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Zodiac

The Shocking True Story of the Hunt for the Nation's Most Elusive Serial Killer

Robert Graysmith's New York Times bestselling account of the desperate hunt for a serial killer and his own investigation of California's unsolved Zodiac murders.

A sexual sadist, the Zodiac killer took pleasure in torture and murder. His first victims were a teenage couple, stalked and shot dead in a lovers' lane. After another slaying, he sent his first mocking note to authorities, promising he would kill more. The official tally of his victims was six. He claimed thirty-seven dead. The real toll may have reached fifty.

Robert Graysmith was on staff at the San Francisco Chronicle in 1969 when Zodiac first struck, triggering in the resolute reporter an unrelenting obsession with seeing the hooded killer brought to justice. In this gripping account of Zodiac's eleven-month reign of terror, Graysmith reveals hundreds of facts previously unreleased, including the complete text of the killer's letters.
Portrait
Robert Graysmith is the New York Times bestselling author of several true crime novels including Zodiac, Zodiac Unmasked, Auto Focus, and Amerithrax. The major motion pictures Zodiac and Auto Focus are based on his books. A San Francisco Chronicle political cartoonist and artist for fifteen years, he lives in San Francisco.
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  • One

     

    David Faraday and Betty Lou Jensen

     

    Friday, December 20, 1968

     

    When he hiked in the rolling hills overlooking Vallejo, David Faraday could catch glimpses of the Golden Gate Bridge, the saltwater fishermen, sailboats and speedboats on San Pablo Bay, and the wide, tree-lined streets of the town. He could make out the black skeletal derricks, the piers, battleships, brick smokestacks, and three-tiered warehouses of Mare Island, the great gray mass lying across the straits.

     

    In World War II thousands swarmed to the area to do navy work, and Vallejo was transformed into a boom town. Cheap housing units of plywood and plasterboard were thrown up, temporary constructions. By the 1960s they had become permanent black ghettos, fosterers of race hatred and gang violence that reached into the high schools.

     

    David Arthur Faraday, seventeen, a scholar and varsity athlete, was one of the top students at Vallejo High School. As 1968 drew to a close, David had met a pretty, dark-haired sixteen-year-old, Betty Lou Jensen, who lived across town. He had been going over to see her almost every day since. Today, at 5:00 p.m., David and Betty Lou were talking with some friends on Annette Street about their date for that night. It was to be their first date together.

     

    David left at 6:00, and at 7:10 drove his sister, Debbie, to a meeting of the Rainbow Girls at the Pythian Castle on Sonoma Boulevard. David told Debbie that he and Betty Lou might be going out to Lake Herman Road at the end of their date because he'd heard "a bunch of the kids were going out there tonight."

     

    David returned home, to his parents' green, brown-shingled, T-shaped house on Sereno Drive, surrounded by a manicured hedge and two massive round shrubs, all dwarfed by the soaring poplar tree on the right.

     

    By 7:20 David was dressing for his date. He wore a light-blue long-sleeve shirt, brown corduroy Levi-type pants, black socks, and tan, rough-leather, low-cut boots. He put his Timex wristwatch with chrome case and band on his left wrist, and shoved a dollar and fifty-five cents, all in change, in his right front pants pocket. He pocketed a white handkerchief and a small bottle of Binaca breath drops. On the middle finger of his left hand he fitted his yellow metal class ring with its red stone. David combed his short brown hair diagonally across his forehead, above large, intelligent eyes and a generous mouth, then slipped on his beige sportcoat.

     

    David said good-bye to his parents and left the house at 7:30. He took a deep breath of the very cool night air (it was only 22 degrees), and walked to the 1961 Rambler brown-and-beige four-door station wagon that was registered in his mother's name.

     

    He backed the Rambler out of the driveway and took Fairgrounds Drive to Interstate Highway 80 for the one and one-quarter miles to the Georgia Street exit. From Georgia, David made a right turn on Hazelwood and rode on Hazelwood until he came to 123 Ridgewood, a low, flat house bordered by ivy and lean, tall trees. David pulled to a stop in front. It was 8:00.

     

    Betty Lou Jensen, like David, was hardworking, studious, serious, and had a spotless reputation. As far as her parents knew she and David were going to a Christmas carol concert at her school, Hogan High, only a few blocks away.

     

    Betty Lou took one last look in the mirror and adjusted the colored ribbon in her hair; her long brown straight hair framed her face and came down over her shoulders. She was wearing a purple mini-dress with white cuffs and collar that made her dark, widely spaced eyes look mysterious. She had on black T-strap shoes.

     

    Betty Lou looked nervously over her right shoulder toward the window to be sure the blinds were drawn. She often told her sister Melody that she thought a boy from school was spying on her, and on several occasions Mrs. Jensen had found the gate open leading to the side of the house. A classmate? Or was someone else spying on her?

     

    While he waited for Betty Lou, David spoke with her father, Verne. Her parents were from the Midwest, but Betty Lou had been born in Colorado, like David's mother.

     

    When Betty Lou came out, David helped her with her white fur coat. Purse in hand, she kissed her dad good-bye, told him that they were going to a party after the concert, and at 8:20 left, promising to be back by 11:00.

     

    Instead of going to the concert, the two went to visit Sharon, another student, on Brentwood, close to the school. At 9:00 Sharon walked them out to their car. They didn't say where they were going next.

     

    At about the same time, out on Lake Herman Road, a few miles east of the Vallejo city limits, two racoon hunters, who had just parked their red pickup inside of the Marshall Ranch, noticed a white four-door hardtop '60 Chevrolet Impala parked by the entrance to the Benicia Water Pumping Station. There was a truck coming out of the pumping station gate onto the isolated road at the time.

     

    At 9:30 an unusual incident occurred on this spot. A boy and his date had parked the girl's sports car just off the winding road so he could adjust its motor. Both saw a car, possibly a blue Valiant, coming down the road from Benicia into Vallejo. As the car passed the couple, it slowed, went a few yards down and stopped in the middle of the road. They saw its white backup lights come on. And then the car started backing up toward them with excruciating slowness. There was such menace, such an aura of malignancy about the actions that the youth put his date's car in gear and took off at high speed. The Valiant followed them. When the couple got to the Benicia turnoff, they turned. The other car continued straight ahead.

     

    At 10:00 p.m., Bingo Wesher, a sheepherder at the Old Borges Ranch, was checking his sheep in the area east of the Benicia pumping station when he noticed a white Chevrolet Impala sedan parked by the entrance to the station in front of the gate. He also saw the racoon hunters' '59 Ford truck.

     

    After Betty Lou and David had a Coke at Mr. Ed's, a local drive-in, they drove east on Georgia and turned left onto Columbus Parkway. At the city limits of Vallejo, David turned right onto narrow, winding Lake Herman Road.

     

    They passed the great towers of the SVAR Rock and Asphalt Paving Materials Company, its machinery eating away at an orange-and-tan mountainside. There were silver mines here, and David had heard of two men who planned on operating a quicksilver mine in the farmland. Small ranches crowded the road the first mile. By day the hillsides were dotted with black-and-white cows grazing on the pale yellow hills against sharp blue skies. Now, the night slid thick and black behind the beams of the Rambler's headlights. David and Betty Lou headed east to a remote lover's lane. Police traveled it periodically, warning couples of the possible dangers of parking in such an isolated area.

     

    Just before 10:15, David pulled off the road to the right and parked fifteen feet off it, facing south, in the graveled area outside gate #10, the chain-link-fenced entrance to the Lake Herman pumping station. He locked all four doors, put Betty Lou's white fur coat and purse and his own sportcoat on the seat behind the driver's seat, and turned on the car heater. He tilted the adjustable front seat back to a forty-five-degree angle.

     

    There were no lamp poles, and the rocky clearing was surrounded by gently mounded hills and farmland. The spot was popular for lovers because the kids could see the lights from any police cruiser as it came around the curve in the road, which gave them time to get rid of beer or grass.

     

    At 10:15 a woman and her boyfriend, a sailor, drove by. When they reached the end of the road and came back past fifteen minutes later, the car was still there, but was now facing out toward the road in a southeast direction.

     

    At 10:50 Mrs. Stella Borges arrived at her ranch on Lake Herman Road, exactly two and seven-tenths miles from where Betty Lou and David were parked. As Mrs. Borges came in the door the phone rang and she began a conversation with her mother. They agreed that Mrs. Borges would pick up her thirteen-year-old son at a show later that night.

     

    At 11:00 Mrs. Peggie Your and her husband, Homer, drove out to Lake Herman Road in their gold '67 Grand Prix to check out the sewer and water pipes his company was installing near the pump house. When they passed the Rambler, Mrs. Your saw David sitting in the driver's seat and the girl leaning against his shoulder. When the lights from the Yours' car illuminated the gate area, she could see David put his hands on the steering wheel.

     

    After looking over the construction site, the Yours went to the bottom of the hill and turned into the Marshall Ranch to turn to go back toward Benicia. They could see the racoon hunters' red pickup parked in the field twenty-five feet in. The two hunters, in stocking caps and hunting jackets, were in the truck. After turning around, the Yours came back past the Rambler. David and Betty Lou were still sitting in the same position.

     

    The racoon hunters had returned to their pickup by walking up the road on the side of the creek. They had been about to leave when they saw the Yours' car pull into the driveway. It was 11:05 when they finally left, and both men noticed the Rambler parked alone by the gate, now facing in toward it.

     

    When another car came around the bend in the road and caught them in its headlights, like glowing eyes peeking over a hill, Betty Lou and David may have been holding each other. Instead of passing the station wagon, this car pulled up next to them, to their right, about ten feet away.

     

    The figure in the car was probably in silhouette, hunched and stocky like the surrounding dark hills, flat as a paper cutout. In the darkness there may have been a momentary glint of light, as if from glasses. The man was wearing a windbreaker.

     

    There the two cars sat, side by side, just off a desolate country road.

     

    At 11:10 a worker from Humble Oil in Benicia was on his way home when he passed the Rambler at the gate. He noticed it, but the make and color of the other car failed to register with him.

     

    The oil worker's auto disappeared in the distance.

     

    A dry breeze rattled the frozen grass along the road.

     

    This is what may have happened next:

     

    The new arrival finally rolled his window down and spoke to David and Betty Lou, asking them to get out of the car.

     

    Astonished, the young couple refused. The stocky man opened his car door. And as he got out, he pulled a gun from under his dark jacket.

     

    The stranger stood glaring down at Betty Lou, whose window was open. Instead of forcing himself in through the most obvious entry-on the passenger side-the stranger began stalking around the car. He paused, aimed at the rear right window just off center, above the chrome stripping in its lower part, and fired a bullet. It shattered the glass. He moved to the left side of the car and fired a bullet into the left rear wheel housing. His intention seemed to be to herd the youngsters out of the right side of the car.

     

    He succeeded. As both of the teenagers scrambled out of the passenger side, the stranger raced around to the right side of the car.

     

    Betty Lou had gotten out. As David slid across the seat and turned his head getting out, the man reached through the open left window with the gun and pressed the barrel behind the upper part of the boy's left ear and pulled the trigger. The bullet angled horizontally forward, leaving behind the powder burns of a contact wound. It exploded the boy's skull.

     

    Betty Lou screamed and ran northward, parallel with the road and toward Vallejo. Racing after the girl, gun extended, less than ten feet behind her, the stocky man shot Betty Lou five times. He hit her in a tight pattern in the upper right portion of her back.

     

    This was incredible marksmanship: a moving target, a moving gunman running over gravel, on an almost totally dark country road.

     

    Betty Lou fell dead exactly twenty-eight feet and six inches from the Rambler's rear bumper. The fleeing girl had never even reached the pavement of the road.

     

    She lay on her right side, face down, her feet to the west. David was on his back, feet pointing toward the right rear wheel. He was breathing in an almost imperceptible rasp. A large pool of blood was beginning to form about his head.

     

    The stocky man backed his sedan up and drove away down the dark, twisting road.

     

    Mrs. Borges, still in her coat, hung up the phone and got her mother-in-law and daughter for the drive to Benicia. She glanced at the kitchen clock. It was 11:10.

     

    It took her four to five minutes, at thirty-five miles an hour, to reach the site where David had parked. As she turned the corner of the road at the edge of the chain-link fence, her headlights illuminated the dreadful sight.

     

    At first Mrs. Borges thought the man had fallen out of the car. Then, near a yellow diamond traffic sign, she saw Betty Lou. The right front door of the Rambler was still open; the hum of its heater was audible in the stillness.

     

    Mrs. Borges accelerated down the narrow thruway to Benicia looking for help, reaching speeds of sixty to seventy miles per hour. Just north of Interstate 680 she saw a Benicia patrol car and began to honk and blink her lights to get their attention. The two cars pulled to a stop in front of the Enco Station on East 2nd Street and she told them of the horror at the edge of the road. It was 11:19.

     

    The police cruiser proceeded with flashing blue lights to the scene of the attack and arrived in three minutes. The officers, Captain Daniel Pitta and Officer William T. Warner, detected shallow breathing from the boy and called for an ambulance.

     

    They checked over the two-tone Rambler. The motor was lukewarm, the ignition switched on, the right front door wide open, the other three doors and tailgate all locked.

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Produktdetails

Einband Taschenbuch
Seitenzahl 355
Erscheinungsdatum 01.01.2007
Sprache Englisch
ISBN 978-0-425-21218-9
Verlag Penguin LCC US
Maße (L/B/H) 17,4/10,6/3,5 cm
Gewicht 194 g
Verkaufsrang 10062
Buch (Taschenbuch, Englisch)
Buch (Taschenbuch, Englisch)
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7,39
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