A San Diego - Riverside Connection?

The Riverside Watch

The Riverside watch

For many years now, I've been of the opinion that the man who would later go on to become the Zodiac murdered not only Robert Domingos, Linda Edwards, and Cheri Jo Bates, but also Johnny Ray and Joyce Ann Swindle.

The Swindles were from Jasper, Alabama. At seventeen years old, Johnny Ray joined the Navy. By the time 1963 was turning to 1964, the sailor's initial enlistment was coming to an end. Johnny Ray decided to re-up. With his re-enlistment bonus in hand, he took his accumulated vacation, went back to Jasper, married his high-school sweetheart, Joyce, and brought her back to San Diego.

Joyce was fascinated by the Pacific Ocean and hence the couple made it a point to go for a walk along the beach every night. By February 5th, less than three weeks after the small wedding in Jasper, Alabama, the newlywed's honeymoon was coming to an end. Johnny Ray had orders to report for duty on the seventh. In particular, the couple would be apart for their first Valentine's day as husband and wife. Likely in recognition of these bittersweet circumstances, Johnny Ray bought Joyce some candy at one of the stores on the path of their nightly stroll. The two made their way to a retaining wall on the beach and began to share the candy as they took in the nighttime beauty of the Pacific Ocean.

Sadly, a gunman hidden in a make-shift sniper's nest put a permanent end to newlywed's hopes and dreams. Both Johnny Ray and Joyce were shot with .22 long-rifle, hollow-point bullets. Once incapacitated, the gunman approached and shot each in the head at point-blank range. Joyce died quickly. Remarkably, Johnny Ray held on two to three hours before succumbing to his wounds.

From early on, it was well documented that the killer took Johnny Ray's wallet. However, in doing some research recently, I came across a tidbit that may have some meaningful implications. Specifically, the February 23, 1964 San Diego Union newspaper had an article which included the following two paragraphs:


The killer almost certainly took the sailor's wristwatch. But that's not all. The situation becomes even more interesting when we consider how Johnny Ray spent the last day of his life: he was painting for several hours. In particular, he went to his landlady and asked if there was anything he could do to earn some extra money. She put him to work painting an apartment.

So, are there any references to paint-splattered watches in the remainder of the extended Zodiac crimes (the canonical Zodiac crimes plus the Southern California murders)? Indeed there are. In the very next crime, i.e. the murder of Cheri Jo Bates some two years and nine months later, investigators found a watch at the crime scene--a watch which is documented as having paint on it. The watch band was broken and most people, understandably, believe it was worn by the perpetrator and torn off by Cheri Jo when she fiercely fought back against her attacker. But, what if this watch was never owned by the killer? Rather, what if he left it at the crime scene specifically to confuse the investigation?

If nothing else, this is at least a thought-provoking possibility. What's your opinion?

Michael Cole


  1. Mike Morford 16 April, 2015 at 15:05 Reply

    Great Stuff Mike. This case has always interested me as well. I actually never knew about the watch, and the fact it may have been paint splattered is really interesting. This deserves more research

    • Zodiac Revisited 16 April, 2015 at 23:34

      Thanks Mike. Yeah, I was really surprised when I read those two paragraphs. It was hard to find since the first (and probably only) mention of it was almost 3 weeks after the murders, i.e. it’s not mentioned anywhere in the detailed initial reports.

    • Dag MacLugh 7 July, 2015 at 17:05

      I talked to Bud Kelly in ’91. He said “Bob Barnett” had painted a small house that he lived in behind his folk’s house, and wore his watch while he was painting. Unfortunately, I didn’t ask Kelly if RPD had tried to match the paint on the small house with that on the wristwatch.

  2. sandy betts 28 April, 2015 at 10:10 Reply

    Good information Mike thank you. The idea of the Military ID being taken, makes me think about Robt Tarbox and a man claiming to be Zodiac showing Tarbox a military ID. I never felt that Zodiac would give anyone his real name, that if the name on that ID was Swindle’s, but the picture inserted was Zodiac, I could believe that.
    Does anyone know if Joyce Swindle’s wrist watch was taken ? I would think the killer would take something of hers as well? I ask this because I have a female wrist watch that was left for me (along with a strange costume) in Napa Sept 28th or 29th 1969, the watch I believe could belong to a victim? It was left by whom I feel was the Zodiac. I contacted Napa PD and Riverside, asking if either Cecilia or Cheri Jo Bates were missing a watch? Neither police dept. ever got back to me.

    I have been to the Swindle’s crime scene and saw their apt. Took the walk that I felt was the way they went.The sound of the ocean was so loud, that it would be very hard to hear gun shots.I found only one spot where the killer could have fired the shots from and where he wouldn’t be seen from the Apts above.
    Who ever it was, was a coward just like Zodiac.

    • Zodiac Revisited 28 April, 2015 at 10:31

      Hi Sandy,

      I’m not aware of the killer taking anything from Joyce, but it’s certainly a possibility.

      Yeah, one of the newspaper articles I read said something similar, i.e. that the ocean was so loud that it may well have masked the sound of gunfire. I’ve been in that general area, but not specifically at the crime scene. Hopefully, I’ll get back down there sometime in the not-too-distant future.

      I really think this was the same guy. He was already smart enough to vary his weapon. In Southern California, the goal was specifically to avoid detection. He did the same thing in San Francisco, but there it was more to create ambiguity.

      My belief is that the guy lived somewhere in the Greater Los Angeles area and traveled to each of the three crimes scenes: north to Gaviota, South to San Diego, and East to Riverside. The crimes involved a lot of premeditation, which is a big part of the reason he’s never been caught.

  3. Ruben 27 December, 2015 at 20:30 Reply

    Compelling article.

    In the confession letter he wrote 3 times the word: “TIME”, and two times the word: “HANDS” . Also it can be found one time the word: “BRUSH”. Chances are the Zodiac was depicting the painted watch found in the crime scene. I´m just speculating of course.




  4. Ruben 28 December, 2015 at 16:34 Reply

    This stickers were also sent to Paul Avery by Z in the Halloween card: http://www.zodiackiller.com/Stickerz.html

    “the couple would be apart for their first Valentine’s day as husband and wife.”

    “Johnny Ray bought Joyce some candy at one of the stores on the path of their nightly stroll. The two made their way to a retaining wall on the beach and began to share the candy as they took in the nighttime beauty of the Pacific Ocean.”

  5. Ruben Avila 30 December, 2015 at 19:30 Reply

    Zodiac killer case it´s full of strange coincidences that match a lot of people Michael, maybe there was more than one people involved in; perhaps even the police “humble thought”. God i enjoy your site, best wishes this 2016. I´m very intrigued!!!

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