Fitting in ZODIAC– Lake Berryessa’s Stocky Stalker

The desire for a solid link to uncover ZODIAC’s identity has caused many to highlight what often appear as irrelevancies. I shan’t do that here, but I think we need to draw some lines in order to connect a few dots about his movements at Lake Berryessa.

Lake Berryessa is so important because ZODIAC was seen without his hood a few times (presumably anyway) and in daylight. It is our first and perhaps only clear view of him.

Before this time Vallejo PD had nothing but Mike Mageau’s groggy account that ZODIAC was a heavyset guy, between 25 and 30 and he had a big face. He was not blubbery fat but he had a paunch. So he was a pretty stocky, beefy gorilla.

Let’s go back to a Kodachrome world.

On the afternoon of September 27, 1969, three coeds had just parked along Knoxville Road. It’s a large turnout on the right, overlooking the bowl of the valley lake. They are just on their way down the trail in the cleft when a silver blue 66 or 67 Chevy Impala pulls in from the south.  They are parked parallel to the road, but on the edge of the turnout where it overlooks the descent down to the “Beach.” They had pulled into the turnout from the north. Therefore the trunk of their car faced north.

The Impala passes their car. The driver stops, backs up and parks just as his bumper is close to their rear bumper. This doesn’t sound like a man who wants his license observed from the road.

The three coeds see him. They note the type of car and that the driver appeared a bit young to be driving such a car. They continue down to the “beach,” the striated dirt area that marks past waterlines at the lake. About 30 minutes later he appears at the tree line. He is watching them, but when they look he looks away.

ZODIAC didn’t attack women alone. He attacked couples. So if this was ZODIAC prowling about why did he linger? They were not alone. There was another couple down there: Denise Brown and Wayne Haight. The coeds knew them from Pacific Union College and had recognized his car in the lot across the road. They were laying out further away.

The coeds described the young heavyset man as not unhandsome. He was beefy, small ears, full, dark hair, perhaps stylized, parted on the left. He wore dark trousers and a dark sweater type top.  After some 45 minutes or so he was gone. Before leaving he had passed about 20 feet from them.

Lake_Berryessa_Suspec sketch

Was he waiting for them to leave so that Denise and Wayne would be alone? If so he got impatient and left.

Whatever the motive for his actions, the coeds found him suspicious. He had waited about 20 minutes in his car before even coming down and watching from the tree line. When they finally went back to the turnout his car was gone.

Much later that afternoon around 6:30 p.m. Dr. Clifford Rayfield and his 16 year old son David are north of the area where Bryan Hartnell and Celia Sheppard would soon be attacked by The ZODIAC. In fact, they were 4 lagoons north of “Zodiac Island.” This would mean they were one lagoon south of where the coeds had sunbathed.


Zodiac Island, the scene of the attack, as seen from McKenzie point to the south. Picture by me, taken August 6, 2012.

There are two different accounts here. The original account was given at the Spanish Flats coffee shop the next day to Dick Lonergan and Ken Narlow. Dr. Rayfield said they were just coming down the hillside when his son David saw a stocky 5 foot 10 inch man walking on the hillsides. When he saw his son he turned around and walked south up the hillside. This man was dressed in dark trousers and a dark long sleeved shirt.


The hillside around the lake. This is the area where Zodiac came down to attack the couple. It is similar to the area where David Rayfield had seen the stocky man earlier.

Narlow discounted the sighting because  Rayfield said that they had seen no other car parked along the road. The attack occurred around 6:30 p.m. and Narlow didn’t believe this man on foot could get to the location of the attack which was 4 lagoons to the south.

However, years later David Rayfield spoke with Robert Graysmith. He said his father never saw the man, but at the time was fishing at the lake while he wandered around with his .22  rifle. It is then that he saw the man. When the man saw his rifle with an intimidating scope, he turned around and left.

This now makes it sound as the Rayfields had been down there for a while when David had his sighting.

If David is more accurate this would explain why they saw no other car parked up there. The reason why Rayfield had not seen a car is that ZODIAC had parked after them and was coming down to see who the occupants were of their car. When he saw a 16 year old with a gun, he knew these were not viable targets.

It could be that Dr. Rayfield just hadn’t noticed the other cars. He had also said that there was a man down there with his sons shooting B-B guns. Yet Rayfield had not seen their car, and they must have come by one. He did not report seeing Hartnell’s car on the side of the road, though he must have passed it. The stocky man had to come by car, and very possibly Rayfield had not seen it or the man had parked after the Rayfields got there.

Dr. Rayfield’s account the next day does not square up completely with the facts, and it is possible that his son’s recollection is more accurate.


Looking down Knoxville Road, where Bryan had parked his Karmann Ghia.

There is another tidbit. ZODIAC thought the attack location was about 2 miles north of park headquarter. It is, in fact, no way that far. But had he come back along the road from the north, after seeing who the occupants of Rayfield’s car was, he might not really have known how far north he was anymore of the HQ. Anybody coming from the south, who had just recently passed the HQ would not think the attack location was as much as 2 miles north.

Maybe yea, maybe nay, but what we do have are similar descriptions of a man who was still prowling the hillsides in the same general area hours apart. Minutes after David saw the man, Bryan and Celia are attacked by a heavyset man in dark, pleated trousers and a hood over a dark thin windbreaker type jacket. This most definitely was The ZODIAC.

*         *          *

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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