Overview of Cecelia Shepard
Cecelia Ann Shepard was a beloved daughter and sister. She was described as having “unselfish devotion to others” and remembered as a young woman who brought joy to her parents, sisters, relatives, and friends. She had an innate talent for music and pursued her passion for it by majoring in music at the University of California at Riverside. She transferred to this university from Pacific Union College where she met her former boyfriend and friend, Bryan Hartnell. Unfortunately, her family and friends do not have the opportunity to see how she would have used her love of music. The question is, why?
On September 27, 1969, Cecelia ran into her long-time friend, and ex-boyfriend, Bryan Hartnell at Pacific Union College while gathering some of her belongings she left in a dormitory. They decided to drive to Lake Berryessa where they would have a picnic and relax on a blanket by the lake shore. Cecelia laid her head on Hartnell’s chest while they talked and reminisced about their former college days together. They both heard rustling of bushes, but it was Cecelia who noticed a heavy-set man, between 5 foot 8 and 6 inches tall, watching them.
She saw him disappear behind a tree; she told Hartnell what she saw, but Hartnell told Cecelia that the man was probably looking for a spot to use the bathroom. She then saw the man reappear with a gun in his hand. She cried out “Oh my god. He’s got a gun”. Cecelia and Hartnell were approached by the assailant who wore dark pants, a wind breaker, and a black executioner-style hood that covered his entire shoulders, and part of his torso with his eyes visible due to holes that were cut out in the hood. There was a white crosshair symbol (an even cross over a circle) painted across his chest and a large, sheathed knife hung from the right side of his belt. Cecelia heard the man say he escaped from a prison in Montana, was on his way to Mexico, and needed money and a car. Cecelia was told to tie up Hartnell; once she finished, the hooded assailant hogtied her.
The assault began. Cecelia witnessed the assailant stab Hartnell in the back six times before he turned to her to stab her multiple times. They both played dead in hopes their attacker would leave. It worked.
Cecelia and Hartnell screamed for help, which attracted the attention of a nearby fisherman and his son who alerted the authorities. They were able to free themselves from their restraints as help was on the way. Cecelia waited by the lake shore for Hartnell to return with help. A park ranger found Hartnell by the side of the road not far from where they were attacked; this same ranger found Cecelia as well. Both were taken to the Queen of the Valley hospital. Sadly, Cecelia fell into a coma on the ride to the hospital and died two days later.
53 years have passed, and we still don’t know who murdered Cecelia. What we do know is the pseudonym of the assailant: the Zodiac killer. But who is he? There have been several individuals who have been suspected by the public. In fact, in 2021, a group called the Case Breakers said they have “found the true identity of the Zodiac Killer”.
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