Vallejo – July 4, 1969
Saturday, Dec. 21, 1968
“This is scary. I knew the two kids who were killed on Lake Herman Road,” confided Darlene Ferrin to her co-worker Bobbie Ramos. “I’m not going up there again.”
“I can remember part just plain,” Bobbie said. “She was saying, ‘You know it gives me an eerie feeling.’ She knew them either from Hogan High School I don’t know how close she knew them, but she knew who they were, more so the girl.” Hogan High was just over a block from Betty Lou Jensen’s home. Darlene had been a student there. Photos of Darlene taken five years earlier, when she was 16, showed a remarkable resemblance to Betty Lou Jensen.
Wednesday, Feb. 26, 1969
Karen, Darlene’s babysitter at 560 Wallace St., noticed a white-colored American-made sedan with a large windshield parked outside of the Ferrins’ ground-level apartment. She was sure the man inside the vehicle was watching the apartment. The glow of a match flickered inside the car. The man in it lit a cigarette, and Karen got a partial look at him. He was heavyset with a round face and curly, wavy dark brown hair. She thought he was middle-aged. She debated telling Darlene’s husband Dean about the car when he got home but decided against it when she saw the car had left.
Thursday, Feb. 27, 1969
Karen told Darlene about the car from the previous evening. “What did the car look like,” Darlene asked. Karen told her.
“I guess he’s checking up on me again. I heard he was back from out of state,” Darlene said. “He doesn’t want anyone to know what I saw him do,” she said. “I saw him murder someone.” Darlene mentioned the man’s name a short, common name but Karen didn’t hear. She was too intent on the fact that Darlene was obvious frightened of the stranger.
When Darlene dropped by Terry’s Restaurant, her place of employment, that evening, she was told a stocky man had been asking questions about her.
Saturday, March 15, 1969
Pam Suennen, Darlene’s younger sister, had previously found two packages on the doorstep of the Ferrins’ home, but she had never seen who’d left them. On this day, however, she opened up the front door in time to see a man in horn-rimmed glasses delivering a third package. She had seen him before, parked in front of the house in a white car. The man told her that “under no circumstances was she to look in that package. He stayed outside the door. He stayed outside in his car for the longest time after he delivered the package.”
When Darlene got home Pam gave her the package. She took it into the back room and opened it. When Pam asked her what it was, she didn’t say anything. “From that point on she seemed different. She was real nervous and she took the phone in her bedroom and made a phone call and then she rushed me out and took me home real fast.” Pam finally learned that the first package contained a silver belt and a purse from Mexico and the second package white and blue flower-print fabric. Darlene planned to use this fabric to make a jumpsuit.
Friday, May 9, 1969
Darlene and Dean Ferrin purchased a small house at 1300 Virginia St., next to the Vallejo Sheriff’s Office, for $9500. (See picture at right.)
Saturday, May 24, 1969
Darlene held a painting party at her new house and had most of her friends over to help her clean it up. Those at the party included Mike and David Mageau, brothers who were twins and close friends of Darlene, Paul the bartender (not his real name) and three Vallejo cops. Darlene called her sister, Linda Del Buono, at about noon and asked her to come over. Linda was the first to point out Darlene’s increasing nervousness and physical degeneration. While Linda was on her way, a stocky man arrived at the party.
“At the painting party,” Linda later said, “(Darlene) was so scared. This guy at the party had no business being at her house and she told me to stay away from him. He was the only one dressed neat. Everyone else had old jeans on and was painting . . . She didn’t expect him to show up. I can see him sitting there in the chair. The dark-rim glasses, the hair curly, wavy, an older-type man, he did have the dark-rim glasses like Superman wears. Overweight . . . he was five feet eight inches tall or so. Of course he was sitting down most of the time. I remember going in a little bedroom with Darlene and I asked, ‘Darlene, what’s wrong with you?’ She was so nervous. This guy was scaring the heck out of her. She wasn’t being the Darlene I knew.”
Pam, Darlene’s younger sister, arrived at the painting party shortly after Linda left and recognized the stocky man as the same man who had been leaving packages on Darlene’s doorstep. “He was a very well-dressed guy with glasses,” she recalled. “He had dark hair. He had a wart on his thumb. For some reason, I think Darlene met this man in the Virgin Islands. She mentioned a little bit about drugs.”
Some of the guests at the party had heard the well-dressed man badgering Darlene about her sources of income. The stranger had a common, short nickname. Pam thought it was “Bob.” (This name has been changed.)
Sunday, June 22, 1969
Linda walked into Terry’s restaurant and saw the man from the party sitting in there watching Darlene constantly. The stranger gave Linda a “cold stare” and then went over to Darlene, said something to her, and left. Pam also saw the man. “He wore a leather jacket,” she said. “He always smelled of leather, even the time he came to the house to deliver that package . . . I was there for two and one half hours sitting at that counter and he sat there the whole time eating strawberry shortcake. The man didn’t wear his glasses this time. He put them on when he looked at the check. They were rim glasses, dark rims, and he drove this car with old California plates. This man’s car was solid white.”
“Darlene never verbalized precisely what made her afraid of this man in the white car,” Darlene’s friend Bobbie Oxnam later recalled. “He had something on her, but what he had I don’t know. I have a feeling it’s connected with the Virgin Islands but that’s just a hunch. Jim (Darlene’s first husband) and her got involved with the wrong people while they were there on their honeymoon. That’s why they left so fast. Now what kind of trouble I can’t say.” The couple had hitched to St. Thomas and the Virgin Islands, panhandling, diving for shells, sleeping on the beach. It was there where Pam suspected Darlene had seen a murder.
Tuesday, June 24, 1969
Darlene told her younger sister Christina, “There’s going to be some big things happening in the next few days. And it’s really something.” Christina inquired as to what would happen. “I can’t tell you,” Darlene replied, “but you’ll read about it in the paper.”
It has been theorized that Darlene knew who the killer on Lake Herman Road was she was indicating here that she intended to turn him into the police. This could be what got her killed.
Friday, July 4, 1969
3:45 p.m. – Dean Ferrin reported for work at the Caesar’s, the Italian restaurant he worked at. Fifteen minutes later, Darlene called her friend Michael Mageau and made a date to go to the movies in San Francisco at 7:30 that evening.
4:30 p.m. – Caesar’s Restaurant opened for business.
6:30 p.m. – Darlene and her little sister Christina came into the restaurant. Darlene was wearing a jump suit that zipped up the front and had red, white and blue stars all over it. They had come to see Dean on their way out the Mare Island for the Fourth of July celebration. “What time will you be home?” asked Dean. “I’m inviting some people from the restaurant over to our house for a little party.” Darlene responded that she’d be home around ten. “Well, stop and get some fireworks,” said Dean, “and we’ll be there around midnight.”
6:45 p.m. – Darlene went into Terry’s Restaurant to tell Bobbie Ramos about the party that was going to be held at her house.
7 p.m. – Darlene left Terry’s. Before doing so, she told Bobbie that she would come back to see her later.
8 p.m. – Darlene called Mike Mageau and said that she had to spend some more time with Christina and would call or be by later.
10:15 p.m. – After returning from Mar Island, Darlene and Christina went to Caesar’s again. Darlene called the sitter to see how things were. The sitter told her that one of her friends at Terry’s had be trying to reach her.
10:30 p.m. – Darlene drove into Terry’s parking lot and talked for ten minutes with her friend. As she and Christina were leaving, she stopped and talked with an older man in a white car in the lot. Christina noticed the conversation between the two was strained and she “sensed tension in the air.” She observed that the stranger’s car was bigger and older than Darlene’s ’63 Corvair. Darlene said nothing about the man on the way to the Suennen family home, where she let Christina off.
~11:30 p.m. – Darlene arrived at her new home on Virginia and the sitter, Janet Lynne, met her at the door. She told Darlene that an older-sounding man had been calling all evening but wouldn’t leave his name or any messages.
Darlene changed clothes, putting on a white and blue flower-print jumpsuit made from the fabric left in a package on her doorstep by the man in the white car. She planned on taking the sitters home and then coming back to clean the house up. However, just as Darlene had the girls bundled up in the Corvair, the phone inside began to ring and she rushed to answer it. When she returned, she asked if the two girls wouldn’t mind staying until around 12:15 and they agreed. Darlene explained, “I have to go back out and get fireworks for the party.”
Darlene left immediately, taking Georgia Street east directly to Beechwood Avenue, where she made a left to Mike’s house at 864 Beechwood, four-and-one-half blocks from the Jensen home. (See picture at left.) Darlene stopped in front of the house, turned off the engine, and waited. In a moment Mike rushed out in such a hurry that he left all the lights on, the door standing open and the television playing. Darlene started the ignition and gestured impatiently for Mike to get in. As the bronze Corvair pulled off, they were trailed immediately by a light-colored car that had been parked in the shadows of the tree-lined street.
Darlene sped off to Oakwood, took a right on Springs Road, and started out toward Columbus Parkway, the same direction as Lake Herman Road.
11:55 p.m. – The car raced behind them at high speed. Darlene kept turning to lose the stranger, but the car followed closer and faster. They were being herded towards the outskirts of town and Blue Rock Springs Golf Course on Columbus Parkway, another well-known lovers’ lane. Darlene turned right into the parking lot. (See pictures below.) Seventy-two feet from the entrance she hit a log and stalled the engine. The lot overlooked the golf course. Hers was the only car in the lot. A moment later, the other car caught up with them in the lot, turned out its lights and then parked eight feet to their left. The front of the car was nearly even with the back bumper of Darlene’s car.
“Do you know who it is?” whispered Mike. “Oh, never mind,” replied Darlene. “Don’t worry about it.” Mike didn’t know if this mean she knew who it was or not. Almost immediately, the other car roared off at a high rate of speed, heading back towards Vallejo. In five minutes the car returned. Now it parked to their left and to the rear of the Corvair with its lights on. It had pulled up to them at sort of an offline from their car, a cut-off technique used by highway patrolmen.
Suddenly a bright light was beamed at them from within the other car. The lone occupant of the car opened his door and, carrying a large flashlight extended in front of him, advanced toward the couple. The light went out. Mike noticed it was a “floating lantern” with a handle of the type Mike had seen on boats. They both thought it was the police and began reaching for their identification. The man strode to the passenger side of the car; the window was down.
The light exploded on again, blinding Mike. He heard the clink of metal against the window frame, saw a muzzle flash and smoke erupt. A bullet hit Mike and his blood began to flow. Even thought the shots seemed loud, Mike got the impression the gun had some sort of silencer on it. Darlene slumped forward over the steering wheel, hit by bullets that had passed through Mike and that had been aimed at her. Two bullets caught her in the right arm and two in the left. Five bullets hit her in the right side of her back, piercing her lung and the left ventricle of her heart.
Mike reached for the door handle, his fingers scrambling frantically, and to his horror realized that it had been removed. He had been wounded in the right arm when the attacker turned and began walking away. Mike let out a loud scream of agony. The gunman, in the process of opening his door and doing something Mike couldn’t make out, stopped and looked over the shoulder of his Navy-type windbreaker in Mike’s direction. The stocky man’s profile was illuminated by the interior light of his car and Mike saw the face of his attacker. The man appeared to have a large face and was not wearing glasses. He seemed to be between 26 and 30 years old and had short, curly, light-brown hair worn in a military style crew cut. The man’s build was “beefy, heavyset without being blubbery fat,” perhaps 195-200 pounds. Mike estimated that he was 5’8″ and could see that his pants had pleats and that he had a slight potbelly.
The attacker was now returning to finish the job. The stocky man leaned into the Corvair through the open window and fired two more shots at Mike. Mike kicked out his legs in an attempt at self-defense and leaped backward into the rear of the car. A bullet caught him in the knee during this action. The man fired two more shots at Darlene, turned away, got into his car and drove off. Mike, badly wounded in the left leg, right arm and neck, finally was able to regain the front seat and toppled out of the passenger door onto the lot. Blood rushed from the wound to his cheek and neck. The bullet had entered from the right and exited from his left cheek, ripping a hole through his jawbone and tongue. He could not call out for help. In the front seat he could hear Darlene moan.
Saturday, July 5, 1969
~12:05 a.m. – George Bryant, the 22-year-old son of the golf course’s caretaker, was lying in bed in his home 800 feet from the parking lot. He heard a gunshot, a short interval of silence, another gunshot, a short pause again and then rapid fire. Soon he heard a car take off at super speed and burn rubber.” George’s view of the attack site was blocked by trees.
Three teenagers in a car stumbled upon the attack site moments later. They ran up to Mike and asked if he was all right. “I’m shot,” Mike uttered. “And the girl’s shot. Get a doc.” The kids raced off to get one. As they turned out onto Columbus Parkway, they thought they could see the red points of taillights disappearing down Lake Herman Road.
12:10 a.m. – Vallejo P.D. switchboard operator Nancy Slover received a report from the teenagers that “two persons were shot at the east side of the main parking lot at Blue Rock Springs.” Detective Sergeant John Lynch and his partner, Sergeant Ed Rust, were in their car in plain clothes when the report came through. They didn’t roll on the call immediately, assuming that the shots heard were actually kids lighting off fireworks. Ten minutes later the call came though that there was a shooting out there and sped off to the scene. Lynch doesn’t think the killer made a turn on Lake Herman Road but instead proceeded down Tennessee Street to Tuolumne Street.
12:20 a.m. – Lynch and rust arrive at the scene. They could see Darlene’s Chevrolet on the east side of the lot. Two officers were already on the scene attempting to question Mike. Lynch called for an ambulance for Mike and noticed something weird the boy was wearing three pairs of pants, three sweaters, a long-sleeved button shirt and a T-shirt, all on a hot July night. (Mageau later said he did this as not to look so skinny.) Darlene was still semiconscious in the front seat.
Mike was barely able to utter: “A white man . . . drove up . . . in a car . . . got out . . . walked up to the car, shined flashlight inside, started shooting.” Mike gave the description of his attacker as “Young . . . heavyset . . . in a light tan car.” Darlene tried to say something to Lynch but he couldn’t make it out. The words she said were either “I” or “My . . .” Rust noted that both windows on the left and right sides were rolled down and the ignition was on. The radio was on and the car was in low gear.
Seven shell casings were found a few feet away from the victims on the right side. Two slugs were found inside the car and they appeared to Rust to be 9-mm ammunition.
12:38 a.m. – Darlene Ferrin was announced D.O.A.
12:40 a.m. – A man placed a call through an operator from a pay phone to the Vallejo P.D. Switchboard. Operator Nancy Slover answered.
“I want to report a double murder. If you will go one mile east on Columbus Parkway to the public park you will find kids in a brown car. They were shot with a 9-mm Luger. I also killed those kids last year. Goodbye.”
To Slover it seemed that the man was reading what he was saying, or had rehearsed it. There was no trace of an accent. She tried to interrupt but the caller just talked louder. When he said “Goodbye” his voice deepened and became taunting. The receiver was then replaced.
After he hung up, the killer must have stood for a minute in a lighted phone booth. Suddenly the phone began to ring; a middle-aged black man in shabby clothes who was passing by looked over and saw a stocky man in the phone booth. The killer unhooked the phone to stop it from ringing and let it hang. After a moment, he walked briskly off into the night.
12:47 a.m. – Pacific Telephone traced the call to Joe’s Union Station at Tuolumne and Springs Road, located right in front of the Vallejo Sheriff’s Office and about two blocks away from Darlene’s home on Virginia.
Dean and friends returned home approximately half an hour later. The sitters told Dean that he had left or fireworks and not returned. He left to find her.
1:30 a.m. – The phone rang at Dean and Darlene’s house. Their friend Bill Leigh answered it. All he could hear was heavy breathing. “Why doesn’t she stay home with her husband once in a while,” he said into the mouthpiece and hung up. A few minutes later, Dean’s parents received a similar call. All they could hear was breathing or “wind on the end of the line.” They could tell that someone was there. Dean’s brother got a crank call next. Darlene’s own parents, the Suennens, got no such calls; they had an unlisted number.
Later, Bill Leigh was questioned by Vallejo Police. Here is the official police report of his questioning:
“William did state that he knew that she was running around a lot and thought she was seeing other men, could not give names or dates, places, of any of this. Stated she would go out and stay out until late night or early A.M. Stated some of William’s friends had said they had seen Darlene in different places with other men. William stated Dean allowed her to go out usually as she pleased and would not believe she was doing anything wrong.
“William then stated he remembered a person named only as “Paul” [this name has been changed], who Dean had sold a ’51 ford pickup to. Stated he heard this “Paul” had tried several times to get Darlene to go out with him and she would not and this “Paul” became sarcastic, mean, and bitter about the fact she would not have anything to do with him . . . William stated he had never met this “Paul” as far as he knows and does not know where he lives or works. Has heard that he is a bartender . . . He heard that this “Paul” used to hang out around the bar (Jack’s Hangout) that was next to Darlene’s old place on Wallace, would come over when Darlene was home and pester her, trying to pick up on her.”
Some of Darlene’s other friends recalled a short, stocky man with black hair who kept trying to date Darlene. He had a pink pickup and a brown car, possibly a Corvair, and “would get uptight when Darlene wouldn’t date him. He would become very bitter about this.” They didn’t remember his last name but did know his first name was “Paul” and that he was a bartender.
A week later, on July 11, detective John Lynch tracked down “Paul” in Yountville, between Napa and Lake Berryessa. For a week the investigation focused heavily on this “Paul.” He had even worked at Elk’s Club at Blue Rock Springs in the past. According to Lynch, however, “Paul” had an “airtight” alibi for the time of the killing.
7 a.m. – Lynch was out at Blue Rock Springs, searching for clues. Police eventually recovered nine 9-mm casings and seven copper-jacketed 9-mm slugs in various conditions.
Later, Darlene’s friend Linda told Lynch that one of Darlene’s three closest friends was a man known only as “Bob,” who used to bring her presents from Tijuana.
8:25 a.m. – Mike was operated on. Later, even though he was heavily sedated, Mike was interviewed from his bed by Lynch. He emphasized that it was “dark out and hard to see.” He continued to relate the events of the previous night, altering one part: “Darlene picked me up at 11:40, and since we were both hungry we headed down Springs Road west toward Vallejo, but at Mr. Ed’s we turned around at my suggestion and drove to Blue Rock Springs so we could talk.”
Mike also made other changes in his story. He told a legal secretary after the shooting that Darlene and another man had an argument while he was present in Darlene’s car at Terry’s Restaurant the night of the shooting, and that when they drove away the stranger followed them to Blue Rock Springs, where the argument continued. And that they were shot by that same man. Mike also told her that they were followed “at least from the time she picked me up at my house.” In subsequent interviews, Mike said the attacker wore a blue shirt or sweater, weighed about 160 pounds and combed his hair “up in a kind of pompadour and then back.” The car was changed to a light, tan Chevy. He also reportedly told Darlene’s sister that the attacker “knew Darlene because he called her by name. She was known to her close friends as ‘Dee’ and he called her ‘Dee.’”
Sunday, July 6, 1969
A man and his son phoned Lynch and told him that they had witnessed an argument between a man and a woman at Terry’s parking lot around 10:30 p.m. on July 4. The man was 30, about six feet tall, and weighed about 180 to 185. He had hair the color of champagne, combed straight back.
Monday, July 7, 1969
Dean brought all of Darlene’s diaries, phonebooks and writings to Lynch. He discovered a yellow photo envelope with strange words written on it. Dean was unable to explain what the writing might mean. The words “hacked,” “stuck,” “testified,” and “seen” were on the edge of the envelope in Darlene’s handwriting. Lynch could make out a series of partial words as well. They were “acrqu,” “acci,” “calc,” and “at” and the word “highly” scratched out.
Michael Mageau went into hiding after his release from the hospital and eventually went to live with his mother and brother in Southern California. Some of Darlene’s friends thought that these actions pointed to the conclusion that Mike (and therefore Darlene) knew the killer and was hiding from him.