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Riverside Murder

The Murder of Cheri-Jo Bates

Riverside Murder

"BEWARE...I AM STALKING YOUR GIRLS NOW"

In October 1966, Riverside College student Cheri-Jo Bates was brutally murdered near the City College’s library, in what was described as a brutal and calculated act. Police believed the killer had disabled her car and waited for her to return, before offering her a ride. The two then spent almost half an hour in a darkened driveway before the killer attacked her with knife, severing her jugular vein and leaving her to bleed to death. Almost a month later the murderer would make contact with authorities, claiming responsibility for her death.

The killer sent an anonymously typed letter to both police and Riverside Enterprise newspaper, confessing to Bates’ murder. Detectives believed she had known her killer, who they thought might have been an ex-boyfriend or a potential suitor rejected by her, however no suspects were identified. Six months later, identical notes reading “Bates had to die” were sent to the press, police and Bates father. Two of these notes contained a curious symbol at the bottom, which looks similar to one used by the Zodiac Killer, who began his killing spree three years later. Just like the Zodiac, Bates’s murderer has never been identified.

The 1966 Bates Murder

Several years before anyone had heard of the Zodiac and his crimes, the murder of a young woman went unsolved in Riverside. On Sunday, October 30, 1966, 18-year-old student Cheri-Jo Bates was brutally murdered near the parking lot of the Riverside City College’s library. The discovery of her body was made about 6:30am on October 31, 1966, by a 48-year-old campus groundskeeper, who was operating a sweeping machine near the dirt driveway off Terracina Street and neaer the campus quad twhen he came across the scene of her murder.

The killer had used a knife to slash across her chest area three times, once on her back and seven times across her throat, which had been cut so deep she was nearly decapitated. The motive had not been rape nor robbery of her possessions, because her clothes were undisturbed and her purse was near her body. When found, she was still dressed in a long-sleeve pale yellow print blouse and faded red capri pants, and her woven straw bag containing both her identification and 56 cents was alongside her body.

The crime was investigated by Detective R.D. Yonkers of the Riverside Police Department, who had previously worked a case of attempted murder in the same area, a crime which had bore many similarities to the Bates case. Police suspected the killer had managed to lure Bates by disabling her lime green Volkswagen, by pulling out the distributor coil and the condenser before disconnecting the middle wire of the distributor. He then waited for her to return to her car and attempt to start it, then offered her assistance in fixing it.

The Bates Murder Scene

It’s then believed the killer offered Bates a ride in his own vehicle, and she following him into the darkened unpaved driveway, situated between two empty houses, where they spent half an hour. Detectives were uncertain what transpired during this time, but at some point the man attacked her in the darkness. The autopsy revealed the full extent of her injuries. Bates had been repeatedly kicked in the head, in addition to receiving two stab wounds to her chest inflicted by a knife estimated to be 3 1/2″ long by 1 1/2″ wide. Her left cheek, upper lip, hands and arms had also been cut, along with three slash wounds that had severed her jugular vein, larynx and carotid artery, causing her to bleed to death.

Her attacker had also been beaten, choked and slashed her face. She had evidently fought her assailant, because blood, hair and skin tissue samples were recovered from beneath the victims fingernails and on her hands. There was also a tuft of brown hair found in her clenched fist, most likely ripped from the head of her killer. Several books were found in her car which indicated Bates had previously visited the library, which closed at 9:00pm for the evening.

What sounded like an “awful scream” was heard by two separate witnesses at approximately 10:30pm, followed by a “muffled scream”. Then witnesses heard what was described as an old car starting up several minutes later. This time frame matched the estimated time of death given by the coroner and is believed to be when the murder occurred. There was very little evidence found at the scene, but investigators did find a man’s Timex watch with a broken 7″ wristband, which had stopped at 12:23am, located about ten feet away from her body.

The watch was splattered with paint, which was later analysed and found to be common house paint and was later traced to a military PX in England. There was also a shoe heel-print found at the scene which was believed to be a male size 10, as well as several greasy palm and fingerprints in and on Bates car, and detectives attempted unsuccessfully to match these prints to an offender.

The initial speculation of detectives concerning the disabled Volkswagen, was that Bates had been unable to start her car and had, perhaps accepted a ride offered by her killer. “Cheri Jo was very proud of her little car,” her boyfriend told police. “She worked hard to pay for the car. She never left it without locking the doors and rolling the windows up.” When found, windows of the car had been rolled down, and the keys were found in the ignition.

The Timex watch found at the scene

“We are trying to get to know the girl better,” Homicide Detective Dick Yonkers told reporters. “Who her friends were, her habits, and anything else that might aid us in establishing the identity of her killer.” In response to questions from journalists, Yonkers said that no footprints had been found in the dirt driveway where the body was found. One suspect was checked out and investigators found that he had moved to a southern state shortly after the murder, but on further investigation, he was eliminated as a suspect.

A mental patient at the nearby Patton State Hospital made somewhat of a confession, by telling a hospital psychiatrist that he “thought he had killed Cheri Jo Bates”. Upon further exhaustive interviews with the psychiatrist, it was determined that the patient was suffering from delusions and hallucinations, and was apparently not even acquainted with Cheri Jo Bates.

The Re-enactment

On November 13, 1966, two weeks after the murder and nine days after Bates funeral, detectives quietly rounded up everyone known to have been around the library on the night of October 30, some 65 persons, to help them stage a dramatic “re-enactment” at the instigation of Detective David Bonine. These included 62 students, two librarians and one custodian, who had been present at the library the night of the murder. At the detectives request, the participants wore the same clothing and sat at the same seats that they had occupied so as to recreate the scene in the library the night of the murder. They were also asked to park their cars in the same places as they had on that Sunday night.

According to eye-witnesses, Cheri Jo Bates, or a girl resembling her and wearing similar clothing, had arrived at the library at about 5:40pm, and then waited 20 minutes for the doors to be opened. The girl then entered the library as soon as the doors were opened at 6:00pm, and checked out the books she had searched for. Detectives took statements from every student who showed up for the re-enactment. They also asked all male students to submit to having their fingerprints taken, as well as a lock of hair, that was snipped from each person.

All students, many of whom wanted to see the brutal crime solved, cooperated fully with the request. The samples of hair from male students were analyzed and compared with the tuft of hair found in Bates clenched fist. Following the re-enactment, Riverside Police Captain Cross announced that investigators were seeking a 1947-52 model Studebaker car with “light- colored oxidized paint.” Cross said “A number of students reported they say the car parked just south of Terracina Street about 7 p.m. on the night of the murder,” adding “The car was missing at the reenactment.”

Detective Tom Mullen was given the assignment of tracking down leads on the missing Studebaker. When local newspapers ran photographs of a similar car, hundreds of tips flooded in from residents who thought they had seen the wanted vehicle. Mullen and other detectives checked out the tips, but they all came to a dead end. As a result of the re-enactment, Cross also announced that police were seeking a “heavy-set man with a beard,” who had been seen by witnesses at the library the night of the murder, but who had failed to appear for the re-enactment.

On November 14, 1966, the day after the re-enactment, a break appeared in the case when a campus gardener reported he had unearthed a hunting knife with his rake. The weapon had apparently been buried near the murder scene, and when news of the find reached detectives, they hurried over to the campus and turned the knife over to the homicide squad. However, examinations failed to show any evidence of dried blood on the blade. It was also found that the width did not compare with the incisions made by the stab wounds. Detectives learned from Bates friends that she had been “terribly afraid of the darkness,” which led detectives to believe that Cheri Jo had known her killer and had unsuspectedly accompanied him to the darkened alleyway to her death.

Initially there were strong suspicions the murder was a crime of passion, perpetrated by an ex-boyfriend, spurned love interest or someone else associated with Bates. Because she spent over an hour conversing in the dark with her murderer, it strengthened the theory Bates knew the unidentified individual. Due to the publicity in the immediate aftermath of the murder, Riverside school officials decided to install mercury vapor lights in the dark alley and driveways intersecting the campus grounds.

When she failed to return home the night of her death, Bates father filed a missing persons report. On the evening of her murder, Bates had telephoned Stefani Guttman, also a Riverside City College student, twice that day. The first time was at 3:00pm and then again at 3:45pm, asking her to accompany her to the library “to pick up a few books,” but she did not go miss Guttman told police. Bates father telephoned Guttman at 7:00pm, asking if she knew where his daughter was.

He called her again at 6:50am the following morning, and said his daughter had not returned home. Police questioned another RCC student, Walter Siebert, who said he had been with a few friends in the library around 7:15pm until 9:00pm, but did not see Miss Bates, whom they all knew. They did report seeing four men dressed in work clothes sitting on a fence across from the spot where Bates car was found, but they did not know who they were.

The Confession Letter

On November 29, 1966, almost a month after the murder, two carbon copies of an anonymous letter were sent to the Riverside Enterprise and the Riverside Police claiming responsibility for death of Cheri-Jo Bates. The letter was typed on low-quality white paper, eight inches wide and torn at the top and bottom and a portable Royal typewriter was most likely used with either Elite or Pica typeface.

Entitled “The Confession”, which was typed in capital letters, underneath which was typed “BY”, then twelve underscores where the name of the writer would appear, but had intentionally been left blank. The envelope was unstamped, with no return address from a secluded rural mailbox. The letter was considered genuine because at least one of the details within had not been released to the public, and detectives believed it was likely from Bates killer.

A copy of the letter sent to The Press-Enterprise by Cheri Jo Bates killer.

THE CONFESSION

BY _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

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 VICTIM. 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 BRUNETT THAT SAID XXX 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 CUT 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 TO 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 WARM AND VERY
FIRM UNDER MY HANDS, BUT ONLY ONE THING WAS ON MY MIND. MAKING HER PAY FOR ALL 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 IN THE HEAD TO SHUT HER UP. I PLUNGED THE KNIFE INTO HER AND IT
BROKE. I THEN FINISHED THE JOB BY 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 MAKE THAT CALL TO YOU
ALSO. IT WAS JUST A WARNING. BEWARE…I AM STALKING YOUR GIRLS NOW.

CC. CHIEF OF POLICE
ENTERPRISE

Both of the letters were delivered the same day they were mailed, and both envelopes were handwritten with a felt-tip pen, while neither contained a complete address. A single fingerprint was found on one envelope and sent to the Riverside Police Department, but they were unable to match with a suspect. Meanwhile there was uncertainty if the print had been left by the killer, as the evidence had been handled by others.

There was also some doubt concerning the authenicity of the letters, because some of the claims made by the author contradicted the crime scene. The letter writer stated the victim did not put up a struggle, but the numerous defensive wounds on Bates hands and arms disputed this, as well as the skin and hair found under her fingernails. Meanwhile, the autopsy report made no mention of the murder weapon breaking off when the knife was plunged into her body, and detectives unanimously agree this did not occur.

An article detailing the Bates murder.

Bates vehicle was evidently disabled in the exact manner described in the letter, however the sabotage was the one detail which investigators did not reveal to the media, and seemed to lend credibility that the letter was written by the killer. But other things mentioned, such as the phone call could not be verified, and may have been placed with the Riverside Press, where it was possibly considered a hoax and ignored.

“The man who wrote that letter certainly has a deranged mind,” said Detective Al DeWindt. The following day, November 30, 1966, copies of both letters were sent to the Riverside County Postal Inspector who notified the Federal Bureau of Investigation, who in turn would offer assistance if the letter involved extortion through the mail. However, the FBI refused to become involved with the case because no specific victim of extortion had been named.

In an unexplained factor in the case, the FBI came into possession of a photocopy of the “Confession” letter, which appeared different to the known layout of the two letters, with a different number of words per line. Six months after Bates murder, identical copies of another letter were sent to the police, the Riverside Press and victim’s father, Joseph Bates, who’s address had appeared in the local newspaper after his daughters murder. These letters were written in pencil on lined notepaper and two of the notes read;

BATES HAD
TO DIE
THERE WILL
BE MORE

The letters sent on April 30, 1967 to the Riverside Press and Police department contained a curious symbol which appeared to resemble the letter Z that began with a strange squiggle much like the number 3. The envelopes were mailed with excessive postage, similar to the later letters sent by the Zodiac. The note sent to Bates father did not contain the Z symbol, and substituted “Bates” with “She”. A fingerprint was recovered from the letter sent to the Riverside Police Department, but it was never matched to any suspects.

The Riverside Desk Poem

Earlier in April 1967, a janitor at the Riverside City College reported to police that someone had defaced a library study desk by scratching an insidious poem into the varnished top with a ball-point pen. The poem had been written on the underside of a folding school desk which had been kept in storage for an unknown amount of time. The contents of the poem, timing and location where it was found led investigators to believe the poem described the murder of Cheri-Jo Bates and was written by her killer.

The scrawled poem appears to be some form of suicide note, possibly penned by a Riverside student. The handwriting bears little resemblance to the Bates notes sent the same month, and there was no possible way to determine when the poem had been written, if it pre-dated the Bates murder, or if someone had composed it afterwards was not known. At then end of the poem, the initials “rh” appear to be scrawled, which might have been a reference to the RCC’s President at the time, R. H. Bradshaw, rather than the initials of the poem’s author. The poem read;

The Riverside Poem

Sick of living/unwilling to die
cut.
clean.
if red /
clean.
blood spurting,
dripping,
spilling;
all over her new
dress
oh well
it was red
anyway.
life draining into an
uncertain death.
she won’t
die.
this time
someone ll find her.
just wait till
next time.
rh

The investigation into the murder of Bates focused on the possibility that she knew her killer, or the killer knew of her enough to engage in conversation. A likely suspect was identified, who happened to be an ex-boyfriend, bitter over their break-up and her new relationship with a football player. This suspect was investigated as late as December 1998, when a warrant was secured to collect samples of his hair, saliva and skin which were sent to the FBI crime lab to be checked against the evidence taken from the crime scene. However, the samples did not match those of the killer and the local suspect was ruled out of the investigation.

By October 1969, the San Francisco Zodiac case began to generate a greater level of press coverage and public interest as well as attention from other police forces along the West Coast, who now began to look at the their own cold case files, believing the Zodiac could be a potential suspect in their own unsolved crimes. The Chief of Riverside Police Kinkead sent a 3-page summary of the Bates murder case over to investigators in Solano, Napa and San Francisco. However, it would be lost for over a year.

The 1965 Atwood Attack

In the year preceding the 1966 murder, another crime bore a striking similarity to the attack committed against Bates just before Halloween. The Riverside College campus was the scene of an attempted murder on April 13, 1965, when a young female student was attacked as she attended evening classes. The young woman, known only as Miss Atwood, suffered severe knife wounds, but managed to escape and seek help from neighbours. The 19-year-old victim was able to provide police with a description of her attacker.

When the Press-Enterprise ran an article on April 17, 1965, about the attempted murder, the headline read; “Clean-Cut Youth Sought in Stabbing.” There is some similarity between this headline and the message scrawled into the Riverside College desk, namely “cut, clean,” two words that are used in reference to the attacker of Miss Atwood. It is possible the author of the desk poem had known about the attempted murder, and used it as the basis for the poem. Although it is unknown if Miss Atwood was wearing a red dress when she was stabbed.

Newspapers reported that at the time of the attack, Miss Atwood had been walking not far from the spot where Cheri Jo Bates would later be murdered, when she was set-upon in the parking lot near Cutter Pool, at the Riverside City College. The crime was investigated by Detective R.D. Yonkers of the Riverside Police Department, who would later work the murder case of Cheri Jo Bates. At the time of the attack, Atwood lived at 4510 Lemon Street, which was located near the office of the Press-Enterprise newspaper at 3512 14th Street.

On April 28, 1965, an arrest was made in the case. 19-year-old Rolland Lin Taft was arrested after his fingerprints were found on the knife used to attack Atwood. On the evening of the attack, Taft was in his car when he spotted Atwood and asked her repeatedly if she would like to go for a ride with him, to which Atwood declined. Taft then got out of the car and followed Atwood as she walked home towards an area near the parking lot.

There, after a brief struggle, he stabbed Atwood in her stomach with a hunting knife. Taft then ran away, leaving the knife at the scene of the crime. Atwood was able to stagger to her feet and get help from her neighbours. She was then hospitalized at Riverside Community Hospital, located at 4455 Magnolia Avenue, close to where the attack had occurred, and near where she lived at the time.

Taft was a graduate of Ramona High School, the same Riverside school where Cheri Jo Bates had graduated. Detectives also learned that he resided at 5033 Arlington Avenue, located near Ramona High School at Magnolia Avenue, and the home of Bates at 4195 Via San Jose. With this in mind, and the fact that his attack on Atwood was so similar to the murder of Bates, Taft was briefly considered a suspect in her murder early on in the investigation. However, Taft was still serving his prison sentence for the Atwood attack at the time, and so was discounted as a result.

If the desk poem was written after the Taft/Atwood crime, then it would serve as a warning, with the words “she won’t die” and “just wait till next time,” a clear reference to Atwood surviving and Bates not. Equally, there is every possibility that the attack on Miss Atwood had inspired the murder of Cheri-Jo Bates, as these two instances have been described as almost “identical in many ways”. More than 150 people were questioned in the course of the Bates investigation, but Riverside police ultimately said they had “no definite leads”.

The Zodiac Connection

In October 1970, Paul Avery, a journalist for the San Francisco Chronicle received a Halloween card purportedly from the infamous Zodiac Killer. The wording of the card, which read, “Peek-a-boo, you are doomed.” were perceived as a threat to Avery’s life and as a result the Chronicle published a front page story about the incident on October 31, which resulted in numerous replies from the public. Among these was an anonymous letter sent from Riverside which urged Avery to begin an investigation into a potential link between the Zodiac case and the still unsolved murder of Cheri-Jo Bates.

The Zodiac Halloween card that prompted the re-investigation into the Riverside murder.

“Please forward the contents of this letter to the detective in charge of ‘The Zodiac Murder Case.’ I hope this information will also help you, as we would both like to see this case solved. As for myself, I wish to remain anonymous and I know that you will understand why!

A few years ago in Riverside, California, a young girl was murdered, just about, I believe, on “Halloween” evening! I could write a much longer letter, citing the similarities between Zodiac’s case and this murder, which occurred in Riverside but if the police department cannot see said comparative similarities between these two cases, then I will take a “slow boat to China,” even if these two crimes were committed by two different people! I think, after all the facts are studied, regarding both of these cases, if police have not already investigated these possibilities and are not already aware of the “Riverside case,” then, even so perhaps they should look into it….

Letters to newspapers, “similar erratic printing” find out about these two different cases ….Give Captain Cross a call on the phone, he knows that “I do not quit.”

Mr. Avery, I will give you a call in the near future, please look into the case, the Riverside police have a wealth of information, so does San Francisco, let us hope that they are not too proud to work together, and if they already are, let us hope that there has been an exchange of information….

Avery began his investigation by visiting Riverside and reviewing their evidence, locating the year-old letter from the Chief of the Riverside Police to a Napa County Detective in which he presented his opinions on the similarity between the Bates murder and the crimes committed by the Zodiac. Avery studied the many letters sent to both the Riverside police and press, which included some with what appeared to be a “Z” used as a signature.

On his insistence, a meeting was arranged and detectives from San Francisco, Solano and Napa Counties were invited to compare notes on the Bates murder and the known Zodiac murders committed in their respective jurisdictions. It was the opinion of SFPD Inspector Bill Armstrong that the link between the Riverside murder and the Zodiac crimes was strong enough to believe they were committed by the same person.

The handwriting left on the desk at the Riverside City College’s library was compared to the handwriting in the Zodiac letters by State handwriting expert Sherwood Morrill, who professed his professional opinion that they were written by the same man. The detectives from Riverside were less convinced of the connection, primarily due to the number of stab wounds received by Bates, something which had not been revealed to the other Counties, which had suggested it was perhaps a “Crime of Passion” or “Rage Killing”, something which was not evident in the Zodiac crimes.

Avery published his story in the Chronicle about the Riverside connection on November 16, 1970. Opinion on the Riverside connection has divided investigators. The two Vallejo attacks attributed to the Zodiac showed a well-planned blitz-style attack with a handgun, followed by a quick well controlled exit from the crime scene. It appears the person responsible for the Riverside murder did not actively plan to kill Cheri Jo Bates, because he conversed with her for over an hour before losing control and stabbing her.

Bate’s killer was actually ill-prepared for the attack, using only a small pocketknife against a young woman who fought furiously for her own life. The only pre-planning involved sabotaging Bate’s vehicle, which was more a means to and end in rendering her dependent on the killer’s offer of help. In a slight contrast, the Zodiac went to great lengths to subdue his victims at the Lakeside, but this attack was closer in style to the Riverside murder than those in Vallejo.

The Zodiac engaged in some verbal exchange with his victims, before launching a brutal knife attack, and there could be little doubt about his intentions given the weapons he brought to the scene. This has been argued why the Riverside murder could be considered the first committed by the Zodiac, who would become more audacious and better prepared during his future crimes.

The March 1971 “Los Angeles Times” Letter

After a long period with no communication, the Zodiac finally ended his five-month long silence by sending a letter on March 22, 1971, this time to the Los Angeles Times, something the killer had never done before. The letter was also the first to be sent from an area outside of San Francisco, being postmarked from Pleasanton, which was 15 miles east of the Bay. In the letter, the Zodiac takes responsibility for what he describes as his “Riverside activity,” alluding to the murder of Cheri Jo Bates.

This is the Zodiac speaking

Like I have allways said
I am crack proof. If the
Blue Meannies are evere
going to catch me, they had
best get off their fat asses
+ do something. Because the
longer they fiddle + fart
around, the more slaves
I will collect for my after
life. I do have to give them
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.
The reason I’m writing
to the Times is this, They
don’t bury me on the back pages
like some of the others.

SFPD-0 [crossed-circle]-17+

There were some suspicions that this letter was a fake, with some of those involved in the case, such as RPD Detective Mike Butterfield, suggesting it might have been authored by the same individual who sent the anonymous postcard to Paul Avery on October 27, 1970, which presented the link between the Zodiac and the Riverside murder. There were some who suspected SFPD Inspector Dave Toschi of having authored the letter, however there was not enough evidence to suggest either theory was correct.

The Hoax Confession

The Homicide Cold Case Unit of the Riverside Police Department made an announcement in August 2021, regarding the handwritten correspondence sent to the Riverside Press-Enterprise, the Riverside Police Department and Bates’ father Joseph, stating that the author of the letters claiming responsibility for Bates murder had been identified by DNA analysis the previous year. According to the announcement, the author of the letters had previously and anonymously contacted investigators previously in 2016, explaining the correspondence had been a distasteful hoax.

The un-named individual had expressed remorse and apologized for perpetrating the hoax, explaining that he had been a troubled teenager at the time, and that he had written and mailed the letters as a means of seeking attention. In October 2021, a group of retired police officers, intelligence officers and journalists made the claim that they had solved Bates murder, which they said was linked to the Zodiac case. They claimed to have identified a man by the name of Gary Francis Poste as the perpetrator of Bates murder and the Zodiac murders.

The group presented evidence supporting their theory, which was met with scepticism by the Riverside Police Department, who the group claim had refused their requests to submit samples of hair found beneath Bates fingernails for DNA testing. In response, the RPD denied that any such request had been made. The Riverside police maintain that there is no evidence linking Bates killing to the later Zodiac murders, and that they strongly believe her murderer was native to Riverside County.

The murder of Cheri Jo Bates and her connection to the later Zodiac crimes continues to be subject to intense debate among investigators and armchair sleuths, and has never been definitively linked as part of the Zodiac’s crime spree. Some detectives ruled out the Bates murder as part of the San Francisco Bay area murders, while others believe it to be among the first murders attributed to the unidentified Zodiac, possibly even the first murder committed by the bizarre serial killer.

Those in favour of the Zodiac being responsible cite the letters sent to the authorities as a clear indication its the same person, because the Zodiac had a sadistic passion for communicating with the media and taunting the police. Those against argue the handwriting is different to the distinct Zodiac letters and at the time of the murders, the Bates case was discounted by detectives as a crime of passion. The Bates case, Homicide #352-481, has remained as unsolved as the Zodiac murders.

Written by Nucleus

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