• Facebook
  • Twitter

San Francisco – October 11, 1969

Saturday, Oct. 11, 1969

9:30 p.m. – Paul Lee Stine was parked in his Yellow Cab in the taxi zone in front of St. Francis Hotel on Powell St. in downtown San Francisco (near Union Square) when he received a call for Ninth Ave. Stine, a 29-year-old student at San Francisco State who drove cabs at night, pulled out of the taxi zone onto Powell, turning onto Geary. Near Mason and Geary, Stine was slowed by crowds exiting the Curran Theatre’s production of “Hair,” which was just letting out. As he edged along, a stocky man stepped off the sidewalk, placed his hand on the driver’s side, near the rearview mirror, and looked down into the cab. He got in the back of the cab and requested a destination. Stine logged the address as “Washington Street and Maple” in the Presidio Heights residential district.

The cab traveled west up Geary to the corner of Van Ness Ave., where Stine turned right. He made a left upon reaching California (which now, incidentally, has a no left turn sign posted). Eleven blocks later, Stine turned right onto Divisadero and then left onto Washington.

Washington St., just two blocks south of the Presidio, is lined with very elegant and expensive homes (some classify as mansions in their own right. Stine’s cab made its way through this classy neighborhood until it reached the trip sheet destination at Maple St. Suddenly, a man out walking his dog walked in front of Stine’s cab, through the beam of the headlights. The stocky man requested that Stine drive up Washington another block. The cab stopped between two trees on the corner of Washington and Cherry, directly in front of 3898 Washington. (See picture below. My car in the foreground is parked exactly where Stine’s cab stopped.)

Immediately after stopping, the passenger pressed the muzzle of a gun tightly against Stine’s right cheek just in front of his right ear; with his left arm he seized Stine’s throat. Stine vainly attempted to raise his left hand over his right shoulder in a failed attempt at self defense. The stocky man squeezed the trigger. There was little noise when the pistol discharged a seal had been created between the skin and the muzzle and the blast was expended into body tissues. Particles of unburned powder exploded about the breech of the weapon, peppering the gloved hands of the attacker. The bullet lodged itself in the left temporalis muscle.

The killer exited the rear door and entered the front passenger door. Then he held Stine’s head in his lap while he took Stine’s wallet and tore off a portion of his shirt.

9:55 p.m. – A 14-year-old girl directly across the street from the taxi looked out of the middle window from the second floor of the building. (In the right portion of the picture above.) There was a party going on. She called to her 16-year-old brother and a younger brother to come to the window. They were almost 50 feet away from the cab and their view was unobstructed. A stocky man had the head of the cabdriver cradled in his lap. He appeared to be either struggling with the driver or searching him. He leaned over the cabby’s body to the driver’s side and seemed to be wiping down the interior of the taxi.

The stocky man appeared to be doing something to the driver’s body, but the teenagers, who had now crowded around the upstairs window, could not tell what. The front passenger side of the cab opened and the man got out. He came around the cab, taking with him some sort of rag or towel, and began wiping down the driver’s side door, the handle, around the outside mirror and the left passenger side. At one point he opened up the driver’s door and leaned forward to wipe off the area of the dashboard again. To steady himself, he leaned his right hand on the rail separating the front and rear windows. The fragment of cloth torn from Stine’s shirt was still in his left hand. Then he closed the door and walked away.

He turned the corner, right onto Cherry, and passed a mailbox. (See picture at right. The mailbox is in the center.) It was at this point that the children lost sight of him. He was headed north on Cherry in the direction of the Presidio. He was walking, not running.

9:58 p.m. – The partygoers in the meantime had called the police. At this time the report was logged by the operator, who could tell the caller was under great stress. He asked if the crime was in progress and was told that it was.

The operator attempted to get a physical description of the man and somehow the assailant was mistakenly described as a black male adult. The operator also got the direction the attacker had walked off and immediately radioed an APB with “caution urged.”

10 p.m. – A police patrol unit was within a couple of blocks and reached the intersection of Jackson and Cherry, one block away from the shooting. At this location they saw a stocky man “lumbering” along in the fog toward the Presidio. Patrolmen Donald Foukes and Eric Zelms, looking for a black man, shouted to the stranger and asked if he had seen anything unusual in the last minute or so. The stocky man called out he’d seen a man waving a gun running east on Washington and the patrol car sped off in that direction. Stine’s blood stains, which covered the stocky man’s clothes, were hidden by the darkness of the clothes and by the deep shadows along the foggy street. The officers, because of the communications mix-up, had no reason to be looking for a white male adult. It is possible that had they investigated this stocky man closer, he could have attempted to shoot them as well. This was as close as the police have ever come to catching Zodiac.

Once the cops had sped away, the man walked into the Presidio and, most likely crouching slightly along the stone wall which ran along the border between the Presidio and the residential neighborhood, made his way east to the Julius Kahn Playground, approximately one-eighth of a mile away. (See picture at right.) Neighbors reported to police that a stocky figure was seen dashing across the playground and into the dense undergrowth of the Presidio, which was open around the clock with virtually no security and very few restricted sections. Once inside the Presidio, Zodiac could have pretty much gone anywhere. In “Zodiac,” Graysmith theorizes that Zodiac parked his car a mere two blocks from the site of the attack and made his way back to his vehicle before disappearing into the night.

10:05 p.m. – Officers Armand Pelissetti and Frank Peda arrived at Washington and Cherry, responding to the APB simultaneously with an SFPD homicide inspector. Both of their cars stopped just behind the cab. The men ran from their autos to find Paul Stine shot in the head, his upper torso in the passenger side, he head resting on the floorboard. When the inspector cracked open the passenger door, Stine’s hand fell outward, palm up, nearly touching the street. The attacker had not bothered taking Stine’s watch or class ring. The cab meter was still running and the keys to the vehicle were missing. They have never been recovered. It is believed that Zodiac took them.

Within a few moments, more units converged on the scene, an ambulance was called and the attacker’s description was amended to a white male adult.

10:10 p.m. – An ambulance arrived on the scene and the steward pronounced Stine dead at the scene of the crime. Every search dog available in the area was called out and a fire department spotlight was requested. Because the police had arrived on the scene so quickly, it was preserved perfectly.

10:20 p.m. – A call was placed for the on-duty homicide team, the men who would stay on the case until it was solved. Thus began Dave Toschi and Bill Armstrong’s involvement with the Zodiac case.

11:10 p.m. – Toschi arrived at the crime scene three minutes after the coroner had arrived. By this time, several hundred onlookers had gathered on the street. It seemed to Armstrong and Toschi that this was another of the many cab robberies that occur in San Francisco every week which had gone wrong. The killer had taken Stine’s wallet. This has also never surfaced. After Stine’s body was removed, Toschi found one 9-mm shell casing. On the corner of the front passenger seat were three streaks that might have been the marks of three fingers printed in blood. Since Stine had fallen to the passenger side palms up, Toschi thought they might belong to the killer.

11:30 p.m. – The crime lab began searching the cab for any latent prints the killer might have left behind. It was at this point that they found what is considered to be the most important clue in the Stine case a set of prints left on the beam separating the front and rear windows that the killer had leaned on while wiping down the driver’s dashboard area. They were reported as “Middle finger and third finger of right hand, 8 points on 2 fingers. In blood.” This information and where the prints were found was to be kept totally confidential. The prints proved not to be those of Stine’s, whose fingerprints were checked against all the prints found in the cab.

The search for the killer continued into the night. Dog units began to check the surrounding blocks for anyone hiding in doorways, driveways or in the shadows. Toschi had the entire area around Julius Kahn Playground illuminated with the high-powered floodlights provided by the fire department. A large number of patrolmen began to search tree by tree, shrub by shrub. Nothing was found.

Sunday, Oct. 12, 1969

1 a.m. – Stine’s cab was towed across town to the Hall of Justice.

1:20 a.m. – Stine’s wife, Claudia, was notified of his death by telephone.

1:30 a.m. – Crime lab experts began searching Stine’s cab (Yellow Cab #912) for more clues. The only blood found in the cab was type O-RH Negative, Stine’s blood type.

2 a.m. – The search of the Presidio Heights neighborhood and the Presidio was called off. Armstrong and Toschi quit the scene.

Later in the day, a composite drawing of the killer was made from descriptions provided by the teenage witnesses. Armstrong and Toschi circulated the resulting drawing as Bulletin #87-69.

Stine’s body was autopsied in the morning. Here is an excerpt from Coroner John Lee’s autopsy report:

“The body is that of a well-developed, well-nourished young adult white male appearing about the stated age. The head is symmetrical and covered with a sparse quantity of dark hair receding at the temples.

“There is a large, ragged, irregular-shaped apparent gunshot entry would over the right side of the head. This wound is located at the superior and anterior attachment of the right ear. The vertical dimensions measure four cm. and transverse dimensions measure two cm.

“There is a blackening of the skin over the ventral aspect of this wound, extending for a distance of two cm. When probed, the wound penetrates left laterally toward the mid-portion of the left zeugmatic arch. There is a large quantity of blood present over the face.”

Tuesday, Oct. 14, 1969

10:30 a.m. – A letter from Zodiac arrived at the San Francisco Chronicle office, taking credit for the Stine murder. As proof that he committed the crime, Zodiac included a blood-stained portion of Stine’s shirt. (He did this a couple of more times in the near future. One small portion of Stine’s shirt was never recovered. It is believed that Zodiac, whoever and wherever he is, still possesses this shirt fragment, along with Stine’s keys and wallet.)

With this letter, San Francisco and its police department became involved with the Zodiac murders. In this letter, Zodiac threatened to shoot out the tire of a school bus and “pick off the kiddies as they come bouncing out.” In future letters, he would threaten to blow up a school bus with a bomb.

Thursday, Oct. 16, 1969

9 a.m. – Patrolmen Froukes and Zelms, who had seen the stocky man walking into the Presidio, realized that the man they saw must have been Zodiac. They filed an initial report with their captain; this was sent as an interdepartmental communication to Armstrong and Toschi. The two patrolmen were “shattered and filled with despair.”

With the help of Foukes and Zelms, a second composite drawing was made and circulated, with a more accurate description of Zodiac. The patrolmen’s report and statement were placed in confidential files. SFPD officially denied that Zodiac had ever been seen by any policemen and continue to do so to this day. The police have never been able to explain why a second composite drawing was suddenly made. (See Wanted Poster above.)