December 1968. From Saigon to San Francisco

By Francesco Amicone

When Zodiac killed a couple of teenagers on Lake Herman Road, Vallejo, on 20 December 1968, was not yet known as Zodiac, and he wouldn’t be for about seven months. Nobody claimed to have murdered David Arthur Faraday, 17, and Betty Lou Jensen, 16, at the time. Investigators were far from identifying the perpetrator until a man who would call himself the same as a dive watch brand phoned the Vallejo Police Department after a second attack in a parking lot at Blue Rock Springs Park. The location of the phone booth was an oil and gas station called “Joe’s Union” (Vallejo Police Department report, thanks to Daniele for pointing that out) at Tuolumne and Springs roads. Agent Nancy Slover listened to the caller and stated that he told her:

«I want to report a double murder. If you will go one mile east, on Columbus Parkway to the public park, you will find the kids in a brown car. They were shot with a 9 mm Luger. I also killed those kids last year… Good-bye.»

Zodiac’s phone call, July 5, 1969 

A late claim
It was not until 1969 when Zodiac sent mails to the press and until July 5, 1969, when he first boasted of the double murder of 1968. Why did he wait so long? The absence of phone calls and messages in the aftermath of his first official murder differentiates the homicides of David Faraday and Betty Lou Jensen from the other ones. Lake Herman Road is the only case attributed by the Authorities to him over the years (including Riverside) in which the serial killer did not communicate anything to investigators or the press before more than six months had passed, among other things on the occasion of another attack. What held him back up to that moment? Why did he wait so long?

Where was Joe Bevilacqua in December 1968?
For now, I just could say that, at the beginning of December 1968, Joe was almost at the end of his tour of service in Vietnam; was stationed at Cu Chi near Saigon, serving the 27th Infantry Regiment as intelligence and operations sergeant. The Army had recently awarded him the Silver Medal, Soldier’s Medal, and Purple Heart. Joe could ask his Command a leave of a few days which he could spend also out of the country like all the American soldiers who were in Vietnam for a tour of service.

Vietnam Honolulu R&R Zodiac
R&R Pan Am flight from Saigon to Honolulu, 1966

Rest and recuperation licenses in Hawaii
Soldiers stationed in Vietnam in 1968 were given the opportunity to spend a week’s rest and recuperation leave outside the country. Hawaii was included among the possible destinations (look here and the vignette below). Joe could have committed the crime of December 20, 1968 by taking advantage of his week of R&R and a authorization to spend his leave days as he was entitled to in San Francisco.
In December 1968, Joe was a young sergeant with 14 years of military experience. It can be assumed that the honors bestowed on him for his behavior on the battlefield (Silver Star, Bronze Star, Soldier’s medal and Purple Heart) could help him to obtain the authorization to pass the day of his 33rd birthday in San Francisco.

Saigon – Honolulu – San Francisco
Was a one-week leave enough for Joe to commit the murder? Yes, it was. A check on Pan Am timetables for December 1968 showed that a week’s leave would have been sufficient. Once in San Francisco, Joe could have rented a car, if he didn’t have one already in the area, gone north of the Bay for a ride coming across the lovers’ lane on Lake Herman Road.
And the gun? At the time, it seems that it was still possible to store fire weapons in the hold baggage with the U.S. airlines (link), so the gun could even have come from Vietnam. Perhaps, he kept it in a postal locker or a rented box in the San Francisco area.
According to the Pan Am timetables, Joe could have used at least one of the following 4 periods to reach San Francisco from Saigon with a 7-day special permit, having the time required to commit the murder and return to Vietnam.

17 – 23 DECEMBER

Saigon to San Francisco and return – PAN AM 814 and 841 (timetable)

17 December, Pan Am 814 Saigon – San Francisco, departure 2.20 p.m / arrive 7.45 p.m (due to time zone differences)

Saigon San Francisco
Saigon to San Francisco – December 1968

3 full days in San Francisco
17 December, from the night
18 December
19 December
20 December
21 December, until night

21, 22, 23 December, Pan Am 841 San Francisco – Saigon, departure 9.00 p.m. / arrive 10.45 a. m. (23 Dec, due to time zone differences)

San Francisco Saigon
San Francisco to Saigon – December 1968

18 – 25* DECEMBER

Saigon to San Francisco and return – PAN AM 842 and 841** (timetable)

18 December, Pan Am 842 Saigon – San Francisco, departure 11.50 a.m. / arrive 4.15 p.m. (due to time zone differences)

3 full days in San Francisco*
18 December, from the night
19 December
20 December
21 December
22 December,  Pan Am 841 San Francisco – Honolulu, departure 9.00 p.m. / arrive 0.10 a. m. (22 Dec)*

1 full day in Honolulu*
23, 24 December, until morning

24, 25 December, Pan Am 841 Honolulu – Saigon, departure 1.30 a.m. / arrive 10.15 a. m. (25 Dec, due to time zone differences)

*The return journey was on Christmas Eve / Christmas. Joe might have spent one day more in San Francisco taking an extra leave for Christmas and come back on December 26.
**On Sunday, December 22 (timetable), there were other 5 Pan Am flights from San Francisco to Honolulu: 817 (departure 9.00 / arrive 12.10), 833 (departure 9.30 a.m. / arrive 1.45 p.m.), 831 (departure 11.00 p.m / arrive 14.10), 801 (departure 13.00 pm / arrive 16.10), 835 (6 p.m. / 9.10 p.m.).

Pan Am 1968 Vietnam

PAN AM R&R Flights Saigon to Honolulu and return + Honolulu to San Francisco and return (attachments 2 and 3)

Joe could have also taken a combination of different flights for his journey on a special leave.
In December 1968, there was plenty of choice of flights from Honolulu to San Francisco and return (attachment 2). The following ones are just those from the Pan Am timetables for December 1968. They are a combination of special Rest & Recuperation flights from Saigon to Honolulu and normal ones from Honolulu to San Francisco compatible with the day of the murders in Vallejo on December 20, 1968.

16 – 23 DECEMBER

16 December Saigon – Honolulu (timetable)
P208 Saigon – Honolulu, departure 10.10 a.m. / arrive 5.25 a.m. (due to time zone differences)
P208a Saigon – Honolulu, departure 5.10 p.m. / arrive 12.25 p.m. (due to time zone differences)

16 December Honolulu – San Francisco (timetable)
842 Honolulu – San Francisco, departure 9.30 a.m. / arrive 4.15 p.m.*
814 Honolulu – San Francisco, departure 1.00 p.m. / arrive 7.45 p.m.

4 full days in San Francisco
16 December, from the evening/night
17 December
18 December
19 December
20 December
21 December, until evening
Pan Am 835 San Francisco – Honolulu, depart 6.00 p.m. / arrive 9.10 p.m.**

22, 23 December 
P207 Honolulu – Saigon, depart 1.00 a.m. / arrive 8.55 a.m. (23 Dec, due to time zone differences)
P207a Honolulu – Saigon, depart 8.00 a.m. / arrive 3.55 p.m. (23 Dec, due to time zone differences)

*On Tuesday, December 16 (attachment 2), there were other 2 Pan Am flights to San Francisco: 836 (departure 10.30 a.m. / arrive 5.15 p.m.) and the following 814 (departure 1.00 p.m. / arrive 7.45 p.m.).
**On Saturday, December 21 (attachment 2), there were other 5 Pan Am flights to Honolulu: 817 (departure 9.00 a. m./ arrive 12.10 p.m.), 833 (departure 9.30 a.m. / arrive 1.45 p.m.), 831 (departure 11.00 p.m. / arrive 2.10 p.m.), 801 (departure 1.00 p.m. / arrive 4.10. p.m.), 841 (9 p.m. / 0.10 a.m. – 22 Dec).

17 – 24 DECEMBER

Saigon to Honolulu and return (P208 or P208a) + Honolulu to San Francisco and return (several)

17 December Saigon – Honolulu (timetable)
Pan Am P208 Saigon – Honolulu, depart 10.10 a.m. / arrive 5.25 a.m. (due to time zone differences)
Pan Am P208a Saigon – Honolulu, depart 5.10 p.m. / arrive 12.25 p.m. (due to time zone differences)

17 December Honolulu – San Francisco (timetable)
Pan Am 842 Honolulu – San Francisco, depart 9.30 a.m. / arrive 4.15 p.m.*
Pan Am 814 Honolulu – San Francisco, depart 1.00 p.m. / arrive 7.45 p.m.

4 full days in San Francisco
17 December, from the evening/night
18 December
19 December
20 December
21 December
22 December, until evening
Pan Am 835 San Francisco – Honolulu, depart 6.00 p.m. / arrive 9.10 p.m.**

23, 24 December
P207 Honolulu – Saigon, depart 1.00 a.m. / arrive 8.55 a.m. (24 Dec, due to time zone differences)
P207a Honolulu – Saigon, depart 8.00 a.m. / arrive 3.55 p.m. (24 Dec, due to time zone differences)

*On Wednesday, December 16 (timetable), there were other 2 Pan Am flights to San Francisco: 836 (departure 10.30 a.m. / arrive 5.15 p.m.) and the following 814 (departure 1.00 p.m. / arrive 7.45 p.m.).
**On Sunday, December 21 (timetable), there were other 5 Pan Am flights to Honolulu: 817 (departure 9.00 a. m./ arrive 12.10 p.m.), 833 (departure 9.30 a.m. / arrive 1.45 p.m.), 831 (departure 11.00 p.m. / arrive 2.10 p.m.), 801 (departure 1.00 p.m. / arrive 4.10. p.m.), 841 (9 p.m. / 0.10 a.m. – 22 Dec).

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