“Satan Saves ZOIDAC”

When last we left off the Gay Murders of San Francisco, we showed how the general M.O. remained the same both before and after the years attributed to the DOODLER (1974-1975). We could easily see that another wave occurred in the early 1980s. The purpose, of course, was to underscore that DOODLER may not be the primary serial killer that should be of interest today. Here let’s look at an earlier murder.

It was April 19, 1970. San Francisco was just entering the threshold of the darkest era of the counterculture’s aftermath. Late night Robert Salem (40) brought a man home with him to his upscale pad on Stevenson Street, right South of Market. It was an old warehouse building that had survived the great earthquake. Salem had turned it into a posh apartment and workshop. He was famous as a designer of lamps, and some of his work was considered art.

Now, days later there were reasons for friends to break into the apartment. No one had seen him, and he wasn’t answering calls. After they forced the door they were confronted by a grisly scene. Slathered in blood on the wall was “Satan Saves ZOIDAC.” Also in blood was some kind of dagger and hilt.

Blood was in every room. It was a savage murder, the victim lured into it by the promise of a sexual tryst or by intoxication. Robert Salem’s body was on a Japanese tatami matt, covered in a psychedelic print. He had been stabbed many times, then his jugular had been slit. His left ear was missing, cut off by his assailant. On his stomach was etched the same dagger symbol.

Police investigation proved the blood on the wall was Salem’s. Apparently nude or in oriental lounging clothes, the murderer killed or sacrificed Salem, then wandered the house looking for something. He took enough blood to liberally write on the walls, then took a shower. He must had dressed again and then left . . .with Salem’s left ear.

Salem’s wallet had been found open, so it was thought there was some form of robbery, but nothing else seemed to be missing.

So what to make of this? A man named Stanley Baker would be tagged for it. It was thought to be part sacrifice and part decoy. At first, the police thought it was to make them believe it had been done by the Zodiac Killer. (The writing on the wall misspelled ZODIAC.) But the circumstances showed it was a gay murder. If all this was done to merely conceal the fact a tryst had been intended, it wasn’t done very well.

On the other hand, this was not the way a trick would get rid of a customer. It was just too elaborate.

The viciousness of such attacks had been seen before, starting in 1967 when what can be called the murder spree began. Strangling, knifings, horrid S&M. Within the span of 1967 to 1982, one must pick out more details to try and figure if there was one or more serial killers hunting gay men in San Francisco. The general M.O.s are so similar, though in Salem’s case there was a unique twist to it, one that would not be repeated until the murder of John Doe 60 in 1985, in which he too had been sacrificed by Maurice Bork and Clifford St. Joseph. They had carved an upside-down pentagram on his chest.

Salem’s is only one example where there was a suspect named. This adds him to about 20 gay murders where there was a suspect or conviction. Nevertheless, there remain about 60 gay murders over the same span of time for which there was no suspect. Those now being popularly blamed on the so-called DOODLER occurred only over 1974-1975. But the same M.O. found within those two years can be found both before and after.

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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.

The I-70 Killer: A Long Path to Facts– The Mick McCown Murder

Ever since my name got associated with a POI in the case of the I-70 Killer, traffic has been coming to some old posts of mine– in particular those relating to the Terre Haute murder of Michael “Mick” McCown. Believe me, I have analytics. My website The Quester Files, as those who follow me know, has the finalized, details results of any of my investigations. My blog here is for preliminary thrashing out and introduction. Years ago no one was investigating and presenting the case of the I-70 Killer. No one apparently ever sought actual facts. I was the first to try and get the Coroner Reports, discovering in the process only one jurisdiction (St. Charles) even knows where their report is.

In fact, if recent assertions are true, the case presentation may have been on the level of folklore– an uncritical rehash of information released in the first month of the murders (April-May 1992).

From the very beginning of the crime spree (April/May 1992) statements have been made and cycled . . . unto this very day. One of those most frequently cycled statements revolves around Mick McCown. Because he was the only man murdered, his case seemed key to any insights on the I-70 Killer’s stalking and selecting pattern. It was always said that he had long hair and wore it in a ponytail. For this reason it was theorized that the I-70 Killer murdered him by mistake, thinking he was a woman. Analysis cannot deny this is an obvious induction . . . However, all that was reported may be false.

St. Louis Post Dispatch photo, May 1992, Sylvia’s Ceramics, Terre Haute, Indiana.

Two sisters of Mike McCown have sent me messages. Through email in return, I have invited one of them to make her own statements and told her I will publish them on here. She has asserted that her brother did not have long hair anymore and that there were bells on all doors of “Sylvia’s Ceramics Shop.” The implication, of course, is that there could be no mistake that the I-70 Killer murdered her brother fully knowing he was a man.

So that we might all appreciate the facts and, hopefully, far more details, when and if reported here, I list below only a fraction of source material repeating that Mike McCown had long hair and a ponytail. The reader should note: when both Teresa McCown Lee and her mother Sylvia are quoted, disagreeing that he was a mistaken victim, the reporter gives no reason why they disagree. It is merely presented as a personal opinion. Short of uncovering the Coroner Report, only the family are in a position to set the record straight.

UPI
May 12, 1992:

On April 27, the only male victim was killed in a Terre Haute ceramics store. Authorities said Michael McCown, 40, may initially have been mistaken for a woman because he wore his long hair in a ponytail and had an earring.

Mark Potok
USA Today
May 26, 1994

“Our life is ruined, it has devastated our family,” says Sylvia McCown, mother of Michael “Mick” McCown, who was killed in his Terre Haute, Ind., ceramics shop. Police think the killer may have mistaken McCown – who had longish hair and wore earrings – for a woman.

Diana Penner
Indianapolis Star
Sunday, April 9, 2000

• April 27, 1992, Michael McCown, 40, was found shot to death in his ceramics
store in Terre Haute. He was the only man killed in the series, but police
think the shooter might have mistaken McCown for a woman because of his
ponytail. Also, his store was called Sylvia’s Ceramics, which could have
suggested it was run by a woman.

Valerie Schremp-Hahn
May 2, 2012
St. Louis Post-Dispatch

The first victim was slain April 8 inside a Payless Shoe store in Indianapolis. Kitzmiller was the fifth victim. On May 7, in Raytown, Mo., near Kansas City, a woman was killed in a health food store. All the victims but one were young women with long brown hair. The only male victim wore his hair in a pony tail and might have been mistaken for a woman. The killer fired point-blank at the head or behind the ear, or both.

Amy Renee Leiker
May 22, 2014
Kansas.com

Michael McCown – the only male – was killed at his ceramics shop in Terre Haute, Ind., on April 27, 1992. Police think that because of his long hair, the shooter may have mistaken him for a woman.

May 4, 2016
Christian Fellwock
(Vox Magazine)

Only a few pieces of evidence connected the murders between April 8 and May 7. Five victims were brunette women working at small stores just off I-70. The exception was Michael McCown, whom police believe the killer mistook for a woman because he wore his long hair in a ponytail. Each victim was shot in the head with the same .22-caliber rifle.

Haley Bull
May 22, 2017
Fox 59

April 27, 1992 Terre Haute, Indiana – Michael McCown, 40, was killed in his shop, Sylvia’s Ceramics, 2615 S. 3rd Street.  His body was discovered by a customer at about 4:15 p.m.  Michael was the only male victim in this series.  Because of all the circumstances – including the fact that he wore his hair very long – we assess that the killer, watching from outside, mistook Michael for a woman until he entered the store.

Steve Huff
April 18, 2018
Inside Hook

In Sylvia’s Ceramics Shop it was probably quiet. As the Post-Dispatch reported, owner Michael McCown—”Mick” to his friends—was “reaching for a small, white ceramic house” on a shelf when he was shot at close range in the back of his head. McCown, who wore his hair long and had an earring, died immediately. Theories of the crime in the years since have suggested the killer mistook McCown for a woman.

Jon Webb
Courier & Press
8:00 a.m. CT May 11, 2018

40-year-old Michael “Mick” McCown seemed like a good guy. I found one blogger who claimed to work with a couple bands Mick played bass in. Mick had a big grin and helped his mother at the store she owned: Sylvia’s Ceramics near I-70 in Terre Haute.He also wore his long brown hair in a ponytail. And police believe that might be what got him killed.

Lily Pesavento
May 26, 2019
MyWabashValley

In the shop, police found the body of 40 year old Michael ‘Mick’ McCown, the only male victim.

He was shot in the back of the head while stocking shelves.

For years police have believed the killer mistakenly thought McCown was a woman, but those who knew him disagree.

“I don’t think it’s true. And neither do his friends or the rest of the family. I think he went into the ceramics shop because it’s named ‘Sylvia’s,’” said McCown’s sister Teresa Lee. “My mom’s name, expecting a woman.”

Lee doesn’t want him to be remembered as the “mistaken” victim in a string of unsolved murders.

Mick McCown still remembered fondly by family, friends and fellow musicians.

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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.

Let’s Doodle. . . THE DOODLER

I have taken an hiatus on posting about the Gay Murders of San Francisco 1968-1982 due to 2 manuscripts I must prepare; also I am in the last mile of preparing HorrorScope for publication. Within the glut of gay murders there is categorized the DOODLER MURDERS over 1974-1975. Those who follow these blog posts know that I have increasingly been skeptical as to why the DOODLER got his own category. I have the cases of 60 gay murders over 1968-1982 before me, and they are remarkably similar, though obviously not committed by the same perpetrator. Why then were 5 victims sorted out over the brief span of January 1974 to September 1975 and attributed to this young black guy who supposedly doodled?

That is an involved question that I have addressed somewhat over the posts. It’s sometimes buried within them, but I have obviously cast doubt that the DOODLER actually existed as a bona fide serial killer. This more or less explains why I have not focused on developing the supposed identity of the, once again, supposed perp. Supposedly again, his identity is known. Supposedly, again, again, even his travel plans upon leaving San Francisco in 1976 are known. Why does all this nebulousness remain?

Let me give some personal opinions.

1, The DOODLER remains a very nebulous case, I feel, because it is probably not a real case.

2, The case remains nebulous and not developed because of the belief that Joseph Houghteling was the prominent citizen who survived the attack at Fox Plaza and didn’t want to come forward to identify the miscreant. Joe was a great guy; owned newspapers (including my hometown newspaper), was politically active Democrat. To assert he was attacked because of a homosexual tryst is quite reckless, and quite unlikely.

3, The identity of the DOODLER is talked around, I opine, because of the fear it would lead to and involve an East Bay political family that will chop people off at the ankles for making the claim.

For me, neither 2 nor 3 mean much because I am after a much broader target than the identity of the murderer(s) over 1974-1975. There, I think that captures the spirit of it.

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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.

I-70 KILLER- Coming News

Sorry for the lack of updates on the DOODLER/JACK the KNIFE murders of San Francisco in the 1970s. But I have been slammed with getting two manuscripts finished and then edits on a third, HorrorScope. There is nothing more mentally fatiguing than working on these many MSs at once.

In addition, lots of information has been coming in on a POI who could be associated with the I-70 KILLER crime spree. Although I have not mentioned the case for a while, the POI’s name in association with my research has apparently been made recently on a podcast. Surfers have come to my blog in large numbers over the crime case, including a couple claiming to have details on one of the cases. Since I am still waiting for the coroner’s report on this case, I cannot contradict the claims being made, but the claims also contradict the police theories and every news report, including those dated to 1992, regarding the Terre Haute murder of Mick McCown.

I know that the POI is being triaged by St. Charles PD. He is also being triaged by an Ohio jurisdiction over an unrelated murder.

So little has been written on the subject of the I-70 Killer recently that my blog has become the focus, and the focus curiously is on some older posts from years ago. All news reports dating from the beginning speculated that McCown’s murder was a mistake. This was based on the assertion that he had his hair in a ponytail and was mistaken for a woman from behind. My detailed and most recent post on the case contradicted this, noting how it was impossible given the evidence that the killer did not know McCown was a man. However, some old overview of mine, based on the police assertions and news reports, presents the case as originally and ubiquitously presented since 1992.

In all fairness to the subject, until the coroner’s report is uncovered, such presentations must stand. The reader can balance between the assertions and the evidence and clues I present in the most recent article: https://questersite.wordpress.com/2021/07/26/highway-hunter-i-70-killer-profile-to-consider/

At least on one occasion, a news report quoted two relatives of McCown. One strongly contested that he was a mistaken victim. Rather her opinion was that the killer saw the woman’s name on the shop “Sylvia’s” and entered expecting to take a female victim. Then finding Mick McCown shot him instead. I would tend to agree. But I base my beliefs on details. Whatever the family members conveyed to the reporter, the reporter never conveyed any reason why the family held their beliefs. Now it is being asserted that McCown was 6 feet 4 inches tall, had cut his pony tail, and there were bells on all the doors of the shop. Again, this may be true, but the news was skeptical enough not to support these claims if family members had, in fact, made them to the reporters.

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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.