Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Old police reports may shed new light on Zodiac murders

by Michael Martin with Kortnie Ford,  Columbia College Dept of Criminal Justice and Forensic Science

Between 1966 and 1969, a serial murderer known as the Zodiac killer terrorized California. Despite intense law enforcement and media scrutiny, few clues to the killer’s identity or motives have ever emerged.

Now, old police reports may shed new light on characteristics common to the victims.

Collected for nearly a decade at a unique online repository for information about the case,, the reports -- from Napa, Vallejo, and Solano County police and sheriff departments -- reveal that before they were murdered, sometimes within days or weeks, each of the Zodiac's four known or suspected female victims had broken off a relationship or rebuffed the advances of a male admirer in favor of another male partner, and each breakup involved public arguments or witnessed threats.

What's more, in the three murders involving male-female couples, the female victim was the “older woman” in either her former or current relationship.

Experts say the similarities suggest the killer may have known more about his victims than has previously been assumed, and may not have chosen them entirely at random.

"The similarities are very intriguing and worth taking a second look at," said Sheryl McCollum, founder and director of the Cold Case Investigative Research Institute at Bauder College in Atlanta. "Similarities between victims are often telling about the killer. I do not believe in coincidences—much less four of them. Therefore, the victims all having had a breakup or male stalker becomes something that may need to be re-investigated."

Discovered during research for a story about the first public allegations in the Zodiac murders -- when, beginning in 1981, retired government librarian and true crime author Gareth S. Penn accused U.C. Berkeley public policy professor Michael H. O'Hare of the crimes in a series of articles and two books -- the findings were presented at the Midwest Criminal Justice Association annual conference in Chicago and the Southern Criminal Justice Association annual conference in Charleston, South Carolina this September.

Motivated to murder

The author of a warning/confession letter to both the Riverside (Calif.) police department and the editor of the Riverside Press-Enterprise newspaper suggested that a lover's jilting drove him to kill.

Written one month after the Oct. 1966 Riverside, Calif. murder of suspected Zodiac victim Cheri Josephine Bates (left), the author repeatedly claimed that he was motivated to murder by young women who had rejected him in high school and the "brush offs" Bates had given him "in the years prior."

Betty, David -- and Ricky

Striking on Dec. 20, 1968, the Zodiac killer murdered two young high school students in the Vallejo-Benicia area, Betty Lou Jensen, 16, and David Arthur Faraday, 17.

Within two weeks of her death, Jensen had broken off a relationship with Richard (Ricky) Allen Burton, 14, who witnesses say threatened both her and Faraday. Jensen "went steady" with Burton, 13, from Dec. 1 to Dec 14, 1968 according to a Solano County Sheriff report.

Jensen's parents said Burton “bugged Betty Lou at school, " and police officials found a handwritten note in Jensen's school locker, referring to Faraday:

Do you know a kid named Richard Burton? I was going with him until two days before the installation. He still phones me and is threatening me to keep away from Dave. He said if he is ever close enough to Dave he would punch him one in the teeth. I told him to leave me alone, if he knows what’s good for him.

Authorities briefly investigated Burton for the murders of Jensen and Faraday, but never considered him a suspect.

Darlene, Mike, Dean, Jim -- and George

The Zodiac killer struck again on Independence Day, 1969, killing Darlene Elizabeth Ferrin, 22, and injuring Michael Renault Mageau, 19, at Blue Rock Springs Park in Vallejo.

Married at the time, Ferrin was romantically involved with other men, including Vallejo police officer Howard "Buzz" Gordon. Authorities considered Ferrin's current husband Dean, and former husband, Jim Phillips suspects in her murder, but later cleared both men.

According to the Vallejo Police Report on her death, another man, George William Waters, 29, (right) appeared to be stalking Ferrin for "turning him down" in the months before her murder.

Waters tried to date her many times and after several refusals, walked into her apartment and threatened to rape her or "get her into bed one way or the other."

"She was deathly afraid of George Waters,” the report states.

Cecelia, Bryan -- and Gary

When the Zodiac killer stabbed Cecelia Shepard, 22, and Bryan Hartnell, 20, in late September, 1969 at Lake Berryessa near Napa, Hartnell was a student at Pacific Union College in nearby Angwin.

Shepard's parents told the Napa County Sheriff that “a former male friend of victim, Gary (last name redacted), age 21 (22 in 1969) a senior at Pacific Union College, threatened Cecelia when she started going with Hartnell. This occurred sometime in 1968."

Cheri Jo, her fiance -- and "Bob Barnett"

About a month after the Oct. 1966 stabbing of Riverside (Ca.) City College (RCC) student Cheri Jo Bates, 18, someone sent an unsigned "confession letter" to both the Riverside Police Department and the Riverside Press-Enterprise newspaper.

"I lay awake nights thinking about my next victim," the person wrote. "Maybe she will be the shapely, blue-eyed brownett who said no when I asked her for a date in high school."

Graphically describing Bates' murder, the writer said only one thing was on his mind. "Making her pay for the brush offs that she had given me during the years prior."

In a 1999 interview with an anonymous source, publisher Tom Voigt continued the theme. The source told Voigt that Bates had returned from a trip to visit her "steady boyfriend" in San Francisco, where she had accepted his wedding proposal. Bates told another man she'd been dating -- Bob Barnett, a pseudonym -- that they could no longer date less than a week prior to her murder.

"Barnett and Cheri engaged in a very public argument on the RCC campus just days before her murder," Voigt writes. "During the argument, Barnett allegedly slapped Cheri. A passerby heard Barnett say, 'Have you changed your mind yet?'"

Playing basketball with friends the night Bates died, Barnett left the game after Bates called him "for unknown reasons." "That bitch is going to the library," Barnett allegedly told his friends.

Police subsequently cleared Barnett of her murder, but remain unwilling to release official police reports about the 43-year-old case.

"Per the Office of the Chief of Police, this case is still an OPEN criminal case," Riverside Police Department sergeant Jaybee Brennan wrote in an email. "Therefore, there will be no release of information."

Other information may be lacking as well, including evidence that law enforcement officials either missed the victim similarities or failed to share them, Sheryl McCollum says. "We don’t know that they did miss these similarities. They may have discussed these events and facts and never shared it with the public."

For now, though, she reminds, "There is no harm in taking a second look at all aspects of a cold case."

Science journalist Michael Martin, and Kortnie Ford, a graduate student in the
Department of Criminal Justice and Forensic Sciences at Columbia College in Columbia, Missouri presented the findings at the Midwest Criminal Justice Association annual conference in Chicago and the Southern Criminal Justice Association annual conference in Charleston, South Carolina.


Anonymous said...

Just a thought I have never seen mentioned any where before, hope this makes the message boards. For the patricia hautz letter many believe to be the same author as the confession letter. The desk top poem was signed RH - from all I have read on line it has been established that in California a young girl by that name died very young of pneumonia and was survived by her parents - mary and richard and also an older brother richard hautz, RH??? why has this connetcion not been made????

another anonymous said...

I do not believe a Patricia Hautz wrote that letter, or any relative of hers. I believe it was from Cheri's killer, who gave a false clue about being a fellow student. He was a older man who may have worked with Cheri's father at March Air base. That was why he sent a letter to her father, to punish him.He was treated badly by his mother as a young boy, and believes that is what made him a killer of women.He is still alive and has not stopped killing.

another anonymous said...

I do not believe that any one by the name of Hautz wrote that letter. I feel it was the killer feeling sorry for himself. He wants everyone to know he was treated badly as a young boy. He believes he became a killer because of this. He also gave false clues saying he was a fellow student. I believe he was a much older man, someone who could have had a grudge againest Cheri's father. Maybe he worked with him at March Air force base. That was why he had to send him that crule letter.The killer is still killing and is in Calif.The RH was not for blood type or red herring. That was a clue to his name, kind of like in your face, yet we missed it.

Mike Martin said...

If you have something to back up these claims, which I see you've made several times, contact me. I'm the author of the story, contact information at left.


Amateur_Sleuth said...

I want to help too. Shoot me a comment if you are also sleuthing about Zodiac.

Anonymous said...

A Mike Welch had his sister Mary Melissa Welch pull a woman's fingernail out of his head right after the murder of cheri jo bates l966, and no hairstyle would cover the intense scalping that took place on the Mike Welch, even his wedding photos showed the scar to the entire wedding party (first wedding). Mike Welch's third wife has a photo of the watch on Welch that is found on the scene of the murder of Cheri Jo Bates, but the third wife has been part of killing and cover-up also. The problem is, more and more people keep being murdered around this Mike Welch even his best friend found dead for no reason and Mike Welch being the first on the scene to "cover up" or to "clean up" of whatever. There are connections to the class of 65 and 66 Ramon High School to this Mike Welch and there is a relative of his who used to live in Riverside in l966, so, what gives, does this fellow and his cover-up cartel around him have some kind of immunity thing going on? What gives, besides people like Cheri Jo Bates giving their blood and life?

Anonymous said...

I found items belonging to Cheri Jo Bates and other Zodiac killer victims in a park in 2006 in Kansas city . I did not know what they were then.
I looked at her items closely especially a tablet that had her name on it, because of it's condition . I made a drawing and had a artist draw one . I was able to get one zodiac site to post this story . it can be viewed here

another anonymous said...

Mike Martin, I have tried to contact you, but haven't been able to. I do have evidence to back up my information. I am willing to share that with you if you have a way of contacting me. Thanks

Anonymous said...

In 1974 the Zodiac wrote the following letter:

"Editor, SF Chronicle, 5th + Mission, San Fran".

Sirs -- I would like to expression my consternt consternation
concerning your
poor taste + lack of sympathy for the public, as evidenced
by your running of
the ads for the movie " Badlands," featuring the blurb:
"In 1959 most people were killing time. Kit + Holly were
killing people."

In light of recent events, this kind of murder-glorification
can only be deplorable at best that glorification of violence
was ever justifiable) why don't you show some concern for public
sensibilities + cut the ad?

A citizen"

So the movie's about an impressionable teenage girl
from a dead-end town and her older greaser boyfriend
who embark on a killing spree in the South Dakota badlands.
I cant help but wonder why the Zodiac wrote this letter?
The only thing I can think of is that it holds a clue to his identity.
Then I found out that Cheri Jo's mother and Richard Gaikowski
were both originally from South Dakota. Does anyone know
if he ever knew her mother or had any link whatsoever to her family?