*Warning: This story contains graphic and
The majority of high-profile
serial killings are dramatized through movies, books and documentaries.
The crimes of Charles Manson, Richard Ramirez aka “The Night Stalker,”
and Jeffrey Dahmer are still remembered years after they are committed. Yet there is one set of serial killings that has been completely forgotten and
is rarely mentioned.
The brutal killings became
known as “The Zebra Killings," named after the radio channel “Z”
used by investigators.
In the 70’s, hundreds
of white men, women and children were murdered by Black Muslims who had met
in prison, as part of a San Quentin Mosque. This group of black men systematically
stalked and killed whites, the motive was racism.
These men belonged to an organization
known as the “Death Angels.”
Once they became a death angel,
black wings were affixed to their photograph and put on display. In order
to earn their wings, the men were required to kill 9 white men, 5 white women
or 4 white children. These secret meetings took place at a “Black
Self Help Moving” loft.
The most encouraged method
of killing was hacking with a machete.
Richard and Quita Hague were
kidnapped and thrown into a van. They were bound by hand and foot and
driven to a remote location where Quita Hague was raped, beaten and beheaded;
afterwards, a photo was taken of the victim. Her husband Richard was repeatedly
hacked in the face with a machete and left for dead. He was later found
wandering the street, his hands still tied behind his back and the skin of his
face and head hanging in strips. He was horribly disfigured.
The leader of the Death Angels
was a man named VanDyke, he instructed his racist assassins to kill the victims
but ‘not’ to rob or rape any of the victims, his order was disregarded,
the majority of female victims were raped and at least one male victim is known
to have been raped before a knife was plunged into his back.
The killers, Jesse Lee Cooks,
J.C. Simon, Larry Green, Manuel Moore and Anthony Harris went on a killing spree.
Vincent Wollin was shot in
the back and killed on his 69th birthday. Mildred Holser, an obese older
woman was shot while trying to run away from her killer. Ilario Bertucci,
a 81-year old woman was killed while walking home from work and Marietta DiGirolamo
was shot and killed on her way to the neighborhood bar.
The killers had become so
brazen that they entered a public Laundromat, bypassed all the black patrons
and killed the one white person in attendance. Jane Holly was shot to
death in front of a dozen witnesses but the witnesses were uncooperative with
Many of the victims were shot
in the back, many died and more than a few were left paralyzed.
The most high-profile victim
was Art Agnos, who would later go on to become mayor of San Francisco.
Agnos was attending a community meeting in a black neighborhood. When
the meeting let out, Agnos stopped to talk with two women. One of the
killers came up behind him and shot him twice in the back. The bullets
ripped apart his lungs, spleen and kidneys. Bystanders called an ambulance,
Agnos barely survived.
Detectives were able to link
the murders because the killers used the same weapon for each attack and a special
task force was set up.
By February 1974, police had
confirmed more than 70 murders were committed by the same person or same persons.
The killers were also linked
to other cities, including Oakland, Berkeley, Long Beach, Signal Hill, Santa
Barbara, Palo Alto, Pacifica, San Diego and Los Angeles.
VanDyke returned to San Francisco,
he planned to put forth a massive effort to stop the killings, he had never
suspected the men would be so stupid as to use the same weapon or weapons
on all victims and that the killings would be connected so quickly. He
had expected the men to use discretion and cunning; if not, at least common
sense but some of them had bungled things from the very beginning. The
killings had gotten out of hand and he planned to put a stop to it.
His suggestion was meant with
resistance, the killers were determined to earn their death angel wings.
Shortly afterwards, the case
was finally solved when one of the killers (Anthony Harris) came forward after
seeing a wanted poster with his likeness on it.
On May 1, 1974, over 100 officers
assembled to make the arrests. A total of eight black men were arrested.
All were members of the Death Angels. Although this group committed most
of the murders, they do not account for all of the killers.
Many of the victims were never
identified; many white hitchhikers were murdered either on the highway or after
being picked up.
The Nation Of Islam paid for
the legal representation of all of the killers except one.
It was the longest criminal
trial in California history. Beginning on March 3, 1975, it lasted until
March 9, 1976, one year and six days.
It took the jury just eighteen
hours to reach a unanimous conclusion. All of the defendants were found
guilty on all counts against them.
One filmmaker tired to get
funding for a documentary on the killings but producers mysteriously backed
out. This is another reason why this case has disappeared from the public
The Death Angels are still
in prison, they were up for parole in 2002 but parole was denied.
The “Zebra Killings”
remains the largest serial murder ring in U.S. history.
Source: “Zebra, The
True Account Of The 179 Days Of Terror In San Francisco” By Clark Howard
and “Remembering The Zebra Killings” by James Lubinskas for “Frontpage
Magazine.com” Above photo courtesy of the book "Zebra"
by Clark Howard.