Come tonight 49 years ago in subfreezing temperatures of 22 degrees, the ‘Zodiac’ Killer began his crime spree. His victims were two cooing teens– David Faraday (17) and Betty Lou Jensen (16). For about 6 months he was silent. He took no credit. Solano County sheriffs had to come to the conclusion that a “murderous maniac” had been responsible. Then along with his second victims he took credit and bragged about it in the press.
Some things didn’t fit– for instance, the signs that the “maniac” was actually very calm. Betty Lou had 5 bullet holes in her back, in a “remarkable grouping.” This was amazing considering the murder must have taken place around 11:15 p.m. in a very dark area like the turnout (petting spot) on Lake Herman Road.
A small game pistol had been used– a .22 caliber J.C. Higgins Model 80. No real witnesses, not to the presence of the killer. Only a fleeting glimpse to his car parked next to the victims’ car in the cold turnout. The freezing temperatures hardened the gravel turnout to such an extent no footprints or even tire tracks were left. The killer might well have been a ghost.
This unfathomable rural murder would become the first known killing by the man who would later proclaim himself The ZODIAC. More would perish over the next year– in other rural spots and in the metropolitan beauty of San Francisco– and the villain would build himself up into comic book grandeur. But this killing more than the others reveals ZODIAC’s gruel, bloodless soul.
The boy tried to defend his date and got a bullet in his brain pointblank. Betty Lou ran away in her bright purple miniskirt and received bullet after bullet in her right upper back over the 30 feet she was able to run before she collapsed. The killer drove off after emptying 10 rounds from his small game pistol into them and their car.
In 2012 I began my active investigation. Naturally, this was the first crime scene I visited. It remains largely intact, though it has shrunk considerably and I don’t think local teens use it as a petting spot. There is usually a Zodiac symbol graffiti’d somewhere. Most prominently it was on the “no trespassing” sign on the farmer’s property beyond the turnout.
The turnout in June 2017
I’ve visited the site several times, most recently in June 2017. The sign has been switched out. For now there is no Zodiac emblem painted anywhere. . .but it won’t be long. This insignificant turnout on a busy backroad on the fringes of the Bay Area should not be forgotten. A serial makes his mistakes in the beginning. The crime here may still hold a significant clue.
In the distance looms through the haze the mountain that ZODIAC would come to use to play his poison pen pal game– Mount Diablo. He knew the area well enough and he came fully prepared to kill. . . .but not to brag about it.
There is much that says the ZODIAC was just beginning here, but the cold execution of his crime inspires some to believe he had killed before. But insofar as being definitely linked to the ZODIAC, it all began here on Lake Herman Road late night December 20, 1968.
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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 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.