True Crime: Unsolved Crimes 0783500122

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True Crime: Unsolved Crimes
 0783500122

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Unsolved Crimes

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TRUE CRIME

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I

Unsolved Crimes

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iitniiiiTT li!

III

BY THE EDITORS OF TIME-LIFE iiiiii

iillli.UkliV'

BOOKS

Alexandria, Virginia

Unsolved Crimes

1 Zodiac 4

2 Verdict 48

Beyond Solution 79

3 The Director 104

4 Without a Trace 144

Acknowledgments 184 Bibliography 184 Index 188 Picture Credits 191

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1

Zodiac The While

killer

of Cheri Jo Bates

his 18-year-old

knew something about cars. was studying in the library

prey

knife into her

of Eliverside City College on Halloween night, 1966, the killer

approached her green Volkswagen Beetle and opened

the engine

compartment

Reaching down, he

at the rear.

pulled out the electrical distributor coil

and condenser and

disconneaed the middle wire of the distributor. Then he walked back into the library and waited. When Cheri Jo Bates

left

the building, he followed her out into the soft

California night.

From

a distance he watched the pretty blonde unlock her

Volkswagen door,

and crank the

get in,

four-cylinder engine turned over, again

fused to catch, just as the

man knew

utes passed. Cheri Jo Bates got

it

ignition.

The

little

and again, but rewould. A few min-

more exasperated. The

car's

left

his car, started

it,

and drove

Joseph Bates waited

come home.

Then he

shoulder blade.

5:43 a.m., he telephoned the Riv-

erside police to report her missing. Less than

the parking lot path. in

change. Ten

spattered

Timex

Her purse

away

feet

still

lay the killer's cheap, paint-

wrist watch,

its

black strap partially torn

away. The churned-up ground where Cheri Jo Bates had fought her executioner, police officers said later, "looked like a freshly

plowed

field."

book on The 352-481 remains open never closes

murder, and case

tors

man

suddenly said,

"It's

lot.

unlit gravel

They chatted

until the

about time."

"About time for what?" asked Bates. "About time for you to die." Lunging at her, the killer slapped one hand over her mouth and with his other hand plunged a short knife into her chest. Cheri Jo Bates was small — five feet three inches and 110 pounds — but she was strong, an athlete, a freshman cheerleader at Riverside. She fought back fiercely, clawing at her assailant's arms and face — at one point ripping the watch from his wrist. But she had no chance. With brutality born of rage the killer kept stabbing. He slammed his victim to the ground. Bates screamed in pain and terror. He kicked her in the head to silence her, then knelt and slashed at her face and throat, cutting through her jugular vein and her voice box and almost severing her head from her body. As she lay face down on the ground, her life draining away, he thrust the

This

artist's

file

to this day. But police

been stymied. Within a week of the

man down an

later

body beside held her ID and 56 cents

The moment had come. The killer approached the car and offered the young woman a lift home in his own car parked nearby. Maybe she hesitated, maybe not. In the end, however, she walked with the

an hour

the college groundskeeper found the student's

battery got weaker.

path leading out of the parking

walked to

night for his only daughter to

all

Finally, at

rose,

off into the blackness.

No. have

killing, state investiga-

and Riverside detectives succeeded in checking out all but two of the people known to be in the librar> that night and had taken testimony from a man and a woman who separately heard Cheri Jo Bates scream. Police minutely regirl's life and last days in the small city 60 miles east of Los Angeles; they interviewed scores of friends and fellow students, and when a footprint from a shoe sold only in military outlets was found at the scene,

constructed the dead

they started talking to possible suspects at

Base near Riverside.

The

ious to find a bearded rensic tests turned

under Bates's

authorities

man

March Air Force

were particularly anx-

with scratches on his face; fo-

up fragments of human skin and

h.iir

fingernails.

At one point detectives thought they had a promising case against a local youth who had known Cheri Jo Bates. But the evidence infinitely

was too

worse, the

thin to take to court. killer

To make

matters

decided to have some fun by

openly ridiculing the Riverside police for their failure to

apprehend him — and he raised the

chilling

prospea of more

murders to come.

One month

after Cheri

Jo Bates's death, identical r\pe-

wrirtcn letters arrived at police headquarters

and

at the ed-

sketch was as close as the San Francisco Police Department ever came to putting a face to the elusive Zodiac The drawing appeared on an October 18, 1969, wanted poster distributed widely throughout the city.

killer.

UNSOLVTO CRIMES

The enough to type, in all capital letters, through a dozen carbons and send just the last copies. They were so smudged that, although the make and model of the typewriter could be identified, they were useless for tracing the particular machine on which the notes were typed. The first word was "BY" — followed not by a name but by a teasing blank space. The message began: itorial offices

was

writer

of the daily Riverside Press-Enterprise.

crafty

SHE WAS YOUNG AND BEAUTIFUL BUT NOW SHE IS BATTERED AND DEAD. SHE IS NOT THE FIRST AND SHE WILL NOT BE THE LAST. I LAY AWAKE NIGHTS THINKING ABOUT

MY

NEXT VICTIM. The

killer

went on

to consider that prospect:

MAYBE SHE WILL BE THE BEAUTIFUL BLOND THAT BABYSITS NEAR THE LITTLE STORE AND WALKS DOWN THE DARK ALLEY EACH EVENING ABOUT SEVEN. OR MAYBE SHE WILL BE THE SFL\PELY BLUE EYED BRUNETTE THAT SAID NO WHEN ASKED HER FOR A DATE IN HIGH SCHOOL. BUT MAYBE IT WILL NOT BE EITHER. BUT SHALL CUT OFF HER FEMALE PARTS AND DEPOSIT THEM FOR THE WHOLE CFFY TO SEE. I

I

The

letter

writer described in detail

how

he'd murdered

Cheri Jo Bates. He told how he'd disabled her car, offered her a ride, informed her of her fate — and then choked, kicked,

and stabbed her

known

his victim, stating bitterly:

to death.

He

claimed that he had

ONLY ONE THING WAS ON MY MIND. MAKING HER PAY FOR THE

BRUSH

OFFS

THAT SHE HAD GIVEN ME DURING THE YEARS PRIOR. The I I

killer

went on:

AM NOT SICK. AM INSANE. BUT THAT WILL NOT STOP

CHERI JO BATES

L'

-lAC

THE GAME. THIS LETTER SHOULD BE PUBLISHED FOR ALL TO READ O". IT MIGHT JUST SAVE THAT GIRL IN THE ALLEY. The

writer issued a warning:

"BEWARE

...

I

AM

STALKING YOUR GIRLS NOW." The in

had no doubt that the anonymous writer was

police

faa the

killer.

Various details

out

laid

in the letter, in-

cluding the ripped-out distributor wire, hadn't been released

and would be known only to the murderer. Yet no real clues to the man's identity, nor was there any evidence that he and Bates had known each to the press

the letter contained

other, despite the letter writer's claim.

The

investigation

continued to go nowhere. Police waited apprehensively over the next if

the killer

would make good

his threats.

assaults that resembled the Bates slaying. ever, a brief flurr)' of

months

communication.

months

to see

But there were no

There was, how-

On

April 30, 1967,

Jo Bates's murder, the Riverside Press-Enterprise printed another story on the case. exactly six

The following day

after Cheri

the newspaper, the police,

and the

vic-

tim's father received crudely hand-addressed envelopes,

each postmarked locally and mailed with double postage — a pair of four-cent Lincoln stamps. Inside each envelope

a

slip

BATES

TO

was

of paper with the penciled message:

HAD

DIE

THERE WILL BE

MORE

This time the notes were signed — with a single symbol so sloppily scrawled that

was a "2" or

police didn't put

and the of Chen Jo Bates were

Pencil-written letters sent to Joseph Bates

Riverside police by the killer

mailed locally on April 30, 1967, with the double postage that was to become a Zodiac trademark.

Each envelope contained a ring-binder paper

(left)

single sheet of three-

with a message scrawled

down toward the were signed simply, "Z."

large block letters that tilted right.

The

letters

in

they agreed,

no one could be certain whether it it did not seem to matter, since the

a "Z." But

it

much

was

the

Most likely, was filed away

stock in the message.

work

of a crank.

It

with no more ado.

The notes were not the only written communiques that seemed possibly linked to the case. About five months after was sortwhen he came

the murder, a custodian at Riverside City College

ing through a storage area at the librani

across a desktop defaced by a curious ballpoint pen:

Sick of living'unwilling to die

poem

written in blue

a

UNSOLVED

CR1\4ES

was so outraged by

the crimes that he spent eight

cut.

Chronicle

clean.

years investigating every scrap of information relating to the

if

He

killer.

red/

then committed his findings to a remarkable vol-

clean.

ume

Blood spurting,

maniac's apprehension. This account owes

consensus,

oh well, it was red

dered

draining into an

die.

wait

11

The

find her

of

them concluded

that

Zodiac had mur-

in Riverside

Bay

and

five oth-

region.

of the San Francisco area killings took place on

December 20, 1968, in Vallejo, 25 miles from The Vietnam War was raging, and many of Vallejo's 73,000 residents worked at the huge Mare Island naval complex nearby. Like any rough-and-tumble shipyard the city.

At the end of the verse the author had inscribed the two

boom

"r" and "h."

The custodian notified police and informed them that the desk had been on the library floor in October when Cheri Jo Bates was murdered. The cops photographed the inscripand added

first

Friday,

till

next time.

And

many

people — Cheri Jo Bates

time

Someone

tion

ac-

young women, and the true total of his victims may have reached 50. The killer never was caught — at least not that anyone ever knew.

she won't

letters

its

Zodiac himself took credit for many more. Before the madness seemed to run its course, he would claim to have slaughtered at least 37 people, mainly

uncertain death,

just

six

ers in the

anyway.

this

of

dearth of conclusive evidence, probably could not — reach a

dress,

life

aid in the

much

Although authorities did not — and, given the frustrating

spilling;

new

over her

book he hoped might

curacy and detail to Graysmith's research.

dripping,

all

entitled Zodiac, a

it

to the Bates

file.

there matters rested for almost four years. Then, in

town, the place had

its

share of brawls and shootings,

with an occasional death. But this time was different—

double murder, the victims apparently selected at random

and executed without provocation. There were no witnesses and no suspeas — until the Zodiac casually claimed credit in the course of announcing another slaughter almost sev-

a startling development, an

en months

ing a series of bewildering murders

Jensen, 16, and David Arthur Faraday, 17, were as nice a couple of teenagers as parents could wish for. Both were in high school; she was a serious, hardworking student and he was a top scholar, a varsity wrestler, and

in

anonymous letter written dur400 miles to the north, and aroimd San Francisco, led investigators to make a

connection with the equally puzzling Cheri Jo Bates It

appeared to

many

sleuths that Bates might be

victim, perhaps even the

first,

of a serial

killer

killing.

an

who

early

called

himself Zodiac.

exceedingly cunning and savage. He aphad been prowling the San Francisco Bay Area since late 1968. Or so he said in mid- 1969 when he introduced himself to the media and the police, launching a dialogue as insane as the one Jack the Ripper carried on with the London police and newspapers in 1888. So fascinated did journalists become with the doings and sayings of this psychopath that they found themselves involved in the circus beyond just the mere reporting of it. Indeed, editorial page cartoonist Robert Graysmith of the San Francisco

This

man was

parently

Betty

later.

Lou

an Eagle Scout.

On the

December evening of their

first

date,

Faraday picked up Jensen in his mother's 1961 beigeand-brown four-door Rambler station wagon and off they went, Betty Lou assuring her father that she'd be home

by

1 1

o'clock.

two stopped at a local drive-in Coke, then around 10:15 drove up Lake Herman Road to a remote parking area where young lovers could be After visiting a friend, the

for a

Though the place itself was homes and small ranches lined the

alone.

number of

isolated, a

road,

and

in the

next

hour, people in four different cars drove past the spot and

saw

the Rambler, parked about 15 feet

from the

side of the

ZODIAC

poem

This

scratched into the

surface of a library desk at

,^|^: Vf^4/V^

^ r

Chevrolet Impala sedan seen

parked at the Lake Herman site earlier in

the evening. In

his reconstruction of the

road. his

The

last motoinst,

a

way home, went by

Humble

at

1

Oil

1:10; he

by side, the Rambler and another and color didn't register on him. side

I^ite that

saw two

cars parked

vehicle,

whose make

left her house a few miles toward town to pick up her son,

evening, Stella Borges

up the road and

who had

Company worker on

started

spent the evening in town.

It

took her about

five

minutes to reach the spot where Faraday and Jensen were parked.

As she came around

nated a startling scene:

a curve, her headlights illumi-

A man

was

lying beside the

open

door of the Rambler. Borges first thought the fellow must have fallen out of his car. But then she

crime, Robert Graysmith had arrived shortly after 1 and had drawn up alongside the Rambler. He got out and probably spoke to the teenagers, ordermg them out of the car. They must have refused, so the man simply drove them out. Stalking to the back of the Rambler, he fired a shot through the right side of the rear window, then moved to his left and put

conjectures that Zodiac

a bullet into the

The

terrified

left

1

rear wheel housing.

youngsters apparently bolted from the front

passenger-side door, as the killer dashed around to meet

them. Betty Lou Jensen was out of the car by the time he got

David Faraday was

front passenger

there.

that

jammed

just

emerging when the gunman head behind the left ear and

his pistol into the boy's

UNSOLVED CRIMES

dropped enough hints to make some of her friends worry that she had gotten involved in the drug trade. The marriage didn't last long, and

pulled the trigger; the slug tore through

Faraday's brain. Jensen her

life,

ran for

literally

but the gunman sprinted

her, quickly gaining

on her and

after firing

soon Darlene was married again,

rapidly; five bullets hit the upper right

Dean

such a right pattern

time to

were amazed at the marksmanship. Betty Lou Jensen tumbled

seem to

side of her

back

in

headlong into the gravel

from the

The

less

than 30

less

Rambler

let his

wife do

more or baby

as she pleased even after their

was born. Darlene

for fin-

didn't

Darlene Ferrin down, and

easygoing Dean

feet

car.

police dusted the

settle

this

at a local

Motherhood

Italian restaurant.

that police

cook

Ferrin, a

men

Ferrin

had always

at-

with her perky looks and

gerprints but found nothing unusual.

tracted

They recovered 10 brass shell casings from the scene and seven slugs from the Rambler and from the victims' bodies. The ammunition was Super X copper-

engaging banter, but in January 1969, a

coated .22-caliber long

rifle;

between five feet eight inches and five feet ten inches, heavyset, with horn-rimmed glasses and short, brown, curly hair. lab did

a babysitter noticed this

specific

in front of the Ferrins'

man

One evening in late sitting in a

February,

white car parked

ground-floor apartment; at one match and she could see that he had a remarkably round head with wavy dark hair. When the babysitter told Ferrin about the suspicious-looking man, Darlene replied: "I guess he's checking up on me. I heard he was back from out of state." She paused and then blurted out: "He doesn't want anyone to know what I saw him do. I saw him point, he struck a

and David Faraday were random have known the young people

he next attacked in Vallejo.

At 22 and the married mother of an

was

around —

thirties,

Betty Lou Jensen If prey. Zodiac may well

infant daughter, Darlene Ferrin

started hanging

older, apparently in his early to mid-

the rifling

marks on the slugs pointed to a J. C. Higgins model 80 or a High Standard model 101 semiautomatic pistol. But the ballistics not hold out much hope of narrowing it down to a weapon, even if one were recovered.

man

strange

still

murder someone."

a Barbie-doll teenager at heart. She was

The

bouncy, blond, blue-eyed, and every-

stranger appeared a

number

of

of her friends

times at Terry's Waffle Shop, sitting at

advised her not to be so open, so indis-

the counter, asking questions about

criminately trusting. Apparently, she

Darlene Ferrin. Three times that Ferrin's

body's best buddy.

Some

family

didn't listen.

and

friends

knew about,

the

man

had met

delivered packages to her apartment.

up with some shady characters years

She identified the contents as presents: a

It's

possible Darlene Ferrin

earlier, prior to

her job at Terry's Waffle

belt

and a purse from Mexico and a

length of blue-flowered cloth.

Shop. She'd been married once before,

January 1966, she and her husband had

In May the Ferrins bought a house, and the stranger arrived uninvited at a

bummed around

painting part>' Darlene

as a teenager,

sleeping

on

and on her honeymoon,

the Virgin Islands,

the beach

the local scene.

in

and soaking up

When

she returned

He was

well dressed

of place

among

was throwing. and obviously out

the younger, jeans-clad

guests. Ferrin appeared

home, she was vague about exactly what had gone on in the islands, but she

stranger

10

terrified of the

and forbade two of her

sis-

ZODIAC

Two

photos combine to show the gravel-road entrance to a water pumping station along Lake Herman Road where VaUejo teenagers Betty Lou Jensen and David Faraday were shot on December 20, 1968. The double murder was the first of a series of Bay Area killings later attributed to Zodiac.

into the parking lot at Terry's, ters to

10 minutes with an older

speak

with him. "Darlene begged

Christina did not hear

younger

sister

Pam

And when

started chatting with the

what

in a

the

for

about

white car. Although

two were

saying, she

thought that Darlene was troubled and sensed what she

me, 'Linda, don't go near him. Just don't talk to him,' " recalled the older sister.

where she spoke

man

Ferrin's

later called

man, Darlene

Soon

"a tension

after, Ferrin

in the air."

took her

sister

home, checked in with went off to pick driven away from his

flew into a rage.

her babysitter, and, around

no one could recall the man's name. It was common: Bob or Joe or Lee, something like that. There were other men in Darlene Ferrin's life as well. She became more than casually friendly with a number of

up Mike Mageau. They had just house when Mageau said, "We're being followed." Hard on their tail was a light-colored car. Ferrin increased her speed and started dodging down side streets. But the other car stayed with them as Ferrin raced around, finally coming to the Blue Rock Springs Golf Course, four miles from downtown Vallejo. She whipped into the parking lot so fast that she hit one of the logs used to mark out the lot.

Curiously,

short and

Vallejo cops

men

who were

regular customers at Terry's. But the

she dated most often were the

Mageau

twins,

Mike

and David, tall, thin 19-year-olds with such terrific crushes on Ferrin that they would argue for the privilege of driving her to work. It was Mike Mageau she decided to go out with on Friday, the Fourth of July. Dean Ferrin had to work that evening but planned for a late-night part)'

when he

The Corvair

sister,

to a fireworks display together.

10:30, Darlene,

behind them;

its

later,

the pursuing car pulled

lights

black-and-yellow California plates.

He

Christina Suennen, went

Around

Moments

1:45, finally

were out but Mageau could see that the driver was a man and that the car had old-style, in

got home. Early in the evening

Darlene and her 15 -year-old

stalled.

1

asked Ferrin

who

she supposed

it

was. "Oh, never

mind," she snapped. "Don't worn, about

still

it."

Suddenly, the car behind them started up again and sped

accompanied by Christina, drove her bronze 1963 Corvair

11

UNSOLVED CRIMES

off

toward

had

Vallejo. Five minutes later, before Ferrin

again, the strange car reappeared.

on, behind and to the

left

It

eased to a

of the Corvair.

and when

in his car

halt, lights

get

his bedroom a few hundred yards away, the son of the In Blue Rock groundskeeper was having trouble falling

of his car, stepped around to the pas-

ed

in

were gunshots, a

in-

The

bul-

kinda

tongue before

Mageau absorbed

in

two more in the

shots into the

Darlene Ferrin.

them racing

police radio crackled with

Mike Mageau was seriously wounded, but it was Dar-

cruiser

and

to a telephone.

more fireworks, "so we on it," one of the of-

It

was already on

for a friend

What

and went

saw sent was 12:10 a.m. and now the they

an urgent dispatch to Blue Rock.

By the time the detectives got

there,

the scene.

another Vallejo police

The

officers recognized

Darlene Ferrin.

She was

still

alive

and

tried to say

something but could

took the brunt of

Mike Mageau could mumble a few words through his smashed mouth and managed to give the police officers a rough description of the killer before an am-

the attack: nine

bulance arrived.

rounds, two in

Darlene Ferrin was pronounced DOA — dead on arrival—at Kaiser Foundation Hospital. Mike Mageau was in critical condition, but the doctors thought that he would

not get

who

it

out.

probably make

started

out an agonized cry.

it.

The time was recorded

as 12:38 a.m.,

July 5, 1969.

Two minutes later, at station

12:40, a heavyset

man entered a gas

phone booth across from the Vallejo sheriffs

office

and dialed the police. When the switchboard operator came on the line, the man calmly stated: "I want to report a double murder." He said it so slowly and deliberately that

a flash as the killer turned

the operator later thought that he might have been reading

window and pumped

the message or had rehearsed it. "If you will go one mile east on Columbus Parkway to the public park, you will find kids in a brown car," the man continued. The operator attempt-

in the

wounded young man,

hitting

him

shoulder and the knee. Mageau's back arched con-

vulsively,

just

didn't roll

Rock parking lot looking

The killer kept pumping bullets

and turned back. Despite his pain, Mike Mageau could see that their assailant was beefy — maybe 200 pounds— and a head taller than the Corvair, which made him about five feet eight. His face looked large, and his curly, light brown hair was worn short, military-style. All this

was probably

admitted.

into the Blue

halted

back to the Corvair. He leaned

it

over to check out the bronze Corvair.

two in the left arm, and five in the back. Without a word, the gunman stepped back and

The man

immediately dialed the po-

A few minutes after the first report, three teenagers pulled

the right arm.

let

He

his cheek and slamming into

lene Ferrin

Then, Mageau

of them, and a car taking off at what

moped around and

ficers later

into the car.

car.

now

nearest cops, a couple of plain-clothes detective ser-

geants, thought

shattered his

passing through

walking to his

But what he

or penny salutes; the sounds

However, the Vallejo Police Department had been chasing around all night from one complaint to another.

jaw and shredded his

lot

bombs

lice.

a blaze of light and a deafening roar.

The heavy

stomach looking out the window

his

he thought was high speed.

eyes.

let

was lying on

listening to fireworks in the distance.

heard weren't cherry

Mageau heard something clink against window frame — and at that moment his world explod-

Mageau's

the

asleep; he

and

senger side of the Corvair, and aimed the light directly to

I

"Here come the cops. Better

your ID."

The man got out

Ferrin, then got

Mageau thought

the driver shone a powerful flashlight

at them, he said to Ferrin:

two more shots into Darlene and drove calmly out of the lot.

assailant fired

that the position resembled a police highway-stop tech-

nique,

back of the Corvair. For good measure, the

seat into the

time to regain her composure and get her Corvair started

his thrashing legs propelled

him over the

ed to break

front

12

in for details,

but the caller simply raised his

ZODIAC

voice, overriding hers.

"They were shot with a 9-mm.

Luger," he said, and added, "I also killed those kids year." Then, adopting a low, sneering tone, he said,

er printed his

message

cramped, tiny

letters. It

began:

writer then proceeded to specify exaaly the

ammu-

in

last

"Good-

Dear Editor is the murderer of the

bye," and hung up.

This

The man was still standing in the lighted telephone booth when a passerby glanced in his direction. The caller averted his face, swung open the booth's folding door, and walked

2 teenagers last Christmass at Lake Herman the girl

&

on the 4th of July near

quickly away.

Meanwhile,

the golf course in Vallejo at the Blue

Rock parking

lot,

To

were

detectives

murder under the floodlights of Where Mageau had been lying, they found

collecling the detritus of

three fire trucks.

a copper-jacketed slug. .38-caliber. rin

had

It

over the steering wheel;

all told,

"Winchester Western." The

truthful lice

only

The

the police

recovered seven slugs and nine shell casings marked for

"W-W"

had been used. At 8:25 a.m., Mike Mageau was wheeled into surgery for repairs to his jaw, left leg, and right arm. He would make a full recovery and eventually go to live with his mother in Los Angeles. Mageau would add nothing further to the tol

All of

writer

though she

persisted in pursuing Darlene Ferrin even

had been

at

home with

his

new wife

He was

had parted on

a small, wiry type, not at

scription of the killer. Considering the

admittedly scant evidence,

man

less

they were hunting

it

all like

call

of 17 characters, taken

neatly hand-printed as

if

on a

grid.

The

is

my

you do not print this cipher by the afternoon of Fry. 1st of

dis-

If

Aug

first

69,

I

will

Page— Fry. around

the de-

if

lines

identity.

and the

increasingly looked as

them were demanded:

paper. In this cipher

than amicable

phone

shots fired, and the positions of the

I want you to print this cipher on the front page of your

at the

hour of the murder. The cops even located Ferrin's

number of

from astrological symbols, Morse code, Greek signs, navy semaphore, weather symbols, and letters of the alphabet.

The police thoroughly checked out all possible jealousy and revenge motives. Dean Ferrin was an immediate suspea. However, he had been in the company of coworkers at the time of the murder and in any case had consistently excused his wife's dates as something she had to "get out of her system." Detectives tracked down a bartender who had

terms.

the

facts

segments consisted of eight

investigation.

whom she

&

them I which police know.

killed

some

two bodies at the Lake Herman murder scene. He did the same for the Blue Rock killing, describing what Darlene Ferrin was wearing, how he had shot Mike Mageau in the knee, and what brand of ammunition he had used. The writer then included in each letter a one-third segment of a cipher message that he had composed. Each of the

had been absolutely the weapon, the po-

caller

about the ammunition; as for

husband, from

I

nition, the

weren't able to determine exaaly what type of pis-

liked him. But he

I

looked to be either a 9-mm. or a

Another such slug turned up where Darlene Fer-

fallen

prove

shall state

all

go on a

night.

I

weekend

kill

ram-

will cruse killing lone

people in the night then

move

on to kill again, untill I end up with a dozen people over

the

was a maniac.

the weekend.

That became evident on August

1,

1969,

when

three

Bay Area newspapers — the Vallejo Times-Herald, the San Francisco Examiner, and the San Francisco Chroni-

—each

cle

There was no signature, only another symbol: a

The papers printed portions of the letter but at the request some of it. They did, however, honor the killer's demand to print the three segments of his cipher.

received virtually identical letters taking credit for

the murders of Betty

Lou Jensen, David Faraday, and Dar-

lene Ferrin. Using a fclt-tippcd

pen with blue ink, the

circle

with an overlying cross. of the police withheld

kill-

13

UNSOLVED CRIMES

At the same

time, the cipher

Mare

intelligence at

was turned over

IS SO MUCH MORE FUN THAN KILLING WILD GAME IN

BECAUSE

to U.S. naval

FUN

Island for decoding. But that proved

easier said than done.

When

naval cryptanalysts got no-

of code breakers at the National Security Agency and the Central Intelligence Agency.

meantime, hundreds

if

not thousands of avid

crossword-puzzle solvers and other readers were trying their

own hands at unraveling the cipher in the newspapers. Among them was Donald Gene Harden, a 41 -year-old hisNorth Salinas High School, 100 miles south of San Francisco. As a youngster. Harden had been fascinated by codes and still had a book or two on the subject. Harden and his wife, Bettye, went to work on Sunday morning, August 3, and started applying some basic

tory and economics teacher at

English frequency

common

most

rules: the letter E, for

in the language,

example,

I

followed by T, A, O, N,

I

WILL NOT GIVE YOU MY NAME BECAUSE YOU WILL TRY TO SLOI I

the

is

IT

IS

THE FORREST BECAUSE MAN IS THE MOST DANGEROUE ANAMAL OF ALL TO KILL SOMETHING GIVES ME THE MOST THRILLING EXPERENCE IT IS EVEN BETTER THAN GETTING YOUR ROCKS OFF WITH A GIRL THE BEST PART OF IT IS THAE WHEN DIE WILL BE REBORN IN PARADICE AND THEI HAVE KILLED WILL BECOME MY SLAVES

where, the cipher was sent to Washington for the attention

In the

IT

DOWN OR ATOP MY COLLECTIOG OF

I,

R, and S; the most frequent two-letter combinations are

SLAVES FOR AFTERLIFE

TH, HE, and AN; the most recurrent three-letter combinations are THE, ING, CON, and ENT, while the letter most often doubled is L. The Hardens knew, too, that it is

EBEORIETEMETHHPITI The Hardens' work

sheets were examined with great inby naval inteihgence, which certified them as correct. The last line seemed to be nothing more than a random collection of letters, possibly designed simply to confuse and

impossible to write a message of any length without repeating words. ful

To

that knowledge, they

derer might start out with the the

word

added a

little

thought-

— such as the idea that an egomaniacal

speculation

"kill" or "killing,"

word "I," would

terest

mur-

distract the investigators.

likely repeat

and might even begin with,

The

"I

."

like killing

.

Donald and Bettye Harden worked and

started in again

Monday

all

through Sunday

morning. The

with symbols, and had

track code breakers: letter

Q

number of

£ was

it

was

make

crypt-

writer

was

prove

and more

the killer

it."

Dear Editor is the Zodiac speaking. In answer to your asking for more details about the good times I have had in Vallejo, I shall be very happy to

on purpose considering his obvious intelligence. He had, however, committed errors in his own code. Another problem was figuring out which of the three segments of the cryptogram came first. Nevertheless, in 20 hours of work, the Hardens had cracked the code. the nature of the

letter

Despite

were not

The

attocious, quite pos-

This

sibly

The message left no doubt about was dealing with:

7.

note, Vallejo police

The murderer obliged with a new, hand-printed letter to the papers that was three pages long. And for the first time — and for reasons known only to him — the man gave himself the name Zodiac. He began:

the symbol for the letter E; the actual

and punctuation were

first

convinced that the

facts to

let-

had, for instance, used a backward

represented by seven different symbols.

killer's spelling

wrote again on Thursday, August

publicly requested that he get in touch again "with

traps to side-

no fewer than 15 times at random to

analysts think letter

He

laid a

totally

they

killer,

found, had used a complex substitution code, replacing ters

killer

the details included in the

.

supply even more material.

mind

society

I

The Zodiac related that on the Fourth of July, he did not open the door of Darlene Ferrin's Corvair; the window was

LIKE KILLING PEOPLE

14

M

.

an

down. He

already

said that

is

most dangeroue anamal of all.

the

Mike Mageau

originally

M. Blackman,

was

some of

but had lunged into the backseat

sitting in the front seat

Boon, and Timothie

very violendy with his legs; that's

track," said Vallejo Detective Sergeant

knee." Zodiac resented the idea that he had departed "the

was leading

cene of the killing with squealing described in the Vallejo papers."

tires

&C raceing engine as

He had

driven

he said, "so as not to draw attention to

ly,

how

next described

away slow-

car."

who saw him "was

about 40-45 rather shabbly dressed." Turning to the earlier "Christmass" cops

'I

how

Medical

killing,

diac probably

five shots

Jensen's back while both of

and that the

killer

was a brooding and

fellow

man

looks

by high did

I

is

that his victims

could see his victim's silhouette on

ceilling

if

you aim

you

darck spot

it

will see a

gun.

would be

a

might be pleas "to in

which event

world for

own

its

life,

neglect

it

seemed,

still

had some

the world to catch him.

the killer decided to shift his area of opera-

By September 1969, he had chosen a new hunting ground— the Lake Berryessa recreation district, 35 miles north of Vallejo in the winemaking Napa Valley. And now, he resumed his patrol for young, helpless targets. Twice on tions.

in.

had to do was spray them

who

was the case. Zodiac, do while yearning for

Shrewdly,

of the

.

the bright,

of potential victims but then

backed off and looked elsewhere. In midafternoon, three 21 -year-old women,

finally

local college

were parked at a fast-food .stand when a youngish man drove up next to them in what they variously described as a silver or ice blue 1966 Chevrolet two-door sedan bearing California plates. The man made no overt move, but students,

something about him made the

women

extremely uneasy.

next to

theirs,

down and

chain-

think to take

down

sat silently in his car

For long minutes, he pretending not to observe them, head

he was.

Tuesday, August 12, the papers

balmy afternoon of Saturday, September 27, he

may have approached two sets

.

was obvious how much Zodiac relished playing cat and mouse with investigators. "By the way, " he wrote, "are the police haveing a good time with the code.' If not, tell them to cheer up; when they do crack it they will have me." That was a lie. The killer did not realize that the code already had been deciphered and that no one had the faintest idea

On

afterlife refleas

in life."

that

killing to

It

of

him If

center of the black dot in the light.

address.

an

calls

of

beam

taped to the gun barrel, the

No

and telephone

If

bullet will strike exactly in the

I

of

black or

in the center

All

his slaves in

as a grand gesture, to punish the

across.

When

feel-

thrill

usually an expression of

flash

at a wall or

of light about 3 to 6

circle

the

a grandiose paranoid quite likely might take his

notice, in the center of the

of light

is

be found out, exposed, perhaps cornered,

What

my

"Comparing

grandeur." The psychological profile went on to sug-

was tape a small pencel

light to the barrel of

you

loner with deep-seated

inferiority.

omnipotence indicating a paranoid delusion of

feeling of

srounded

&C trees.

hills

sent to the California

"He probably feels that his down on him for some reason. The belief

gest that the notes Bullshit that area

says in the cipher

inadequacy," said the report.

so

them

Wrote Zodiac:

the horizon.

was

John Lynch, who

all, it

20 miles northeast of Vallejo, evaluation. The report came back that Zo-

killing to the satisfaction of sex

clar-

were running. The papers had printed that the night was well-lit

cipher message

for a psychiatric

a negro

Zodiac

were "The

Facility in Vacaville,

ings of isolation

he had managed to peg

Lou

accurately into Betty

the investigation. "After " will not give you my name.'

The Zodiac's

Zodiac

he had called police from the phone

booth, and that the passerby

ified for the

my

E. Pheiberte

garble might be just that — a garble to try to throw us off the

The boy, wrote Zodiac, was "thrashing out how I shot him in the

after being shot.

F. L.

the guesses. But the cops were unimpressed.

smoking

published

cigarettes.

The women did not

the license-plate number, but they did notice that he was reasonably nice looking, between 25 and 35 years of age, around six feet tall and weighing upwards of 200 pounds.

Donald and Bettye Harden's solution to the cryptogram, and everyone tried to make a name out of the jumble of letters at the end: Emmet O. Wright, Robert Henipliill, Van

15

UNSOLVED CRIMES

^ a

p

r t

3

^.

c

B i^

p

H

n

;r

M.

y

Salinas schoolteacher

Gene Harden

V

'/

(right)

c

a;

,4

Donald and his

decoded the threemailed to the San Francisco Chronicle and two other area newspapers on July 31, 1969. Harden's work wife, Bettye,

part cipher

(left)

sheet (above)

shows

his trans-

lation of the first part of the

cryptogram, in which Zodiac states his motive for murder— "I like killing people because is

so

—and

much fun"

it

his belief

that the dead will be his slaves in "paradice."

^ ^

I

^

S

ti

a X

?!

i^

^

A

o

--^

'ing figure.

Almost as frightening as the weapon was the man's appearance. Under cover of an oak tree. Zodiac had donned a square black hood that sat stiffly on his shoulders. There were slits for his mouth and eyes, and a pair of clip-on sunglasses

Shepard, 22, and Bryan Hartnell, 20, had

been close friends for two years at Pacific Union College

Angwin.

was

lake

Cecelia Shepard

a wildcat.

about

a treeless stretch, where water covered the land

was

fitted

over the eyeholes.

On

a long bib that

extended from the hood to cover the gunman's chest was stitched a white circle with a cross

one

hip,

superimposed on

it.

On

he wore a bayonet-like knife in a wooden sheath;

from the other hung a black holster along with several lengths of white plastic clothesline. In his right hand, he held

a blued-steel semiautomatic outstretched at the young couple

on the blanket.

An

isolated picnic area

ryessa (left) killing

right

is

was

on Lake Ber-

the site of a Zodiac

on September 27, 1969. At journalist-artist

smith's depiction of

Robert Gray-

how

the killer

looked that day, clad in a fourcornered hood, dark glasses, and a tunic emblazoned with a three-inchwide crossed circle. Although he holds a pistol in his right hand, the

weapons of death are at his left hand: a clothesline and a foot-long knife.

UNSOLVED CRIMES

"I

want your money and car keys,"

almost monotone voice.

He

"Hey, what am I looking at? I can't stand this." He mrned his head and froze, determined not to make a sound, knowing that if he did, he would die. At last. Zodiac was finished,

said Zodiac in a calm,

claimed that he had escaped

from prison in Montana, that he had killed a guard in the process, and needed a car in which to escape to Mexico. The

fulfilled. He stood, and still holding the bloody bayonet, walked back along the peninsula and up the gravel trail to

one he drove now was "too hot," he said. Bryan Harmell relaxed a bit, thinking it was just a robbery. He gave the gunman his keys and his money — it amounted to less than a dollar — and started talking with him, trying to keep the situation calm. Zodiac listened for a few minutes, then said, "Lie face

down on

and

boy up," he

by

knife.

said.

Zodiac returned to

make

Back es,

There was more conversation in the same voice, so calm and quiet that Bryan could not believe they would be hurt. But then Zodiac's voice took on a new tone. "I'm going to have to stab you people," he said. said Hartnell. "I'm chicken.

a telephone

she

cr>'ing

his car, started

was

Though

still

it

up, and drove off to

call.

at the lake, Cecelia

consciousness.

"I'm getting nervous."

first,"

his

Sept 27-69-6:30

Zodiac took over, and after tying up the young woman himself, he bound Bryan Hartnell securely, and then

me

on the passenger-side door. He made symbol and printed:

12-20-68

easily.

"Please stab

He

haunches,

7-4-69

a few loose knots that he could have escaped from

said:

his

Vallejo

She looped the clothesline around Harmell's wrists and tied

started writing

on

the ground. I'm

Zodiac turned to Shepard. the

There, he stepped over to Harmell's car.

circle-and-cross trademark

you up." going to have to Hartnell thought about going for the gun. But there was Cecelia Shepard to consider. Besides, all the hooded man wanted was money. tie

cars.

took out a black felt-tipped pen, squatted

tie

"You

two

the

Shepard incredibly recovered

her aorta had been cut in

two

and she and Bryan Hartnell

alive,

plac-

started

out for help.

Hartnell started thinking about getting loose. Painfully,

he rolled himself into a position where he could start gnawing with his teeth at the plastic clothesline binding Cecelia

Shepard's wrists.

I

made

The

slippery coating of blood covering the

"I'll do just that," said Zodiac, and whipped out his bayonet. He knelt and started slamming the foot-long knife into

little easier, and he slowly loosened them and freed Shepard. Somehow, she overcame her agony to untie Hartnell. They both summoned the strength

Hartnell's back.

to

Blood was spurting up into Cecelia Shepard's face and she was screaming for Zodiac to stop. Still on his knees. Zodiac

young son m a boat out on the and groans. When he looked toward the peninsula and saw the bloody couple, he started up his outboard motor and sped off in the direction of the nearest ranger station two miles up the lake. Bryan Hartnell had

knots

couldn't stand to see her stabbed."

let

out an eerie sort of grating growl.

young

woman and

stabbed her

He

then began

plunging the knife with a frantic rhythm — into her back, her chest, her groin, her

for help.

father fishing with his

lake heard their pleas

whirled to the

in the ribs,

cr>-

A

his task a

seen the fisherman, but

abdomen.

when

the boat roared

spaired of help from that quarter.

"Stop! Stop! Stop!" screamed Shepard.

He

He would

away he

de-

have to seek

The young woman was writhing in agony on the ground, and Zodiac worked to pin down the slender figure, to hold her steady for death. The knife continued to rise and fall —

help himself.

24 times in aU. A few feet away, Bryan Harmell was still dimly conscious and watching the macabre scene. One knife thrust had grazed the sac surrounding his heart but had not penetrated

took the fisherman close to half an hour to reach the ranger station and another 15 minutes or so for two rescue parties to reach the peninsula, one by car and the

it.

As

started to crawl along the path leading off

the peninsula, although he that he could scarcely

was

so

weak from

loss of

blood

move.

It

second by boat. The ranger in the patrol car found Br)'an Harmell still valiantly crawling up the trail, 300 yards from

he looked on, the thought flashed through his head.

20

ZODIAC

where Cecelia Shepard lay. Hartnell told the ranger that Shepard was out on the peninsula. The ranger jumped back in his car and rushed down to find her. The park facilities at Lake Berryessa did not include an ambulance. The nearest emergency team was an hour away, at Queen of the Valley Hospital in Napa. The rangers did what little they could for first aid and wrapped the two desperately wounded young people in blankets to wait. At 7:40 p.m., about 70 minutes after the assault, the duty officer at the

incoming

Napa Count)'

call

on

Police

Department answered the

line one.

murder — no, a double murder," said on the other end. "They are two miles north of park headquarters. They were in a white Volkswagen Karmann-Ghia." The caller paused, and the Napa County dut>' officer asked: "Where are you?" "I'm the one who did it," whispered the voice. The caller put down the receiver, but he did not hang up. The police officer could hear traffic noises and voices in "I

want

to report a

the calm, young-sounding voice

CECELIA

ANN SHEPARD

the background.

Acting quickly, the officer called the phone company, a pay phone at the Napa Car- Wash Napa, 27 miles from the scene of the attack. Typically for Zodiac, the phone was scarcely four blcKks from the police station. But by the time the cops got there, the killer was gone. It was close to 8:30 when an ambulance finally arrived at the lake, and another hour or so passed before Cecelia Shepard and Br) an Hannell reached the hospital. Although he

which traced the

on Main

call to

Street in

was

critically wounded, Hartnell's chances of survival seemed good. Doctors worked over Shepard in the operat-

ing

room most of the night, but her wounds were simply too

massive for her to her

when

live.

Cecelia Shepard's parents were with

she died at 3:45 the next afternoon.

A guard was assigned to watch over Bryan Hartnell around the clock. "With a psychopath on the loose, we can't take any chances with the only living witness," said a captam in the Napa Sheriffs Office. Indeed. Aside from Harmell's description of the the attack, there were precious few clues.

The

man and Twenr>'-year-old pre-law student Bryan Hartnell survived the

three college

Lake Berryessa attack and provided police with a descrip-

women told of their encounter with the odd-acting young man earlier in the afternoon, and an artist produced a composite sketch

from

their descriptions.

anyone resembling the

tion of Cecelia Shepard's killer.

But police did not find

picture. Fingerprint technicians did

21

To

claim credit for what he believed to

be a double murder at Lake Berryessa, Zodiac called the police from this Napa pay phone, leaving the receiver dangling after

making

the

call.

manage, however, to telephone — possibly

At the

lift

a

palm

from the car-wash

print

a useful bit of evidence.

scene, near

Bryan Hartnell's

car, detectives

found

deep footprints that confirmed a weight of around 220 poimds for Zodiac. The shoe was a size 10 '/z. A manufacturer's

boot

trademark on the sole identified

known

as a

Wing Walker. More

it

as a chukka-style

than 1,000,000 pairs

had been produced under military contract; 103,700 pairs had been shipped to Ogden, Utah, for distribution to navy and air force bases on the West Coast. Zodiac, it appeared, might be connected with the armed forces. That was something, but potential suspects.

And

an impossible universe of dismay of police, the killer activities. After the murders of

it

left

to the

seemed to be stepping up his Betty Lou Jensen and David Faraday, Zodiac had paused nearly seven months before killmg Darlene Ferrin. Only 12 weeks had passed between Ferrin's death and his strike at Lake Berryessa.

The next killed

chose

interval

shorter

still.

Two

weeks

after

Cecelia Shepard, Zodiac murdered again.

this victim at

Francisco

was

random

also,

but

he

He

now in the city of San

itself.

At 9:30 p.m. on the foggy evening of Saturday, Oaober Paul Lee Stine was waiting for a fare in the cab rank of the world-renowned St. Francis Hotel near Union Square. 1

1,

The 29-year-old

Stine

was studying

for a Ph.D. in English

San Francisco State and needed all the part-time taxi money he could make. Not that he particularly cared for driving a cab; five weeks before, he had been robbed by a couple of armed men. That worried Stine's wife, and it worat

ried him.

The

theaters in the

Union Square area were

dis-

gorging smiling, chattering patrons, and a stream of yellow taxicabs flowed through the streets. Stine responded to a

radio dispatch for an address on Ninth

away from

Avenue and pulled

the curb.

But the masses of people slowed everything down, and

was just inching along. Stine halted when a stocky man flagged him down and came up to the window. The man gave an address that was not too far from the Ninth Avenue call, on Washington Street at Maple in the section of the city called Presidio Heights. Its principal landmark is the Presidio, the headquarters of the U.S. Sixth Army, the traffic

which sprawls over 1 ,400 heavily wooded parklike acres. It would require only a quick detour to take the man to his



sand

In the

Lake Ber-

at the

ryessa picnic

investigators

site,

found deep footprints with a trademark in the sole's

circular

instep (inset)-

The mark

identi-

fied the killer's shoes as size

10 '/2 government-issue Wing Walkers, made by Avon, a Massachusetts company. (TTie sole of

an identical shoe

shown

above.) Clear heel prints

is

suggested that Zodiac had



walked rather than run from the scene.

other into

;JpSrf»-^"' ;|gp^

clothes.

j^jj.

The

what anatomists—and coroners — call the zygomatic arch, a bony prominence in front of the ear, and lodged in the muscle overlying the arch. Paul Lee Stine was dead by the time the bullet chunks came to rest. Zodiac got out of the backseat and slid into the front. The third ripped through

time

was

At

down

9:55.

that

moment, a 14-year-old

at the

girl

happened to look

cab from the second-floor window of a house

across the street. She yelled for her 16-year-old brother.

They saw a heavyset man in the front seat of the cab. He had the driver's head in his lap and appeared to be struggling with him or searching him. Zodiac was looking for the driver's wallet. He found it and then yanked at the dead man's shirt and ripped away a piece of the garment. Next, he leaned over the body and

destination. Stine

waved him

down

into the backseat of the cab, quickly jotted

on

the address

About

1

minutes

his trip sheet, later, the

ton Street address. For

changed farther

his

mind

down

and

started to

some reason — perhaps

at the last

roll.

cab arrived at the Washing-

the street, to the corner of

started wiping

the passenger

minute — Stine drove a

and yanked

frantically at the encircling

it

wipe down the

He got

out

driver's door,

in to

toward the

From

arm, but though he was a well-

them

He

Presidio.

their

window,

called the police,

police operator asked

any case, for in his right hand Zodiac held a 9-mm. semiautomatic pistol. He jammed it had but a second or two,

to

the handle,

back. Stine clawed

muscled 180 pounds, he could not loosen the embrace.

the driver's side of the cab.

and the mirror. He opened the door and leaned wipe the dashboard area again. Then he closed the door and walked away, heading north on Cherry Street

Washington and

The dark, fog-shrouded grounds of the Presidio were two blocks away. Zodiac leaned forward, swung his left forearm around Cherry.

the cab driver's head,

down

and came around the cab

little

the kids

who if

had witnessed

it all.

One

logged in the alarm at 9:58.

the crime

was

still

of

The

in progress.

"Yes," answered the teenager.

in

The operator

tried to get a physical description of the

made pulp of his brain

man, and in the confusion of the moment a critical error was made. He jotted down that the man leaving the cab — a negro male adult — instead of a WMA, a was an white male adult. The operator asked in which direction the man had gone

side of his head;

and whether he was armed.

against the cabby's right temple

There was very

little

and pulled the

trigger.

sound. Stine's head absorbed most

NMA

of the muzzle blast as the heavy, copper-coated slug ex-

ploded into his

skull,

fragmenting into three pieces that

tissue. Two of them exited on the left one dropped to the floor of the car, the

23

UNSOLVED CRIMES

'.W Paul Seine's

left

arm dangles out

^^^

the front

passenger door of his yellow cab (bottom) on the night of October 11, 1969. Inside the car, parked at the

comer of

Washington and Cherry streets, the dead cabby lay sprawled across the front seat, his head resting on the floorboard.

^^^^^

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^ ahended orau/ing

ORIGINAL ORAUIING

Additional infor^tion hes Supplementing our Bulletin 87-69 of October 13, 1969. known as ZUDIAL . developed the above amended drau/ing of murder suspect Brou/n Hoir, possibly »lth 3S-4S Years, approxinately 5'a-. Heavy Build, Short Automatic. Red Tint, HJeors Glasses. Armed Kith 9

UIIW,

were assigned to every bus. No fewer than 70 units of heavily

armed Napa cops rode shotgun on the buses; Forestry Department rangers in pickups helped guard the buses, and aircraft from the sheriffs department and trolled the school-bus routes. Said

m

Available for comparison!

Inspectors Armstrong 4 Toschi Homicide Detail CASE NO. 696314

years of age, five feet eight inches,

official:

The

little

psychological

Thomas

C.

Lynch issued a statement promising Zodiac help and full protection of his rights if he would give himself up. "He obviously is an intelligent individual," said Lynch. "He

knows that eventually he will be taken into custody, so would be best that he give himself up before tragedy

it

is

written in blood."

The Sunday Examiner

"You

you help

patrolmen

had ever encountered Zodiac. Nonetheless, working from the officers' description, a police arrist constructed a

glasses.

authorities also decided to use a

warfare. California State Attorney General

plea: its

200 pounds, with short

reddish-brown hair and heavy-rimmed

with despair." denied that two of

THOIWS J. CAHILL CHIFF OF POLICE

composite drawing: Zodiac was seen as between 35 and 45

the local flying club pa-

one Napa school

do you overreact to a threat like that? We're worrying whether we've done enough." And what was happening in Napa County was happening all around the Bay Area. At this point, the cops got a little better idea of what Zodiac looked like — at the expense of some embarrassment. Finally, the two radio-car patrolmen who had raced to Cherry and Jackson streets on the night of the taxi driver's murder realized that they had come face-to-face with Zodiac. The two officers were said to be "shattered and Officially, the S.F.P.D.

it ing.

ANY INFORMATION!

"How

filled

Slugs, Casings, Latents, Handiur

face

life

yourself.

Examiner.

We

We

offer

But we do offer vou

new

30

printed

its

own

pious, self-serving

as a hunted, tormented animal

— unless

ask that you give yourself up, to the

you no protection, and no sympathy. fair

treatment, the assurance of medical

ZODIAC

Famed

attorney Mclvin Belli

(right) appears

on an October

22, 1969, morning

show with

ready to take diac.

help and the

benefits of

full

the lure the editors killer:

"And we

your

legal rights."

hoped would land the

offer to

tell

nowned

Then came tele-

phone number and the suggestion to call collect. Zodiac fell for none of this. He had the authorities thoroughly buffaloed, and he meant to pursue his own agenda. He might even have been exercising his sense of humor. A

frightened. Literally

an October 20 stratSan Francisco's Hall of Justice, Inspectors Toschi and Armstrong conferred with detectives from the police and sheriffs departments of no fewer than sbc

egy session held

gence, the FBI, the U.S. Post Office, the California

the state Bureau of Criminal Identification

police speculated.

jumped at Zodiac's on such short notice, but suggestion. Bailey was unavailable TV two-hour, early-morning the Belli agreed to appear on Dunbar. host talk show with Jim Whatever the

operated behind a sidewalk picture win-

He was

and

Investigation.

than 100 murderers with only three convictions. Called "the

Street.

intelli-

Highway

and Zodiac was unaware of the meeting, of course, but being as cagey as he surely was, he had to know that time and the odds were turning against him. Or so the Patrol,

I

Montgomery

in

suburban counties, plus representatives from naval

"This is the Zodiac speaking," the calm voice said. "I want you to get in touch with F. Lee Bailey. If you can't come up with Bailey, I'll settle for Melvin Belli. want one or the other to appear on the Channel Seven talk show. I'll make contact by telephone." Bailey and Belli were the two most successful criminal lawyers in the coimtry. Bailey, who was known as the master of acquittal, was famed for having defended no fewer

Belli

murder game — and maybe a little hundreds of cops were on the hunt and

his

starting to coordinate their efforts; at

San Francisco.

Francisco's

from the Zo-

never called.

Just possibly, reasoned the authorities. Zodiac could be

was about to begin. At 2 a.m. on October 22, 1969, the phone jangled at the police department in Oakland, the city across the bay from

dow on San

calls

killer

as the defender of such headline malefactors as

growing weary of

bizarre episode

king of torts,"

talk

Hollywood mobster Mickey Cohen and Jack Ruby, slayer of presidential assassin Lee Harvey Oswald, and for his flamboyant courtroom style.

publicity-loving

your story." There was a

The

TV

host Jim Dunbar,

re-

31

case, the authorities

— UNSOLVED CRLME5

Injecting

humor

into his deadly

and cryptic correspond-

November

ence. Zodiac wrote a

8,

1969, note to the

San Francisco Chronicle on a "Jesters" greeting card. He enclosed a letter in which he claimed seven viaims two more than the poUce were aware of and a second cipher (background). This code was never broken.



What followed could only be described

The first call came in at 7: 10 a.m., during a commercial, and the man quickly hung up. He called again 10 minutes later. Belli asked the man if they might call him by a name

police cars followed

ominous than Zodiac. "Sam," answered the youthful voice. Belli asked where they might meet. "Meet me at the top of the Fairmont Hotel," said Sam. "Without anyone else, or I'll jump." At this point, Sam hung up, perhaps to defeat a phone company trace. But he soon called back. Belli

asked

that he did but insisted said he

was, never showed up. After about 45 minutes, Melvin decided to go home, and the parade reversed

The Oakland cop who had taken the

was sick, that he had headaches. want to go to the gas chamber,"

have headaches.

If

I

kill

1

said

Sam.

"1

from

show

The

police gathered together three

who had

talked to Zodiac: the Vallejo

Zodiac, they concluded.

Who

don't get them."

him

the original call

and Napa switchboard operators and Br) an Hartnell. They all agreed that Zodiac's voice was deeper and more mature. Sam sounded too young and insecure, too patheric to be

no one had gone to the gas chamber in California for years, that this talk was his passpon to sunival. He asked Sam how long he had been exSoothingly, Belli told

Belli

itself.

claiming to be Zodiac thought that the talk

of the four people

Sam answered that his problem was not mental. He

"1 don't

man

voice sounded different.

he needed medical attention.

if

a gaggle of

crews, radio trucks, re-

and photographers. Zodiac, or Sam, or whoever he

porters,

less

TV camera

by

as a procession of

was followed by

the absurd. Melvin Belli's car

was

not Zodiac? Police succeeded

if

it,

subsequent phone

that

calls

made

who had

a mental patient

to

Belli.

Sam

in tracing

turned out to be

access to a telephone at

Napa

State Hospital.

periencing the headaches.

"Since Belli

I

killed a kid,"

asked

the

if

"No," answered Sam. Belli It

asked

if

had no

effect. it

so

the

fits.

"I just

he took aspirin.

And

Whether Zodiac did or did not make that

responded Sam.

man had

have headaches."

Sam said

Zodiac

fever.

Yet the

calls,

ing school buses,

in the grip

of

like

you're in a great deal of pain," said the

again. "I'm going to

kill

and

railing

and threatening to an extent

quired postage.

contained another bloodstained scrap of cabdriver Paul

them; I'm going to

Srine's shirt.

The message was

those kids."

The next time Sam phoned, the call was not broadcast. "Do you want me to be your lawyer? There is goodness in you. Would you like to tell me anything?" asked Belli. "Nothing," answered Sam, then added, "I feel an awful

thought funny.

On

printed

on a greeting card that the killer was a picture of a soaking wet

the front

fountain pen, with the caption: "Sorry I

just

"and

lonesomeness."

washed I

can't

Zodiac's

my pen

.

.

." Inside

do a thing with

own

about the gas chamber and staned talking to

Sam about where to meet. He suggested the Old St. Mary's Church in Chinatown rather than the Fairmont. Sam countered with Shop on Mission

This 1

is

10:30 that same morning.

32

haven't written, but

was the pimch line:

hand-printed message began as usual:

the Zodiac speaking

though you would nead a

good laugh before you hear the bad news you won't get the

Street at

1

the flap

it!"

he would speak to the district attorney

the St. Vincent de Paul Thrift

in-

10, 1969, two letters arrived at As usual, both of them had double the reBy way of authentication, the first envelope

the newspaper.

anorney. "Your voice sounds muffled. What's the matter?"

Belli said that

was

curiously silent about the

On Monday, November

headache," explained Sam.

Sam moaned

was

venting yet another cipher, talking again about target-

not seen before.

kill all

killer

was too preoccupied with claiming two more murders,

a dozen of which were broadcast to the

At one point, a sound resembling a faint scream came over the phone and Belli asked, "What was that?"

"You sound

to

episode the next time he wrote to the Chronicle. Perhaps he

television audience.

"My

first call

he must have gotten a kick out

police,

of the subsequent uproar. San Francisco

that he did bur that

went, on and on, over the course of two hours

and 35 phone

Oakland

/\

t\

b

' effecrive" way to avoid leaving fingerprints.

had been out of

months

Zo-

mail before California enaaed a ban on such sales and thus

Des July Aug Sept Oct = 7.

it

killmg.

to say that he always painted his fingertips with

All of his guns but one, he continued,

schi sent

far that

ver\ different

when he was not

coats of transparent model airplane glue

At the bottom of the card Zodiac had written:

by

killer said that the police descrif)-

in

August

had been slain in San Jose, 50 miles south of San Francisco. Each of them had been stabbed repeatedly; neither had been sexually assaulted.

case in which

girls

But the apparent link to Zodiac dissolved when

another person was arrested for the crimes. In the second of the letters received

Zodiac announced that he was changing

on November his st\!e.

He

10,

again

claimed seven murders, but said:

I

have gro\Mi

rather angr\' with the police for their telling lies

So

I

shall

about me.

change the way the

collecting of slaves.

I

shall

no longer announce to anyone. when I committ my murders, they shall look like routine robberies, killings of anger,

a few fake accidents,

The

&

etc.

police shall never catch

me.

A bomb

diagram Zodiac sent to the Chronicle on No\ em-

ber 9, 1969, notes in the top right comer, "bus goes bang car passes by ok." The bomb's trigger mechanism entailed having the passing bus break a photoelectric

34

beam.

ZODIAC

walking

down

park when

them

&; one of

&c asked

this

if I

the

reasons, the Chronicle refrained from printing the

to the

hilJ

cop car pulled up called

me

threat part of the

Nothing further was heard from Zodiac

over

saw any one

Christmas card to Melvin

acting suspicisous or strange in the last 5 to

was

yes there

10 min &:

this

ber 27.

letter.

Zodiac wished the law-

yer a

a gun

he sent a

also contained yet another swatch of

"Merry Xmass and New Year," and, for the seemed to be having some second thoughts:

man who

was running by waveing

The envelope

until

was opened on Decem-

Belli that

Paul Stine's shirt and a short

said

I

bomb-

letter.

first

time,

&C the cops peeled rubber &:

The one

went around the comer as I directed them &: I dissap eared into the park a block &i

a half

away never

this thing in I

pig doesnt

you up

am

1

me won't

extreamly

it

in

check

icult to

hold

afraid

will loose control

booboos?

again and take

rile

I

Zodiac hooted at the police for thinking that he ever meant to take on a school bus with a gun. He had a much better idea — a bomb — and he explained how he could make a death-spewing, electrically triggered mine from a bag of ammonium nitrate fertilizer, a gallon of stove oil, and some bags of gravel. For the edification of the cops, Zodiac sketched out the device and described how it could be tall

vehicle

—a

bus for instance — would

1

think you

do not have

am

moment.

am

&

nineth

drownding.

TTie

Belli that

bomb was

schoolchildren were safe for

so big and

difficult to

dig

in,

and the trigger mechanism needed a lot of work to get it just right. Zodiac signed off: "If I hold back too long from no nine,

will loose complet..."

I

Zodiac crossed out that word and substituted the word "all," and then continued: "controol of my self &: set the

trip the trigger its

I

1

dif-

viaom. Please

Zodiac confided to the

placed in an elevated position at the side of the road so that

mechanism, while an auto could not, because of height. Zodiac went on:

me

help

my

me.

let

it

to have your noze rubed in \our

it

is

cannot

finding

posibly tenth

a

ask of you

1

reach out for help because of

to be seen

again.

Hey

thing

please help me.

this,

lower

bomb

up. Please help

much

longer."

me

I

can not remain

in control for

Victim No. 9 and maybe No. 10? That sounded as if Zodiac wanted the police to know — or think— that he had

the

by continually searching the

an eighth time since his November letters. The police undertook a painstaking appraisal of unsolved homicides

road sides looking for

that

manpower

&

thing.

&

to stop this one

it

wont do

killed

this

had wrinen

schedule the busses bee

re

ause the

bomb

had occurred between

None seemed

to re roat

can be adapted

in his

new conditions. Have fun!! By the way

Belli

do everything

could be rather messy

I

you

e\er help you

to bluff me.

they read the

letter,

Inspeaor Toschi and

leagues immediately queried

army bomb

ble?" one of

"It cerrainlv is."

them responded.

letter that

he was plan-

in style.

pleaded with Zodiac through the pages of the "You have asked me for help and I promise you

if

When

Christmas.

Zodiac — but of course he

Chronicle:

it

tr>-

November and

second November

ning a radical change

to

early

to point clearly to

will

in

my power to provide you

may need

or

may want."

Belli

with what-

offered to meet

Zodiac alone — or with a priest, psychiatrist, or reporter, whatever Zodiac wished. He told the killer: "You say you

his col-

are 'losing control'

experts. "Possi-

For obvious

worse. Let

35

me

and may kill again. now."

help vou

Do

not

make

things

Belli told reporters that

rational

mood when

sidering his funire

he

felt

Zodiac had been

he wrote the

and knew

it

letters,

in

a calm,

was con-

that he

to be bleak. "Unless he gets

proper legal representation, he will

most probably be

tenced to die in the gas chamber. That

is

why

he

is

sen-

crying

out for help."

Zodiac

may have been doing nothing of the sort. He may Belli around. He never answered

simply have been jerking the lawyer's appeal.

Kathleen Johns had

L

visit

the distance

a long drive ahead as she set out to

her sick mother on Sunday,

from Johns's home

in

March

22, 1970;

San Bernardino, east

of Los Angeles, to her mother's house in Petaluma, a small farming community northwest of San Francisco,

The 23-year-old Johns was not trip; she had a 10-month old baby and was seven months pregnant. But she rested during the day and set out late in the afternoon, hoping that the baby would sleep during most of the trip.

was some 400

miles.

looking forward to the

It

was about midnight when Johns noticed

steady bghts of a

car in her rearview mirror.

the

She

would pass. Instead, the and soundmg his horn. Then he pulled alongside and hollered that Johns's left rear wheel was wobbling. Johns pulled over to the side of Highway 132, and the man pulled in behind her, got out, and came up to her window. slowed to see

if

the other car

driver started blinking his lights

neatly dressed

Johns could see and clean-shaven, about 30 years

maybe.

In his hand, he held a tire iron.

In the glare of his headlights, Kathleen

that he

was

old, a serviceman

"Your in

a

left

rear wheel

is

wobbling," the

soft, gentle voice. "I'll tighten

man

your lugs

if

said again,

you'd

like."

Johns thanked him and could hear him working on the wheel. In a few minutes, he came back and said, "O.K. That should do it." Then he got back in his car and drove off. Kathleen Johns had driven less than 100 feet when the

went spinning off. The station wagon lurched and ground to a halt on the left rear axle. The stranger immediately stopped and backed up. "Oh, no," he said. "The trouble's worse than I thought. I'll give you a ride to

rear wheel

the service station."

Up

ahead, about a quarter-mile in

the distance, they could see the floodlights

Arco gas

and sign of an

station.

Kathleen Johns had few options. She picked up her baby

Two

months

after

Melvin

Belli's fruitless televi-

sion appearance, he received a Christmas letter

from Zodiac. Mailed locally with double postage and signed with the emblematic crossed circle, it was the killer's eighth letter and the first in

which he asked

for help.

ZODIAC

and got

in the stranger's car.

headlights were

in the ignition.

still

Then

he did that, Johns told herself, she would

she noticed that her

and remembered that the keys were The man hopped out, punched off the

car with her baby

still lit

Abruptly, the

and removed the keys.

lights,

if

down

a farm road.

A couple

"Do you always go around

field.

grass

of times he slowed as

I

at her.

helping people on the road

them they don't need any

you."

Kathleen Johns was certain that he meant

knew he meant

it

when

And

it.

she

he said, "I'm going to throw

baby out."

the

But nothing happened immediately. The stranger kept driving

down one back

road and up another.

A

couple of

Srine.

hours passed. Ever>- so often, her captor would repeat that

was about

she it,

he spoke

in

to die, that he

As

man

would

kill

her.

When

no emotion of any

her. First, she concentrated

in case she

and

same time," Kathleen Johns

on

somehow managed

from the dashboard showed her a

kind.

the appearance of the to survive.

fairly

The glow

strong face with a

back.

author

his investigation, "this old semi-

the freeway, his lights

It is

When

police

unlikely that he hitched a ride; he

have taken a bike along or he

five foot nine; she thought the man was a little and weighed somewhere in the neighborhood of 170 pounds. His hair seemed to be brown, worn in a sort of crew cut, and he had glasses with heavy rims; a band of elastic around his head held the spectacles firmly in place. He had on a blue-black nylon jacket over a white shirt, with

Johns was

Back

San Bernardino, Kathleen Johns studied

in

may

may have walked.

mug

shots of potential suspeas sent to her by San Francisco P.D.

shorter

Inspeaor Dave Toschi. Her kidnapper was not tures. "If

I

saw him

again, though,

I

would

in the pic-

instantly rec-

ognize him," she said. Despite Johns's reaction to the Zodiac composite, there

was not enough supporting evidence

black bell-bortt)m trousers. His highly polished black shoes

Maybe the

come

later told

Zodiac.

a puzzlement.

chin that retained the scars of adolescent acne. Kathleen

reminded Johns of navy-issue footwear. a navy man.

was going on

He was shining

calling for her to

went to retrieve Kathleen Johns's station wagon, the car was gone. They ultimately found it on another road some distance away — completely gutted by fire. The kidnapper apparently had returned to the car, gone to the trouble of putting the wheel back on, then driven the vehicle to where he torched it. How he had then remrned to his own car \sas

he said

frightened as she was, Kathleen Johns kept her wits

about

the

through the grass.

There was a weird postscript to the episode.

a monotone, slowly, precisely, his voice be-

traying no anger,

field

must have flashed on the man because the driver stopped that big thing on a dime and jumped out and yelled 'What the hell is going on?' and this guy jumped in his car and split." Later, at a local police station, Kathleen Johns happened to look at a bulletin board with some wanted posters tacked on it. "Oh, my God," she screamed. "That's him. That's him right there." She was staring at the composite drawing of the man wanted for the murder of San Francisco cabdriver Paul

By now, Johns was thoroughly scared. They rode in si30 minutes. Finally, the man turned to her and said: "You know you're going to die. You know I'm

also

man

truck

lence for another

kill

She could see the a flashlight into the

"About

help," he said in a voice filled with menace.

going to

He had made

In a flash,

She found a shallow irrigation ditch lined with tall and dropped into it, holding her body over her infant

Robert Graysmith during

get through with

the brakes.

up a freeway ramp.

to muffle the cries.

like this?" she asked.

"When

the

Johns had the door open. Clutching her baby, she leaped out, dashed across the dark road and out into the middle of a

to pull over but accelerated again. Kathleen thought he

might be working up to make a pass

jump out of

start running.

man jammed on

the mistake of driving

The Arco station came up — and receded into the distance. The man kept driving. He passed one exit, then another. That was weird. Johns became uncomfortable but said nothing. Eventually, the man swung off the highway and started

and

for the police to lay the

stranger

abduction to Zodiac officially. Nevertheless, the suspicion

made up her mind to escape — or at least tr\'. The man drove carefully and slowed almost but not quite to a halt at stop signs. The next time

was strong. As Robert Graysmith wrote: "The faa that the murder attempt on Kathleen and her baby occurred near and that the man was dressed midnight, on a weekend in Navy garb and wore a crew cut, led me to belie\c that she

was

Kathleen Johns

she

would

give

it

a

.

37

.

.

UNSOLVED CRIMES

t

had escaped from the Zodiac killer. Added to this was the fact that the stranger wore dark-riinmed glasses and spoke

in the

monotone voice

that

all

the surviving vic-

tims have mentioned."

Over

the next several months, Zodiac's letter-

writing campaign to the media and police

jumped

Between April 20 and October 27, 1970, the killer composed and mailed no fewer than seven bragging, taunting messages in which, among other things, he suggested that he had claimed another 10 into overdrive.

"slaves" for his

As

afterlife.

usual, the April

20

letter.

Zodiac's ninth in San

Francisco, opened with the now-familiar salutation is the Zodiac speaking" and went on to inquire if anybody had solved his last cipher. What came across crystal clear was Zodiac's statement that he had killed 1 people to date and that it would have been a lot more had his bus bomb not been a dud. The killer explained that the device had been "swamped out" in a recent rain. But there was a new and more complicated bomb now. Zodiac promised, and he sketched it out in a diagram. He then wrote: "I hope you have fun trying figure

"This

out

who

I

killed."

At the end of the letter he said that the score stood at 10 for Zodiac and zero for the San Francisco police. The killer's next communication arrived a little over a week later, on Wednesday, April 29. Zodiac was in a humorous mood again. He sent a greeting card that showed

two gnarled prospectors riding along, one on a donkey, the other on a panting, pooped-out dragon. The punch line read, "Sorry to hear your ass

His message:

is

a dragon."

He would bomb

a school bus unless the

authorities publicized the details of his latest

threat to use

it

And something I

that he

had made

else:

would like some nice Zodiac butons

to see

wandering about town. Every one else had these buttons like,

® black power,

melvin eats

bluber, etc. Well

me up

it

considerbly

would cheer saw

if

1

a lot of people wearing

my

bomb and

the

in his letter of April 20.

/.

K

ZODIAC

buton. Please no nasty ones

next Fall to dig

it

up.

like melvin's

On the enclosed oil company highway map Zodiac had drawn a V whose angle rested on Mt. Diablo in Contra Costa County across the bay. On the summit was a U.S. Navy radio relay station. The mountain's name, Spanish for "devil," sounded an ominous note, but investigators were stumped when they tried to extraa useful clues from the map. And as before, no one could crack the cipher. Zodiac

sounded as though Zodiac was miffed at Melvin Belli reason, or maybe it was just another one of the

It

for

some

weird jokes.

killer's

San Francisco's police chief labeled the

bomb threat a ruse

but nevertheless held a press conference to

know

let

the public

Zodiac was again talking about bombs.

that

ever, at police request, the papers did not print the

Howbomb

diagram — and no Zodiac buttons were ordered.

That

A

A

postmarked June 26 the Zodiac speaking," and then launched

responding to the Chronicle. began, "This

might

Zodiac. Yet he waited two months before

irritated

is

letter

I

have become very upset with

my

I

to punish

But

now

1

is

ended

Some

snapped one

detective.

in

May and

"We If

had

postscript.

code

Map

Zodiac had

bomb

is set.

burning her

found them.

him

shall tie

credit for Kathleen Johns's ab-

would

He began by inflict

on the

in the hereafter:

over ant

hills

then burned. Others shall

be placed

June, the police had no idea

beef I

Zodiac wrote out a two-line, 32-character

untill

in

cages &c fed

salt

they are gorged then

shall listen to their pleass

for water

and

I

shall

laugh at

them.

coupled with

will tell

I

&

nails

al-

cipher and said:

The

I

pine splinters driven under their

their

have

the victims might have been.

As a

my

and watch them scream &C twich and squirm. Others shall have

But Zodiac could easily have

in the papers. Besides, the S.F.P.D.

ready issued an arrest warrant in the case."

who

in

slaves awaiting

er writing out a traffic ticket.

more

howers one

describing the exquisite tortures he

A San Francisco city policeman had in fact been slain with

killed twice

I

threats in the other letter to the Chronicle.

sitting in

lying,"

starting with

&i her baby that

Having apparently taken

a .38-caliber revolver the Friday before as he sat in his cruis-

man. "He's

un-

duction four months before. Zodiac poured out a torrent of

0^-12 SFPD-0

it

how

out for

a parked car with a .38

read about

little list,

woeman

car where

School Buss.

school

man

simultaneously on

reiterated to the Chronicle

evening a few months back that

1

shot a

Zodiac became pos-

now

I

for a coupple

them

summer, so punished them in another way. the

July 27.

at this point.

letters arrived

gave a rather interesting ride

nice -^^ buttons.

full

One

the

they did not comply, by

if

anilating a

Monday,

have a

wishes for them to

wear some promiced

Two

So

San Fran Bay

Area. They have not complied

with

and

passed,

itively garrulous.

happy Zodiac was about the buttons and continued:

into a complaint:

the people of

have been enjoying another chuckle.

just

month

It went on and on — 2^diac hanging his slaves by their thumbs. Zodiac cooking victims in the sun. Zodiac skinning his prey alive and watching them run around shrieking. The

this

you where the

You

have

until!

39

.

UNSOLVED CRIMES

killer

revealed himself to be a Gilbert

and Sullivan

fan, for

the lord high executioner, describes the unfortunates

are

on

his

death

skeleton with a message that perfectly suited Zodiac's pur-

who

pose.

Zodiac's version,

like Gilbert

who

and

Sullivan's,

marked

for

collected autographs, people with

I

and

irritating laughs,

in

you ache

them be missed."

I'll

tuated his

with the

Zodiac ended with

it

bones,

know my name. And so

As Ko-Ko

list

people

The Mikado, Zodiac puncrefrain: "They'd none of them be

never kissed."

missed. They'd none of

feel

my

who ate peppermint and breathed in his face, and women who dressed like men. He added a new offender to the group — "The girl who flabby hands

"FROM YOUR SECRET PAL," announced the card,

followed by a verse:

list.

execution people

Zodiac enclosed a Halloween card featuring a dancing

ries.

he paraphrased lines from The Mikado, in which Ko-Ko,

to

did in

clue

you

in

.

.

his version of the lord high execu-

Paul Avery caught his breath and fumbled to open the

tioner's aria:

taunting card.

why

our game! Happy Halloween!"

And uncompromising

"But then

kind such as wachamacallit,

In large letters across the inside of the card.

thingmebob, and

printed

like wise, well-

nevermind, and tut tut tut

letter

contained a

SFPD =

0,

new

=

practice

on

and gave him

their pistol range. In the Chronicle

one of them himself. The California media played the story for

13.

worth, of course, and that in turn soon

of the detectives

elicited

a

all

it

letter

was from

an anonymous tipster to Avery. The note had been mailed from southern California — and it added a whole new dimension to the Zodiac killings. The writer told Avery about

Halloween murder of Cheri Jo Bates some years before. letter stated that there were numerous similarities with the San Francisco Zodiac kilhngs and that the Riverside police had "a wealth of information." The writer urged Avery to look into the matter. He did, and when photothe

The

decided not to print the two latest

letters. They wondered would react; he might make a mistake that would trap him. Months went by — and nothing, no word at all from Zodiac. Finally, on October 12, the Chronicle published the July 27 letters. Two weeks later another letter from Zodiac let everyone know that he was still around. The recipient this time was Paul Avery, the Chronicle

the publicity-craving Zodiac

who had

Zodiac claiming a 14th victim — or was Avery the The police were taking no chances. They

newsroom, Avery's colleagues began wearing buttons on their lapels — but not the ones that Zodiac had in mind. These declared, "I Am Not Paul Avery." Avery started wearing

In any case, the police and the editors of the Chronicle

reporter

and had drawn a dozen disembodied eyes

"PEEK-A-BOO -YOU ARE DOOMED!"

issued the reporter a license to carry a .38

recent slayings.

how

runelike symbol

some

on the case thought Zodiac was bluffing, that he was not continuing to kill. But if he was still active, he was making very good indeed on his promise to disguise his deeds. They weren't able to connect him to any

Most

his

also included a cryptic,

intended prey?

score for the authorities to

Zodiac

He had

Zodiac had

"Z" and

with a large

it

with the legend,

Was

up the blanks I rather leave up to you. But it really doesn't matter whom you place upon the list, for none of them be missed, none of them be missed.

The

"4-TEEN." He signed

cross-and-circle symbol.

tut,

and whashisname, and you know who, but the task of filling

contemplate:

spoil

copies of

some of the documents

held by the Riverside P.D.

reached the Chronicle, Paul Avery

down

lost

no time husding

to Riverside.

Three days later, Avery caught a plane to Sacramento and met with Sherwood Morrill, the top handwriting expert at the state Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investiga-

written most of the paper's Zodiac sto-

On

back of a children's Halloween card (inmailed to Chronicle crime reporter Paul Avery (right) on October 27, 1970, Zodiac makes the

set)

further reference to the

way

he intends to acquire

slaves that will serve

40

him

in "paradice."

UNSOLVED CRIMES

Southern California newspapers such as the Los Angeles Times (below) were quick to announce the connection be-

tween Zodiac and the 1966 killing of Riverside coed Cheri Jo Bates.

tion. In sealed

envelopes given to him by the Riverside P.D.,

Aveiy carried the actual letters from Cheri Jo Bates's slayer and a photo of the verse scratched into the library desktop. Morrill studied the three penciled notes with the crude

block

"BATES

letters spelling

HAD TO

DIE." At

first

Most

lay claim to the crimes.

Zodiac was

that

other investigators thought

the Riverside

killer.

Zodiac wrote

years.

I

and was gradually losing

letter

turned to the envelopes addressed to Joseph Bates, the Riverside police, and the Riverside Press-Enterprise. "This be-

tinued to boost his tally of victims.

now," he

gins to look alike gives

who

it

away. The Riverside

wrote the Zodiac

On November in a letter to

tionably the

Then, "Yes,

said.

letters

letters in

this is

what

were by the same

man

however, he remained his

the desk

words were

work of Zodiac. The is

Like

hand-printing scratched

the

I

when a

silence

letter arrived

was broken on

not at the San Fran-

Los Angeles Times. Zodiac's

scathing:

handwriting to Morrill; the analyst concluded that

match that of the Bates the Riverside cops

letter writer

felt like

They reasoned

it

have always said

crack proof.

If

the

going to catch me, they had best get off their fat asses &:

who

do something. Because the

longer they fiddle

&

fart

around, the more slaves I

did not

will collect for

my

after

life.

— Zodiac. Nevertheless, Zodiac gave the cops grudging credit for "stumbling

sticking with their original sus-

that even though Zodiac

had not yet

across

San Francisco area in 1967, when the Bates letters were received, he still could have read about the unsolved Riverside murders and written the letters to falsely debut

I

am

Blue Meannies are evere

had known Cheri Jo Bates, although they had never been able to pin anything on him. The police sent a sample of his

his

15, 1971,

Avery that the Riverside writing was "unques-

vinced. Their favored suspect remained the local youth

made

When he did write, self —and he con-

cunning

months before writing again. The

March

have been received by the Chronicle." The Riverside police, however, were not totally con-

pect.

less frequently,

After the Avery Halloween card, the killer waited almost five

same as on the three letters, particularly like that on the envelopes, and this hand-printing is by the same person who has been preparing the Zodiac letters that

on

interest.

bitter,

cisco Chronicle but at the

northern California."

16, after further study, Morrill confirmed

less

if

on the letters did not seem to match that of Zodiac; the letters were too big and blocky. Morrill then glance, the printing

and

In asthe coming he had reached a crest of sorts with the Mikado

Cos

my

Riverside aaivity"

who had

Paul Avery

in the

They

— although

pursued the

link.

it

was newsman

But Zodiac snorted:

are only finding the

Auficlc;5 ^xxatB ^^*.3V«^\^

„*/

^^'j

J"*?*'

am now

who

in control of

brown

hair

cut; heavy,

worn

in

a

thick-rimmed

glasses held in place by a thin

band of elastic. A one-time navy man, this fellow knew about code and explosives also. He was a Gilbert and Sullivan aficionado and often quoted lyrics for friends. An acquaintance described him

will play all

'"/

things,

"K

yours truly:

i/Tf^

0-- guess

SFPD

crew

waiting for a good

movie about me.

the description

saults: five feet eight inches tall;

good but

smarter and better he

will get tired

me.

is

fit

given by survivors of Zodiac's as-

have always been here.

1

That

wit-

nessed the slaying of taxi driver

n,.

-

}->

SFPD

-

c

as very intelligent but a mile-

a-minute talker — "nervous,

ZoThat was again, and all clues led to never heard from diac. He was hard work over many long of much ends. By dint dead in 1 979 to crack managed Graysmith finally Robert hours, the last trace of

the 340-charaaer cipher the

killer

had

netic,

deep depression. "I

message was incomprehensible and shed no

light

on

The the

in fact

(

murders ascribed to Zodiac. Although no one had enough evidence even to make any arrest, many law enforcement favorite suspect.

One

early candidate

habit of baiting policemen attracted attention

was known

in the military

was a heavy-

I

have

toward is

women and

better than sex."

had questioned and cleared him. And the witnesses to the

War 11 and who had trouble

during World

to be a hot-tempered person

getting along with

women where

he worked.

He owned

Stine killing,

when shown

"too old and too

a

white Chevrolet — the kind of car associated with the Zodiac homicides. He had spent time at Terry's Waffle Shop in Vallejo,

once confided, "What

enough cause to pull him in for fingerprinting. The police secured a sample of the man's handwriting; it approximated that of Zodiac, but there was not enough of the sample for an expert to rule him in or out. In any case, Inspeaor Toschi

whose

middle-aged man. Investigators learned that the suspect

had taught code

.

less, was what Zodiac had written in his first coded message, which amateur cryptologists Donald and Bettye Harden had broken in 1969. The police had heard about him through a tip but could never place him at the scene of a killing. They never had

out no

all,

set

.

That, more or

police of various jurisdictions checked In fewerthethan 2,500 suspects at one time or another for the

had a

look O.K. on the outside," the suspea had told ." He was known to have a female

friend yet frequendy exhibited hostility

killer's identity.

officials

may

people, "but inside

sent the Chronicle

with the dripping-fountain-pen card a decade before.

fre-

and temperamental" — who was prone to periods of

The most

who

where the murdered Darlene Hcrrin worked, and in the Lake Bcrryessa area shortly alter Cecel-

alone

interesting suspect

among

the vicinity of

45

man

was a

strange

young man

the possible Zodiacs could be placed in

all six

student at Riverside

was placed

a photograph, declared the

fat."

of the

known

Cin College

killings.

in

1966,

He had been a when Cheri Jo

.

UNSOLVED CRIMES

The 1970 low-budget Zodiac was first of several movies based on the killer. The most famous was

the

Dirty Harry, in which Clint East-

wood plays a police investigator who tracks down a hooded sniper.

was

Bates

slain,

been living

menced

and he had

in Vallejo at the

WHO

IS

time of the 1968-1969 murders. In 1971,

he had

HE

. . .

WHAT

HE

IS

. .

.

WHEN

IS

HE

north to Santa Rosa, where

'Keep Your

next decade. a perfect

He was

scriptions.

Off The

in-

Streets

vestigators learned of an in-

when

as a teenager he

.

.

My

.

knew about

he

explo-

and he had served in where he had been taught code procedures. The police heard about him through his family. He was a collector of guns and a sives,

the navy,

To

hunter.

game"

"true

HAL R6eD-B0B JON€S

or "the most

dangerous game." On the day of the Lake Berryessa at-

i^AcveNTURe

RAY LYNCH

tdm RTTMAN*'P^°^'^!Pf.J'5^

a

He was Zodiac-brand

wrist watch

and a ring with a

COLOR

Z

monogram, which he said was a gift from his sister. In the course of the search and interrogation. Inspector Tos-

had the man fingerprintmade him produce a writing sample on the spot. But the prints did not match the print that had been colchi

ed and

^DMHAN50NIW«NTReLL6MANNVCARPOZAlwE[WER^WAHS5MA~MARINKOVICH,WHANSON IN

arrived in the

middle of the search.

ZODIAC

and he sometimes

spoke of human beings as

them pause.

The man wearing

''^^^'""

a freezer

of animal innards and

mutilated rodent bodies — to give

Next

Victim"

RKO GOLDEN GATE

his brother

sister-in-law,

full

.

As a student of chemis-

135. try,

Thmking

— including

things

Or"

ZODIAC SAYS "I toy Awake Nights

had gotten into a brawl with five Marines and whipped them all. He was intelligent to match, with an IQ above

and a black hood.

none of those items, but they did find enough weird

And Wives

hulking

and enormously strong; stance

sheath,

Toschi and his crew found

Daughters

look-alike for the Zodiac de-

The

items to look

colored jacket, a knife in a

Sisters

The man was

listed

for, including pieces of bloody shirt, rope, pens, glasses, a blue or dark-

GOING TO STRIKE AGAIN??

moved

he remained for most of the

their search.

warrant

GOLDEN GATE AT TAYLOR

673-4841



"A HISTORY Of THE

DO YOU

MOTORCYCLt"

WIN A FREE KAWASAKI 350cc

KNOW WHY

MOTORCYCLE

HE Kins??

from Paul

lected

As it

Stine's cab.

to the man's handwriting,

was

unlike that in Zodi-

ac's messages.

However, the

a bloody knife she spotted lying on the seat of his car.

man might well have purposely altered his writing since he knew that the police were attempting to connect him to the

"That's chicken blood," he explained. "1 use

Zodiac murders.

tacks in September

Two

months

1

969, his sister-in-law asked him about

it

to

kill

chickci-

Despite the failure to nail the man, Toschi never forgot

pher, the sister-in-law inquired about a sheet of paper he

about him, and as time went on, more interesting things

was holding

came

ens."

"This later,"

is

the

later,

about the time of the second

was covered with lines of strange symbols. work of an insane person. I'll show it to you

that

he replied, but never did. There were other oddities

and as the Zodiac case unfolded

to light.

1973 at tially

A psychologist who

his family's request

violent"

interviewed the

man

in

concluded that he was "poten-

and "capable of

killing." In

1975 he was

newspapers,

convicted of child molestation and spent three years in an

the family in early 1971 finally decided to get in touch with

institution for the criminally insane. After his release in

as well,

in the

man

Inspeaor Dave Toschi.

1978, parole officers persuaded the

Armed with a search warrant, Toschi led a party of police to a trailer in Santa Rosa where the man occasionally lived.

chiatric tests. In inkblot free-association tests, items starting

The door

to the trailer

was wide open, so

the cops

with the

com-

first

46

letter

to submit to psy-

Z came up with amazing frequency. The very

association astounded everyone; the blot, responded

ZODIAC

man, reminded him of "a zygomatic arch" — the area of Zodiac viaim Paul Stine's skull through which a bullet fragment had passed.

have committed suicide, or died

the

ural causes.

in

an accident or from nat-

possibility, too, that

he might sim-

ply have stopped killing. His madness, or at least the ag-

man

Investigators learned that as a youth in 1965, the

There was a

gressive part of

it,

some doctors

suggested, could have

had told a pair of hunting companions that, given the choice, he would rather hunt people; he would stalk his human prey at night with a flashlight taped to his gun barrel. He would, he went on, "write taunting letters to the police and the papers. And I would call myself the Zodiac." Later, the man was said to have told other friends that he was the Zodiac and to have related details of some of the murders. But such "confessions" by unbalanced persons are relatively common in spectacular murder cases and do not

burned itself out as he grew older; his murderous past might seem to him now nothing more than a terrible dream.

constitute real evidence.

found personal computer

files,

but they were

pointing as the videotape.

The

flicker of

In

cut

1978 Toschi said the

him loose because we

evidence. Believe me,

guy. Personally, In

May

killings

my

we

man was

their best suspect:

weren't able to find did everything

gut feeling

is

we

that he

is

In

been interested district

"We

in

Sacramento. In the years that

ings that could be attributed to him.

No

letters.

Some

No

The

in the

tape proved that the dead

man had

crimes — but there was nothing that a

They

also

just as disap-

hope that the case

after

all.

an extended period of remission. That dormancy might pre-

fol-

vail for the rest

kill-

of his

life.

Then

again,

it

might not.*

authorities

speculated that he might be in prison, convicted on an

unrelated charge, or that

Becaiase

he might

Tie ZoAif c

investiga-

Not then, at any rate, and perhaps for the best of reasons: The prime suspect, however insane, may also have been innocent. If that is so. Zodiac may still be among us. And, like a cancer, his malignant illness may simply have been in

was shifted from local jurisdictions to the State of The bulk of the files were sent to the state De-

lowed there was no hint of the Zodiac.

among

attorney could use for a prosecution.

on Zodiac

man." the Zodiac

California.

partment of Justice

of excitement

for so long

might be solved died away. The books would not be closed

could with the

1981 responsibility for investigating

stir

man who

the

cerning the case.

any physical

the

1992 there was a

when

had been the prime suspect died. A videotape labeled "Zodiac" was a disappointment—its contents were limited to news reports contors

less) rds or

During Zodiat^f, week-long run at San Francisco's Golden Gate theater, moviegoers were asked to speculate on the killer's motives and drop their answers into a box in the lobby. Typical of the responses was the one above, speculating that he killed out of hatred for women and the police.

47

il

•^K/Sfe.V'i

^t'?

2

Verdict stuck a Een Rex McElroy Chevrolet up

cigarette into his

• started

his

the pickup in gear.

tavern on gine

Elm

hummed and

was forming a still

He

sat

Street in

little

where he was,

the July sun beat

way from

still

in front

of

never been

D&G's

It

how

he'd sat inside drink-

was. The only ally he had with him was his

wife, Trena, sitting in the passenger seat.

McElroy did — it was only first beer — had ballooned his weight to 240 pounds and given him a big gut, but he was still a powerful man; a barrel chest and hamlike arms bulked out his five-foot-ten-inch frame. His slicked-back hair, originally dark brown, was dyed pitch-

The kind of drinking

that

10:30 a.m. and he'd already knocked off his

It

gleamed

was

sky,

men

with guns — men

July 10,

was about

to die.

greasily

That

the

town

bully didn't

could happen there,

in that

town, must have

who most wanted to

McElroy dead. A quiet, out-of-the-way country village 450 people, Skidmore was an unlikely stage for murder.

see

of

Ordinarily, the

more was

liveliest

event that ever happened in Skid-

the Punkin Festival, the annual harvest celebra-

tion featuring frog-jumping competitions, beautiful-baby

and

contests, square dancing,

down

free

barbeque. The show-

with Ken Rex McElroy took place on one of Skid-

more's two paved

streets.

There were no

traffic lights in the

town, no fast-food restaurants, no movie theaters. At one

end of town there rose a grain elevator. At the other was the tiny business district, anchored at the intersection of Elm

without blinking.

morning

it

seemed improbable even to those

his eyes told the story:

this

come was a couple

he'd

up and down the street knew — took aim. It 1981, and the notorious Ken Rex McElroy,

scourge of Skidmore,

and mean. McElroy was mean. Nobody but a fool tangled with him one-on-one if he could help it. Ken Rex went around with a .38-caliber pistol stuck under his shirt. He'd shot at least three men, he'd burned a man's house down to even a score, and he habitually beat up his women. People had learned a long time ago to take it seriously when McElroy threatened them; they knew what he was capable of doing. Even the police were wary of him. One time he'd pulled a double-barreled shotgun on a cop But

summer

Beneath the glaring

it.

puffy, his eyes bloodshot

And

jail,

The closest

waiting for his lawyer to bail him out.

that everybody

above heavy eyebrows. His sideburns grew almost to the jawline. Ken Rex had been handsome a long time ago; now he merely looked trashy, his face black.

prison yet.

McElroy had sworn that the law would never curb his freedom, and it seemed as if the law never would — or never could — no matter how sick people were of his violence and bullying, how tired they were of feeling afraid and helpless. D&G's had emptied out. Maybe 60 people stood in the street or peered from windows and doorways, their eyes fLxed on the idling truck. And as they watched, the morning's tension stretched to snapping. The cigarette still dangled from McElroy 's lips, but there wouldn't be time to light

down. A knot of men and more men were

didn't really matter

in

of nights in

his truck,

coming out of D8cG's. and he

was: He'd been charged with dozens of crimes, but he'd

Skidmore, Missouri, while the en-

many — he'd been outnumbered when ing,

mouth and

Silverado, but he didn't put

and Walnut

seem himself as he

He didn't make a menacing move or even mutter a threat. The men gathered near his truck didn't do much either. Mainly they glared at him, grim but quiet.

streets.

A

little

shabby, with abandoned build-

ings that hinted at better days, the business disttia in 1981

sat in the idling truck.

consisted of a post office, a bank, enterprises.

A

and a handful of

lesser

person could buy gas at Harry Sumy's

sta-

Bowenkamp's store, the local gossip there was Mom's B&B. For a Cafe, Mom being proprietor Inez Boyer. Next door to the cinderblock building that housed Mom's was D&G's tav-

Bo and meal and some

The time for talk was over. Townsfolk had been talking about Ken Rex McElroy for years — his thieving and raping and shooting, the way he'd frighten people out of testifying against him in court. They knew what a slippery fish he

tion or groceries at

Lois

Battered by years of hard living and heavy drinking. Ken Rex McElroy's face grew jowly and furrowed, but the menacing look in his eyes never changed.

49

UNSOLVED CRIMES

The crowd of men outside D&G's tavern on morning of Ken Rex McElroy's death included many farmers with spreads outside town. They grew corn, wheat, and soybeans. They raised hogs. They pastured cattle on the gently rolling hills. It was good farming country, and many of these men were well-to-do; some families, like the Clements, had assets worth a million dollars or more. Not that they were likely to do anything flashier with their money gether poor.

em, a squat, stripped-down place with corrugated-metal walls, a concrete floor, and a few pool tables. Its owners were brothers Del and Greg Clement, members of an old, well-to-do Slddmore farming family. Aside from Mom's and D&G's, the only gathering place for the community was the Sam R. Albright American Legion hall, across the from the B&B. That was Slddmore. To get what

the

street

it

didn't offer, people

could drive 13 miles to Maryville, the seat of

Nodaway

than buy a handsome pair of

County, with a population of 10,000; or they could make the 40-mile-long trip south to

commonly

called



St.

Joseph — St. Joe, as

cowboy boots or a

top-

of-the-line, air-conditioned pickup.

Ken Rex McElroy was not born to prosperity. He was the

it's

the nearest big city, boasting a popula-

tion of nearly 77,000.

But

if

Slddmore was small and dowdy,

it

wasn't alto-

In this

1981 view of Skidmore's Elm

advertisement for hybrid

50

com

Street,

an

Mom's C*-, D&G's tavera -

adorns

(c. A few doors beyond the cafe, hnddles beside the large, flat-roofed bank.

VERDICT

13th of 14 surviving children of Tony and Mabel McElroy,

who were

living in eastern

Kansas

at the time of his birth in

1934. A rough, whiskey-loving, big-talking man, Tony McElroy barely provided for his brood. Before Ken was born, Tony had worked on a crew building a highway through Skidmore. At other times he was a farm hand or a tenant farmer, and the family moved around a lot from one rural community to another in Kansas and Missouri. The McElroys finally settled down when Tony bought 175 acres about four miles southeast of Skidmore in the 1940s. But owning a farm didn't lift the family fortunes much. The McElroys stayed poor, living on the edge. Their house was much too little for such a big family, and the fit was even tighter when some of the older children married and

brought

their

spouses there to live^ Except for a couple o

6^d^S':*--

Ken Rex would live in the house until he died. Tony McElroy didn't have much use for his son when Ken Rex was a boy. The father often jeered at him in public, it was said, and openly favored his youngest son, Tim. Ken Rex didn't get much affeaion from his siblings, either. The

brief periods.

other children kept their distance from him; even as a

little

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UNSOLVED CRIMES

Wearing a black

15-year-old

shirt,

Ken Rex McElroy

stands shoulder to

Graham ConsoUdated

shoulder with his eighth-grade teacher in this 1950

School yearbook photo. Held back twice, Ken Rex had his 13-year-old brother Tim (back row, far left) as a classmate.

kid he

was angry and hot-tempered. He looked up

of his older brothers, a hard-bitten guy for theft.

It

who

did

one

profits

seemed

time

selves:

Ken Rex McElroy

to

jail

wouldn't be long before Ken Rex was following

At school, Ken Rex was surly and defiant to his teachers. He was also a bully, big enough to push the other kids around and ruthless enough to pull a knife on them to get his way. He hated doing schoolwork and had to repeat the fifth grade twice. He was about 15 when he quit school for good; he'd gotten only as far as the eighth grade and was virtually illiterate. Years later, when he was out drinking in bars, he would pull out big wads of bills and say: "Look at that. I got more of it at home too. A whole damn trunkful. Not bad for a man who can't even read and write." Ken Rex worked on the family place, but he wasn't cut out to be a farmer. At 15 he took a job at a nursery in Iowa but was fired almost immediately for messing around with a young girl who worked there. He was only 1 8 when he got married for the first time, to a 16-year-old named Oleta from St. Joe. The couple went to live in Denver for a while, where McElroy got a construaion job. While he was there

when

just liked to steal.

Rustling livelihood. es,

became

his specialty

the mainstay of his

hors-

and, although his principal territory for plying his craft

state line to eastern

became a big-time

also

made

forays across the

Kansas and southern Iowa.

who was

one

thief,

very

He soon

good

at out-

smarting the cops. Late one night, for example, he and an ex-convict bar

buddy were on

their

way home

after

a suc-

cessful raid on a farm when the trailer they were hauling piqued the curiosity of a deputy sheriff on patrol — with

good reason: There were four stolen cows in the trailer. The deputy started after the truck. When McElroy noticed that he was being followed, a clever plan occurred to him. The country roads were as familiar to him as the back of his hand, and he sped to a bridge that he knew was ahead. He drove onto the bridge and quickly angled the trailer so that it blocked the road. Jumping out of his truck, he unhitched the trailer, with the cows still inside, and drove off with his

a heavy piece of steel

friend.

He

could afford to take his time, since the deputy

was stuck behind the improvised barricade. After a while McElroy stopped at a pay phone and called the highway patrol to report that his horse trailer was missing; it had been stolen from his farm, he said. He was in the sheriff

clear

— the deputy sheriff hadn't been able to see the truck's

license plate.

The next day McElroy It was

from the sheriffs department.

retrieved the trailer left

to the sheriff to

deal with the cows.

A night's work didn't always go so smoothly, but if McEl-

of such events.

McElroy could have earned an honest

living

from

roy

his

made a

slip,

he

knew how

to handle

McElroy

coonhounds. But he was not at heart an honest man, and

instance, a farmer surprised

he already

knew how easy it was to make money stealing. moved out to Colorado, he and a friend had bought an old Ford and removed the backseat. They would

horses.

Before he

the

cruise the countryside at night, slipping

The charges were withdrawn. To cover his tracks, McElroy

would then

sell

onto farms to loot

When the

farmer

filed

man and smashed him

charges,

in the face

it.

One

time, for

was stealing two McElroy went to see

as he

with the butt of a

back to Missouri, he took up thievwasn't choosy — if he couldn't lay his hands

judged

it

safe to sell

them

rifle.

often brought stolen ani-

mals back to his family farm and kept them there

the grain at local elevators.

When McElroy moved He

and

From hogs he branched out into cattle and

was northwest Missouri, he

on him. As a consequence, neck pains and occasional blackouts would plague him for the rest of his life. When Ken Rex and Oleta returned to Missouri, he made some money from what would come to be his one enduring legirimate pursuit, training and selling coonhounds. He had a gift for it. "Without question, he was the best trainer around," one hunter would later say. And this was no mean achievement around Skidmore, where good dogs were prized. A hound that proved a winner in local field trials might be worth several thousand dollars, and it could also earn its owner a lot of money from the betting that was part

ing again.

also got in-

ner of Missouri.

fell

grain bins; they

He

reinforced the floor of the Ford with ply-

wood, added a switch that enabled him to shut off the brake lights, and began to steal hogs all over the northwest cor-

in his footsteps.

he suffered a severe head injury

He

to rustling.

than the thefts them-

far less motivational

at local

until

he

markets or auctions.

McElroy also developed a system that utilized the other main outlet for his nighttime energies — women. His appetite for sex seemed insatiable, and he had girlfriends

on anything better, he would take little stuff that didn't earn him much of anything, such as chickens. Sometimes the

54

VERDICT

throughout the area, some married, some not,

who were good looks and aggressive manner. Many of them helped him out by letting him deposit stolen

girl

attracted to his dark

unless the night visits stopped.

livestock at their farms; they later sold the animals in their

adventure-loving girlfriends, McElroy went to the farm-

own

house with the idea of burning

a cold, malevolent stare. Late that night, with a couple of it down. He thought no one them slipped inside, where they helped themselves to food from the refrigerator and washed their snack down with whiskey. Suddenly they heard someone moving around upstairs. McElroy thought it must be Donna's uncle. He canceled his plans for arson, saying that he liked the man and wasn't inclined to kill him. Donna became pregnant by Ken Rex and gave birth to a boy. Meanwhile, McElroy, who was still married to Oleta, was pursuing a 15-year-old named Sharon, the daughter of a poor family who lived near St. Joe. She was dreamy and naive but soon received an unforgettable lesson about the true nature of her lover: During an argument in his pickup one night, McElroy picked up a shotgun, pointed it just below her chin, and pulled the trigger. The blast ripped open the flesh under Sharon's jaw and scarred her for life. Nevertheless, when McElroy and Oleta were divorced not long afterward, Sharon married the man who'd shot her. Sharon had a son in 1959 and a daughter in 1961. McEl-

names, giving him most of the proceeds. The pleasure

was home, and

company was their main reward. Ken Rex McElroy felt entitled to other people's livestock, and he apparently felt the same way about females: They were there to be taken. The wife of a rich farmer was a prize that he particularly enjoyed, but even better was what he called young meat — girls who were scarcely more than chilof his

dren.

Love — and sometimes even

lust

— seem

to have been

was driven mainly by the desire to conquer and to wield power over his conquests. McElroy 's sex life was steeped in violence. He direaed his fury both at women and at anybody who tried to stand between him and a woman he wanted. In his engrossing book on McElroy's life and death. In Broad Daylight, lawyer and sociologist Harry N. MacLean documents Ken Rex's affair with a girl named Donna, who lived on her grandparents' farm. When she was 13 she began shpping

beside the point; he

out of the house at night to meet him. Donna's grandfather

warned McElroy, who was some seven years older than

and a married man, that he would go to authorities McElroy silenced him with

the

55

the three of

UNSOLVED CRIMES

roy beat his

McElroy was charged

new young

wife regularly and deep-

with

ened her misery by tak-

he had a

ing

up

all

four crimes, but first-rate

lawyer

from Kansas City to defend him, Richard E.

with Sally, the 13-

year-old sister of one of

coon-hunting buddies. He began hanging around her school, giving her rides home and

"Gene" McFadin. McFadin was a master of the

plying her with candy.

investigations, requested

After warning her that

changes of venue, and used technicalities to buy

his

he'd

kill

didn't

her father

if

do what he want-

After his parents passed

bluff

— two

fierce

it

on

to him,

in.

against

not

time for his client — time that

McElroy was

virtu-

ally sure to use to per-

to forget about

come cheap, but

testifying.

his client

He always

McFadin's

skills

did

appeared to have no shortage

paid cash.

McFadin pulled out all the stops to fight the four felony charges in Andrew County. He launched a time-devouring

they thought.

fact-finding mission

1964 McElroy left Sharon and Sally and their seven children at the farm and took up residence in St. Joe with

would do

Wood, whom he'd been seeing for three home and gone to live in a little aparther hard-drinking stepfather, a man named

— the

as long as

it

the charges against his

18-year-old Alice

most picayune bit of information had even a marginal connection to client. When the lawyer got around

from Alice and her companion a year had been lodged, they changed their story completely, now claiming that they'd been coerced into to taking depositions

left

after the charges

ment to escape Otha Embrey; her natural father, an alcoholic, had abandoned the family when she was a baby. McElroy drifted in and out of the apartment, drinking heavily, beating Alice whenever he was displeased, and disappearing for long periods without bothering to say why. But the relationship endured, and a son was born in 1968. By then both Sharon and Sally had left the McElroy farm, and Ken Rex, who'd apparendy lost interest in them and was willing to let them

moved

him

of money.

In

go,

insisted

suade potential wimesses

around Skidmore didn't think much of the living arrangements in the McElroy household. Ken Rex McElroy didn't

years. She had

the tiny farm-

TTie sign

McElroy farmhouse, where his parents and his brother Tim were also living. Between 1961 and 1964 Sally had three children. Sharon meantime had two more. People

much what

McEh-oy enlarged

warning of a guard dog was no Dobermans discouraged would-be visitors.

house he'd grown up

the

care

He

on conducting lengthy

she

he moved Sally into

ed,

art of delay.

making

their earlier statements.

Alice stuck

it

McElroy was home

free.

out at the farm for three years, until she

could no longer bear the beatings, the drinking, and McElroy's taste for violent sex. She fled with her little boy to her

mother and stepfather Embrey's home

in St.

Joe — not

much

of a refuge, but better than the farm.

McElroy called Otha Embrey and announced that he was coming to get the son that he'd fathered by Alice, and he added that he'd shoot anyone who stood in his way. "The hell you will," Embrey replied. Not long afterward, McElroy showed up near the Embrey house with a rifle. Spotting him through a window, Embrey got his shotgun. But McElroy disappeared from sight, and Embrey set the weapon aside, thinking that McElroy had been bluffing. Then the living-room window shattered, and a rifle bullet tore into

Alice in soon afterward.

McElroy introduced Alice to the business of stealing. One day she and another of Ken Rex's girlfriends were driving a car piled high with tools and furniture in Andrew County, just south of McElroy's home ground of Nodaway County, when the sheriff stopped them. He'd been grappling with a rash of thefts in his county and was pretty sure that McElroy was behind them. He teamed up with another invesrigator to grill the two women, who broke down and described a series of jobs they'd done with McElroy, including two instances of stealing hogs and two of housebreaking.

Embrey's thigh.

McElroy was charged with felonious assault, but convicwould depend on Embrey's testimony. The case was

tion

Renowned as a trainer of coonhounds, Ken Rex McElroy shows off a pupil in a training harness. Lean and long-legged, this particular dog was prized for its speed in the hunt.

56

w

"

lM'"**'

S^;--

'*.

Ifefc

.^^

^

•J«'ing details

Trena McCloud was about 12 years old when she took up with Ken Rex McElroy, then in his middle thirties. She was a pretty blond girl who lived on a rundown farm a few miles from the McElroy place. Shy, not much of a smdent,

sentence or possibly even the death penalty,

roy adopted his usual approach:

who

many

somehow

lost.

But she had a secret

Ken Rex McElroy was taking her

to a motel in

When she got pregnant at the age of

14, she

school and in

May

St.

could document his crimes.

Ken Rex McElafter the

When

person

he discovered

woman who

had taken her in: "1 know where your girls go to school and what bus they take," he said. "I think we oughta trade girl

of her classmates, she seemed remote and

passive at school,

He went

Trena's whereabouts, he repeatedly called the

conscious that her hardscrabble upbringing set her socially

beneath

women

were ridmg with Trena's stepfather, Ronnie McNeely, through the streets of Maryville when McElroy caught up

relentlessly, threatening

for girl, don't

life:

The

Joe.

threats

new home

dropped out of

moved to McElroy's farm, where a son was bom

you?" were not enough to dislodge Trena from her

immediately. In

all,

she stayed in foster care for

about a year; then, in 1974, she took Derome and went to live with her grandparents in Whiting, Kansas. But after a

of 1973.

McElroy treated her the same way he treated Alice Wood, with outbursts of verbal and physical abuse and sexual savagery. He also kept up his blatant womanizing. It seemed that two women at home just weren't enough for him; he was always on the prowl. He expected total submission from his women, but Trena and Alice had a breaking point. Not long after Trena's baby boy was born, she and Alice left the farm with their children. They made their way to an aunt of Trena's where they dropped off the children and then went out to celebrate their newfound freedom. As it

few months there she became so bored and lonely that, despite the horrible treatment McElroy had handed her, she caved in and called him one day, saying that she wanted to go back to him. Not long afterward, McElroy divorced Sharon and married Trena. She signed a statement absolving her husband of any wrongdoing: "I do not wish to engage

in

any criminal or

McElroy; that any and

legal actions against

all

accusations that

I

Kenneth Rex

made

against

any improper or criminal conduct between Mr. McElroy and myself were made because of my feelings of frustration

58

At 24, Trena McElroy looks worn and older than her years. Seduced by Ken Rex McElroy by the time

was

she

him

13, she stayed with

despite the physical

and

psychological abuse he

heaped on her. ful

How power-

on her is comment she

a hold he had

suggested in a

made

after

ways did

he died: "I

as

I

was

al-

told."

#t

'^^Wii'>^.

''\

UNSOLVED CRIMES

was over. It was not the kind of promise he was likely to keep. A preliminary hearing was

your front yard." you want to try it," Warren said, "go ahead." The threatening phone calls kept coming, and convoys of McElroys began driving past the minister's house. Warren began carrying guns in his car and sleeping with a pis-

scheduled to take place in

tol

charged with felonious as-

es in

He

"If

sault in the first degree.

posted bond for $30,000 and was released after signing a document promising to

remain peaceable

until the case

under

his pillow.

McElroy was not espeworried. The biggest danger to him would be

The Bowenkamps and Tim Warren weren't the only people on Ken Rex McElroy's hate list. The

Bowenkamp's

wife of the highway patrol

five

weeks, on August 18.

cially

testimo-

and he figured that he could handle Bo — if, in fact. Bo survived his wounds. McElroy didn't deny that he'd done the

officer

shooting, but he insisted

told her

that he'd fired in self-

"several

who'd arrested the town bully began getting threatening telephone calls. "If your husband tes-

ny,

defense.

Bo had come

at

tifies

Gene McFadin,

the attorney

es of assaulting

who

him with a butcher knife, in felony cases involving he said. (He told his family that same story, insisting that he only meant to scare Bowenkamp; if he'd wanted to kill him, he would have blown his

head

defended McElroy against charga long string of successes

Bo Bowenkamp, had his

off.)

McElroy mounted a campaign es think twice

about

to

make potential witness-

testifying at the hearing,

and he

also

Bowenkamp from the community. As far as he was concerned, anyone who supported Bo was an enemy

tried to isolate

and would be treated accordingly. An early target of his wrath was a local minister named Tim Warren, a young man who gave fire-and-brimstone sermons at the Christian Church in Skidmore. Warren visited Lois Bowenkamp and offered to help her in any way he could, and he went to see Bo in the hospital. After the first hospital visit the young minister got an anonymous telephone call: "If you don't mind your own business," a man's voice said, "we'll have to hurt you." Two days later, after Warren had paid a visit to Lois, the anonymous caller had another message: "I told you to mind your own business, and now we're going to take your little boy and kill him and throw him out in piec-

trouble-prone

on one occasion, members of your

family are going to die."

One

client.

at the trial," the caller

of the officer's daugh-

worked as a checker at a discount store in Maryville, and McElroy began showing up there. He would load up a shopping cart with merchandise and take it to her line, then walk out after she began ringing up the items. One Saturday night in August, when the Skidmore Punkin Festival was in full swing, a young farmer sat beside Ken Rex McElroy in D&G's tavern. McElroy was drinking heavily, and the farmer wasn't altogether sober himself. He dared to ask McElroy an insulting question: How was it that he'd merely wounded Romaine Henry and Bo Bowenkamp, since he was such an avid coon hunter and reputed to be a great shot? McElroy didn't say anything, but later ters

in the

evening he lured the farmer out to his pickup truck,

which was parked near the B&B loading dock. There he brandished his rifle at the young man, who grabbed the barrel and hung on for dear life. Apologizing abjectly and repeatedly, the farmer finally

managed

to talk his

way out

of the situation.

A

66

few minutes

later.

Marshal David Dunbar came by.

VERDICT

and McElroy against "It's

called

him

over.

"Are you going to

September

testify

me at the trial?" my job," said Dunbar.

of

trial in

anybody who'd put mc in jail for the rest of my life," McElroy said. He wasn't exaggerating; it was possible to get life for the kind of assault he was charged with. For then,

rifle.

trial

away without on Monday morning he turned in his resignation. The job wasn't worth dying for, he decided. As the preliminary hearing drew closer, the McElroy menace closed in on Skidmore like the summer heat. Ken Rex's clan would slowly cruise the streets with guns conspicuously displayed. The McElroys also made a point of scaring customers away from the B&B. One day Ken Rex stopped his pickup across the street from the grocery store, got out, and pointed a gun at its entrance. On other occasions, he simply parked near the store. The Bowenkamps'

last

5.

The

court's

constituted a crime;

if it

did, the

trial

back again,

Tim Warren, who remained

first

He

judge scheduled the

this

put off until the

trial

The judge accordingly

time to June 25.

to terrorize his antagonists.

a stalwart support for the Bo-

wenkamps, answered his phone to hear McElroy say, "I'm going to come over and castrate you, and then I'm going to cut your little boy up in pieces and feed him to you while

Bo

second ques-

a butcher knife in his hand.

new

On November

McElroy now had months

was whether there was reason to believe that Ken Rex McElroy was the perpetrator. The hearing didn't take long. Bowenkamp described what had gone on between him and McElroy on the evening of the shooting. He was standing about three feet inside the doorway of his store's loading dock, he said, when McElroy shot him. When lawyer Gene McFadin cross-examined the old man, he questioned whether cutting up boxes was the rea-

Bowenkamp had

December

pushed the

tion

son

for

current legislative session ended.

visit.

the day of the hearing arrived.

Bowenkamp

town of Bethany, Missouri, 80

matically entitled to have a client's

night before the

highway patrolman parked outside Bowenkamps' house the to make sure McElroy didn't pay

order of business was to decide whether the shooting of

who was

1

preliminary hearing, a

At

any northwest Missouri county. The judge,

24 McFadin asked for a postponement. He claimed that he was unable to locate some witnesses he considered important, among them the repairman Bo Bowenkamp had been waiting for on the evening of the shooting and the ambulance attendants who'd taken the wounded man to the hospital. McFadin also claimed that bond restrictions imposed on his client had prevented McElroy from traveling to McFadin's Kansas City office to meet with him. The judge granted the motion and set a new trial date of February 5, 98 1. in late January, McFadin was back to ask for yet another delay. The wily lawyer had added a Missouri state senator to the defense team — and under state law a legislator was auto-

Just

getting hurt, but

a last-minute

a motion claiming that, because

notoriety, he could not receive a fair

miles east of Skidmore. There, a

Trena McElroy appeared behind Dunbar and aimed

On the

filed

transferred the case to the

a shotgim at the marshal. Dunbar walked

business took a turn for the worse.

1980, he

reputed to be afraid of McElroy, granted the motion and

"I'll kill

the second time that evening, he brought out his

2,

Ken Rex McElroy's

you're laying there bleeding from the castration. We're going to send

you pieces of your

wife's

body

in

an envelope."

On another occasion, McElroy appeared at Warren's house Thompson submachine gun. Bowenkamp, McElroy declared old man had to die. One night in D&G's,

with a .45-caliber

Turning

his attention to

publicly that the

Ken Rex offered to buy copperhead snakes for $50 apiece; he would put the poisonous vipers in Bo Bowenkamp's car,

sug-

gested that the grocer

he said. Another time, as Trena displayed a long corn knife,

loading dock

McElroy

was armed, that he was outside the doorway brandishing a knife, and that McElroy had shot him in self-defense. Ballistics evidence undercut this contention: The trajectory of the shotgun pellets found in the ceiling of the store indicated that Bo had been inside, not outside, when the shots were fired. Even so, McFadin moved that the assault charge against McElroy be dismissed. The judge rejected the motion and bound the case over for

artful stalling

now went

into high gear.

he'd give

him a

large

sum

to "accidentally" run

of

money

for

Bowenkamp

through. McElroy boasted that he'd bet thousands of dollars that he'd

be acquitted for shooting

Bowenkamp. He

had the money. One day, on impulse, he paid cash for a new, fully equipped pickup truck, peeling off bills from a fat wad of them that he pulled from his shirt piKket. He also boasted about the tens of thousands of dollars he was paying Gene McFadin. certainly

trial.

McFadin's

man weapon

told a

using the

On

67

UNSOLVED CRIMES

As

months passed, anxiety in Skidmore rose steadily wondered when McElroy might stop talking and do some of the things he was threatening. The Bowenkamps were suffering in the atmosphere of dread; hardly anyone had the nerve to come to their store. In fact, the townsfolk of Skidmore weren't going much of anywhere. Children were told to come straight home from school, and doors were locked behind them. The streets were often eerily empty, echoing with the growl of a slow-moving column of McElroy trucks that reminded people of the dangers of crossing Ken Rex and his tribe. Even D&G's tavern began

talking about his conviction.

the

trial

he

town of BethWhere Bo Bowenwas shot was the crux of

all

along, that he'd been just

opened on June 25, 1981,

inside the

was to

try to

might have been outside, holding a knife that roy fear for his it

possible that

store. McBowenkamp made McEl-

One

and defend himself with his gun. "Isn't you are confused about where you were

you

if

older

will,"

short while

man, a

retired

he said, and later,

the tavern to the

high-powered

he wants another

intimidation

filled

in the face,

he explained, then

farmer and former army officer

left

the ugly charade. "Like hell

D&G's

with his two sons.

A

he took up a position on the route from

Bowenkamp home.

rifle.

When somebody

In his

hands was a

asked him what he

was doing. Ward said he was going to kill McElroy if he came that way. But nothing happened — at least not then. When McElroy left D&G's tavern he drove off in the opposite direction.

Pete Ward's brave stance marked a critical turning point. As people described the moment in succeeding days, the mood of the town began changing from passivity to defiance. Men stopped averting their eyes when McElroy swaggered down Elm Street or slouched over a beer in D&G's. The community discovered the collective courage to stand up to him. Ward had showed them how. McElroy seemed to realize that the balance of power had shifted in some subtle but fundamental way. He asked a friend who'd spent time in prison about life behind bars, and the man tried to reassure him that it wasn't so bad. Nevertheless, McElroy seemed to despair. He was dead, he said, either in prison or out of it. Then he added, "I'm going to take a few of them with me." McElroy could be generous with his friends, and he handed the ex-con $500. The man said that he would never be able to pay it back. "It doesn't

position close to the dock, the prosecuting attorney asserted,

neck only

Bowenkamp

named Pete Ward, couldn't take

McFadin asked. No, said Bowenkamp. It was not possible. McElroy took the stand and stated that he'd had trouble starting his truck that evening and was waiting beside it when Bowenkamp started shouting at him to get off the property. Suddenly he saw Bowenkamp lunging toward him with a knife. He seized a shotgun he had in his truck and fired simply to make the grocer back off, he said. Not realizing that he'd hit Bowenkamp, he managed to get his truck going and leave. That was what had happened. Selfdefense, and no intent to harm. The prosecution presented the damning evidence of the shotgun pellets in the store's ceiling. They'd dug in at a point 17 feet inside the building. Given that faa and McElroy's hit in the

get off,"

off. I've al-

rip his backside open.

life

could have been

and

me

disgust

going to shoot

standing.'"

Bowenkamp

it

and alarm. Things looked black for the Bowenkamps. Ken Rex McElroy had said he'd kill anybody who put him behind bars, and few doubted that he was capable of carrying out his threat. Four days after the jury had rendered its verdict, McElroy was in D&G's when Trena walked in and handed him an M-1 rifle with a bayonet affixed to it. Under the terms of his bond Ken Rex was banned from carrying a gun, but then he wasn't known for according undue regard to legal fine points. He put a cartridge into the chamber and began making jabbing motions with the bayonet. He was the

in the

demonstrate that

now

of a new campaign of The prospea people of Skidmore with

door leading from the dock into the

Fadin's strategy

appeal

$20,000 for the appeal."

any, close to a year after the shooting.

kamp had been standing when the case. He testified, as he had

"I'll

lawyer better get

ready paid him $30,000, and

to close early.

The

"My

he predicted.

as people

he was

standing inside the doorway.

The diagrams destroyed McElroy's defense. On June 26 him of second-degree assault and recommended a sentence of two years. However, he didn't have to go to jail immediately. Under Missouri law he had the right to remain free on bond during the appeal process, which might drag on for months. Later that day Ken Rex McElroy was back at D&cG's tavern, drinking and the jury convicted

68

VERDICT

make any

difference,"

McElroy

said. "I

won't

live

out the

of July 9, but the others didn't find out about arrived in

Ward knew that McElroy had violated the terms of bond when he flaunted the M-1 in D&G's, and he told the Nodaway County prosecutor about the incident, hoping that McElroy would be jailed sometime before his lengthy appeals were allowed to run their course. He, his two sons, and a man named Gary Dowling signed an affidavit dePete

his

scribing the incident,

until they

it

town on Friday morning. Whenever the news of the latest delay came, it was for many the last straw. Once again Ken Rex would have more time to prey on Skidmore, more time to inflia new torment, especially on the signers of the affidavit. The crowd buzzed and milled around until one man came up with the kernel

week, anyway."

and the prosecutor

filed

of a plan. "Everybody's here," he said. "Let's see

if

we can

some way to protect these four guys." The group, some 60 strong, went into the American Legion hall to discuss things. Then someone had the idea of asking Danny Estes, the Nodaway County sheriff, to come over from Maryville and talk to them about what they could do to stop McElroy from doing any more harm. Sheriff Estes came right away, walking into the Legion hall 20 minutes after he got the call from Skidmore; he had a notion how anxious the people there were about McElroy, and he sympathized with them. But there was nothing he or anybody else could do just then to get McElroy off the

a petition with

get together

the Harrison County court in Bethany to have McElroy's bond revoked. A hearing was set for July 10. McElroy was furious. He confronted Pete Ward and demanded to know if he'd signed the affidavit. Ward didn't deny it, but he refused to say who else had signed. McElroy guessed correctly that Ward's sons were signers, but he was wrong about his fourth accuser, whom he thought was Del Clement, one of the owners of D&G's. Using his customary tactic, McElroy made sure that his enemies got a look at some firepower. He showed up near

and

figure out

Pete Ward's house in Skidmore with a pistol in his hand, and he drove out to the Ward family's farm, where he poked a rifle out the window of his pickup at one of Ward's sons. He also paid a visit to the Clements' farm, where he ostentatiously took aim at some of their horses. As word of McElroy's threatening behavior spread, townspeople began carrying guns themselves. There was even speculation, some of it public, about the possibility of getting rid of Ken Rex once and for all. The hearing to consider revoking McElroy's bail was set for the morning of Friday, July 10, in Bethany. The men

he told the men at the Legion hall; the law said the man was entitled to his freedom until the upcoming hearing. The sheriff could only suggest that the men keep a very

who'd signed the affidavit were required to appear: Now McElroy would be certain who his enemies were. But Ward had so galvanized the Skidmore community that dozens of people decided to attend the hearing and present a united front. They weren't going to leave the signers out on a limb by themselves. When he saw how many supporters the signers had, the people reasoned, McElroy might think twice

yourselves killed," he said.

about going

careful

to

anyone's house or farm, that person should

from neighbors

"What

if

"If that

vised

summon

help

fast.

we shoot him some

hogs on the back roads.'" one happens,

it

night

when

man

asked.

happens," the sheriff

them against taking on McElroy

A short

he's out stealing

said,

but he ad-

at night. "You'll get

while

away from Skidmore. The town was on

later, Estes

drove

own. there was going

its

McElroy had heard the day before that some kind of meeting about him in Skidmore. Maybe he thought he could intimidate the whole gang of them — the farmers and the shopkeepers and their damned bossy women — just by showing up; or maybe he had to show up, lest he look weak. Or maybe he came to towTi thinking something else altogether: He'd said he'd never go to prison, and maybe he drove into Skidmore that morning to make sure he never would. Whatever was going on in his head, at 9:30 a.m. Ken Rex told Trena that they were going into town. Trena was frightened. It was too dangerous, she said. He shrugged her off, and they drove away from the farm in to be

meet at

Cafe at about 7:30 on Friday morning; everyone

would make the 80-mile

watch on Ken Rex's whereabouts and actions and one another. If he turned up at

stay in close touch with

after the particular individuals.

The anti-McElroy contingent had agreed

Mom's

streets,

Bethany together. At the last McFadin worked his customary magic: At his request — he was busy with another trial, he said — the hearing was postponed for 10 days. A few people in Skidmore got word of the postponement on the evening trip to

minute, however, lawyer

the Silverado.

69

UNSOLVED CRIMES

town they found pickups parked everywhere around main intersection of Elm and Walnut, but a slot was available in front of D&G's. The McElroys parked and went into the tavern. Ken Rex ordered a beer, a pack of cigarettes, and some Rolaids. Almost instantly the crowd at the Legion hall got word of his arrival. There was a long silence. Then someone said, "Let's go and have a beer." People looked at one another. In

the

of the men at the hall walked and crowding around McElroy. He calmly smoked a cigarette and drank his beer. After a while he said to Trena, "Well, we'd better go." He bought a six-pack and went out the door. Behind him, someone said, "Get out of town, and stay out of town." Another then started to move. to

D&G's,

voice said,

At

least

filling

Most

the place

"And don't come back, goddamn it." two men — people argued later about whether

VERDICT

— were already taking steps to make Ken Rex McElroy wouldn't come back — to D&G's, to Skidmore, or anywhere else. At some point after news of his presence in town reached the Legion hall, this twosome or trio talked together and decided to act. Exacdy what they said or whether anyone else knew of their intentions is unknown outside of Skidmore. But they seem to have moved without hesitation. The McElroys got into the Silverado, and the townspeople came out of D&G's and gaththere'd been a third

sure that

ered to the right of the truck.

Ken Rex

started the engine.

Trena was watching the crowd when, she alleged later, she saw Del Clement walk across the

and take out a She cried out,

were fired from the .22, but the ward, wasn't hit again.

target,

"Oh, God! Oh, God! Oh, God!

now slumped

for-

Please stop shooting

him," Trena screamed. Someone hauled her out of the truck. She

walked

It

was

blindly,

still

yelling, as she

was

led

up the

bank.

street to the

over.

Elm

Street emptied, but the roar of the Sil-

the air — McElroy's foot had and stayed there, pressing it to the floor. At last the engine seized, shuddered, and fell silent. In the bank, between screams and sobs, Trena said, "They shot Ken Rex! They shot Ken Rex! They didn't have to do that."

verado's engine

still

filled

jerked onto the accelerator

"Yes, they did," a leave us

townswoman

told her.

"You

didn't

any choice."

After a while, the head of the

bank

McElroy's

called

street to his truck

brother Tim, told him that something bad had happened to

.30-30

not hit McElroy again. Then

Ken Rex, and asked him to come get Trena. A few minutes Tim McElroy drove slowly past the Silverado. In the bank he told Trena he wanted to check on Ken Rex. She said he was dead and she wanted to go home. Around 1 1 o'clock, about 45 minutes after the shooting, the sheriffs office in Maryville first got wind of the trouble in Skidmore. Not from anybody in the town, though; the news came from Gene McFadin. The lawyer had gotten a phone call about the shooting, and now he was asking the sheriff what was going on. At about the same time McFadin was making his call, someone in Skidmore finally summoned an ambulance. Police and medical personnel arrived about 20 minutes later. By then a few people had gathered across the street from the Silverado and were staring at the body inside. The sheriff strode toward them, his face twisted

came what would turn out

with anger.

rifle.

"They've got guns!"

Then

the rear

later

window

of the

truck shattered, and a large hole

appeared

The

in

Ken Rex McElroy's

shot from the .3030 had entered the right side of his neck and passed through his mouth, tearing open the tongue, spraying fragments of teeth and gum and cheek on the dashboard before continuing on through the front window. The face.

first

.30-30 continued to

the fatal bullet, a

from a .22

who was

rifle

fire

but did to be

magnum round fired by a man

standing close to the

post office.

The

bullet entered

near the top of McElroy's head,

and the skull disintegrated as if it had been smashed by a gigantic hammer. Tumbling through the right side of the brain, the shot

ripped through tissue and blood

Ken Rex McElroy quite dead. More rounds

vessels, leaving

just

tavern

on July

10, 1981.

people," he shouted.

"You were

The ambulance driver reached into the truck and checked As he expected, there was none. An electronic heart monitor confirmed that McElroy was dead. A gurney was brought alongside the Silverado, and the ambulance attendants wrestled the massive body onto it. Two men came across the street to help. The ambulance driver asked them,

"Who

After the

is

this

guy?"

Ken Rex McElroy," one of the men said. Silverado had been towed away, a policeman

"This here

is

suggested that the pool of blood

Skidmore's

The men

seen

through the shattered window are checking the tavern's front wall for bullet holes.

it,

for a pulse.

Keys still in the ignition. Ken Rex McElroy's blood-soaked Chevrolet Silverado sits in front of

D&G's

"Goddamn

supposed to watch him, not blow him away!"

fire

truck

in the street

was brought

be hosed away.

to the scene

and took

On his

death certificate (below)

McEkoy

is

Ken Rex

tactfully identified as a farmer.

Pages from the autopsy report point out

word Love tattooed on McElroy's left arm, along with the coroner's conclusion as to the cause of death: a gunshot wound to the right side of the head. the

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