Paul Avery and the Riverside Connection

After a few months' silence, October brought two more cards from the Zodiac. One, a postcard with a collage on its face and 13 holes punched through it, was postmarked on October 5, 1970. In words and letters cut from magazines and newspapers it was addressed simply to "San Francisco Chronicle, S.F." and read:

Dear Editor,
You'll hate me, but I've got to tell you.
The pace isn't any slower! In fact it's just one big thirteenth
"Some of them fought it was horrible"
P.S. There are reports city police pig cops are closeing in on me. Fk I'm crackproof, What is the price tag now?


[See Illustration]

Though originally dismissed as a hoax, certain phrases from this card are repeated in later confirmed Zodiac letters, particularly the word "crackproof," which would appear in a letter to the Los Angeles Times five months later.  The juxtaposition of the letters "FK" also repeat in the Zodiac literature, frequently in the two long ciphers and in the hieroglyph that closes the "Exorcist" letter of 1974. Literary analysis notwithstanding, the card was soon judged to be genuine because it announced a body count of 13 -- the number given in the Zodiac's last letter, which had not been made public.

The other mailing, sent October 27, was a customized Halloween greeting card, and it was addressed personally to Paul Avery at the Chronicle, though his name was misspelled on the envelope as "Averly." Inside the envelope, written twice in the shape of an X, was the comment "Sorry no cipher." In addition to signing the card with a "Z" and the customary crossed-circle, the Zodiac drew an unusual symbol (also used as a return address on the envelope), 13 eyes, and the message "Peek-a-boo, you are doomed." Kathleen Johns, the woman abducted on Highway 132, stated in an interview that she had received a similar card, ostensibly from the Zodiac, at about the same time: she claims to have forwarded the card to Avery, but no mention of a second card has ever been reported [Footnote 1].  Johns attributes the card to a crank, since her name and address appeared in the newspaper shortly after her abduction, but the timing of the card and description that she gave of it suggest the strong possibility that it was genuine and somehow lost in the case's sea of details.

The card to Avery was widely considered a threat on his life, and the Chronicle ran a front page story about it on October 31. Among the mail that this generated was an a letter from Riverside resident Phil Sins, urging Avery to investigate a link with the still-unsolved Bates murder. Graysmith transcribes it in ZODIAC:

Please forward the contents of this letter to the detective in charge of "The Zodiac Murder Case." I hope this information will also help you, as we would both like to see this case solved. As for myself, I wish to remain anonymous and I know that you will understand why!

A few years ago in Riverside, California, a young girl was murdered, just about, I believe, on "Halloween" evening! I could write a much longer letter, citing the similarities between Zodiac's case and this murder, which occurred in Riverside but if the police department cannot see said comparative similarities between these two cases, then I will take a "slow boat to China," even if these two crimes were committed by two different people! I think, after all the facts are studied, regarding both of these cases, if police have not already investigated these possibilities and are not already aware of the "Riverside case," then, even so perhaps they should look into it....

Letters to newspapers, "similar erratic printing" find out about these two different cases ....Give Captain Cross a call on the phone, he knows that "I do not quit."

Mr. Avery, I will give you a call in the near future, please look into the case, the Riverside police have a wealth of information, so does San Francisco, let us hope that they are not too proud to work together, and if they already are, let us hope that there has been an exchange of information....

After locating a year-old letter from the Riverside Chief of Police to a Napa County detective that had similarly linked the Bates murder with the Zodiac, Avery visited the Riverside police and reviewed their evidence.  Intrigued by the letters sent to the police and press, not to mention what appeared to be a "Z" used as a signature in some, he instigated a meeting between their detectives and detectives from Solano, Napa, and San Francisco counties, who compared notes on the Bates murder and each of the known Zodiac attacks up to that point.  Authorities from Northern California, particularly SFPD Inspector Bill Armstrong, felt that there was a link between the Bates murder and the Zodiac crimes, and that they were most likely committed by the same man. State handwriting analyst Sherwood Morrill checked the writing on the desk and envelopes against the killer's letters to the Chronicle and found that they were "unquestionably the work of Zodiac" [Footnote 2].  Riverside police, particularly Capt. Irvin Cross, were less certain and "reaffirmed [their] skepticism" [Footnote 3].  The Riverside story broke on November 16, 1970, when Avery's article was printed in the Chronicle.

The official position of the Riverside Police Department and many independent investigators as of 1998 is that Cheri Jo Bates was not a Zodiac victim.  RPD maintains a local man as their suspect, and considers the Zodiac murders entirely unrelated, though they do concede the possibility that the Bay Area killer authored one or more of the letters sent in southern California.

* * *

The next letter came after an uncharacteristically long five-month silence. Posted on March 22, 1971, with two upside-down 6-cent stamps, it was the only letter the Zodiac ever sent to the Los Angeles Times, and it was the first to be sent from outside San Francisco: it had been postmarked in Pleasanton, 15 miles east of the Bay.

This is the Zodiac speaking
Like I have allways said, I am crack proof. If the Blue Meannies are evere going to catch me, they had best get off their fat asses + do something. Because the longer they fiddle + fart around, the more slaves I will collect for my after life. I do have to give them credit for stumbling across my riverside activity, but they are only finding the easy ones, there are a hell of a lot more down there. The reason I'm writing to the Times is this, They don't bury me on the back pages like some of the others.

In an interview with researcher Mike Butterfield, an RPD detective stated that there is a suspicion within his department that the author of the anonymous 1970 letter to Paul Avery linking the Zodiac to Riverside might also have counterfeited this letter [Footnote 4].  Adding to this apparent mystery is the fact that another source has reported that SFPD Inspector David Toschi was also under suspicion for writing this letter [Footnote 5].  There are no available facts to bolster either hypothesis.

A week later, the Zodiac sent another postcard, though an agent of the US Postal Service recognized and intercepted it before it was delivered.  The intended recipient was unclear: it was marked to Paul Avery's attention (again misspelled as "Averly"), but the address side bore no specific address -- just the names "The Times," "S.F. Examiner," and "San Francisco Chronicle" clipped from the respective newspapers.  A hole was punched through the upper left corner in lieu of a return address, above which the author had written the word "Zodiac."  Around the hole itself were four lines drawn in a fashion similar to the crossed-circle design used by the killer.  The entire perimeter of the card had been notched by a hole-punch.  The front of the card was decorated with a sketch of a condominium complex that had been under development at Incline Village, NV, near Lake Tahoe, by Boise/Interlake between 1967 and 1970. The same picture had appeared in the Chronicle three days earlier in an advertisement for the complex, known as Forest Pines.  

While the handwriting on this postcard is similar to that on confirmed Zodiac letters, it is not unmistakably the same, and the possibility exists that it is a forgery.  The use of the hole-punch and the misspelling of Paul Avery's name, however, are both traits of confirmed Zodiac cards and letters.

If this card was indeed genuine, it marked the last communication from the Zodiac for almost three years.

Next: 1974

See Also: Riverside
See Also: Riverside and the Zodiac

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