There is a difference between clues and evidence, and not understanding this often leads the amateur (or incompetent) detective astray. I am never closer to throttling an attorney than when I have discussed a juicy clue and they dismiss it with “it’s not evidence!” No indeed. But that’s not the point. Clues often lead to evidence upon investigation, but such a dismissive attitude always thwarts investigation.
Most of the reason why famous cold cases such as The ZODIAC exist is because an original investigator didn’t follow clues. He dismissed them. This louses up the chain of information for the other detectives, and for all those who come after.
It was something as minor as the type of taillights on the killer’s car that led me to my suspect, and in turn this led me to realize how he had been turned in to the police back in 1969 before the crime spree was even concluded. Had the original detective followed the clues, rather than the evidence, he would have understood even more why The ZODIAC’s one strike in San Francisco was in the location where it took place. It was the one area he knew.
The ZODIAC’s Welsh father gave him the reddish brown in his hair, but his stepfather and German mother gave him a Midwest upbringing. He was an honor student. He later attended school in San Francisco and then a few years later joined the Air Force.
He went from enlisted status to officer training quickly. He had incredible eyesight and aim. There are 3 levels of marksman in the military: marksman, sharpshooter and expert. He was expert. Not in a rifle. In something harder. He was expert in small arms. This required averaging a number of “head” shots on a target or number of bulls eyes.
Perhaps this pudgy honor student, with a dark sense of humor, had not impressed his fellow classmates in high school with his features. But he was losing his flabby figure now. Though he would remain a big, stout man, the baby face was becoming a bit more angular and sinister.
With his chunky frame, he wasn’t destined for a pilot. He was a good instructor and good educator and remained in such a capacity in Texas for most of his enlistment.
But his career and enlistment were cut short. Meningitis swept Lackland AFB. There were levels of severity of the disease among those who contracted it. About 12 died, but many others were infected. Along with many others he had been transferred to Amarillo AFB in an effort to spare them from contamination. A number of things took place and soon he found himself in the hospital. Though he was a promising officer, and this was the Vietnam War, his enlistment was terminated at the hospital and he was separated. He was 25 years old.
He returned to his beloved Bay Area. He, like so many Midwesterners of the time, had adopted the city of San Francisco. But it was not the city he knew in the 1950s or early 1960s. He had entered the Air Force before Berkeley’s riots. Now he returned during the Summer of Love.
He was a strange amalgam that didn’t fit in. He was too old to be a hippie, too young to be the establishment. He was terminated from a promising career and now had to find work. His frame and tour of duty would make some level of law enforcement an option.
Between the Summer of Love and December 1968 he kicked about. He knew the East Bay Area to some extent, but there really isn’t much to know about this area. It’s industrial and commuter areas with lots of back roads. He had a general knowledge, but this was for some hunting and fishing, and not much of that. He preferred the theater. Business would draw him away, further east.
But he knew enough of the East and North Bay’s back roads. When he turned killer, that one impulsive moment in December 1968, he was an hour from home. This day would remain with him. This moment on Lake Herman Road, a main back road between two highways, between East Bay and North Bay. To this area he would return in July 1969, 7 months later to begin his publicity game of death.
For those who could see him, he must have been a strange sight. At 27 years old, he wore old fashioned 1950s wool pleated pants. He wore a contemporary sport jacket called a Derby of San Francisco. As an officer he never had to butch his hair in the Air Force. He still had his old wavy stylized hair from the early 1960s. It was out of fashion now, too. One bit of his Air Force days came with him. His pair of Wing Walker shoes. They were issued to all Air Force personnel, and since he had remained at the main training bases, he had more than one pair by separation.
How did this man become The ZODIAC Killer?
Even more so, how did he escape all these years? Was it merely his ingenuity to drive large distances from the crime scenes? The clues were always there. The clues always said he wasn’t too familiar with the general area. He didn’t even know the name of Vallejo’s famous Blue Rock Springs Park. Rather he tried to give directions, to lead the police to his latest victim. But his directions were terrible.
But he knew some things about police jurisdictions. He knew shooting ranges. He knew Presidio Heights.
The attack at Lake Berryessa is considered the apotheosis of The ZODIAC Killer’s style. He wore that elaborate, theatrical hood. But it was also his greatest mistake. His stylized hair was recognized. Footprint impressions not only confirmed his Air Force Wing Walker shoes, they confirmed his heavy weight at around 210 to 220 pounds. For a man under 6 foot this made him a gorilla-like Thespian.
San Francisco was another mistake. He didn’t expect to be seen in this quiet upscale neighborhood. But he was. He wore those same odd and obsolete baggy pleated wool pants, that same contrasting casual modern Derby. But now he had on glasses and he had gotten a crew cut.
It had only been a couple of weeks. But though the stylized hair was gone, all the hallmarks of the same man who killed so dramatically at Lake Berryessa remained.
But something happened in his favor here. The famous police composite would be inspired by young witnesses who saw the killer from the angle of an upstairs window. This made his face look more angular. Darkness also helped conceal how pudgy he still was. But there was no question this was the same heavy set, theatrical killer as at Lake Berryessa. He would mail in pieces of the victim’s bloody shirt and brag that he was the killer. The printing would match his earlier boastful letters.
In HORRORSCOPE I will deliver the body of The ZODIAC. The soul? It takes more to get at the soul. Why he killed, why he played such a boastful game about it, and why he stopped. Was he a reluctant killer? Was the terror campaign a ruse to cover some other motive? Were the deaths necessary in some greater scheme or ritual? The questions may not seem as important after the killer’s hood is removed. To unmask The ZODIAC is to reveal more than the soul of the killer. It is to isolate the pudgy, insecure madman from the pomp of his publicity. This will destroy the soul. The result is an empty mask devoid of any substance of the theatrical master controller ZODIAC that he created from dark shadows. It leaves us with his true image, the one he drew for himself in the cowardly barbarity of his crimes.
Jack the Ripper is the most famous serial killer in history. After him is The ZODIAC. The Ripper got away. The ZODIAC won’t thanks to HorrorScope.