Lake Berryessa

Victims: Cecelia Shepard and Bryan Hartnell (survived) 

Date of attack: September 27, 1969 

Time of attack: Approx. 6:30 PM. 

Location: Lake Berryessa, Napa, CA (Google map)

Investigated by: Napa County Sheriff's Department


At around 6:30 PM on September 27, 1969, college students Cecelia Shepard and Brian Hartnell were sunbathing and picnicking at Lake Berryessa in Napa county California. They were approached by a man wearing a black executioner style hood and carrying a gun. The man tied the pair up, then stabbed them both repeatedly in the back, before leaving. Cecelia Shepard later died from her wounds, but Brian Hartnell survived the attack


3:30 PM

At around 3:30 PM on September 27, 1969, three college girls parked their car in a lot about 2 miles north of the A&W Root beer stand on Knoxville Road at Lake Berryessa. As they left their car they noticed a light blue Chevy pull into the parking area, drive past their vehicle, then back up so their rear bumpers were nearly touching. The girls did not observe the driver leave the vehicle. The girls then walked to the beach at the Lake and were sunbathing in their bikinis. About a half hour later, they witnessed the same man standing at the edge of some trees, observing them from a distance of about 50 feet. The man was staring at them, but when they looked up at him, he would look away. Sometime later, the man came down to the beach and passed within 20 feet of the girls. The suspect hung around the area for about 45 minutes, then left walking back up the hill. The girls left the area around 4:30 PM. 

The A&W root beer stand mentioned above was at 5100 Knoxville Rd. (Map) NOTE: It is unclear to me exactly where the girls were parked, and where the suspect was seen. They may have parked at the North Smittle Creek Trailhead parking lot, which is 2.6 miles north of the A&W root beer stand location (Map).

6:30 PM 

At around 6:30 PM, Dr. Clifton Rayfield and his 16-year-old son David parked their car north of Park Headquarters "in the general area of the crime scene." They walked down towards the beach where they saw a man walking in the area. They also noticed a man with two young boys in the area shooting BB guns. The location was described as being "approximately 8/10 of a mile from the scene of the victim's vehicle." The R/Os who interviewed Dr. Rayfield and his son thought it was unlikely that the male suspect could have walked from this area to the crime scene on foot, as there were 4 coves of water between the scene of the crime, and the place where the subject was seen. NOTE: It is unclear to me exactly where Rayfield was parked, and where the suspect was seen. 

6:30 PM

Approximate time of attack.

Union Pacific College students Bryan Hartnell and Cecelia Shepard were picnicking at Lake Berryessa on a small island connected by a sand spit to Twin Oak Ridge. A white man, about 5 feet 11 inches, weighing more than 170 pounds, approached them wearing a black executioner's-type hood with clip-on sunglasses over the eye-holes and a bib-like device on his chest that had a white three-by-three-inch cross-circle symbol on it. He approached them with a gun, which Hartnell believed to be a .45. The hooded man claimed to be an escaped convict from a jail with a two-word name, in either Colorado or Montana (a police officer later inferred that the man had been referring to a jail in Deer Lodge, Montana), where he had killed a guard and subsequently stolen a car, explaining that he now needed their car and money to travel to Mexico because the vehicle that he had been driving was "too hot".

The killer had brought precut lengths of plastic clothesline and told Shepard to tie up Hartnell before he tied her up. The killer checked, and tightened Hartnell's bonds after discovering that Shepard had bound Hartnell's hands loosely. Hartnell initially believed this event to be a bizarre robbery, but the man drew a knife and stabbed them both repeatedly, Hartnell suffering six and Shepard ten wounds in the process. The killer then hiked 500 yards back up to Knoxville Road, drew the cross-circle symbol on Hartnell's car door with a black felt-tip pen, and wrote beneath it: "Vallejo/12-20-68/7-4-69/Sept 27–69–6:30/by knife". 

Dialogue between Bryan Hartnell and Zodiac


C: What do you want?

A: Now take it easyall I want’s your money. There is nothing to worry aboutall I want is your money.

B: O.K.whatever you say, I want you to know that I will cooperate so you don’t have to worry – whatever you say we’ll do. Do you want us to come up with our hands up or down?

A: Just don’t make any fast moves – come up slowly.

B: But we don’t have any moneyall I have is 75¢.

A: That doesn’t matterevery little bit helps ( pause ) – I’m on my way to Mexico – I escaped from Deer Lodge Prison in Montana, Deer Lodge. I need some money to get there.

B: You’re welcome to the money I have, but isn’t there something else I can do for you? Give you a check or get some more?

A: No.

B: I can give you my phone number and you can call me.

A: (no reply)

B: I want to get in contact with you. I am a sociology major and maybe I can even offer you more help than you think you need.

A: No.

B: Well, is there any other thing you need?

A: Yes. One more thing – I want your car keys. My car is hot.

B: (Reaching into pockets, then patting first front then back pockets) I guess in all the excitement I don’t remember where I put them. Let’s see. Are they in my shirt, in the ignition, on the blanket… Say! Would you answer a question for me? I’ve always wondered. On T.V. movies and in an article in the Readers Digest they say that thieves really keep their guns loaded?

A: (excited slightly) Yes, it is! (then calm and matter-of-fact) I killed a couple of men before.

B: What? I didn’t hear you…

A: I killed a couple of guards getting out of prison. And I’m not afraid to kill again.

C: Bryan – do what he says!

A: Now I want the girl to tie you up.

C: (reaches for rope that he pulls from back pocket)

B: This is really strange. I wonder why someone hasn’t thought of this before. I’ll bet there’s good money in it.

A: (no reply)

B: What was the name of that prison?

A: (no reply)

B: No really, what did you say the name of it was? I’m just curious.

A: (begrudgingly) Deer Lodge in Montana.

(There must have been some dialogue at this point but I can’t remember any until we are both tied up.)

A: Now I want you both to lay face down so I can tie up your feet.

B: Come on – we could be out here for a long time and it could get cold at night.

A: Come on– get down!

B: Listen, I didn’t complain when you tied our hands, but this is ridiculous…

A: I told you…

B: We aren’t going anywhere – Anyway, I don’t think that it’s necessary (or – Aw, come on – we don’t want to. )

A: (pointing gun directly at me at point blank range) I told you to get down!

B: Your hands are shaking? Are you nervous?

A: Yes, I guess so. (laughed in a very relaxed manner)

B: Well, I suppose that I’d be nervous, too.

(Then after we were tied and hog-tied)

B: Now that everything is all said and done, could you show me that your gun is loaded? (Or, and probably this: “Now that all is said and done, was that gun really loaded?”)

A: Yes, it was! ( or ) Sure, I’ll show you. (He then opened cartridge or whatever)

(That was the last thing I remember him saying.)



After they were tied up the assailant said "I'm going to have to stab you." Hartnell said "Stab me first. I can't stand to see her stabbed first." The assailant stabbed Hartnell first, then stabbed Shepard. 


After hearing the victims' screams for help, a man and his son who were fishing in a nearby cove discovered the victims and summoned help by contacting park rangers. 


Napa County Sheriff's deputies Dave Collins and Ray Land were the first law enforcement officers to arrive at the crime scene. Shepard was conscious when Collins arrived, providing him with a detailed description of the attacker. Hartnell and Shepard were taken to Queen of the Valley Hospital in Napa by ambulance. Shepard lapsed into a coma during transport and never regained consciousness. She died two days later, but Hartnell survived to recount his tale to the press. --- 

7:40 PM

Zodiac calls NAPA PD (Officer David Slaight) from a payphone at the corner of Main St. and Clinton St., Napa to confess to the crime.  (This is a 46 min drive south from Lake Berryessa, on the way to Vallejo.) The phone was left off the hook. The phone was found, still off the hook, minutes later at the Napa Car Wash on Main Street in Napa by KVON radio reporter Pat Stanley, only a few blocks from the sheriff's office, yet 27 miles (43 km) from the crime scene. 35 latent prints were lifted from the phone, including a still wet palm print. Detectives were never able to match the print to any suspect. and 

Det. Slaight: "Napa Police department, Officer Slaight."

Zodiac: "I want to report a murder. No, a double murder. They are 2 miles north of park headquarters. They were in a white Karmann Ghia."

Det. Slaight: "Where are you now?"

Zodiac: "I'm the one that did it." (phone put down but not hung up).

Det. Slaight: "Is anyone there? ... Is anyone there?"

(No response. Sounds of traffic driving by etc). 


Brian Hartnell parked his 1956 Karmann Ghia 7/10 of a mile north of the Lake Berryessa Park Headquarters. 

The entire interaction with Zodiac took approximately 15 minutes, from the time of first observing suspect until he departed. 

Written on the passenger door in black felt-tip pen was:

"(Zodiac symbol)




Sept 27-69-6:30

by Knife"

Victim stated that the suspect stabbed Miss Shepard "much worse than him". Suspect went into "some sort of frenzy" when stabbing Miss Shepard.

Described the knife as a long bread knife, 12” blade, ¾” wide, hardwood handle, 2 brass rivets holding handle in place, knife’s case possibly made of wood. 

Gun in black holster. Large bullets. Hartnell believed the bullets could be .45 caliber but is not certain. 

Bryan Hartnell seems to have been worried that his girlfriend who lived in Portland might have been jealous that he was out with his previous girlfriend. Hartnell said that he and Shepard were "good friends," and that they used to go out two years previously. In any case, Hartnell wanted to call his girlfriend in Portland from the hospital to tell her what happened before she heard it on the news. It seems possible that Hartnell and Shepard had sex before going out to Lake Berryessa. 

"This girl came out from school, – I used to go with her two years ago, and she's now going to another school, and she came up to visit some friends and we were having dinner at the school cafeteria and I said 'Well, are you doing anything special this afternoon?' and she said 'Why?' and I said 'I don't know. We could go out and either go for a walk, go to San Francisco, or, you know, just...', cause we used to be good friends. We used to have a good friendship. And so it got too late by the time we got around to what we were going to do." — Police interview with Bryan Hartnell, Sep 28, 1969. 

SFPD photographed all people who attended Cecelia Shepard’s funeral---- where are these photos?

Napa County detective Ken Narlow, who was assigned to the case from the outset, worked on solving the crime until his retirement from the department in 1987. 

Witness Descriptions

Bryan Hartnell

20-30, 5’8” to 6’, 225-250 lbs, dark brown “greasy” hair, sloppy dresser, stomach hanging over trousers. Pleated pants dark blue or black. Cotton windbreaker with a zipper, dark blue. 

Dr. Clifton Rayfield and his 16-year-old son David

At around 6:30 PM, saw a white male adult, 5’ 10”, heavy build. Saw this person from a distance of about 100 yards. Dark trousers, and a "dark shirt with red in it." (The red may have been blood). 

3 female college students

Joanne ___, Linda ___, and Linda Lee ___, from Pacific Union College.

A police sketch was made from Linda's description of the suspect seen that day (not Linda Lee). (See below)

"David Fincher has carried the case forward by locating statements by the Washington and Stine witness and the officer who passed Zodiac who identified Allen as the man they saw. I located witnesses at Berryessa who identified Allen as being at the lake that day--the son of the now deceased dentist and one of the college women." 

"The boy at Lake Berryessa, Sept. 27, 1969, told me when I found him, "Man, I thought they caught that dude. Nobody ever questioned me after that day." He picked out Allen as being there that day. "I thought he was so young to be bald," he said." - Robert Graysmith, SOURCE?

Physical Evidence


After the Lake Berryessa murder, Zodiac drove to Napa and called Napa PD to report the murder. He called from a phone booth at the corner of Clinton St and Main St Napa. This site is a 48 minute drive south of the murder site, driving in a direction towards Vallejo.


Police identikit composite made based on the description of a suspect seen by the 3 college girls at Lake Berryessa.