Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Zodiac Killer

Phone Calls

Despite the killer's subsequent claim that the attack was committed with a 9 mm Luger, this weapon was manufactured with an eight-round magazine, and the killer fired at least nine shots without reloading.  While a 32-round extended magazine for the Luger had been available for some time, Vallejo police believe the weapon was actually a 9 mm Browning High-Power, which carries thirteen rounds in its factory magazine, although the weapon could have been one of several 9-round 9 mm handguns available at the time.

Some of Ferrin's close friends reported that she may have been stalked in the months preceding her death, or at least the recipient of some unwanted visits. Author Robert Graysmith's account contends that she knew her killer. These views are not shared by most investigators, however, nor by Darlene's widower, Dean Ferrin, who was never interviewed for ZODIAC and in subsequent conversation has stated that he noticed no unusual behavior or anxiety on his wife's part in the months before her death.  

The alleged "stalker" in this case was likely a Vallejo man and would-be paramour who had been rebuffed several times by Darlene and who, by many accounts, did not take it in a gentlemanly fashion.  This particular individual was soon tracked down and interviewed by Vallejo detectives, who determined that he had been watching fireworks with his wife on the night of the Fourth, and had been at home in her company at the time of the murders.  

Stories that Ferrin and/or Mageau knew one or more of the other Zodiac victims are entirely unconfirmed, as are rumors that Mageau may have been hiding some knowledge of the killers identity or motive.  

His accounts of the night's events, to both the police and the press, uniformly describe an unknown man who walked silently up to the car and started shooting.  These and other details were maintained through all recorded interviews with Mageau, whether in horrible pain after the incident, under heavy medication at the hospital, or in the spotlight of morbid local celebrity.

The lone indication that Ferrin may have known her killer — or may have been known to him — was a pair of calls made to Darlene's home shortly after the murder.  When the calls were answered by Ferrin's friends at the house, there was no voice on the other end.   One source close to the family claims that the calls were made by Darlene's brother, Leo, who was waiting to hear from Darlene about an unrelated matter.

At 12:40, a pay phone call was made through the operator to Vallejo Police Headquarters. According to the police dispatcher, the caller's voice was mature and without accent, and he spoke evenly and consistently as if reading from a script.

At one point, the dispatcher tried to ask the caller's identity and location, but he would not be interrupted and said, "I want to report a double murder.  If you 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. Good bye" .

Robert Graysmith's ZODIAC contains an apocryphal scene in which the caller hangs up, but is surprised by a call-back device on the police switchboard that causes the pay phone to start ringing.  This allegedly caught the attention of a chance passerby who watched the caller take the receiver off the hook, leave the booth, and drive off in a brown car.

This man, described in a subsequent letter from the killer, was sought by both the police and local newspapers to no avail, indicating that Graysmith may simply have been elaborating on a bogus detail provided by the Zodiac to create confusion.  When the police were able to trace the call to a pay phone at Tuolumne Street and Springs Road, they found that the booth in question was just a few blocks away from the Vallejo Sheriff's Office.


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