Narrowing the Dragnet–the Hunt for Mr. Cruel

Australia’s Mr. Cruel is certainly the embodiment of calculated evil. His preparations to limit any kind of forensic evidence he might leave behind were meticulously planned, almost over-planned.

But 2 things he forgot– his first attack and his final attack’s disposal site. His route to and from them he did not have to protect. He was a beginner at Lower Plenty with his first attack. He raped the poor girl in the house while her family was gagged and tied up. Then he left and went back to his squalid lair to fester.

I’m sure he chose the most direct route home. Why would he not?

7651d141caec6bb612370b9a3bb1f943
The dump site for Victim 4.

 

For his next 2 attacks he had to be evasive to protect his route home. At both home attacks the fiend kidnapped the under-aged victims and took them to his lair, there to assault them for 18 and 50 hours respectively. He made sure he drove down side routes and back and forth down streets. Both girls said that he drove all around.

This is curious, as it suggests that his route back home was rather straightforward.

LowerP-routes-1

1, marks the attack site in Lower Plenty. This was Mr. Cruel’s first victim. No major highway is near there. But Rural 44 courses down to merge with a very significant route– Rural 40. Arrows mark the way. Click to enlarge.

For these last two attacks he had clearly used the M3 Highway at one point, either to access them or then to drop them back off  in neighborhoods near to where they lived. He passed one of the victim’s home to get to Bayswater, and he stopped just short of Victim’s 3 neighborhood to drop her off in Kew. Each site was off the M3.

But for his final victim this was unnecessary.  He used either Rural 40 or the M3 to access her neighborhood too, but he either never intended to bring her back or something went wrong and she got a glimpse of his face or, worse, something that would easily mark the location of his lair. Precise location would more quickly identify him than a facial composite.

Routes intersect

The route to and from Lower Plenty is marked with yellow arrows (Rural 44 and 40). High Street is marked in red arrows. Dump site for Victim 4 is marked 4. Click to enlarge.

Mr. Cruel drove her to a landfill at High Street and Mahoneys Road. There was no need to disguise his way there. He knew he was going to snuff out her life, which he did with 3 shots to the head. This intersection, under development at that time, is on remarkably straight line from the major streets that he would have used to return from Lower Plenty.

This bolsters the hypothesis that these two locations and the direct routes that service them lead to his lair. We can ad one other factor. Both kidnapped girls that he had returned after their harrowing ordeal reported hearing jets fly overhead while they were kept chained to the bed in his lair. They sounded like they were coming in for a landing. This told police that the lair was under the flight approach to the Melbourne Airport.

Routes-40

Route 40 is significant. It is marked in yellow arrows. It connects the northeast and east area of Melbourne where Mr. Cruel struck with the north of Melbourne and the communities under the airport flight path. It also connects to the M3 (broad red line)Attack points are marked in numbers. Drop off points are marked by stars.  Click to enlarge.

The communities under this flight path were Keilor, Plenty, Watsonia, McLeod, Strathmore, and Coburg. Most important here for us is Coburg. The roads we have discussed above lead straight to Coburg. This is where we begin.

*         *          *

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 or Q Man. “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.

Advertisements

Mr Cruel’s 4th Night Out

It hadn’t been the usual stretch between attacks. It was April 13, 1991. The location (Templestowe) fit with Mr. Cruel’s broad area of attack off the M3 in the east/northeast of Melbourne. It was a corner house, at a main cross road– Serpells and Church.

13 year old Karmein Chan was home with her two younger sisters. They were watching a documentary about Marilyn Monroe. The parents were tending to one of their popular Chinese restaurants. It was a little past 9 p.m. Karmein and one of her sisters went to the kitchen. There facing them in the darkened hallway was a man standing there wearing a balaclava ski mask. In his hand was a large carving knife. ChanHe led them back to the bedroom and shoved both of the younger sisters into a closet and sealed them therein using the bed.

Karmein Chan was his intended victim. He took her. When the sisters got free they found the house was empty. The police came screaming to the area. A thorough search revealed a cut window screen via which the intruder had entered. Curiously, the Chan’s car outside in the driveway was spray-painted: “Payback Asian Drug Dealer.”  The door was lettered: “More and more to come.”

Police investigation proved that the Chans weren’t connected with drug dealing. The lettering on the car, coupled with the location of the attack, and the sisters’ description of the intruder, all smacked of Mr. Cruel. It was his MO to leave a false motive as a misleading clue. In each case, so far, he had done that. Usually it had been verbal, something one of the parents or siblings could relate to the police. While the police were chasing false clues, this gave him time with the kidnapped Mr.cruelgirls to assault and film them in his hideous lair before he returned them to a street corner somewhere.

He didn’t do that here. He didn’t leave any false clue with the sisters. The false clue was in the lettering of the family car.

But then there was a kink in the MO. Karmein never returned. Despite her mother pleading on the TV, despite days going by, Karmein was never seen again. This wasn’t Mr. Cruel’s MO.

Almost a year later on April 9, 1992, Karmein’s remains were found in a field at a cross street under development. The bulldozer uncovered the skull first. Forensics proved it was Karmein. She had been dispatched by 3 bullets to the back of the head (presumably a small caliber gun).

Chan grave

There is therefore some debate. Was Mr. Cruel responsible? From the broader picture, it seems he was. Therefore there was some speculation. Karmein was pretty feisty.  She was the kind to fight back. It is possible that she got a view of Mr. Cruel and he disposed of her to protect his wicked identity.

If so, this fits with Mr. Cruel’s excessive zeal to protect his identity.  Yet what were the chances that Karmein’s composite of him would truly lead to his identity? Many villains have had more than one sketch done of them by eyewitnesses and have never been caught. Either Mr. Cruel was a very recognizable citizen, had a distinguishing mark under the mask, or he was truly ignorant of the stats that a single eyewitness, even briefly, could lead to his identity.

Either Mr. Cruel was really dumb or really smart, from an evil standpoint anyway. Or perhaps she saw something more incriminating. Perhaps she saw the lair and it was in a distinctive area.

In any event, Mr. Cruel was obviously cold-blooded enough to commit the murder of a 13 year old child just on the belief he was protecting his identity.

Mr. Cruel never struck again. Either killing Karmein took too much out of him or. . . or why? Perhaps because he had a murder charge hanging over him now, and the coward realized it was too risky. He disappeared, and remains one of Australia’s most sought after villains.

As this case ends the known and accepted Mr. Cruel attacks, it is time to go into some analysis. Mr. Cruel left clues, and the most revealing are found in the broader picture of the crime spree and his stalking MO.

In the next post we will begin to assemble these.

*         *          *

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 or Q Man. “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.

 

 

 

 

Solving ZODIAC: The Significance of 1 out of 5

There have been by my count 5 lovers’ lanes serial killers.

1, The Phantom of Texarkana (1946)
2, The Zodiac Killer (1968-’69)
3, The Monster of Florence (1968-1970s)
4, The Atlanta Lovers’ Lane Murders (1977)
5, The Shadow Slayer of Colonial Parkway (1986-’89)

None have ever been solved.

In essence these are tarmac killings, with a kink. It is almost impossible to put a suspect at a given location on a road or in a parking lot at a given time. All police had were shell casings and ballistics.

Of these, the most clues were left by the Zodiac Killer, but how many of these were false clues? He made the most mistakes, and we can thereby get a handle on his appearance. The others left very little. There is nada on the Shadow Slayer. No clues as to height, weight or appearance. The Phantom of Texarkana is yet another who could live up to the “phantom” moniker. The first two victims (survivors) are only assumed to be the victims of the Phantom. It is from them that we get the image of the grain sack on the head. Yet both disagreed about any other description of the assailant.

The significance of solving one of these is tremendous. It will be the first time that a lovers’ lane serial has been nailed. There have been lovers’ lane murders that have been solved; individual crimes where the suspect could be outed due to motive. But these 5 sprees were thrill killings. There was no motive that connected the killer to the victims.

Consider the labor that must go into solving one of these. I know many have long awaited HorrorScope, but if you have read my EAR/ONS section on Q Files you know what kind of effort I put into my investigations.  The fame of the ZODIAC and all the cynicism out there about solving the case causes me to be doubly careful. Much plays out behind the scenes (unlike with EAR/ONS) and I must also prepare a thesis for one of the jurisdictions (which I promised). It must be powerful enough to warrant a warrant.

It is being done the right way for a change. As all of you have learned, I am not the product of publicity. I often fly so low I am under sonar. The events transpiring right now may or may not delay HorrorScope. We will see. I will, of course, keep you updated.

*         *          *

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 or Q Man. “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.

In Quest of the real Phantom of the Opera– NORCAL RAPIST

Still . . .

He is the last holdout. He is the last of the calculated predators who methodically assessed their victims long before the fact. He has faded into obscurity and this has helped preserve his evil identity in the shadows despite one victim having put a scar over his right eye. Rapists don’t get the press they deserve. Only murderers get those catchy monikers that draw our attention. This villain in question here is only known as NORCAL Rapist because he traveled the distance between the Bay Area, Sacramento and Chico– thus northern California. But he is more than a rapist. His name and the number of his attacks do not reflect his evil. He is the last of the tainted breed of calculating predators.

He did not waylay. Somehow he found out the identity of his victims and attacked them in their house. He had carefully planned his performance. He wore masks– on a Halloween attack he wore a trick-or-treat mask. He even sluiced some of his dialogue with sarcasm. He had the gall, above all else he did, to even park in one victim’s garage. When she returned home from work, she thought it was her roommate’s friend’s car. It was NORCAL. He had already bound her roommate inside, parked his car in the garage, and awaited his next victim. Just like a spider in its web. He raped both and then took both into the shower to try and get rid of any forensic evidence.

300px-Phantomtechnicolor

Only Sacramento County, as I have said before, filed against his DNA– thus bypassing statute of limitations. I don’t believe any information was officially preserved in the other jurisdictions where he struck. Police reports have probably been thrown out.

He has been silent since 2006. Ten victims fell before him– twice as many as that attributed to Jack the Ripper.

It is essential that this villain is outed. A step in this direction, of course, is detailed information. The location of the strikes need to be revealed. This will assist in finally solving this case. This will eventually reveal his stalking MO and probably how he uncovered and scoped-out his intended victims.  It is still possible to catch this dramatic, taunting home and life breaker.

He attacked in Rohnert Park, Martinez, Vallejo, Woodland, Davis, Sacramento, Chico starting in the early 1990s. He robbed his victims and in one case was captured on an ATM camera wearing a distorting facial mask.

If you have any information, please message or email me. Thank you. It will remain confidential.

*         *          *

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 or Q Man. “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.

Stalking Mr. Cruel– Q Style

After his kidnapping of and repeated assaults upon 13 year old Nichola Lynas, Mr. Cruel became a household name in Australia. With these 3 accepted attacks, it was clear he was an ongoing menace. To fully appreciate why Melbourne held him in such dread for only 3 attacks it is necessary to understand a few things. Each of the attacks came after an interim of about 1.5 years– the first in August 1987, then the second in December 1988, then the last one discussed was in July 1990.  It didn’t seem he was going to stop, and he didn’t mind waiting for a long time. Melbourne realized he could and would strike again. The citizens braced themselves and waited.

It was still mysterious how he selected his under-aged victims, and this kept people on edge. It must have been done very carefully and over a period of time, so carefully it was unnerving. For his attack on Victim No 2, Sharon Wills, he knew the family kept the key in the front door. He came ready with a tool to push it through and a piece of paper to slip under and catch it and then pull it gently out under the door so he could unlock it.

All of this planning paled compared to the lengths he took to prevent forensic evidence. For his first known attack he wore a nylon windbreaker underneath his clothes.  Bizarre but knowledgeable. And in taking into consideration the vast and unfortunate vault of true crime, quite a bit overkill. Since that time serial rapists and killers have struck without 10 percent as much aforethought taken to preventing evidence and still they escaped into the night. Mr. Cruel was obsessive in details, and in not wanting anything that could lead to him.

Either he was very smart or very dumb.  . . . or he was not an obscure citizen.

Yet he laid down a pattern. It is impossible for anything that acts from volition not to leave a pattern. Let’s start to have a look at that here in hopes of taking the preliminary steps to outing the aptly named villain “Mr. Cruel.”

With his attack on Nichola Lynas, he broke his previous pattern. He ventured far from a highway or main road into the suburban communities of north and east Melbourne where he struck. Monomeath Avenue was so deep within the old grid of city streets in Canterbury he had to park his junker of a car on Chaucer Crescent, walk across Canterbury Road and up Monomeath in order to access the house. Obviously, this prevented him from walking his kidnapped victim back to the parked car. As a result he stole the family’s rental car from the driveway.

Monomeath2

1, Monomeath Avenue; 2, Chaucer Crescent; 3, Canterbury Road.

If Nichola is correct, he now did something strange. Hidden on the floorboard at his orders, she felt that when he pulled out he went in the direction of Mont Albert, turned left and then later turned left again and came to the street where they parked. They got out, walked a little bit and got into his own car.

Mont Albert is in the opposite direction of Chaucer Crescent. He could have simply pulled out on Monomeath, crossed Canterbury and then turned onto Chaucer Crescent and Bob’s your uncle. What was the point of not doing so? Mr. Cruel knew the family car would be found parked on Chaucer Crescent. This would tell the police in general where he had parked his own car. It seems pointless not going there direct.

Monomeath1

1, Monomeath; 2, Mont Albert; 3, Canterbury Road; 4, Chaucer Crescent. That is not a main highway to the south of Chaucer. It is a railroad track.

But the overall area of Chaucer Crescent does indicate he had parked near the park there. Perhaps this is also how he had stalked the area– jogging or biking. (Still, how he had come across Nichola Lynas so that his brain became so heated he had to take the extra risks in this posh neighborhood is unfathomable.) He apparently felt he left no forensic clues in the family car. This reflects his pattern of wearing a unique set of clothes for the occasion of the attack and then destroying them.

He turned up and down many side streets on his way to his secret lair. It took some time, but Nichola finally arrived at the place where she would endure 50 hours of bizarre sexual assaults.  She was able to count the number of jets that flew over and noted they sounded like they were landing in the distance. This suggested to police that Mr. Cruel’s nasty abode was under the flight pattern of the Melbourne International Airport at Tullamarine. More specific than that, however, they could not pinpoint it.

Chaucer Crescent1
Chaucer Crescent– exact location where Mr. Cruel parked is unknown by me.

 

From the description of both girls (Wills; Lynas), the lair was not big. Each knew there was a bedroom, a bathroom, a separate toilette, and a kitchen. The driveway was on the right side of the house, and the house a step up. There was a slider door in the bedroom covered by a full length drape. There was a case in the bedroom that was covered with a towel, indicating something was therein that was a dead giveaway to Mr. Cruel’s identity.

But Nichola gave us more clues than Sharon. When Mr. Cruel led her from the abode to that junker car of his, she said it was about 5 steps on the driveway from the side door, and they went through the kitchen to get to the driveway. Obviously, he didn’t take them to and from the house via the front door, and the side door through which he took them was right off the driveway and this was in the kitchen. There was no garage.

But far more important is one intriguing fact which is implicitly contained herein. It tells us about his front yard. Mr. Cruel did not fear neighbors seeing him lead a blindfolded girl out to his car.

All these are clues on the type of lair and its location on a street.

But there is a bigger picture here that helps us track Mr. Cruel. There is his relatively tight area of catch and release, if you will. He remained within the east and northeast of Melbourne. His attacks on Wills and Lynas, and soon on his final victim, Karmein Chan, will reveal that he used the M3 Highway. He may have driven Wills and Lynas around hither and thither to confuse them as to where they were being taken, but he had no need to do that for his first attack in Lower Plenty. He invaded the home and sexually assaulted the 10 year old victim within the house while her parents were tied up in their bedroom.

Since Mr. Cruel did not need to hide the location of his evil lair here at No 1, he must have taken a fairly direct route to Para and Main Road, near where the house of the victim was situated. The same is true when he returned to his abode. The M3 is no good for getting to and leaving from Lower Plenty. Thus we have more than one route to which Mr. Cruel limited himself. The first was not a highway, and then when wishing to access his next victims further to the southeast of Lower Plenty, he chose the M3.

We now have the clues in place that allow us to narrow down and start looking in a community under the Melbourne airport flight path. But first, we must look at his final attack in our next Mr. Cruel post. More clues will help lead the way.

*         *          *

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 or Q Man. “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.

Mr. Cruel’s 3rd Night Out

It was a warm July, 1990. Mr. Cruel wasn’t national news yet. He was known in the Melbourne area where he had struck two victims, both boldly in alarming circumstance. The first in her own home after having tied up the rest of the family; the second was in the most bizarre and premediated circumstances. He tied up the family at gunpoint and then abducted the 10 year old victim from her own home and took her to his lair where he assaulted her over an 18 hour period, ostensibly filming it in the process. The he drove her to another part of town and dropped her off.

This wasn’t your average creep. This was a Grade A, D Choice creep.

The attacks had come about 1.5 years apart. So it wasn’t like he was a scourge. . . yet.

But he was obviously a very strange and premeditative predator and therefore potentially a very omnipresent menace. The Melbourne Police also realized this jacket job knew his thing. He had excessive zeal in limiting forensic evidence. This was an enormous clue, for it indicated he believed he could be identified by even the slightest clue such as a hair left behind. Nevertheless, he was leaving a pattern. He had struck homes near main thoroughfares. Easy in, easy out, to the communities he stalked in northeast Melbourne.

Although it had been a year and a half since he had last struck, no one on the night of July 3, 1990, would have been expecting an attack on Monomeath Avenue. It was in the heart of the Canterbury area of northeast Melbourne. These were upscale homes in an area hard to stalk. This was an old part of town, with streets cross-crossing in a grid pattern. The other locations had been close to highways and main streets, not deep in a community. There was little way to stalk these streets and blend in.

Toward the center of the long street, far from any easy escape, one of the homes was owned by an English executive of a British company. Tonight was their last night in the home. They were preparing to go back to England. They were moving in closer to town to rent a townhouse for their last month remaining in Australia. They were away tonight. Their daughters Fiona and Nichola were home. Nichola was only 13.

In any case, somehow Mr. Cruel had long stalked young Nichola and entered the house tonight while her parents were away. It was after 11 p.m. He entered the house through the parents’ bedroom window– a sure indication he knew they were not home tonight. The girls had eaten a pizza and were sleeping together in the same bedroom tonight since they were alone.

16ca6d92ab0fb0a5d8f2b9504efb5215
Pretty Nichola Lynas

 

Mr. Cruel crept into the bedroom. With the blunt end of a knife he tapped on Nichola’s head. She awoke to see a man in a ski mask. He wore gloves, and had a gun. He started with his usual lines to keep the girls calm. He said he only wanted money. At gunpoint, they led him around the house to where money was kept. Nevertheless, he didn’t take any, including 4,000 dollars in traveler’s checks.  He led them back to the bedroom and then took out precut clothesline and hogtied Fiona on her stomach. He led Nichola back to the kitchen and took the keys to the family’s rented car.

Then they went to Nichola’s bedroom. Here Mr. Cruel took a number of pieces of her clothes. He told her to dress. He put the extra clothes he took into one of Nichola’s bags. In the hallway he stopped so Fiona could hear his questions. He asked about the father’s employment, and then said he was taking Nichola for 25,000 dollars ransom. He would call later with the instructions. Fiona was obviously to relay this to the parents.

Mr. Cruel then led Nichola out to the family’s car, ordered her onto the floor, then pulled down a cap she wore over her eyes. He drove off.

Fortunately, Fiona had looked up and out the window. He noticed that as the two had walked to the car, with Mr. Cruel’s arm around Nichola’s shoulder, he must have been about 5 foot 8 inches tall.

Another valuable clue follows. Mr. Cruel drove only a short distance. By Nichola’s reckoning he had had turned left onto Mont Albert Road and continued on. Then he parked and blindfolded her with adhesive tape. Then he started and turned onto another street. They stopped and got out and walked a short distance and got in another car. They drove off.

Mr. Cruel drove up and down streets. Nichola was sure it was to fool her on direction and distances. Eventually they came to the lair. He referred to the bedroom, a kitchen, a toilette, and a separate bathroom. He replaced her adhesive tape blindfold with surgical cotton eye pads which he taped to her head.

It was the same routine as with Sharon Wills. Nichola was put in the bed and assaulted off and on over a period of time. Then she was cleaned up, fed old scraps (like bread and water), then assaulted again. After her first assault, she was leashed via some harness around her neck to the headboard of the bed. Then Mr. Cruel fell asleep next to her. One day she was dressed in her tennis outfit and then assaulted. This nut was real kinky.

Nichola too had taken the chance to look through a slit in her blindfolds. She saw the room, the bathroom, and she too heard aircraft passing over. On Wednesday morning she estimated 7 to 9 jets passed over, and they sounded like they were landing. Mr. Cruel played the radio quite a bit, which of course gave Nichola clues as to the time. She had heard the planes, for instance, before 10 a.m.

The difference here and the previous victim, Sharon Wills, was that Mr. Cruel kept Nichola for 50 hours before dropping her off, like Wills, at a different part of town. She had been completely clean and was minus any forensic evidence. This location was within a few miles of her home, on Tennyson Street in Kew. It was 2 a.m. Friday,  her birthday. She eventually got the police and was taken back home.

Several clues exist here that are of value. Nichola was very keen in her observations. We know more about Mr. Cruel’s pad, behavior, and parts of his MO for stalking a victim. We will start to analyze these in our next Mr. Cruel post. The attacks were so brazen, so arrogant, that he was now a household name in Australia. The nation was stunned at how careful this sick pedophile was.

*         *          *

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 or Q Man. “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.

HorrorScope: “This is the ZODIAC Speaking”– Foreword

As it stands today, this is the newer, shorter introduction to HorrorScope— the foreword entitled “This is the Zodiac Speaking.” By yours truly, Gian J. Quasar.

 

Civilization had never seen such a thing before. The fabric of American society was viewed as coming apart. National curiosity was now dissolving into national disdain and even national jitters. A counterculture within the younger generation was spreading like a contagion. They cast off the conformity of the “establishment” to become dropouts, long-haired hippies, anti-war flower children and radical student yippies. San Francisco was the center. An elegant society tiptoed around the psychedelic flamboyance of peace, love, and drugs, wondering when this unnerving fad was going to ebb. Yet a year and a half after the momentous Summer of Love there was no end in sight. The river of youth had become a torrent, entering the city’s tenderloin and parks to reside in “Love-ins,” to adorn themselves in symbols, tie-dye, Indian feathers, to smoke hashish, and to hear the preaching of the Age of Aquarius.

There could be nothing more at a contrast to this mixture of giddy colors and staid culture, diamond tiaras, minks, and daisies behind the ear, than a midnight, lonely rural road near Vallejo, a utilitarian city across the bay. Shots rang out. Gun powder flashed. Two teenagers lay dead, a boy and a girl.

Now in December 1968 the mainstream youth still looked like their parents— clean cut guys with thick-rimmed glasses, and gals with elaborate coiffured hairdos. They still necked at petting spots. This was an accepted “taboo.” Lovers’ lanes were still unofficially designated. These were the victims. The victims were John and Jane Q. Citizen, not tunic wearing gurus and licentious members of “Love-ins.” Kids at a petting spot on a backroad. Here the terror began. Like a drop that starts a ripple, it began here in this drab, unlikely place and grew wider and wider until it sent San Francisco and the metropolitan Bay Area into a panic.

For 7 months the killer did nothing. He was fomenting his game. Then he killed again in the summer of ’69. Like a pompous comic strip villain he now proclaimed himself to the world:

 

This is the Zodiac Speaking

 

From this point forward this mysterious and egotistical villain made a very public game out of murder. Indeed he made such a success out of it that despite the fact his murders were, to be frank, largely unimaginative and clumsy he is the second most famous serial killer in world history, ranking only behind London’s Jack the Ripper.

Fame in this case is based on his arrogance, not on ingenuity as in the case of the Ripper. The Zodiac was essentially a drive-by shooter. He stalked late night couples at rural lovers’ lanes, and from behind the bright splatter of a flashlight he fired away at his surprised victims. This bland truth does not diminish the evil that was Zodiac. On the contrary, it confirms his arrogance. The truth is he need only remain essentially a drive-by shooter because his victims were important to him only insofar as they were another ante in his game of death. So much was boasting important that from the bloodied, impromptu scenes of death he hurried to confess to police operators or to his dark lair to scribble his bragging letters and set in motion his publicity campaign. The portrait of arrogance is that of a pudgy little man sniggering over his poison pen letters while his TV screen flickered with images of pall bearers carrying out his victims to the hearse. The truth is that of a strange outcast who was so egotistical he was not only indifferent to the lives of others he was also completely untouched by the great events of his time.

Man’s first step on the moon, the Manson murders, the antiestablishment movement— nothing contemporary found place in his writings. Only once did he make reference to current events, and this was so his tongue-in-cheek humor could dovetail on it. Peace symbols were popular, he said; others wore “black power” or “Melvin eats bluber.” He wanted to see the Bay Area wear his Zodiac buttons. It would cheer him up and this would keep him from killing again. “Please no nasty ones like melvin’s. Thank you.”

History has shown us that in 1969 network news would be at its apogee. Whether this phantom killer’s publicity campaign of murder is a reflection of the times or inspired because of the massive stage news could give, his threats of a “killing rampage” rode the crest of a popular wave the likes of which was never to be seen again.

The colorful antiestablishment movement was part of the reason network news scored so high in American homes. Racial tensions in the nation, anti-war protests, and the latest news on the war in Vietnam were other factors. The moonshot had long been promised and in the summer of 1969 it would be fulfilled. Political assassinations had drawn Americans to the TV. It had only been 6 years since President Kennedy had been assassinated, 4 years since Malcolm X had been brutally gunned down, less than 2 years since Martin Luther King Jr. and then Bobby Kennedy’s assassinations. News was really happening, and it was news that had mattered. It was news at hand.

When the San Francisco Bay Area newspapers warned a psychotic killer was afoot, the killer had a guaranteed large audience. He made sure of it. The newspapers headlined with intriguing cryptograms. Nothing excites our imaginations more than a puzzle. Under threat of a metropolitan wide “killing rampage,” this drive-by shooter manipulated the newspapers to print his ciphers of code symbols. He taunted police that his identity was concealed therein, and he enticed the public to uncover where he’d strike next. A metropolitan area sat down to try and figure it out. When the cipher was finally decoded, all and sundry read the gleeful but simple syntax: “I like killing people because it is so much fun.” Jubilation at murder wasn’t his only motive. This killer rejoiced over the fact his victims would be his slaves in his afterlife, thereby invoking some primitive, arcane religion that seemed inspired by the esoteric mysticism of the disturbing hippie movement.

Playing upon the fears of the time may have been his motive, but by writing letter after letter he was needlessly taking risks, potentially giving clues that could lead to his capture. None of this was necessary to cover his identity. Indeed, its only purpose seemed the creation of his alter ego “The Zodiac.” For years he kept the Bay Area in suspense with his threats. “Be sure to print this part . . . or I’ll do my thing”— the threat not of a mystical maniac wanting more reincarnated slaves but paradoxically that of a cheap gunsel extorting fear.

Such contradictions, red herrings, and false clues would pepper his crime spree, making it impossible to figure out the heads or tails of his actual motive. One thing can be figured about him— that alter ego he created in print came to possess him in real life. For his only slaying in daytime he hid his face under a sinister black hood. It hung down incongruously over his shabby appearance and thereon was neatly sewn the symbol of the celestial Zodiac. Since the victims were by no means meant to survive (one was stabbed 6 times, the other 21), we were never to know he had dressed like this. But one of them survived to give us the account. Obviously, this outfit meant something purely to him. The Zodiac’s crime spree was clearly a bit more complex than merely a means to publicity.

The Zodiac’s murder spree lasted for only a short time, but his love for terror (or for his alter ego) kept him writing these poison pen letters, claiming more and more victims. Each new letter he sent was introduced as an oracle: “This is the Zodiac Speaking.” Each was sluiced with sarcasm, and with his dark humor each in its way was a sinister chuckle. Each in turn was signed by the symbol of the celestial Zodiac— a circle with a crosshair through it. It looked little different from a gunsight, and the double meaning was no doubt intended. Then he played the ultimate hand in his game. He vanished. To this day the San Francisco Bay Area has never forgotten, and the most bragged about murders in history remain unsolved.

 

    Insert Zodiac symbol.

 

This is The Zodiac Killer. He is inexorably linked with the summer and tumultuous autumn of 1969, but his legacy is decades of anxiety that he’d return, decades of frustration that a killer escaped justice; not just a killer, but the most boastful, haughty killer in the annals of crime. “The police shall never catch me,” he boasted in one letter, “because I have been too clever for them.” He won. He got away. The faded ink of his bragging rubs this fact into our face even today.

Sadly, this has been the truth of the last 48 years. Zodiac not only escaped, he covered his trail beyond even his wildest dreams. Whether he intended it or not, his game evolved so inconsistently that he covered his trail effectively. One thing, however, has covered his trail more than anything. Despite only having attacked 7 and killed 5, Zodiac succeeded in creating a personality cult of crime far more successfully than he ever could have hoped or have even foreseen. In this folklore he is a worldwide arch villain who has never stopped killing.

Professional and amateur detectives alike have arisen to pursue Zodiac long after he bid farewell. None could believe that one who had sought and cultivated so much media attention could merely quit. The Zodiac therefore became a potential suspect in many other murders thereafter. The Zodiac had encouraged this himself by saying he was privatizing his game of murder and would make his victims look like they fell victim to accidents. The legend bought into it.

Part of the folklore of the master criminal Zodiac has proposed that if all the unsolved murders over the USA dating from the late 1960s to today were connected by an imaginary line they would form a giant Z— proof that the astrological assassin continued his crime spree in secret and killed his victims according to locations where he could create his astrological symbol.

Amateur detectives have examined his undeciphered cryptograms and poison pen pal letters with a metaphoric zeal usually devoted only to Biblical exegesis; each sure that the fateful clue to his goading, infamous identity lay therein. Mathematics has been done to try and find a code or sequence in the ciphers that would finger the culprit. Others have put together all the misplaced letters in the misspelled words in Zodiac’s nasty missives, trying to see if the misplaced letters would together form a coherent sentence or confession.

An entire subculture has developed, little different than the fans of a serial comic strip, who live each day as if it and they are integral in the continuing saga of the nefarious arch killer The Zodiac. In this franchise, college professors have been accused. Ted Bundy and Ted Kascinski seem perpetually suspected of every crime. Poor Leigh Allen reveled in the limelight over the years he was suspected. When he died in 1992 it even merited national news, billed as the passing of the man suspected of having been “The infamous Zodiac.” Cranks have offered relatives and old friends as suspects. Others have insisted on elaborate conspiracy theories. Those who were 50 years old at the time— doctors, car dealers and winos— have been accused in their 80s and 90s and in one case even DNA tested. None of these suspects were ever anchored to the Zodiac crimes by the actual evidence.

We are now on the cusp of history, that point where the crime spree will soon be beyond the reach of satisfactory solution, buried in time, that substance we cannot dig out of the way. It will take its place with Jack the Ripper and become a topic of suspects and folklore rather than actual investigation. Right now is our last chance to solve it, to place in order the facts and follow them through to the villain himself.

The truth is out there, though tenuous to extract. Those who view the killer only through his letters and cryptograms see the evil genius. Those who see him only through the crime scenes view him as a spontaneous thrill killer. As always the truth lies in between. Zodiac was a dichotomous mixture of bungling perpetration and cerebral game playing, the latter seen in how he remained so consciously behind the alter ego he created that, amazingly, little was ever discovered of this villain. Enough was pieced together, however, to draw the portrait of an odd, festering but highly clever misfit.

In 1969, in appearance there was still a stark difference between the mainstream and the counterculture. Guys still wore their tight, sleek slacks, button-down collar shirts, short hair parted and combed to one side. Gals wore some elaborate hairstyle, often like their mother. Miniskirts came “in” in 1966 and were still “in” in 1968-’69. Guys wore thick-rimmed glasses; gals cat-eyes. If you were the mainstream you looked like the above; if you were a hippie you looked “way out.”

Yet the Zodiac was neither. In age he was unquestionably between 25 and 30 years old— a difficult age to categorize. He was too young to be the establishment; too old to be the counterculture. Nevertheless, even for 1969 he was, for one of his age, a strange amalgam. His hair was stylized, a fashion that went out in the early ’60s. He wore baggy, pleated wool dress pants— the norm for the mid-1950s. He mixed this obsolete formality with a touch of current and casual— a thin cotton windbreaker. Strangely, he then added more incongruity by wearing high rim Air Force Wing Walker shoes, standard issue for cadets at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas. He was under 6 foot tall but a heavy 225 pounds— chunky like a gorilla, a big face with high cheekbones.

It took quite a bit just to assemble this much information, and the final mosaic wasn’t in place until the crime spree was over. Other than the carnage he left behind, we have no other clue to his character than the ego he created in print.

It would be unwise, however, to judge Zodiac based on his awkward appearance and his clumsy MO. There was a cerebral quality to Zodiac that is belied by his sloppy modus operandi and it extended far beyond his gloating letters. For all of his uncouth look, for all of his amateurish execution, somehow, equally mysterious, that frumpy gorilla neatly managed to melt into the very different background of mainstream life and evade an enormous dragnet.

In fact, as this volume unfolds, the reader will discover that Zodiac devoted enormous time and effort to carry off what appeared to be very spontaneous crimes. Zodiac lived and killed to create his alter ego. He is, in fact, one of the few serial killers to ever give himself his own handle. It doesn’t reflect police categorizing or witty press sensationalism. It reflects his own megalomania as the celestial controller, the master of the game of fate.

What ultimately was Zodiac’s game?

The need to expose this killer is enormous. It is not for the narrow piety to bring closure to the victims’ families. Nor is it simply for the sake of closing the book on a case of crime. The ‘Zodiac’ Killer played a game with the public. He did not murder to merely give himself a thrill. The victims were a means to an end to glorify this frumpy gorilla’s much more imaginative alter ego. Such a braggart is unique in the annals of crime. He threw the gauntlet down and forced society to play his terror game. This gauntlet, as all gauntlets, must eventually be picked up and slapped in his face, even if that face is only the reputation of a long passed and seemingly respected citizen.

I picked up that gauntlet. It is not boastful to say so. Many have done so, and it has come my turn. I have little interest in criminology, but investigative method is investigative method, whether the object is a truth of science or the identity of a serial killer, whether it is in the hand of a criminalist, journalist, or biologist. I enjoy pursing mystery and solving mystery; and the identity of the Zodiac is one of the greatest mysteries in true crime.

What I have added to cold case is my approach. I treat a cold case like a hot case. I completely reinvestigate the crimes as though they just happened. In essence, I start all over. I visit the crime scenes. I examine the evidence and, more importantly, I look for clues. Contrary to what may be public perception, cold case is mostly processing, comparing any information that comes in to a few pieces of evidence distilled and preserved by the original investigators, evidence that is considered conclusive to identify the killer or exonerate an innocent man.

By reinvestigating from the very beginning, I plunge both myself and the reader back to a volatile and colorful era. The crimes and times shall unravel before us. Context is everything. Within context lie the clues, and often clues are more important than evidence, for upon investigation clues lead to evidence, and new clues lead to new evidence. And this case needs new evidence. Zodiac, in fact, made mistakes in his letters, and he made mistakes within the context of his crimes. Only by ignoring 40 years of folklore could these be uncovered again. Only by reliving the crimes and times of the Zodiac could that one kernel be uncovered that leads to the identity of this cerebral braggart.

This is the complete chronicle of The Zodiac Killer crime spree. This is not an anodyne compilation of the history of The Zodiac Killer and of those events, sometimes decades later, engineered by people who have attempted to write themselves into it, together the above amounting to little more than a journal of urban folklore. This is the investigative thesis that vividly recreates the crimes and seasons of the Zodiac, and that leads to the outing of the man behind the mask, the killer behind the pompous preamble “This is the Zodiac Speaking.”

In this volume I will deliver the body of the Zodiac. But it takes more to get at the soul— why he killed and why he stopped. Was he a reluctant killer? Was the terror campaign a ruse to cover some other motive? Were the deaths necessary in some greater scheme or ritual? The questions may not seem as important after the killer’s hood is removed. To unmask the Zodiac is to reveal more than the soul of the killer. It is to isolate the pudgy, insecure madman from the pomp of his publicity. This will destroy his evil soul. The result is an empty hood devoid of any substance of the theatrical master controller that he created from dark shadows. It leaves us with his true image, the one he drew for himself in the cowardly barbarity of his crimes.

*         *          *

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 or Q Man. “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.