CONFIRMED ZODIAC KILLER VICTIM

Cheri Josephine Bates

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photo of zodiac killer victim Cheri Jo Bates
(Cheri Josephine Bates at age 17 in 1965)
zodiac killer case police department heading for Cheri Jo Bates

Killed: Oct. 30, 1966 (Sunday)

Case number: 352-481

Time of attack: Between 9:23 PM Oct. 30 and 12:23 AM Oct. 31

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. Her throat was also cut. There was no evidence of robbery or sexual molestation. There were no witnesses.

Details: Bates had visited her college library and police believe that was when her Volkswagen Beetle was disabled by her eventual killer. Her car was found approximately 100 yards from the alley where she was killed. 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 unknown exactly when the crime occurred. 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 lengthy stories. Zodiac detectives from the San Francisco Bay Area met with investigators handling the Bates case, and the conclusion was made that Zodiac was Cheri’s killer. (For all the details of the bizarre twists and turns in the Bates case, check out “The Curse of the Confession” above.) Eventually, the Zodiac sent a letter to the Los Angeles Times postmarked March 13, 1971, accepting responsibility for the Bates crime. As in the subsequent 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, and included details of the murder that had never been revealed by police. 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.

Conclusion: The original investigation concluded the Zodiac was the murderer of Cheri Jo Bates. All of the details can be found in “The Curse of the Confession” above.

(NOTE: All of the April 30, 1967 letters can be found at the Zodiac Letters page.)

Below: A full-length podcast update on Zodiac Killer Victim Cheri Jo Bates