At around midnight on July 4, 1969, Darlene Ferrin and Michael Mageau drove into the Blue Rock Springs Park in Vallejo and parked. Like the Lake Herman Road turnout, the parking lot at Blue Rock Springs park was a well-known "lovers lane" area. While the couple sat in the car, a second car drove into the lot and parked behind them. The car drove off but returned a few minutes later. The driver exited the vehicle, and approached the passenger side door shooting both Ferrin and Mageau multiple times with a 9 mm semi-automatic pistol. The killer walked away from the car, but hearing Mageau's moaning, returned and shot each victim twice more before driving off. Ferrin died of her wounds but Mageau survived.
NOTE: Times below are estimated, based on a reasonable interpretation of various testimony
July 4, 1969 (friday) at 4 PM
Darlene Ferrin called Mike Mageau and the pair made plans to go to a movie in San Francisco later that night. Darlene told Mike that she would pick him up at home around 7:30 pm. https://www.zodiackiller.com/DFR8.html
Darlene hired a babysitter named Pamela (15 years-old). Pamela's friend Janet (14-years-old) went along to keep Pamela company. Darlene's father picked up the two girls at 7 pm, and drove them to Darlene's house at 1300 Virginia Street, bringing also Darlene's sister Christine. Darlene and Christine planned to go to the holiday festivities downtown, and Darlene told the babysitters that they would be back by 10 pm. She also said that they were planning to go to San Francisco after they got back. Darlene and Christine left the house at around 7:45 pm. https://www.zodiackiller.com/DFR21.html
Approximately 7:40 PM
At "approximately 8 pm" Darlene called Mike Mageau and told him that she "had to go with her sister, Christine, to the Miss Firecracker contest" and that she would call him as soon as she could. This call was most likely made from Darlene's house at around 7:40-7:45 if the babysitter's testimony (above) is accurate. https://www.zodiackiller.com/DFR8.html
~Approximately 10:30 PM
Darlene and her sister Christine were at Caesar's restaurant, where Darlene's husband Dean worked. Darlene left, saying that she was going to take Christine home, then go home herself and drive the babysitters home. Darlene again called Mike Mageau at around this time, and told him that she would be over shortly. https://www.zodiackiller.com/DFR8.html
~Around 11:20 PM
Darlene returned home "about 11:30 or shortly before that" and informed the babysitters that she had changed her mind about going to San Francisco, and that instead “they were going to have a party at 1300 Virginia Street after they closed Caesar's.” She cleaned up the house for a few minutes.
At approximately 11:30 PM, Bill Lee (Darlene's boss at Terry's?) called and asked Darlene to buy fireworks for the party. Darlene left the house at around 11:35 PM, and told the babysitters she would be back by 12:30 AM. https://www.zodiackiller.com/DFR19.html and https://www.zodiackiller.com/DFR21.html
"At approximately 11:30 or shortly thereafter" Darlene Ferrin picked up Mike Mageau at his house at 864 Beechwood Ave, Vallejo, a 5 minute drive from Darlene's house. (Mageau estimated the time to be "approximately 11:30 or shortly thereafter," but the actual time Darlene picked up Mageau was probably closer to 11:40 PM). They were both hungry and decided to get something to eat. But after briefly heading west down Springs Road, Darlene said she wanted to talk to him about something, so they turned the car around and headed to Blue Rock Springs Park. They turned around at "approximately the location of Mr. Ed's" at 1339 Springs Road—an 8 minute drive from Blue Springs Park. https://www.zodiackiller.com/DFR8.html
~11:40 PM (estimated)
Sometime around 11:40 PM, Vallejo PD officer Richard Hoffman checked the Blue Rock Springs parking lot and found the lot empty. The officer estimated that he had been in the parking lot "approximately 15 min prior" to receiving a call from police dispatch at 12:10 AM, suggesting that would have been in the parking lot at around 11:55 PM. This time estimate is likely inaccurate if we go by Mageau's testimony. The actual time that officer Hoffman checked the parking lot was probably at least 15 minutes earlier, at 11:40 PM or so. https://www.zodiackiller.com/DFR5.html
In the documentary "This is the Zodiac Speaking," Hoffman estimated he checked the parking lot "a half hour or so" before the call at 12:10 AM. This would be closer to 11:40 AM. "Now I had just been out to Blue Rock Springs a half hour or so before that." "This is the Zodiac Speaking" documentary
~11:45 PM (estimated)
At around 11:45 PM, Darlene and Mike arrived at Blue Rock Springs Park... "to have a lover's lane type thing, and kiss and talk, and hold each other's hands," as Mageau later said. After parking, Darlene turned off the headlights and the motor, but left the radio playing.
After being in the park for "a very short time, a few minutes," three cars pulled in.... some young kids laughing and carrying on lighting firecrackers. The three vehicles left "within a short time." "This was just a very short space of time, a few minutes," according to Mageau. https://www.zodiackiller.com/DFR8.html
~11:49 PM (estimated)
"Shortly after this," another car pulled into the lot, coming from the direction of Springs Road and Vallejo. The driver pulled to the left or east of their car and turned off the headlights and sat there for a minute. Michael asked Darlene if she knew who it was and she said, "Oh, never mind." Mageau could not see the car very well, or the color of the car, but said it was similar in shape to Darlene's Corvair. The car then drove off at a fast rate of speed back towards Vallejo to the south. https://www.zodiackiller.com/DFR8.html
~11:54 AM (estimated)
Approximately 5 minutes after driving away, the same car returned and parked about 10 feet behind and to the right of them. The driver exited the vehicle, approaching the passenger side door of Ferrin's car, carrying a flashlight and a 9 mm pistol. The killer shined the flashlight into Mageau's and Ferrin's eyes before shooting at them, firing five times. Both victims were hit, and several bullets had passed through Mageau and into Ferrin. The killer walked away from the car but upon hearing Mageau's moaning, returned and shot each victim twice more before driving off. https://www.zodiackiller.com/DFR8.html and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zodiac_Killer
NOTE: The actual time of the shooting, based on a reasonable interpretation of Mageau's testimony, and other factors, was probably close to 11:54 AM (see timeline notes below).
At "approximately midnight" gunshots were heard by a witness named George Bryant who lived 800 ft from the Blue Rock Springs parking lot. George then heard the car "take off at super speed and it burned rubber and was squealing its tires as it sped along the road." https://www.zodiackiller.com/DFR15.html
After the shooting the car drove off again towards Vallejo.
~12:02 AM (approx)
In what seemed to Mageau to be 8 or 10 minutes later, a car came by with three "hippy types" in it: Debra ___, 19, Roger ___ 17, and Jerry ___, 17. The teens later said that they "guess the time they were at the park as real close to midnite, possibly a little before midnite." Mageau told them, "I'm shot and the girl's shot. Get a doc." The teens drove off to call police from Jerry's house at 938 Castlewood Drive, Vallejo, which was a 6-7 minute drive from the park. https://www.zodiackiller.com/DFR9.html and https://www.zodiackiller.com/DFR25.html
At 12:10 AM, police dispatch operator Nancy Stover received a call from a female stating that 2 juveniles were being shot at Blue Rock Springs parking lot. Officers were then dispatched to the scene. https://www.zodiackiller.com/DFR4.html
As officers approached the scene of the crime, a Cadillac was seen driving south on Columbus Parkway. Officers pulled over the vehicle, which was driven by Andrew ___, age 19, who stated "Is this about that guy laying down back there?" Also in the car was Betty ____, 19. Both were placed under arrest and taken to VPD https://www.zodiackiller.com/DFR18.html
12:12 AM (approx)
"5 to 10 minutes later" after the "hippy-type" teens left Mageau, the police arrived in Blue Springs Park. https://www.zodiackiller.com/DFR10.html
Approximately 40 minutes after the shooting, the killer called Vallejo police and spoke with dispatcher Nancy Slover: "I want to report a double murder. If you will go 1 mile east to the public park on Columbus Parkway you will find the kids in a brown car. They were shot with a 9mm Luger. I also killed those kids last year. Goodbye."
By 12:47, a PT&T (Pacific Telephone and Telegraph Company) operator called Vallejo Police to report that the call had been traced to a payphone at Joe's Union, at the corner of Springs Road and Tuolumne Street. https://www.zodiackiller.com/DFR13.html
12:40 AM to 1 AM ? (estimated)
Some time after midnight, Dean arrived at home with his employer and employer's wife. Finding out that Darlene was not home, "Dean left to find her." SOURCE? This is in Graysmith's book.
According to Bill Lee and Dean Ferrin, two phone calls were received "after they arrived at 1300 Virginia Street", but the exact timing of these calls is a bit unclear. There was only heavy breathing on the line.
“Stated that after they arrived at 1300 Virginia Street and waiting for Darlene that there was two phone calls where there was no answer on the other end” -- Statement of Dean Ferrin and Bill Lee (Ferrin’s employer). No time given for these phone calls. http://www.zodiackiller.com/DFR19.html
"We were surprised when we all arrived at the house to find a babysitter. Darlene hadn't gotten home yet. It was midnight and we were a little worried. An hour or so later the phone rang but there was only breathing on the other end. Later we heard a knock on the door. It was two police officers informing us that Darlene had been shot, and someone calling himself the Zodiac had called the Vallejo Police Department informing them of the killings. We told the officers it was that same time that we had received the call at Darlene's house. Whoever it was would not respond to our questions. They just breathed into the phone. The officer warned us not to open the door for anyone while my husband and Dean went down to the station. They warned that the person calling himself the Zodiac may be watching the house. It was a warm night and all the windows were open. We locked the door and windows and pulled the blinds closed".
--- extract from a 2007 Vallejo Times-Herald interview with Carmela Piccolo-Coakley, who part owned Caesar's Italian Restaurant with her husband in 1969. She described arriving at 1300 Virginia Street on July 4th/5th 1969. https://www.timesheraldonline.com/2007/03/07/carmela-piccolo-coakley-vallejo/
NOTE: It seems impossible that the Vallejo PD would have mentioned "someone calling himself the Zodiac," as the killer did not mention his pseudonym in the call to Nancy Stover.
1:30 AM (?)
“About 1:30am Darlene’s husband and some friends came home…(...)... took the two girls home, this shortly before 2am...” Babysitter testimony----time discrepancy. See: https://www.zodiackiller.com/DFR21.html
1:30 AM (?)
"Mr Arthur J Ferrin and Mrs Mildred Ferrin 930 Monterey Street came to the station and reported that shortly after 01:30 AM (? - text garbled) on 07/05/69 their telephone rang and the party on the other end of the line said nothing but they could hear deep breathing and they were sure someone was there" (These are Dean Ferrin's parents?)
Dean Ferrin and Bill Lee go to VPD, and are informed that Darlene is deceased.
A Note on the timeline presented above:
The times given for the events above are estimated based on witness testimony. We should generally assume that time estimates are inaccurate. However, in certain cases, we might infer that a time estimate is more precise, if it is known that a person had a reason to note the time that a certain event took place. The most accurate time here is perhaps the call received by police dispatcher Nancy Stover at 12:10 AM, because she presumably logged the time of the call as a matter of procedure. For this reason, the estimated times of the crucial events both before and after the shooting are derived by calculating the duration of events prior to the 12:10 AM call. For example, the timeline must allow for Mageau's estimate of "8 or 10 minutes" between the shooting and the time when the three hippy teens arrived, and another 6-7 minutes for the three teens to drive home to make 12:10 call to Nancy Stover.
We should also allow for some time between when the 3 hippy teens arrived at the park, and when they left. They must have stopped for at least a couple minutes to figure out what was going on, before speeding off to call the police. We must take into consideration that Mike Mageau was not in any condition to be aware of what was going on—he was bleeding and probably only semi-conscious after having just been shot—and minutes may have "seemed like hours" to him. His estimate of 8-10 minutes after the shooting before the 3 hippy teens arrived may have been an overestimation. Perhaps only 5 minutes passed. This gives a range of around 12 minutes (minimum) to about 20 minutes (maximum) total between the murder, and the call.
But adding everything up, sticking as closely as possible to the testimony, and assuming Stover's time estimate was accurate (which we do not know), it seems that the shooting took place approximately 16-17 minutes before 12:10 PM— i.e. around 11:54 PM. If Mageau's "8 or 10 minutes" was an overestimation, then the murder might have been a few minutes later, closer to midnight.
These estimates are earlier than Richard Grinnell's estimate of between 12:02 and 12:04 AM. As Grinnell (of zodiacciphers.com) states: " We have estimated the shooting at 12:02 am. So Jerry, Debbie and Roger likely arrived at 12:03 am to 12:04 am, immediately after the shooting." (See: https://www.zodiacciphers.com/blue-rock-springs-attack.html) However, this leaves only 1-2 minutes to account for Mageau's estimate that 8-10 minutes passed between the shooting and the time the three "hippy types" arrived at the park. If we go by what Mageau said, the time of the shooting must have been several minutes earlier than Grinnell's estimation. Grinnell seems to have worked forward (rather than backwards as I did), starting from the assumption that the couple arrived in the park at precisely 11:53. As Grinnell states, "at the earliest Darlene Ferrin arrived at Michael Mageau's residence is 11:45 pm. This is likely the exact time..." This makes little sense to me.
Tom Voigt's website zodiackiller.com gives the time of attack as "approximately 12:10 am" which, to me, seems off by about 15 minutes.
One possibility is that Zodiac intentionally timed the murder to occur precisely at midnight.
At the time of the murder Darlene was married to Dean Ferrin, but dating Mike Mageau (see below). Darlene and Dean lived at 1300 Virginia Street, Vallejo. Darlene's sister, Linda Del Buono, lived at 449 Cedar Street. Darlene's parents were Mr. and Mrs. Leo Suennen of 130 Jordan St, Vallejo. Dean worked at Caesar's Italian Restaurant which was owned by (???) and his wife Carmela Piccolo-Coakley
One of Darlene's babysitters said that she covered up for "Darlene's running around with other men while she was married to Dean. One of the men mentioned was the surviving victim in the Vallejo homicide Michael Mageau." - https://www.zodiackiller.com/Walker4.html
The suspect's car was listed in the police report as a Corvair or Mustang, medium light brown in color. https://www.zodiackiller.com/DFR1.html
In his call to police dispatcher Nancy Slover, Zodiac claimed that he shot the couple with a 9mm Luger, but this claim is the only real evidence that the weapon was a Luger.
Mike Mageau described the suspect as a white male "older than me." He also described the man as young and heavyset, "short, possibly 5' 8", real heavy set, beefy build... not blubbery fat, but real beefy, possibly 195 to 200, or maybe even larger. ...short curly hair, almost light blond." Approximately 26-to-30-year-old. He also said that "it was dark out and hard to see the subject." He said the car was brown. https://www.zodiackiller.com/DFR6.html also https://www.zodiackiller.com/DFR7.html and https://www.zodiackiller.com/DFR10.html
Among Darlene’s closest friends, according to Darlene's sister Linda Doris Del Buono, was a man described as: “Lee who used to bring Darlene presents from Tia Juana” --- statement of Linda Doris Del Buono, on the morning after the murder. https://www.zodiackiller.com/DFR14.html
The two babysitters the night of the murder were Pamela Kay ___, 15, who was doing the actual babysitting, and her friend Janet Lynn ___, 14, who was keeping Pamela company. https://www.zodiackiller.com/DFR21.html
Another babysitter of Darlene's named Karen___, 17 years-old, was contacted by Vallejo PD in June 1977. When babysitting in Feb or March 1969 at Dean and Darlene's previous address of 560 Wallace Ave, at approx 10 PM, she noticed middle-aged man sitting in white american-made sedan, watching the apt. He was there for several hours, but left before Dean returned home from work at midnight. The following day, she told Darlene of this. Darlene asked her what the car and the man looked like, and after relating a description to her, Dee said something to the effect, ‘I guess he’s checking up on me again. I heard he was back from out of state.’ Followed by, ‘He doesn’t want anyone to know what I (meaning Darlene) saw him do. I saw him murder someone.” Karen stated that sometime during this conversation Darlene mentioned the man’s name, and that the first name was very short, three or four letters, and that the second name was just slightly longer. The name was quite common. Karen stated that Dee appeared to be genuinely frightened of this individual and mentioned sometime that he had been checking up on her at Terry’s Restaurant where Darlene was employed. https://www.zodiackiller.com/Walker4.html
Under hypnosis, Karen described the man as “heavy-set, middle-aged white male adult, very round face, curly, wavy dark brown hair. The vehicle was a white sedan with a large windshield.”
In his book Zodiac, Robert Graysmith claimed that Darlene spoke to an older man in a white car at Terry's Waffle Shop at around 10:30 PM on the night of the murder. (Graysmith gives no SOURCE for this)
The supposed "Painting Party", May 1969 at 1300 Virginia Street:
There has been much speculation and debate about a supposed "painting party" that may or may not have taken place at Darlene Ferrin's house prior to the murder.
Police interviewed Darlene’s sisters, Pam and Linda. Both sisters recalled a “painting party” held at Darlene’s home several months before her murder, and a mysterious, well-dressed man who attended and scared Darlene. SOURCE?
Karen, the babysitter, said she was there taking care of Darlene’s daughter, and that “three unidentified white males arrived, and that she soon left the residence, due to the fact she was uncomfortable with these strange individuals.” Vallejo PD report 1977 https://www.zodiackiller.com/Walker7.html
…. later versions of the painting party story would focus on the individual allegedly seen by Steve Baldino and Darlene’s sisters Pam and Linda — a sinister, well-dressed yet older man. … (...) … Linda (Darlene’s sister) told investigators that the menacing stranger had been following and bothering Darlene and brought her gifts he purchased in Mexico. In 1969, Linda had mentioned a man who brought Darlene presents from "Tia Juana", and said that the man was named “Lee” and further described him as one of Darlene’s “three closest friends,” and not a menacing stranger. https://zodiackillerfacts.com/myths-legends/darlene-ferrin-myths-the-beginning/darlene-ferrin-myths-the-painting-party-the-stalker-andrew-todd-walker/ (SOURCE??)
Pam would later claim that she had seen this mysterious man on at least eight occasions, and that Darlene warned her to stay away from him because he was a murderer. Like Linda, Pam failed to mention this potentially important information during her many interviews with police, and her selective silence and sensational stories cast doubt on her credibility. Vallejo police detective George Bawart had come to know Pam after investigating claims that she was the victim of harassment by an anonymous and threatening stalker. Bawart once told a television producer that Pam was “nutso.” Darlene’s husband Dean Ferrin told the same producer that Pam and Linda were prone to prevarication. Pam had claimed that Darlene’s cousin Sue Ayers had visited surviving victim Michael Mageau as he recovered in the hospital. According to Pam, Mike told Sue that he and Darlene had seen chased to the crime scene and the gunman had uttered Darlene’s nickname, “Dee,” just before the shooting started. https://zodiackillerfacts.com/myths-legends/darlene-ferrin-myths-the-beginning/darlene-ferrin-myths-the-painting-party-the-stalker-andrew-todd-walker/
NO SOURCE GIVEN
Mike Mageau later claimed that he and Darlene were chased around town by another car prior to the shooting. He did not tell this to police at the time. https://youtu.be/HI0jnsbZwys?t=1395
Graymith claimed that Darlene and Mike were trailed by a "light-colored car that had been parked in the shadows of the tree-lined street." NO SOURCE GIVEN
Darlene worked at Terry’s Waffle Shop on Magazine Street and Highway 40 at the time of her murder.
Darlene had previously worked at IHOP (International House of Pancakes) at 1400 Tennessee St from 1966-7 (SOURCE?). In a December 2000 interview, Don Cheney told Tom Voigt that Arthur Leigh Allen had been interested in a waitress that worked at the "pancake house" around the corner from Leigh's house. https://zodiackiller.com/Cheney.html
Two partial prints were lifted from the passenger door handle of Ferrin's car. https://www.zodiackiller.com/DFR20.html
Mageau described the suspect as a white male, short, possibly 5’8”, was real heavy set, beefy build... not blubbery fat, but real beefy, possibly 195 to 200 [lbs] or maybe even larger... short curly hair, light brown almost blond... with a large face. https://www.zodiackiller.com/DFR10.html