Interesting Map of San Francisco Homicides

San Francisco Homicides, Jan - Aug 1969

On August 7, 1969, the San Francisco Examiner published an article entitled The Phenomenon of Sudden Death. This piece described the alarming rate at which people were being murdered in San Francisco during 1969. Accompanying the article was the above map which identifies the site of each murder committed in San Francisco from January 1, 1969 through the date of publication, i.e. August 7.

To put this publication date into context, the following table shows some related parts of the Zodiac timeline.

Date Event
Dec 20, 1968  The Zodiac murders David Faraday and Betty Lou Jensen
July 5, 1969  The killer murders Darlene Ferrin and critically injures Mike Mageau
July 31  The Zodiac mails three similar copies of his first letter to three Bay-Area newspapers
Aug 3  The Chronicle and Examiner publish the three component parts of the 408 cipher in their joint Sunday edition
Aug 4 The Examiner publishes the Zodiac's second letter
Aug 7  The Examiner publishes The Phenomenon of Sudden Death
Aug 9  The Chronicle and the Examiner both publish initial portions of the Harden’s solution to the 408 cipher


The aggregate content of the killer's letters suggest that the man was a regular reader of Bay-Area newspapers. In this particular time frame, it is a near certainty that he was scrutinizing one or more Bay-Area newspapers on a daily basis looking for updated information regarding his crimes, letters and cipher. Therefore, there is a high probability that the killer saw this article and its accompanying figure.

Whether or not the contents of this article had any substantive impact on the formulation and execution of the Zodiac's murderous plans is unknowable. But it's interesting to note that in just over two month's time, the Zodiac would make his own contribution to the described litany of San Francisco murders, right on the border of the Presidio which happens to be clearly called out on the map.

At the same time, the sheer number of murders recorded during roughly the first seven months of 1969, a total of 95 according to the article, serves to emphasize the magnitude of the problems, other than the Zodiac, that San Francisco was facing. There is no doubt that the Zodiac has had a significant and lasting effect because he was masterful at terrorizing the public through his partially random murders, his taunting letters and his willingness to threaten children. However, in terms of his definite crimes within the city limits of San Francisco, he was but a small part of a large problem. Of course, this observation is not meant to diminish the significance of Paul Stine's murder - nor that of any of the other Zodiac victims for that matter; they were all undeniably senseless and tragic. But sadly, these type of senseless and tragic happenings were all too common in 1969...

Michael Cole


  1. Michael D. Kelleher 27 December, 2011 at 09:28 Reply

    This is an interesting article and takes a fresh look at a small part of the Zodiac case. I wonder if you would be willing to put this article together for my readers at the website mentioned above. You have raised an interesting idea for my “Things to Consider” section of the site.

    Please take a look at the site and let me know if you are interested in presenting this topic.

    [email protected]

    • Mike 9 January, 2012 at 13:06

      Thank you for your comments. I enjoyed your and David Van Nuys’ book and I’m glad to see that you are now the driving force behind I’m looking forward to the quality content that your site will undoubtedly amass. I’ll contact you directly regarding this article.

  2. Jim Wood 1 April, 2012 at 17:26 Reply

    I don’t recall ever seeing this before. We lived in the SouthBay, down in Santa Clara, during the Zodiac time. My older brother though lived about 6 blocks from the Stine scene at the time. Very interesting article…

  3. Michael D. Kelleher 2 April, 2012 at 08:55 Reply

    Jim (and Mike):

    You know, I had never seen this one either, despite all the research for my book and the fact that I lived in San Francisco and followed the media as much as possible. Goes to show you how a little thing can make a difference. Mike’s article is one of the most popular on my website, so I know that he hit upon something very interesting with this research. I’m glad he brought it forward.

  4. Mike 3 April, 2012 at 23:38 Reply

    Thanks for the comments Jim and Mike.

    I, too, was surprised when I ran across this article. Of course, I, was primarily interested in the Zodiac-related articles, but I kept an eye out for other interesting things. For example, there were some articles published about the Michigan serial killer John Norman Collins being apprehended around August 1st. Like the Manson killings, it was kind of interesting – especially in terms of how much high-profile murder was happening – but otherwise not really all that relevant to the Zodiac.

    Then I saw the map depicting all the San Francisco murders, that really made me think. If, hypothetically, somebody was planning to commit a murder in a city, how valuable would it be to have the location of every murder committed in that city for the previous 7 months? It seems like the kind of thing that you could not have hoped to obtain back then. But there it was, right in the newspaper.

    I’m sure there were other concerns that factored into the killer’s plan when he murdered Stine, such as escape route, etc. But, at least, he may have taken some comfort in knowing that the particular area in which he was planning to strike was not an area where police anticipated murders being committed.

  5. Michael D. Kelleher 6 April, 2012 at 09:18 Reply

    Well, the whole concept of geo-profiling began with just this kind of question. When Kim Rossmo was working LE in Canada, this concept struck him as valid and he basically designed the first computerized geo-profiling system. He tried to apply it to the Zodiac murders also. The whole concept of geo-profiling is controversial. Nonetheless, I think Rossmo has proven the usefulness of the tool even though its reliability is uncertain.

    At any rate, asking these kinds of questions is important and can lead to new material in the case.

  6. Erratic 3 February, 2017 at 11:57 Reply

    Interesting article, unfortunate that they probably never caught the killer.

    95 murders in 7 months? My goodness that’s a lot. The city record is in the mid 140s in 1977. The city averages around 50 murders per year nowadays, for the full 12 months.

    It gets me when ignorant transplants talk about “SF is getting so bad with the crime”…I’m thinking,
    ‘do you have any idea how violent SF used to be?’

    The homicide locations are interesting too. A bunch around Vistiacion Valley (Geneva Towers and Sunnydale projects), very few in Hunters Point, a ton around the Fillmore (and what they call NOPA nowadays), Chinatown, Tenderloin, South of Market.

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