Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Zebra Killers

Boy Next Door

            Next came 23-year-old Nelson T. Shields IV.

Nelson T. Shields, IV victim
Nelson T. Shields, IV victim

            The beautiful, boy-next-door Shields had dimples and a strong jaw. Named after his father, a wealthy Du Pont executive, he hailed from highbrow town of Greenville, Delaware.

            Shields had left Hobart College in Geneva, New York, after his sophomore year, and spent the winter working at a ski resort in Aspen before driving to San Francisco visit family friends.

             On April 16, 1974, he accompanied a friend to 231 Vernon Street in the

Ingleside district to buy a rug. It was 9:30 at night and the two young men had spent the afternoon playing lacrosse, then stopped at a pub for a couple of beers.

            As his friend went into the house, Shields made room in the back of the station wagon they'd borrowed for the rug.  As he bent over the car dressed in shorts and a gray sweatshirt, shots rang out.

            A woman later told the police she saw a black man rushing up Vernon Street, "zipping up his jacket as he went," according to the Chronicle. Police inspector Gus Coreris told reporters it was definitely a Zebra shooting from the .32 caliber cartridge casings left at the scene.

            Shields, described by friends as a charming and kindhearted young man who had a habit of taking in stray dogs, died some 3,000 miles away from home. His father, stung by grief, would go on to establish Handgun Control Inc.

            It was Shields' first trip to San Francisco.

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