Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Zodiac Killer

Shepard and Hartnell

Cecelia Shepard
Cecelia Shepard

Cecelia Ann Shepard and Bryan Calvin Hartnell, two college students who had also made a spontaneous trip from Angwin, were picnicking at Twin Oak Ridge,  a peninsula on the western shore of the lake, at twilight when they were approached by a man later described as 5'8" to 6' tall, dark-haired, and heavyset, wearing a dark jacket and dark clothing that seemed sloppy or dishevelled.  

Cecelia, who saw the man first, noted that he was wearing glasses.  He seemed to Hartnell at the time to be "in his thirties and fairly unremarkable", though the young man would describe a larger and possibly younger individual after getting a closer and more dangerous look.

Before getting too close to the couple, he ducked behind one of the two nearby trees, put on an unusual four-cornered hood, and emerged about 20 feet away.  The hood was well sewn, black, and had a bib that fell almost to the man's waistline.  Embroidered on it was the crossed-circle design that had appeared in the 3-Part Cryptogram and its cover letters and would serve as the Zodiac's signature in most of his letters to come. 

Holes had been cut for the eyes and mouth, and though clip-on sunglasses had been added to further protect the killer's identity, Hartnell caught a glimpse of greasy brownish hair through the holes in the mask.  On his belt, he wore a long knife in a wooden sheath and an empty leather holster.  A large semiautomatic pistol was in his right hand and he pointed it at Shepard and Hartnell as he spoke.

Brian Hartnell
Brian Hartnell

"I want your money and your car keys," he said in a calm monotone.  "I want your car to go to Mexico".  Hartnell handed him the keys to his Volkswagen and all the change from his pockets.  The man pocketed the coins and dropped the keys on the picnic blanket, then holstered his weapon.  Hartnell made a vague offer of help to the man in order to escape injury, to which the man responded, "No.  Time's running short."  The man then stated that he was an escaped convict from the Pacific Northwest, that he had killed a prison guard there, and that he had "a stolen car and nothing to lose. I'm flat broke."

Though the town mentioned by the killer is generally given as Deer Lodge, Montana, a reliable source reports that the state was not Montana but Colorado.  An early interview with Hartnell has the badly wounded student saying that he can't remember the exact name of the town, but that it "had some double name, like Fern Lock or something."  

His interviewer suggests "Lodge," and Hartnell agrees.  "Deer Lodge" was then suggested as a northwest city with a federal penitentiary, and the victim said, "That could be it, I guess".  Subsequent inquiries to the northwestern authorities revealed that there had been no such jailbreak or murder.  Hartnell, who survived the attack, said that the man's voice was unremarkable, sounding neither educated nor illiterate, and though Hartnell could not detect an accent, he said the killer did have a slight lilt or drawl to his voice.

Still hoping for a peaceful resolution, Hartnell tried to relax the man by talking to him, and they spoke for a few minutes about his car before the man removed some of the clothesline from his belt and ordered Shepard to hogtie her friend.  Hartnell balked at the idea, and the man began to shout, "Get down!  Right now!" 

Shepard acquiesced, and as she did so, she took out her wallet and tossed it to the man, who ignored it.  When she was finished, the hooded man tied her up and tightened the knots that she had used on Hartnell.  It was at this point that the young man noticed that his attacker's hands were shaking, and that he seemed very nervous.  "I'm going to have to stab you people," the stranger told them.

"I couldn't stand to see her stabbed," Hartnell responded.  "Stab me first".

"I'll do just that," the killer replied.


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