20 December

Zodiac Killer is the nickname given to an unidentified serial killer who operated in northern California in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The Zodiac murdered victims in Benicia, Vallejo, Lake Berryessa, and San Francisco between December 1968 and October 1969. Four men and three women between the ages of 16 and 29 were targeted. The killer originated the name “Zodiac” in an August 7, 1969 letter to the local Bay Area press, which was just one in a series of taunting letters. These letters included four cryptograms (or ciphers). Of the four cryptograms sent, only one has been definitively solved.

The first murders widely attributed to the Zodiac Killer were the shootings of high school students Betty Lou Jensen and David Faraday on this day in  1968, on Lake Herman Road, just inside Benicia city limits. The couple were on their first date and planned to attend a Christmas concert at Hogan High School about three blocks from Jensen’s home. The couple instead visited a friend before stopping at a local restaurant and then driving out on Lake Herman Road. At about 10:15 p.m., Faraday parked his mother’s Rambler in a gravel turnout, which was a well-known lovers’ lane. Shortly after 11:00 p.m., their bodies were found by Stella Borges, who lived nearby. The Solano County Sheriff’s Department investigated the crime but no leads developed.

Utilizing available forensic data, Robert Graysmith postulated that another car pulled into the turnout, just prior to 11:00 pm and parked beside the couple. The killer apparently exited the second car and walked toward the Rambler, possibly ordering the couple out of the Rambler. Jensen appeared to have exited the car first, yet when Faraday was halfway out, the killer apparently shot Faraday in the head. Fleeing from the killer, Jensen was gunned down twenty-eight feet from the car with five shots through her back. The killer then drove off.