Cheri Jo Bates
(Cheri Josephine Bates at age 17 in 1965)

Riverside 40th Anniversary

Oct. 30, 2003 Update

High-Quality Portrait

Original Newspaper Story

Detailed Crime-Scene Photo

Knife Search

RCC Campus, 1966

The Investigators

Tiger Times

Cheri's Death Certificate

Desk-Top Poem Scale

Six Months Later

Crime Scene At Night

RPD Press Release

If you have any information about this case, please contact me.

Killed: Oct. 30, 1966 (Sunday)

Case number: 352-481

Time of attack: Approximately 9:30 p.m.

Place of attack: An alley on the campus of Riverside City College, Riverside, Calif.

Method of attack: A 1966 graduate of Riverside's Ramona High School, 18-year-old Cheri Jo Bates was beaten and stabbed multiple times with a short-bladed knife. There was no evidence of robbery or sexual molestation. There were no witnesses.

Details: Bates had been studying in the college library prior to the attack. Her car was found intentionally disabled approximately 100 yards from the alley. A men's Timex watch with a band suggesting a seven-inch wrist was found at the scene, along with a military-style heel print indicating a size 8 - 10 shoe. The origin of the watch was eventually traced to a military post, possibly in England. The shoes could have been sold at nearby March Air Force Base. Investigators established the watch was ripped from the attacker's wrist during the struggle. Although the watch stopped at 12:24, it's believed the crime occured a few hours earlier and that Bates died very quickly.

Zodiac victim? Zodiac was first considered a suspect in the Bates murder in October 1969, when the Riverside Police Department noted similarities between the Bates case and Napa County's Zodiac killing of Sept. 27, 1969. By November 1970, the news media had gotten wind of the possible Zodiac-Bates connection and both the San Francisco Chronicle and Los Angeles Times published lengthly stories. Zodiac sent a letter to the Los Angeles Times postmarked March 13, 1971, accepting responsibility for the Bates crime. However, he might have been falsely taking credit. As in the known Zodiac attacks, the Bates case saw police-taunting letters written to the newspapers. A confession letter was mailed anonymously from Riverside on Nov. 29, 1966 (Tuesday) to both the Riverside Police Department and the Riverside Press-Enterprise newspaper. However, it wasn't necessarily written by her killer. Although this confession did contain details of the crime that weren't widely known, it's quite possible that the letter was simply the work of a hoaxster. In December 1966, a desk with a morbid poem scratched into the surface was discovered in the college library. The writing was eventually attributed to the Zodiac killer. Additionally, three other letters sent anonymously from Riverside on April 30, 1967 to the above recipients, as well as to the victim's father Joseph, have been attributed to the Zodiac. (In November 1967, yet another suspicious letter was received by the local newspaper, however its origin is unknown.)

Conclusion: The Riverside Police Department is confident it knows who killed Cheri and its suspect is not Zodiac. If true, while Zodiac didn't kill Bates he most probably wrote the confession, desk-top poem and three letters, indicating he had ties to the Riverside area.
(NOTE: All of the April 30, 1967 letters can be found at the
Zodiac Letters page.)

Also see: MESSAGE BOARD | Riverside 40th Anniversary | 2002 Riverside Expedition

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