The ‘Zodiac’ Killer Reverse Engineered

Let’s talk about Steve a bit here. I may appear a bit negligent in elaborating on my suspect because EAR/ONS came to overwhelm my investigating time. But I had continued my investigation since 2012, though slower and haltingly because of the problems of getting undeniable proof, not “daddy did it” proof.

I had settled on Steve Wilcox long ago as the prime suspect. I introduced him as “Steve Beard” on my website as I continued along. The odd chance might happen that more information would be offered by someone who recognized the picture I had up. This never happened, but the whole idea of a new suspect in Zodianna thrilled those in the Zodiac Community.

Ironically, or perhaps not, he did not attain any high profile. I said I was using an alias, as I was still investigating. By 2012 ZODIAC was in the tank of popularity as well. Steve didn’t match the folklore either. My purpose in my ZODIAC section on my website was to relay the foundation of the true case and perhaps garner some more information. It was not a tool by which to communicate with the Zodiac Community, though some very nice overtures were made to me.  Steve was greeted with a shrug perhaps, and there was expressed consternation why I had such a different take on the crime spree.

The entire web section at the Q Files was necessary to erase the folklore that had come to dominate the subject and thus open the door to the real ZODIAC. An example of how false the information had hitherto been, it had led one enthusiast in New Jersey to make a big deal about Kjell Qvale being the ‘Zodiac’ Killer. He was an exclusive car dealer and importer in San Francisco, in many ways the inspiration for Thorndyke in the Lovebug.  Qvale should never have been a suspect. He was 50 years old at the time, and though he lived in upscale Presidio Heights nothing else fit. He seems to have resembled the San Francisco composite of ZODIAC, but this composite was known to be quite inaccurate. Balanced with other data, The ZODIAC was known to be under 6 foot tall and to be quite heavy.  ZODIAC was also between 25 and 30 years old, and more than one witness confirmed his young voice.

ZODIAC looks like a skinny ferret here.


The last thing I should ever want is to be involved in a fiasco like that, at least over such an impossible suspect.

The same can be said for Bill Grant. He was a nasty character, stalker, and was truly part of the inspiration for the legends in Vallejo about Dee Ferrin’s stalker. But he too was 50, and despite having mastered cryptology during WWII he was a poor fit. Study of ZODIAC’s cryptograms revealed ZODIAC was not an expert in code.

At an opposite is my suspect– Steve. He was an original person of interest, but he skirted the dragnet. He had no connection to Dee Ferrin, and at that time Vallejo PD most certainly labored under the belief that she had known her killer. Whether ZODIAC killed her intentionally or she was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time it didn’t change the fact that it seemed there was a connection between the two. Finding her mysterious stalker, backtracking her life, should help reveal the infamous ‘Zodiac’ Killer.

Obviously, this never happened.

Steve’s connection with Vallejo wasn’t much. It was with the backroads. It was one of small game hunting. The backroads of Vallejo here– Lake Herman Road and Columbus Parkway were and are major arteries between the highways. It didn’t require being a local to know them.


Little changed, the first killing location on Lake Herman Road.

Steve lived an hour away in Sacramento. He was recently released from the Air Force because of an extended trauma. Vallejo PD probably never pursued him that far to uncover any such information.

Unlike the other suspects,  there was no connection. There was no connection to Dee Ferrin or even to Vallejo. There was no investigation to uncover his connection to Presidio Heights. That crime hadn’t happened yet, and Steve had already been forgotten.

Steve remained the unsuspected until me. Over the last 4 years I have uncovered many incriminating coincidences. They are more than exist against suspects in other books, but I have learned legalese. Legally they are of no value. They tend to create suspicion. I needed the silver bullet. But these led to the location where I could find it.

Having Steve as a prime suspect now, I realized something else was forming. I was not getting any more clues or evidence, but with Steve I was able to reverse engineer and make sense of some of ZODIAC’s false clues.

I learned of his short stint in the corrections system, and thus I could understand why ZODIAC would know about Deer Lodge Prison in Montana. I learned of the ongoing Bay Area connection, his schooling, his upbringing. He was, in fact, one of the few at that time outside of avionics who would have known what a radian was. I began to suspect a clever killer, one whose sophistication did not go into the execution of his crimes but into selecting locations and then in covering his trail with his publicity campaign.

Let’s face it, by writing each letter, each cryptogram, he was giving potentially incriminating clues.  It was only in licking the stamps that he may have made his fatal mistake. Everything else he covered.

Clues, clues indeed. He knew they were incriminating clues– handwriting and potentially verbiage.


In overlaying what I had learned about Steve, I discovered how clever ZODIAC had been . . .if I was right that it was, in fact, Steve. Steve didn’t like English patter songs like those written by Gilbert & Sullivan. He liked Grand Ol’ Opry, and perhaps this is why he knew of the British comic operetta The Mikado. But country/western was more to his liking than anything British.

Throughout ZODIAC’s letters he dropped hints of British influence. But they weren’t too deep. “Happy Christmass”; “kiddies” is dubious; “Blue Meanies” simply meant he had watched the Beatles in Yellow  Submarine. There was superficial Britishness. Nothing more. But it was the exact opposite of his true tastes in Grand Ol’ Opry.

Equally he had dropped an expression that indicated some contact with Texas. He had a cadence that indicated a different dialect. Steve grew up in Kansas and was trained and stationed in Texas during his Air Force career.

If Steve was our man, then subtly but surely the coincidences were revealing a Midwesterner using superficial British to disguise his origins. It really seems like basic strategy. He knew he was going to write letters. We know he laid false clues repeatedly. But they follow a pattern only when overlaid on Steve’s life and background.

We will look more at these in another post.

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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.


Fake News Today

We hear so much about “fake news.” It’s the latest slogan. It’s the latest fad; since fads are never too deep, a slogan certainly counts as faddy.

But what is fake news and who determines what constitutes fake news? Dealing with the concept in any real way actually reveals the many tiers to it, and these have to be considered before it can even be addressed. Since I write and investigate a lot, and I am also often disliked by some cottage industries because I reveal the narrative in many topics to be folklore, I thought I best weigh in here.

Wrong does not equal fake.

Difference of theory does not equal fake.

Hyperbole is not truly fake either.

Fake would have to mean entirely false and misleading news. Intentionality is another kink that the legal eagles would have to consider.

The bigger question is: how are they going to legally crack down on “fake news” in the USA? Actually, I think it will not be the First Amendment that stops them, whoever “them” is, but rather it will clarify for “them” how they can do it.

English and Legalese are not the same lingo. The Constitution was traditionally interpreted by the parameters of English usage, grammar, and then, lastly, by comparatives in other cases. Ultimately, logic was the criterion to govern all interpretations, for it is a legal maxim that “there can be no legal requirement to do the impossible.”

The First Amendment to the US Constitution:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

By the English language, 4 principles of expression are declared here–religion, speech, written word, and assembly and petition. That’s it.

Now, in a past, more liberal time interpretation began to accept “press” as meaning the profession today called “The Press.” The Constitution protects no profession except the ones it creates– the job of politicians.

In reality, “freedom of the press” means the written word. It comes from the printing press– “or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press”. That little comma means everything. That little comma will hang you. The major topics are divided by semicolons. Freedom of speech and “press” are not. They are too related to be different subjects. Freedom of the spoken word and freedom of the printed word. They are divided by a comma.

Every American reading this has the right to “freedom of the press.” You have the right to print your thoughts and philosophies. No one is obligated to publish them, but you can write down ideas and circulate them yourself.

However, “freedom of the press” is not carte blanche to any profession calling itself the “news” today. It does not allow anybody to stir up what they will, create riots over false news, milk out a false angle as long as they can just to get more advertising dollars and ratings.

“Congress shall not” and Congress certainly hasn’t made a law abridging freedom of the news organizations, but Congress sure doesn’t stand in the way of the right of civil law. Which means you can go after the newspapers with your own attorney and nail them for libel. You see?  Congress shall not, but Congress sure can turn a deaf ear to someone else going after the press.

It’s unlikely that fake news police, whatever that may be, will go after wealthy networks, but it is obvious that a lot of those on social networks are going to be nailed for false memes, and it would seem that some websites might be in trouble.

In the beginning perhaps some truly false and seditious fake news will be eradicated. But will it stop there? I doubt it. “Swing the pendulum too far one way and it swings back too far the other.” Most of our mommas taught us this.

I don’t know where this will end, but it will hinge on that comma. That comma does not exempt anybody from libel laws, sedition, or fraud. And if you are spinning false news to get ratings and increase ad dollars I suppose a clever district attorney can make a case for fraud. After all, when the comma comes into play, within context, all the 1st Amendment really guarantees is freedom of the printed word within the context of many other laws. It doesn’t mean you can lie, incite mayhem, and libel.  I suspect somehow fraud will come into play.

Freedom of speech does not allow slander. It does not allow disturbing the peace. To enforce slander laws, it takes civil law . .. but disturbance of the peace is enforced by the law itself. This is an interesting foot in the door that can probably be used for the law to go after even big networks and nail them for false news. I suppose they’d have to make a case the false news disturbed the peace in some new interpretation.

Once again, the 1st Amendment says “Congress shall not.” It doesn’t say Congress will prevent others. I suspect Facebook will have some latitude in censoring news feeds.

Many religious organizations prevent the assembly and expressing and printing of ideas outside of their established doctrines. Congress doesn’t intervene. If it is within the Church or organization’s property, how can they?  How does a social network function differently than a Church? You cause too many problems in a religion, they kick you out. Cannot a social network? “Congress shall not,” but ultimately what power does Congress have to prevent social networks from censoring you and kicking you off?

There’s a dangerous future ahead, but Facebook and the big corporations didn’t create it. Nor did government. The complete lack of personal responsibility created it. People outright used FB for a lot of preaching and lies. Message boards do it, and perhaps some websites. The pendulum went too far one way. If you cannot govern yourself, you must be governed. And now social networks and governments are trying to figure out how to govern the web because some extremists took advantage and didn’t give a damn about the truth.

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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.

Q-True Crime Agenda– 2017

I try and convey some of my most controversial points subtly, in a round about way. It saves us all grief should something turn out amiss in one’s future predictions, or if a deduction was minus a significant fact that mitigates it.

So much has been claimed on the web. It’s an unfiltered forum and many with great conviction have come forward to reveal, sadly, great error in their deductions. We need only recall the dogma asserted against a particular car dealer being the ZODIAC. Error is innocent, so there is no need to mock.  But it is true that most of the glaring error in naming suspects has been avoidable error.

Despite writing a book on the ZODIAC Killer, which is now except for the last chapter finished, I devoted a lot of web space to my real life investigation, including putting back the crime scenes as they had been. Lots of traveling was involved, lots of photography. In fact, I developed a love for photography. It was necessary that the ground floor be re-laid in ZODIAC because of the decades of folklore that had come to change it all.


For EAR/ONS it was necessary to reveal the ground floor so that now, as it stands at the brink of worldwide popularity, it could not be built upon by folklore.

My agenda, however, has ben a real one, and I have revealed it before. I have three targets in my sight– ZODIAC, EAR/ONS, D.B. Cooper. Each is to be solved unequivocally. My investigation will solve them or contribute significantly to absolute solution. Despite the nobility of that comment I intend to solve them.

I don’t like people who do not have a competitive spirit. So long as they don’t undermine another (that’s not really competition), competition is a healthy motivation. Out stride another. Better oneself. Progress.

You can’t get into a major university without showing the necessary enthusiasm.  Some detective proclaiming how dispassionate he is is not going to accomplish squat. Enthusiasm makes the lightbulb come on. Routine processing does not.

But the lightbulb must come on based on knowledge. For example, 50 year olds were never viable for being ZODIAC. He had a young voice and was described as between 25 and 30.

I proceed along the evidence, and even more importantly, along the clues. I’ve said it many times– clues are everything. When investigated they lead to evidence.

True crime buffs read me with a filter. They tune out dogma because publishing has so destroyed the credibility of the genre with its S&M rubbish of “solved” books by authors who reveal a lack of knowledge on the specific crimes of which they are solving and show more a desire to blame “daddy.”


Cold case makes one go back and study the history of the time. History sharpens investigative skill. Context is everything. History is not processed. It is investigated. It is uncovered. Context is discovered. Historians should tackle cold cases far more often. I think I’m the only one.  ZODIAC’s era was an exotic one.

As it stands now, in 2017 I can say with great certainty the ZODIAC Killer case will be solved. For 4 years I have tracked my suspect, and I can finally say it is time to finish it. How soon thereafter will a solution to EAR/ONS come? That I am not so sure. D.B. Cooper is a little stickier, but in 2017, free of ZODIAC, and having reduce the pursuit of EAR/ONS to knocking off or confirming one of three, I will have more time to follow the trail of a Portlander from a Canadian background. There will be more on that soon.

But ZODIAC tumbles first. Let us talk more about Steve “Beard” or Steve Wilcox in the next post. I know I am putting myself out there where I don’t want to be, but several things have to be said to distance him and the method via which I came to him than all those that have been blithely promoted as ZODIAC over the decades. He ain’t daddy. He wasn’t entirely the unsuspected. But he was the in-investigated. He was only processed. I found more. Lots more.

Embarcadero freeway

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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.

Jack the Joker, Jack the Knife, The Scarecrow . . . Where are they?

It seems that we can agree with the redoubtable Sherlock Holmes these days and lament that the art of criminal ingenuity is a thing of the past. It’s not so cold hearted as it sounds. It is logistically the right attitude. The cleverest of serial killers leave more clues. In their endeavor to play their battle of wits, they try and hide clues. This, of course, is a clue. That they wish to play a battle of wits is also a clue. Clues will always lead to the perp. More clues, the better.

Hear me out on this.

We are always going to have serials. Sadly, it is the truth. But those that are famous are famous because they got into the fold. They are few by number and they are easier to track. They get the public involved, as the public should be since the public are the pawns and indeed object of a serial’s game, and this drags the serial from dark shadows.

The Joker from Batman would have been far more insidious had he remained only a denizen of dark nights and a scourge of the underground. But he wanted to take on Gotham. This brought him out. This brought out his opposition. Yes, the most ingenuous of serial killers by contrast bring out the best in those that hunt them. The dragon is contrasted by St. George.

It may sound shocking to want the most ingenious serials to be the only ones. You may think– “consider the potential for unsolved cold cases!” Despite the fame of some unsolved serial killers, they are in fact few compared to the cases of serial murders you have not heard about because they are more solvable. Their ingenuity is not intelligence. They truly are not incredibly clever super villains. Their ingenuity is a necessity. It is the result of their ambition. This is what drives them. It is not a natural intelligence. It is a logistic one used to protect themselves.

From a look at the past, the boldest serials always went after the average citizen. They knew the system goes berserk when John or Jane Q. Citizen is the object of the attack. Stalkers preying on the Strip at night don’t upset society. Prostitutes are the number 1 victims of serial killers. To attack them is not to assail the pillars of society. How many are killed in a year? None of us probably have even heard of most of the murders. The victim is a certain type. The killer is a certain type. There are few clues, only very common circumstances.

The Ripper alone is the exception. But then he made a game out of it, and it escalated to trying to upset the government of England and inciting social and race riots.

You’ve heard of the famous cases because the victims were average citizens. Ed Gein, the inspiration for Norman Bates, went after decent neighbors; Gacey, the killer clown, after runaways; The Phantom of Texarkana went after necking John and Jane; so did the Zodiac Killer; and the Phantom of Colonial Parkway; The Doodler went after average to exceptional bar patrons, using one of the most unique MOs in history; EAR/ONS, the ultimate and real life Michael Myers, went after the girl next door and violated the American suburban sanctity.

There are a few others, but they are actually not many. The clever wackos seem a product of the Depression generation or shortly thereafter, and the loosened bands of the antiestablishment movement seem to have emboldened them to take on Gotham. For the ZODIAC, he did it almost in a comic strip way.

Is that what emboldened them so? It seems so. It seems they gave free rein to their evil ambition in an era that was casting off so many moral fetters. They fancied themselves above the dregs cruising the strip. They had to have more elevated victims.

By contrast the norm is hundreds and hundreds of prostitute and hitchhiker victims who have been murdered and their bodies dumped. There are so many, the MOs common and utilitarian that it is hard to tell is a serial is afoot.

In terms of any really identifiable serial killer in recent times, we have only heard of The Long Island Serial Killer. But his MO is not unique. He picks up call girls and they end up dead, in a bag, at Gilgo Beach. Only once did he try some insipid terror against one of the victim’s sister. By using his victim’s cell phone and calling her sister, he showed us he wanted more than just the thrill of killing his victims.


Not surprisingly, the Long Island Serial Killer is not really a distinct character in crime, and the local cops aren’t being remiss in not having caught him yet. There aren’t many clues that lead anywhere. The same can be said for the West Mesa Killer– though probably he is dead and, if two were involved, the other is in jail.

Kill and Dump is the MO of today. It is reserved for prostitutes and hitchhikers. Neither type of victim has a lifestyle that can easily lead to a viable suspect.

. . . But in the heyday of the counterculture hitching was common and the average girl next door did it. The ambition of evil revealed the sadistic fiend that was the Sonoma Co-Ed Killer. Because the girls were from an average background, more clues were left. None of them were the kind to get into a compromising position, if you know my meaning, for professional reasons. Thus the killer had to use drugs on some or some other enticement. Clues, clues, clues.  The pickup points and the dumping sites give us more clues.

Impress this upon your minds. This is as close as the predators are. In an era of easy and acceptable hitchhiking, the human barracudas began to swarm around where the prey was easiest. Imagine salmon migrating. There the bears will gather and step into the river to catch and eat what they will.  Average middle-class girls took to hitching to college, home, work, or to friends, and quite a few got picked off from the arteries of traffic.

Human predators abound. They have arrogant and animalistic desires. We hear so much of evolution, but the modern political claptrap is vain jangling on “equality.” Both concepts are twisted in the public forum. Equality merely means equal justice for all. It does not mean equal ethics exist, equal intelligence, or equal skills. Like highwaymen of old, human predators fester outside of our daily lives and stalk about waiting for a victim to straggle from the herd. They remain animalistic in nature, uncontrolled by any divine nature.

Those with the greatest ingenuity exercised that ingenuity for a reason. They had the greatest ambition. They are the ones who have come into the fold, disguised themselves as one of us and taken what victims they wanted, sometimes by the boldest of methods. These are the ones that frighten us. They get more news as a result, but they are a rarity. I prefer the rarity.

Today, the ambition seems to be gone, and as a result the need for the ingenuity. But the predators still abound. They don’t rate the news because they are not in the fold. But there are a few Hannibal Lectors out there who keep their complex game underground and their victims to dark shadows.

Those who independently hunt serials must bear these obscure cases in equal mind. They are as intricate and as mentally stimulating as the famous cases. I’ve heard tell of “Angelfish,” a crime noir handle if ever I heard one. More attention must be given to outing serials who have little press but a deadly tally of victims. The outing of EAR/ONS has shocked the mainstream. How has the No. 1 serial villain in history gotten lost for so long?

How many others exist? The victims and their families need attention brought to the perp. That is one problem with highlighting victims too much. It breaks the heart, yes, and it should. But little attention is given to the perp’s arrogant MO. When people realize how evil and arrogant serials are, that’s when they take notice. This is when we have taken the best step to turning the hunter into the hunted. This will either lead to his outing or the coward, as they ultimately all are, will cringe again in dark shadows and fester, afraid to play his game on the unsuspecting, unarmed, weak and straggling– the victims of all predators.

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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.

The ZODIAC– First Analysis in HorrorScope.

Outtake from Chapter 9 of HorrorScope— “ZODIAC”– by Gian J. Quasar.  This is the first analytical chapter in the book. I take the reader through the entire crime spree chronologically in the book, so it is necessary to develop and present as I go, as if you are reliving it. This chapter follows the Lake Berryessa account because this is the first time we have a face and can discuss enough evidence that relates to ZODIAC.


Up until this point the Zodiac’s crimes looked spontaneous, even sloppy, the MO of a random drive-by shooter. Only in print had he invoked some highly dubious cult fringe benefit. From the looks of his victims, his claims didn’t have to be taken seriously unless he wanted nothing but teenyboppers in the afterlife. And Napa’s sketch supported Vallejo’s witness sighting. This was no hippie gone bad. He was a lovers’ lane killer, a vengeful or gutless thrill seeker . . . but now this. Now this strange hood.


Lake Berryessa was not convenient and the attack was not spontaneous. Zodiac had labored on creating a hood to shield his face, which means he intended a daylight attack. He took the unnecessary risk of walking ¼ of a mile from where he had parked. He could have gone to a lovers’ lane and shot another couple. But he didn’t. He seems to have intended knifing a couple, and this required a remote location and distance from a road where he could spend sufficient time to bind them. This was not possible by a drive-by lovers’ lane at night. Yet there aren’t many places where he could have found daytime victims. Parks are out of the question. It would take a remote but not so remote recreation area. It is this fact that makes the attack at Lake Berryessa an enormous clue.

Of all the vacation lakes it is only Lake Berryessa that was the best for an extended attack away from a road. More importantly, it is the only one where one could find young couples. Students— couples— came from Angwin. How many can we place there that day?— Brian, Celia, Wayne, Denise, John, Helen, the three coeds. Attacking here not only argues for a sinister premeditation or need to knife a couple, but it reveals a necessity to knife a young couple.


The crime scene at Lake Berryessa, as seen from McKenzie Point in 2012.

Stalking Knoxville Road is not going to tell anybody that on a given day they are assured of coming across a young couple. A one-time fishing trip isn’t going to reveal this either. The young, heavyset man had protracted knowledge of the area. This is not surprising. One consistent thing ran through the Zodiac’s MO so far. He had quite an acquaintance with rural areas, a knowledge that could only have come over a period of time. He knew on a given day he would be assured of coming across a young couple here.

When his authorship of the Lake Herman Road murders was questioned by Jack Stiltz, he quickly responded bragging how he had cleverly affixed a pencil flashlight to his pistol and in that way just sprayed down Jensen like using a hose.

This little bit of gratuitous bragging subtly betrays Zodiac’s longstanding connection to rural areas, more so than his MO. It is one thing to stream a circle of light across one’s ceiling and walls and see the dark dot that represents the gunsight. It is an entirely different matter to think this is going to work in real life. It requires putting it into action. Zodiac would need rural land somewhere, accessible by night, where he could test it and fine tune his gunsight. It would not be a leap of faith to say he knew some of these backroads because he had access to land somewhere nearby or frequently hunted. He knew the petting spots; for some reason he knew those Vallejo backroads. His MO at Lake Herman Road required someone with enough time alone at night and some piece of rural land somewhere in the vicinity to test his “invention.”

Lake Berryessa and Lake Herman Road come together to reveal that the sloppy, spontaneous Zodiac was actually far more cerebral in his preparations than his drive-by shooting would suggest. The pencil flashlight shows he came to the dark Lake Herman Road that night fully prepared to kill a couple. The preparations for his attack at Lake Berryessa cannot be denied.

Combined with this exoticism of his outfit there remained the demented thrill seeker’s way of needlessly confessing to the police.

The confession calls compared:


Vallejo                                   Napa

I want to report a double          I want to report a murder;

murder. If you will go               no, a double murder.

one mile east on                      They are two miles north

Columbus Parkway to the          of park headquarters.

public park you will find             They were in a white

the kids in a brown car.               Volkswagen Karmann Ghia.

They were shot with a                   I’m the one who did it.

nine millimeter luger. I

also killed those kids last

year. Goodbye.


The calls reveal how Zodiac chose his words carefully. In contrast to the letter confessions, Zodiac never begins the call with “I just killed” likely because he feared that the operator could possibly start a recorder. Instead Zodiac reports the basics and then in his last line confesses to having committed the crime. The young voice with the demented thrill motive had a careful mind. But from the point of view of someone simply wanting to “collect slaves,” why was this necessary?

The portrait drawn is a confusing one: a young man, not unhandsome, but dresses obsolete. He murders hastily. He confesses over the phone in order to get the law to the crime scene. Then he brags in print and invokes some arcane cult motive. It couldn’t all be a ruse or he wouldn’t have designed that hood.

Ephemeral to this portrait is his car. Thanks to the coeds’ details about the late model Chevrolet it is possible to identify it as a 1966 or 1967 Impala. This was indeed not a car for a young man. Therefore it is possible he drove a car, a new car, he did not own. Like his clothes, it seemed suited to an older man. Was the brown car (Corvair?) used for the Blue Rocks Springs Park attack his own car? What about the mid-sized car with “no chrome” seen by James Owen in the turnout on Lake Herman Road?

Chevy Impala


Cars were certainly a clue. It was clear that Zodiac didn’t mind driving distances and had the time to do so. Lake Berryessa is far from any real settlement. Then he drove 45 minutes to Napa, a direction which indicates he was headed back to the Bay Area or Vallejo. Yet he mailed his letters from San Francisco, which is about 45 minutes from Vallejo where he had begun his crime spree.

When combined with the Zodiac’s modus operandi, the bland face on the composite tells us a few things. He was not a hippie or crazed looking cultist. His obsolescent look might not have even been too significant. After all, this was a rustic lake. But the sinister black hood is frightening. Put together, one thing is written clearly: his symbol and name had come to mean something important to him. One cannot say that his alter ego was only one on paper. Nor was he a man who had found killing just as thrilling as he had written in his simple syntax.

Zodiac was evolving before us. He went from being a heavyset, plain looking man who didn’t take credit for his killings, to one who then did both by phone and then by letters and an elaborate cipher, then to becoming that alter ego in real life.

*         *          *

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.


An outtake from Chapter 8 of HorrorScope— “Car Door Score”– by Gian  J. Quasar


Traffic was occasional for this time of night. The corner of Clinton and Main in downtown Napa was dark except for the fuzzy light from the cones of evenly spaced streetlights. They mostly illuminated the old rock walls of Napa’s historic and oldest building. In the large parking area behind it, owner Mike Black had built the Space Age, modern Napa Car Wash. It looked more like a long fun land ride. Affixed incongruously to this historic 1900s building was a stark contrast of 1960s lathed stucco. This was narrow set of offices that managed the car wash. Here the phone booth stood by the stucco wall. The car wash itself extended back into the darkness of the parking lot until its “Space Age” girders melded into the dark silhouettes of a grove of trees.

Hal Snook arrived, parked down the street and walked to the parking lot. The police officer guarding the area confirmed he had arrived quickly and, shining his flashlight beam on the dark booth, showed it had not been disturbed. The receiver was still off the hook. Both then started shining their flashlights around, but the round beams never coasted over anything that seemed like tire tracks or footprints.

Zodiac’s score on Bryan Hartnell’s car door.



Meanwhile, Narlow and Lonergan paced the gurneys as the victims were rushed into ER, where Drs. Caulkins and Seibert started attending them immediately. Narlow and Lonergan followed in and hoped for some information. When the blankets were pulled back, all were surprised by how brutal this was. Blood soaked their clothes, trickling out from slices in the fabric. Both were in critical condition. Another doctor was being summoned. The doctors told Narlow and Lonergan to get out.

There wasn’t much for them to do but wait yet again. Lake Berryessa was about an hour away along a thin, dark country road marked only by reflectors here and there. Whatever evidence awaited them, none of it was as important as the eyewitness accounts. So they waited.

Time passes slowly in a hospital corridor. At one point the nurse told them Celia’s best friend’s name was Judy. They decided to call the college and get in touch with her. When she couldn’t be found Narlow issued an APB for her. Still they waited. Finally, the doctors said they could talk to Bryan. He was the most stable of the two. At 9:37 p.m. they were allowed a brief chat.

Hospitals are cold places. It is not a temperature that registries on the skin but in the centers of living. An x-ray room is particularly anodyne. The machine makes its noise. Voices echo in the Spartan surroundings. Nurses are always calm. Doctors are utilitarian. Bryan lay on the steel table in fear of his life, drugged up and in shock.


Where Bryan Hartnell had parked and the location that night of all the forensic investigation.

The detectives leaned over and smiled at him. Their faces were a friendlier sight than the cold white glare of the overhead light set in the ugly, dull ceiling.

Before they could say anything, a nurse peaked in. Narlow was wanted on the phone. Lonergan proceeded with asking the questions.

In such a state like this, Hartnell was only capable of repeating the most significant details. It was clear from his description that the appearance of the assailant was striking. The first detail he gave was the most disturbing. Hartnell said the man wore “a black ceremonial type hood, square at top.”

Perhaps because of his drugged and shocked state Lonergan was hesitant to believe it . . . at first.

Hartnell continued: the attacker was heavy set, about 200 to possibly even 250 pounds. Though he approached with a gun, he stabbed them with a long knife. The gun had a holster, the knife a scabbard. The gun was an automatic; the knife appeared homemade with a black handle. His clothes were dark.

Lonergan was skeptical. He later stated in his report: “It should be noted that Hartnell was very groggy and he was very difficult to interview at this time.” Lonergan wanted Hartnell interviewed again the next day if possible.

Lake_Berryessa_Suspec sketch
Possibly the best sketch of Zodiac, taken at Lake Berryessa. 


The flashlight beams crisscrossed for the last time. The sidewalk, parking lot, and the gutter revealed no tracks. Snook got his dusting kit and went to the phone booth. Before he entered he could see that the receiver was lying on the little shelf under the phone in the corner of the booth. He noted that the receiver faced south; mouth piece was almost under the phone and the ear piece near the edge of the shelf, pointing south. The openings faced east. In other words, the caller had held the phone with his left hand and set it down with the same hand. Not surprising since most people dial with their right hand. Moreover, given the location of the booth in relation to the street, this was more convenient for the caller’s safety. This allowed the caller to keep his eye on Main Street and the sidewalk to see who passed while he spoke.

Snook dusted the whole area and took a few dozen prints. When he finished and packed-up his kit he checked his watch. It was 10:49 p.m. He had a long drive to Lake Berryessa now.

Not only was this a long drive, it was at this time of night a deserted drive. His headlights coasted about the dark two lane road. With every bend, they swayed off sapling brush on one side and etched hillside on the other; occasionally off wood posts with little reflectors on them. Finally, on the right side there was nothing but a morass of ink. This indicated the valley lake was on his right side. He was getting closer. His headlights pushed on.


The redoubtable Snook at the scene on Knoxville Road.  

Little did Harold Snook know but that Ken Narlow and Dick Lonergan were only 20 minutes ahead. At 10:15 p.m. they had left the hospital and returned to the station to talk to Celia’s best friend, Judy, who had finally been found. The interview yielded no information on anybody who would want to kill her. She was, after all, just visiting. It was an exercise in futility, though standard procedure.

*         *          *

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.

EAR/ONS — Polishing the Bullet

Over the course of my investigation I have become identified with tracking and uncovering the identity of The Night Predator. I have been paid many compliments, for which I am grateful. Because I am not a write-for-hire author on an assignment, I am not out to produce some prepackaged product.

I have over the last 6 years learned cold case from the eyes of those who professionally do it. It is not an easy thing to do. It is easy to get a POI, but from there it is a long road to linking him to a few bits of evidence considered to be sufficient to get a conviction. I have said it many times. That’s what it all comes down to. An author may want to write a book or article where the accusation is hanging out, but in the cold, hard world of cold case there must be a legal conclusion. DAs sit there rapping their fingers, waiting. It’s their job. They are supposed to frown; their lips turn down haddock-mouth and an eyebrow raise as they wait for the piece of info you have that rings a bell with them.

My 5 year pursuit of ZODIAC did not teach me cold case. I enjoyed sallying forth again and investigating. I learned to enjoy photography of crime scenes and context. But I knew the end result would be a book, though not write-for-hire. I would lay out a logical thesis for why my suspect is ZODIAC. Where I come from logic is enough. It is then tested. But in cold case, this is not how it works. The smoking gun is appreciated. If not that, then provide the silver bullet and the cops will fire it.

Silver is the key. Not a bullet. Not an ordinary argument. Silver bullet. It is something that finds the target on its own. You don’t need to aim.

I’ve got the bullet for EAR. But it is not yet polished enough to reveal any silver content, not by legal standards anyway.

RP, yes, let’s talk RP again. He is an odd character, granted. But Leigh Allen was an odd character as well. This earned him popular support for being The ‘Zodiac’ Killer, at least with information tailored in the hands of an author. But there is nothing about Leigh Allen that matched  the evidence in ZODIAC– handwriting, appearance, size, even DNA on the stamps. He was an odd guy, and investigators hadn’t followed through originally with all the statements he made in order to have marked him off the list categorically. This made him fodder for later literary purposes. He had been an original suspect.

On the other hand, RP represents the unsuspected for EAR. Allen lived in Vallejo, and this fit with the police theorizing ZODIAC was a local. RP does not fit the profile for police theorizing in the case for EAR. They thought he was local to Carmichael. RP represents a compromise. He had grown up there, still had contacts there, was buried right on the border there, but at the time of the crime spree lived in Placerville 35 minutes away.


RP never married, never seemed to have a rewarding job before 1989 when he took out  a license for security guard. Those who follow my work know all this already, of course. He didn’t amount to much later. He died single.

He remains the unsuspected. That’s fine with me. That is what I believe EAR must have been. After all, there were 10,000 POIs. It is not an assumptive leap to say EAR was not within the dragnet.

But RP is the unsuspected for only two reasons. He lived 35 minutes away (in the beginning at least) and after 1989 he still lived in the Sacramento east area.

We have drawn our own visions in our mind that EAR, after he became the Original Night Stalker, must have kept on going and migrating. Why? Why could he not return to the area where he had grown up? I have laid it out time and time again that nothing indicates any kind of permanent move in EAR’s crime spree over California. He clearly grew up in Sacramento’s east area. No one denies this.

East Area Map-2

There above is the pattern in the East Area. It shows a strategic dependence on Highway 50 and the main thoroughfares in the East Area– Watt, Sunrise, Manzanita, Madison– but little reach to Highway 80 in the north. Strange if based in the area. Placerville is up Highway 50.

In many ways the narrative of 40 years ago is deceiving. We imagine EAR to continue migrating in his crime spree and never stopping, but we don’t accept that 30 years of silence has gone by in which he has aged and changed. Like a movie franchise, EAR comes back to us fully youthful and unaltered to wreak  more havoc. But in real life he quit. He quit 30 years ago.

For 40 years he was successful at being the unsuspected; for 30 of those years in total silence.

Where did he go after LA? He grew up in Sacramento’s east area. He must have had family. He had a young voice. He hadn’t been a migrant worker. Logically, he came back, probably so assured that he had been so careful that none could ever link him to being ONS and hence to crimes that had no statute of limitations. Perhaps also because there was no real indication he had ever left. He had an alibi. EAR was that smart. It wouldn’t be until 2000 that he would discover the police finally made the link through DNA.


The many faces of EAR possibles. On the whole he had a long face.

Did he sweat kittens at the revelation? Maybe not. He had thought himself legally safe by this time, officially unlinked to murders in So. Cal.

For RP specifically, he knew he had no record. He had not lived close to the rape locations at the time of EAR’s crime spree. He would not be in a position to give DNA. He no longer looked like old composites, most of which were not even in public hands anymore. He would continue to remain the unsuspected. He lived on for 8 years and died.

This is only a fraction of what I have introduced in my investigation. All of it helps polish the bullet, but nothing turns copper into silver. It creates interest and suspicion. Aside from handwriting, which may or may not polish the bullet silver, the precious metal remains beyond the grave, and that is why there is such a holdup in finally identifying RP as EAR/ONS.


Sadly, his identity has been clouded by the release of so many composites, and for some reason a very odd fitting composite from the Maggiore Double Murder has been declared to be the most likely. No one who had followed the crime spree bought into that. Yet I know the sheriffs and FBI have been inundated with POIs because someone knew some ne’er-do-well back when who looked like the sketch.

A lot must come together to create a cold case, especially one with so many case files. I try and keep error to a minimum and correct blatant errors (such as the sketch) in hopes of keeping the copper bullet bright while I slug away at RP. But in the long run it will be tough.  We’re all in for the long haul. EAR never appeared in CODIS. That’s a clue right there that his crime spree was ultimately his hobby. When he lost the thrill, he was a model citizen. No one who’s been turned in over the dragnet has ever led to viable DNA, no matter what their rap sheet said. He’s never been pinched. He may never have looked like the most circulated sketches. There is nothing that leads to him but clues that reveal how careful he was (and these lead away), a couple of sketches, and the pattern of his stalking. With that alone it is hard to dig up an 8 year old grave.

*         *          *

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.