Tuesday, October 6, 2009

With Malice Aforethought

For three decades, a highly regarded Berkeley professor has stood accused of America’s most notorious serial murders. Why won’t he fight back?

By Michael J. Martin

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Between 1966 and 1981, U.C. Berkeley public policy professor
Michael Henry O’Hare (left), a Harvard-educated architect who regularly holds court at an Edge-style intellectual blog called The Reality Based Community, committed first degree murder with malice aforethought on seven separate occasions.

On or around Nov. 28, 1981, he bludgeoned to death 25-year-old Harvard architecture student Joan Lucinda Webster, dumping her body in a Massachusetts field, where it was found in 1990.

Twelve years earlier, on October 11, 1969, O’Hare fired a point-blank shot into the head of 29-year-old cab driver Paul Lee Stine. Stine was found in his cab on a dark San Francisco street, slumped, bleeding, and dead.

On September 27, 1969, Michael Henry O’Hare, then 26 years old, did stab Cecelia Ann Shepard (below), age 22, five times each in the front and back. Turning the knife on her companion, O’Hare did stab 20-year-old Bryan Calvin Hartnell six times in the back. She died in a Napa hospital. He survived.

On Independence Day, July 4, 1969 at approximately 11:55 p.m., Michael O’Hare used a 9mm semi-automatic pistol to shoot Darlene Elizabeth Ferrin, age 22, five times. Turning the gun on Michael Renault Mageau, age 19, O’Hare fired four more rounds. Mageau, like Hartnell, lived. Ferrin died in a Vallejo, Calif. hospital.

Five days before Christmas, on Friday, Dec. 20, 1968, Michael O’Hare, supposedly on assignment in San Francisco for consulting giant Arthur D. Little and Company, did shoot David Arthur Faraday, age 17, once in the head at point blank range with a .22 caliber semi-automatic pistol. O’Hare turned the gun on 16-year-old Betty Lou Jensen and shot her five times in the back. Both Faraday and Jensen died instantly, on a Vallejo lovers’ lane.

Finally, on Sunday, Oct. 30, 1966, Michael Henry O’Hare did beat and stab to death 18-year-old Cheri Josephine Bates in a dark alleyway on the campus of Riverside City College in Riverside, Calif.

These are the accusations that Dr. O’Hare has let stand without legal challenge for nearly 30 years: That he murdered Joan Webster and before that, was a homicidal maniac with a penchant for devilish taunts in letters, cryptograms, and postcards known only as the Zodiac killer.

They are the same allegations that his long-time accuser, a retired NOAA librarian and true crime author named Gareth Sewell Penn (right), repeated in a March 2008 interview with a daily news magazine called Boston Now.

Prompted by the pending publication of this story, O'Hare broke a mysterious near-30-year silence to respond, in the May/June 2009 of the well-known political magazine, The Washington Monthly.

The Professor and the Polymath

An intellectual version of The Most Dangerous Game—Richard Connell’s famous tale of man as predator and prey—the odyssey of Gareth Penn, the Mensa polymath, and Michael O’Hare, the ascendant academic, is one of the most confounding, disturbing, and bizarre in the annals of contemporary crime.

Inspector Javert to O'Hare's Jean Valjean, Penn has chased the professor from Cambridge to Berkeley, combining a non-stop media blitz with a Zodiac-style personal harassment campaign that started as the very first public allegation in the Zodiac case and goes on to this day.

“To my mind, their relat
ionship—or whatever it was—is the most fascinating subplot in the whole of the Zodiac story,” says Suffolk County (Mass.) District Attorney press secretary Jake Wark, who authored several articles on the crimes and spoke as a private citizen for this story. “It deserves big treatment.”

Penn—a Berkeley-educated linguistics scholar and retired research editor for the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)—may be the Zodiac killer’s biggest fan.

Through a compelling combination of absurdity and brilliance, his many pronouncements on the 20th century’s most famous unsolved homicides have held legions of investigators in thrall for decades.

Esquire Magazine
film critic Mike D’Angelo acknowledged Penn’s allure in his review of the 2007 David Fincher film Zodiac, based on the Robert Graysmith book of the same name. “I think the movie erred in selecting Graysmith as its source and nominal protagonist,” D’Angelo wrote. “Zodiac buffs know well that the true obsessive is a fellow named Gareth Penn.”
Born and raised in New York City, Michael O’Hare represents the mainstream academy to Penn’s fringe infamy. With faculty appointments at MIT and Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, O’Hare’s career was rising fast when Penn took his first shot at derailing it.

Now an expert in art and environmental policy at Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy, O’Hare is a respected teacher whose friends defend his honor.

“Gareth Penn is full of crap,” wrote an ally on the Zodiackiller.com blog, in answer to a question about a Harvard University police investigation that supposedly drove O’Hare from that campus shortly after Joan Webster’s murder. “Penn spent the better part of three decades researching and writing books about a suspect he can’t place in the state of California during the Zodiac crimes, and at no time has that even given him pause.”
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8


Alan Cabal said...

Good God, that's the best Zodiac piece I've ever seen.

Absolutely brilliant work, Mike. Brilliant.

Thank you!



"If it weren't for my distaste for manual labor, I would become a serial killer." - Dilbert

Ellen Clayton said...

I read your story and found some very interesting points in it.

You point out that the Zodiac case has had Gareth Penn obsessed with Mike O'Hare for many years. I believe he still maintains O'Hare is guilty of those crimes.

I have learned a great deal about the Joan Webster murder as well. This case has been extraordinary, equally as challenging as the Zodiac.

I have not studied the Zodiac cases so I am not qualified to speculate about Penn as the offender himself.

I do know Joan's case and he was not responsible for her death.

Neither O'Hare nor Paradiso murdered Joan, either.

The same obsession that Penn has for O'Hare is the obsession Tim Burke has for Leonard Paradiso.

Mr. Burke's publication, The Paradiso Files, is false and continues to obstruct the truth.

The authorities are also part of the problem and the case needs public awareness for transparency, and an independent investigation.


Annike said...

WOW! Great info!!!

Thanks a lot for sharing.

Chris said...

The information in regards to Gareth Penn having an affair with the niece of the witness who found the bodies on Lake Herman Road is simply stunning.

This new evidence shows that Penn does have a proven social connection to a Zodiac victim, David Faraday, through the niece that he dated, since she went to high school with Faraday.

Great job. Keep up the good work.



Eye for the Obvious said...

Aren't some people in the belief that Penn himself was involved with Zodiac? This was a very interesting article, thank you very much!


Gareth Penn said...

Mr. Martin,

You are a bottomless pit of substance-less cavils. Either you are incredibly dense, or you are up to something so devious I can't fathom it. And I don't care to.

The kindest thing I can think of to say about you is that you're a time waster, and as long as it's your time that is getting wasted, I don't care.

I have better things to do with mine. Your lies swarm around you like flies around a pile of shit, which is one reason why I will never have anything to do with you again.

Anonymous said...

It is easier to construct a plausible psychological profile of Gareth Penn as a serial killer than it is for Penn to stretch a gnat's ass over a rain barrel to implicate Michael O'Hare.

Anonymous said...

Congrats to Mike Martin! He has hit a home run. What we single's hitters have tried to do over the past three years, Mike has done it in his article. He has brought it all together. His thorough investigation has put it all together. Mike never accuses, but states facts and let's the readers draw conclusions.

MCJ said...

The reason Penn writes so passionately and mono-maniacally about a murderous conspiracy is that he grew up in one of most perniciously conspiratorial
milieus imaginable. Little murders were going on all the time around him. Being smart, he was watchful, and learned to be suspicious of people's motives.

Curt Rowlett said...

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this and am very impressed with the level of research that obviously went into it.

The "Kafka-esque coincidences" in the story are absolutely fascinating, as are the other multiple examples of "more than just strange" coincidences found in the lives of both Penn and O'Hare.

Although many consider the Penn/O'Hare saga to be nothing more than an interesting sidebar to the whole Zodiac murders case, I beg to differ more now than ever.

This article proves otherwise.


Wow! said...

Gareth Penn, because of his paranoid narcissism, is difficult to like.

He is the only worthy inhabitant of his egocentric world. But in his mind, that's plenty of company.

He's quite a study.

A.G. Clifton said...

Very thorough. Kudos.

Jim Stevens said...

Wow! Amazing story about amazing people and an amazing crime.

M.C. Jones said...

This is fabulous. My reader reaction is overwhelmingly positive.

Brian D said...

Penn and O'Hare are in this together. I am sorry to hear of the passing of Ken Narlow. With him went the last, best hope of getting some official light shown on this modern-day Burke & Hare.

Brian D said...

Penn and O'Hare are in this together. I am sorry to hear of the passing of Ken Narlow. With him went the last, best hope of getting some official light shown on this modern-day Burke & Hare.

doranchak said...

Anyone who's interested can read all of Times 17 online here:


Anonymous said...

Wanna see something that's super crazy? It implicates Gareth Penn as the killer. Nobody asked this guy to write two books about this case, and quite frankly in case nobody ever noticed Gareth Penn compliments "zodiac(himself)" more than defaming "him". Gareth Penn becomes the main suspect because he thrusts himself onto the zodiac scene from out of nowhere. So if you wanna see something freaky, check out the Wikipedia page concerning the 72nd Field Artillery Brigade's shoulder sleeve insignia patch! I'm not even going to explain it because once a person(s) see's it, they're gonna know right away. It's a surprise. Remember who told you: MDL - 2/2/73.

Anonymous said...

Michael J Martin, you are a fraud, a liar, and a despicable person. You are also a gutless worm who thinks the son shines out of your ass. In journalistic parlance you're not worth a pinch of salt and your blog should be taken down. It is a lie written by a liar! Your egocentric philosophy's are as repugnant as you are. You are in urgent need of psychiatric help.

Anonymous said...

Your life is about to become a misery. Much more than it already is. I hope you enjoy what's coming your way. Well, thou shalt see, thy eyes shall be thy judge,.