with the Nightingale Murderer of Sacramento.  She has no association with ZODIAC, and the postcard is probably a forgery anyway.

*         *          *

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.

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