DNA tests could reveal identity of Zodiac killer

Fairfield Daily-Republic

Feb. 22, 2001
By Rowena Lugtu-Shaddox

VALLEJO - It's been more than 30 years since the Zodiac killer struck, brutally killing seven Bay Area residents including three teenagers from the Vallejo area. Now police hope medical experts can extract the killer's DNA or fingerprints from items left at various crime scenes in Solano County through technology that wasn't available in the late 1960s and early '70s. Such items were recently sent off to local crime labs, Vallejo police Lt. JoAnn West confirmed Wednesday. They hope to have results on the items, such as clothing, by spring.

Although the Zodiac killer's identity remains a mystery, a number of suspects surfaced over the years, including Arthur Lee Allen of Vallejo, who died in 1992. "There was never concrete evidence to link him to the crimes," West said. But lab test results could provide the missing link, West added. Investigators began re-examining the case two years ago after forming a task force of members from the Vallejo and San Francisco police and Solano and Napa counties' sheriffs' departments.

The Zodiac first struck shortly before midnight on a December day in 1968 along Lake Herman Road on the outskirts of Vallejo. The killer apparently tried to force David Faraday, 17, and Betty Lou Jensen, 16, out of Faraday's station wagon while they were on their first date. The Zodiac shot Jensen five times in the back as she tried to run. Faraday was shot once in the head as he exited the car.

The Zodiac targeted another couple in July 1969, again before midnight, in a secluded parking lot of Blue Rock Springs Park in Vallejo. Darlene Ferrin, 18, and Mike Mageau, 16, were also in a car when someone pulled up a few feet away, according to Mageau, who survived four gunshot wounds. A man with a flashlight got out from his car and approached them. Then without warning, the gunman began firing at them, hitting Ferrin five times.

Identifying Ferrin's killer would give closure to her family, said her mother-in-law, Mildred Ferrin, on Wednesday. "I'd be happy to have closure on this, but you're better off to forget," she said. "It's like pouring salt over the wound." Darlene Ferrin left behind a daughter who is now a mother herself, Mildred Ferrin said. Darlene Ferrin's husband, Dean Ferrin, remarried and had two children. The family remained local. "You can't let trouble push you around," Mildred Ferrin said. "You have to stay and be strong."

About 45 minutes after Ferrin and Mageau were shot, Vallejo police received a call from a man claiming responsibility for the attack, correctly identifying the caliber of the weapon used. He also took credit for the Faraday-Jensen murders. Later that month, taunting letters sent to Bay Area newspapers claimed to be from the killer and included details of the murders that only the suspect could know. The killer later referred to himself as the Zodiac in letters that he also sent to law enforcement officials. It marked the beginning of a letter-writing campaign that lasted five years.