On the night of Friday December 20, 1968, David Faraday and Betty Lou Jensen were on their first date, parked in a turnout on Lake Herman Road, in Benicia California. The turnout was a small gravel parking spot next to a gate leading to the Benicia Water Pumping Station. The spot was a well-known lovers' lane. At around 11:15 p.m., another car pulled in beside the couple. A man exited the vehicle and shot and killed both teens with .22 caliber semi-automatic pistol.
Sometime after 8 PM? (time confusion)
Russell Butterbach of the Solano County Sheriff's Department was with his partner Wayne Waterman on the night of the murder. "We got a call from the Sergeant that a man from Benicia who fishes at Lake Berryessa wasn't home, and that was around 7 o'clock, 8 o'clock. He asked us to look down Lake Herman Road and see if his truck was there. It was a blue truck. And just as we turned on Lake Herman Road, we had a call to go to the Hell's Angels pad on Warren Street. We were there about, oh 30 or 40 minutes. When we got back in the car we were told we had a double 187 on Lake Herman Road." - Statement of Russell Butterbach in the documentary This is the Zodiac Speaking (2007). Link
NOTE: This statement seems highly inaccurate, regarding the time estimate. Since the murder took place around 11:15 PM, this visit to the Hell's Angels pad must have been later than 8 PM. It should have been closer to 10:30 PM. Butterbach is likely misremembering the sequence or the timing of events.
Is there any information about the reference to "a man from Benicia who fishes at Lake Berryessa"? SOURCE?
9 PM (estimate), December 20, 1968
At around 9 PM, two raccoon hunters, Robert Connelly and Frank Gasser, observed a white 1959 or 1960 4-door hardtop Chevy Impala parked at the pumping station gate. https://www.zodiackiller.com/LHRPR22.html
9:30 - 10 PM
Between 9:30 and 10 PM, William Crow was out with his girlfriend. The couple were trying out her sports car, and Crow was making adjustments to the motor. While parked at turnout, they observed a car coming west down the road from Benicia towards Vallejo. The car passed, then stopped and reversed towards them. Worried, Crow sped off east towards Benicia, followed by the other car. They abruptly turned off on a road towards Benicia (Reservoir Road?), and the other car continued east on Lake Herman Road. The police report suggests there were two subjects in the car, both caucasians. https://www.zodiackiller.com/LHRPR10.html
In the Police report the car is described as a blue car, "possibly a Valiant". Many years later, Crow stated that he never told police the car was a Plymouth Valiant, and said instead that he believed the car was a "four-door light-colored Chevy." He also said: "I could not see the passenger seat, but the driver was a man with short hair and glasses."
NOTE: Crow's testimony is very interesting, and seems to suggest that the Zodiac may have been cruising around the area for some time, looking for a couple to murder. Crow's statement about a light colored Chevy, driven by a man with short hair and glasses matches Kathleen Johns' statement about a "late model vehicle, light in color driven by a man with "dark hair, wearing black rimmed plastic glasses." See Kathleen Johns Incident
At "approximately 10 PM" a rancher named Bingo Wesher was checking on his sheep in an area east of the pumping station entrance, when he observed a white Chevrolet Impala sedan parked by the south fence at the pumping station entrance. https://www.zodiackiller.com/LHRPR26.html
David Faraday and Betty Lou Jensen attended a Christmas concert at Vallejo's Hogan high school, which they left around 10:00 PM. David was driving his mother's 1961 AMC Rambler station-wagon.
At 10:15 PM a young woman named Helen Axe drove past the pumping station entrance with her boyfriend and reported seeing the Rambler parked at the turnout, facing the gate, and recognized Faraday and Jensen in the car. When she returned about 15 minutes later, the car was still there, but "turned around and the front was facing the field, a little to the side." https://www.zodiackiller.com/LHRPR28.html
11 PM (approx.)
Benicia PD Officers Pierre Bidou and Steve Armenta served a narcotics search warrant at the "Cottage" on Lake Herman Road, confiscating about a pound and a half of marijuana. After they left, they drove past the turnout on Lake Herman Road at around 11 PM, and did not see anyone there at the time. "As we drove by we did not observe or see anybody in that area, because it's a turn there, and your headlights shine right in there as you go by." They then headed back to the Benicia Police Department to file the drugs into evidence. As they pulled into the Police Department parking lot they heard a dispatch report of a possible shooting on Lake Herman Road. https://youtu.be/HI0jnsbZwys?t=185
NOTE: The accuracy of this statement is in question. The drive from the cottage on Lake Herman Road to the Benicia Police Department would take about 9 or 10 minutes. If there was indeed no car at the turnout when the officers drove past, that leaves a very small time window for Faraday and Jensen to arrive, and for the murders to take place. This also contradicts Helen Axe's testimony that suggests Farraday and Jensen were at the turnout as early as 10:15 PM. It seems likely that Officers Bidou and Armenta simply failed to notice, or remember, whether or not they saw a car in the turnout as they drove past.
11:00 to 11:05 PM (estimate)
At approximately 11 PM, Homer and Peggy Your were driving west on Lake Herman Road with their children. Homer worked for a construction company that was doing a job on Lake Herman Rd, and he wanted to check on some pipe lines. As they drove past the turnout, Peggy observed Faraday's car parked "facing east towards the field at the left of the gate." According to the police report: "As they were driving west on Lake Herman Road at the turn off to the Benicia Water Pumping Station, she observed a Rambler station wagon parked with front end heading east, there were two Caucasians in the front seat, male and female, when the lights from the car came upon the station wagon, the male sat up in the seat." Mrs. Your "described the location of the car as the front facing the fence, the rear section of the station wagon facing directly west towards Vallejo."
The Yours continued past the turnout and drove to the bottom of the hill, then turned into a road going into the Marshall Ranch, to turn around. As they pulled in, they noticed a red pickup truck parked in the field about 25-40 feet ahead of their car. A white male aged 25-30 was standing by the gate on her husband’s side of the car, carrying a rifle. An older man then got out of the truck and shined a flashlight into the Your's car. Peggy said to her husband there was a guy with a gun and to “get the hell out of there”. The two men didn’t say anything but just stared at them. The Yours turned around and headed back East on Lake Herman Road.
When the Yours passed the turnout again, this time traveling east, they saw Faraday's Rambler "still parked in the same spot." They later estimated the time to be between 11:15 and 11:18 PM, but in a subsequent police report this was updated to "closer to 11:00 o'clock than 11:15 PM." The entire time between Peggy Your's first and second sightings of the Rambler was probably no more than 2-3 minutes—Peggy Your said it was "a few minutes." https://www.zodiackiller.com/LHRPR11.html and https://www.zodiackiller.com/LHRPR16.html and https://www.zodiackiller.com/LHRPR27.html
11:10 PM (estimate)
The two men observed by the Yours at the Marshall Ranch were Robert Connelly (27) and Frank Gasser (69). They had been in the area of the ranch hunting raccoons since about 9:00 PM (see above). At around 11:00 or 11:05 PM (approximately) they observed a car "drove in, turned around, and drove back in the opposite direction towards Benicia, again." (This was the Yours car). Connelly and Gasser left the Marshall ranch area a few minutes after the Yours, perhaps at around 11:10 PM. (Connelly estimated the time was between 11:00 to 11:15 PM). As they drove past the turnout they saw the Rambler parked there, but didn’t notice anyone in the car. They reported that the Rambler was on the south side of the turnout, near the bank slope, southwest of where the car was later found. According to the report, "Connolly insists that the Rambler was parked on the bank. That would be on the south side." https://www.zodiackiller.com/LHRPR24.html This is arguably consistent with Peggy Your's statement that the car was "facing the fence."
Connelly and Gasser were the last witnesses known to drive by the turnout before Zodiac arrived.
NOTE: Assuming that the above witness recollections were accurate, and that Faraday's car was parked near the gate facing east, we must assume that sometime shortly after Connelly and Gasser drove by, Faraday moved the car to the position it was later found in, closer to the east side of the turnout and nearer to the road. It is not known why Farraday would have moved the car.
11:15 PM (estimate) - time of the murder
Sometime around 11:15 PM, a car pulled into the turnout and parked to the right of Faraday's station wagon. The driver (the Zodiac killer) apparently sat in the car for a brief period, either to intimidate his victims, or perhaps to build up the courage to go through with the murder. Or maybe he saw the lights of an approaching car (see below) and waited for the car to pass.
Apparently just after the Zodiac killer pulled into the turnout, a man named James Owen was driving east on Lake Herman Road, going from his home in Vallejo to work at Humble Oil in Benicia. As he passed the turnout, he observed two cars parked 10 feet apart. Owen estimated the time to be 11:20 PM. (NOTE: It seems likely that the actual time was slightly earlier... around 11:15-11:18 PM. This is based on the below testimony regarding Stella Borges.) https://www.zodiackiller.com/LHRPR13.html
In the police report, there are two separate statements given by James Owen—the first on December 21 and the second on December 24. In the latter statement, Owen said the distance between the cars was "three or four feet," and that he "did not see anyone in the cars or around them." He also said that after driving about a quarter mile past the turnout, he thought he heard a gunshot. Just before reaching the turnout he had been passed by a car going in the opposite direction (west) toward Vallejo, but could give no description of the vehicle. This car has never been identified. https://www.zodiackiller.com/LHRPR15.html
NOTE: Owen's initial statement in the police report is a bit confusing as it says that he was "driving home from work at Humble Oil, Benicia." This is an error—Owen was in fact driving to work, as he worked the graveyard shift. The diagram showing the cars as he saw them indicates he was driving east, which would make sense only if he was driving to work. (See: https://www.zodiackiller.com/LHRPR4.html) Owen indicated that he checked the time before he left his home in Vallejo and it was 11:00 PM "on the cuckoo clock in the dining room." https://www.zodiackiller.com/LHRPR15.html
The killer seems to have have waited for Owen's car to pass, then exited his vehicle and approached the station wagon. It is not entirely clear what sequence of events followed, but the Zodiac seems to have fired into the station wagon, perhaps in an effort to force the couple out. Betty Lou Jensen exited the front passenger door first, followed by David Faraday. Faraday was shot in the head as he emerged from the car, and then Jensen was shot five times in the back as she fled on foot. The killer then drove off. The entire murder, from the point where zodiac exited his vehicle, to the time when he drove away, probably took no more than 1 or 2 minutes. Based on police report and crime scene evidence
11:20 PM (estimate)
At around 11:20 PM, Stella Medeiros was driving east on Lake Herman Road. When she passed the pumping station turnout, she saw Faraday and Jensen lying on the ground. The boy "looked like he had fallen out of the open door," and the girl was "lying on her side facing the road." There was only one car at the scene (the Rambler). Medeiros drove to Benicia to report the incident to Police, and flagged down Captain Daniel Pitta and Officer William Warner at 11:25 pm on East 2nd Street (approximately a 3 minutes drive from the turnout). https://www.zodiackiller.com/LHRPR19.html
A note on the above timeline: We must remember that most time estimates tend to be guesses, and likely to be inaccurate by several minutes. That said, there are a couple of fairly specific times logged In Captain Pitta's report, and it is possible that the times were accurately logged while looking at a clock. Pitta's report states that Mrs. Madeiros flagged them down at 11:25 PM, and that they then drove to the crime scene, arriving there at 11:28 PM. If we were to assume that these were precise times (which is still unlikely) then Stella Madeiros would have passed the turnout at around 11:22 PM. This would allow the time the Zodiac LEFT the turnout to be as late as about 11:20 PM. But again, trying to be precise about time estimates is difficult.
Betty Lou Jensen (16 years old) was shot 5 times in the back and was killed on the scene. David Faraday (17 years old) was shot once in the head at close range, and was brought to Vallejo General Hospital where he was pronounced D.O.A. at 12:05 AM. https://www.zodiackiller.com/LHRPR2.html
A total of 10 shots were fired. (5 hit Jensen, 1 hit Faraday, 2 were shot into the car. 2 bullets were unaccounted for.) https://www.zodiackiller.com/LHRPR6.html
Faraday's mother's 1961 Rambler station-wagon was found parked near the entrance to the pumping station facing east. Betty Lou Jensen was found lying on the ground 10 feet behind the station wagon. https://zodiackiller.com/LHRPR1.html
The police report on the Lake Herman Road murder mentioned an incident that happened at “the Pancake House” on Tennessee St. This was The International House of Pancakes (IHOP) where Darlene Ferrin worked in 1966-67. According to the statement, David Faraday was going to turn in a man who was pushing dope and the man had threatened him. (see below)
“Mrs. _____ is the mother of SHARON HENSLIN, BETTY LOU’s friend. She relates that, in a conversation with her daughter, a subject identified as MARK ____ of 137 ___ way, had spoken of an incident that happened at the Pancake House on Tennessee Street. The story went on to say that DAVID was going to turn in a subject for pushing grass (or Marijuana), and the man had threatened him." https://www.zodiackiller.com/LHRPR34.html
Det. Sgt. Lundblad of Vallejo PD examined the contents of Betty Lou Jensen's locker for clues. A note in Betty Lou Jensen's handwriting was found in a binder:
"Do you know a kid named Richard Burton? I was going with him, until two days before the installation. He still phones me, and is threatening me to keep away from Dave. He said if he's ever close enough to Dave, he would punch him one in the teeth, I told him to leave me alone, if he knows what good him.(sic)" https://www.zodiackiller.com/LHRPR39.html "Ricky" Burton was also suspected of prowling around Betty Lou's house. However, he provided a solid alibi and was cleared as a suspect in the murders.