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Lake Berryessa – September 27, 1969

Saturday, Sept. 27, 1969

2:50 p.m. – Three 21-year-old women stopped at an A&W restaurant outside of St. Helena in Pope Valley. Another car, driven by a lone man, pulled in beside them and then backed up so that his rear bumper was even with theirs. The man sat there with his head down as if he were reading something. The women got the feeling he wasn’t. The car was a silver or ice-blue ’66 Chevrolet two-door sedan with California plates. The driver was 25 to 35 years old, over six feet tall and weighed about 200-230 pounds. He wore no glasses and his dark hair was straight and parted on the side. He had on a black short-sleeved sweatshirt and dark blue pants. A T-shirt hung out of the rear of his trousers but he seemed fairly clean and nice looking. He smoked one cigarette after another.

The girls drove away to Lake Berryessa, about 30 miles northeast of Napa. Lake Berryessa is 25 miles long and three miles wide. Knoxville Road runs along its western shoreline, which twisted along the inlets of the manmade lake. The three girls were sunbathing an hour later when they saw the same man watching them. After 20 minutes, the man drove off.

4 p.m. – Bryan Hartnell and Cecelia Ann Shepard, two junior college students from the nearby town of Angwin, parked their car off the road near the lake. The two were spending a final day together before moving away to separate cities. There were no other cars parked there. The couple walked a quarter mile down a peninsula to a small rise. (See map below. The red X is the point from where the first picture below was taken.) During the winter rains, the rise is an island, cut off by water enveloping the lower ground around it. (See pictures below.) The couple found a clearing for their picnic on this site exactly 510 yards from the road on the lake’s west shoreline. They laid out a blanket and embraced for an hour.

Four-fifths of a mile down the road, a dentist and his young son had earlier parked their car and walked down to the beach. The two noticed a man watching them in the still evening. He was within a hundred yards of them, across an inlet. He was a white adult about five feet ten inches tall, with a heavy build, wearing dark trousers and a long-sleeved dark shirt with red coloring. The man wasn’t carrying anything and seemed to be just out for a walk along the hillside halfway between the road and the lake. The man suddenly became aware the dentist and his son had noticed him and, perhaps, that the boy was carrying a .22 rifle. He turned abruptly and began walking up the hill in a southerly direction, thrusting his hands into his blue windbreaker jacket.

Tire tracks showed the man’s car was parked directly behind the dentist’s car. The stocky man may have been stalking any cars parked along the route. When he saw the lone auto, he had gone toward the lake to investigate its occupants. The stranger left the dentist’s car and drove south exactly four-fifths of a mile, where he saw the Bryan Hartnell’s white Karmann Ghia and pulled in behind it.

6 – 6:30 p.m. – Cecelia could make out the figure of the man standing across the peninsula. He seemed to be watching them. He vanished in a grove of trees about 250 yards away and to Cecelia and Bryan’s right. A moment later, he stepped out from behind the grove of trees and began moving towards them. Bryan and Cecelia stopped reminiscing to mention that they had company. Shortly, the man was very close to them. The figure suddenly disappeared. Since the peninsula was sunken, he had walked low enough to be out of their line of vision. He circled around the rise and hid behind an oak tree merely 20 feet away from Bryan and Cecelia. Behind the tree he donned an executioner’s style black hood. The hood was square on top, with four corners like a paper sack. It hung down to his waist and had a Zodiac symbol sewn on the front of it. Bryan marveled at the mask and how professional the sewing looked. It also appeared to Bryan that Zodiac was wearing clip-on sunglasses over the hood. On his left side was a bayonet-type knife, at least a foot long. Around his waist on the right side was a black holster with an open flap. The semiautomatic pistol was in his hand. (See drawing below.)

Bryan talked to Zodiac for a little while. He described the voice as being “like a student’s, but kind of a drawl; not a Southern drawl, though.” Zodiac told Bryan and Cecelia that he was an escaped convict from Deer Lodge, Montana, who’d killed a prison guard, was driving a stolen car and heading for Mexico. He asked Bryan for his money and car keys. After talking for a while, the stocky, hooded man detached two-and-one-half to three-foot lengths of clothesline and said he was “going to have to tie [them] up.” Zodiac told Cecelia to tie Bryan up, and she did so with loose knots. Zodiac then tied Cecelia up very tightly and tightened the knots on Bryan’s wrists. When Zodiac touched the girl, his hand began to shake.

“I’m getting nervous,” said the man. The three talked for several minutes more on the darkening peninsula. Bryan asked Zodiac to show him if the gun was loaded, for he felt Zodiac might be bluffing. The cartridge of the gun was removed briefly to show real bullets. Zodiac then stated: “I’m going to have to stab you people.”

“The first time I suspected any iota of trouble was when I saw the knife come out, and then I felt that was it. That was the first hint that things were going to be worse than me getting possibly stuck tied up there overnight.” Bryan pleaded with Zodiac to stab him first. “I’m chicken. I couldn’t stand to see her stabbed.” Zodiac replied: “I’ll do just that.” He dropped to his knees and ripped the foot-long knife from its sheath and raised it high over Bryan’s back. He began stabbing the boy in the back. When Bryan gave a moan and finally seemed to collapse from pain, Zodiac turned to Cecelia. Still on his knees, the man let “gave a ghastly, frenzied sound and, letting out a long, low exhalation, began stabbing the girl in the back.” Once he plunged the knife to its full length into her chest, once into each breast, once into the groin area and once into the abdomen.

“Stop, stop, stop…” Cecelia pleaded. The more she twisted and writhed, the more Zodiac stabbed. Later reports claimed that Zodiac had stabbed her in the shape of a Zodiac crossed-circle symbol, but Hartnell admitted that “there was really too much movement for him to do anything that deliberate.” Finally, Zodiac stood up, tossed the money and keys they had given him onto the blanket, and walked away back across the peninsula. Once out to the road, he wrote something on Bryan Hartnell’s car door in black felt-tip pen. (See picture below.)

He then started up his own car and headed south on Knoxville Road. Bryan had remained conscious throughout Cecelia’s attack and Cecelia soon regained consciousness. The couple began yelling for help. Blood from the girl’s wounds had made the binds around her wrists slippery and she was soon free. She untied Bryan and he began to crawl for help. However, he had lost so much blood that he could barely move. A Chinese fisherman from San Francisco and his son in a small boat on the lake had heard moans coming from the tip of the peninsula and went in for a closer look. Upon seeing the sight, the ventured no closer and steered their boat toward Rancho Monticello Resort two miles away. There he reported what he had seen to rangers, who began to roll on it.

Bryan had crawled about 300 yards towards the road before not being able to go any further. Ranger Dennis Land found Bryan completely untied and en route to the road. He told Land that his girlfriend was stabbed and out on the peninsula. The rangers wrapped Bryan and Cecelia up until an ambulance could get there, coming from a hospital almost an hour away. The couple kept drifting in and out of consciousness.

Bryan was certain the hooded man had believed they were dead when he left. Cecelia had been stabbed 24 times. The ambulance finally arrived and the victims, in critical condition, were rushed to the hospital. Cecelia was in surgery most of the night.

7:13 p.m. – The report of the double stabbing was logged at the Napa Sheriff’s Office.

7:40 p.m. – The phone rang at Napa P.D. This is the way the conversation went:

“Napa police department, Officer Slaight.”

“I want to report a murder – no, a double murder. They are two miles north of Park Headquarters (actually about only a half mile). They were in a white Volkswagen Karmann Ghia.”

[There was a long pause.]

“Where are you?” asked Slaight.

“I’m the one that did it.”

The receiver was then put down but the connection was not broken. Slaight could hear traffic passing in the background. He phoned the operator to trace the call. Police traced the signal to a pay phone located at 1231 Main Street, the Napa Car Wash. It was only four and one-half blocks from the police station and exactly 27 miles from the scene of the attack. The police were able to life a good palm print from the receiver. That the killer thought both students were dead showed that he had left the lake immediately.

Detective Sergeant Kenneth Narlow of Napa County Sheriff’s Office took charge of the investigation. He recognized the dates from Hartnell’s car door as the same dates of other murders recently in Vallejo. Crime lab technicians discovered tire tracks from the attacker’s car and made plaster casts. A footprint impression was also found near Hartnell’s car, leading up to the door with writing on it. The same prints led down to the murder scene and back up the hill towards the road. Casts were made of the killer’s prints, size 10 1/2. It was estimated by the depth of the print that Zodiac weighed approximately 220 pounds. The shoes were a chucker-type boot called the “Wing Walker,” a style of boot used in the military. One million of these shoes were manufactured as part of a government contract. 103,700 pairs of “Wing Walkers” had been shipped to Ogden, Utah, and distributed to Air Force and Navy installations on the West Coast.

Narlow also discovered that there had been a man acting oddly around the lake earlier that day. With the assistance of the three young women who had seen a strange man earlier in the day, a composite sketch was made. (See left.)  While that incident hadn’t taken place near the scene of the crime, police still believed that it could have been the same man.

Monday, Sept. 29, 1969

3:45 p.m. – Cecelia Ann Shepard, attended by her parents, died from multiple stab wounds to her back, chest and abdomen.

Bryan Hartnell eventually recovered fully from his wounds and is not a practicing lawyer with a family in Southern California. Graysmith wrote that he visits Cecelia’s family often.

Thursday, Oct. 2, 1969

Narlow met up with Lundblad and Lynch from Vallejo as well as Mel Nicolai of Criminal Identification and Investigation (CI&I) and exchanged information. They considered what the Zodiac crimes had in common:

The victims were young students, couples.
The attacks all occurred on weekends, two near holidays.
The murders were at dusk or night.
Robbery or sexual molestation was not a motive.
A different weapon was used each time.
The killer had a compulsion to brag about the murders by phone or letter.
Zodiac killed in remote lovers’ lanes.
The slaying all occurred around and in cars.
The victims were always near a body of water or at a place with a body of water in the name (Lake Herman Road, Blue Rock Springs, Lake Berryessa).