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Antique, RobertUnmasked - 4


Mercedes 220SB was parked. Mulanax had already learned that the suspect had formerly been employed as an attendant at Harry Wogan’sStation. An auto repair job such as that would have made many cars left overnight for repair available to Starr.sergeant reached the end of the block, made a U-turn at Il inois Street, and cruised back by the house. He took one last critical look, thenwith Wogan. The service station owner told Mulanax that Starr had left his employment in 1970. “He said he was thinking of returning toat Sonoma State Col ege in Cotati,” replied Wogan. This was true. Starr had begun working toward a degree in biology in the fal of 1970.Starr, according to his former boss, had been an efficient worker, he had shown too much interest in smal children. Wogan had three smalhimself and they sometimes came around the station. “That worried me,” he said. “I wasn’t sorry to see him go.” That seemed to be the wayStarr’s many employers. “They had him working at a school as some sort of custodian,” Mulanax told me later. “I was infuriated because I feltshould have been arrested.”the start of summer, Starr had dropped by Wogan’s home and picked up his thirteen-year-old daughter. “How would you like to go for a rideme on my boat?” he had asked. The youngster had accepted without her parents’ consent. The girl returned to relate that Starr had made
“improper advances” toward her. After this, Wogan had not seen his employee again or wanted to.Mulanax believed much of the interest pedophiles had in smal children came from having absolute power over another individual,them to objects—a trait Zodiac and almost every serial kil er shared. “When Zodiac had hog-tied his victims at Lake Berryessa,” he told, “he had had complete power, had reduced them in his mind to mere objects, and especial y wore his homemade executioner’s costume for the.” Perhaps Zodiac had hoped someone might glimpse his frightening outfit and incite more terror in an already terrified community. But hehardly have hoped his victims would survive to tel the tale. Had he shown himself to someone else, as yet unknown?’s threats to blow up school buses and shoot children inspired as much fear as his costume. Mulanax recal ed armed sentinels—off-duty, drivers, and firemen, riding shotgun on school buses. Napa P.D., the jurisdiction of the Berryessa stabbings, assigned more than seventyunits to fol ow the buses, and fixed-wing guard planes trailed hawklike behind them. People peeked behind their doors and gave second,third glances to cars gliding along the freeways and back roads at night. Zodiac was the twentieth-century version of the Bogeyman.obtain more samples of Starr’s handprinting, Mulanax drove to 1660 Tennessee Street, where Starr maintained a checking account atCitizens Bank. He arranged to get photostats of recent canceled checks connected to account #546-1685-48. He had consideredthe originals (since Starr had ordered the bank not to return them), but decided against it. He saw one draft was to a man named Phil. Another, dated July 20, 1971, was a $9.00 check to R. G. Black-wood for a 44-gal on cooler. A third showed a June 4 payment made out to Trees Trailer Court. The notation said: “Storage Rental.” Mulanax dispatched al three samples to Morril for analysis without giving muchto what Starr might be storing in a trailer court. He had many trailers.1:30 P.M., Inspectors Armstrong and Toschi, like travelers into a foreign land, crossed into Solano County for their appointment with Mulanax.1969 they had examined hundreds of suspects, were, in fact, weary. However, Starr was beginning to look serious, beginning to look very. Toschi, with his mass of tight, curly black hair, was wearing his trademark bow tie. A smile broadened his remarkably expressive face. Theybrought along Mel Nicolai, and Toschi was beaming at being among such good company. He had a high opinion of Nicolai. “Very,” he told me later. “Mel enjoyed a good laugh and was a very, very good law enforcement officer. With his crew cut and glasses, helike a professor. Nicolai, as a State Department of Justice CI&I agent, put cases together when multiple counties were involved. He was aguy. We could contact him and he could get us information out of Sacramento.”for Mulanax, he was a man’s man, a rugged outdoorsman, a hunter like Zodiac. “After I see Starr in person, I’l contact you guys to come,” he assured them as the meeting concluded. Mulanax was the kind of man you could count on. Toschi knew he would come back with the., August 2, 1971continued his circumspect investigation into Starr’s past, gathering as much background information as he could before makingcontact with the suspect. He noted, as others had, that Starr’s birth date was December 18—two days shy of the December 20 date of theHerman Road double murders. Mulanax knew some serial kil ers struck on dates that held significance for them. So far, Zodiac had shot orcouples on the Fourth of July, near Hal oween, Columbus Day, and a few days before Christmas. However, a few VPD investigatorsZodiac had only taken responsibility for the Lake Herman tragedy to enhance his rep and further confuse the police. “Mulanax told me,”Toschi, “that one day when Starr wasn’t home, he went to Starr’s house and his mother was there. He kinda just walked around and searchedlittle bit.”Mulanax spoke conversational y with Starr himself that day (not a questioning in any respect), no record has survived. Mulanax saw the opento Starr’s basement room yawning before him, and observed it was painted the same “near-neutral green” as the kitchen, though a shade. Was Starr down there now, peering up at him? Bernice, catching his eye, said, “It was a bedroom for both my boys for many years.” Thewas a slot in the corner of the basement room. “Al letters must drop into that hideaway,” thought Mulanax, thinking of the mail-obsesseder. And Zodiac had said in a letter he had a basement and bombs there. Starr had moved from an upstairs room back to the basement for more. Mulanax was tempted, but caution prevented him from advancing a step further. He retreated, but was stil thinking over the substance ofvisit and a few of Bernice’s vague remarks as the weekend ended and he prepared to confer again with the San Francisco detectives., August 3, 1971along Fresno Street had known Starr since he was a boy, knew how devoted he was to his mother. But that mutual affection existed only asand mirrors—neighbors often overheard shouting matches between the two. “His mother was a little on the stern side,” said Cheney. “Yeah,was tough. She was a tal woman, almost as tal as Starr. Both parents were tal and slender like Ron. Unlike his brother, Ron got along with.” The main bone of contention was that Bernice held Starr’s younger brother, Ron, in higher regard than him.
“There was a big rivalry between Ron and his older brother,” Panzarel a told me later. “Ron got more girls. He could be more charming and theused to favor him, much to Starr’s disdain. She adored Ron who was a nice-looking kid. And Starr at this time had already gotten fat. I spentweekend in the home with the dad and the mom. Starr came over. He was living in his trailer at the time and I saw how unassuming the father. He had been wounded in an airplane wreck over Oklahoma in the late fifties or early sixties and he was never the same after that. He was anow and we drove him to work, dropped him off and picked him up later. Nice man, but very meek. He wasn’t always that way. Ron toldit was the accident that made him that way. After the accident Ethan could no longer keep his son in line. He became—how should I say this—. The mother was total y the dominant personality. They were always arguing and bantering. He’d real y cuss her up and down, screaming at. I know if I had spoken to my parents that way, they would have kil ed me. Starr cal ed her a ‘c—’ and stuff like that. It was awful and this was atdinner table.”elaborated on this. “Starr’s father was a decorated jet pilot,” he told me. “I don’t know if he got shot down or he had a wreck, but he hadaccident and was injured pretty badly and was medical y discharged. I didn’t know him from the days when he was stil in the Navy. He was stil, but apparently had lost some of his fire. He wasn’t the hot jet pilot he had once been. He stil went to work and stil was a draftsman on Mare. He wasn’t bummed up. He could walk al right and al of his functions were normal. He was a nice guy. The family had commissary privilegeshad I.D. cards so they could shop on military bases. The Wing Walker shoes he wore probably came from Mare Island. They were made forand crewmen.”the street Mulanax idled his car and observed the smudged, practical y ground-level window to Starr’s disordered basement apartment,tried to imagine what it must be like. He stil yearned to have a peek. Starr’s mother had described her son’s inner sanctum as stacked with. Starr was quite the student, “a professional student,” his brother said. “After summer vacation,” Bernice had explained, “he intends to returncol ege at Cotati for the fal semester.” Mulanax thought back to 1969 and to another summer vacation—tumultuous times, violent times forejo.had been a student then too and Zodiac had been at his boldest, grasping Water Town in a grip of fear. With the intimate knowledge of aejo resident, he capitalized on a citywide police and firemen’s strike. Throughout the walkout there were only two dozen California Highwayto cruise about and enforce traffic laws for a city of 72,000. On July 21, negotiators almost had the strike licked, but Apol o 11 delayed ameeting when Governor Reagan declared a moon-flight holiday.far summer vacation 1971 had been less turbulent, thought Mulanax. Val ejo had a highly efficient law enforcement team in place and Starra job with Union Oil of California to keep him occupied. Returning to headquarters just before lunch, Mulanax rang the Union Oil refinery atand spoke with McNamara in Personnel. He confirmed Starr was employed as a junior chemist in their lab, had been since September 8,
. But Starr could not have been very happy at Pinole. Last April 20, the overqualified man had applied for employment at a Union 76 garage inRodeo. “His summer hours at the refinery are from 8:00 A.M. until 4:00 P.M.-4:30 P.M.,” continued McNamara, “and that’s each weekday.”
“I’d like to interview him during working hours,” Mulanax explained.
“That’s a bit out of the ordinary,” said the personnel chief, “and bound to cause some disruption.” Disruption was exactly what Mulanax had in. “Wel , we can provide my private office for your purposes,” McNamara agreed.
“Good,” said the detective. “Just don’t let on that we intend to interview him prior to his being brought to the office.” Most definitely Mulanaxto surprise Starr and put him off balance. He hung up, noted the appointment on his pad, then dialed Toschi and Armstrong and informedof the meeting. Famished after a busy morning, he went to lunch.and Toschi had been busy too. Toschi studied two pages of scribbled notes, munching animal crackers and dunking them in a cup ofFolgers. He had just learned that Starr, though born left-handed, had been compel ed as a child to write with his right hand—a possibleof serious psychological problems.lunch, Morril got back to Mulanax in Val ejo about Starr’s canceled checks. “I’ve compared them to Zodiac lettering,” Morril said, “and theyup negative.” What were they missing? wondered Mulanax. If Starr was Zodiac, had he devised a way to disguise his printing? Or had awritten them? Right to the end that shadowy second man would be a worrisome element in the hunt for Zodiac., August 4, 1971, Armstrong, and Mulanax sped south from Val ejo along Interstate 80 and rattled across the Carquinez Bridge into Contra Costa County.the shore of San Pablo Bay, they swept past Selby, Tormey, Rodeo, and Hercules. To the west Hamilton AFB shimmered across cloudedwater. The previous January two Standard Oil Company tankers had col ided just outside the Golden Gate, spil ing almost two mil ion gal onsblack gummy crude into the Bay. Shortly before 10:25 A.M. the detectives halted at the chain-link gate of a vast oil refinery. The Pinole instal ationimpressive. By night, when it was twinkling with a mil ion diamond lights, great clouds of roiling steam made it otherworldly; by day fingerliketowers shot hundreds of feet upward like the barrels of guns.gate slid back and, three or four blocks later, the detectives climbed out. Toschi craned his neck upward, where processing towers boiledoil to 750 degrees. The heating procedure separated molecules, converting them into propane, gasoline, butane, kerosene, diesel fuel,oil, even road tar and wax. Starr was a chemist and the refinery itself no more than a giant chemical lab. Complex conduits twisted intotunnels, funneling raw petroleum into mammoth storage tanks, catalytic units, and vacuum distil ation units.shril whistles alerted Toschi. High above, men scrambled on gantries and towers. An unctuous mist like soot showered down on themmade Toschi queasy. His breakfast this morning and for many mornings prior had been a few aspirins washed down with cold coffee. TheyMcNamara’s office and watched as he phoned a lab to summon the unsuspecting assistant chemist. “It’l be a minute,” he said. Starr’swere spread out like a fan on McNamara’s desk. Bil Armstrong took the time to thumb through them since he would be in charge of the.investigators did not hear the suspect in the hal way—only the elevator doors opening with a “whoosh.” Starr walked softly for a big man andwearing padded shoes of some sort. At last they would see him face to face. Toschi sat rigid in his seat. He half rose. After so many suspects,so many years and disappointments, was Zodiac final y here—within their grasp? Toschi held his breath. The door opened. Starr’s physicalwas al Toschi thought it would be and al that he knew Zodiac’s was.
hall starr, August 4, 1971filled the doorway. His bold, almost hairless head swiveled from face to face as the trio of detectives identified themselves. Starr seemedand a little nervous that they were policemen. “I realized that he was afraid he was going to get fired,” Toschi told me later, “and that alonehave accounted for his apprehension.” Twenty-five hundred Zodiac suspects had surfaced over the years and been painstakingly checked. Since so many counties, jurisdictions, and unincorporated areas were involved, cops did not always compare notes or even names. Starr wastheir first good suspect. He was not their last. Conveniently, alarm bel s should have resounded in the investigators’ minds. They didn’t. Onlythe conference, when their heads were cool and time al owed them to consider what Starr had said, so much of it unbidden, did their pulsesto race. Back at Homicide that stark black clock seemed to tick faster.Mulanax had done, Toschi took in the suspect’s physical presence—Starr had blue-brown eyes and short light brown hair that was graying inback. Hadn’t Officer Fouke mentioned something about Zodiac having “light-colored hair possibly graying in the rear,” recol ected Toschi, “andcurve of Zodiac’s skul had shone through his sparse hair the night he shot the cabdriver.” The late sixties were a period of protest when peopleed against the shorter hair of the the fifties and wore their hair long. In 1969, Zodiac had worn his short—like a military man. However, during aattack at Lake Berryessa, Zodiac presumably sported a healthy head of straight brown hair beneath his hood.
“I remember a kind of greasy forehead . . .” the surviving Berryessa victim told me later. He thought the perpetrator had dark brown hair—a lockshown through dark glasses covering narrow eyelets. Beneath those glasses, the wounded boy conjectured, were a second pair of glasses.kil er, in complete costume—a black executioner’s hood with a white circle and cross on the chest—had appeared almost magical y in theon September 27, 1969. Zodiac had traveled north to Napa County and targeted the student and his young girlfriend, stabbing them with along, inch-wide bayonet with a taped wooden handle. He had decorated the haft, carried at his belt in a handmade scabbard, with brass rivets.
“I don’t know how tal Zodiac was, maybe five foot eight or six feet, somewhere in there. I’m a pretty poor judge of height because of my height,”the lanky student.’s wide brow had breadth enough for a second apple-cheeked face; his neck was thick; high-set ears flew out like horns. His broad-, six-foot-tal bulk was intimidating. “Everybody that I ever saw that met Starr underestimated his height,” Cheney later explained. “He hadfearsome look in his eyes. Thick thighs and a big butt and a bel y and strong shoulders and chest.” Yes, Starr was a heavy man, but then soZodiac. The surviving Berryessa victim estimated Zodiac’s weight at between 225 and 250 pounds. “I described this guy as being real y fat,”said. “I don’t know, he could have been moderately heavy and wearing a thickly lined windbreaker.” But there was another way to tel .Sergeant Ken Narlow of the Napa County Sheriff’s Department had done a compaction test on Zodiac’s unique footprints. He had asheriff weighing 210 pounds walk alongside them. “He didn’t sink down as deeply as Zodiac had,” Narlow told me, “In order to put that printdeeply into the sand we figured the Zodiac weighed at least 220 pounds. Clear prints at the heel had indicated that Zodiac was not running whenleft.” Morril , the handwriting examiner, as conservative with the compaction test as with handprinting, told me, “It depends on how the sand wasthe time too. If the guy was taking big loping steps or mincing along. They were guessing at the size from the indentation he made. Suppose thethe day before was different. Suppose there had been water in it.”the ground had been dry and he had been striding leisurely. The prints were firm and especial y clear at the heel. Napa cops arrived almostbecause Zodiac had boldly phoned them from a booth within four and one-half blocks of their headquarters. “He was bound to haveblood on him,” Narlow told me. “To come in from Berryessa and hit that particular telephone he had to pass, I figure, some twenty to twenty-telephones. He came in close enough to hear any possible sirens rushing out of the city of Napa. He could cal in from the lake, but he would behimself up there. It’s a twenty-five-minute drive down. The booth was twenty-seven miles from the crime scene. If we had found out he wasing from the lake we could have sealed the area off.”the lake there was further proof that Zodiac’s considerable weight was not padding. He had impressed unique marks deeply into the earth. Aon the sole reading “SUPERWEAR” showed clearly in Narlow’s plaster moulages. Zodiac’s military motif, suggested by a black holster at hiscontaining a blue-steel semiautomatic military .45, was enhanced by the identifying logos of his shoes—black boots used primarily by the. Wing Walker shoes were worn almost exclusively by aircraft maintenance crewmen for walking the wings of jets. Narlow discovered that, butafter his men cul ed 150 shoe boutiques with names like “The Spinning Wheel” and “Wil ow Tree.”1969, 103,700 pairs of Wing Walkers had been shipped to Ogden, Utah. The Weinbrenner Shoe Company of Merril , Wisconsin, hadthem per a 1966 government contract for one mil ion pairs total. The last pairs were distributed to Air Force and Naval instal ationsthe West Coast. Only active-duty personnel or former active-duty personnel, or their dependents, could have purchased such shoes. Thesewere required to present an I.D. card that carried a thumbprint and photo to enter any base exchange and make any purchases there.ejo, its economy directly related to military operations, served as home for many skil ed employees with Navy or Air Force ties. They toiled atAFB, north of Val ejo near Fairfield, or at Hamilton, Mather, and McClel an Air Force Bases, nearby Mare Island, Alameda Naval Station, andIsland. The FBI believed in the military connection.
“UNSUB [unknown subject of an investigation] may have military background,” the FBI file said, “inasmuch as UNSUB used bayonet and two9mm weapons and one of the surviving victims observed UNSUB to be wearing military-type boots.” Not only were these unusual-lookingtype boots available only through a limited outlet, but police had their size. Zodiac wore a size 10½ Regular shoe, which indicated a tal, as did his long stride., recal ing Zodiac’s unusual homemade costume, later told me: “We sent our artist to Napa County [on October 24, 1969]. Surviving victimHartnel described the Zodiac’s hood as black and sleeveless, the white circle and crosshair in the middle of the chest. The hood looked weland wel -sewn [the corners had been stitched and there was neat stitching around the flat top] with clip-on sunglasses over the eye slits.” Andcould sew (he had been a sailmaker). But the police in that cramped refinery office scarcely wondered about the suspect’s sewing skil s ormuch attention to his shoes—they were studying his face. Beyond his strength and the build of a potential Gold Medal swimmer gone to seeda highly intel igent mind. Starr’s I.Q. was 136.
“We’re investigating the Zodiac murders in San Francisco and Val ejo,” said Armstrong, “and we have some questions for you.” The detectiveed out a chair for the chemist. Toschi noticed barely perceptible droplets beaded on Starr’s wide forehead. “An informant has notified us thatmade certain statements approximately eleven months prior to the first Zodiac murder,” continued Armstrong. “If these are true, then they are ofincriminating nature.” Armstrong, though referring to Cheney’s recol ected dialogue with the suspect, did not mention his name. “Do you recalsuch a conversation with anyone?”
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