WILL ZODIAC EVER BE SOLVED?
❒ Researcher confident infamous case will be cracked — some day
By Bethany A. Monk
Tom Voigt, an expert on the Zodiac case currently living in Portland, Ore., first heard of the infamous killer in the early 1970s when he was a kid living in Southern California.
The news, Voigt said, has long been a part of his life. His father was a reporter for a local newspaper, and Voigt remembers watching and reading the news often growing up.
Of all the daily depredations, it was the Zodiac coverage, he said, that most fired his imagination.
“It was scary,” Voigt told The Herald last month in a phone interview. “I know my mom was scared.”
His memories of the fear and suspense were rekindled about 15 years later when he saw an unsolved mystery show. “I wondered, ‘Why isn’t there a central location for people to go to talk about the case?’ I resolved to build a website.”
Voigt launched the site — zodiackiller.com — in 1998. It averages about 10 million hits per month from all over the world. “A large percentage (of hits) are from Asia and South America,” he said.
That was before Hollywood got involved. In March 2007, after the release of “Zodiac,” the film directed by David Fincher, Voigt’s site received 37 million hits in one month.
THE ZODIAC KILLER TERRORIZED the Bay Area in the late 1960s and early 1970s. He is known to have killed five people and wounded two others. His first victims were killed in Benicia.
The case remains unsolved. And it’s still of intense interest not only to Bay Area residents but to national and international audiences as well — for more than one reason, Voigt said.
“First, you have the backdrop of the late 1960s in San Francisco. It’s an amazing part of the country, even without the Zodiac. And then you have a villain out of a comic strip, and he was trying to help. This was a new thing.”
What also set the Zodiac apart from other serial killers, Voigt said, is that he was more of a “cerebral killer.” Killing was the “foundation of his challenge. It’s not as gross as Jack the Ripper. He wasn’t a raptor or into mutilation. But he seemed to have a brain.”
And he provided clues.
The Zodiac shot two Vallejo teens on Dec. 20, 1968 — Betty Lou Jensen, 16, and David Faraday, 17 — as they sat in Faraday’s parked car at a turnout on Lake Herman Road in Benicia, according to police reports. The killer’s other murder sites were Blue Rock Springs in Vallejo, Lake Berryessa and San Francisco.
But what has perhaps most intrigued casual and not-so-casual followers of the case is that Zodiac sent taunting letters and cipher codes to Bay Area newspapers and law enforcement entities.
Voigt — who has been featured in dozens of television shows revisiting the case, including A&E’s “Cold Case Files,” Fox’s “America’s Most Wanted” and the History Channel’s “MysteryQuest” — says this is one of the chief reasons discoveries are “being made every day” regarding the case.
A few years ago, a break in Voigt’s own research came when he finally tracked down Benicia resident Nancy Slover, one of only three people known to have heard the voice of the Zodiac.
In 1969, Slover was a 26-year-old dispatcher for the Vallejo Police Department. She stayed past her regular shift on July 4 to help the incoming dispatcher.
At 12:40 a.m. on July 5, 1969, Slover spoke directly with the Zodiac, who reported “a double murder” and told her things about the crime scene “only the perp would know,” she later said.
“I had tried for a long time to find Nancy Slover,” Voigt said. “I’d been told she was dead.” He didn’t know anything else about her aside from her name.
But that didn’t stop him. He began his search for Slover in 1998 and finally found her in 2006. “It turns out that someone who knew Arthur Lee Allen (a one-time suspect in the Zodiac case) had a link to Nancy Slover. I was thrilled to find her.
“She just kind of accepted that people didn’t care about what she had to say. She figured no one cared about what she had to say. She couldn’t have been further from the truth.”
Slover, now Slover-Earp, has invaluable evidence, Voigt said. “She actually talked to the Zodiac,” he said, calling her “a living piece of history.”
What’s more, Slover spoke to the killer under circumstances that were not life-threatening. “She could really focus on what he was saying. … She wasn’t in a position like the surviving victims. She was scared, but she was in a safe environment.”
Her experience, Voigt said, is “great evidence.”
In 2008, Voigt called Slover-Earp to play a recording of a man’s voice over the phone. It was the voice a suspect in the Zodiac case Voigt had recently obtained.
For nearly 40 years, Slover had lived with the voice of the killer in her head. When he played the audio tape over the phone for her, Voigt said, “I thought she was going to need medical assistance. I felt bad. It was almost like she was reliving it again.”
The tape was a recorded phone call of a man named Richard Gaikowski, who worked in the Bay Area during the 1960s and ’70s as a newspaper editor and reporter. The recording had been made of him as he was talking over the phone, said Voigt, who obtained the tape from a man who knew Gaikowski.
Slover-Earp said her friend, Judy, was visiting her from Florida when she listened to the tape. “(Judy) was watching me and Tom called like he did many times and said, ‘I have something for you to listen to.’ ‘Oh sure, go ahead, Tom.’ He played it and Judy said she actually thought some kind of tragedy had happened in my family — that something bad was happening. And I told Tom, ‘I just said, I can’t talk to you know.’
“So it physically affected me. My heart was pounding. I’m fair anyway, but she said I turned as white as a ghost. And I was shaking. I had no idea who I was listening to.”
Slover-Earp listened to the tape again that year during the filming of “MysteryQuest.” In the film, she is shown listening to the tape of Gaikowski’s voice. After hearing the tape repeatedly, she said she told the TV crew: “‘If you haven’t got what you are looking for by now, I’m not going to listen to that voice again,’ and they got that part on the interview. Not in those words — that was when the camera was off. But by the end of that show I was in tears.
“And this was 40-something years after that it’s still affected me. I’m not saying for sure that this is the guy. I’m just saying that’s what my brain said. It grabbed hold.
“When I talked to my neurologist about being able to identify this voice after so many years, he said anything that traumatizes you or changes your life in any way, your brain holds on to.”
“Holding on to” all things Zodiac is not an unfamiliar theme in American pop culture. Google “Zodiac killer” and lists of links can keep you busy for hours.
There are books, movies and countless other resources. Even the FBI, who did not directly investigate the case, has 1,037 pages on its website dedicated to Zodiac.
But for those closely involved with the case, the issue is more personal — and for some, traumatic.
Like Slover-Earp, fellow Benician Stella Borges “was bothered” for years by her affiliation with the case, her nephew Albert Losado told The Herald. In 1969, Borges, now deceased, “was a petite little thing with jet-black hair and fine skin and fine features,” said Losado, who lives in Vallejo. His aunt, then 70, “had the quietest voice. She had a fine way of speaking.”
The kind-hearted woman got in her car on the night of Dec. 20, 1969, to pick up her grandson at Benicia High School. As she drove from her ranch on Lake Herman Road, the headlights from her Oldsmobile swept like a spotlight over the now-famous first Zodiac murder scene.
Being the one to discover the bodies of Betty Lou Jensen and David Faraday weighed heavy on her heart, Losado said. She never wanted to talk about it — not an unusual reaction, experts say.
“Our brains don’t forget these things,” said Benicia clinical psychologist Cynthia G. Mitchell, Psy.D., in reference to traumatic life events.
Mitchell said that “typically we would define trauma as an event where we see our life is in danger.” It’s possible that when Slover spoke with the Zodiac killer in 1969 that “it could have felt for her, at that moment, her life was in danger. … He connected with her, and (possibly) that gave her a sense of what the other victims had gone through.”
It’s also possible, Mitchell added, that Zodiac’s voice — its intonation, its cadence — “really was imprinted deeply inside of her.”
Hearing a voice years later that she felt matched what she heard in 1969 could bring back that deep sense of fear, Mitchell said. The brain is very powerful.
“Even a smell can remind us (of something) and memory will come back as clear as day,” she said.
Voigt said his involvement in the case, though not traumatic, has taken him to dark places.
“I felt a lot of pressure in the early 2000s,” he said. “Having all these people, the victims’ families who thought I would solve the case. I took it too seriously. I was in a very bad place. There was a cloud over my head.
“I said, ‘I can’t live like this.’” Though still dedicated, Voigt said the case is no longer the main focus of his life.
But he still is probably among the foremost experts on the case, well-versed on the thousands of Zodiac suspects. And of them, three have been worth pursuing, he said.
One was Arthur Lee Allen, who died in 1992. In 2002, Allen’s DNA was compared to DNA from a letter confirmed to have been written by the Zodiac; the results were negative and he was exonerated.
Another suspect was referred to as “Sam”; even the California Department of Justice found him “compelling,” Voigt said. Sam’s DNA was collected from garbage and then compared to the Zodiac letter. He, too, was not a match.
The last, Voigt said, is Richard Gaikowski. “We were able to get DNA from a letter that originated from Richard,” he said. “MysteryQuest sent the evidence to San Francisco police and the San Francisco police refuse to do anything.”
Gaikowski was managing editor of the Martinez Morning News-Gazette — now the Martinez News-Gazette, The Benicia Herald’s sister paper — in 1965. He worked for other Bay Area newspapers, as well, including “Good Times” in San Francisco. He died of cancer on April 30, 2004.
Or, Voigt said, Zodiac could be someone else — someone who is still around.
“Of course, he could still be alive,” Voigt said. He also believes the killer could be brought to justice, whether dead or alive.
“There are still discoveries being made every day,” Voigt said, adding that the next e-mail he checks could contain the identity of the true Zodiac killer. And when he does find out, it probably won’t shock him, or anyone else.
“When this case is solved, people are going to slap themselves in the head.”
* * * * *
THE NIGHTMARE BEGINS
Vallejo man recalls night his aunt discovered first victims of Zodiac killer
By Bethany A. Monk
Stella Borges, a petite woman with jet-black hair and an aura of perpetual quietness, got into her Oldsmobile the evening of Dec. 20, 1968 to drive the spirally byway of Lake Herman Road.
Borges was headed that night to pick up her grandson, Danny, after his recital at Benicia High School.
It was a cold night — so cold, say those who remember it, you could see shadows of your own breath.
Stella put on her coat and climbed into her spacious car with her daughter, also Stella — or “Baby Stella,” as the family called her. She was teenaged Danny’s mother.
The pair drove the familiar curvy road that night amid the darkened hills ever-so-slightly illuminated by hints of moonlight. They left the Tony Borges Ranch, where the elder Stella lived with her husband in Vallejo, near the outskirts of Benicia. “Baby Stella” lived acroos the road with Danny and her husband in a ranch her dad, Tony, had built for her; they called it “Stella Ranch.”
There were no other neighbors, just the sounds of occasional cars traveling the scenic route between Benicia and Vallejo.
That night, Stella and her daughter drove the familiar curves in the road, passing Lake Herman. Less than a minute later, they came to a strong leftward curve where drivers had to slow down. On that curve was a turnout, the entrance to the Benicia Water Pumping Station that had long ago become a popular “lover’s lane” where young people parked on the gravel, gazed at the stars and did a little “necking.”
As the elder Stella, then in her 70s, drove past the turnout, “she saw the car with the headlights and the bodies of the people lying out there,” her nephew, Albert Losado, told The Herald last week. The women didn’t know it but they had just driven past the first known murder scene of the now-infamous Zodiac slayings.
Just moments before, two Vallejo teens — Betty Lou Jensen, 16, and David Faraday, 17 — had been shot and left to die on the gravel.
“There they were, laying on the right side (of the road),” Losado said. Faraday’s station wagon still had its lights on. The headlights from Stella Borges’s Oldsmobile swept over the empty car and the bodies on the gravel. And she panicked.
“She just took off and headed for Benicia as fast as she could honking her horn,” Losado said. When they got to Benicia, the elder Stella “started flashing her lights on and off … trying to get the attention of somebody.” Losado said his late aunt eventually found a law enforcement official and reported what she’d seen.
Earlier that year, Losado said, his aunt had reported seeing a strange man outside her ranch house a handful of times. The stranger would park his car in front of the house, which completely unnerved her, he said.
In his bestselling book, “Zodiac Unmasked,” Robert Graysmith reported that Stella Borges often saw a man outside her ranch. He would swim in the nearby creek. “The big man,” Graysmith wrote, “swam in the cold water and stood like an apparition at her gate.”
Losado told The Herald that his aunt, who died in 1973, would often see the man drive on Lake Herman Road. His stopping outside her house to stare at her happened more than once, he said.
“She would tell us that she would see this guy driving up and down the road, and I would hear from other people also that he was constantly seen out there on Lake Herman Road. I guess a few times he stopped and stared at her. Gave her the chills.”
In the military at the time, Losado, then 20, took great interest in the Zodiac case. He remembers once while on leave in the fall of 1969, when he and his brother, who had just brought him home at the end of Lake Herman Road, happened upon an eerie situation.
“On the way back (from picking me up), he’d come back down Lake Herman Road, the same way that we drove back home, and there was a log across the road down there in the hollow, down at the bottom as you’re coming up by the lake, by gate 10.
“And (my brother) says ‘Holy smokes. Don’t get out. Let me back up.’ So he backed all the way up the hill and we turned around and drove back to Vallejo the other way, cause this log was right there, and it wasn’t there before when he came down to get me.”
The log was near the murder scene Losado’s aunt had reported 11 months earlier. This happened only a few months after the Zodiac had called the Vallejo Police Department to report “a double murder” at Blue Rock Springs Park in Vallejo.
The brothers were worried.
“That’s why we didn’t get out of the car,” Losado said. “So my brother says, ‘Let’s just back up and get out of here.’
“So we got home and we called the police, and they said, ‘Oh, that’s probably nothing.’ They had no interest in it.”
But Losado and his brother did. “How could you say it was nothing? How did the dog-gone thing get there?”
That wasn’t the only peculiar thing that occurred at the time, he said.
At the family’s ranch on the other side of American Canyon, a man would often run around on their property shooting guns. When Losado or family members approached him, “He’d say, ‘Who are you, what do you want?’” Losado also remembers a ranch hand acquaintance who was checking on his cows at 4 in the morning on Lopes Road. “He turns around and some guy is standing right behind him. And the guy says the same thing: ‘Who are you, what do you want?’” The man tried to grab the ranch hand, who swung the round part of his hay hook. “The guy ran to the turnoff at Lopes Road, jumped in his car and took off,” Losado said.
Losado said it’s possible that these were random encounters. But given the strange nature of the case, he has always wondered.
He does know, however, that his kindhearted aunt — who lived with her husband in the ranch on Lake Herman Road from the 1930s to the late 1970s — was bothered for years by her discovery of the murder scene and her encounters with the man who would stare her down during his “visits.” So much so, she hardly every spoke about it, Losado said.
His cousin, the younger Stella, also had a real hard time talking about it, he said. Whenever he would question her about that night, “She just didn’t want to talk about it. She would shrug her shoulders and say, ‘I hope I never see him.’”
* * * * *
TRACKING A KILLER
Benicia resident Nancy Slover was one of only three people to hear the Zodiac’s voice
By Bethany A. Monk
The young woman, returning home shortly after 4 a.m., had nothing but the barren streets and the eerie quiet of morning to keep her company. She didn’t mind — usually, arriving home at that hour gave her some quiet time and a chance to catch up on housework.
In 1969, Benicia native Nancy Slover, a petite and striking 26-year-old with short hair and soft bangs, worked as a dispatcher for the Vallejo Police Department — then called a 3-5-5 operator. It was a job with long, and odd, hours, which had its advantages and disadvantages.
On the night and morning of Oct. 21-22, 1969, Slover had worked an overlapping shift. “We had a full staff,” said Slover, now Slover-Earp, from her Benicia home last month. “When you rotated, it was to help the evening shift people. When I got off at 4 in the morning, I stayed up, did housework, got the kids ready for school and then I went to bed.”
That’s what she did most of the time. Three months earlier, the young woman had taken a call at the Vallejo Police Department from a man who later became known as the Zodiac killer.
Shortly after Slover had received a call on Independence Day reporting gunshots at Blue Springs Rock Springs Park in Vallejo, another caller told the 3-5-5 operator he wanted to report “a double murder” at a “public park.”
“I said, ‘Yes sir, we have a report of a gun shots.’ Every time I asked a question, his voice would get just a little louder to cover mine.” He also told her things “only the perp would know” — adding that he had “killed those kids last summer,” a reference to the December 1968 murders of Betty Lou Jensen, 16, and David Faraday, 17, on Lake Herman Road.
The chilling encounter made Nancy Slover one of the very few people to encounter the man who would be known as the Bay Area’s most notorious serial killer. And 100 days later, Slover could not forget his voice — a voice that to this day, only she and two others have ever definitively heard.
As she was finally getting to bed the morning of Oct. 22, Slover caught a glimpse of the Jim Dunbar Show, a popular morning TV program. That morning a man claiming to be the Zodiac had called the show from an unknown location. But Slover knew it wasn’t him at all.
“I had listened to this voice on TV because my husband called me to come listen to it. I said, ‘That’s not him,’ and went to bed.”
Minutes after she rested her head on the pillow, however, the phone rang. It was Captain Wade Bird of the Vallejo Police Department.
“He asked me if I could be ready to go to San Francisco in an hour and I said, ‘What for? It’s six o’clock.’”
Bird wanted Slover to join him at the KGO-TV studio in San Francisco to listen to the voice of the man who had called the studio that morning — to see if it sounded like the Zodiac.
“I told Captain Bird, ‘I know, I heard the voice — it’s not him.”
Yet she still got up, got dressed and went to the studio. Joining her were David Slaight and Bryan Hartnell. The trio represented the only people known to have heard the voice of the Zodiac.
Hartnell, 20, had heard the voice of the killer less than a month earlier — when Zodiac stabbed him six times in the back with a 10- to 12-inch blade on the shoreline of Lake Berryessa.
Hartnell and Cecilia Shepard, 22, both students at Pacific Union College north of San Francisco, had been relaxing beneath a “postcard” beautiful sky, Hartnell said in an interview with CNN in March 2007. The two were gazing at the sky together when Shepard saw a man — wearing a strange costume and holding a gun — approaching them.
By Hartnell’s own account, he offered up his keys and wallet. The man didn’t take them. He conversed with the two for a while before tying them up with plastic clothesline.
Then he began to stab them.
He stabbed Hartnell first, six times in the back. Then he attacked Shepard, stabbing her 10 times — five in the front and five in the back. She died within 48 hours of the attack.
The attack had occurred around 6:15 p.m. About an hour later, Napa County police received a call from a man who claimed he was responsible for what happened to the two victims. The officer who took the call was David Slaight.
Weeks later, the Zodiac struck again, killing San Francisco cab driver Paul Stine with a single shot to the head.
Together at the studios of the Jim Dunbar Show, Slaight, Slover and Hartnell sat in a sound booth and listened carefully to a recording of the voice of the man claiming to be the killer.
The man said his name was “Sam” as he spoke via a phone call with both Dunbar and attorney Melvin Belli during live filming of the show. The caller told the men he had had headaches since he “killed a kid.” And he claimed he was the Zodiac killer.
Slover-Earp told The Herald last month that she, Slaight and Hartnell knew right away it wasn’t the Zodiac killer. The calls were traced to Napa State Hospital, and the voice was later determined to be that of mental patient Eric Weil.
After the shooting of Stine, the Zodiac would not strike again. His famous encrypted letters — to authorities as well as media — dried up and stopped altogether in the late 1970s.
Nearly 40 years after hearing his chilling voice that summer night in Vallejo, Slover-Earp would have a last brush with the infamous killer — hearing a voice so horribly similar to Zodiac’s that it brought her back to the night it happened.
In 2008, she participated in the filming of a documentary, “MysteryQuest,” about the Zodiac case. Hearing a recorded voice of a Zodiac suspect, “it still affected me. I’m not saying for sure that this is the guy,” Slover-Earp said. “I’m just saying that’s what my brain said. It grabbed hold.”
She listened to the recording more than once, finally telling the filmmakers: “‘If you haven’t got what you are looking for by now, I’m not going to listen to that voice again …’
“By the end of the show, I was in tears.”
* * * * *
VOICE OF A KILLER
Dispatcher recalls night she took call from man known as the Zodiac
By Bethany A. Monk
There was never a quiet night on the Vallejo police dispatch switchboard.
In 1969, dispatchers — then called 3-5-5 operators — had “multi-chores,” handling both police and fire emergencies. On top of that, only one person usually worked the night shift.
And on holiday weekends, said Benicia native Nancy Slover-Earp, operators often found themselves juggling even more duties.
Slover-Earp — then just Nancy Slover — was one of those 3-5-5 operators on the night of July 4-5, 1969. The attractive 26-year-old, a brunette sporting a bouffant with bangs, had decided to stay past her regular shift ended at 10:30 p.m. to help out amid a heavy volume of calls.
“I wasn’t supposed to be there,” she told The Herald last month from her Benicia home.
“We had eight incoming police lines, two incoming fire lines, and you had a dispatcher there who was to handle answering the phones, dispatching, setting priorities. And we had nobody in there telling us what to do.”
In fact, Slover-Earp said, they had nothing but their eyes and ears. “We had no taping equipment. Of course, no computers. At that time we didn’t even have a CLETS system, which is California Law Enforcement Teletype System.
“If we needed information on a vehicle we had to radio from Vallejo to Sacramento.”
Staying on so the other dispatcher could handle traffic calls, it didn’t take long for Slover-Earp to get her first call.
She’ll never forget it.
At 12:10 a.m., a report came in of gunshots in a Vallejo park.
“It was teenagers, and they reported gunshots being fired at Blue Rock Springs,” Slover-Earp recalled.
Thirty minutes later, she took a call that still haunts her.
“He called at 12:40. I knew he was (the perp),” she said, referring to the now-famous killer. “He was telling me things that nobody but the perp could know. We were on the scene, ambulances were there, policemen were there.
“And when he called he said, ‘I want to report a double murder.’ I said, ‘Yes sir, we have a report of gunshots.’ Every time I asked a question, his voice would get just a little louder to cover mine. He said, ‘If you’ll go one mile east on Columbus Parkway to the public park … you’ll find they were shot with a 9 millimeter Luger.’”
Slover-Earp said his referring to the area as “the public park” was curious because “people called it Blue Rock Springs.”
The caller kept talking.
“‘I also killed those kids last year.’”
Slover-Earp knew he meant the unsolved murders of Vallejo teens Betty Lou Jensen, 16, and David Faraday, 17. Both were shot around 11 p.m. Dec. 20, 1968, on a stretch of gravel along Lake Herman Road in Benicia.
Jensen was dead at the scene, but Faraday was taken to a nearby hospital before being pronounced dead.
The caller’s last words: “He said, ‘Goodbye,’ in a slow, exaggerated voice,” Slover-Earp said, lowering her voice and elongating the syllables.
“He was having fun with me because I was female, I believe.”
More than 40 years later, the shooting at Blue Rocks Springs Park of 22-year-old Darlene Ferrin and 19-year old Mike Mageau remains unsolved, as do the murders of both Faraday and Jensen.
Police reports later indicated Ferrin was shot five times, and Mageau was shot four times by a 9 mm semi-automatic pistol at 11:55 p.m. on July 4, 1968. There were no witnesses.
Reports state that about 45 minutes after the attack, “A man called the Vallejo Police Department from a phone booth blocks away from the department headquarters reporting the murder and claiming responsibility for both the Lake Herman Road and Blue Rock Springs attacks,” according to http://www.zodiackiller.com.
On July 31, 1969, three Bay Area newspapers — the Vallejo Times-Herald, the San Francisco Examiner, and the San Francisco Chronicle — received letters from a person claiming he killed Ferrin and the teens on Lake Herman Road. In these letters, he included “facts,” as he called them, that only he and the police knew.
The letters “affected us all,” Slover-Earp said.
Born and raised in Benicia, she said she considers herself “a small town girl.”
Even after the murders of Ferrin and the two teens in Benicia, “we often wandered on the Lake Herman Road,” she said. “And that spot hasn’t changed.”
—With additional reporting by Jim Lessenger
* * * * *
BENICIA MAN RECALLS SLAIN TEEN
Eagle Scout David Faraday was one of first known victims of Zodiac killer
By Jim Lessenger and Bethany A. Monk
The Benicia Herald
He only knew him for a week, but David Faraday was the kind of guy a young Bruce Quandt “wanted to be.”
“We saw him every day at the waterfront,” Quandt said of his days as a tenderfoot at Boy Scout Camp Silverado, in Amador County. Faraday was an Eagle Scout had the respected job of manning the camp’s waterfront.
Quandt, 11 or 12 at the time, said he saw the older Scouts as role models.
“He was an Eagle Scout and he was what I wanted to be. I thought, ‘I could do this when I get older,’” he said of Faraday’s job at the waterfront. “He was someone who was high up on the scale — he was the boss of the waterfront. … He and the rest of the staff were impressive with their uniforms and badges all over the place.”
Though Quandt only knew the teen during the one week at camp, he said Faraday left an impression on him. Faraday, he said, was outgoing, friendly.
Quandt, a Benicia native who is now manager of the Maintenance Department at AMPORTS in the Benicia Arsenal, doesn’t remember exactly where he was when he heard of Faraday’s death, but assumes he first heard it on the news — and that he didn’t know at first the slain teen was his waterfront role model.
On Dec. 20, 1968, the bodies of Faraday, 17, and his date, Betty Lou Jensen, 16, were found on a gravel turnout along Lake Herman Road in Benicia. Jensen was pronounced dead at the scene, but Faraday was still breathing when police found him. He was not pronounced dead until later that night at the hospital.
The murders were the first known among the now-famous series of killings that terrorized the Bay Area in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The Zodiac, who has never been identified, is believed to have killed five people and wounded two others.
Quandt remembers hearing about the murder the day after it occurred. “Benicia was a small town then,” he said. “Everyone knew about it. Things like that didn’t happen here.”
In the eighth grade at the time, Quandt recalled feeling shocked at the deaths. Faraday was in Boy Scout Troop 12 in Vallejo; Quandt was a member of Benicia’s Troop 7.
“At our next meeting, the Scoutmaster talked about the murders and the loss of the two young people who we all knew,” Quandt said.
He said the turnout on Lake Herman Road was a common and famous place for local teens from Benicia and Vallejo to park for some “necking,” but after the murders, “Nobody wanted to go out there. It was even more isolated then than it is now, and only one or two cars went down the road in a day.”
The scene of the second set of murders, at Blue Rock Springs Park in Vallejo, was much like the Lake Herman site, Quandt recalled.
At the time, Columbus Parkway was just a two-lane road bordered by eucalyptus trees. People who visited the park left their cars against a dirt embankment alongside the road.
Quandt said the Blue Rock Springs Park murder scene was also a common site for teenagers to park at night — and that it also stopped being used by local teens after the killings.
The second set of murders caused the Scouts of Troops 7 and 12, as well as the teens attending local schools, to wonder what was going on, Quandt said — a feeling reflected throughout the communities of Benicia and Vallejo.
“There were all sorts of rumors flying around,” Quandt said. “There were kids who said that the murderer lived in town on I Street, and that he was in the merchant marine.”
Quandt recalls that high school students in Vallejo and Benicia who knew Jensen and Faraday started a reward fund.
Then the Zodiac struck again. The third murder, at Lake Berryessa, came perhaps as the biggest shock because residents knew “there was something going on,” Quandt recalled. It was about that time that the name “Zodiac” entered the vocabulary of students at Benicia High. “Everyone was talking about it.”
Quandt’s mother, a schoolteacher in town, met with police. “The police briefed the teachers to look out for a man wearing a hood, somewhat like the military used to fight aircraft fires,” he said.
The situation then escalated after the Zodiac made written threats to attack school buses in the Bay Area. Quandt recalls traveling to junior varsity football games with police officers on each bus. “We had a police guard with us every time we traveled to out-of-town games.”
His theory of the murderer’s identity? Quandt shrugged. “Who knows?”
But he does know — and remembers well — the impact the slayings had, for a brief time, on small-town Benicia life.
“The Zodiac killings were so out of the ordinary in a place like Benicia,” he said. “Benicia was a small town. Stuff like this didn’t happen here. We grew up not locking the door, and that didn’t change.”
Even a serial killer couldn’t alter Benicians’ lifestyles for long. After the killings, the milkman still came by and entered the Quandt family home to put milk in their refrigerator three times a week, he said.
“That was life in Benicia.”
Part 3 in The Herald’s five-part series will appear April 11.
* * * * *
THE HERALD COVERS THE ZODIAC CASE
In addition to the first article written on the Zodiac murders of Betty Lou Jensen and David Faraday — a retelling of the known events that ran Dec. 26, 1968 — The Benicia Herald ran four more front-page stories on the Lake Herman slayings between January 1969 and December 1970.
The first of these, on Jan. 2, 1969, bore the headline, “No clues in double murders.” Following is the complete text of the article, without redaction or amendment:
“Sheriff’s Det. Sgt. Leslie B. Lundblad asked this week, that any person who drove on any portion of Lake Herman Road Friday, December 20, between 9 and 11:30 p.m., to contact him as all information is needed to help authorities to capture the killer who shot to death two teenagers with a .22 caliber automatic rifle. Lundblad said he is interested in any other vehicle seen on that road, any person, any shots heard, in fact any activity that may have occurred. Lundblad, who has spent his holidays trying to solve the murders of David L. Faraday, 17, and Betty Lou Jensen, 16, continued his investigation today.
“He declined to say whether he had a prime suspect in the double slaying. And he continued to rule out sex and robbery motives as far as evidence so far revealed is concerned.
“He did say witnesses placed the young high school couple, who had been dating for only two weeks, at the murder scene for about an hour before the slaying. But, he wants more information about what occurred just off Lake Herman Road that may be pertinent to the case.
“Lundblad, Saturday said he had requested a number of residents of the general area where the killings occurred, to turn over small caliber guns to him.”
The third article on the murders ran in The Herald on Jan. 16, 1969. It read:
“The killer of Betty Lou Jensen and David L. Faraday soon may have a price on his head.
“Vallejo and Hogan High School students are setting up a reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the slayer of the teen-aged couple.
“Representatives of both schools have organized a reward fund. They hope to raise $1,000 or more. Committee members and other volunteers will canvass school, community clubs, organizations and business firms and will make door-to-door requests for contributions.
“Other fund-raising activities such as car washes and candy sales are planned. The students also will meet with the Vallejo City Council for assistance in the drive. They have cleared the legal aspects of the drive with the collections and Permits Division of the Vallejo Police Department.
“If the reward money is not claimed after one year, it will be used in a memorial scholarship.
“Jim Gaul, a Hogan student, originated the drive.
Other planning committee members are Jackie Rasmusson, Pat Scarpa, Janet Owen and Donna Sexton all of Hogan, and Amanda Green and Renee Jones, both of Vallejo High.”
On April 3, 1969, The Herald ran its fourth — and by far most comprehensive — article on the Lake Herman Road murders titled, “Teenager’s slayer still at large.” It concentrated on the impact the case had on the families of the victims and police who investigated the crime.
The article, bylined by Francis Flaherty, began, “More than three months have passed since Vallejo teenagers David Faraday and Betty Lou Jensen were sadistically gunned to death on the lonely Lake Herman Road a few miles east of the city outskirts.
“They were on their first date (the first one Betty had ever been permitted in 16 years) and it ended in their deaths.
“Now, nearly 100 days later, sheriff’s investigators concede they are only a bit nearer to the solution of the crime than they were when they arrived on the scene of the grisly slaying that cold Friday night in December.
“Sheriff’s Sgt. Leslie Lundblad worked nearly around the clock in the first days following the murders, attempting by some means to procure the clue that would lead him to the killer. He hasn’t found it.
“‘There isn’t a day that goes that I don’t work on it,’ the veteran investigator declared. ‘I’ve got a case file about four inches thick — the information I have been able to turn up so far I have in a fairly sizable evidence locker.’ The horrifying crime may well be the most celebrated murder mystery currently under investigation in California, and Lundblad has received aid and offers of it from a score of law enforcement agencies in the state.
“Those which have given him particularly important measure of support include the Vallejo police department, Napa police department, his own sheriff’s department, the Benicia police department, the Napa and Sonoma county sheriff’s department, and the Fairfield police department.
“‘An investigator in San Diego forwarded me information on the case on which he was working which had marked similarity to these two killings, but there is no connection,’ Lundblad recalled.
“In the course of his investigation, Lundblad has filed reports of interviews he and Deputy Russ Butterbach have had with at least 50 persons, many of them friends of the pair.
“‘I guess we’ve talked to at least 100 people on various matters, some of them several times,’ he added.
“But for all the searching and probing, he has yet to come up with one tenable suspect, and this might well be because the murders have all the aspects of being motiveless, and possibly were committed by a hopelessly deranged person.
“The youngsters’ parents are in complete agreement with the theory. They can think of no one who conceivably hated their children to an extent that would result in cold-blooded murder.
“Cold-blooded it was: David was killed with a single slug behind his left ear. Betty Lou was shot five times in the back as she tried to flee the assailant.
“‘It’s one of those things that just leaves me speechless,’ said David’s mother Mrs. Jean Faraday.
“‘I have been able to think of nothing that would point to David. He was easy going and friendly, never seemed to have trouble in school.’
“The youth, a senior at Vallejo High, planned to make teaching his career. He was extremely active in Scouting, and is a member of the Interact Club at the high school.
“‘Last summer he discovered girls,’ Mrs. Faraday reminisced, ‘but he had not done much dating — for one thing, he would use the car only when I didn’t need it to go to work.’ She is employed in the passenger reservations department at Travis Air Force Base.
“She said that when he did take the car for a date, ‘he was all about observing curfews’ (12:30 on Friday nights).
“‘So, I didn’t think a thing about it that night; I was asleep when the phone rang at 3 a.m….’
“Mrs. Faraday conversed with total composure, although the wounds haven’t healed and won’t.
“The same was true of the Jensens.
“Nothing in his 21 years as an Army officer had prepared Col. Verne Jensen for the shock of his younger daughter’s death, however.
“He retired in 1963, decided to remain in Vallejo and now is employed as supply officer for the General Services Administration in San Francisco.”
“‘I don’t feel vindictive,’ he mused, ‘but I am apprehensive. I feel some nut is on the loose.’
“His words could have been uttered by Mrs. Faraday, who said her principal concern was the killer be found was based not on vengeance but on her fears there may be further victims.
“‘And, he’ll find it easier the next time,’ she reflected.
“She said that the other three Faraday children, Debra, Robert and Steven, ‘have handled this situation very well, I think. Presumably they have long and happy lives ahead of them, and they’ve got to live them …”
“The Jensens’ lives remain clouded by the tragedy.
“‘We’d like to have her back,” Mrs. Jensen said wistfully. ‘It took a lot to bring her this far.’
“At Hogan High, Betty Lou was an excellent student. An artist, she was hopeful of winning an art scholarship and she did extremely well in several forms, some of which were displayed as I talked with the family.
“All three shook their heads negatively when asked if they had any ideas as to the perpetrator.
“‘We know he’s a nut, but what kind of nut?’ Mrs. Jensen said.
“She added she was dubious about whether anything worthwhile could be gained from turning the spotlight on the murder case.
“‘But, we’ll do anything we can to help,’ she declared.
“As for the investigative progress, Lundblad said there has been considerably more than might be gleaned from news reports of it.
“‘If I talk to a suspect, I’d know positively whether he was there that night,’ he said cryptically.
“Beyond that, he would not comment.”
The fifth Herald article on the Lake Herman Road murders appeared on Dec. 23, 1970, two years after the incident: “New suspects are linked in Lake Herman slayings.” It was the first time the name “Zodiac” was mentioned.
“The maniacal boast of Zodiac, the psychopathic ‘horror-scope killer,’ that he shot to death two Vallejo teenagers on Lake Herman Road two years ago today has been challenged. Local authorities have obtained statements from two persons implicating another man and his accomplice as the slayers. But officers lack sufficient evidence to charge the men, later imprisoned with the murders. For example, the death gun, a .22 caliber automatic pistol, reportedly was hurled into the Bay.
“The primary witness against the pair is a member of a motorcycle gang. His story is substantiated by a young woman. But neither their identities nor those of the accused killers, for obvious reasons, can be disclosed. Officers hope to ‘make the case’ in the future.
“1 — Zodiac is a suspect in the sadistic beating-slashing murder of a Riverside City College coed, Cheri Jo Bates, 18, on Oct. 30, 1966, on the college campus.
“2 — In a startling ‘coincidence,’ Zodiac is the known slayer of another Riverside coed. She was Cecilia Shepherd, 22, of nearby Loma Linda. But she was fatally stabbed at Lake Berryessa on Sept. 27, 1969.
“3 — In another surprising ‘coincidence,’ Zodiac kidnapped and threatened to kill a young mother and her baby who lived in San Bernardino, just nine miles northeast of Riverside last March 22. But this crime was committed north of Modesto, while the woman was driving from San Bernardino to the Bay Area, after Zodiac trailed her in his car. She later escaped.
“Zodiac definitely was placed on the Riverside City College campus by a gory poem he scratched into a study desk in that institution’s library. Miss Bates had gone from that library to her death. The State Bureau of Investigation and Identification confirmed that the writing is Zodiac’s. He signed it with the initials ‘rh.’
“The theory held by a number of lawmen is that Zodiac either was in the military, studying at the college, or went into the military soon after the murder. Because a two-year gap occurred between the Riverside slaying and the Vallejo murders, and Zodiac may have served a hitch or two overseas.
“There are at least three other reasons it is believed Zodiac was in the military:
“1. He wore flight line boots, such as worn by aircraft maintenance crewmen, at Lake Berryessa.
“2. The possibility he was assigned to a military installation in the Bay Area, permitting him to familiarize himself with Vallejo, Lake Berryessa and San Francisco.
“3. The knowledge of cryptology he exhibited in fashioning his cipher messages suggested he had studied cryptology in a military school.”
* * * * *
FORMER BENICIA POLICE CHIEF REFLECTS ON INFAMOUS MURDERS
Pierre Bidou, first officer to the scene of grisly ’68 slayings, talks about Bay Area’s most notorious unsolved mystery
By Bethany A. Monk and Jim Lessenger
The Benicia Herald
The chill of the winter air was so fierce the night Benicia police Sgt. Pierre Bidou and Steve Armenta, a special agent with the Bureau of Narcotics, were called to Lake Herman Road, they could see clouds of their own breath. Besides the wind, the only sound was the crunch of their footsteps along the frost-covered, frozen mud.
It was just five days before Christmas, 1968, when Bidou, 28, and Armenta, 31, got a call shortly after 11:15 p.m. regarding a “car and a body” on the side of the road, just inside Benicia city limits. The two officers arrived on the scene a few minutes later.
The timing was remarkable. The officers had just participated in a narcotics raid at a building at the Lake Herman parking area and had driven back to town with suspects in the back of their cruiser. Perhaps, they thought, they had seen a car at the turnout. Maybe there were two. They couldn’t be completely sure.
On a dark turnout along the side of the road, the officers, wearing heavy winter coats, followed the path of their flashlights and their unmarked police car’s headlight. They found the body of a girl face-down on the ground between a bank slope and a parked Rambler station wagon pointing east toward Vallejo.
“It was obvious she was trying to run,” Bidou said of the girl, who had five entry wounds in a tight grouping to her right upper back.
Inside the car, the officers found a boy in the passenger’s seat who appeared as if “he was trying to get out” of the car. Bidou remembers seeing the shattered glass of the car window, pierced by a bullet. More poignantly, he also remembers that the boy was still breathing.
The officers immediately called an ambulance. The girl, Betty Lou Jensen, 16, was dead at the scene, but the boy, David Faraday, 17, was taken to a nearby hospital before being pronounced dead on arrival.
“It looked to us like the guy shot the boy and then went after the girl when she ran. They he returned to finish off the boy,” Bidou said.
The two teens had been on their first date together — and Betty Lou’s first ever, according to later reports. They had met at Hogan High School and quickly fell for each other.
For Bidou, who still resides in Benicia, the homicide scene was an anomaly. He had been working in investigations for just a year. He’d seen plenty of traffic accidents, but this was his first homicide.
“This was a different ballgame for us, and for the (Solano County) Sheriff’s department,” he said.
The sheriff’s department sent some of its best investigators to the scene and, Bidou said, became the official lead agency because of the location of the crime scene. At that time the site was clearly outside the Benicia city limits.
But despite the best law enforcement minds in Solano County — and, eventually, the Bay Area and beyond — working on the case, after more than 40 years and countless investigations and hours it remains unsolved. And that has Bidou angry.
“It’s the only case I didn’t solve in my career,” he said. “We speak for the victims, for the innocents who were killed and their families, and I feel we failed them. I don’t like to fail.”
Bidou, now 72, believes if law enforcement had had access to the kind of technology prevalent today, the Zodiac — who killed at least five people and possible four times that number — would have been brought to justice. “Today, the crime scene people would have taken that place apart, grain by grain,” Bidou said.
“There was no DNA (to test), but I’m convinced if we would have had the technology today this would not have gone unsolved. I’m totally convinced of that.
“Where is he now? I go back to the same three theories: he’s either incarcerated, he’s passed away, or he’s just quit killing.”
When asked if the Zodiac left calling cards at the other murder scenes, Bidou said, “I think that he made it clear — not so much in leaving a calling card, but in his letters to the newspaper — that he gave enough information to leave a calling card, meaning that he gave enough information on the crime to prove that he had to have been there.
“Look at what we’re doing with DNA today,” he said. “He could have left his hand print on a car. Casts of footprints were taken. They were real partial. But were they left by him?”
“In those days, if you’re on a hunting trip looking for two kids to kill, that’s where you’d go.”
Walking the crime scene on a recent February afternoon, Bidou pointed to the gate, the embankments, and the land. “It’s the same,” he said, “except back then there wasn’t gravel. It was just frozen mud. Everything else is like it was. Whoever did this knew the territory and knew this was a famous place for kids to park.”
Bidou kicked the gravel. “We weren’t the lead agency. If we were the lead agency, would we have done things differently? I’d like to think so.” He said investigators from Solano County, Vallejo, and Napa County left no stone unturned. They checked thousands of suspects and theories.
The Zodiac killer’s other confirmed victims, according to published reports include:
• Darlene Ferrin, 22, and Mike Mageau, 19. Each was shot — Ferrin five times and Mageau four times — with a 9mm semi-automatic pistol on July 4, 1969 at about 11:55 p.m. in the parking lot of Blue Rock Springs Park on the Columbus Parkway between Benicia and Vallejo. Mageau survived the attack; Ferrin did not.
• Cecelia Shepard, 22, and Bryan Hartnell, 20. Both were stabbed with a 10- to 12-inch knife at about 6:15 p.m. on Sept. 27, 1969 as they were relaxing on a remote shoreline of Lake Berryessa. Shepard was stabbed 10 times and died; Hartnell was stabbed six times and lived.
• Paul Stine, a 29-year-old cab driver, was killed at about 9:55 p.m. when he was shot once in the head with a 9mm semi-automatic pistol at the northeast corner of Washington and Cherry streets in the upscale Presidio Heights neighborhood of San Francisco.
The Zodiac is also known for his letters sent to newspapers such as the Vallejo Times-Herald, the San Francisco Chronicle, the San Francisco Examiner and others, from 1969 to 1978. Some carried cryptic and sophisticated ciphers.
Bidou has been telling the Benicia side of the Zodiac story for 40 years and said he doesn’t tire of it. “It still has a lot of interest.” He consulted on several of the books and motion pictures on the Zodiac murders and keeps a collection of them at his home.
“I would like to see in my lifetime — but probably won’t — see it resolved. I’d like to see the person identified. And stranger things have happened.
“I take it personally. He should have been caught. This guy outsmarted law enforcement. Every time he sent a letter to (law enforcement) he was rubbing it in our face.”
Gazing around the crime scene where it all started, Bidou acknowledged that the killer had a “comfort zone” that included Lake Herman Road, the Columbus Parkway, Vallejo, and Lake Berryessa. “For about a year we had plainclothes investigators in unmarked cars checking out the people who used the road to get home from the refineries in Benicia and Martinez.”
Bidou served on the Benicia Police Department until 1992. Seventeen of his years with the department were spent as chief of police. Armenta was killed in the line of duty during an undercover narcotics operation in Benicia in 1973, Bidou said.
His killer was convicted, Bidou said, and went to prison.
The Case of the Zodiac
A Timeline of Events
December 20, 1968
Lake Herman Road, dirt turn-out for a gated dirt road. David
Faraday, 17, shot to death; Betty Lou Jensen, 16, shot to death.
• Dec. 26, 1968: Benicia Herald article: “Teenagers found shot near pumping station in Lake Herman area.”
• Jan. 2, 1969: Benicia Herald: “No clues in double murders.”
• Jan. 16, 1969: Benicia Herald: “Offer of reward in two killings.”
• April 3, 1969: Benicia Herald: “Teenagers’ slayer still at large.”
July 4, 1969
Blue Rock Springs Park, parking area. Darlene Ferrin, 22, shot to death. Mike Mageau, 19, shot and wounded. He lives.
A man calls the Vallejo Police Department from a phone booth blocks away from the department headquarters reporting the murder and claiming responsibility for both the Lake Herman Road and Blue Rock Springs attacks.
• July 31, 1969: The San Francisco Examiner, The Chronicle, and the Vallejo Times-Herald receive letters from a person claiming to be the killer in both attacks.
• Aug. 4, 1969: In a letter to the Examiner, the killer uses the greeting, “This is the Zodiac speaking.” The letter contains a cipher code.
• Aug. 8, 1969: Donald and Bettye Harden crack the cipher code. The code is a statement that the Zodiac enjoys killing.
September 27, 1969
Lake Berryessa in Napa. Cecilia Shepard, 22, stabbed to death. Bryan Hartnell, 20, stabbed but survives.
Hartnell describes a hooded costume with a Zodiac symbol. Written on Hartnell’s car door: “Vallejo 12-20-68, 7-4-69, Sept 27-69-6:30 by knife.”
October 11, 1969
The intersection of Washington and Cherry streets in San Francisco. Just before 10 p.m., Yellow Cab driver Paul Stine, 29, is shot and killed.
• Oct. 13, 1969: The Chronicle receives a letter from the Zodiac containing a portion of Stine’s bloodied shirt.
• Nov. 8, 1969: A greeting card and envelope sent to the Chronicle claiming to be from the Zodiac contains a fourth cipher, 340 symbols long. To this day, the cipher has not been solved.
• Nov. 9, 1969: Zodiac sends a six-page letter to the Chronicle, claiming seven victims.
• Dec. 20, 1969: Zodiac sends a one-page letter to Melvin Belli, San Francisco attorney. A piece of Stine’s shirt was sent with it.
• April 20, 1970: The Zodiac sends a two-page letter to the Chronicle containing a cipher, bomb diagram and threat against school buses.
• June 26, 1970: The Zodiac sends a one-page letter with a map, claiming he shot a man in a parked car.
• July 24, 1970: The Zodiac sends a one-page letter and envelope, claiming he burned a woman’s car.
• July 26, 1970: The Zodiac sends a five-page letter to the Chronicle and Vallejo Times-Herald, claiming he will torture his “slaves” and give a list of victims.
• Dec. 23, 1970: Benicia Herald article: “New suspects are linked in Lake Herman slayings.”
• March 13, 1971: The Zodiac sends a letter to the Los Angeles Times.
• Jan. 29, 1974: Letter from the Zodiac referencing “The Exorcist,” a motion picture.
• Feb. 14, 1974: In a card with envelope, the Zodiac talks about the SLA — the Symbionese Liberation Army, a violent radical terrorist group famous for the kidnapping of Patty Hearst.
• May 6, 1974: Postcard from the Zodiac referencing the movie “Badlands.”
• July 8, 1974: One-page letter from the Zodiac comparing himself to the “Red Phantom.”
• April 24, 1978: One-page letter from the Zodiac stating, “I’m back with you.” This is the last documented letter from the killer.
• June 19, 1978: San Francisco police request a review of the case from the FBI Behavioral Science Unit.
SOURCES: The Benicia Herald archives and the FBI case files, available at the agency’s Web site.