The ZODIAC Killer and San Diego

I am adding just a brief account of the double murder of Johnny Ray Swindle and his new wife Joyce on February 5, 1964, and since it is a last minute addition to HorrorScope I thought I’d share an early version of the treatment here with you. The case has had little written about it despite its similarity to the Gaviota slayings. There’s more than one reason for this, and I touch on both in HorrorScope. But for now, it is best to present the crime.

From the chapter “Southern Exposure” from HorrorScope by Gian J. Quasar.

The one dissimilarity is that Bobby and Linda were murdered on a Monday and during the day and not on the weekend at dusk or at nighttime. But 5 years is a long time. ZODIAC’s work circumstance could have changed. The general similarities remained— the killer was someone who knew the rural hangouts for young couples and saw that only Bobby’s car was in the parking space by the highway. There was even a military base nearby, like in Riverside, and this was Vandenberg Air Force Base.

An attack on a weekday seemed less significant when another double murder of a young couple popped up from the cold case files, this having been committed on Wednesday February 5, 1964, only 8 months after Domingos and Edwards had been murdered. This was a strange span. After ZODIAC’s first Vallejo strike, he had waited a similar time to strike again—7 months and 15 days. It too was along the coast in California.

There is a constant whoosh in your ears from the sizzle of the nearby sea and its breakers. Like all beach sections of San Diego, Ocean Beach is crowded but quiet and laidback, especially at this time of night. Old streets cross each other in a grid, crowded with bungalows, apartments, small houses, motels, and small shops, and all end at the beach. The boardwalk along the beach eventually wends around nearby cliffs. Here the boom and roll of the surf echoes up from the cement retaining wall of the boardwalk, up the cliffs to Narragansett Avenue. Ice plant covers the entire slope all the way to the silhouette of a wood railing and the back of a single traffic sign. The dark silhouette of apartments and homes can be seen flanking the street. By the wood railing a zig-zag concrete flight of stairs cuts its way down the slope, through the thick ice plant, to the boardwalk.

Against the cement retaining wall that holds back the breakers along the walk here, a loving couple snuggles. The young man is in his Navy jumper, the blonde girl in a leather jacket and plaid capris. By them on the ledge is a red heart-shaped Valentine candy box— an early gift for his beloved on this Wednesday night February 5, 1964.Swindle-scene12

Fifty feet up the ice plant covered slope behind them stands a man by the wooden railing and the traffic sign. It reads “Dead End.” The concrete stairway down begins here, but he does not take it. Instead he walks forward along the slope and watches the couple cuddle below. He walks down the slope several more feet. No one can see him from Narragansett now. Over his right shoulder in the distance the streetlamps of Ocean Beach are dull pearls in the night’s hazy moisture, strung out in crisscrossing lines. He raises a pistol in both hands and aims. The roar of the surf is his ally. There is no sound of death issuing forth.

The Navy man’s upper left back burns. The girl he cuddles collapses against him, her left upper back burning as well. Then his left thigh went tight and burned. Her left arm stung. His left ear stings painfully. Both collapse onto the “patio,” the name for this wide sightseeing section of the boardwalk. Swindle-scene4

The figure atop the slope strides down and stands over them. She is lying face down. He fires a round into the back of her head. The Navy man is on his left side, next to the wall, just under the Valentine’s candy box. The killer stands over him now and puts a bullet into his upper right temple. The killer rummages in his victim’s pocket and takes his wallet. He pockets his automatic pistol and walks away.
Hours later a neighbor, Ed Nelson, starts to walk down the cement steps. He sees the figures. Shadows in the dark, he thought they had been drinking and passed out. He approached with his flashlight shining on them and then saw, in the cold round beam of his flashlight, the pools of blood coming from them. The man was moaning inarticulacy. Ed Nelson rushed to get the police.

The girl was dead, but the man was rushed to the hospital where he died a few hours later.

The San Diego PD detectives quickly came to the conclusion that a “psychopathic killer” was responsible. Despite the missing wallet, the true motive was chalked up to thrill. They had solid reasons to come to this conclusion. The couple was Johnny Ray Swindle and his new wife Joyce. They had been childhood sweethearts in Jasper, Alabama. During furlough in January he went back and married her on January 18. They drove back out to San Diego and had been living here for only a week in a bun-galow 9 blocks away. They had no enemies. They were a quiet couple, but they had one habit. Joyce was fascinated by the sea, so each night they went for a stroll along the beach. Each night they passed the same hamburger stand, got coffee, and walked along the boardwalk. (Johnny had bought the Valentine Day box of candy at a local shop only 30 minutes before they had been shot.) Their schedule made them the perfect targets for a stalker who wanted to kill a couple. Without enemies there was no choice for the lead detective, O.J. Roed, but to conclude that a psychopath did this purely for thrill.

Johnny didn’t make is past freshman because he had to go to work to help support his family. 



The killer was obviously a good shot with good nighttime vision. He had used only a .22 caliber, but at only 50 feet up the slope it proved deadly. And he obviously went for the heart first and came close each time— both victims had a shot to their left back. The police had quickly found the 5 shining brass shells where he had stood; and two, of course, had been found by the bodies, where he killer had stood and delivered what the papers called the “coup de grace.”

Twenty five detectives swarmed the area looking for the weapon— the police assuming he must have ditched it somewhere in order to walk away and look casual. Navy divers combed the sea bottom of the nearby shore. Other detectives went door to door asking the neighbors to voluntarily surrender their .22 weapons for testing. About 40 weapons were tested. None matched.

From statements that detectives scoured the rooftops from a helicopter to see if the killer had thrown the weapon up on one, it is fairly easy to deduce that ballistics indicated a pistol had been used rather than a rifle. This obviously made sense given the context. No one is going to be able to walk around Ocean Beach with a rifle, even at night, and not stand out.

It wasn’t long before Santa Barbara Co. sheriff detectives arrived. There was immediate suspicion that the killer of Domingos and Edwards was responsible here. However, ballistics didn’t match—it was not the same .22 automatic that had gunned down Bobby and Linda. But it was the same type of gun.

No connection was ever made between the two slayings except for similar circumstances— a young couple at the beach, no motive, and a .22 caliber. But there are actually more similarities, especially if one adds into the equation ZODIAC’s first murders in Vallejo. The ZODIAC was an excellent night shooter who first used a .22 automatic pistol. When not challenged, ZODIAC was a utilitarian but not necessarily efficient killer. Similar to Johnny Ray’s killer, the ZODIAC left Faraday and Mageau to linger. When challenged, ZODIAC seemed to pour it on— he unloaded his magazine into Jensen’s back and Domingos/Edwards killer reloaded to give them “coup de grace,” but he calmly re-turned to shoot Ferrin and Mageau to make sure, where he had also not been challenged.

More of a connection would be made between ZODIAC and the Gaviota slayings because of events that would soon unfold. In 1972 Santa Barbara County Sheriff John Carpenter and detective Bill Baker held a TV news conference after Carpenter had issued a formal statement in which he declared that ZODIAC was responsible for the 1963 double murder of Robert Domingos and Linda Edwards. In this concisely written statement, Carpenter declared:

End outsert

* * *
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.

Lake Herman Road and the ZODIAC– 50 years later.

I’m not one for memorials. I think that like the rest of you we want the issue addressed, the perpetrator caught. But remembering David Faraday and Betty Lou Jensen has more of a purpose than merely a memorial to 2 teens “sadistically gunned down” 50 years ago December 20, 1968. Knowledge of the details helps us to shed light on just what their killer was really like.

The ZODIAC’s image has become distorted in the years since he murdered them. He has grown to the level of comic strip arch villain. But the murder of these two young kids was anything like that of the great white hunter bagging his game, like he boasted about. He hardly had the guts to take on someone who was ready for him. He even boasted in one of his poison pen pal letters to the Chronicle that there was more glory in killing a cop because a cop could potentially shoot back. ZODIAC only had the guts, if that word can be used, to shoot full of holes unsuspecting teens at petting spots.LHR_-_Betty_Lou_Jensen_and_David_Faraday

Extracting 2 pages from my upcoming HorrorScope from Chapter 2 “Sadistically Gunned” may help to convey to the reader what the crime was really like and what kind of perp could really murder kids in the manner in which they were killed.


Extract Chapter 2 “Sadistically Gunned” by Gian J. Quasar from HorrorScope.

Next morning the lead detective, Sgt. Leslie Lundblad, stood at the gravel turnout. He looked somberly at the bloodstains and white chalk outlines. His features seemed tired, perhaps just resigned to the wave of pointless violence gripping the nation. Lundblad was the old school. His thin hair was salt and pepper. Wearing his dark trench coat and fedora, he was the image of a crime noir detective. But this wasn’t some mob hit scene or sordid gin hall murder. These were two kids. Now the shadows of their presence were large dark, putrid bloodstains, and the white chalk a hollow tracing of where kids died on their first date.

    Russell Butterbach, Lundblad’s partner, looked modern. The thin lapels and tight cut of his dark suit were entirely 1960s. The thin dark tie was perfectly drab and businesslike, a sliver over his white shirt. Hands in the pockets of his narrow pants, he looked about and his eyes pondered the morbid scene more logistically. Despite his gray temples, he was a young detective. Close cut hair and dark-rimmed glasses, he represented the establishment that was, at least locally, growing more and more worried about Haight and the hippies. detLun

    What was left today was only the residue of last night’s carnage. Cold winter sunlight vanquished the cloak of horror, but the black scars of blood trickling from the empty chalk frameworks strangely symbolized life drained away. The crisp breeze from Suisun Bay seemed careless as it gently blew away the chalk, slowly erasing the violation of the rustic innocence of pastoral winter.

  Amidst the klieg lights last night the crime scene was revealed to be full of clues. The Rambler’s doors were all locked except for the front passenger side door, which was found open when the police arrived. There were two bullet holes in the station wagon, both carefully placed in the rear of the vehicle. One had shattered the rear side window; the other was in the roof of the car just above the rim of the rear passenger side door. Ten shots had been fired in all. Eight shell casings peppered over a fairly tight area by the passenger side of the car. One was found on the passenger side floorboard of the front seat; another about 20 feet away from the car. The killer had used only a .22 caliber, a small game or target practice weapon.
     Neither Dave Faraday nor Betty Lou were wearing jackets. Coupled with the location of the shell casings it was thus quite easy to put back the chain of events.   DSC09834
    The petting couple’s attacker had fired a shot through the Rambler’s roof and then through the rear window to force them to come outside. He must have ordered them out the passenger side door. They opened it, letting the warm air rush out. Betty Lou was first out, naturally, then Dave slid over and got out. Facing them was their attacker, close up now pointing the gun at them while they trembled by the open door.
     A couple of clues indicate David challenged the attacker. His class ring was found between the tip of his ring and index finger, barely held into place by both fingers. He had a lump on his cheek, as if he had taken a punch. It seems likely that David, a lightweight wrestler at Vallejo High, had tried to wrestle the gun from his attacker. This is hardly surprising. With two bullet holes in his car, David Faraday must have known what awaited them. The position of his ring, just dangling there, indicates he had clutched and pulled around his assailant’s waist.
     Sadly, he hadn’t succeeded in his struggle. The killer had pulled him to the ground. David lay there on his back, arms locked around the hulk on top of him. The killer fired the .22 into his head. Faraday’s arms fell limp over his head.
     Nothing indicates Betty Lou had tried or had time to help David wrestle the attacker, but she had stood close by. Patches of blood sprinkled the gravel between where she lay and the bumper of the car, so it was easy to follow her trail. Perhaps before he was shot, David yelled at her to run. Perhaps the killer, angrily standing up after shooting Faraday, ordered her to run in order to juice his fun. In any case, she took off.

Sheriff’s car parked in the turnout the day after.

     The killer started pumping bullets into her right away. A single grain of gunpowder had been found embedded in Jensen’s dress by one bullet hole, indicating it was the first bullet fired when she was close enough that a grain of powder could still reach her dress. This hadn’t dropped her. She continued to dash away. With each step she took, the killer squeezed the trigger again and again. He did not chase after her. The shell casings grouped by the car prove he had remained by David Faraday’s body.
     Within the trail of blood from the bumper to where she lay there was found one of the spent bullets. It had gone through her and fallen down as she ran. This bullet was only one of three bullets that had passed through her. One exited the left breast and left a hole in the front of her dress. Another ricocheted through her body and came out at her panty elastic and lodged in her underwear. The other, the one mentioned first, had come out her stomach and fell down into the “blood splattered” path.DSC00749
     In her final moments, she could not have been running anymore. She was found face down, with her feet facing west, the direction to which she had been running. The physics of momentum cannot be violated. If she had been running she would have fallen forward with her feet facing east. Thus at the end she was only staggering, still trying to escape; the killer still shooting her. She had been shot once through the heart. This must have been the last. She fell to her knees and slumped onto her side.
     This is not indulging in the macabre for the sake of it. These are clues to the character of the attacker. The killer got the boy out of the way quickly. The girl was then shot several times until she fell. He watched, coldly enjoying shooting her as she had fought bitterly to escape, shooting repeatedly, from the beginning to the very end.

No one in Vallejo or Benicia has forgotten. Driving along the quiet rural Lake Herman Road, it is easy to find the turnout where it all began

When pursuing the case of the ‘Zodiac’ Killer one must keep focused on the real villain and not the comic strip alter ego he created in print. He was a pudgy, festering madman who loved to boast of his crimes even more than committing them.

* * *
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. 

The Phantom Strikes Again?

It had been a spread of 31 years. The details are fuzzy. The connecting threads thin. But there hasn’t been too many of these type of serials. There’s been the Phantom of Texarkana, the Zodiac, and one other of note. . . . and it is of this one that we have little information. Not to minimize the tragedy, but the Atlanta lovers’ lane serial killer seemed a lackluster serial. He struck over a period of a few months beginning January 16, 1977, around the Adams and West Manor Park areas of Atlanta, Georgia. He crouched next to the cooing victims’ car and fired 6 wadcutters through the window. His first two victims died. His second pair of victims were both wounded. Of his third pair of victims, one survived and one died. He struck between intervals of 28 days on the middle weekend of the months January, February, and March 1977. Then there was no more.

Publicly, all that we know is that a black guy approached and tried to get into the second pair of victims’ car first. They saw him approach, saw him reach for the handle, but the doors were locked and wouldn’t open. He backed up, knelt down and started shooting from the same position as the other victims were and would be shot from.

We have little more than that. Age, we don’t know. Height, weight, all nada.

Back then, due to the psychology of the times, police did not believe that serials continued on or even returned to their crime sprees. But time and some bad experiences have proven that many serials stop, and in one case later tried to recapture the thrill decades later– the case of BTK.

Therefore there is little information if the Atlanta PD checked back to the crimes of the Phantom of Texarkana, Texas. He struck on weekends beginning in February 1946, and continued on weekends in March, April, and May. Then he was gone. A similar murder was committed later in south Florida on October 8, 1946, but this was on a Tuesday. The Fort Lauderdale police did check with Texarkana police in this case.

In neither crime sprees did the victims see much. Only the first two victims of the Phantom survived in Texarkana. They differed as to their attacker’s description. He wore a grain bag over his head, but they saw his hands. The male victim said he believed the attacker was a tanned white guy. The female victim believed the attacker was a light skinned black man. That’s all we have.

Over 40 years have passed since the Atlanta Lovers’ Lane Murders. It is time Atlanta PD released as much information as they have on the cases so that this tragic series of crimes can finally have the light of day they deserve, perhaps the light that can finally lead to the solution.

* * *
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.

The 2 Fingers of ZODIAC

As anyone who has followed the case of the ‘Zodiac’ Killer knows, Sherwood Morrill, then Questioned Documents Examiner in Sacramento, said that ZODIAC’s hand printing was so distinctive that he could identify it merely from a bank deposit slip.

After 50 years, it is not as easy as that. Much as happened since then. Let’s touch on a couple of points. Morrill3

The case of the ‘Zodiac’ Killer may with retrospect seem so clear, but contemporarily it was not. Few believed that ZODIAC, the letter writer, and the killer were one and the same at the end of the summer of 1969. Jack Stiltz, the Chief of Police of Vallejo, was notably publicly skeptical. Within this context we can understand why ZODIAC reemerges after his break to write on the car door of his victims at Lake Berryessa on September  27, 1969. It is proof. Here there is no question that the letter writer and the killer were both at the scene of the crime.

It is often overlooked today, indeed perhaps just forgotten, that The ZODIAC was by no means considered the same as the killer until his writing on the car door of the Karmen Ghia confirmed he and the letter writer were the same.

The skepticism was over because, once again, ZODIAC’s printing was so distinctive it was apparent to all merely by looking at the car door. It is unquestionably the same printing as on the nasty poison pen letters to the S.F. Chronicle.

The car door negated the theory that ZODIAC used any kind of fancy method of disguising his printing at his desk or table or upon whatever surface he wrote his horrid missives.

But. . . RedPhantomBody-July-8-1974

Since Lake Berryessa and Morrill’s confidence, a letter was received– the notorious Red Phantom Letter of 1974. It is believed to be from ZODIAC– the envelope’s address’ printing confirms it more than the printing on the card inside. The printing on the card is somewhat different, however, than the usual ZODIAC schrift! Not only does the perfect grammar and spelling prove that ZODIAC went way out of his way to sound like an uneducated punk in his earlier letters, to some extent it did show he could disguise his printing . . .disturbingly even on the side door of a car.

Of course, even earlier than this it was evident ZODIAC was capable of careful printing– the letter to Melvin Belli on December 20, 1969. Averaging all 3 styles, I would imagine that the Red Phantom Letter comes closest to the casual scribbles of ZODIAC. Careful printing seldom reflects how any of us naturally write, so forget the Bell Letter style. The slanted scribble– i.e. his usual– probably won’t be blatantly noticeable in his casual, daily printing. In going over 50 year old hand printing, I have kept all this in mind.

We must remember one other fact . . .

The ZODIAC knew, of course, that printing was the only evidence that could lead to him. He couldn’t foresee DNA from stamps, and we don’t really know as yet whether he licked those at all. He shot people, taken by surprise, and this left no evidence but shell casings and bullets. He stabbed a pair, but this left no traceable evidence.

SFPD has insisted they have his bloody fingerprints lifted from Paul Stine’s cab, but the other jurisdictions doubt these are truly his prints and not contamination by bystanders.

From the Red Phantom Letter  I have operated on the assumption that he disguised his printing– I will find no “r” that is like a dash, no slanted “d,” no bad grammar, no misspellings.

For 6 years I have sought this from one man, and hopefully soon it will be over. But this article does give you an idea of how hard it could be to identify ZODIAC’s printing, especially 50 years after-the-fact. ZODIAC was a strange amalgam between careful gameplaying and clumsy perpetration. After 50 years it is the gameplaying side of ZODIAC’s murder spree one must deal with. Here he was very clever.

* * *
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–2019– The Crimes and Seasons of the Zodiac Killer

HorrorScope has been delayed more than once, and I’m sorry I get people frustrated with delays, but I am adamant that I have a contemporary sample of “Beard’s” hand printing before the announcement is officially made that the Zodiac Killer has been identified.  There is family involved, and there are several other reasons in addition to this why it is necessary to have contemporary hand printing.

It will be shared here first, with more in HorrorScope plus other contemporary pics of ZODIAC. Please be patient. Despite all the hype of DNA, there is none in perpetration from The Zodiac Killer. Even if it is lifted from stamps, it is not in perpetration. Hand printing, once again, is in perpetration. Obtaining a sample is truly a necessity for more than just presentation purposes.  

Soon it will be 50 years since ZODIAC officially started his crime spree on December 20, 1968.  None of my delays have been designed to dovetail on that. Since 2012 I’ve stalked the same individual until finally enough evidence fingered him. I’ve wanted this out of the way years ago. But ultimately, you’d be surprised how hard it is to get hand printing from 50 years ago. 

Soon . . . fingers crossed.

* * *
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.