The Associated Press decided to do a short profile of Vallejo, California which appeared in a number of newspapers over the last couple of days.
In predictably pleasant form, the article’s “Claim to Fame” section starts out by noting that Vallejo briefly served as the state capital of California. With that pleasantry out of the way, it then moves on to deal with the city’s more infamous distinction of being strongly associated with the Bay Area’s most well-known serial killer.
Par for the course, the author also touches on Vallejo’s other historic achievement – the dubious honor of becoming California’s largest city to declare bankruptcy back in 2008. Perhaps the read would have been a bit more interesting if it had mentioned some of Vallejo’s more colorful moments such as the Mayor’s motorcycle getting stolen from the City Hall parking lot.
I did find the last section, “Sign of the Times,” strangely poignant:
Many traffic signals in Vallejo are set to permanently blink. The half-empty city hall now has “please ring bell” signs in place of receptionists. The town’s symphony, which used to perform six shows a year, now performs two.
And I also have to admit, I had no idea that Sly Stone and Ed Rollins live in Vallejo. I guess you really do learn something new every day…
Being a Mets fan, Tug McGraw was from Vallejo and CC Sabathia also hails from here.
Having abandoned all previous theories I’ve held over the years, I wanted to see if I could go back over the whole case and re-examine all to see where it led me. In beginning with the first murders on LHR, the idea I had was to see if I could concentrate on Zodiac’s movements and actions on the night, with a view to seeing what ,if anything, it could tell us about him and/or if there was anything new that I hadn’t considered.
There’s nothing earth shattering here but perhaps, there’s one or two points worthy of consideration. I decided to take all the witness statements, concentrating on the approximate timelines, to try to figure out, how Zodiac approached and left the scene and how long he might have spent there. This in turn might give us an idea of how well he knew the area, how well planned it may have been, if at all and how comfortable or otherwise he was in that area, in carrying out the crime.
It would take too long to go into all the , distances, speeds and calculations I did in considering this but this is what it boiled down to:-
The Yours left the area at approximately 11:05pm followed 4-5minutes later by the Hunters, Gasser and Connelly. Peggy Your states that they drove slowly back toward the easterly turn-off at that end of LHR. She checked behind to see if any cars followed,none did, and she also states that no other cars passed on LHR.
Similarily, the Hunters state that they didn’t pass any other car before they reached the turn off. Both sets of witnesses had to travel 2.18 miles in order to reach that turn off, from Marshall Ranch.
If we can rely on those statements, it means that Z did not approch the pump station from that easterly direction, at least from the turn off, as there wouldn’t have been enough time for him to get onto LHR after the witnesses left and travel back 2 miles, to be in place before James Owen arrives at approximately 11:14pm.
All told there’s an approximate 4-5 minute “window” between the Hunters leaving and Owen arriving ,for Z to get into place.
Stella Borges arrives at approximately 11:20pm and as police state (from their own timings and calculations) this was the 6 minute window when everything occurred.
She too stated, in driving at a “casual” pace between her home and the crime scene that
no other cars passed. Again, if this is reliable, it would mean that Z did not drive west toward Vallejo after the murder.
The interesting witness though is James Owen, he did pass another car. He states that before he reached the scene “in the vicinity of Borges Ranch” that a car passed heading west toward Vallejo….
It’s impossible at this stage to identify the exact spot where he passed this car but we can reasonably assume he was beyond the actual homes of Stella Borges and her parents, which was 2 and 7/10tenths miles from the crime scene. In any case, having arrived at the scene at 11;14pm approx, we can “rewind” from the position the two cars passed each other before that, to put that mystery car at the crime scene a minimum of 1 minute earlier and probably a bit more..11:12/11:13pm, just minutes after the Hunters left.
What we can also deduce is that, that mystery car did not travel from the east end of LHR for the same reason Z could not have, because the Yours or at least the Hunters would have spotted it. This leaves two possibilities (a) this car entered LHR from some property along the road after the hunters passed or (b) this car got onto LHR from Reservoir Road.
I believe there’s a reasonable argument for the latter. At the other end of Reservoir Road, is the industrial estate in Benicia, including the oil refinery. James Owen himself is on his way to work the graveyard shift 12-8. There are two main 24hr shift rotas, Owen’s 12-8,8-4 and 4-12, the other is 11-7, 7-3 and 3-11.
We are also told that LHR in particular, was used as a short cut for workers travelling between Benica and Vallejo and vice versa. Such a person, leaving/finishing their shift at 11pm and travelling back toward Vallejo would be right on that crime scene at that time.
In any case, it’s fascinating to consider an even tighter “window” for Z, where he either passed this car just ahead of Owen, was there parked alongside the victims for longer or travelled on the same route behind this mystery car from Reservoir road.
Is it possible that Z too was destined to be at the crime scene at that time, having finished work in Benicia or did he just happen to slot in there at that particular time? He wouldn’t be the only killer/serial killer that killed going to or from work.
If the latter, it’s very likely two cars passed in a short space of time and he still went ahead. But not only did he go ahead, he spent longer there than he had to.
It wasn’t a quick in and out like BRS but a prolonged attack, forcing the victims out of the car. You would think, if he’d seen a bit of traffic in the area that he’d want to be as qiuck as possible.
It’s an awful pity this person did not come forward….
Well Owen says he passed a car while he’s heading to work, and so the car he passes is heading towards Vallejo, but it couldn’t be Z. Not according to Owen. when he gets to the scene, there are 2 cars; David’s & what has to be the killer’s. Owen is about 45 minutes early for his shift, so he shouldn’t be seeing anyone from the plant where he works since their shift is 45 minutes from being over. So that takes out the plant completely, unless someone left early. you would hope LE checked that out with Security at the plant.
I’ve always wondered why Mrs. Your stated she checked behind them to see if they were being followed. It could only be the hunter’s she was referring to. did she feel that threatened by the hunter’s?
There were several industries in that area, so it doesn’t necessarily have to apply to humble oil (although plenty of companies run different shift rotas).
The scenario I’ve outlined does off a resonable explanation as to why that Myster car would be right there at that time but obviously not the only one.
If we accept the other witness reports (and I have no reason not to, there being more that one person in each car) that they did not pass another car, we can deduce that Z did not approach from the easterly end of LHR, nor, after the murders did he head west on LHR in the direction of Vallejo. Though not necessarily, it does reasonably bring Reservoir Road into play.
There were other witnesses who saw a car (later identified as Stella Borges’s) seen speeding east on LHR but we cannot say with certainty, that they were on LHR long enough to exclude the possibility, that Zodiac drove out to the end of that road after the murder.
In any case it could be significant or at least worthy of further consideration, if Z came or went/or both, via Reservoir Road.
Interestingly, Stella Borges, who lived on LHR did not take Reservoir Road when speeding to inform police. Taking Reservoir Road to Benecia headquarters is a distance of 3.9 miles, she would have added another 3 miles to that distance, had she not encountered a unit along the way.
So there is at least an argument that Reservoir Road may not have been used by that many people, other than a short cut by those going to and from work between Vallejo and Benicia.
It is also possible (though probably second favourite to Z trolling the area beforehand) that Z too, was someone coming home from work and/or familiar enough with the route for a similar reason.
As to Peggy Your and the hunters, it seems likely that there was some exchange between them or why would it ever be included in reports about the gun and her checking back to see if anyone followed.
Interesting point about Stella, the Police Station she would take Resevoir Road to get to it, yet she continued on towards the highway. I’m no Benecia expert, but isn’t the quickest way to the theater where Stella was headed to also to take Resevoir Road towards downtown Benecia, again she headed towards the highway.
Owen, in essence has 3 cars he accounts for, that no one else saw; the car heading west that he passed, the car at the scene, and his own car.
Didn’t the hunter’s live on Highway 37, or somewhere over by Highway 37. Owen lived close to Highway 37. Wouldn’t it have been faster for the hunter’s to simply head back towards Vallejo? Maybe not, just a question for anyone who is more familiar than me with the area.
Sean your correct there was more than just Humble Oil happening out there. Whoever it was that passed Owen, you would think they would have come forward.
I wasn’t aware that Humble had in essence 6 separate 8 hour shifts, that could be a simple explanation of the vehicle that Owen passed. Again, no one else saw it, and no one ever came forward to say they were on LHR about that time. It was obviously the talk of Benecia and the work places there at the time that police wanted to speak to anyone who was on LHR from 11pm – 11:20pm.
The one possibility not mentioned, and that I think is possible, is that Owen was the Zodiac.
From a police investigation standpoint, who is the only person known and confirmed to be at the scene of the crime during the small window between the victims being seen alive, and being found dead? Owen.
Out of all the witnesses and drivers near the crime scene that night, who is the only one that didn’t have a witness with them to verify their account, or provide an alibi for them? Owen.
Owen had some glaring inconsistencies in his statements to police. In one statement, he said the Zodiac’s car was 3-4 feet away from the Victim’s, but in another statement, he states it was 10 feet.
Owen gave his first statement to police as he passed the crime scene coming home from his graveyard shift at Humble Oil. At about 8:15 in the morning, 9 hours after the murders,he was standing at the crime scene, with blood on the ground, and chalk outlines of bodies, but he does NOT mention hearing any shots. Three days later, he gives a second statement to police, and this time, he mentions that he heard a gunshot about a quarter mile after he went by the crime scene. That is a troubling thing to leave out of his first statement, and I simply have a hard time believing that a person standing at the scene of a double shooting, 9 hours after the crime, would fail to mention hearing a gunshot the night before. We should also consider the evidence and James Owen’s statement itself. He claims that when he went by the scene, there were two cars, but no people or bodies around. A quarter mile later, he hears the shot. That does not line up with the evidence. The evidence suggests that Faraday & Jensen were forced out of the car, and Faraday was shot immediately, and Betty was shot after she took off running. To believe Owen, and his gunshot story, we would have to believe that when he went by the scene, the victims and Zodiac hid out of site, and as soon as he went by, the shooting started. But it would take about 20-25 seconds to drive a 1/4 mile at 35-45 MPH, assuming Owen was driving average speed. As soon as Owen went by, Zodiac would have to jump out of his hiding spot, go up to the car,order the kids out, wait for them to get out, and then shoot Faraday, all in 20-25 seconds. It does not add up. Some people will counter with my theory,and say that the reason Owe saw no people around the cars, is because Zodiac already had them out of the cars being held at gun point. But that does not line up with the evidence, and even if it was the case, the Victims would have certainly had no better chance to get help then to make a break towards Owen’s oncoming headlights.
Other troubling issues with Owen:
*Police allowed him to question a co-worker of his who was a potential witness.
*Despite being the only confirmed person at the scene of the crime at almost the exact time of the murders, police never asked Owen for his prints of writing samples.
*At the start of the investigation, police thought a rifle was used in the murders, and they asked Owen for his rifles for ballistics tests(as if he would voluntarily hand over the murder weapon). Later, when the murder weapon was determined to be a handgun, they did not request Owen’s handguns.
*I spoke with Owen multiple times, and my opinion or theory aside,he provided information including something we do not see in the police reports, which was that Police drove with him multiple times in his car trying to verify the time aspect because they could not reconcile the accounting of time. Their final conclusion was a 6 minute window of when the crimes may have happened, but it may be less.
*Zodiac always wrote letters very soon after his crimes. He could not wait to take credit and get attention. Yet, after LHR, Zodiac did not mention it for 8 months until his July 69 call, and Aug 69 letter. Why? Could be that Zodiac, whomever he was, felt he was under suspicion, or on the list of suspects. Then, he finally felt safe and in the clear. This could certainly apply to Owen.
*Owen was fresh out of the military in December, 1968. He was retired from the Air Force. (WingWalkers anybody?) He had just recently moved with his Family to Vallejo.
*Owen was 39 at the time of the SF sketch, and the ammended sketch placed Zodiac at 35-45.
*Although words spoken over a phone prove absoultely nothing regarding a person’s guilt or innocence, Owen told me some things which really stood out to me. First off, when I asked him how familiar he was with the sorrounding areas and roads in the SF bay area, Owen responded by saying “not real familiar, I NEVER DID CRUISE AROUND”. Zodiac used that very term, “cruise around”. When I asked Owen how worried he was for the safety of his Family living in Vallejo with Zodiac on the loose, he responded by saying, “it was no biggie”, or something to that effect(I have my notes someplace). He downplayed the murders, as if they were just a news story from another state, or something. It was pretty odd considering he had teen aged kids at the time, who were primarily the type of target Zodiac struck against.
I wanted to close by saying, I have zero evidence to prove Owen was Zodiac, and was guilty of any crime. By public accounts, and what I can gather, he was a good man. I simply can NOT ignore the glaring issues that arise regarding his part in the Lake Herman Rd case. Good police work dictates that the person known to be near the victims between them being seen alive,and found dead less than 10 minutes later, may likely be involved. I don’t think there was good police work for the Lake Herman Rd murders,again, they allowed Owen to question a co-worker who was a potential witness, and never took Owen’s prints or writing samples. He could have easily, and properly been ruled out. One major and glaring issue with owen as a potential suspect in the Zodiac case, is that I firmly believe that Zodiac, whomever he was, had lived in Riverside CA in 66-67, and there is ZERO evidence that Owen ever lived there.
Out of all the Ted K’s, Allens,Gaikowskis, and any other Z suspect in the world, there is only ONE person known to be at the Lake Herman Rd crime scene that night at about the time of the murders, and that is James Owen. Police should have started with him, and worked their way out.
Z couldn’t have picked a better location to begin his Bay Area murder spree. The BPD was not equipped or experienced at all in handling murders. I know the refinery where Owen worked had a security guard at the entrance/exit of the place. I’ve often wondered how was that security handled; was it just a wave at the guard and drive on through, was it more formal where everyone was clocked in when they entered. I’ve never heard anything about the investigation by BPD at the refinery. Yoou would think they would have explored it thoroughly. Also Owen knew of one other person who drove via LHR to work. Were there others? What was the work place like for Owen on that shift? Were all the guys abuzz about the scene on LHR that evening, and if they were how would they know about the scene if they didn’t drive past it? I wonder how many cars the cops stopped between 11:30pm & midnight when the next shift began? If any? My point is if no one who worked at the refinery went by the scene after Owen, then how would Owen know anything took place? Why would he stop at all to speak with the police?
I believe the police checked out the Owen’s home clock the same way, by phone, with Owen. I always thought the police handling of the Hunter’s, who were there, would have had .22’s to hunt raccoons, was handled very lax as well. They controlled what guns they brought to the police for their inspection.