Posts Tagged ‘Betty Low Johnson’

I was so sure I had covered this before – Imagine that? So here goes… The Zodiac Killer is a name given to an unidentified serial killer who was in the north California area from the late 1960’s to early 1970’s. The name comes from a letter to the Bay Area press in 1969, it was one of a series that taunted press, police and public alike.

There are 7 confirmed victims, four possible murder victims and a suspected escapee, the murderer claimed a death count of 37 but 12 can be included on the case files from the main information given. The first of the ZK’s murders are considered to have been attributed to those of Betty Low Jensen and David Faraday. On 20th December 1968 at Lake Herman Road, the couple were out on their first date, what they know about the case is that it is believed another car came up before 11pm that night, Jensen exited the car, possibly under threat and as she did so the killer shot Faraday as he was half way out of the car. Jensen was gunned down 28 yards away by five shots, the killer then drove off.

4th July 1969 Darlene Ferrin and Michael Mageau drove into the Blue Rock Springs Park and parked up. A second car came up but drive off almost immediately, then around ten minutes later the car returned, the driver got out and came to the passengers side, he was carrying a flash light and a 9mm Luger. The killer fired off five shots and both were hit, the bullet passed through Mageau into Ferdinand, the killer then walked away. Mageau’s moaning drew him back to the car where he fired two more times. Ferrin died but Mageau survived despite being shot in the face, neck and chest. Someone called up to claim responsibility for all four and police traced the call to a gas station phone booth, they got no further.

1st August 1969, three letters reached the press offices of Vellejo Times Herald, San Francisco Chronicle and The San Francisco Examiner. They took credit for the four shootings and each one had a third of a 408-symbol cryptogram, which would reveal his identity. The killer demanded all three be printed across their front pages or he would cruise around to kill until he racked up a dozen over the weekend. The Chronicle posted their letter and put up a quote from Vallejo Police Chief, Jack E Stiltz, saying they needed more proof of his identity. All three parts were eventually published and the murder spree seemingly never occurred.

7th August, a letter was received at The San Francisco Examiner, where he wrote ‘Dear Editor, This is the Zodiac speaking’ and he went on to provide details about the murders that had not been released to the public.

8th August, Donald and Bettye Harden cracked the code, albeit misspelled, but it said that he was collecting, slaves for the afterlife. He said he would not give away his identity because it would slow down, or stop, him from collecting.

27th September 1969, students Bryan Hartnell and Cecelia Shephard were picnicking when a man wearing a black executioners hood with with sunglasses over the eye-holes and a cross-like symbol with a circle around it on a bib around his neck. He approached with a gun, said he was a convict who had escaped and demanded their car and the money to get to Mexico.

Shephard was told to tie up Hartnell and then the attacker tied up Shephard, Hartnell was expecting it to be a bizarre robbery but both were stabbed repeatedly and the killer then went to their car and used a black felt-tip pen to draw the symbol and then wrote “Vallejo/12-20-68/7-4-69/Sept 27-69 – 6.30/by knife”. The killer than called in his crime to Napa County Sheriff from a pay phone. Shephard was conscious when he was found and gave a description of the attacker but died later on, Hartnell survived and recounted the event.

11th October 1969, a passenger got into Paul Stine’s Cab and wanted to go to Presidio Heights. The result was that Stine got shot in the head by the passenger, he took is wallet, car keys and a section of his shirt. Three teenagers saw the events and called the police.

14th October 1969, the Chronicle got another Zodiac letter containing the stolen section of Stine’s shirt. He proceeded to threaten to kill school children on a school bus. His plan was to shoot out a tyre then pick them off one by one as they came out of the bus. 2pm on the 20th October, he called demanding F. Lee Bailey or Melvin Bellie appear on the local T.V. station A.M San Francisco. Bellie appeared and the lines were kept open, someone called in saying they were the Zodiac Killer several times, they called themselves Sam and arranged to meet in Daly City but the suspect never arrived.

9th November 1969 the Zodiac Killer then sent another 340 character cryptogram, so far this one has not been decoded. The day after he mailed a 7 page letter saying two policemen had spoken to him only three-minutes after he had shot Stine and then on 20th December, that same year, he mailed Bellie supposedly he wanted help from the very famous criminal lawyer.

22nd March 1970 saw Kathleen Johns off to see her mother, she was 7 months pregnant and had her 10 month-old daughter with her. She was on Highway 132 near Modesto and a car came up behind flashing its light and honking the horn. Johns pulled off the road and stopped, the man in the car said he’d seen her wheel nuts were loose on her back tire and offered to help her out. When she tried to drive off the entire wheel came off and the man came back, he offered to help take her to a gas station, and stranded, she got in with her daughter.

The car passed several stations but did not stop, when she asked him why he did not stop he would change the subject. John’s escaped when she jumped out with her daughter at an intersection, eventually he gave up because he could not find her. She then managed to hitch a lift to the police station and the cops found her car gutted and torched.

20th April 1970 he wrote again with another 13 character cipher and said he was not responsible for a police station bombing, he threatened instead again to aim at a school bus. 28th April he then wrote to say that he was upset not to see any of the Zodiac symbol buttons and in response had shot someone. The closest match for a shooting that could be found was for a police Seargent shot in his car. His case however was not definitively linked as a Zodiac killing and remains unsolved. In the letter he also left instructions to find a bomb, the cipher he gave was not decoded but no bomb was ever found or detonated either.

24th July 1970 the Zodiac took credit for John’s abduction, he left another letter on 7th October 1970 with the Zodiac symbol on it drawn in blood. Inspectors Armstrong and Toschi, both on the case, said it was probably it was the killers blood.

27th October 1970, Chronicle reporter Paul Avery got a Halloween Card signed with Z and the symbol. He had been covering the case and threatened that he would be next. Avery got another letter soon after they gave similarities between the Zodiac’s killings and that of the murder of Cerri Jo Bates, four years prior. He reported his findings.

22nd March 1971 and a card was posted to Paul Avery at the Chronicle claiming responsibility for a missing woman called Donna Lass, she had gone missing 6th September 1970 and was thought to be from the Zodiac. Lass’s body has never been found.

13th November 1972, Vallejo Times-Herald ran a story that postulated two young people from Santa Barbara were the Zodiac’s victims. The victims were Robert Domingoes and Linda Edwards who had been shot on 3rd June 1963. They’d been shot and hidden in a small shack but the killer had failed to burn it down.

The final letter authenticated as the Zodiac came three years later on 29th January, 1974. It praised the horror film The Exorcist as a comedy and tallied his victim score as 37.

Subsequent letters came but after that last they have not been verified as the original Zodiac. In April 2004 the case was marked as inactive but not closed. The case was then reopened in March 2007. Several of the victims have been named, put forwards and even had people come forwards to confess but as of yet no charges have been brought forwards and no one has been put on trial.

The Zodiac killer has inspired films, music, games, liberate and was used in a mobile game, one I played for a while, which was EA’s Cause of Death. If the killer is still alive he would be in his late 60’s as a minimum and so he may have been incarcerated, killed, committed suicide or even still walking around.

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