This is the Zodiac Speaking

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from Reporter’s Note Book by Duffy Jennings.


Return address: a circle with a cross inside.

On Saturday night, October 11, a man hailed a Yellow Cab at Geary and Mason Streets and told the driver, Paul Stine, to take him to Presidio Heights. When the taxi stopped at the intersection of Washington and Cherry Streets, the passenger shot Stine once in the head, killing him instantly.

Three teenagers in the upstairs bedroom of a house overlooking the intersection saw the gunman rummaging through the car and the driver’s pockets before he took off on foot down the street toward the nearby heavily wooded Presidio Army Base. Police converged on the area, including SFPD homicide detectives Dave Toschi and Bill Armstrong, who were on call, but the killer eluded police. Based on the witnesses’ description of the gunman’s movements inside the cab and around Stine’s clothing, the case was initially treated as a robbery. Until the morning mail arrived at the Chronicle the following Tuesday.

It was the copyboys’ regular duty to sort the daily bins of Chronicle mail into a cabinet of mail slots for departments and individual staff members. Mail addressed to “Letters to the Editor,” “Editor,” and similar general terms were put in the editorial writers’ box and handled by letters editor Carol Fisher.

One letter in a plain white envelope was addressed in blue felt-tip pen to “S.F. Chronicle, San Fran, Calif. Please Rush to Editor.” The return address was a circle with a cross inside. When Fisher opened the envelope and removed the folded letter inside, a small rectangle of striped cloth stained with blood dropped out onto her desk. Startled, she carefully opened the letter.

“This is the Zodiac speaking,” it began. “I am the murderer of the taxi driver over by Washington St. & Maple St. last night, to prove this here is a blood-stained piece of his shirt…”


© 2019 by Duffy Jennings. All Rights Reserved.

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When Fisher opened the envelope and removed the folded letter inside, a small rectangle of striped cloth stained with blood dropped out onto her desk.

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