Dave Peterson was a reporter for the Vallejo Times-Herald.
On July 3, 1978, Peterson wrote a letter to Bud Kelley of the Riverside police.
In this letter, Peterson outlines some of the reasons why he believed that Sullivan
was worth investigating as a suspect for the murder of Cheri Jo Bates and the Zodiac killings.
See the letter below:
Take note of the writing in red:
"Dave Toschi told me he had checked Sullivan's prints
against the Stine 187 prints without success."
Toschi said the prints did not match.
Yet he did not say why.
have leapt to the conclusion
that because the prints did not match,
that Sullivan was not Zodiac.
After looking at the evidence, I do not share this view.
THE CLEAR PRINTS
THE BLOOD STAINED PRINTS
According to Jake Wark:
" The latent impressions of thirty fingers, three palms,
and one lower finger or palm were found in and on the cab.
Found on the passenger's side front door handle, the finger/palm print
was relatively clear and crime lab technicians believed it was left by the killer,
though the possibility exists that one of the police, firemen,
or lab technicians at the scene could inadvertently have left it. "
" Certain other prints, none of such clarity, were actually left in blood,
and 'are also believed to be prints of the suspect,'
according to a San Francisco Police memo. "
The quote from Jake Wark can be found at the link below:
Zodiac - Crime Library - Jake Wark
SFPD Intra-Departmental Memo on Cab Fingerprints and Palmprints
THE CLEAR PRINTS
The prints of clarity, I have not seen.
It is not even known if any of the clear prints
belong to Zodiac.
THE BLOOD STAINED PRINTS
In contrast, the blood stained prints
are high likely to belong to Zodiac.
Three teenagers saw Zodiac at the crime scene.
They saw Zodiac wiping down the cab.
It is logical to presume that Zodiac was attempting
to smear the prints in blood, so that the prints
could not be used to identify him.
The prints in blood include a collection of fingerprints
and one palmprint.
The blood stained prints are available for view at:
San Francisco: The Evidence - The Fingerprints
THE BLOOD STAINED FINGERPRINTS
When I took the time to look closely at the prints in blood,
it became clear that the
latent fingerprints are of such poor quality,
that it may not have been possible
to match them to the perpetrator.
As you can see:
The fingerprints above lack definition and detail.
Both of which are critical.
Take a look at the same fingerprints in black and white below:
In order to identify a latent fingerprint, you need to be able to see a clear pattern of ridges.
Ridges can reveal the pattern of arches, loops and whorls that are unique to an individual.
The fingerprints shown above lack a clear pattern of ridges.
To identify the perpeprator from such a sample would be a tall order.
Nor can such poor quality prints be relied upon to rule out any suspect.
To do a comparison, I would need the known prints of the suspect.
As far as I know, Sullivan's known prints have not been made public.
THE BLOOD STAINED PALMPRINT
This palmprint is from the suspect's left hand.
The palmprint does have some detail.
This detail can be seen in black and white below:
The palmprint has some ridge detail.
The upper hypothenar and thenar are sparse in data.
That being said, the lower hypothenar and interdigital area show more ridge detail.
It may have been possible to use the latent palmprint for comparison.
The problem was that the police still needed a known palmprint from Sullivan.
Known prints taken from an arrestee are also called exemplar prints.
According to one official source:
"Exemplar palmprints have been routinely taken by police agencies even before the 1960’s.
The practice was optional with each agency and the option to palmprint arrestees was usually based on the type of crime being charged,
often required in Part I offenses such as homicide, burglary, rape, robbery, and auto theft.
Palms were rarely taken in misdemeanors.
Unlike regular fingerprints, palmprints were normally filed locally and were not forwarded to the FBI or Ca Dept of Justice.
In the 1990’s, palmprints began to be digitized and then became part of the state and federal databases but still for selected offenses."
I have not seen Sullivan's exemplar prints, so I cannot say for certain they are his fingerprints only, or if they include his palmprints.
Whether or not the police took exemplar palmprints from Sullivan would depend in part upon what type of crime he was charged with.
According to Jo Ann Bailey and Gerald Katz, Ross was interviewed by the Riverside Police in relation to the murder of Cheri Jo Bates.
Sullivan was given an alibi, most likely by Noelle Jette.
The alibi may have been falsely given, because she was afraid of what Sullivan would do to her, if she told the truth.
In any case, the police believed the alibi, and as far as I know, he was not arrested in relation to the murder of Cheri Jo Bates.
Given that Sullivan had an alibi, it is unlikely that the Riverside Police took his prints.
Jo Ann Bailey states that:
Sullivan had been a patient at Patton State Hospital at some time either in the late 1950's or early 1960s.
So it may be possible he was arrested for a crime at that time, before being sent to Patton State Hospital.
Were his prints taken at that time?
I do not know.
On February 6, 1968, the Santa Cruz Sentinel published an article
about a man fitting Ross Sullivan's description.
The name of the man is not given, but the way he is portrayed is consistent
with what is known about Ross.
Santa Cruz police made the arrest.
To quote the article:
"He was booked on charges of indecent exposure and disorderly conduct.
He was then taken to General Hospital on a 72 hour mental hold."
Questions come out of this.
The first one being:
Was the man in the article Ross Sullivan?
Did the Santa Cruz Police take his prints?
Did they take his palmprints?
The answer to this last question may lie in the type of crime.
The man in question was:
"...booked on charges of indecent exposure and disorderly conduct."
"Indecent exposure and disorderly conduct" are misdemeanors.
Palmprints "...were rarely taken for misdemeanors."
Therefore, it is highly unlikely that the Santa Cruz Police took Sullivan's palmprints for these offences.
Peterson refers to "Sullivan's prints".
Based on the available data, it looks like Sullivan's exemplar prints may have been without his palmprints.
The questions posed above would need to be answered for there to be certainty.
Unless the San Francisco Police had exemplar palmprints from Sullivan,
the Stine 187 latent palmprint could not have been used to include or exclude Sullivan.
I endeavour to make sure that all information presented on this site is accurate and factual, to the best of my knowledge.
Given that in some instances, the evidence available to me is incomplete, I cannot always be certain.
If you possess knowledge about the Zodiac case,
and would like to share it with me, you may contact me at the following email address: