|The Lake Herman Tragedy
35 years later, victim's best friend speaks publicly for the first time.
Dec. 20, 2003
By Tom Voigt
PORTLAND, Ore. -- On this day 35 years ago, someone murdered a young couple parked in a secluded area just outside of Vallejo, Calif. The victims were Betty Lou Jensen and David Faraday, local teenagers with spotless reputations. Jensen was shot five times in the back; Faraday was shot once in the head. The crimes appeared motiveless.
Betty Lou's best friend at that time was a classmate named Sharon. Fear had kept Sharon silent all of these years, but no longer is she afraid to speak about the tragedy and the events leading to it.
"She met David at a party," Sharon told me. "That night she was killed wasn't really their first date; they had been seeing each other in secret for a couple months. Betty Lou's older sister, Melody, had gotten pregnant, married and divorced at a young age, so Betty Lou wasn't supposed to date at all. But she'd use me as an excuse to get out of the house, then she'd get to see David that way."
Betty Lou was a junior at Hogan High, David a senior at Vallejo High.
"David would pick her up at school at lunch time. He had a car and would drive over. He gave us rides home from school, too, every day after."
Friday, Dec. 20 was the last day of school before Christmas break. It was also to be their first "official" date, as Betty Lou's parents had finally given their consent for her to see David.
"David called me and told me that he was going to ask her to go steady with him. Then he asked me if I thought she would accept. Of course I said yes; she liked him an awful lot. He was going to give her a ring. He asked me where they could go to be alone. Everybody used to park at St. Catherine's Hill and get run off by the police. He didn't want to go there and asked me where else they could go to be alone. I told him to go to Blue Rock Springs. That's something I never told the cops. I just assumed that's where they were going to go."
Instead, the pair ended up on Lake Herman Road, a very secluded area quite familiar to local teens.
"When we had driver's ed, that's one of the roads the teachers used to take us on because there wasn't much traffic."
The night of their date, Betty Lou and David went over to Sharon's house. They discussed going to San Francisco as a group, but Sharon's boyfriend was late in arriving. After a long wait, David and Betty Lou decided to leave by themselves.
"I walked them out to their car and said goodbye. Betty Lou and I made plans to take the bus to downtown Vallejo and go shopping the next day. About 7:30 the next morning, my girlfriend called and said she heard on the radio that Betty Lou had been shot. That's how I found out."
The detectives investigating the case, Les Lundblad and Russ Butterbach, quickly contacted Sharon.
"Lundblad and Butterbach had their own ideas about what happened and they would never even think about any other possibilities. At first they were nice and concerned. They found out Betty Lou and I shared a locker, so they wanted me to go to the school and look through her things. It was a Saturday, but they got someone to open the school."
Early the next week, the detectives asked Sharon to come to the sheriff's department alone.
"My friends Diane and Brenda came along. They took us in one at a time. Lundblad and Butterbach were in there and they showed me her purse and things from her purse and were asking me about names from her address book. There were two rifles in the corner and they told me they were like the rifle that killed her. There were five bullets sort of glued on a card and they told me that those were the bullets that came out of her.
"I was sitting across the desk from Lundblad. Butterbach turned my chair to face him and he pushed his chair up to mine so my knees were touching his and he was leaning over yelling about how this was a killing about drugs and they went to a drug party out there on Lake Herman Road. I kept telling them no, Betty Lou didn't do drugs and neither did David. But they could never get past that; they were sure it was drug-related.
"They had me looking at mug shots and cars from a book because they had some idea about a white car or something. They wanted me and my friends to tell them who did drugs in the school and who sold drugs in the school. And if we didn't, they would tell my parents that I did drugs. They had us all scared to death. After we went back to school, they kept calling me and threatening to tell my parents we were doing drugs. The cops followed us. They would follow us at school. They would be on the school grounds and followed us for a week or so whenever we went to the store or someplace else."
Eventually the focus of the investigation shifted away from Sharon and her friends.
"At one time police thought the killer was some guy who used to like Betty Lou. His name was Richard. He was a guy the same age and lived a block over from Betty Lou. She never liked him. When the cops found that out they went after him full force. They said he did it, that it was jealousy. He came over to my house one day and just cried to my mother. He was so scared about what the police were doing to him and they didn't give up on that until the Zodiac connection came out."
While the rest of the Jensen family was deeply impacted by Betty Lou's death, her mother, Virginia, was particularly devastated.
"I went to see her mother one time and her mother talked about Betty Lou like she was still alive. I couldn't deal with that because I was only 16. She'd talk as if Betty Lou were in her room, talked of her in the present tense. I never went to see her again. Melody called me once when the mother was gone and told me she was cleaning out Betty Lou's room and I could come over and keep whatever I wanted. That was the last time I went over."
Special thanks to John Henslin.
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