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Mel Belli – October 22, 1969

Wednesday, Oct. 22, 1969

2 a.m. – The phone rang at the Oakland P.D. The police operator picked up the phone and stiffened as a male voice said: “This is the Zodiac speaking. I want you to get in touch with F. Lee Bailey . . . If you can’t come up with Bailey I’ll settle for Mel Belli . . . I want one or the other to appear on the Channel Seven talk show. I’ll make contact by telephone.”

7:10 a.m. – The phone rang at KGO studios. It was during a commercial and the caller hung up almost immediately. The man had a hesitant and drifting voice.

7:20 a.m. – The man called again. Belli asked for something else to call him and the caller responded with “Sam.” He continued to call, converse with Belli and hang up abruptly for two hours. Twelve calls were heard on the air, out of a total of 35 made. Eventually, a meeting was set up between Belli and “Sam” at a thrift store in Daly City, just south of San Francisco. Though Belli had promised a secret meeting, many law enforcement officials staked the area out, along with members of the local media. “Sam” stood everyone up, although Belli swore that he thought Zodiac drove by that day: “I swear I saw a car go by that I’m sure was him.”

The Oakland patrolman who received the original 2 a.m. call was convinced he had talked to the real Zodiac and that the voice of “Sam” did not belong to the same man he had talked to. SFPD also called in Napa patrolman David Slaight, Vallejo switchboard operator Nancy Slover and Bryan Hartnell, the only other three people who had heard Zodiac’s voice, to compare to the voice of “Sam.” They all agreed that it did not sound like the voice they remember Zodiac having.

The “mystery of ‘Sam’” was eventually solved when in subsequent calls to Belli the caller was traced to Napa State Hospital and was discovered to be a mental patient there.

The real Zodiac evidently had a continued interest in Belli, however, for on Dec. 20 of that year he sent Belli a letter with another portion of Stine’s blood-blacked shirt. Belli appealed to the killer through a letter in Chronicle, urging Zodiac to meet with him. Zodiac never responded to Belli’s appeal.