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This is the Dead Land… (Zodiac/Joseph Newton Chandler III)

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Our dried Voices…

First, I must give credit where credit is due; if it were not for this blog entry by the writer of xymphora.blogspot.com, prompted in part (according to the blogger) by my own ideas, I would not be writing this entry. Xymphora is a mystery all his/her own – no e-mail links or comments at the blog, no way for me to figure out how to thank the writer directly, but hopefully lavish credit here to them for finding a connection that only supports a theory I have about the fate of the Zodiac Killer will suffice.

Behaving as the wind behaves…

In an article titled The Hope Only of Empty Men I wrote about John Doe number 454umoh. The man was found after his suicide in 2002 to have been an impostor, using the name Joseph Newton Chandler III from around 1978 till his death. Joseph Newton Chandler III was actually a young Texas boy who died during the Christmas season in Oklahoma, in 1945. John Doe had sent away for his first social security card under that name in 1978, when Doe would have been about 41.

I wondered if “Chandler” could be the Zodiac Killer. Zodiac taunted the police and public in the late 60’s and early 70’s in northern California. He tended to target couples parked in lovers lanes, killing assassin-style, with one exception, his knife attack on Cecilia Shepard and Bryan Hartnell at Lake Berryessa. His taunts came in the form of letters and ciphers sent to various news outlets, the police, even famed defense attorney Melvin Belli. Zodiac seemed to disappear after 1974.

I speculated that the connection in the name Joseph Chandler was this; a lesser-known investigator of the original Jack the Ripper murders in London in the late 1880’s was named Joseph Luniss Chandler. My logic was predicated on having always presumed, and many “Zodiacologists” agree, that Zodiac was himself a Ripper afficionado – the nature of his letters to the press seem to prove this. Zodiac was likely an anglophile – in more than one of his letters he quoted lyrics from Gilbert & Sullivan’s operettas.

Zodiac’s final known murder, the handgun killing of San Francisco cabbie Paul Stine, seemed utterly illogical based on his previous targeting of couples until I examined the dates of Ripper letters to various authorities and newspapers in London in 1888.

On October 16, 1888, George Lusk, head of the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee, received the infamous “From Hell” letter containing half a human kidney, supposedly that of Ripper victim Catharine Eddowes [source: casebook.org, the premiere Ripper website.]

On October 13, 1969, the San Francisco Chronicle received from Zodiac what is now known as “The Paul Stine letter.” This letter contained a bloodstained piece of Paul Stine’s shirt [source: Zodiackiller.com, the best site about Zodiac on the web].

Zodiac was never caught because he could control his impulses better than the average psychopath. When he murdered Paul Stine he was only using Stine as a prop in his game with police. While the earlier couple killings were more motivated by his sadism bound up with his sexual impulses, Stine was simply convenient, the date was right. I felt that the “Stine letter” was the killer’s rather obvious homage to his inspiration, Saucy Jacky – right down to the inclusion of a trophy from his kill.

The man who called himself Joseph Chandler in Ohio was a former navy man, with a background in electrical engineering. The best authorities could do with finding out anything his background was ferreting out that he indeed had come from California, originally.

Zodiac was thought to have been former navy, possibly a native Californian, and to have a background in engineering.

Considered with the resemblance between Chandler and a suspect sketch of Zodiac the connections are still rather tenuous, but also difficult to dismiss out-of-hand.

Xymphora found another possible connection between events in Ohio, where the mystery man died in 2002, and the crimes of Zodiac in California. The most chilling connection yet.

Falls the shadow…

He followed them after they pulled out of the drive-in parking lot. Through his open window he could hear their radio, blasting that awful rock-and-roll into the slipstream of their car. Different city, different state, different night. And he was a different man.

In name, at least.

He was so patient now. Amazing how a little age could do that for you, let you learn the value of control, of waiting. He followed the couple quite a ways, till they pulled off the main road and cut through the cornfields. He knew what they were going to do. It seemed to be all the kids lived for now, sex and drugs. He felt he was doing more of a service than ever before to society. California had been undeserving of his talents. Now he was free to ply his trade, hone his talent. The world was moving on, worrying about hostages in Iran and electing a Republican to the White House again. This would not be like California.

They pulled to a stop where the road bottomed out and he pulled in behind them. An angled cut-off, just as he’d seen highway patrolmen do. They couldn’t easily back out now. He grabbed his .45 and stepped out, moving just as briskly as he had moved 10 years before. Briskly, but calmly.

He flicked on the penlight duct-taped to the pistol and raised it. In the beam he saw the boy’s startled eyes. There was a surge of energy, as close as he ever came to something like joy.

Then there was thunder in his hand, and the girl’s screams echoing across the cornfield. But only for a moment…

In death’s other kingdom…

Serial-killer.org is the effort of a Viennese woman named ‘Elizzza,’ who says she is “…really not half as bloodthursty(sic) as this site may let you fear…”

It’s an excellent site, one I had not linked permanently from my ‘true crime blog,’ because I’d mistakenly assumed it was mostly written in german. It is not, perhaps because ‘Elizzza’ knows that serial murder is, like tornadoes, a primarily American phenomenon, and her readers are no doubt largely english-speaking.

Serial-killer.org is where Xymphora found the connection between a possible Zodiac presence in Ohio and murder, a connection that I missed when first researching a Zodiac-“Joe Chandler” connection.

From the serial-killer.org page about the “Ohio Lovers Killer” – added emphasis is mine:

…(B)etween August 1979 and October 1982, eight victims were dispatched in grisly style by a killer (or killers) who preyed on young Ohio couples, randomly selecting victims in a triangle of death that stretched from Akron and Toledo in the north to Logan, in the south. The first to die were Richard Beard, 19, and Mary Leonard, 17, gone missing from an Akron drive-in theater on August 24, 1979. Their fate remained a mystery until May 29, 1985, when a backhoe operator in Northampton Township unearthed a skull and other skeletal remains. A second skull and more bones were discovered on May 30, a single bullet hole suggesting cause of death. The victims were identified from dental records on May 30, but no clue to the identity of their killer was forthcoming(…)(T)here was nothing to suggest the killer’s motive or identity. Authorities stop short of looking on the “couples” murders as a series, but the similarity in choice of victims and the show of brutal violence cannot be ignored. The occupational connection in Toledo indicates a link between two sets of homicides, at least, but nothing more can be advanced with certainty about the ghoulish string of crimes that terrorized the Buckeye State for three long years…

There are differences between these couple murders and the ones attributed to Zodiac:

  • Zodiac mostly used a gun – the Ohio murders were done with a firearm, by bludgeoning, and one couple, Todd Schultz and Annette Johnson, were dismembered, their torsos pulled out of the Hocking River, their arms and legs found buried in a cornfield.
  • Zodiac left his victims where he found them – at least a few of the Ohio victims were transported, some attempt at hiding or disposing of the bodies was made.
  • Zodiac killed in a fairly well-defined zone, San Francisco to the Napa area. The Ohio murders took place in a triangle, Akron and Toledo in the north, Logan in the south. Possibly indicating a travelling killer if one person was responsible.
  • I do not know that there was any communication to the police or press about the Ohio murders, and it does appear that Ohio authorities are very leery of connecting them. It seems like Zodiac would have wanted everyone to know he was still at it, all the way across the country.

But, as xymphora pointed out:

…(T)here was a series of murders in northern Ohio from 1979, when Chandler arrived in northern Ohio, to 1982. These murders were of young couples killed in various violent ways. The Zodiac killer killed, or attempted to kill, young couples in various violent ways…

The murders of BTK Strangler [Google search] victims Marine Hedge and Dee Davis were not originally connected to that killer by the authorities. Nor was the murder of Vicki Wegerle, which BTK claimed in his first 2004 letter, sent to the Wichita Eagle. One reason was that police had assumed that the killer was either dead or in prison, or had otherwise moved on. There were some differences in method of operation, too – the most obvious being that both Hedge and Davis were abducted from their homes and found elsewhere, and BTK had previously committed his murders in the victims homes and left them where he killed them.

This proved that a killer so similar to Zodiac that many have thought them to be the same person could change his m.o. just enough to throw authorities off his scent. The hallmark of the “organized” serial killer is the continuing refinement of method of operation.

The connection between the impostor Joseph Chandler’s arrival in Ohio around 1978 and the possible beginning of a series of violent murders of couples shortly thereafter in 1979 is hard for me to ignore. In spite of the authorities in Ohio not wanting to see a connection, in spite of apparent differences in the way the couples were killed.

I keep returning to the strange stare of the older man in that photograph from the Doe network‘s page on him. Wondering just bloody his secrets really were. What memories of screams and dreams of blood he took to his suicide’s grave.

(The original version of this article can be found in a different form at my true crime blog, The Dark Side of Planet Huff.)

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  • Donald E. Schultz

    The story of Todd Schultz and Annette
    Cooper (she was never addopted by Dale) is way out of line. They were both shot and didn’t come from a drive in to the corn field.To blame it on some one other than Dale N.Johnston who was found guilty in a court of law with three judges is ridiculus. Take it from me the young man’s father. It wasn’t the Zodiac that killed Todd. It was Dale N. Johnston

  • http://lorieann5@hotmail.com lorie

    I know who the man was who claimed to be Joseph Chandler III, I met the man several times during my life and he is related to my ex-husband. Both he and my ex have lived lives of crime dating back to when they were teens. “Chandler” said that he had dated the Black Deliah” and had been the one who cut her body in half…she’d jilted him because he was younger than her. He is the man in the photos of her…she was Elizabeth Short. Contact me back if you want more info. Thanks.

  • http://www.planethuff.com/darkside/ Steve Huff

    I am interested, Lorie. Please go to planethuff.com/darkside and write me via the contact form, and I will e-mail you back.

  • David Schultz

    This Chandler thing is funny. Todd Schultz and Annette Cooper were murdered by Dale N. Johnston.
    A three judge panel in a court of law convicted and sentenced Mr. Johnston for this crime, Unanimously. He was later released from prison on a technicality, never declared innocent, but was in fact granted a new trial. The only reason he is loose today is because of lack of funding for the re-trial. The Chandler thing is still funny to me. It would make a great class-b thriller chiller drive in movie for teens.Can anyone explain to me the significance of the geographical “triangle” (Toledo, Akron & Logan)?
    As a work of fiction this is interesting. If you want really scary stuff I would invite you to get my perspective on those murders. Todd was my first cousin & only 4 years younger than me when
    he was murdered. Do you want to know the horror a family goes through when something of this magnitude strikes at your soul? We’re not talking fiction and fantasy anymore now. The loss is real. It doesn’t regenerate with a screen refresh or attaining the next level. Would you like to share the real faces of death with me? The real faces of death were the ones I saw when the news was broken to Todds’ parents. I was there when the news was broken to them. That was the moment I consciously recognized what death really looks like. It’s not pink wax and flowers at the funeral home.It’a deafening silence colder than you could ever imagine. It is the sharpest reality to the point of madness.It hurts when someone outside and not affected likes to twist it for pleasure or worse yet, profit by my familys’ loss. I respect the freedom of speech. I will defend your right to it with my own life, even if I disagree with what you’re saying. I wanted all who run across this to know that there are people living with the knowledge that horror is very real and live those lives changed forever.

  • Mike

    When I was 6 years old I saw The Zodiac Killer right after he killed a cab driver. I didn’t know who he was at the time. When I saw the pic of Joe Chandler I realized that he is the man I saw in October 1969. No doubt about it.

  • Debbie Fleming

    I been reading on the internet that this “Joseph Chandler” could possibility be “John Victor Dial” he has been missing since 1966 John Victor Dial is my uncle so at this point not sure what to think there has not been no reported earnings on him since 1968 also had a private investigator do some searching he has no background is like he does not exist no paper trail.

    I want to mention my uncle was a civil engineer which consisted of mechanical,
    electrical, plumbing, jack of all trades
    he was in the military and orginally from
    Texas he married a cuban woman from Panama.

  • spassky

    Hello. I was a teenager during the early 80s and knew Mr Chandler before I joined the navy in 86. He was a harmless old man who had moved over from LA after his wife passed on. He once told my dad (who was also close to him) that he and his wife had been living under the Fed Witness Protection Program after she testified as a witness against some drug smugglers.

    From my experience, Mr Chandler was a decent man who was a bit of a recluse, but he also kept a set of close friends (old retirees) and was known by neighbours. He rarely left his home unless for a poker game at a buddy’s place. Old Mrs Granda who owned the building and was his landlord from 1978 always said he was almost always at home. There’s no way that man was a murderer.