Living in the Zodiac killer's neighborhood was truly frightening, especially when he taunted the entire Bay Area with promises to roam the streets and kill at random. Examiner.com asked readers who were right there to share their experiences with us. What was it like to live in the Zodiac's back yard? How did it affect trying to live a normal daily life?
San Jose — Los Gatos native Gar Wilson remembers watching news reports about the killer every night with his family during the Zodiac’s spree. Wilson — in junior high school at the time — said he did not feel directly threatened because he was younger than the killer’s victims. After the stabbing deaths of two schoolgirls in the South Bay, he said many residents worried that the killer was moving south from San Francisco. “Schoolchildren walked in huge packs, kids who wouldn’t normally have associated with each other walked together for mutual safety,” he said.
Puyallup, Wash. — While growing up in Richmond and El Cerrito, Tate heard about the Zodiac after the Zodiac’s threat to destroy a school bus. Tate — then 10 — rode a bus home from Bethel Christian Academy in El Sobrante. Like many area residents from that time, Tate had his own encounter with someone he thought could have been the killer, while playing on a school campus in El Cerrito. “While we were there, a guy pulled up in a long white sedan, and as he got closer, our blood ran cold, because he had the blond crew cut and the horn-rimmed glasses and he looked like he was up to no good.”
San Ramon — In her early 20s and living in San Francisco at the time of the murders, Lussing did not initially pay much attention to the killer, but as he kept writing letters and taunting police, she began to worry more about her own security. When returning to her home near 15th Avenue and Clement Street at night, she said she would only park her car on the street because she didn’t want to risk the killer entering her garage area behind her. “It was in the back of my mind, because I would go into that garage before, and as soon as it all died down I parked my car in there again.”
San Francisco — A self-described “hippie,” in the late ’60s, Robbins said she would often hitchhike around the Bay Area, and once became suspicious of a man who picked her up after he began describing his friend in a mental hospital. As the letters began showing up in the press, she said residents around her grew fearful that the Zodiac “could strike anywhere.” “In an odd way, we were very excited about the Zodiac, because he was ‘our’ mass murderer. This was shortly after the Manson murders, and they belonged to L.A. The Zodiac belonged to us.”
The Zodiac Killer coined his name in a 1969 letter to the Examiner. Our special section reviews the new “Zodiac” movie and looks back at his still-unsolved killing spree.