Although for the last 6 years I have pursued Steve as the Zodiac to the point of getting matching hand printing, I have still reached out to other crimes to see if he/Zodiac could fit. There is more than one chapter in HorrorScope dedicated to putting in place the Gaviota, Riverside, and Swindle (San Diego) murders. I don’t believe the Riverside murder of Cheri Jo Bates was related, but the others are certainly disturbingly suggestive of the Zodiac. There is something instinctive about the Faraday/Jensen murders (December 1968), if you truly study the actual evidence, that suggests their killer had killed before. One example: after dispatching Faraday with one bullet to the head, the killer held his composure to put 5 bullets in Jensen’s back in “remarkable close grouping” while she ran away.
The question has always been, ‘Had the Zodiac killed before or killed other victims than those he boasted about in the Bay Area?’ Even identifying the Zodiac Killer does not immediately answer that question.
Except for Cheri Jo Bates (1966), the other pre-1968 suspected murders– Bobby Domingos/ Linda Edwards (1963); Johnny Ray and Joyce Swindle (1964)– are often glossed over.
But let’s get a little more detailed here, for a new “possible victim” has been put forward that is officially being considered by at least one jurisdiction responsible for investigating the Zodiac murders. The victim is Ray Davis, a cab driver who was murdered in Oceanside, California, on the night of April 11, 1962. This puts him first before all the other suspected murders.
The time was 11:10 p.m. Ray Davis, 29 years old, reported to his dispatcher that he was taking a fare to south Oceanside. He never reported again.
At 1:45 a.m., April 12, officer Terry Stephens found Davis’ body dumped in the alley between two upscale streets. His body was, in fact, found behind the houses of the current mayor of Oceanside and the former mayor of Oceanside. The killer seemed to be making a statement, a statement that was intended to upset the powers that be. Otherwise the killing was quite utilitarian. The murderer had shot Davis in the back and in the back of the head with a .22 caliber pistol. He removed the body from the cab and drove off. The cab was dumped on South Pacific a few blocks from Davis’s home on Tremont, but it was also close to a bus stop.
The dump location behind the mayors’ houses.
On top of an already brutal murder, it was no doubt this daring act of dumping the body behind the mayor’s house that reminded Oceanside Police that a crank called them on the night of April 9, two nights ago, and said: “I am going to pull something here in Oceanside and you will never be able to figure it out . . .” or words to such an effect.
The murder of Ray Davis fit. He was killed for no reason other than being a target, a target the killer could get to any place in town. He hadn’t been robbed. Nothing else had been done to him. He had been shot in the back and the back of the head and unceremoniously disposed of where it would shock the town the most– behind the houses of the powers that be. Everything fit the caller’s warning of two nights before.
Yellow star indicates where Ray Davis’ body was dumped in the alley behind South Pacific. The cab was ditched in the alley in the 400 block of South Pacific, so the killer simply drove north along the road after throwing Davis’ body out in the alley. This was, coincidently or not, not too far from Davis’s house (red star).
That the caller and the murderer were one and the same was underscored a week later when he called the police again and declared: “Do you remember me calling you last week and telling you that I was going to pull a real baffling crime? I killed the cab driver and I am going to get me a bus driver next.”
Chief of Police William Wingard believed they were dealing with a deranged killer. Yes, but it was a specific type of deranged killer. It was a man for whom killing was merely an ante in a game of death and community terror. Ignoring Zodiac’s claim he wanted slaves in the afterlife, Zodiac’s murder campaign was essentially the same thing. His motive to murder was actually to send the Bay Area into a panic.
The same thing had ensued in Oceanside in April-May 1962, of course. Bus routes were watched. Two drivers were assigned to busses. Guards were at the terminals. It was written up far and wide in the southern California newspapers of the time.
Nothing transpired. No bus driver was murdered. There were no murders that fit the pattern again.
But on June 4, 1963, at Gaviota Beach near Lompoc, north of Los Angeles, a couple would be brutally gunned down by a man using a .22 caliber automatic pistol. In February 1964, Johnny Ray and Joyce Swindle would be murdered in a very utilitarian way while they cooed along Sunset Beach in San Diego. They were also murdered with a .22 pistol. It too sent the Ocean Beach area into a panic fearing the “Sniper Slayer.” Extra patrolmen were assigned, and a chopper patrolled overhead. Lompoc sheriffs came down to see if there could be a connection to their killing, but nothing was publicly made of any connection, except a .22 caliber had been used.
Perhaps Lompoc sheriffs were a bit blind-sighted. Heavy suspicion existed around a suspect in Lompoc for the murder of the couple there. So perhaps the general similarities weren’t noticed, only the specific one of a similar .22 caliber weapon.
Overall there were similarities, naturally. Both were cooing couples. Both were gunned down pointlessly along the coast. But though there are more similarities than this between these double murders, there is actually far more similarity between the Swindles’ murders and Ray Davis’s murder, also along the coast, than to the Gaviota slayings. Davis had merely been a stepping stone to set the city in panic. That was the appearance anyway. The result of the Swindles pointless slaying was the same– a district wide alert. Their killer had to have known this would happen.
Four years later David Faraday and Betty Lou Jensen are murdered while cooing on Lake Herman Road near Vallejo. A .22 caliber pistol (most likely a J.C. Higgins Model 80) was used. It was such a common weapon with common lands and grooves in a right turn that the actual model could not be identified if it was in the hands of the ballistics experts. Perfect weapon for a utilitarian killer.
After this there were no more. .22 caliber murders. Zodiac used a 9 mm at Blue Rock Springs Park and thereafter. But he took credit for the Lake Herman Road murders.
The progression seems damning in the couple murders in California in the 1960s indicating one perp was involved. Thrill of murder, yes, but it was secondary to the greater thrill of looming over a community by sending it into a panic. Was Zodiac trying to rekindle the thrill he had unintentionally achieved in San Diego by merely gunning down a loving couple? Only now in 1969 during the open throes of antiestablishment it works?
But does the single unexplained murder of a cab driver in Oceanside in 1962 fit in?
It is made to fit in because Zodiac’s last victim was a cab driver, and his motive appeared to be the same: kill a cabbie in the heart of San Francisco to finally send the metropolis over the edge. That’s all a life meant to both killers. Murder for the sake of the greater thrill to send society into a panic.
But aside from motive, the similarities end there. Zodiac didn’t even contact the police or press after his first double murder in 1968– he waits 7 months until after he strikes his next victims. No crank calls the police in the Swindles and Gaviota murders. Thus the progression can still fit Zodiac. He finally wanted to take credit after his attack in Blue Rock Springs Park. But the ruthless maniac who killed Davis begins by taunting the police.
Davis’ killing doesn’t really fit with the Zodiac’s MO. The killer’s motive does. Yet there’s a big difference in the two. The Zodiac’s MO was to kill couples, usually quite quickly, in rural areas. It became apparent he wanted to set the entire Bay Area on edge, and his rural murders weren’t cutting it. So he strikes last in San Francisco itself. He kills a cab driver and then sends a letter proving he is the murderer. He ends the letter with the one thing that will finally get San Francisco’s undivided attention: he threatens to shoot out the tire of a school bus full of children and pick them off as they come “bouncing out.” It had its effect. Until that time, Zodiac had garnered little attention in the metropolis except briefly in August 1969 for his cryptograms to 3 newspapers. Zodiac became the No. 1 arch villain after the school bus threat.
Ray Davis’ killer had killed a cab driver for effect and now threatened to kill a bus driver for an even greater effect. There’s a big difference here compared to the Zodiac’s motives. From cabbie to bus driver is an obvious step for a killer, even when the killer is hoaxing. Zodiac shooting a cab driver and then threatening to snipe school children doesn’t mean he was involved in the Oceanside 1962 murder of Davis, or even knew about it. Unfortunately, cabbie killings aren’t rare, nor are threats against school busses. One reason, perhaps, why nothing resonated in 1969, only 7 years later, with Oceanside Police so that contact could be made with San Francisco PD and an attempt to link the cases.
The progression in the Zodiac’s murders and in his publicity campaign to get attention shows how he constantly wanted to terrify the whole Bay Area. This only happened when he finally struck in San Francisco in October 1969.
In the summer of 1969 Chief of Police in Vallejo Jack Stiltz had made a big noise about his doubt that the bragging writer of the letters was one and the same as the murderer. This same doubt hung over the case until Zodiac erased it on September 27 when he wrote on his latest victim’s car door. The writing proved the letter writing Zodiac was at the crime scene and therefore was one and the same as the murderer. About two weeks later, Zodiac kills a cab driver in San Francisco. The stage is now set for the panic Zodiac wants.
Ray Davis’ murder does not entirely fit in this pattern.
It can be argued that in 1962 Zodiac was merely learning his trade; that he expanded to couples thereafter. However, the Gaviota slayings really didn’t indicate the killer wanted to terrorize the community. They were in a rural area, like with Zodiac’s other murders, but even more remote. The Swindles were in a crowded area, gunned down from the slopes off Narraganset Avenue, approached while wounded and then dispatched with a bullet to the head. This was a frightening murder case.
There are points that connect and do not connect these early double murders to the Zodiac Killer. The same can be said for Ray Davis’s murder. Much of the speculation could be dispensed with if more details were released– a valuable one would be the impression of the voice’s age that called the police. Was it young or not? Zodiac had a young voice in 1969.
The Ray Davis case is connected to Zodiac’s only by the broadest of generalities, and crucial specifics are sadly wanting in the public forum. Those who draw the most connection are those who limit themselves to the Zodiac case and therefore are impressed by the generalities, but unfortunately, once again, cab killings and boastful slayers weren’t a rare thing in the 1960s and 1970s.
We do not even have enough information to know whether someone wanted to murder Davis specifically. If a single murder merely to send a community into a panic was not the killer’s motive, then the only explanation is that he could have been someone who knew Davis and wanted him dead. Everything else was an elaborate hoax on his part to direct attention to a crazed killer.. . .and away from himself. If so, it worked. Davis’ murder never has been solved or even sufficiently explained.
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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.