Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Zodiac Killer

The Suspect

Foukes made a statement about his recollection of the incident, recorded in an SFPD memo dated November 12,1969: "The suspect that was observed by Officer Foukes was a WMA 35-45 Yrs about 5' 10", 180-200 lbs.  Medium heavy build -- Barrel chested -- Medium complexion -- Light-colored hair possibly greying in rear (May have been lighting that caused this effect.)  (Navy or royal blue) Elastic cuffs and waistband zipped part way up.  Brown wool pants pleated type baggy in rear (Rust brown).  May have been wearing low cut shoes.

"Subject at no time appeared to be in a hurry walking with a shuffling lope, Slightly bent foreward head now.  The subject's general appearance to classify him as a group would be that he might be of Welsh ancestry."

During shooting for a documentary on the case in the mid 1980s, Foukes stated that "The individual I saw that night was a white male adult approximately 35 to 45 years of age, 5 feet 10 inches, 180 to 210 lbs.  Since we were looking for a negro male adult, we proceeded on Jackson Street toward Arguello, continuing our search.  As we arrived at Arguello Street, the description was changed to a white male adult.  

Believing that this suspect was possibly the one involved in the shooting, we entered the Presidio of San Francisco and conducted a search on West Pacific Avenue on the opposite side of the wall in the last direction we observed the suspect going.  We did not find the suspect."

Mel Nicolai, a former Special Agent for the California Department of Justice who worked on all but the Lake Herman Road Zodiac murders, is quoted as saying that Foukes' and Zelms' first broadcast description of the man they saw was even taller, between 6' and 6'2", and over 200 lbs.

An apocryphal passage in Robert Graysmith's book Zodiac has the officers going so far as to stop the man and ask him if he had seen anything strange in the past few minutes, but this conversation is not noted in any of the subsequent police reports.  In no known interview does either Foukes or Zelms mention any exchange of words with the unidentified subject, and the story may have been based only on a forthcoming letter from the killer.  

While dramatic, the Zodiac's account of the night's events cannot be confirmed, and may well be a prevarication.  On the other hand, such an encounter and its repercussions would be a tremendous embarrassment to the SFPD on several levels, and if this incident did in fact occur then a concerted effort would certainly have been made to keep it under wraps.

The bullet that killed Stine was mistyped at the scene as a .38, but later ballistics tests determined it to be a 9 mm.  It was not, however, the same 9 mm used for the Blue Rock Springs attack.  

The latent impressions of thirty fingers, three palms, and one lower finger or palm were found in and on the cab.  Found on the passenger's side front door handle, the finger/palm print was relatively clear and crime lab technicians believed it was left by the killer, though the possibility exists that one of the police, firemen, or lab technicians at the scene could inadvertently have left it.  

Certain other prints, none of such clarity, were actually left in blood, and "are also believed to be prints of the suspect," according to a San Francisco Police memo. 4  In any event, none of these prints have yet matched any of the millions filed in the National Crime Identification Computer database maintained by the FBI.  Also recovered from the cab was a pair of men's leather gloves in a size 7 (XXL), though it remains uncertain whether they were left by the killer.


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