Essay on The Zodiac Killer

This essay has a total of 2843 words and 11 pages.

The Zodiac Killer


The late 1960’s and early 1970’s represented a great deal of things to a great deal of
people. To the San Francisco Bay area, as well as the rest of California, the late ‘60’s
and early ‘70’s represented terror, fear, and death. What started out as a seemingly
random, but brutal murder on the night of October 30th, 1966, turned out to be the start
of a series of horrific murders that would span 2,500 suspects, 56 possible victims, and
over 400 miles. On the calm, cool night of December 20th, 1968, a young seventeen year-old
named David Arthur Faraday was getting ready to take a young sixteen year-old named Betty
Lou Jensen on her first date. David arrived at Betty’s house, picked her up, and promptly
proceeded to Lake Herman Road, a well known "lover’s lane" of the local teenagers.


After a while, a car, possibly a blue Valiant, pulled up next to David’s 1961 brown and
beige four-door station wagon, and a man got out. "Framed only in silhouette, the man
appeared to be stocky in build and slightly heavy, with an eerie sense about him" (Tina
3). The man requested that the teens get out of their car, but they refused. Upon hearing
David and Betty’s refusal, the man pulled out a gun, and fired a round into the right rear
window, shattering it with incredible force. He then moved to the front of the car and
fired another round into the left tire. Stricken with panic, David and Betty rushed out of
the car, but the man was there to meet them. Betty was able to scramble out, but David
wasn’t so lucky, as he was met with the cold, hard barrel of a gun pressing behind his
left ear. "The shot made a deafening blast, as the bullet entered David’s head at a
horizontal angle, blowing it apart" (Tina 3).


With David out of his way, the killer turned his attention back to Betty. "He pursued her
through the woods, his gun drawn, and shot her five times in the back from less than ten
feet away." (Tina 3). The killer then got back into his car, and drove away as quickly as
he had appeared. David, amazingly, was still alive, and bleeding profusely from his
wounds, but Betty was dead. In the ambulance on the way to the hospital, David was able to
give the police an account of the events that had taken place that night, but he died
shortly after from his wounds. Upon investigation, the police came up with nothing, and
ruled the murder a random homicide.


Darlene Ferrin, a close friend of both Betty and David, was the next victim on the
Zodiac’s list. On Friday, July 4th, 1969, Darlene made arrangements with her close friend
Michael Mageau to goto the movies. Darlene picked Michael up from his apartment that
evening, and from the beginning it was apparent that they were being followed. Darlene
took many country backroads and traveled at very high speeds to try to lose the pursuing
vehicle, but with no success. The vehicle forced Darlene’s car off of the road and into
the parking lot of the Blue Rock Springs Golf course. Once the pursuer had sufficiently
blocked them from any further movement in the car, he stepped out of his vehicle with a
lantern in his hand, and his headlights shining blindingly into Darlene and Michael’s
faces. "Mike could feel intense heat throughout his body. He had been shot. The bullets
were still being fired as Darlene slumped over the steering wheel. She had been hit
several times. Some of the bullets passed through Mike’s body into hers." (Tina 5). The
attacker then fired off two more shots before getting into his car and driving off.


Mike crawled out of the car and into the road, hoping someone would see him and stop to
help. "One bullet had gone through his jawbone and tongue, making it almost impossible for
him to speak or yell." (Tina 5). Three teenagers driving by, looking for a friend, saw
Mike, injured and bleeding, on the ground. They immediately called the police.


Darlene was pronounced dead on arrival, but Mike managed to survive the attack, and once
he healed from his facial injuries, describe the crime in detail to the police. This once
again looked like a random homicide to the police, until they received a call later that
night from a man claiming responsibility for the double murder, and also for David and
Betty. The man described both crimes in detail, providing information that was only known
to the police, and not to the public. The man then said "goodbye", and hung up the phone.
The police realized that they now had a serial killer on their hands. A few days later, a
letter, in the form of a cryptogram, was delivered to the San Francisco Chronicle. Once
deciphered, the letter took responsibility for the murders of David, Betty, and Darlene,
and was signed with a crossed-circle symbol. The letter also claimed that the identity of
the killer could be found within the symbols. "He demanded that the letter be published on
Friday, August 1st, 1969, and if not, that he would go on a weekend killing spree of
incredible proportions." (Tina 12).


From then on, after each new killing, the Zodiac mailed a letter to one of the local area
papers, or the police, taunting and playing with them, as well as claiming responsibility
for the murders. In all, the Zodiac killer claimed responsibility for thirty-seven
murders, but the police could only identify seven as positively being Zodiac victims.
After many years of research on the subject though, it has been found that the Zodiac may
have been responsible for as many as fifty-six homicides.


One of the most interesting of the Zodiac killings took place on September 27th, 1969, at
Lake Berryessa, near the San Francisco Bay area. Cecelia Shepard and Bryan Hartnell were
picnicking along the lake’s shore that day, when they noticed a man ducking in and out of
cover amongst the trees of nearby woods. When the figure finally emerged from the woods,
it was cloaked in a medieval executioner’s uniform, with a square topped hood and the
symbol of the zodiac emblazoned in the center of the all black clothing. He approached the
couple with his gun in one hand and knife in the other, and requested Bryan’s car keys and
money. He also insisted that Cecelia tie Bryan up with some rope he gave her, and once
that was done, he tied her up as well. "He then threatened the couple, telling them he
would have to ‘stab them.’ After Bryan’s pleading, the man knelt down, raised the knife,
and plunged it into Bryan’s back. He then turned to Cecelia and repeatedly stabbed her in
the back as well. That wasn’t enough though, as he plunged the knife into her chest, once
into each breast, her abdomen, and her groin." (Tina 6). He then left the scene without
taking the keys or money that he requested in the first place. A park ranger found the
wounded couple minutes later, and phoned for help. Cecelia died the next day from her
twenty-four stab wounds, but Bryan managed to survive the attack. He described a man of
the same height and build as that of the killer that had killed David, Betty, and Darlene.
Later that night a phone call was made to the ranger’s office reporting the double
stabbing, with the caller stating, "I’m the one who did it." This was another Zodiac
strike. Paul Lee Stine was a cab driver in the town of Presidio Heights, CA. He picked up
a stranger on the night of October 11th, 1969, and was immediately accosted, and held at
gunpoint by the rider. "The gun, placed against Paul’s right cheek in front of his right
ear, fired, with the copper lead bullet exploding into Paul’s skull, fragmenting into four
sections, and killing him instantly." (Tina 7). The killer tore a piece of Paul’s shirt
off, wiped down the cab for blood and prints, and then escaped into the night. A little
fragment of the piece of torn shirt was mailed with every Zodiac letter from then on, to
prove it’s authenticity. The Zodiac had struck once again.


One of the final incidents of the proven Zodiac crimes was committed on March 22nd, 1970.
Continues for 6 more pages >>




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