THE BOY AND GIRL WHO WERE CHASED ON 12/20/68:
As I began my own research into the Zodiac crime scenes, questions arose about certain aspects of the Jensen-Faraday murders. The first was with the statement of the young man driving the sports car, who had parked at the eventual Lake Herman Road crime scene at 9:30 PM. He, along with his unnamed date that night, were frightened by the car that first backed up Lake Herman Road towards them after initially passing by the car they were in, and then followed them to the Benicia end Lake Herman Road.
In a December 21, 2004 conversation I had with him, this witness told me that he parked the car facing out towards the roadbed as he familiarized himself with the car’s instrument panel. As he and his date for the evening (who has never been identified) sat there, a car approached from the direction of Benicia. The young man, who may possess crucial information even today that could implicate the suspect discussed in this book, has given varying accounts of the events of that night. Here is a summary of what he told me had happened: He stated that in 1968, Lake Herman Road was extremely lightly traveled and everyone pretty much knew everyone else in those more innocent days. Since he had his headlights facing the road and the other car would have to pass through them on its way to Vallejo, he looked up to see if he recognized the driver. He did not.
In the initial police report, the word “they” is used to describe the occupants of the car, which is described as a “blue Valiant.” The report continues, “The subjects were both caucasians [sic] and there is no further identification on the car or the subjects [italics mine].” In my 2004 interview with him, he changed his story dramatically: He said he saw only one person, never “they.” He was also now able to describe the driver as having “short hair and glasses” even though no physical description of anyone appears in the 1968 report. The car was now a light-colored, mid-sized Chevrolet, apparently the same car seen by both the hunters and Bingo Wesher earlier that evening, not a blue Valiant from the 1968 police report.
In another 2004 interview, this one with Zodiac researcher Howard Davis, the witness also stated that there was only one occupant in the car with the same description he provided to me. The car was again a white Chevy. After the car passed the couple, it slowed down and came to a stop. The white reverse lights came on and the car backed slowly towards them. In an instant, dread filled the young man. Why was this stranger backing towards them so ominously on this lonely and dark stretch of back road? Sensing bad intentions by the other driver, he chose flight over fight and put his girlfriend’s car in gear and took off. Seconds later he saw the lights of the other car behind him. The driver had apparently turned around and was now traveling in their direction.
The young man stated in the 1968 police report that the other car never attempted to gain on the couple’s vehicle and his report conveys no sense of a high-speed, full out chase. The 2004 version to Howard Davis is much more dramatic. The two cars raced into the darkness at dangerous speeds over the rises and curves of the road, the other car so close to them that the right front fender of the pursuer’s car was almost up against the left rear quarter panel of the sports car: The other driver was apparently trying to force the young man and his date off the road. The youth used the sports car’s superior performance to accelerate away from the Chevy, which remained in hot pursuit. As Lake Herman Road winds its way east through the surrounding hills, it eventually comes to a cutoff road to the right that goes into the city of Benicia. When the young man reached the cutoff, he suddenly slammed on the brakes and yanked the steering wheel of the sports car hard to the right. The other car was still in very close pursuit but lacked the handling and cornering ability of the sports car. When the youth and his date went right onto the cutoff road, the other car barreled straight ahead towards the intersection with a highway, Route 680. The young witness stated that after the cars came to a stop, he considered challenging the other driver to a fight but decided against it. After that he said that he left the area.
In another significant development, in 2005, the man described the car he and his girlfriend were in as being “either an MG or a Triumph,” both British makes. As it turned out, the new sports car in which the pair was riding that night may well have been what had attracted the attention of their tormenter in the first place: The “toggle switches” with which the young man was familiarizing himself when he pulled into the Gate #10 turnout were characteristic of imported sports cars, such as British makes like the MG or Triumph the young man said he was driving that night, not of American cars. The female passenger who owned the sports car was reportedly from Napa but was apparently living in San Francisco at the time. Did she buy the car in San Francisco, Napa or somewhere else? If she purchased it in San Francisco, at what dealership did she buy it? These are questions that could prove to be crucial to the case and to the reason their car in particular was singled out that night, if we presume for a moment that their pursuer was, in fact, the man who would later attack Faraday and Jensen and who subsequently identified himself as the Zodiac.
Here is the problem with the ever evolving story of the young man and his date: Detective Sgt. Les Lundblad was an investigator who was looking to develop solid leads to pursue in the two murders. By the time he spoke to the young man on December 22nd at 4:30 PM, he would have already heard about the white Chevy from both Bingo Wesher and the two hunters. In his more recent statement, the young man says that he stated to Lundblad that he, too, had seen a white Chevy. Three people seeing the same car constitutes a strong lead on a suspect vehicle. Why then would Lundblad have tried to allegedly change the young man’s story to make him the odd man out with the “blue Valiant” and totally ignore the potential lead on the white Chevy? While there is a single, unattributed reference in a summary report by Lundblad on December 23rd to a “dark car lacking in chrome” being a vehicle of interest, there is nothing in the individual eyewitness interviews done by the SO that were used to compile this summary report to indicate who reported seeing such a vehicle that night. Is such a report existed, it was not in the extensive batch of reports I was given in 2001. If the reference to the “dark car/no chrome” was the impetus for Lundblad allegedly trying to get the young man to change his story from the white Chevy to a blue Valiant, the original source of the possible eyewitness statement about the presence of the dark car is a mystery.
The biggest question from my point of view that this witness could answer is this: From which dealership was this young man’s date’s British sports car purchased? Where was that dealership located, in San Francisco, where the young lady lived at the time, or elsewhere? The significance of this question will become evidence as you learn about my suspect.
A POSSIBLE SCENARIO FOR HOW JENSEN AND FARADAY WERE ATTACKED:
Since there were no surviving witnesses to what happened between Jensen and Faraday and their attacker, we can only speculate as to what exactly happened to the couple by analyzing the crime scene evidence. So the question is, what did take place at Lake Herman that night? What was the exact sequence of events?
There are multiple possibilities for explaining the crime scene evidence. Did Betty Lou speak to her attacker through the slightly rolled down window? Did she run for her life with her killer in hot pursuit ultimately falling dead thirty feet from the Rambler? Who was killed first? How did one of the .22 caliber shell casings from the killer’s gun end up inside the car? What is the significance of the distribution of the ten .22 caliber long-rifle shell casings the officers found in and around the Rambler? (This piece of information does seem to tell a very important and objective story.) Why would Betty Lou have exited the car and run for her life with the gunman standing poised on her side of the Rambler ready to shoot her as she exited the car? Why didn’t both kids exit on the driver’s side and try to escape into the night? Why didn’t David alone do so? Was the gunman actually standing on Betty Lou’s side of the car as she got out and ran?
None of these questions can be answered with any certainty. But I will attempt to use information in the Solano County SO police reports I obtained in 2001, as well as some profiling knowledge, to reconstruct the crime scene based on what investigators saw when they first arrived. Along with that I will indulge in a little extrapolation that is needed in interpreting the shell casing evidence that was discovered at the crime scene. The scenario below is put forth as being just one possible explanation of the way in which the events unfolded that night and is not in any way meant to be the final word on the matter, which we now may never know.
Since the publication of the former San Francisco Chronicle political cartoonist turned amateur investigator/author Robert Graysmith’s 1986 book, Zodiac the public has been led to believe that the killer emerged from his car and immediately shot out the rear cargo window of Faraday’s station wagon in order to frighten the couple and get their attention. And this certainly may be what happened. However, in April 2015, I realized something that apparently nobody had recognized over the years: the outline of David Faraday’s body lay between the spot where the bullet entered the rear cargo window of the Rambler and the spot where another bullet entered the roof of the car over the passenger’s side rear window. With that in mind, here is a possible scenario for what may actually have happened:
The man got out of the car and directed the beam of light at the front passenger’s side window of the station wagon illuminating the kids inside. He stated that he had a gun in his hand and that the beam of light they saw was coming from a flashlight that was attached to it. He then ordered the two kids out of the car. There is no evidence to indicate that he ever stalked around the car or went to the driver’s side of the vehicle, as some people have suggested in the past. Seeing that the man had the beam of light trained directly on them and not wanting to call his bluff as to the presence of the unseen gun attached to it, the two shocked kids obediently did exactly what the stranger told them to do. Betty Lou swung open the door and exited first. The killer took her by the arm and drew her close to him using the girl to control the movements of the boy. He then ordered the boy to get out slowly, move to the rear of the car and stand up against the rear wheel facing the car or the man would shoot the girl. David left the front passenger’s side door open after he exited. The man knew that the boy was the greatest threat to either fight back or get away, so he used Betty Lou as a bargaining chip to get him to comply.
The killer then played a sick and deadly joke on Betty Lou. He told her to run for her life towards Vallejo and that his business was not with her but with the boy. She immediately took off and when she did so, he began firing. Betty Lou screamed out in fear and pain but the echoes of her cries were quickly swallowed up by the eerie, black stillness of Lake Herman Road. These screams were answered only with more searing rounds from behind that peppered the right side of her back, as the thin flashlight attached to the man’s gun tracked her as she fled. Betty Lou started feeling the shots hit her but she kept running, and then staggering, towards Vallejo and the safety of her family home. Meanwhile, the bullets kept coming. After being hit five times, with one of the .22 caliber slugs penetrating her heart, she stood up bolt straight and fell backwards towards her assassin, like a soldier in an old war movie. She tumbled semi-prone onto her right side and her life blood began to drain from her body.
As indicated on the diagram of the crime scene made by the Solano County SO, all of the .22 caliber Super X shell casings were found either near David’s body or towards the front of the Rambler on the passenger’s side. The diagram shows that no casings were found on the path along which Betty Lou had run while fleeing the gunman. This proved that the man had not followed her and then shot at her point blank after she fell, as some researchers have theorized. The distance between the gunman and Betty Lou is also borne out by the fact that only a single grain of gunpowder would later be found on Betty Lou’s dress. Had she been shot point blank there would have been much more than that single grain.
There was a strategic reason why the killer did not chase after Betty Lou: Had he done so, David may have been able to slip away into the darkness towards the front of the Rambler. The killer then turned his attention to the boy, who was by now clearly in mortal fear for his life after hearing what had just happened to his girlfriend on their very first date.
The man then turned his attention to the boy and ordered him once again not to look behind him and to continue to stare straight ahead. He was now going to finish him off. But first, he wanted to make sure the boy died in such a manner as to give the unknown assailant the ultimate feeling of power and satisfaction out of the kill.
The man aimed the gun again, but not at David. Not yet. Rather, he directed the beam of light towards the long cargo window of the station wagon and squeezed the trigger. The gun discharged and the bullet hit the window but just barely, passing through it just over the lower part of the frame. The safety glass exploded into a thousand pieces but remained in place. David jumped off the ground, as the shot startled him. Not being able to see what was happening behind him and knowing that the man meant business after what had just happened to Betty Lou, David assumed that he had just been shot. But why didn’t it hurt? He had to be hit, since the man was standing right behind him. He couldn’t have missed from there. How come he didn’t feel anything? Before he could assess the situation any further the man squeezed the trigger again. This time he was apparently attempting to shoot out the window of the rear passenger’s side door to ratchet up the level of fear in the boy yet another notch. But almost unbelievably from this short a range, just as he had almost missed the long window in the back of the car, he missed this window completely and the bullet pierced the metal of the roof over the door. Still, the sound of the shot had the desired effect of driving his victim into a crescendo of panic, as adrenalin now surged violently through David’s body.
Satisfied, the man now calmly walked up to the boy. The killer reveled in the feelings that came over him at this moment. He was in total control of the boy and had the intoxicating power over life and death, and just like a medieval executioner or Ko-Ko, a favorite character of the Zodiac from The Mikado, Zodiac was doing what he would later call his “Thing”—acting as judge, jury and executioner. He made his decision quickly. He jammed the barrel of the gun against the outside of the boy’s left ear. David may have briefly heard the deafening sound and felt the jarring impact of the shot. A small spray of blood from the boy’s head hit the gunman’s hand before David fell over straight backwards with his feet still up against the rear wheel of the Rambler, stunned and dying but temporarily at least, still conscious.
The killer now stood in the darkness and silence of the night. It had only taken him a minute and a half to snuff out the two kids. One of them had died with false hope of running to safety and one of them had died in a state of mortal fear. This was extremely pleasing to him. Things had gone just the way he had planned. In fact, they could not have gone any better. He took one last look at what he had accomplished.
Suddenly, his attention was drawn to the approaching headlights of a car looming in the distance from the direction of Vallejo. It was Stella Borges. The approaching vehicle interrupted him as he attempted to do one last thing before leaving. No matter. He would remember this night for a long time even without any souvenirs. He quickly got into his car and made his escape like an apparition evaporating into the mist. David Faraday and Betty Lou Jensen had fallen victim to a heartless gunman simply because they were in the wrong place and stayed there until the wrong time. They would lose their promising young lives on their first date to satisfy the sick needs of an evil but brilliant man, who would subsequently prove that his purpose was not simply to murder but to instill terror in both his victims and in the people of the Bay Area for years to come.
I befriended Russ Butterbach, one of the Solano County Sheriff’s Office detectives who responded to the scene, in 2002. He and his partner on the night of the Jensen-Faraday murders, a rookie cop, Wayne Waterman, who told me in 2001 that he had just 40 days on the job, were sent to Vallejo General Hospital to see if they could interview Faraday about who had done this terrible act. They learned that he had been DOA at the hospital. They inventoried his personal effects and took custody of them. Deputy Roger Wilson was called to photograph the body in the hospital. Butterbach had noticed one odd thing: The boy was holding his class ring awkwardly and unnaturally by forcing the tips of his thumb and ring fingers of his left hand together in an “O”, or loop. The ring had also been moved up onto the second knuckle of his ring finger, while a ring is worn at the base of the first knuckle, flush up against the top of the palm. This caught Butterbach’s eye. It almost seemed to him as if Faraday had been trying to prevent someone from taking the ring from him.
In the 1960s, it was common for a high school boy to give his class ring to his girlfriend. She would then usually wrap wool around the rim of the ring in order to make it small enough to fit her own finger. Wearing it was a sign that they were going steady. Had David Faraday planned to give his ring to Betty Lou that night? A friend of the couple, whom Zodiac researcher Tom Voigt interviewed in 2003, said that David had intended to do just that on December 20, 1968. If so, had Faraday fought heroically with his killer for the possession of this sign of his affection for Betty Lou as his final act after being shot and slowly drifting into unconsciousness?
As soon as Butterbach told me about his observation, I felt that the position of David’s hand must have been much more than the product of coincidence or posturing after the injury to his brain. I knew from having studied neuroanatomy in college that a shot through the left side of the brain should only potentially affect the limbs of the right side of the body. The ring had been in David’s left hand. A thought then flashed through my mind that had apparently had not occurred to Butterbach in 1968: I immediately got angry and wondered what would have happened if Russ had bagged the ring that night and sent it to the lab. After all, even if logic seemed to dictate that Faraday should have been immediately unconscious after receiving his head wound there was at least a suggestion that there had been a struggle for possession of that ring at some point in time.
I now asked myself. Did the killer wear gloves that night or not? Might he have grabbed the ring by placing his thumb on the top and his fingers on the bottom of it and then attempted to pull it off Faraday’s finger? And if so, might the killer’s thumbprint at one point have been on the smooth, red stone of that Vallejo High School class ring? I wondered about this but unfortunately by the early 2000s, I felt that through handling and cleaning by the and the evaporation of any potential oils from the hand over the years it was undoubtedly long past the time that the ring could have been dusted for the killer’s prints.
Offense Report, Office of the Sheriff, County of Solano, CA by Detective Sgt. Les Lundblad, December 22, 1968.
Male witness in statement to retired CHiP Officer Lyndon Lafferty, retired Naval Intelligence officer Jerry Johnson and retired VPD detective Jim Dean, January 2005.
Robert Graysmith, Zodiac (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1986), p. 6.
W. S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan, The Mikado (New York: A.W. Tams Music Library, 1885).
There is a phenomenon called “cadaveric spasm,” which occurs after death and which can cause the hand to clench. However, this usually results in a closed fist, not the unusual configuration that Butterbach noted.
“The Lake Herman Road Tragedy,”
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