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Interview with Lake Herman Rd Witness James Owen

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morf13
(@morf13)
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Before he passed away,I interviewed by phone, James Owen a witness in the Lake Herman Rd Police Reports. I wanted to pick his brain and get as many details as possible,not to mention,he is a POI of mine.

RE: Interview with Lake Herman Rd witness, James Owen.

I have stated previously, that this witness should have been looked at closely by police, as a suspect, due to the fact he was at the scene of the LHR crime, during the small window when the crime happened. Due to this, and multiple inconsistencies in his statements to police, along with other circumstantial things, I feel he should have been checked out a bit closer. I am NOT calling this man the Zodiac!! I repeat, I am NOT calling this man the Zodiac, merely saying that police should have ruled him out properly.

With that being said, I have wanted to reach out to this witness for quite some time now. Since police dont seem to be in a hurry to solve the z case, and since witnesses and retired police are becoming older and dying off due to age & illness, I wanted to reach out while I had the chance and speak to Mr. Owen, with an open mind. It worked with ZODE from Southern CA. It was my hope that Mr. Owen would be able to fill in the holes regarding the 12/20/68 LHR incident. Here is the text from the interview, which took about 20 minutes(I condensed some of the material into a more easy to read format, and eliminated some of the chit chat, for an easier read). I will not state my thoughts, or opinions until I hear that of some others. The words you see from Owen are his exact words, NOT mine!

Mr. Owen, who is in his 80’s, sounds alot like my Grandfather, or what any other elderly man would sound like. He did have a slow & steady voice…and again, not to influence people, but I think Bryan Hartnell used a term… "MEASURED", to describe Zodiac’s voice. I would also use the term MEASURED to describe Mr. Owen’s voice, like a slow delivery, not excited or nervous. He sounded like he had all of his faculties, and was still pretty sharp. I learned that he is going thru an illness, but I greatly appreciate him corresponding with me.

START:

MORF13- Mr. Owen, Thanks for taking the time to speak with me. I know a lot of time has passed, and I am not sure how much you remember, but maybe you still have some information that can help my research. What was life like in Vallejo when the Z murders were going on? As a resident, were you or your Family afraid?

JO- “It was pretty quiet, there were a lot more people there then with Mare Island being open, etc”. “I wasn’t afraid for my Family. It didn’t really effect us all that much, it was just something you read in the papers, like any car wreck or murder”

MORF13- Had you always lived in the Vallejo area, or had you lived there long before the murders? (I already knew that he had previously lived there and moved back a few months before the murders started)

JO- “I had just retired from the service in 1967 and moved to Vallejo to work at Humble Oil”

MORF13- What was your position at Humble Oil, when did you start there?

JO- “1968, I was a shift supervisor, I always went in about a half hour early, that’s how I got involved in the case”. “I always left around 11:00pm”

MORF13- Tell me in your own words, how did you get brought into the Zodiac case?

JO- “I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. I took Lake Herman Rd pretty often, not every night”

MORF13- Did you always see people parked there at the spot where the murders happened?

JO- no, it was not normal for me to see any cars there, let alone 2 side by side. You could really see that spot good because of the way the lights shine in there, and because it was around a bend"

MORF13- You gave your first report to police the following day after the murders. How did you come to give that statement?

JO- “As I was getting ready to leave work the next morning, a worker on the morning shift came in talking about the crime. When I left work, I passed the scene, and there were police there working, so I stopped and told them what I had seen.”

MORF13- I know that the police took multiple statements from you, the second was a few days later. What did they discuss with you?

JO- “They wanted me to drive & retrace my route”.

MORF13- So they actually drove in the car with you?

JO- "Yes"

MORF13- One thing I have a question about was regarding what you told them in the 2nd statement and not in the first statement. In the 2nd statement, you said that you thought you heard a gunshot, but you did not mention that in the first statement. Why didn’t you?

JO- “I didn’t know if it meant anything, I didn’t really know what was going on"

MORF13- So what can you tell me about hearing the shot?

JO- "when was it again? November?"

MORF13- no, it was December

JO- "It was a cool quiet night, and the leaves were off the trees, I think the sound carried well"

MORF13- Did you ever feel like you were a suspect since the police asked you to submit your guns over to them for examination, and since they had you give more than one statement?

JO- "They took my guns and had them for a couple of months and did some tests on them, then they gave them back to me”. (I should have pressed him about the extent of his gun collection)

MORF13- Did they have a warrant for your guns, or did you voluntarily give them over?

JO- “It was voluntary”.

MORF13- Did they treat you like a suspect or a witness in your opinion?

JO- “no, it was like a witness. They never interrogated me or anything like that”

MORF13- Besides testing your guns, did they ever ask you to let them take writing samples or finger prints?

JO- "no"

MORF13- How closely did you follow the case?

JO- “not much, like I said, it didn’t have any effect on my Family, it was no biggie”

MORF13- Were you Friends with anybody else that was involved in the Zodiac case such as police, or witnesses or suspects?

JO- "no"

MORF13- Did you know any of the victims?

JO- "no"

MORF13- Why do you think Zodiac was never caught?

JO- "I have no idea"

MORF13- Do you think Zodiac was somebody that the police talked to?

JO- "I have no idea"

MORF13- I am trying to get a feel for the layout of the area & the crimes. One of the attacks took place at Lake Berryessa in NAPA. Have you ever been there?

JO- “Oh yeah, I have been there. It was a place for people to picnic at and fish at, like a recreation place”

MORF13- Did you go there often?

JO- "no, just a couple times"

MORF13- In trying to get a feel for the layout of the Vallejo/Napa area, can you tell me anything interesting about the area? How familiar with the area were you?

JO- "Not very familiar, I never did cruise around the area"

MORF13- Perhaps you can help me with a theory of my own. I suspect that Zodiac may have worked at Humble Oil. This is based on clues that he left.
In one letter, Z wrote “I am mildly CEROUS” which is a misspelling of CURIOUS, but is a chemistry term used in petroleum production. Do you remember that word, or did you ever use it?

JO- “what’s the word again?”

MORF13- CEROUS, C E R O U S (I spelled it for him) a chemistry term used in petroleum production.

JO- “No, I cant remember that word”

MORF13- In the Halloween card, Zodiac placed a skeleton that left parts of words exposed that read “OIL ME”. In the same Halloween card, Zodiac drew what I believe to be a PENTENE with possibly a LEWIS DOT STRUCTURE. Are you familiar with those? If I sent one to you to look at, could you help me figure out what it means?

JO- "A pentene is a gas or hydrocarbon….base on the fact it ends in ENE…5 c’s and 12 h’s “ (he went on to break it down, but I did not catch it all)

MORF13- I am asking the people I am interviewing if they would be willing to share a photo of themselves from 1969 when the Z case was going on. Would you be willing to share a photo of yourself from back then?

JO- "No thanks"

MORF13- Thanks for your time, I appreciate your effort in helping me research teh case further.

JO- "Okay, thank you"

There is more than one way to lose your life to a killer

http://www.zodiackillersite.com/
http://zodiackillersite.blogspot.com/
https://twitter.com/Morf13ZKS

 
Posted : March 31, 2013 3:43 am
(@trainmaster)
Posts: 48
Trusted Member
 

There is something about the attitude of Owens in this valuable interview which makes me somewhat suspicious of him.

First, he is very casual about the entire event, i.e. "I was in the wrong place at the wrong time," "No biggie." According to him, the police treated him like a witness – no hint at all of any interrogation; just informal questions.

Owens also seemed adamant, or at least against, the idea of a picture of him being shown as to how he looked at the time. I wonder why?
If Owens is innocent as he claims, he had nothing to worry about.

Although he has passed away, whatever information can be discovered about this "witness" (more like suspect), will be valuable in, at the very least, possibility eliminating him as a suspect, or confirming that further examination should be done.

Very good interview on your part, Morf.

Trainmaster

 
Posted : February 6, 2014 1:30 am
Welsh Chappie
(@welsh-chappie)
Posts: 1538
Noble Member
 

"There is something about the attitude of Owens in this valuable interview which makes me somewhat suspicious of him.

First, he is very casual about the entire event"

Totally agree with that. He seems uninterested in anything ‘Zodiac’ and almost tries to downplay the series of killings by saying it wasn’t something that he took much notice of because it didn’t directly effect him and his family so it was ‘No real biggie’.

Morf from reading the interview itself Owen comes across as matter of fact, answering with the most basic of answers without elaborating on anything specific. Did he come across as uninterested in person as he appears to come across on paper? If it’s needed, below are a couple of examples that seem to imply, at least on paper, that Owen was uninterested in anything to do with Z, he certainly appears that by several of his answers…

Q. Why do you think Z was never caught?
A. No idea.

Q. Do you think Z may have spoken to police?
A. No idea.

Q. Would you consider giving me a photo of you from the late 60s/early 70s?
A. No Thanks.

If he did have that attitude, maybe it was genuine. People react to situations and events differently, maybe Owen was one of them who, as he says, couldn’t care less so long as it didn’t directly effect him and his family. But even so, for people who wouldn’t have cared or took notice of the story at the time Zodiac was active, I would think even they wouldn’t describe it as ‘No biggie.’ That could be read as "It was only a few kids murdered here and there, no big deal at all."

"So it’s sorta social. Demented and sad, but social, right?" Judd Nelson.

 
Posted : February 8, 2014 8:03 am
morf13
(@morf13)
Posts: 7527
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Topic starter
 

I cant guess, or speak to why Owen answered the way he did, but that’s the way he answered, exactly as you see written.

The things that stick out in my mind, are his lack of concern, ‘No biggie’. What? A serial killer is loose in your town, and targeting people your kid’s age, and it’s ‘no biggie’? Then, he later realizes(if his story is true)that he was at the LHR crime scene within seconds of a double murder of two teens, but it’s "no biggie". The thing that caught my attention the most was when I asked him of his knowledge about back roads in the SF bay area, and he said, "I never did CRUISE AROUND", the same line used by zodiac in his 1st letter to police

There is more than one way to lose your life to a killer

http://www.zodiackillersite.com/
http://zodiackillersite.blogspot.com/
https://twitter.com/Morf13ZKS

 
Posted : February 8, 2014 10:10 am
(@anonymous)
Posts: 1772
Noble Member
 

Perhaps he was aware of the fact that you suspected him of these crimes as you interviewed him.

 
Posted : February 8, 2014 9:24 pm
morf13
(@morf13)
Posts: 7527
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Topic starter
 

Perhaps he was aware of the fact that you suspected him of these crimes as you interviewed him.

He wasn’t!

There is more than one way to lose your life to a killer

http://www.zodiackillersite.com/
http://zodiackillersite.blogspot.com/
https://twitter.com/Morf13ZKS

 
Posted : February 8, 2014 10:12 pm
Patinky
(@patinky)
Posts: 196
Estimable Member
 

Perhaps he was aware of the fact that you suspected him of these crimes as you interviewed him.

He wasn’t!

Time for me to be sassy. :D How do you know he wasn’t?

I’m very unfamiliar with the oil industry and chemistry in general but is it likely he can know all those chemical composition details about pentene yet he’s never heard of cerous?

In my first readings of the Zodiac correspondence years ago I interpreted "cerous" as "mildly serious" instead of "mildly curious." Don’t know that it matters either way but thought I’d mention it.

If the "oil me" on the skeleton card is intended to read as "oil me," my first thought is the skeleton is squeaky and/or stiff in his joints so requires oiling. I understand that some interpret it to mean a possible connection to the oil industry and that is certainly a good possibility.

Mostly, I’m just thinking out loud. Morf’s individual is interesting and so far I can’t find anything that eliminates him (based on knowledge gained from this board).

When in doubt, don’t.

 
Posted : February 9, 2014 1:20 am
morf13
(@morf13)
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Owen told me that he had not heard from ANYBODY(cops,or others)about the Zodiac case, since his involvement with police investigating it. I didn’t really flat out openly call him my suspect until after I talked with him. I got the sense, he wasn’t internet savy,but who knows, he may have been lying.

There is more than one way to lose your life to a killer

http://www.zodiackillersite.com/
http://zodiackillersite.blogspot.com/
https://twitter.com/Morf13ZKS

 
Posted : February 9, 2014 7:12 am
Patinky
(@patinky)
Posts: 196
Estimable Member
 

Thank you, Morf.

When in doubt, don’t.

 
Posted : February 9, 2014 7:25 am
Welsh Chappie
(@welsh-chappie)
Posts: 1538
Noble Member
 

I agree with TM in the initial response on this thread that James is just too casual in his attitude to the crime, fairly vague in a lot of his answers, and basically just seems uninterested with the topic he’s being questioned about even though he agreed to answer questions.

Owen’s stating that a madman on the loose who seems to be targeting teenagers in quiet lovers lanes intent on murdering them as ‘No Biggie’ is, IMO, rather odd and quite cold. Then again, there are many people who don’t care about acts of evil so long as it doesn’t effect them and their family, and Owen seems to freely admit that he didn’t take much notice of Zodiac because it didn’t directly effect him. But then again, if Owen were Zodiac, one could expect he would answer in this manner. He’s not going to say "Ohh yes, I took absolute notice and interest in every article published, and every murder committed by Zodiac, in fact, I was obsessed."

To me, Owen is trying too hard to come across as completely uninterested in the crimes when Morf asks him "So what can you tell me about hearing the shot?" and Owen replies "When was it again, November?"

Again, he could genuinely not remember the actual month it happened because he isn’t really interested in the case, or, he knows exactly which month is was but wants to offer evidence in the conversation that he took no interest in Zodiac.

Then when Morf asks Owen a couple of questions that offer Owen the chance to speculate and theorise, he refuses to do so and just says "I have no idea."
Just my opinion anyway,

"So it’s sorta social. Demented and sad, but social, right?" Judd Nelson.

 
Posted : February 10, 2014 10:13 pm
Patinky
(@patinky)
Posts: 196
Estimable Member
 

I cant guess, or speak to why Owen answered the way he did, but that’s the way he answered, exactly as you see written.

The things that stick out in my mind, are his lack of concern, ‘No biggie’. What? A serial killer is loose in your town, and targeting people your kid’s age, and it’s ‘no biggie’? Then, he later realizes(if his story is true)that he was at the LHR crime scene within seconds of a double murder of two teens, but it’s "no biggie". The thing that caught my attention the most was when I asked him of his knowledge about back roads in the SF bay area, and he said, "I never did CRUISE AROUND", the same line used by zodiac in his 1st letter to police

Morf, how did you interpret his attitude and demeanor as he talked with you? I certainly agree that his answers as written are interesting and seem downright cleverly disguised in several places. Did you record the conversation or is that question allowed? :oops:

When in doubt, don’t.

 
Posted : February 11, 2014 1:28 am
Marclean
(@marcelo-leandro)
Posts: 764
Prominent Member
 

That ice man this man! At least one strange guy!!

https://zodiacode1933.blogspot.com/

 
Posted : February 11, 2014 1:47 am
morf13
(@morf13)
Posts: 7527
Member Admin
Topic starter
 

I cant guess, or speak to why Owen answered the way he did, but that’s the way he answered, exactly as you see written.

The things that stick out in my mind, are his lack of concern, ‘No biggie’. What? A serial killer is loose in your town, and targeting people your kid’s age, and it’s ‘no biggie’? Then, he later realizes(if his story is true)that he was at the LHR crime scene within seconds of a double murder of two teens, but it’s "no biggie". The thing that caught my attention the most was when I asked him of his knowledge about back roads in the SF bay area, and he said, "I never did CRUISE AROUND", the same line used by zodiac in his 1st letter to police

Morf, how did you interpret his attitude and demeanor as he talked with you? I certainly agree that his answers as written are interesting and seem downright cleverly disguised in several places. Did you record the conversation or is that question allowed? :oops:

He talked in a slow,deliberate way, much like zodiac was said to. I am not saying that to make him sound more interesting as a suspect, it may very well be because he was about 80 years old at the time. I can’t say that I felt he was lying about anything or misleading me in any way, the main thing that stood out was the lack of concern he had considering he lived in the same town as a serial killer that was targeting victims in his own kid’s age range. That and his comment about ‘cruising around’

There is more than one way to lose your life to a killer

http://www.zodiackillersite.com/
http://zodiackillersite.blogspot.com/
https://twitter.com/Morf13ZKS

 
Posted : February 11, 2014 2:00 am
Welsh Chappie
(@welsh-chappie)
Posts: 1538
Noble Member
 

Morf you state in the post you conducted the interview with Owen via phone, but how did it come about? Did you just phone him out of the blue one day, or did you pre-arrange the phone interview? I ask as several of your question’s you put to him he seems unwilling, or unable, to answer. For example:

"MORF13- One thing I have a question about was regarding what you told them in the 2nd statement and not in the first statement. In the 2nd statement, you said that you thought you heard a gunshot, but you did not mention that in the first statement. Why didn’t you?

JO- “I didn’t know if it meant anything, I didn’t really know what was going on"

Morf do we know with any degree of reasonable certainty whether Owen was aware that David & Betty were killed with a firearm at the time of his first interview? I am wondering if this could explain his lack of mentioning hearing a shot fired in his first interview, he simply didn’t know at that time how they were murdered? Maybe then, by the time the second interview happens and after the papers report the assailant shot the couple to death, Owen now ‘remembers’ hearing a shot?

"So it’s sorta social. Demented and sad, but social, right?" Judd Nelson.

 
Posted : February 11, 2014 6:06 am
morf13
(@morf13)
Posts: 7527
Member Admin
Topic starter
 

Morf you state in the post you conducted the interview with Owen via phone, but how did it come about? Did you just phone him out of the blue one day, or did you pre-arrange the phone interview? I ask as several of your question’s you put to him he seems unwilling, or unable, to answer. For example:

"MORF13- One thing I have a question about was regarding what you told them in the 2nd statement and not in the first statement. In the 2nd statement, you said that you thought you heard a gunshot, but you did not mention that in the first statement. Why didn’t you?

JO- “I didn’t know if it meant anything, I didn’t really know what was going on"

Morf do we know with any degree of reasonable certainty whether Owen was aware that David & Betty were killed with a firearm at the time of his first interview? I am wondering if this could explain his lack of mentioning hearing a shot fired in his first interview, he simply didn’t know at that time how they were murdered? Maybe then, by the time the second interview happens and after the papers report the assailant shot the couple to death, Owen now ‘remembers’ hearing a shot?

"Morf you state in the post you conducted the interview with Owen via phone, but how did it come about? Did you just phone him out of the blue one day, or did you pre-arrange the phone interview?"

As soon as I started to suspect him,I tracked him down, he had moved to another state. I eventually sent him a letter, and he responded by writing me back and told me I could call him. By the way, I asked him if I could ask some follow up questions, and he agreed. I called him again, and recorded a few of his words. I have the sound file someplace saved on my computer. I think somebody here offered to turn it into a sound file,I forget, it was a while ago. The sound file is an old type from an older cell phone I had. If anybody here helped me with that, sorry I forget who you were,let us know if you have it still. If anybody else here is good with sound files,let me know

"Morf do we know with any degree of reasonable certainty whether Owen was aware that David & Betty were killed with a firearm at the time of his first interview?"

He was standing at the crime scene giving a statement with chalk outlines and blood stains,plus worh had spread by the time he left work. There’s no way he didn’t know they were killed,and had been shot.

There is more than one way to lose your life to a killer

http://www.zodiackillersite.com/
http://zodiackillersite.blogspot.com/
https://twitter.com/Morf13ZKS

 
Posted : February 11, 2014 6:11 am
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