On October 11, 1969, a male passenger hailed a cab in downtown San Francisco, and asked to be driven to the upscale Presidio Heights neighborhood. After arriving at the intersection of Washington and Cherry Streets, the passenger shot the cab driver, Paul Stine, in the back of the head with a 9mm handgun, killing him. The killer then got out and went into the front seat of the cab, cutting off a bloody portion of Stine's shirt. He then exited the car and walked away from the crime scene on foot.
9:40 PM (approx)
At around 9:40 PM on October 11, 1969, a white male passenger hailed Yellow Cab #912 driven by Paul Stine at the intersection of Mason and Geary Streets (one block west from Union Square) in San Francisco, requesting to be driven to Washington and Maple Streets in Presidio Heights. (NOTE: the time estimate here is based on the assumption of a 15 min driving time from the pickup to the drop off location.) https://www.zodiackiller.com/CJBDZV6.html
9:55 PM (approx)?
For reasons unknown, Stine drove one block past Maple to Cherry Street. The passenger then shot Stine once in the head (behind the right ear) with a 9mm handgun. The killer then exited the cab, and went into the front seat where he took Stine's wallet and car keys, and cut away a section of Stine's bloodstained shirt. He also apparently wiped away fingerprints on the cab interior.
The official files give the time of the murder as "9:55 PM". However, the exact time is open to speculation. The duration of the crime, from the gunshot to the time Zodiac left the cab, was probably no more than about 3 minutes. When Officers Pelissetti and Peda arrived, the killer had only walked away moments before—probably less than a minute earlier. If Pelissetti's arrival time of 9:58 PM is correct, it suggests that Zodiac probably shot Stine around 9:55 PM.
The gunshot was heard by several teenagers across the street at the home of the Robbins family. The kids, Lindsey (16) and Rebecca Robbins (13) had some friends over watching TV. The teenagers watched from an upper story window in a house across the street approximately 60 feet away. The observation was hampered by “poor lighting conditions and fog.”
"The first kid at the window said the driver looked "sick, or something". Lindsey and Rebecca went to the window and saw the driver laying across the front seat, head toward the passenger door. His head was in the lap of another man (passenger). Rebecca saw blood and said out loud, "he's stabbing that man." She was seeing blood on the victim and saw the glint of a knife, so she assumed a stabbing was taking place. (No shots were heard by anyone). We know now that Zodiac was cutting off a large piece of Stine's shirt with the knife." From retired Vallejo Police officer Jim Dean's interview with the Robbins kids.
"They saw the below described suspect in the front seat of the Yellow cab, mid to passenger side, with the victim slumped partially over his lap. The suspect appeared to be searching the victim's pockets.(Witnesses never heard a gunshot.) The suspect then appeared to be wiping (fingerprints) on the interior of the cab, leaning over the victim to the driver's compartment. The suspect then exited the cab by the passenger side front door, also wiping with a white rag, possibly a handkerchief. The suspect then walked around the cab to the driver's side and proceeded to wipe the exterior of the left door area. The suspect then fled (walking) north on Cherry Street toward the Presidio." Armond Pelisetti's San Francisco PD police report on Presidio Heights crime (2 pages)
The teenagers described the suspect to be a white male "in his early forties, 5' 8", heavy build, reddish blond, crew cut hair, wearing eyeglasses, dark brown trousers, dark (navy blue or black) 'parka' jacket, dark shoes." Armond Pelisetti's San Francisco PD police report on Presidio Heights crime (2 pages)
9:56 PM (approx)
One of the teens upstairs called the police to report the crime while it was still underway. Police then radioed an APB alerting police patrols about the crime and mistakenly identified the suspect as a NMA (negro male adult).
At around the same time, Lindsey and Rebecca went downstairs to watch from a closer window. The saw the suspect push Stine into an upright position then exit the cab, walk around the rear of the car, and open the driver's side door. Stine had slumped over again, and the man again tried pulling Stine into an upright position, then wiped down parts of the door and dashboard with a rag.
The suspect then left and started calmly walking north on Cherry Street. Lindsey went outside to watch where he was going. The time was approximately 9:58 PM. From retired Vallejo Police officer Jim Dean's interview with the Robbins kids.
9:58 PM (approx)
At around 9:58 PM, SFPD Officers Armond Pelisetti and Frank Peda arrived at the scene of the crime. According to a later interview with Lindsey Robbins, Zodiac was still in sight walking up Cherry Street at this time.
"At this exact point, the first SFPD car arrives with two officers. One, Pelissetti, approached Lindsey and tried to extract what was happening. The other officer went to the cab and found the bloody victim. While Pelissetti was asking questions, Lindsey was trying to explain that the suspect was in sight on Cherry St. By the time Pelissetti got the point, they both looked and the Zodiac was gone." From retired Vallejo Police officer Jim Dean's interview with the Robbins kids.
Pelissetti later stated that he then walked north up Cherry Street, turned right and walked east on Jackson St, and continued to the corner of Jackson and Maple St, where he saw a man out walking his dog. This statement is a bit hard to square with Officer Don Fouke's testimony (see below). If Fouke, a minute or so after this, saw a man (believed to be Zodiac) on the north side of Jackson Street, it is a bit hard to understand why Pelissetti did not also see this man. Of course, the Zodiac may have been hiding at the time. Interview with Armond Pelissetti
10:00 PM (approx)
When the police radio call went out at 9:56 PM alerting patrols about the crime, patrol officers Don Fouke and Eric Zelms were only a few minutes away driving north on Presidio Ave just north of Washington Street. They turned left on Jackson and sped toward the crime scene. About 3 minutes later, at approximately 10:00 PM, just two blocks from the crime scene, Fouke and Zelms observed a white man walking east along the sidewalk on north side of Jackson Street, just west of Maple Street. As they passed, the man turned as if stepping into a stairway leading up to the front yard of one of the homes on the north side of the street. However, since the police radio dispatcher had mistakenly alerted officers to be on the look out for a black suspect, Fouke just briefly slowed the car then drove past without stopping. He only observed the man for a few seconds. The mixup in descriptions given by the police dispatch remains unexplained.
Fouke estimated the white male pedestrian to be 35 to 45 years old, 5'10" tall with a crew cut, similar to but slightly older than the description provided by the teenagers who observed the killer in and out of Stine's cab.
"My regular partner was off. I don't recall the reason why he was not working that night. However, Eric Zelms was assigned as my partner that night. We were patrolling the eastern side of the Richmond district, going northbound on Presidio Avenue. We had passed Washington Street when a broadcast came in of a shooting at Cherry and Washington Street. We turned west on Jackson Street, as we approached Maple Street I noticed on the north side of the street a white male adult... (...) ... The initial radio description of the suspect was that of a black male, 5' 10" or something like that. Seeing that it was a white male in an affluent neighborhood walking alone along a street, we didn't think it was a suspect. So we proceeded the next block which was Jackson and Cherry. Turned southbound on Cherry Street, saw Armond Pelissetti."
"We slowed down as we passed him, I don't know, we were still rolling, saw that it was a white male, step on the gas, 5, 10, 15 seconds tops from first spotting him to passing him... (...) We never stopped the man, we never talked to him. That is an emphatic statement by me... (...) He sort of looked down, perhaps this lumbering gait, stumbling along, like a semi-limp might have come up in my mind, because he was putting his head down when he spotted the police car, and turned into the entrance way of a house. By entrance way I mean stairs that are leading up that are concrete to a path, that leads to a front door. Never saw him get to the top of the stairs. You want the address of that residence, 3712 Jackson Street." -- Interview with Donald Fouke in the documentary This is the Zodiac Speaking, from the special edition DVD of Zodiac (2007). https://youtu.be/HI0jnsbZwys?t=4526
Only moments after seeing the suspect on Jackson St, Officers Fouke and Zelms stopped and spoke to Officer Pelissetti on Cherry Street near the corner of Jackson. At that time, Pelisetti informed Fouke and Zelms that the suspect was in fact a white male. (The following is from an Interview with Don Fouke by retired Vallejo PD Detective Jim Dean, and author Mike Rodelli):
Rodelli: Which way was he [Pelissetti] headed? Was he headed anywhere? He was headed north?
Fouke: He was walking towards the corner of Cherry and Jackson.
Rodelli: I see. He hadn’t made it to the corner yet.
Fouke: Not quite. A few feet…
Rodelli: OK. And…did he tell…what was the context of the conversation?
Fouke: I… “Had you seen anybody?”
Rodelli: OK. Right…
Fouke: We replied we had seen a white guy but no Negro male.
Fouke: And he says, “That’s what we’re looking for.” Shortly after that the description comes out on the radio.
NOTE: There is nothing in the initial report indicating that Fouke told Pelisetti that he has seen a man on Jackson Street. Pelisetti later stated that "[Fouke] did not mention to me that he has seen anybody at that point, or had stopped anybody." - This is a point of disagreement between Fouke and Pelisetti over what happened that night. See: https://youtu.be/HI0jnsbZwys?t=4689
A month after the murder, Fouke submitted a memo stating that he had in fact seen a suspect that night who fit the description of Zodiac:
"I respectfully wish to report, that while responding to the area of Cherry and Washington Streets a suspect fitting the description of the Zodiac killer was observed walking in an easterly direction on Jackson street and then turn north on Maple Street. This subject was not stopped as the description received from communications was that of a negro male. When the right description was broadcast reporting officer informed communications that a possible suspect has been seen going north on Maple Street into the Presidio, the area of Julius Kahn playground and a search was started which had negative results." SFPD Memo written by Officer Donald Fouke, 11/12/1969
A month after the murder, the Zodiac sent a letter in which he claimed that he spoke to the police, presumably Fouke and Zelms:
"p.s. 2 cops pulled a goof abot 3 min after I left the cab. I was walking down the hill to the park when this cop car pulled up + one of them called me over & asked if I saw anyone acting suspicious or strange in the last 5 to 10 min & I said yes there was this man who was runnig by waveing a gun & the cops peeled rubber & went around the corner as I directed them & I disappeared into the park a block & a half away never to be seen again."
Zodiac letter, 11/09/1969
Fouke adamantly and repeatedly stated that he and Zelms did not stop and speak with the suspect on Jackson Street. But according to Eric Zelms's widow Diana, Zelms told her that they did in fact stop the car and speak to the man:
"Diana said that Eric closely followed the Stine murder on television. He told her that when he and Fouke saw a WMA they quickly decided to question him. He said that they spoke to this man "face to face!" The man was polite, calm and answered all of their questions. There was nothing suspicious about him. They then quickly left to continue their search for a BMA as had been broadcast in the APB." https://web.archive.org/web/20130122001709/http://www.thezodiacmansonconnection.com/zelms_related.html
NOTE: There is a lot of debate about the contradictions between Fouke's and Pelisetti's accounts of exactly what happened and was said that night. It is difficult to figure out exactly what happened.
The Stine murder was initially believed to be a routine robbery that had escalated into homicidal violence. However, on October 13, the San Francisco Chronicle received a new letter from Zodiac that claimed credit for the killing and contained a torn section of Stine's bloody shirt to "prove this" fact. https://drive.google.com/file/d/1O3N6EcSD1ffU2SnB78q6S_D8DA7MbN0c/view?usp=sharing
Detectives Bill Armstrong and Dave Toschi were assigned to the case. The San Francisco Police Department investigated an estimated 2,500 suspects over a period of years.
Fingerprints were lifted from the taxicab. (See below)
"October 19, 1969
San Francisco Police Department to Vallejo PD
Subject: SFPD Homicide Case #696314
"All of the latent prints in our case were obtained from a taxi cab. The latent prints that show traces of blood are believed to be prints of the suspect. The latent prints from right front door handle are also believed to be prints of the suspect. These prints are circled with a red pen. The other latent prints many of which are very good prints, may or may not be prints of the suspect in this case.
Per. Insp. [REDACTED] Crime lab."
Photo of fingerprint evidence
The gun used in the murder was described as a "9mm semi-automatic, possibly new model Browning. (Not same 9mm as used in Vallejo Police Department case. Ammunition: 9mm Winchester Western." https://www.zodiackiller.com/CJBDZV6.html
This was the last officially confirmed murder by the Zodiac Killer.
Case officially closed (unsolved) by SFPD in 2004 https://zodiackiller.com/CaseClosed.html
A pair of men's size 7 black-leather gloves was found in the cab. https://www.zodiackiller.com/CJBDZV7.html
Patrol officers Donald Fouke and Eric Zelms observed a white man walking east on Jackson Street. According to Fouke, he was not stopped or questioned. (Zodiac in one of his letters claimed that he spoke to police at this time). The officers did get a good look at him.
35 to 45 years old
between 180 and 200 pounds
Medium heavy build, barrel chested
light-colored, crew cut hair, possibly graying in back
Dark blue, waist-length, zipper type jacket (Navy or Royal Blue) zipped part-way up, elastic cuffs and waistband
Brown wool pants, pleated-type, baggy in rear
May have been wearing low-cut shoes
Subject at no time appeared to be in a hurry, walking with a shuffling lope, slightly bent forward, head down
The subject’s general appearance suggested Welsh ancestry. https://drive.google.com/file/d/17242hBqROpl0k7RDo3hLxQEPBcumtj_S/view?usp=sharing
reddish-brown hair worn in a crew cut
dark brown trousers, dark (navy blue or black) ‘Parka' jacket, dark shoes