On October 30, 1966, Cheri Jo Bates, an 18-year-old freshman at Riverside City College, was brutally murdered after visiting the college library to pick up some books. Police determined the assailant had disabled the engine of Bates's Volkswagen Beetle in order to lure her from her car after she returned from the college library. The murder remains one of Riverside's most infamous unsolved cases. Bates is considered by some to have been the first victim of the Zodiac Killer, but this is highly debated. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murder_of_Cheri_Jo_Bates
Special thanks to the Cheri Jo Bates Discussion facebook group for providing extensive information and documents related to this case.
October, 30 1966, 3 PM
At 3 PM, and then again at 3:45 PM, Cheri Jo Bates called her friend Stefani Guttman, and asked if Guttman wanted to accompany her to the library to "pick up a few books," but Guttman declined. Riverside Press, Oct. 31, 1966
4:30 - 5:00 PM
Friends of Bates drove by her house at 4195 Via San Jose, Riverside sometime between 4:30 and 5 PM and saw Bates's Volkswagen parked in front of the house. Press Enterprise 11/2/1966.
5:00 - 5:20 PM
Sources suggest that Bates left for the college library sometime after 5:00 p.m. Press reports stated that Cheri's father, Joseph Bates, returned home at around 5 PM to find that Cheri was not home. There was a note taped to the refrigerator reading: "Dad—Went to RCC Library." PRESS ENTERPRISE 11/1/1966
Another source has Joseph returning home closer to 5:20 or 5:25 PM, after calling his house twice, first at 5:00 then again at 5:15 PM, and getting a busy signal both times. Bates was perhaps on the phone with a co-worker when her father called. This might suggest Cheri left home around 5:20 PM.
It was an 8 minute (4 mile) drive from Bates's house to Riverside City College library.
5:30 - 6 PM
Sometime around 5:30 or 5:40 PM, Cheri Jo Bates parked her green Volkswagen bug on Terracina Drive, directly in front of the Riverside City College library. At around 5:30, a young Mexican-American student was outside the library waiting for the library to open at 6 PM, and saw Bates writing something in a blue spiral notebook. This may be the last reliable witness sighting of Bates on the evening of her death. Inside Detective article (page 47)
According to one source, Bates arrived at 5:40 PM, and waited 20 minutes until the library opened at 6 PM, then entered and checked out the books she had come for. This is consistent with other sources. Inside Detective article (page 60)
According to the California Department of Justice report on the "Zodiac Homicides," Bates arrived "just prior to 6 PM." https://zodiackiller.com/CJBDZV2.html
6:00 - 9:00 PM
A librarian told police she believed she saw Bates at the library sometime between 6 and 9 PM. PRESS ENTERPRISE 11/1/1966
Another male librarian "thought he saw" Bates in the library that night, but was unable to pinpoint the time. Inside Detective article (page 47)
6:30 - 6:40 PM
Some students who were acquainted with Bates said they were in the library between 6:30 and 6:40 and did not see Bates. Inside Detective article (see page 47)
7:15 - 9:00 PM
Walter Seibert was in the library with some friends between 7:15 and 9 PM, but did not see Miss Bates, whom they all knew. Both this, and the above statement seem to support the idea that Bates checked out the books, and left the library shortly after 6 PM. http://www.zodiackiller.com/BatesHeadline2.html
"At about 9:30 o'clock the night of the murder, a female student passed a man standing in the alley where Cheri would be attacked just minutes later. Although they didn't know each other, the female student and unknown male said "hi" to each other. The stranger was standing in the shadows. It was later determined that from his vantage point he could have easily watched Cheri's VW Bug while she was in the library." This information apparently concerns Riverside PD's "prime suspect in the Cheri Jo Bates murder" and was revealed to Tom Voigt in confidence on Sept. 10, 1999. This suspect was later cleared by DNA. https://www.zodiackiller.com/BatesDNA2.html
Voigt's source for the above information was apparently Granville Douglas "Bud" Kelley Jr. of Riverside PD. In 2011, Kelley, 74, was sentenced to 24 years in prison for child molestation. https://www.pe.com/2011/12/06/riverside-ex-detective-sentenced-for-molestation/
10:30 PM (?)
Bates's time of death is unknown, but it was almost certainly between 6:15 and 11 PM. 10:30 PM seems likely based on eyewitness reports, and the time of death estimate in the autopsy. (See below)
From an October 20, 1969, letter from Riverside Chief of Police Thomas Kinkead to Earl Randol, Sherrif of Napa County: "She returned to her vehicle, which was parked on a city street a short distance from the library, placed her books in the vehicle, and attempted to start her vehicle, The vehicle had been tampered with so it would not start. This was evidently done by the suspect to keep the victim near her vehicle, so that the suspect could make his approach. Our victim then left her vehicle, accompanied by the suspect, and walked approximately 200 feet from her vehicle into a dirt driveway between two houses. The houses were vacant and a part of the school property, having recently been purchased by the city college. While in this driveway area, our victim was attacked with a knife and stabbed numerous times in the chest. She was also stabbed once in the back, and her throat was severely cut, almost to the extent where she was decapitated. In addition to the stab wounds, our victim had been beaten about the face and been choked. There was no evidence that the victim had been sexually attacked, as she was fully clothed and the clothing was not disarranged." https://zodiackillerfacts.com/gallery/displayimage.php?album=88&pid=1053#top_display_media
A female tenant in an apartment a few doors from where the body was discovered heard "screaming and yelling" around 10:30 pm. "I heard a muted scream, and then a loud sound like a car being started up—this was about two minutes after I heard the first scream." https://www.zodiackiller.com/InsideDetective5.html
A report in the newspaper stated that this same woman, who declined to identify herself, told police she heard "an awful scream" between 10:15 and 10:45 PM. http://www.zodiackiller.com/BatesHeadline2.html
Another report stated that "several people" living in an apartment building near the murder site heard screams around 10:30 PM. The Press-Enterprise 11/03/1966
"Suspect disabled victim's vehicle by removing coil wire and evidently waited for victim to return. Suspect then either forced or enticed her approximately 300 feet to an unpaved parking area between two vacant houses where he attacked her with a small knife having a blade approximately 3 1/2" in length and 1/2" in width. Victim suffered seven lacerations on her throat and death was due to hemorrhage of the right cartoid [sic] artery. There was no evidence of sexual molestation. No witnesses." SOURCE: California Department of Justice Special Report on the Zodiac Homicides
October, 31, 6:30 AM
At approximately 6:30 a.m. on the morning of October 31, a groundskeeper named Cleophus Martin discovered Bates's fully-clad body lying face down in a dirt driveway off Terracina between two old houses owned by the college. The body was in the roadway between houses at 3680 and 3692 Terracina Street. https://zodiackiller.com/BatesHeadline1.html
Zodiac took credit for the Bates murder in a 1971 letter: "I do have to give [the police] credit for stumbling across my Riverside activity, but they are only finding the easy ones. There are a hell of a lot more down there." Zodiac letter to LA Times, March 13, 1971
Bates Volkswagen was found parked on Terracina, about a half block from the two college annex buildings where Cheri's body was discovered." PRESS ENTERPRISE 11/1/1966
The car was disabled, with the keys in the ignition, and windows rolled down. Two school books and a notebook were on the right seat. Library books found in Bates's car had been checked out that evening. The distributor coil and the condenser to her engine had been torn out. http://www.zodiackiller.com/BatesHeadline2.html and Inside Detective article (see page 47)
Bates's body was "about 75 feet from a sidewalk. The body was fully clothed, crumpled face down in the dirt, and lying on a large straw purse." - PRESS ENTERPRISE 11/1/1966
The autopsy revealed that Bates had been slashed three times across the throat, one severing the jugular vein. She was also stabbed once in the chest, and once in the back. Her face was also slashed across the left cheek and upper lip. Inside Detective article (see page 47)
According to the autopsy report: "The state of rigor mortis, post mortem lividity and body temperature at 0923, 31 October 1966 indicated she had been dead between 9 and 12 hours." As the body was examined at the site at 9:23 AM. This would suggest a time of death between approximately 9:00 PM and 12:30 AM. Autopsy report
A Timex wrist watch with a broken strap was found near the body. The wrist watch indicated a 7” wrist circumference ("which is on the smaller side of average as far as wrists go.") It was determined that the watch had been sold at an Armed Forced PX at an overseas military base. The girl apparently tore the watch from her attacker's wrist in the struggle. Inside Detective article (see page 59)
Skin scrapings were found under Bates fingernails, and a tuft of human hair had been found clutched in her hand. Inside Detective article (see page 46) and Inside Detective article (see page 59)
In 1999, a cigarette butt found at the scene of the crime was examined for DNA evidence. https://zodiackillerfacts.com/gallery/displayimage.php?pid=1868&fullsize=1
“Physical evidence found at the scene of our crime indicated that heel prints found near the body were made by a heel that was manufactured for military and other government agencies, including prisons. We were able to lift some latent fingerprints from the victim's vehicle. These prints were not identified. Our unidentified prints are on file with the FBI under the FBI file No 32-27195, Latent case No 73096. “ --- Letter dated Oct. 20 1969 from Riverside Chief of Police Thomas Kinkead to Sheriff of Napa County Earl Randol. See https://zodiackillerfacts.com/gallery/displayimage.php?album=88&pid=1053#top_display_media
Just outside Riverside was March Air Force Base, a SAC base. https://zodiackillerfacts.com/gallery/displayimage.php?album=88&pid=1054#top_display_media
Greasy finger and palm prints were found on the left door of Bates's car. 1966-11-02, San Bernardino Sun
BF Goodrich military boot print, size 8-10. Latent prints are noted in evidence. https://zodiackiller.com/CJBDZV2.html
Along with slender wrists, Cheri Jo’s assailant had somewhat small feet, comparatively. Even so, the depth of the boot print suggested the killer was heavy-set.
Physical evidence including the watch, fingerprints, and scraping from under Bates fingernails, was mailed to the California Criminal Identification and Investigation Bureau in Sacramento. SOURCE?
Police took photos as detectives scanned the crowd at Bates funeral on the Saturday following the murder. Do these photos still exist? Inside Detective article (see page 59)
On November 29, 1966, a month after the murder, two identical typewritten confession letters were sent to the Riverside Police Department and the Riverside Press Enterprise. The letters were carbon copies from the same typed original. Arguably, the "confession" is similar in style to later Zodiac letters. Like the Zodiac letters, the Bates confession letters had several misspelled words. Also, like the Zodiac letters, the confession was sent to multiple recipients simultaneously, and the writer stated that the letter should be printed in the newspaper. “This letter should be published for all to read it.”
Full Text of letter:
SHE WAS YOUNG AND BEAUTIFUL. BUT NOW SHE IS BATTERED AND DEAD. SHE IS NOT THE FIRST AND SHE WILL NOT BE THE LAST. I LAY AWAKE NIGHTS THINKING ABOUT MY NEXT VICTUM. MAYBE SHE WILL BE THE BEAUTIFUL BLOND THAT BABYSITS NEAR THE LITTLE STORE AND WALKS DOWN THE DARK ALLEY EACH EVENING ABOUT SEVEN. OR MAYBE SHE WILL BE THE SHAPELY BLUE EYED BRUNETT THAT SAID NO WHEN I ASKED HER FOR A DATE IN HIGH SCHOOL. BUT MAYBE IT WILL NOT BE EITHER. BUT I SHALL CUT OFF HER FEMALE PARTS AND DEPOSIT THEM FOR THE WHOLE CITY TO SEE. SO DON’T MAKE IT TO EASY FOR ME. KEEP YOUR SISTERS, DAUGHTERS, AND WIVES OFF THE STREETS AND ALLEYS. MISS BATES WAS STUPID. SHE WENT TO THE SLAUGHTER LIKE A LAMB. SHE DID NOT PUT UP A STRUGGLE. BUT I DID. IT WAS A BALL. I FIRST PULLED THE MIDDLE WIRE FROM THE DISTRIBUTOR. THEN I WAITED FOR HER IN THE LIBRARY AND FOLLOWED HER OUT AFTER ABOUT TWO MINUTES. THE BATTERY MUST HAVE BEEN ABOUT DEAD BY THEN. I THEN OFFERED TO HELP. SHE WAS THEN VERY WILLING TO TALK WITH ME. I TOLD HER THAT MY CAR WAS DOWN THE STREET AND THAT I WOULD GIVE HER A LIFT HOME. WHEN WE WERE AWAY FROM THE LIBRARY WALKING, I SAID IT WAS ABOUT TIME. SHE ASKED ME “ABOUT TIME FOR WHAT”. I SAID IT WAS ABOUT TIME FOR HER TO DIE. I GRABBED HER AROUND THE NECK WITH MY HAND OVER HER MOUTH AND MY OTHER HAND WITH A SMALL KNIFE AT HER THROAT. SHE WENT VERY WILLINGLY. HER BREAST FELT VERY WARM AND FIRM UNDER MY HANDS, BUT ONLY ONE THING WAS ON MY MIND. MAKING HER PAY FOR THE BRUSH OFFS THAT SHE HAD GIVEN ME DURING THE YEARS PRIOR. SHE DIED HARD. SHE SQUIRMED AND SHOOK AS I CHOCKED HER, AND HER LIPS TWICHED. SHE LET OUT A SCREAM ONCE AND I KICKED HER HEAD TO SHUT HER UP. I PLUNGED THE KNIFE INTO HER AND IT BROKE. I THEN FINISHED THE JOB BUY CUTTING HER THROAT. I AM NOT SICK. I AM INSANE. BUT THAT WILL NOT STOP THE GAME. THIS LETTER SHOULD BE PUBLISHED FOR ALL TO READ IT. IT JUST MIGHT SAVE THAT GIRL IN THE ALLEY. BUT THAT’S UP TO YOU. IT WILL BE ON YOUR CONSCIENCE, NOT MINE. YES I DID MAKS THAT CALL TO YOU ALSO. IT WAS JUST A WARNING. BEWARE … I AM STALKING YOUR GIRLS NOW.
CC. CHIEF OF POLICE
A photo of the original letter sent to the Riverside Press Enterprise
The typed letters were "a fourth or fifth copy and difficult to read." Presumably this means that there were several sheets of carbon paper (4 or 5?) placed between the original typed letter and the mailed carbon copies. The mailed letters are blurry and difficult to read. The width of the paper was 8". https://zodiackillerfacts.com/gallery/displayimage.php?album=88&pid=1054#top_display_media
There is some debate about whether the Riverside letter used the spelling "VICTUM" or "VICTOM" as the word was misspelled in some later Zodiac letters. It is very hard to decipher the blurry online photos of the original confession letter. My current best guess is that the word is spelled "VICTOM," but this is debatable.
The writer stated: "I first pulled the middle wire from the distributer. Then I waited for her in the library and followed her out after about two minutes. The battery must have been about dead by then. I then offered to help."
According to a 1966 FBI lab analysis of the confession letter, the typeface "most closely resembles Royal Merit Pica 508." The report noted that the "Specimen submitted for examination" was a "Photocopy of sheet of paper bearing typewritten message entitled 'THE CONFESSION...'" 1966 FBI Lab worksheet, December 12, 1966
NOTE: Merit was a typeface on some models of Royal typewriter such as the Royal Futura. "The standard typeface on all Royal Futura models was 'Merit'. This typeface was available in Pica (10 characters per inch) and Elite (12 characters per inch)." https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Royal_Futura The "508" in the FBI lab report is apparently a reference to the American Type Founders ID for "Canterbury" typeface, listed in Mac McGrew's American Metal Typefaces of the Twentieth Century. See: https://handsetpress.org/atf/ATF.pdf
In the California Department of Justice Special Report on the Zodiac Homicides (1971), in a list titled "Suspect may possess the following" is listed "Portable Royal typewriter - Elite type - canterbury shaded." This is presumably in reference to the Bates confession letter. https://www.zodiackiller.com/CJBDZV8.html
Canterbury was a font that was available on Royal typewriters; "shaded" means it was a bold font. See
My analysis of a photo of the original typed letter, which was 8" width, suggests that the typeface size is 12 characters per inch (Elite). (see below—red lines indicate inches.)