HORRORSCOPE– Bringing to Life The Zodiac Killer

Above, the aerial is situated over Blue Rock Springs Park. From this angle we can see Columbus Parkway traced by the tall canopy of eucalyptus trees as it wends on its way to Springs Road and Vallejo.

Context is everything, and it is something that is often missing from the repeated rehash of cold cases in popular literature. Yet reenactment of the crime is an essential step to investigating it. It is the “French” method. I rely heavily upon it before I write anything on any case. I must know what the layout of the land was like. After all, we are tracking the human predator. We are on a hunt for the hunter.

This is so clear in the ‘Zodiac’ Killer case. Like with Jack the Ripper, economic rehash dominates. It is used merely to quickly get through the crimes in order to introduce an unlikely suspect.

The longest I ever spent on trying to re-visualize a case was on trying to reconstruct Blue Rock Springs Park parking lot– the scene of Zodiac’s second strike. Since July 4, 1969, Columbus Parkway has been greatly altered. The park’s parking lot was once a wide spot in a two lane road. Now the parking lot has been extended inward to the country park, and the road is a couple of meters higher than the parking lot, not lower as it used to be, and a 4 lane busy thoroughfare.

dfr3

The crime scene as preserved in the Vallejo PD report. This is as the parking lot used to be– open to Columbus Parkway and narrow.  The parkway was only 26 feet across!

The lot used to angle up from the road, and it even had a stand of trees on one side of it around which the cars parked. It was truly a country park, carved out of the natural topography. That atmosphere is gone. The clutching canopy of eucalyptus that used to line the parkway is gone. I’m trying to bring it all back in HORRORSCOPE so the reader can understand what things were like back then.

I want to give you a little taste here, with pictures and blow ups of photo blocks in the upcoming release.  This is made possible by Vallejo Historical Museum. As you might imagine few people go to a park to take pictures of the parking lot. But the parking lot exists as an incidental in the background of pictures centered on other events held at the park.

BRSPL

In this blow up above from 1963 we see the angled parking lot and narrow Columbus Parkway behind it, then the white line marking the gutter and the extended parking on the other side. Dee Ferrin had parked at an angle near where those two white cars are parked. One of the two lamp posts can be seen.

BRSPL-2

This blow up from 1961 shows the other side of the parking lot and the stand of eucalyptus noted on the crime scene illustration. Columbus Parkway was so narrow that you can distinguish it only from the painted crosswalk. The furthest row of cars are actually parked in a dirt area on the other side of the road.

DSC01625-cropped-50%

This photo, taken in the 1970s, is centered at the crosswalk, and it shows Columbus Parkway in the direction from which Roger, Jerry, and Debbie, came from I-80. The cars in this shot are parked on the other side of Columbus Parkway. The parking lot is actually on the right of the photo, off frame.

With the photos above– the header showing the parkway traced by the tall eucalyptus back to Vallejo– and the others of the lot and road, we can begin to visualize this very rustic area back late night 1969.

Columbus Parkway terminated at a major highway at both of its ends, and in the middle it connected with Lake Herman Road, which also terminated at a major highway.  These were hardly your basic country roads. They were backroad arteries to 3 major highways and two local towns. They held two major attractions– Lake Herman and Blue Rock Springs Park. Zodiac did not have to be a local to know this. These were easy roads in and out in many directions. Perfect for the drive-by killer.

*         *        *

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

The Lesson of Kingsbury Run

Everybody who is truly desirous of seeing cold cases solved should dread the diluted image given to us by such cold cases as the Mad Butcher of Kingsbury Run.  Not Jack the Ripper. The Ripper is so documented that it is still possible to solve the old murder spree. But there are a few cold cases where this is difficult if not impossible via the use of the gray cells. The Phantom of Texarkana comes to mind because it had the sensationalized (but folkloric) publicity later in its cold case life, but the Horrible Headhunter of Kingsbury Run is lost to time, and few realize that this case is truly the case of the American Jack the Ripper.

During the Depression some arrogant but very sophisticated killer set out to prey upon the downtrodden in the hobo villages of Kingsbury Run. And like Jack the Ripper he caused a sensation during the time (1930s) and even influenced local politics. And also like Jack the Ripper the perpetrator was thought to be a doctor. The reason: skill in dismembering some of the bodies.

With such little knowledge coming down to us today there aren’t too many details to reexamine. There are a few, however, that should challenge the regurgitation that a mentally disturbed and alcoholic doctor named Joseph Sweeney was responsible and because he was congressman Charles Sweeney’s cousin he was protected.

Conspiracy theories are always excuses. I think we can go beyond them here.

I also think we can go beyond toxic fandom’s clichés. Elliot Ness, immortalized because of his work against the mob in Chicago, was in charge of public safety in Cleveland at the time of the graphic murder spree. He came to feel that Sweeney was the man responsible. But Ness’ personal theory shouldn’t sway us. Toxic fandom likes brand name and Commissioner Gordon-like comic strip characters.  But in reality Ness wasn’t in a position to really investigate the series of crimes and as a former FBI revenuer he really wasn’t of detective caliber. He had fame and legend. And fandom likes reality to imitate art.

Sweeney’s alcoholic problems destroyed his practice and it seems he wasn’t sober enough to lift a dog’s tail let alone a scalpel at times.

Thus we must introduce one of the key victims around which the case revolves: Edward Andrassy. He was an early victim– the first or second. His body and head were found in proximity to another, both dumped along the side of Jackass Hill at the end of E 49th.

Andrassy

The mode of murder was unique in the annals of crime. He had been murdered by beheading. There were no hesitation marks. This is crucial. There was no starting point and stopping point. The neck bones were not scored.  Only a guillotine can cut that cleanly, but the national razor will crush the bones.

Dr. Sweeney did not have this skill, and there is no doctor or mortician who frankly can duplicate how it was done. It was done somewhere, in some facility, while Andrassy was apparently unconscious.  It was done with tremendous skill in excellent light.

Victim No 5, the “Tattoo Man,”  a young, handsome man who has never been identified, was later killed in Kingsbury Run at night near the railroad tracks. He too was killed by beheading, and in the darkness and struggling, several hesitation marks were obvious.

The same killer seems to have been afoot, but the circumstances were different and not as controlled as in the Andrassy murder.

Sweeney and conspiracy theories are a poor fit, but Sweeney got into the narrative and he is simply regurgitated with the general outline handed down to us today. If we only had more details and the police reports we could begin to open up the investigation into one of the most bizarre serial murder sprees in history. But, alas, too much has been lost to time and the filter of a limited narrative.

*         *          *

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.diluted