Ross Sullivan was a mentally ill teenager when he was committed to the California Patton State Mental Hospital in the late 1950's and early 60's after his Mom died. His Methodist Preacher father, who graduated from Yale Divinity School, earned a Masters Degree from Harvard and his Doctorate from Princeton, effectively abandoned his family at that point. His family had moved to Glendale California from Binghamton New York. An odd coincidence, Ross and Rod Serling both attended Binghamton High School. There is a great deal of evidence that he may have been the Zodiac Killer who terrorized California in the late 1960's.
My interest in crime started when I was five years old.
Lizzie Borden was the daughter of Fall River, Massachusetts millionaire banker Andrew Borden, a member of one of the poorer offshoots of the powerful Borden Family. Andrew regained his family's position by becoming Fall River Massachusetts most successful undertaker. A story told about Andrew at the time gives you an idea of what kind of man he was. He had a customer who was well over 6' tall, but only had a casket for someone of average height, about 5' 8", Andrew's solution was simple, he sawed off the mans feet and ankles to make him fit. Lizzie's Mom Sarah died when she was young and she hated her Stepmother Abby Borden. On August 4, 1892 someone murdered her father and stepmother inside the house with a hatchet, a particularly grisly way to kill someone. Both victims were attacked with "Hideously Persistent" fervor, the kind of overkill which usually indicates that the murderer knew his victims. Lizzie was one of only two people known to be in the house at the time of the murder, the other was family maid Irish Bridget Sullivan. Lizzie inherited the equivalent of several million dollars as a result of the murder. Bridget got nothing, except a substantial monetary gift from Lizzie and her sister Emma after Lizzie was tried for the murder and found not guilty, because as one juror of the all male jury said, no woman would kill someone with an ax, they would use poison. Underestimating Lizzie, proves she was smarter than everyone else.
The History Channel's Hunt for the Zodiac Killer starred FBI Agent Kenneth Mains(L) and LAPD Homicide Detective Sal Barbera(R) presented the investigation of the Zodiac Killer in a way that made sense. Regrettably, The History Channel chose not to renew the show for a second year.
David Faraday and Betty Lou Jensen went to a secluded spot on Lake Herman Road to spend some "alone time". They were killed by the gate on the road to the Naval Radar Station on 12-28-1968. At the time an Unknown Assailant, who would later admit who his identity was, as the Zodiac Killer, after his next crime, he would voluntarily take credit for this crime too.
Darlene Ferrin and Mike Mageau went to neck in a lover's lane, the parking lot of Blue Rock Springs State Park, when they were attacked by a large man with a very bright flash light. Mike was convinced he was a policeman, until he started firing. Mike survived, Darlene did not. When Zodiac called police to report the murder, he took credit for his previous murder.
The lake Berryessa attack on September 27, 1969 occurred on the little isthmus of land which during high water became an island. Cecelia Shepard and Brian Hartnell were stabbed repeatedly under the tree. A size 10 boot print was found at the crime scene. Bryan survived, Cecilia would not. One "footnote," the footprint expert who looked at this said that he could tell the man must have weighed at least 200 lbs.
The original Zodiac Killer wanted poster from eyewitness survivor descriptions. Ross Sullivan was born on August 28, 1941.
The popular mystery series Charlie Chan had one movie called Treasure Island, which told the story of a serial killer calling himself The Zodiac. The movie was made in 1939, rebroadcast on TV repeatedly during the 1950's.
Tim Holt Comic Book from July 1952 when Ross Sullivan was 11-years-old. Here is Ross on his Binghampton NY High School Swim Team.
Ross learned to swim at the Binghamton YMCA at which Harold Sullivan was the Youth Minister.
A Halloween Card sent to the San Francisco Chronicle on October 27th 1970 along with the 340 Cipher, which remained unsolved for 40 years. Note the similarities with Tim Holt's Wheel of Death.
Palace Stationery Store was within a couple of miles of Ross Sullivan's home in Santa Cruz. In his letters to the San Francisco Chronicle, Zodiac referred to the Gilbert and Sullivan's Play the Mikado repeatedly. Here is a reference to Titwillow, a character in the play. In the play there is another character called the Grand High Executioner. A frightening thought Zodiac and I both had the same review of the Horror Movie "The Exorcist". We thought it was a comedy, though I do spell better than he did. Note how he misspelled satirical/comedy/suicides
While he worked at the Riverside Community College Library, Ross Sullivan stood out, wearing military fatigues, military boots but appeared shy and withdrawn. He didn't fit in with any groups and had no real friends. After the murder of Cheri Jo Bates on October 30, 1966, Ross disappeared for a few days, when he came back to work, he was wearing normal college clothes. This prompted one of the library staff to write this narrative. about why they suspected Ross. Note that Ross owned a VW Bug, just like Cheri Jo Bates. Someone sabotaged her car by disconnecting her distributor while she was in the library. When she came out of the library at 9 PM on Sunday, she tried to start her car and couldn't, per the assailant's plan. He probably offered to help her, escorting her to his car, that is when he struck. She was murdered in an alley between two empty buildings/former homes used by the library for overflow books. A watch with a broken wrist band was found on the ground near the site of the attack.
The broken watch tells the time of the attack was around Sunday 9:07 PM, minutes after the Riverside College Library Closed
Click on the memorandum below to read why some of the staff of the Riverside Community College Library suspected Ross Sullivan.
Found carved in a desk at the library at Riverside Community College the day after Cheri-Jo Bates was murdered.
Cheri Jo Bates photographed by the student newspaper in the College Library. Cheri Jo and Ross Sullivan's younger brother, John, living with a foster family, attended the same church. Ross knew the victim and had asked her for a date, she had turned him down.
Third from the left is Ross's Dad Methodist Youth Minister Harold Sullivan in 1956, In the very front row is John Sullivan, Ross's younger brother. who graduated from Ramona High School in Riverside in 1963. Ross also had an another brother, Tim, who moved to San Francisco in the early 1960's then to Minnesota in the 1970's according to one report, after his Mom's death on September 12, 1959. One report is that Tim's fiance Bonnie Bartlett lived at the Vickford Apartments, less than a mile away from Geary and Mason.*
Methodist Youth Minister Harold Sullivan announced as new head of the Glendale YMCA. After his wife died, Harold left his underage son John with a foster family and apparently abandoned his mentally ill son Ross. Conventional wisdom is that the mentally MUST have an adequate support system in place to survive in society. No safety net and you end up with deeply troubled mentally ill.
“1965 — November 6: There were three pages of names in the AWOC guest register (176-178), and the events of the day showed that Tim Sullivan, 5599 Corwin Lane, Riverside, brought a truckload of food and clothing, as well as cash. With him were a number of University of California, Riverside, students including Floyd Sweet, CORE, Riverside.” **
Ross's brother Tim was a Social Activist, even earning himself a footnote in the Congressional Un-American Activities Committee for supporting the Cesar Chavez Grape Farm Workers Strike. He would later move to Canada, after his draft number came up in 1969. ***
A friend of Tim Sullivan, Gerald Katz, offers an opinion from someone who actually knew the Sullivan family and Ross. Gerald attended Riverside Community College at the same time Ross Sullivan did. Katz establishes Ross knew Cheri Jo before the murder. A paraphrased summary below:
Riverside Police received this letter six months after the murder, the first of many Zodiac letters.
Zodiac claiming credit for the Cheri Jo Bates murder. Police determined the note had been typed on a Royal Typewriter.
San Francisco Chronicle Reporter Paul Avery got another card from Zodiac, telling him that
he was doomed. Paul knew what you do when a serial killer threatens you.
While at Glendale High School Ross Sullivan took part in a student project, making a murder mystery movie. Ross played the murderer. Shortly before his Mom died and he was committed to Patton State Mental Hospital.
Last known photo of Ross with Library Staff. Ross was about 6'2" and 200 lbs, by the late 1970's he would weigh 300 lbs before dying of Pickwick's Syndrome in 1977. As the 60's and 70's progressed his health declined, his mental health did too.
Ross Sullivan's Social Security application form
CRAZY DOES NOT MEAN STUPID: Zodiac Ciphers
Sometimes it can mean incredible brilliance
The famous Zodiac 340 Cipher which has stumped the Police, FBI, British Intelligence, Interpol and CIA for over 50 years. One proposed solution shows an elegant simplicity, letters were both encoded and not if used twice in the same word. Also, it appears that the cipher is divided in 1/2, with two different systems of encoding each half. Also, an irony, he wasn't the best speller and that made his ciphers much harder to decode. A great documentary series, The History Channel's Hunt for the Zodiac Killer.
It is believed that the 340 Cipher has been solved, encoding with elegant simplicity, the characters were changed and offset diagonally, aided by spelling errors of Zodiac.
San Francisco Detective David Toschi was the model for Steve McQueen's Frank Bullitt in Bullitt (1968) and Clint Eastwood's Dirty Harry (1971). Toschi was senior detective on scene after Graduate Student and Cab Driver Paul Stine was killed.
Toschi still recalls that night in precise detail. He and Armstrong had been on call all week and had already worked three murders, including one the night before.
San Francisco Chronicle SFPD homicide inspectors Dave Toschi and Bill Armstrong examine a murder victim’s clothing in the morgue
“I was exhausted,” says Toschi. “I went to bed around 8 o’clock. The phone rang at 10:15. I remember exactly what the dispatcher said: ‘You’ve got a sloppy one near the Presidio. Cab driver shot in the head.’ I got dressed and went to pick up Bill in ParkMerced.
“There was blood everywhere. We thought it was a robbery from the beginning. We had witnesses, we had a description, we had fingerprints – we just figured we’re gonna get the guy. I will always wonder if he really was watching us, like he said in his letter.”
Dave Toschi would spend the rest of his life hunting the Zodiac Killer.
Toschi served as the model for Steve McQueen's character Frank Bullitt, in Bullitt (1968). Steve had grown up poor and got into some trouble as a kid, even serving a stint in the Boy's Republic, a progressive reform school, but the two hit it off and took a liking to each other immediately. McQueen copied Toschi's shoulder holster and quick draw for the movie. Toschi served as liaison for SFPD while the film was being made. I have included a biography of Steve on my blog, on the middle of this page: https://briankeithohara.blogspot.com/2014/11/lamar-potts-honest-georgia-sheriff-and.html
Toschi also served as a model for Clint Eastwood's Dirty Harry movies. However, Toschi and Clint never became particularly friendly, Toschi even walked out of Dirty Harry, because it was too close to reality, the Scorpio Killer was far too closely modeled on the Zodiac Case and Toschi thought that was unacceptable when it was based on a real crime which had not been solved.
For those who are interested, George "Star Wars" Lucas was from San Francisco and took a great interest in the Zodiac case while a student at USC Film School. He became friends with Dave Toschi and named the Tatooine Toschi Station, "in honor of the SFPD inspector."
Zodiac used Gilbert and Sullivan Mikado references in his letters. On the night Paul Stine picked up his fatal fare at Geary and Mason, the Mikado was playing at the Orpheum Theater, 1192 Market Street in the San Francisco Theatre District about a mile from Geary and Mason. Roger Pierson of the Lamplighters Troop recalls a tall, robust young man who would come to Mikado performances dressed as the Grand High Executioner a character in the play. He said the man gave off an unsettling vibe to members of the troop at the meet and greets following their performances/ Roger reckons this happened around 1969.
Orpheum Theatre San Francisco
Mason at Geary Streets of San Francisco about a mile from the Orpheum, where Zodiac hailed Paul Stine's cab.
Cabby Paul Stine working on his graduate degree.
Three teenagers on the 3rd Floor of this home at the corner of Cherry and Washington heard a scuffle and gunshot, looked down on the murder as it occurred and called police. They saw the perpetrator wipe the cab down for fingerprints, though he missed one, and do something to the body, we know now that he was cutting part of Paul's shirt to send with his next message to the San Francisco Chronicle, Though on the 3rd story and fairly far away, they described the perpetrator as a white male, 25 to 30 years old, 5'8" to 5'9", stocky build, reddish-brown hair worn in a crew cut, heavy-rimmed glasses and dark clothing. They last saw him casually walking north on Cherry Street. Unfortunately, the police dispatcher mistakenly described the suspect as being a black male adult. Police approaching the scene, patrolmen Donald Fouke and Eric Zelms stopped and questioned a white man briefly, taking note of the 6' tall WHITE man with a robust build, walking away from the crime scene on Jackson Street which is parallel to the Presidio, a large Park at the end of Washington Street. Because he was walking casually, at a slow, lumbering pace and seemed unconcerned with their questioning, they let him go, they were after all looking for a black man, and proceeded to Washington and Cherry. Later SFPD Detective David Toschi would find out from the officers involved about the incident. Toschi determined that these officers had probably spoken to Zodiac.
The third story window in the roof is where the teens were, Paul Kline's cab was located by the Stop Sign approximately where the blue car is.
Entrance to the Presidio, the direction Zodiac was walking when stopped by police, who were looking for the wrong guy, thanks to the dispatcher's mistake.
Ross Sullivan died September 29th 1977, while living in an assisted living home at 2177 17th Street Santa Cruz suffering from Pickwick's Syndrome. Though he was brilliant enough to create a cipher which confounded everyone, his last job was listed as a dishwasher in a restaurant.
Robert Graysmith wrote the most famous Zodiac book, which in turn served as the premise for the EXCELLENT movie Zodiac (2007), starring brilliant performances by Mark Ruffalo as Toschi, Robert Downey Jr. as Sagacious and loquacious Reporter Paul Avery and Jake Gyllenhaal as San Francisco Editorial Cartoonist Robert Graysmith. Zodiac Director and Marin County native David Fincher was close friends with Jennifer Aniston's husband at the time Brad Pitt. Jennifer is the one who suggested Ruffalo and Gyllenhaal for their roles.
Graysmith believed the most viable suspect was Arthur Leigh Allen, a small time crook and pervert. But it should be noted, no substantive proof ever turned up to support Graysmith's case against him. He was in the right place for the San Francisco murders living very near Geary and Mason at the time of the Stine Murder.and having lived in Riverside California, when Cheri Jo Bates was killed.
How good a detective was Mark Ruffalo? He is slated to play Peter Falk's heir as Lt. Columbo in an upcoming movie.
David Fincher wasn't allowed to film Zodiac's attack on Paul Stine at Washington and Cherry Street because of resident's disapproval, they were afraid filming would hurt real estate values and frighten children who live there now. That scene was shot entirely on a sound stage. They did shoot the Lake Berryessa attack on site, but had to plant two full grown Oak Trees, since the original trees died long ago after several years of drought.
Currently, thanks to heavy rain in California the last couple of years, the lake Berryessa crime scene is an island, but the Zodiac (2007) Oak Trees appear to be thriving.
A Man Called Intrepid, the Carl Kolchak of the Zodiac Story,
Dave Peterson of the Vallejo Times-Herald
Intrepid and dogged Reporter Dave Peterson of the Vallejo Times-Herald took a special interest in Ross Sullivan and wrote Riverside Police to get as much information about Ross's life in Riverside. He was the lead reporter on Farady-Jensen and Ferrin-Mageau attacks. He would track the case the rest of his life. He came to disagree with Robert Graysmith. He believed Ross Sullivan was the #1 Suspect.
He was particularly intrigued by Ross's interest in cryptography. He was also in communication with Dave Toschi SFPD. It turns out that his suspicion that Ross Sullivan was the most likely suspect, may have been 100% right all along.
Ross Sullivan's Death Certificate September 29, 1977