Sunday, February 25, 2007

Zodiac Killer Mania

When I was about 10, the Zodiac killer shot cabbie Paul Stine outside the house of my mother’s best friend.

I remember how shocked I was. The bullet that pierced Stine’s skull shattered the serenity and complacency of the lives of everyone in that tony Presidio Heights neighborhood. This was an area of large mansions, wide sidewalks, leafy trees – the whole bit. Schoolgirls in uniforms walked to school everyday, mothers pushed children in their strollers, and kids played in nearby Julius Kahn playground. Until the killing, the neighborhood had seemed a safe place.

I remember my mother saying that her friend’s son might have to testifiy at a trial because he saw something that night.

The 1970s were a scary time in the Bay Area. The Zebra killings came after the Zodiac killings. Patty Hearst was kidnapped from Berkeley and the nation watched in horror as a firefight erupted between the Los Angeles police department and the SLA. Jim Jones ordered the deaths of 800 people and Dan White killed San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harry Milk.

As the San Francisco Chronicle’s pink section suggests, the Bay Area is due for a little reflection this week as the new movie, Zodiac, opens. It tells the story of the elusive, and ultimately unsuccessful, hunt for the Zodiac through the eyes of a Chronicle cartoonist.

The pink section has lots of interesting stuff on the time, including some pieces by former cop reporter Duffy Jennings, who worked on the case. San Francisco Magazine also has an interesting article by Charles Russo, accompanied by chilling period photographs.

I wonder if the movie will resurrect any of the long-simmering angst those of us who grew up in the Bay Area in the 1960s and 1970s surely have beneath the surface. It's not the anxiety of wondering whether the Zodiac will kill again -- he hasn't communicated with the police or Chronicle since 1978 -- but the feeling that order can quickly dissolve into chaos. It doesn't take much.

While I am mentioning the Zodiac, I would be remiss not to point out a provocative article about former San Francisco Chief of Police Earl Sanders in this week’s SF Weekly. The Zodiac movie is creating a lot of buzz, but the book Sanders wrote on the Zebra Killings has not generated a lot of talk since its release four months ago.

Writer Ron Russell points out that a lot of people think Sanders overstated his role in investigating the black-on-white Zebra killings, as well as pumping himself into a hero for bringing a landmark racial discrimination suit against the police department. Russell calls the Zebra book an attempt to restore polish to Sanders reputation, which was tarnished in the Fajita-gate scandal. Anyway, it’s an interesting read.


Anonymous said...

What were the cross streets of the scene where Paul Stine was murdered in Presidio Heights??

Anonymous said...

What was the cross streets?

Frances said...

Washington and Cherry

Anonymous said...

My greatest fear is that the movie will bring the Zodiac out of hiding, and he will begin to kill openly.I don't believe he ever quit.I believe he did as he said he would,
that he would make them look like accidents.
He commented in one of his letters that who ever played him in a movie would have a difficult role.
He admits he is insane.