Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Profile of the Zodiac Killer


With the increased interest in the Zodiac killings from four decades ago, it's useful to draw up a profile using the information we now have from psychological analysis. The crime series involved multiple homicides; two assaults with intent to kill, possibly two counts of kidnapping with intent to kill, a cat-and-mouse game with authorities, and repeated terroristic threats over the course of several years. We'll examine the facts from the incidents and victimologies.

Map of California with Vallejo locator
Map of California with Vallejo locator

The first incident on December 20, 1968, near Vallejo, California, was the shooting of two high school kids out on a first date, David Faraday, 17, and Betty Lou Jensen, 16. When found, Faraday lay dying inside the car, while Betty Lou had gotten out and run away. She was shot five times from behind and killed.

David Arthur Faraday
David Arthur Faraday

A spent .22 shell casing lay on the right front floorboard, and nine expended .22 casings were found on the ground near Faraday's head. There were impressions of shoe prints in front of the car, going toward the passenger side. The Super X copper-coated bullets were from a .22-caliber J.C. Higgins 80 model or Hi Standard model 101.

Betty Lou Jensen
Betty Lou Jensen

From what we know, David Faraday was a scholar and varsity athlete, while Bette Lou was a hard-working student with a good reputation. She had told her parents that she and David were going to a Christmas carol concert, but they had decided instead to join other kids that night on Lake Herman Road. It's not clear why she lied or possibly changed her plans.

The next shooting of a couple in that area occurred on July 4 the following year, when Darlene Ferrin, 22, and Michael Mageau, 19, were both shot in their car. Mageau survived, although it seems likely he wasn't meant to.

Then at 12:40 A.M. the Vallejo Police Department received a call from a man speaking in a calm voice. As he reported the shooting, he provided the location and a description of the car. "They were shot with a 9-millimeter Luger," he stated, adding. "I also killed those kids last year." An investigation indicated that this call had originated from a public phone booth just outside the Vallejo Sheriff's office and within sight of Darlene's new residence. The weapon used appeared to be a Browning 1935 High Power. In addition, Darlene's husband, parents and brother all received a phone call around 1:30 that morning from someone who said nothing but breathed heavily.

Under questioning (when he was able to talk), Mageau changed his story several times, but indicated that he and Ferrin had been followed from the time she had picked him up. He recalled that the shooter had used a bright light to blind them, but Mageau had seen that he had short brown hair and appeared to be in his late twenties. At five-foot-eight, he looked to weigh a hefty 200 pounds.

In terms of possible links, Darlene, a gregarious and popular girl, had known Faraday and Jensen, and had been a student at Betty Lou's high school. Darlene lived with her second husband Dean and their little girl Dena, but flirted freely with other young men, like Mageau. She apparently had the attention of an older heavyset man who sent her gifts, but no one knew who he was or if he'd been in the area that night.

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