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Home   >   True Crime/Cold Case Files   >   ZODIAC   >   Boasts or Decoys?   >   Cheri Jo Bates

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 Introduction

 Investigative Method

 My San Francisco

Year of the Zodiac:

 Lake Herman Rd. 12-20-1968

 Blue Rock Springs 7-4-1969

 The Zodiac Speaks

 Lake Berryessa 9-27-1969

 San Francisco  10-11-1969

Gamester of Death:

 Poison Pen Pal

 Claims and Mistakes

 The Kathleen Johns Incident

 Cheri Jo Bates

 Zodiac & The “Nightingale Murders”

On the Track of The Zodiac:

 Gaviota Revisited

 Gaviota Crime Scene Investigated

 The Case of “Sandy”

 Cracking the 340 Cipher

 Blue Rock Springs Reconstructed

 Blue Rock Springs: Silencer or Not?

 Benicia: Where the Cross Hairs Meet

 From Folklore to Fact: cases in detail

 “Nary a Conspiracy”

 The Zodiac Speaks: A Pattern

 Zodiac: a profile in person & paper

My Suspect:

 A Man Known as Beard

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 The Zodiac Killer

Gamester of Death

Cheri Jo Bates— 10-30-1966

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Art inspires so much in real life and is itself inspired by real life. Above, Dana Andrews puzzles over an ominous warning in Night of the Demon (1957) after leaving a farmhouse of coven members who practice a form of witchcraft in which people have to die after being given a slip of paper on which are written witch’s Futhark runes

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Batesnote
Z3

   The murder of Cheri Jo Bates at Riverside Community College the day before Halloween 1966 has enough confounding elements in it without all of those that have later since been heaped upon it. For instance, soon after the murder an anonymous confession letter took the blame and its writer even boasted there would be more. On the face of it, this didn’t happen. There were no more murders. But in late 1971, Paul Avery of the San Francisco Chronicle made a connection with Zodiac and “The Riverside Murder” of 1966. It was then that Zodiac congratulated the police and the press on having discovered his “southern California” work. Then he boasted again, typically, that there were a “hell of a lot more” down there than what they found. Were these the other murders the anonymous confession letter writer had promised? Instinctively, there are those who reject his claims as mere boasting. Others take it seriously. Riverside Police, with good grounds, refused to accept it. They had their eye on somebody else, and even got DNA from him as late as 1998. This ended up being a crusher: it was a positive non match. By this time, of course, any other suspect had long fallen through the cracks. Alas, in the public forum we are left with only The Zodiac. Unfortunately, the “Boastful Slayer,” the “Horoscope Killer,” the “Astrological Assassin” was simply too adept at advertising himself. This and much more make it very difficult to assess the Cheri Jo Bates murder and find the killer.

     Nevertheless, as unlikely as The Zodiac is as the culprit, the murder may contain a vital key to unlocking the identity of the infamous northern California killer. Months after the murder, on April 30, 1967, to be precise, more correspondence had come in to the Riverside Police. It was on note paper. The writing was all in caps, naturally, the script of anonymous and poison pen pals. “BATES HAD TO DIE,” read the note. “THERE WILL BE MORE.” A short bit of lunacy, it would seem. A short, ominous, childish scrawl. The letter writer disguised his hand by holding the pencil high up and forming the letters crudely with clumsy strokes. But the note was signed at the bottom with a very small symbol. It was neat, cursive, even elegant. In appearance it is after the style of a witch’s rune, something similar to the Theban alphabet, the most stylistic of runes. But it is no known letter. It is close to L or G. That’s about it. It is also very much like an alchemist’s symbol. But it is not any known symbol.

                                                 Z3   Z-2

                           An enlargement, above, of the symbol, as it appeared on the note to the
                                       press and the police, respectively.

theban

The Theban alphabet. It is a mystical script used to conceal meanings or make signs, blessings or cursings.

   The symbol is not a “Z” as many have posited in an attempt to make a link with the “Astrological Assassin” more concrete. But it is a symbol that the poison pen pal meant to be taken seriously. It was to stand out as starkly different from the childish hand that wrote the body of the note. Only in this, in that it was a symbol, does it suggest “The Zodiac,” who years later signed his boasting communication with the cross-hairs and circle.

   Is this a crank note or is there really a connection? The person who wrote it went to the trouble of sending one to the police, to the local paper The Press Enterprise and to Bates’ still-grieving father. A very, very sour crank if it was one.

     But The Zodiac was indeed a very sour crank. Years after he stopped his thrill killing he still wrote letters boasting of what he could do and he continued to claim victims that clearly he was not responsible for. Do these notes therefore represent an early installment in The Zodiac’s game of morbid thrill seeking? For the printing on the poison notes was later examined by a prominent analyst, and he confirmed that the printing was indeed The Zodiac’s. Other handwriting experts then disagreed. Opinions are thus quite divided. Some say he killed Bates and others say he only wrote the letters to get a thrill.

     To uncover a possible connection with Zodiac, and to thrash this out, we must now probe into the details of the Bates murder. 

   There really isn’t much to uncover about the preliminaries. Cheri Jo was a freshman at Riverside City (or Community) College in Riverside, California. This was then a small east Los Angles area suburb near San Bernadino— hicksville to Hollywood people. That afternoon she left a note for her Dad that she was going to the college library that night. On Sunday nights the college library was open until 9 p.m. She was observed to have arrived at 6 p.m. She had parked her little green Volkswagen bug on Terracina, the narrow road between the library and the old Mediterranean style quadrangle.

     Alas, the police never could positively ascertain if she stayed until closing, but it seems likely. Her dead body was, however, found on the campus the next morning by a groundsman. She had been brutally murdered. She was found on a dirt “driveway” or road between two old fascia board homes with porches. They had been private homes that now had been purchased by the college. At night it would have been like a deserted neighborhood. The fences were still intact; the old foliage, planted by past owners decades before, overgrew here and there.

     It was a macabre scene. She lay face down in the dirt and dried leaves. Blood was all about her shoulders, soaked down the back of her sweater, spurted onto the ground, and soaked into the dirt in a large patch beneath her. Her large bag purse was partially under her legs. The police turned her over. She had been stabbed repeatedly. Through the blood it appeared as if her neck had been stabbed at least 7 times. Her upper lip was cut. Her left cheek was slashed. Small slashes were found in her arms and breasts, and there were cuts in the back of her left hand. Her brown/blonde hair was disheveled and leaves had stuck to the back of it. To put it mildly, she had been in a hell of a fight.

     She must have gotten a piece of her assailant. She had ripped the Timex watch off his wrist. Her right hand (at the base of her right thumb), held some hair. Under the nails of that hand there was skin. She had indeed not gone like sheep to the slaughter. The extent of the contortions and trauma her face went through during the fight is evident in the little blood spots that had erupted on her forehead and scalp. These blood spots, called petichiae, are created during extreme emotional trauma.

     There seemed no question the assailant was a man. The heel print of a military style shoe was found close by.

     The police checked the area and found her beetle parked on the road. Inside were 3 books she checked out at the library. Eerie examples of  premeditation were evident. Her bug’s engine had been tampered with. The wire from the distributor cap to the ignition coil had been removed. “Greasy” fingerprints and a few palm prints were found on the car. Her assailant obviously intended to waylay.

     Bates must have gotten in the car, turned the ignition over repeatedly, and realized the car wasn’t going to start. It was at this moment that the assailant must have come along, and with Judas-like advances offered her help.

     From the evidence one must deduce that the assailant offered a specific type of help, that is, a phone call. If he had offered her a ride home, it seems likely she would have taken the books she had just checked out. He may have said he was a groundsman living in one of the homes that the college had now bought. She might not have known they were empty. Up the dark dirt lane she went, peacefully enough, probably in hopes of being able to use his phone. Then the attack happened.

     From the autopsy report we can deduce a number of other events. The attack was not swift. She was able to clutch his wrist and make resistance. As they struggled, the knife cut into her arms, breast and, possibly, face. They were not deep stabs, but lacerations. The doctor was certain that the knife was, surprisingly, quite short. The wounds suggested a blade only 3 and 1/2 inches long and 1 inch wide. This almost sounds like some Swiss army knife. It certainly isn’t a knife one would expect a killer to carry and use as a weapon.

     The killer was right handed. The back of Bates’ left hand held distinctive cuts. She must have grabbed his right wrist with her left hand, while her right hand wrestled with his left. As she held his right wrist, the blade of the knife must have been intermittently cutting at the back of her left hand. The fact there was little apparent noise would indicate his left hand clutched her mouth. He got her on the ground and finally broke her gripe. In a fit, he must have jabbed at her neck. He hit the thyroid cartilage twice, the blade glancing off to the right and to the left, making a sort of V cut in it. The blade sliced through the right carotid and jugular. This was the fatal blow. She had to be on her back at that time. There was too much blood on the back collar of her sweater, which would not have been there had she been stabbed while upright. She either rolled over, or at the end of his maniacal fit of stabbing at her the killer rolled her over afterward. Crime scene photos show the blood spurting in large drops to her right (if facing up), so that it seems she rolled to the left.

   Despite later fable, Bates’ throat had not been cut and her head almost taken off. It had been stabbed. Her left carotid and jugulars were not cut, nor was her windpipe. Her head was hardly nearly severed. This would have been largely impossible in the brief amount of time available with only a short bladed knife.

     According to the local Press Enterprise, police inquiries yielded a clue. A woman who lived nearby reported that she heard an “awful scream” between 10:15 and 10:45 p.m. She elaborated for the press a day later.  She claimed she also heard a muted scream moments before, then came the loud scream. Two minutes after this she heard what sounded like an old car starting up.

     If this is accurate, it raises some puzzling points. If Cheri Jo remained at the library until closing time, where had she been for over an hour, perhaps even over an hour and a half? The library closed at 9 p.m. She would have walked to her car, put her books in and tried to start it. If her assailant did not approach her now, then she would probably have walked to the library and asked to be able to call. Would not librarians still be present? Or would she have walked along the dirt paths thinking the homes occupied? I don’t think her assailant could take that chance. I must assume he approached her. But when?

     At 9:23 a.m. the next morning, the autopsy revealed that death had occurred anywhere from 10 to 12 hours before, so any time between 9:23 p.m. and the times of the screams at the latest time given for them at 10:45 p.m.

     There is a possible solution for the disturbing gap of time between the library’s closure and  those screams the unidentified lady reported to the police. The solution is the fact that this was Sunday October 30. This date was by law the night on which Daylight Savings Time ended. It was time to “fall backwards.” The clocks would have been adjusted late Saturday night or early Sunday morning (for those who went to bed early). Did this “unidentified lady” forget to set back her clocks that morning? Was it actually between 9:15 and 9:45 p.m. that she heard the scream? It is beyond the scope of this article to mention the confusion in the US over the Daylight Savings Time, but it was sufficient that in 1966 the law was finally passed standardizing it.  If she did forget, as thousands do, we have a believable time to work with.

     Cheri Jo would not have waited around for over an hour. Once it was obvious the bug would not turn over, she would have sought help. I don’t know how car savvy she was. But the assailant would not have wanted her to pop the trunk and see the engine had been intentionally tampered with. I think he would act quickly. By premeditated design, he would have approached her and escorted her up the lane to his “house.”

     Did she know her assailant? That is a question hard to answer. If the above scenario is correct, then I would say she did not. Surely, if some friend or acquaintance wanted to get rid of her there was a less elaborate plot and risky circumstances that could have offered themselves. This, of course, presupposes that murder and not just waylaying was the motive to disable her car.

     It has been speculated by a number of sleuths, including Riverside Homicide, that Cheri was killed by a spurned beau. She had supposedly been dating a guy that she jilted with the crushing explanation that she was now engaged and was going to marry another man. If this was true, then the pining ex-beau might have tampered with her bug in order to talk with her. Yet if this scenario is true, why would they leave and walk to where they did? If it was the offer of a lift— thus time for him to chat with his light o’ love— why would she not take her books? What would so enrage the ex-beau that the fight would start in the dark dirt path and murder would result?

     No, it seems murder was the object all along.

     Riverside Police became convinced that she did know her assailant, and it appears their suspect was this unnamed former boyfriend. This seems a hard thing to fathom. But we can say that a few points are on their side. Such a short bladed knife as was used doesn’t seem consistent with this being a premeditated murder. Because of the tampered car, we can only say that the premeditation was to waylay. She was certainly stabbed in a fit. This was not a calm, cool murder.

     But the other facts— the course they took up the dark lane to the deserted homes plus the lack of taking her books— does not argue that she was going anywhere with someone she knew or that she believed she was being taken home. It suggest rather she thought she was being offered a phone.

     If the purpose of the events of that night was murder, then somebody took pains to arrange for murder here. Either the object was always Bates or, simply, someone who fit the bill for that night, October 30, at this location.

     The Bates murder had been enormous news for Riverside. It was brutal, fiendish, utterly eerie because of the public nature of it and the premeditation inherent in disabling the car. Now something even stranger enters the picture. On November 29, 1966, one month later, carbon copies of the following letter were sent to the local paper, the Press Enterprise, and the Homicide detail of the police. Because the letters were unstamped, the mails pulled them and gave them to the intended recipients.

           It reads:

THE CONFESSION

                                                                                       BY__________________

SHE WAS YOUNG AND BEAUTIFUL. BUT NOW SHE IS BATTERED AND DEAD. SHE IS NOT
THE FIRST AND SHE WILL NOT BE THE LAST. I LAY AWAKE NIGHTS THINKING ABOUT MY
NEXT VICTIM. MAYBE SHE WILL BE THE BEAUTIFUL BLOND THAT BABYSITS NEAR THE
LITTLE STORE AND WALKS DOWN THE DARK ALLEY EACH EVENING ABOUT SEVEN. OR MAYBE SHE WILL BE THE SHAPELY BLUE EYED BROWNETT THAT SAID NO WHEN I ASKED HER FOR A DATE IN HIGH SCHOOL. BUT MAYBE IT WILL NOT BE EITHER. BUT I SHALL CUT
OFF HER FEMALE PARTS AND DEPOSIT THEM FOR THE WHOLE CITY TO SEE. SO DON'T MAKE IT TO EASY FOR ME. KEEP YOUR SISTERS, DAUGHTERS, AND WIVES OFF THE STREETS
AND ALLEYS. MISS BATES WAS STUPID. SHE WENT TO THE SLAUGHTER LIKE A LAMB. SHE
DID NOT PUT UP A STRUGGLE. BUT I DID. IT WAS A BALL. I FIRST PULLED THE MIDDLE
WIRE FROM THE DISTRIBUTOR. THEN I WAITED FOR HER IN THE LIBRARY AND FOLLOWED HER OUT AFTER ABOUT TWO MINUTS. THE BATTERY MUST HAVE BEEN ABOUT DEAD BY THEN. I THEN OFFERED TO HELP. SHE WAS THEN VERY WILLING TO TALK TO ME. I TOLD HER
THAT MY CAR WAS DOWN THE STREET AND THAT I WOULD GIVE HER A LIFT HOME. WHEN WE WERE AWAY FROM THE LIBRARY WALKING, I SAID IT WAS ABOUT TIME. SHE ASKED ME,
"ABOUT TIME FOR WHAT". I SAID IT WAS ABOUT TIME FOR HER TO DIE. I GRABBED HER AROUND THE NECK WITH MY HAND OVER HER MOUTH AND MY OTHER HAND WITH A SMALL KNIFE AT HER THROAT. SHE WENT VERY WILLINGLY. HER BREAST FELT WARM AND
VERY FIRM UNDER MY HANDS, BUT ONLY ONE THING WAS ON MY MIND. MAKING HER PAY FOR THE BRUSH OFFS THAT SHE HAD GIVEN ME DURING THE YEARS PRIOR. SHE DIED HARD. SHE SQUIRMED AND SHOOK AS I CHOAKED HER, AND HER LIPS TWICHED. SHE LET OUT A SCREAM ONCE AND I KICKED HER IN THE HEAD TO SHUT HER UP. I PLUNGED THE KNIFE INTO HER AND IT BROKE. I THEN FINISHED THE JOB BY CUTTING HER THROAT. I AM NOT SICK. I AM
INSANE. BUT THAT WILL NOT STOP THE GAME. THIS LETTER SHOULD BE PUBLISHED FOR
ALL TO READ IT. IT JUST MIGHT SAVE THAT GIRL IN THE ALLEY. BUT THAT'S UP TO
YOU. IT WILL BE ON YOUR CONSCIENCE. NOT MINE. YES, I DID MAKE THAT CALL TO YOU
ALSO. IT WAS JUST A WARNING. BEWARE...I AM STALKING YOUR GIRLS NOW.

CC. CHIEF OF POLICE
ENTERPRISE

     Well, what to make of this? The police were certain it was genuine. However, the Autopsy Report is now in public domain and can be studied. As a result this confession letter stands out like a tarantula on Angel Food, to borrow Raymond Chandler’s expression.  It is monstrously inaccurate. One, Bates put up a hell of a fight. Two, her throat was not cut. Three, only one news article said there was one scream; another clarified there was two. Four, it is impossible to grab anybody by the mouth and throat at the same time. Best of all, the letter simply doesn’t carry any kind of information that would be exclusive to the killer. In a later report even the FBI repeated the erroneous idea that the letter revealed things not generally known, like the writer specifically mentioning the “central coil” of the distributor cap. That is simply not the case. The Press Enterprise had reported that Bates was last seen at the library and that “the distributor coil” had been “torn out” from her engine. This would tell any moderately car savvy guy that the central coil was indicated. On a bug the central wire on the distributor went to the ignition coil. Unlike today’s complex car engines, back then engines were fairly simple, and most any young man was familiar enough with motors to know that the common beetle’s central distributor wire was connected to the ignition coil. The Enterprise had, in fact, reported enough for anybody remotely knowledgeable of cars to know that the central coil had been the one in question. The Confession Letter writer stating that he had pulled the central coil specifically wasn’t arcane information per se. Knowledge of a phone call to the police or press, which apparently was made by some crank, could simply mean the same nut who called also went to the trouble of writing such a long letter. Neither make him the actual killer. Indeed, the substance of the letter argues against it.

     If Bates’ killer had a close connection to her, or that if he was indeed the suspected ex-beau, it might be quite wise indeed for him to write such a letter and make it look like she was just the latest victim of a crazed serial killer. This would take the eye of suspicion off anyone she had known. But if the ex-beau/killer wrote this, why make so many mistakes? All it reveals is that the writer of the letter had no familiarity with the actual crime.

     It was a cold case by the time this letter and the Cheri Jo Bates murder entered crime history. This was when Paul Avery of the San Francisco Chronicle made the connection in late 1969 with Bates’ murder and the now infamous No. 1 villain The Zodiac. He had learned from Riverside Police that a connection possibly existed, or that certain jurisdictions in northern Cal, such as Napa, thought there might be a connection as well. After all, Hartnell and  Shepard were both stabbed, and The Zodiac left a military boot print. Bates’ killer wore a military issued Timex and left a heel print made for military shoes.

     From there Avery ran with it, noting that as in The Zodiac murders Bates’ killer sent a gloating letter to the police and press afterward.

     The problem here is that this in itself is only a tenuous connection. The Zodiac was not the first to write the police about his crimes. He was the first to market them to public and police so well. His cryptograms and stupid satirizing and threats to do worse brought the whole populace into his game of murder and seek. The Zodiac also liked to appear quite savvy. The writer of The Bates Confession Letter admits he’s a nut.

     Notwithstanding, it can be argued there is thinly a similar vein in “The Bates Confession Letter” to The Zodiac’s bona fide letters. But if The Zodiac did commit this murder and write this letter it presents several chronological inconsistencies in his developing crime spree. Zodiac did not start writing letters until after his third murder, that of Darlene Ferrin in August 1969. He took no credit for The Lake Herman Road Murders until he called the police about having done the Blue Rock Springs shootings in which Ferrin died. He did not even call himself The Zodiac yet. His first letters introduced him as “the killer” or “the murderer.” It is rather easy to see how he developed his game as he went along. The Bates Confession Letter of 1966, 3 years prior, is quite elaborate compared to Zodiac’s developing style in 1969.

     It is undeniable, however, that there are elements in The Confession Letter that show a similar mentality existed in the writer as existed in The Zodiac. He goads the recipients. Almost tongue-in-cheek the author of the letter presents himself by a blank space:

                                                       The Confession

                                                                           By______________

A needless bit of sarcasm.

     There are also a number of avoidable misspellings. Minuts? No one is that bad.

     But to be fair, these misspellings are few compared and could just be slips of the finger while he typed a long note. He’s not going to pull the paper out and start all over.

       This is where it gets more complex. Could the man who would later become The Zodiac have written the letter but not have committed the crime? Long before he started his own wave of clumsy thrill killings in the San Fran Bay Area was this his way of getting his kink? It is certain that the crank who sent the “Confession” did so for some morbid thrill and in order to taunt the police.

     This confusion is compounded by those three poison pen pal notes. On April 30, 1967, three letters arrived at three different places. Once again, two of them went to the police and to the Press Enterprise. “BATES HAD TO DIE. THERE WILL BE MORE.” The third one was sent to Joseph Bates, Cheri Jo’s desolate father. This read: “She Had to Die. There will Be MoRE.”  Unlike The Confession Letter, these were handwritten. A strange, cursive symbol signed the note paper of the ones that went to the police and the press.

     These were far different from The Confession Letter. That had been keenly done. The writer of that letter had used a sheet of carbon over several pages. Only 4th or 5th level copies had been sent to the press and police. This made it impossible for either to determine what typewriter model (and individual typewriter) the writer had used. Quite clever. Quite experienced. The poison note paper messages were of a different vein. They evolve before our eyes. Joseph Bates’ note was not written in all CAPS. The others were. Bates’ note had no symbol signing it. The others did.

     In fact, everything is different here and closer to Zodiac’s later style. The envelopes carried double postage. This is something the Zodiac did. The Confession Letter envelopes carried none whatsoever. Disturbing parallels exist between the bona fide Zodiac letters to the Chronicle, Vallejo Times Herald and Examiner and the April 30, 1967, envelopes. For one, the writer trails down when finishing a sentence or line. This was more common than not in Zodiac writing. It was an overt attempt in some cases to keep the writing on the page or envelope. It is not evident as much in the Joseph Bates letter due to the relative shortness of his name compared to the police and Enterprise letters, where the address was naturally longer. But it is overt in the others.

     The notes were signed with that strange symbol. As already noted, it’s not a “Z,” but it is more like some alchemist or occult symbol. On the letter to the police department, the symbol is less horizontal than on the letter to the Press Enterprise. On the letter to Joseph Bates, most words begin with a capital letter, but only the last two letters of “moRE” are capitalized. We can deduce that this was the first letter written. The writer blatantly develops his style before us. This is something evident in The Zodiac crime spree. In fact, the writer of Bates’ note had trouble making the capital “E”. To complete it he makes his only squiggly line in the whole noxious note. He finishes the “E” with a flourish similar to the symbol he would far more elegantly make on the next letters. Did that flourish inspire his symbol? Does he develop even this before our eyes? Or do those symbols suggest occult influence?

     Something occult was involved in Zodiac’s crime spree, even if it was his own creation. Why else use an astrological symbol and don a costume at Lake Berryessa? By this time, Zodiac used a known symbol. The cross-hairs and circle was the Zodiacal symbol. It could also double for the sights of a gun targeting its victims. For the “Horrorscope Killer” both meanings could fit just as well, and no doubt this was not lost on Zodiac himself.

     But the symbol that signs the Bates “HAD TO DIE” note is not easily decipherable. If The Zodiac did write these letters, it could suggest he studied witchcraft. It could be entirely made up by the writer of the note, inspired by such noir movies as Night of the Demon mentioned above, or it could be a genuine but arcane symbol. The fact that Bates was murdered the day before Halloween causes one to think that a link with the occult is possible. The poison pen pal notes therefore might indeed reflect the writer’s link to the crime. Unlike The Confession Letter, this could have been the first time the actual killer was making contact. These notes could link Bates’ murder with a coven-in-the-making, which may have included Zodiac, or he may have been solely responsible. He may never have used the symbol again if he came across the Zodiacal symbol and delighted in its much grander meaning and obvious artistic analogy of a gun sight.

     When Riverside Police and the relevant San Fran Bay Area jurisdictions collated evidence, Sherwood Morrill, the Questioned Document’s examiner in Sacramento, examined the envelopes and writing. He said it was indeed The Zodiac’s handwriting. There were those in Riverside Homicide who didn’t care for that. They were sure they had their man and that it wasn’t Zodiac. But they rightly wondered if Zodiac did not write the letters as a part of his own incubating thrill game. At this same time, there were those in Santa Barbara Sheriffs who were suspicious that Zodiac was responsible for the 1963 Gaviota Beach murders. The violent murders of Robert Domingos and Linda Edwards were themselves a blueprint of what was to come in northern Cal. Even the same type of .22 ammo used on Lake Herman Road was used at Gaviota Beach. It also appeared as if an automatic .22 caliber weapon was used.  Thus it seemed The Zodiac could have been active much earlier and far afield in southern California.

     The three April 30, 1967, letters thus may not have come long before he started killing. But they do represent quite a conundrum. If they are from The Zodiac, they represent an unusual progression in his crime spree. They represent his desire to get a thrill yet not necessarily reflect his actual committal of the crime. This is not the contradiction, though. They are signed with a symbol. Yet in the beginning of his Zodiac crime spree he does not use a symbol. He introduced himself as “the killer” or “the murderer.” He did not introduce himself by the moniker “The Zodiac” until August 1969. He then used a known symbol. He took no credit for the Lake Herman Road Murders until 6 months after-the-fact. He didn’t desire to bring the public or police into the affair until 7 months later.

     Sherwood Morrill was a pioneer in Questioned Documents examining and was himself taught by the pioneers. There was no school to go to when he was young. This was a new “science.” By his late years in the 1960s and early 70s he was quite old and the science of examining documents had progressed. Adding all the contradictions of The Zodiac case to this, it is not surprising that there were many peers who disagreed with his conclusion that Zodiac wrote the April 30, 1967, “Bates had to die” letters.

     They may be right. It would make it remarkably easier to sort out if they were. We could chalk up the Riverside murder of Cheri Jo Bates to some mysterious killer, the notes to cranks, and blame The Zodiac for falsely taking credit after-the-fact in 1971.

     There is one bit of “evidence” that later popped up that brings things closer to the Riverside Community College campus. Months later a desk at the actual college library was found to have a “morbid” poem etched into it with a blue ball point pen. It read:

Sick of living/unwilling to die

cut.
clean.
if red,
clean.
blood spurting,
               dripping,
                     spilling;
all over her new
dress.
   Oh well,
it was red
anyway
life draining into an
uncertain death.
she won’t die.
this time
someone ll find her.
just wait till
next time.
                           rh

     Personally, I am very negative on this “poem” having anything to do with Bates’ murder or murderer. It does not even reflect inspiration from it. It has absolutely no applicability. Bates did not survive. She died. She was not wearing a dress. Bates’ attack was not the second in the area. There is, in fact, nothing in this poor poem except proof that its maudlin writer would never make poet. It is signed “rh,” whoever that might be.

     Much is made of this poem. I am quite aware of that. I know that late in his game Morrill even said that this was written by The Zodiac. But where is the substance? The poem is literally completely inapplicable to the actual crime. Concentrating on a slight bulge in a letter, a drop here, a serif there, overlooks the general context. Concentrating on too narrow a limit has destroyed the reputations of many great scientists. One almost all know about is Sir Arthur Keith and the notorious hoax of Piltdown Man.

     What does bring some of this poison correspondence close to the campus is “The Confession Letter.” Why did the writer go to such lengths to conceal the model and individual typewriter? If this was written by a crank across town, he would never be suspected. His typewriter was perfectly safe. In such an instance, what did it matter if the police could prove the typewriter upon which the gross confession was written was a Royal or a Remington? The writer would only go to such lengths if he was a person the police would naturally suspect and possibly issue a search warrant against to examine his house or apartment and therein uncover the typewriter. Or this was a typewriter in the public domain— in other words at the campus. In this case, a search and testing of typewriters could reveal a limited number of people who could have had use of it after hours. Either this would be a secretary’s typewriter or typewriters associated with some classroom. After hours use would suggest a staff member, a limited number of students and, very possibly, a janitor/groundsman. If The Zodiac is responsible for both The Confession and poison notes, he worked at the college. Whoever is responsible for The Confession probably worked at the college.

     So what to make out of all of this? Is the occult involved in the Bates murder? Was it Bates who had to die the day before Halloween or anybody who fit the bill? If it was her, it would mean her killer knew she was going to the library or recognized her when she arrived. The killer knew the campus. If it had to be somebody, then the murder was planned to take place in this area and she was the right person at the wrong time. In either scenario, the killer knew the campus. Or is the occult and those symbols purely crank grandstanding after-the-fact? Were the April 30, 1967, letters the first contact by the killer? Or are The Confession, poison notes and the murder totally unconnected, one the product of crank(s) and the murder the fit of an unrequited lover?

     One thing is certain, there never were more murders like Bates’.  The Confession was quite wrong about that. It served only to terrorize a city. Long before The Zodiac started his crime and terror spree someone similar in grandstanding style saw fit to use Cheri Jo’s murder for similar motives. One other thing is very possible. In boasting about this, The Zodiac may have made a fatal mistake as to his actual identity.          

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