The Pines Postcard

Did Zodiac send it? Was Victim 12 Donna Lass?

San Francisco Chronicle reporter Paul Avery received a postcard purported to be from the Zodiac Killer on March 22nd, 1971. It included an artist’s rendering of a condominium development as well as several words and phrases of text. The postcard was examined by handwriting expert Sherwood Morrill who determined that the letters in the handwriting on the address side of the card “conformed and are consistent with all other Zodiac writings I have examined” despite the fact that the card contained very little handwriting. As you can see in the images of both sides of the postcard, most of the text had been cut from newspapers and pasted onto the card. Only the words “Zodiac” in the return address position and “Att. Paul Averly = ChronicLe” at the bottom of the card, along with the two Zodiac symbols were handwritten. Granted, I am not a questioned documents examiner, but I do have more than a layperson’s knowledge and understanding of the discipline. In addition to my belief that the handwriting sample on the postcard is insufficient for a positive identification of the author, I see characteristics in the handwriting that call Morrill’s assessment into question.

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Zodiac intended for the Z-340 to be cracked

Anyone who has followed the case of the Zodiac Killer should be aware by now that the Z-340 cipher was recently solved by a team of codebreakers – David Oranchak of the United States, Sam Blake of Australia, and Jarl Van Eycke of Belgium. Mr. Oranchak has posted a video on his YouTube channel explaining how the team arrived at the solution. It is recommended that you watch Oranchak’s video before reading any more of this blog entry. You can also read about his efforts to solve the cipher on his blog — Side note: You may notice that his video is Episode 5 of a series. It’s quite interesting to go back and watch the first four episodes after viewing the fifth.

Figure 1: The Zodiac Z-340

The Z-340, thus named because it contains 340 characters, is one of four ciphers mailed to newspapers by the Zodiac in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Prior to the achievement of Oranchak and team, it was commonly theorized that the 340 contained no encoded text but was merely a collection of random symbols meant to mislead. It was mailed to the San Francisco Chronicle on November 8th, 1969 in the same envelope with a greeting card later dubbed the Dripping Pen Card. It appears that the killer wanted to make the 340 more difficult to solve than its predecessor, the Z-408 which had been mailed in three parts to three different newspapers in August of 1969 – the San Francisco Chronicle, the San Francisco Examiner, and the Vallejo Times-Herald. A school teacher, Donald Gene Harden, and his wife Bettye June Harden cracked the 408-character cipher in a matter of hours after it was published by the newspapers. 

In reviewing the mailings of the Zodiac, I’ve come to believe that his desire to make the code more complex was more an attempt to demonstrate his cryptographic prowess rather than a means to make the cipher unbreakable. There is nothing of great significance in the content of the message as you can see in the following screenshot of Oranchak’s video.

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Justice: Proverbs 6



16 These six things the Lord hates,
Yes, seven are an abomination to Him:
17 A proud look,
A lying tongue,
Hands that shed innocent blood,
18 A heart that devises wicked plans,
Feet that are swift in running to evil,
19 A false witness who speaks lies,
And one who sows discord among brethren.

20 My son, keep your father’s command,
And do not forsake the law of your mother.
21 Bind them continually upon your heart;
Tie them around your neck.
22 When you roam, they[b] will lead you;
When you sleep, they will keep you;
And when you awake, they will speak with you.
23 For the commandment is a lamp,
And the law a light;


Jason Young Trial

For the second time, Jason Young will be tried for the 2006 murder of his pregnant wife, Michelle Marie Fisher Young.  The first trial, which was conducted last summer, ended in a mistrial.  Opening statements are set to proceed at 9 a.m. EST tomorrow. will be live-streaming from the courtroom.  Click the link below to follow the trial on their website.’s Jason Young Trial page.

LINK to Live-Stream of trial, courtesy of

Join the discussion at the FPX forum:  LINK

Jason Young Trial: Back to Square One

Jury selection begins today in a Wake County courtroom for the second trial of Jason Young in the murder of his pregnant wife, Michelle Marie Fisher Young.  Jason Young’s first trial ended in a mistrial when twelve juror were unable to reach a unanimous verdict. As such, the prosecution begins anew; jury selection is expected to take several weeks with opening statements due to follow on February 6.

With the prosecution back at square one, I think it’s an appropriate time to revisit the way in which Michelle Young’s murder was discovered and the investigation began.

Michelle was bludgeoned to death in the bedroom of her Raleigh, North Carolina, home on November 3, 2006. Her body was discovered by her sister, Meredith Fisher, who was sent to the house by Jason Young to retrieve a printout of Coach purses for sale on eBay which he claimed to have forgotten on the printer when leaving for a business trip the prior evening.

Meredith arrived to find things in an unusual state to say the least.  The pillar lights at the end of the driveway were on; the backyard gate was standing open; a water hose was trickling in the backyard; the Youngs’ dog, Mr. Garrison was whining plaintively from within the house, Michelle’s car was in the garage; tiny bloody footprints dappled the floor of an upstairs bathroom.  In the master bedroom,  Michelle’s battered body lay on the floor next to the bed in a pool of blood; the walls and furniture were spattered with blood; and Cassidy, Jason and Michelle’s 2 1/2 year old daughter, was hiding beneath the covers of the bed.  Meredith promptly called 911 to try to get help for her sister, though she feared that Michelle was already dead.

I have previously posted on this blog a transcript of the 911 call which I typed while listening to the recording on’s website.  However, during the trial last summer, a more complete version of the 911 call was played.  What follows is a transcript of the call as played during Meredith’s testimony.  Please note:  This is not an official transcript.

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Jason Young: Verdict Watch

Testimony in the trial of Jason Young for the first degree murder of his pregnant wife, Michelle Marie Fisher Young, wrapped up yesterday.  Defense attorneys and prosecutors presented their closing arguments to the jury today, and the fate of Jason Young is now in the hands of twelve jurors. 

As fate would have it, the forum we have been using to discuss the trial is down for maintenance.  In the meantime, I’ve opened a Verdict Watch thread at our original forum.

Original Forum:  Friction Powered Information Exchange
Alternate Forum:  FPX II (temporarily down for maintenance)


FPX II is back online.  We’ll continue the discussion there.  Sorry for any confusion.

Jason Young Trial: Jury Selection

Jury selection begins today in the First Degree Murder trial of Jason Young who stands accused of murdering his pregnant wife, Michelle Young, in November, 2006.  The process is expected to take about three to four days with Opening Statements to follow.  WRAL will stream live coverage of the trial on their website.
I have begun to assemble a dedicated page to facilitate following the trial as it progresses.  The page will be updated as necessary.  Click the link below or in the sidebar to access the Michelle Young Case page.

Michelle Young Case


Discussion of the case and trial coverage is being hosted at the original Friction Powered Exchange forum.

 If you are still having trouble accessing the forum, please leave a comment on this blog entry.

Jason Young Arraignment

Jason Young will be arraigned in a Wake County, North Carolina, courtroom today for the 2006 beating death of his pregnant wife, Michelle Young.  Also on the agenda is an evidence hearing regarding a witness sighting of Jason Young at a King, North Carolina convenience store during the early morning hours of November 3, 2006.  Proceedings are scheduled to begin at 2:30.  Local poster, RPD, plans to be at the hearing and post his observations.

Because of problems at our regular forum, Friction Powered Exchange, I’ve reopened the alternative forum, Friction Powered Exchange II.  If you haven’t already registered there, I would encourage you to do so.  There have been so many problems with FPX lately that I’m not sure we’ll be able to rely on it for the duration of the trial.

Michelle Young Murder: King’s to you, Jason.*

The trial of Jason Young for the 2006 murder of his pregnant wife, Michelle Young, is quickly approaching.  Yesterday, a status hearing was held in preparation for trial.  Normally, this would have been a rather mundane event.  However, yesterday’s hearing produced some interesting news.  Jason Young’s defense counsel used the opportunity to raise issue with a witness for the prosecution.  Gracie Bailey, a convenience store clerk in King, North Carolina, identified Jason Young as a customer who made a cash purchase of fuel at her store at 5:27 am on November 3, 2006. 

The significance of this is that it places Jason on the route between his Raleigh home and his hotel in Hillsville, Virginia, during the hours that he was supposed to have been innocently spending the night at the hotel halfway to his business meeting destination of Clintwood, Virginia.  Until this piece of evidence was made public, we knew only that there was surveillance video from the hotel indicating that he had left his hotel around midnight and a witness statement describing the presence of a vehicle similar to Jason’s 2004 Ford Explorer in the driveway of the Youngs’ home between 4:00 and 5:00 am.  And we knew that, in order to make the return trip to Raleigh in the middle of the night to kill Michelle, he would have needed more fuel than provided by the documented purchases at the Handee Hugo in Raleigh at 7:32 pm on November 2 and the Get-It Market at 12:06 pm the following day.  With this witness’s testimony, the State will be able to show, not only that Jason Young could have returned to Raleigh in the middle of the night, but that he did, in fact, make that murderous drive.

Clicking on the map will link you to the interactive Bing map for greater detail and exploration.

According to RPD, a Raleigh local who attended yesterday’s hearing, the defense’s motion to suppress Gracie Bailey’s testimony will be heard on May 19.  The defense alleges that WCSO procedure was not followed in procuring the witness’s identification of Jason Young.  The trial is scheduled to begin on May 31.  Thanks for your updates, RPD.

The timeline calendar has also been updated with this new information.  Click the following link to direct your browser there:

Michelle Young Murder Timeline

*With my gratitude to the Count of Monte Cristo.