Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Profile of the Zodiac Killer

Other Victims

Cheri Jo Bates
Cheri Jo Bates

The Zodiac was also linked by some with an earlier murder in Riverside, California. Cheri Jo Bates was an 18-year-old college freshman from Riverside Community College who lived with her father. On October 30, she went to the school library. During the time she was studying, a man who apparently had a grudge against her tampered with her car, removing the distributor coil and condenser. Then he waited for her to come out, whereupon he engaged her in conversation for a while before stabbing her to death. Cheri Jo's throat was cut in one quick motion, which sliced through her jugular and voice box. From three additional slashes, she had been nearly decapitated and was also stabbed twice in the chest and kicked in the head.

Days after this slaying, police received a typed anonymous confession, all in caps, from someone claiming he had done this in revenge for her rejection. Six months after the murder, the local Riverside Press Enterprise ran a story. The next day, the police, the paper, and Joseph Bates all received handwritten letters, ostensibly from the killer, saying, "BATES HAD TO DIE THERE WILL BE MORE Z"

A handwriting expert confirmed the link between the letter and the Zodiac confessions, as well as the handwriting found on a desktop in the RCC library: Someone scratched in a poem about killing and blood.

In addition, after the other murders, there was also a kidnapping. On the evening of Sunday, March 22, 1970, a pregnant Kathleen Johns left for a trip with her infant daughter. A driver blinked his lights and honked his horn. As the 1957 maroon and white Chevrolet station wagon pulled alongside, the driver yelled through his window, telling her that her rear tire was wobbling. She stopped and the thirtyish man offered to help by tightening the tire. Instead, he disabled her vehicle, then kidnapped Johns and her child and threatened to kill them.

She managed to escape and gave police a description. The man wore thick-rimmed glasses, black bell-bottom trousers and shined shoes, like Navy shoes. Yet as neat as he was, she said, the white Chevy's interior was a mess. His hair was brown, cut in a crew cut. He had a medium build, possibly weighing 155 to 165 pounds. His voice was monotone, without emotion or accent. When Mrs. Johns spotted a composite drawing of the suspect who allegedly had killed Paul Stine she screamed, "That's him!"

When the police returned her to her car, they found it moved to another road and completely burned from the inside. The man had put the wheel back on to move it.

Despite the fact that some officials doubt there was any connection, and Johns's "memory" of the man changed several times, in a Zodiac letter in July 1970, he described giving "an interesting ride" to a woman and her baby. He also mentioned burning the car, but it's possible that he'd read the newspaper account and wanted to add this incident to his portfolio of crimes.

There were several viable suspects at the time, and there are even several new ones today. Yet none has yet been a match to the fingerprint or DNA profile.

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