Cheri-Jo Bates walked from her campus library into the darkness towards her car. The battery was flat.
A man appeared and offered to help her. He tinkered with the engine but having no luck he offered to take her home.
He led Cheri-Jo to an alleyway between two houses, where the pair spent at least half an hour, then he stabbed her in the chest and back, slashing her throat until her head was almost off.
Cherie-Jo was the Zodiac Killer’s first confirmed kill. She died on 30 October 1966 in Riverside, California.
A letter to the local press declared Cheri-Jo was not the first, nor would she be the last.
In the next 15 years, the Zodiac Killer committed six known murders and may have been responsible for 40 unsolved killings, 39 of which were women.
Next to die was 17 year old David Faraday and his 16 year old girlfriend.
A few days before Christmas in 1968 the lovers sat parked up in a rural lane outside Vallejo, North California, a gunman jumped out shooting Faraday in the head, his girlfriend managed to run 10 meters before five bullets hit her in the back.
Six months later another young couple was similarly shot in their car. The boy lived but his girlfriend died.
Forty minutes later Vallejo police received an anonymous call from a man telling officers of the killing and claiming responsibility for Faraday’s death the previous year.
Weeks later, the killer sent coded letters to the local press saying “I like killing people because it is so much fun.”
He claimed that his purpose was to collect slaves for the afterlife.
Unsolved killings and letters continued through the 70s, but the police were uncertain what crimes to attribute to the Zodiac.
On three occasions victims managed to evade their attacker and later identify the Zodiac Killer from sketches drawn up from witnesses statements.
The last letter definitely penned by the Zodiac was in 1978 when he warned residents of the Bay Area that “I am back with you”.
No traceable crimes were then committed though. The case remains open.