The Zodiac Killer

Mackenzie VanSickle, Journalist

The Zodiac Killer was a serial killer between the 60s and the 70s in Northern California. He killed five people but claimed to have killed thirty-seven people. The Zodiac Killer has remand to be an unsolved mystery, as his identify has never been solved.

On December 20, 1968 at 11PM in Vallejo California, 17-year-old David Faraday and 16-year-old Betty Lou Jensen were shot in their parked car on a gravel road off Lake Herman Rd. On arrival police found Jensen 30ft away from the car dead. Faraday was alive when police arrived, but he later died on route to the hospital. This is the first known murder of the zodiac killer.

On July 4, 1969 at midnight at Blue Rock Spring Park, only a few minutes from where the first murder was commented, 22-Year-old Darlene Ferrin and 19-year-old Michael Mageau were in their car when a man approached them with a flashlight, he then shot them. When the man was about to leave, he turned back and shot them again. Mageau and Ferrin were both found alive but only Mageau survived, he describes the man as a young and white, maybe between the ages of 25 – 30, stocky, 200 or more Pounds, around the height of 5’8, with brown curly hair, and he has a large face. An hour after the shooting police got a phone call by someone claiming to be the shooter of this murder and the one at Lake Herman Rd.

On August 1, 1969 San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco Examiner, and Vallejo Times all received identical handwritten letters by the killer. They knew it was the real killer because he described each of the murders exactly. He demanded that his letter was to be printed out and put in the paper, and if it were not, he would kill another couple. At the end of his letter, he signed with a symbol, a O with a cross threw it. On August 4, 1969, they received another letter, in this letter it would be the first time he called himself The Zodiac Killer. In the letter he added a cipher.

On August 8, a couple in Salinas, California cracked the cipher that read “I like killing because it is so much fun, it’s more fun than killing wild game in the forest because man is the most dangerous animal of all to kill. Something gives me the most thrilling experience, it is better than getting your rocks off with a girl. The best part of it is that when I die, I will be reborn in paradise and those I kill will become my slaves. I will not give you my name because you will try to slow down or stop my collecting of slaves for my afterlife.”

On September 27, 1969 in Napa California, 22-year-old Cecelia Shepherd and 20-year-old Byran Hartnell were on Lake Berryessa having a picnic when Shepherd saw a man hiding behind a tree. Once that man stepped out from behind the tree Shepherd and Hartnell noticed this man was wearing an executioner style hood with the Zodiac symbol on his chest. The couple seen that the man had a gun, a long knife, and a pre-cut rope. He used the rope to tie up the couple. He then stabbed both multiple times. Shepherd was found dead on scene but Hartnell was alive after being stabbed six times in the back. He described the man as 5’8, around 225-250 pounds, and he had dark brown hair. On Hartnell’s car the date of all the killings and the word “by knife” was written by the date September 27th.

On October 11, 1969 at 10PM in San Francisco , California at the intersection of Washington St and Cherry Rd. Paul Stine a cab driver was shot by one of his passengers. A teen girl was walking home and saw man step out of the cab, he stopped and wipe down where he was sitting. Her and two other witnesses described the man as 5’8 to 5’9, between the ages 25-30, stocky, with reddish brownish hair that was styled with a crew cut. Police arrived at scene fast, but with all the chaos incorrectly identified the man as an African American. Police officers Don Fouke and Eric Zelmsi were on the way to the scene, they

seen a white male that fitted the teen’s description but let him go because they thought they were looking for an African American male. A letter sent to the newspaper confirmed that the man that the officers had seen was in fact the Zodiac killer. He also confirmed that it was him who murdered Stine, he added a piece of Stines bloody shirt in the bag. He added to the letters that he was going to blow up a school bus filled with kids. The Zodiac Killer stated “School children make a nice target; I think I shall wipe out a school bus some morning. Just shoot the front tire and then pick off the kiddies as they come bouncing out.” He also added descriptions of bombs he would uses to blow up a school bus.

On April 20, 1970 to the San Francisco Chronicle, the zodiac killer sent a cipher with the beginning sentence as “my name is” This statement led to many suspects. He continued to send letters but stopped in 1971. The last letter the Zodiac killer ever sent was in 1974, he claimed to have killed 37 people. In 2002, police were able to find half of a fingerprint and Silvia on a letter by the zodiac killer, they were not able to find a match in the system.