The Possible 1972 Zodiac Killer Attack That Remains A Mystery

Over the years, the Zodiac killer has become something of an enigmatic, hollowed-out phantom whose face remains completely void of form or feature. The elusive serial murderer, who is presumed to have slain at least five different people between 1968 and 1969, somehow managed to evade the watchful eyes of police and investigators who dedicated their lives to bringing him to justice by whatever means necessary. According to Britannica, the Zodiac killer would routinely send goading, insulting letters to newspaper offices and police headquarters that allegedly contained clues about his identity and his motive for murdering innocent people. He'd begin them with the introductory phrase, "This is the Zodiac speaking," and conclude them with his own personal insignia that resembled an actual Zodiac symbol.

"I like killing people because it is so much fun," was one sentence that experts managed to extract from a letter through elaborate decoding strategies. Otherwise, the bulk of what we know about the Zodiac killer remains an ineffable mystery that may never surrender its secrets to us. In addition to the five confirmed bodies that the murderer left in his wake, people often wonder whether or not others may have had encounters with the notorious California serial killer; some investigators believe that he remained active and at large throughout the 1980s, as Britannica reports. One such instance involved 33-year-old Isobel Watson who, as some experts claim, may have narrowly escaped death at the hands of the Zodiac killer in April of 1972 (via Zodiac Ciphers). 

Isobel Watson: nearly a Zodiac victim?

It was late in the day on April 7, 1972, when Isobel Watson stepped off the bus as she was making her way home for the day. She was walking along Pine Hill Road in Tamalpais Valley, a region of Northern California's Marin County, when a car suddenly came barreling down an adjoining street and struck her head-on. Dumbfounded and dazed, Watson looked up to see the driver standing above her. According to Bay Area Television Archive, the unknown man stood about 5 feet, 9 inches tall, wore horn-rimmed glasses, and appeared to be middle-aged. He offered to drive her home, but she adamantly refused. He didn't take well to her protestations, and when it became apparent that he wasn't going to get her to step into his vehicle, he produced a knife and stabbed her multiple times in the neck and shoulder.

Luckily, Watson managed to survive the grisly assault when neighbors heard her desperate cries and ran to her aid. However, by then, her mysterious assailant had run back to his car and driven off, and police were unable to track him down. She was eventually released from a nearby hospital and recounted her harrowing brush with death to authorities. The story sounded all too familiar to them, and it didn't take long for talk of another possible Zodiac attack to start buzzing throughout the precinct (per Zodiac Ciphers). 

Why police think it may have been the Zodiac

It had been over two years since the last confirmed Zodiac killing had presented itself before the terrified eyes of the public. "The only feeling that I have is that the Zodiac was in the Bay Area. The fact that we haven't heard from him doesn't necessarily convince me that he is no longer around," the Napa County Sheriff remarked shortly after the attempt on Isobel Watson's life. Police noted the suspect's physical description and its clear similarities to that of the Zodiac Killer's: 5-feet-9-inches in height, brown hair, and horn-rimmed glasses. The suspect's selection of a knife as a murder weapon raised suspicions as well (via Bay Area Television Archive). 

The Zodiac Killer's pattern was to kill his victims consistently on Fridays and Saturdays and in the evening hours. Given the fact that Watson was attacked at 9 p.m. on a Friday, an additional correlation was drawn to the patterns of the ominous murderer and suspicions of a possible connection to the attack on Watson. Unfortunately, authorities and investigators were never able to establish a credible bond between the Zodiac Killer and Watson's near-fatal experience, though she luckily lived to tell the tale and never encountered her attacker again (per Bay Area Television Archive). To this day, nobody knows the Zodiac Killer's identity.