In a way this posts helps me to explain why I am so cautious in naming persons of interest and in naming suspects. Through the years I have discovered that coincidence is really quite common in crime. A suspect can fit everything required to be the culprit, but just short of being confirmed by the relevant evidence. Each coincidence I am going to mention below will seem remarkable, but they happened.
The Kennedy Assassination:
Possibly the crime that has the most coincidences. Lee Harvey Oswald was a mediocre rifleman. There was only one place along the entire presidential motorcade route from Love Field in which such a gunman could have gotten a direct line of sight on a target. This, of course, was at the Texas School Book Depository. Only here did the road retreat away from a building at an angle. Everywhere else along the route a gunman would have to lean out of a window and lead his shot.
The featured photo above captures a scientific recreation of that day, and you can seen from the angle that it was essentially an easy shot. For a short period of time the limousine was in a straight line of fire, the gunman safely concealed.
Oswald got his job at the Depository before the President’s route was even announced.
Oswald had not long returned to the house where he rented a room when a police car stopped out front and the driver honked its horn several times. Then it drove off. Oswald left shortly thereafter. The Warren Commission admitted this sounded suspicious.
The landlady had seen the car and thought it was car 106 or 107. Both were accounted for at the time. The only other car in the area was car 10. The driver of this car, officer Tippit, would later stop Oswald as he was walking along in the neighborhood. Oswald would kill him.
Convince of Oswald’s guilt, Jack Ruby, a man who just happened to be well known amongst Dallas police, waits for Oswald to be escorted out of the Dallas police building. He there shoots him down on live TV. . . .Some truly do not consider this a coincidence. Hence the Kennedy Assassination Conspiracy is much still with us.
And indeed a conspiracy there could be. Jimmy Hoffa or the mob in general are blamed. Cuba and Castro are suspected. Soviets are frequently held in suspicion. General Walker and the right wing are also suspected at times. But that is for another post.
The ‘Zodiac’ Killer:
Bill Grant was essentially a middle aged, fat sausage chewing wino, who, amongst other young women, also stalked Dee Ferrin. Because of strange hang-up phone calls received at Dee Ferrin’s parents’ home and her own within a few hours of her death, Vallejo PD believed her killer had known her. For some professional and amateur sleuths this made Grant a worthy candidate to be her killer and to be ZODIAC. Grant looked similar to SF’s composite, and investigation proved he had been a cryptographer in World War II. But he wasn’t ZODIAC. He was too old, way too old.
Leigh Allen himself wore a Sea Wolf Zodiac watch, and later became a suspect, though exonerated by the known evidence of handwriting and fingerprints. An entire folklore has been created around Allen, all of it growing more lurid. But it really seems based on nothing but that he wore that distinctive Swiss watch. It was a watch made for divers, and this is probably why Allen, an amateur diver, had it.
George Waters was another admirer of Dee Ferrin’s. He was dismissed as a suspect early in the investigation, but as the crimes of the ZODIAC continued he strangely fit everything required to be him. He had once lived up and down the East Bay area, once in Benicia. He now lived in Yountville north of Napa. He had commuted to Vallejo. He looked like the Napa composite of ZODIAC. He, in fact, knew all the locations. His Yountville home, a hovel under big trees, was at the center of the ZODIAC’s wandering crime spree. But he was too light to be ZODIAC.
In my own experience, the cases of
RP is still the prime suspect. He looks like the composites. The generalities of his life and family connections fit what is required. His discovery finally brought sense to EAR’s stalking pattern throughout the East Area of Sacramento. He grew up in the area where EAR had concentrated, and a commute from Placerville (for the first year) fits with the MO. He had a very unsuccessful life prior to 31 years of age and really didn’t go far with a security guard occupation thereafter. He favored the nightshift. Yet he led a largely pampered life. All this could prove nothing but coincidence until his handwriting is found and matches the Danville notepaper.
I was seeking a suspect by the surname of Beard, but had not disclosed that. I was later contacted by someone who had been chatting with an ex-marine in Chicago. He had served in Vietnam with a marine who had the last name of Beard. He believed him to be ZODIAC. I later cleared my suspect named Beard, but kept the surname of Beard as the alias for the man who became my prime suspect and remains so, on far more “coincidences” than can be imagined. But I am one piece short of saying for certain that this “Beard” is him.
Coincidences are often very intriguing. They make prophets out of charlatans and fools out of the gullible. Charles Fort filled books devoted to cataloging coincidences. How common is coincidence? This I do not know, but it is not surprising that coincidence is common in crime. Often a police sketch is what starts people turning in others. It is not a coincidence therefore that a number of those who got turned in resemble each other or have an unsavory background.
But, still, there are a few coincidences that are alarming. . .
For my prime suspect in ZODIAC, it is a fact that an old friend– let’s call him “Dave”– turned him in because he looked like the composite. The old friend hadn’t known about the report of Wing Walkers used by ZODIAC at Lake Berryessa, and I am not even sure when the first broadcast of this clue was made. “Dave’s” old friend looked like one of the composites, and clearly “Dave” must have thought him capable of murder. As it turns out, his old friend, “Beard” as I called him, had not long been out of the Air Force, separated at the hospital after 4 months of being treated. His career had been cut short by his accident/illness.
The above is a coincidence, but the following may or may not be. “Beard” returned to the Bay Area. His stepfather had been an aircraft engineer. Young “Beard” was one of the few guys who would have heard radians discussed, that rare measurement of arc that is necessary to know in avionics. There are other, many other coincidences, but that is what they truly are until there is that one bit of relevant evidence that conclusively and undeniably connects him to ZODIAC.
Authors have written bestsellers dogmatically claiming they have solved a famous crime on less “coincidences” than I have compiled against both my major suspects in EAR and ZODIAC. But how many have truly solved those cases they have claimed to finally expose? Zero. The result is a reading audience that no longer is tempted by the claims on a book’s cover, and an entire genre has fallen into disrepute. It is time to solve them. Thus I am quite careful. You must also believe in coincidence. Believe me, it is quite common and ultimately can mean nothing but. . . coincidence.
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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.