During the late 60s and the 70s, San Francisco faced the terror of the unknown Zodiac Killer, who terrorized not only the common man but also the police from whose arms the criminal always managed to slip away. His threats were also read by all of San Francisco through his letters to the publishing houses of local newspapers of San Francisco, where his dangerous and arrogant nature can be seen. To this date, one cannot put a name or a face to the Zodiac Killer as this criminal mastermind was never caught.
Victims of the Zodiac Killer
David Faraday and Betty Lou Jensen
The terror of the Zodiac began in December 1968, just a few days before Christmas, at Lake Herman Road. High school students David Faraday and Betty Lou Jensen were out on their first date and decided to park their car in a rather secluded area also called the lovers’ lane. Little did they know what was waiting for them at the moment they deemed to a happy one. Another car was parked beside the couples from where a car came out and began shooting at them. While Betty Lou Jenson was able to exit the car first, David Faraday was shot in the head mid-escape, after which the killer managed to get to Betty and shot her five times. While the victim’s bodies were discovered later, the killer, who then drove off in his car could not be tracked.
Michael Mageau and Darlene Elizabeth Ferrin
Half a year after the murder of David and Betty, in July 1969 another couple Michael Mageau and Darlene Ferrin became victims to the killer during their date. The pattern was similar to the previous murder. Michael and Darlene parked their car near the Blue Rock Springs Park where another driver parked his car behind them. After flashing the flashlight he was carrying, he opened fire on the couple. When the police found their bodies, both of them were still alive. However, only Michael survived and Darlene died due to her injuries on the way to the hospital. What was different about this murder was that the killer called the police station himself and reported a double murder and took the responsibility for the previous murder as well. As this attack had a survivor, a witness had emerged to this crime.
Bryan Calvin Hartnell and Cecelia Ann Shephard
The dangerous Zodiac Killer emerged to claim the lives of yet another couple, Bryan Hartnell and Cecilia Shepherd, in September 1969 during their picnic in the shores of Lake Berryessa. The couple noticed a black silhouette approaching them at first but remained indifferent to the danger coming for them. The black silhouette turned out to be a man armed with a gun as well as a pistol. The man forced Cecelia to tie her partner Bryan which gave the impression of a robbery. On checking the ties, the man discovered that Bryan’s hands were loosely tied. The man then resorted to stabbing them both, as opposed to killing his victims with a gun like before. While Bryce was 8 times, Cecilia was inflicted with 24 stabs. This crime was also reported to the Sheriff who were already looking for the criminal but to no avail, and he took responsibility for this crime also. He also drew the circle cross and left the inscription “Vallejo/12-20-68/7-4-69/Sept 27–69–6:30/by knife” (dates of previous murders, date of the day murder committed and the weapon used) on the victims’ car. Cecelia was conscious when the couple was found by the Sheriff’s deputies and was able to provide a detailed description of the killer. However, she died after succumbing to a coma while Bryan survived and lived to tell the tale, where emerged a second witness.
The next murder of the Zodiac Killer was two weeks after the previous one and was out of the general pattern where he went after couples in a secluded place. The victim of his next crime was an unknowing taxi driver Paul Stein, whose taxi the Zodiac Killer took and then shot him in the head, took his wallet and tore a part of his blood-stained shirt. Three teenagers stood witness to this murder who saw it across the street. The police officers on the look-out for the killer are said to have actually come across the Zodiac Killer himself, but as they were looking out for a black suspect due to misinformation, the Zodiac Killer was able to escape the arms of law and justice once again. Initially, the police were not sure if this is a crime by the infamous criminal due to the pattern being different and was only confirmed to be the Zodiac Killer’s work through a letter sent to the San Francisco Chronicle which had a piece of Paul’s bloodied shirt attached and took credit for this murder. Paul Stein was the Zodiac Killer’s last “official” kill.
This case of 1970 is a rather different case where the Zodiac Killer fails to kill his victim. Kathleen Johns, along with her ten-month-old daughter was driving to her mother’s house where another car driving behind her, later explaining to Kathleen that it was because he saw a lose tire in her car and offered to fix it up. After the tire was fixed, she proceeded to drive but the tire came out and was clearly not fixed. The same man offered to give her a ride to the nearest repair shop. However, even after crossing multiple repair shops, the man did not stop the car, which made her suspicious and when he did stop at an intersection, she made the run for her life in a thick forest nearby with her daughter. The killer tried to find her but was unable to do so and this frustration was taken out by torching Kathleen’s car. She hitchhiked to the nearest police station and was put under safety in a restaurant. She confirmed that the man was indeed the Zodiac Killer after recognizing her abductor from a sketch of Paul Stein’s murderer.