In March of 2012, my partner and I were ordered to pick up a fourteen year old girl from Hoag Hospital in Newport Beach. Her bother, a student at UC Berkeley, went on a killing spree that spanned four cities, two days, and almost 500 miles. Zach, the brother, had apparently drained the blood from one of his roommates by hanging him from his feet over the bathtub and opening several veins in the morning before attending his classes. The City of Berkeley Medical Examiner’s Office believes that Zach researched his method of killing for quite some time as only veins were cut; no arteries were touched, even though severing the arteries would have resulted in a quicker death. When Zach returned to the apartment, he placed the roommate’s body on the living room couch and sat next to it watching television until his second roommate arrived. Berkeley Police aren’t sure what happened next but, at some point, Zach stabbed his second roommate in the chest 47 times. Zach slept through the night in his bed without bothering to clean up either murder scene.
The next morning, Zach began his drive to Newport Beach. His first victim that day was a resident of the same apartment complex who just happened to be outside as Zach walked to his car. Zach stabbed the woman in the temple, killing her instantly. Zach next stopped for gas in Bakersfield. Security cameras from the Valero Corner Store on Buck Owens Drive show Zach casually stabbing a male customer in the back as he walks into the service station. He continues his brisk pace until he is behind the cashier counter and nearly decapitates the cashier, who is attempting to help the injured customer. On his way out, Zach finishes off the customer. Zach was not picked up on security cameras after he left Bakersfield, but LAPD know he hit three pedestrians with his car near an AMPM in Los Angeles. In broad daylight, Zach exited his car and executed two of the pedestrians. The third tried to flee, but was unable to run due to the injuries sustained by Zach’s car. Zach cut the man’s Achilles tendons and punctured his jugular, leaving him to bleed out on the sidewalk. At this time, witnesses had alerted police, giving them Zach’s license plate number and reporting that he had turned onto the southbound I-5.
Zach arrived at his family’s Newport Beach household at approximately 5 PM. The family was hosting a neighboring family and a couple from Huntington Beach for a dinner party. It is not clear how, but Zach managed to pick off most of the guests without being noticed. At some point, he hoisted the bodies of those he had killed onto the roof of the two story house and slashed their veins in a manner consistent with his roommate. Zach’s mother noticed a staggering amount of blood dripping from the back porch and called Newport PD. When officers arrived, they found four victims dead on the roof, two dead in the living room, and a seventh – still alive – that had been thrown through a sliding glass door. That victim, Zach’s mother, was rapidly bleeding out and expired before EMTs could arrive. As the Newport PD officers cleared each room of the house, they heard screaming from the second floor. Zach stood at the top of the stairs, his sister in front of him and knife to her throat. After a short standoff, Zach shoved his sister down the stairs, knocking the officers off guard. He stabbed one officer in the neck, grabbed his gun, and fired 17 shots into the second officer. When backup arrived, Zach was gone and the only survivor was his sister, Chloe.
Chloe told the homicide detectives that Zach threatened he would come back for her when the police presence had died down. The District Attorney immediately called us when he learned Chloe was the sole witness to Zach’s murders at the house. My partner and I – both US Marshals assigned to the Federal Witness Protection Program – were tasked with collecting Chloe and taking her to a safe house in St. George, Utah and wait with her there until a more permanent arrangement could be made. Chloe was beat up pretty bad, but was able to be discharged as soon as we arrived. I was extremely relieved when the three of us had navigated through the hospital and entered the safety of our locked SUV; I’m not usually a jumpy person, but I felt like someone was watching me the entire time we were in the hospital. To compound that, we’re usually up against rational gang bangers and drug smugglers who won’t attack a heavily defended area like a locked-down hospital. Zach was far beyond rational. I thought it was a very real possibility that he might just try to run at us with his knife swinging as soon as we walked out the door.
The first portion of the trip was largely uneventful. Rose – my partner – and I decided that we should stop for a meal at the Steak N More in Primm, Nevada. Rose and I used to stop at Steak N More quite often. We became friendly with the wait staff and had an arrangement with them that allowed us to order for take out, call when we were five minutes away, and make a quick exchange of cash and food so we didn’t have to stop our car. Rose and I alternated eating and driving. Chloe sat silently in the back seat, staring into space. Around the time we had passed into Arizona, Chloe started crying. For the first few minutes, she sobbed outright, clearly heartbroken. As she continued, though, she seemed to get increasingly panicky. She started breathing in short, jumpy breaths and looking around like she didn’t know what was happening. At the exact moment Rose began to maneuver herself into the backseat to comfort her, Chloe yelled, “He can see us! He knows where we are! He sees through my eyes!” She was inconsolable for the rest of the trip.
We called ahead to Utah and asked that a psych eval be scheduled for Chloe. To keep her from hurting herself by thrashing around in the backseat, Rose found a syringe of morphine in the SUV’s first aid kit. In St. George, Rose and I played cards for a full 90 minutes while the Utah branch psychologist worked with Chloe. Eventually, the psychologist came out and filled us in. She was just beginning to touch on Chloe’s delusions when we heard a horrifying scream from Chloe’s room. I broke through the cheap wooden door to find that Chloe had gouged out her own eyes with a Bank of America pen she had found in the psychologist’s bag. Chloe calmed down immensely after being released from the hospital and was living in a group home within a month.
That all happened over a year ago. Last week, the physician who examined Chloe was found dead in his hospital office. He had been exsanguinated like some of Zach’s other victims, his blood used to write a note on the doctor’s stationery: Where is Chloe?
Chloe’s hospital records were supposed to be closed to anyone outside of the Marshal Service. Witness Protection headquarters was in a full panic after the doctor’s death, trying to identify the source of the leak. Rose and I were ordered to make contact with Chloe and move her again in case Zach had gotten more than just her doctor’s name. We made it to the Nevada/Arizona border around 9PM, so we decided to get a motel room for the night and pick Chloe up in the morning; St. George Police had taken her into protective custody earlier in the day, so she wasn’t in any danger. The only available room at the motel was a single queen suite. I was a bit surprised when Rose told the night manager that we’d take it, but she turned to me and explained that she was too tired to check anywhere else.
I feigned taking a phone call and let Rose go ahead of me to the room. We had been partners for more than two years. Two years and seven months. When we were first assigned together, Rose was married and I had a live-in girlfriend. Both relationships were doomed; it takes a special significant other to put up with the hours we have to work. Rose and her husband were in their fourth month of marriage counseling when I met her. Within six weeks, she had moved into an apartment by herself. My girlfriend was a dancer and, to be completely honest, was more of an erotic time killer than a soul mate. For most of our partnership, Rose has been the only woman in my life. And she knew how I felt about her. I thought she might feel the same way; sometimes she would look at me a little too long during meals on the road and we kissed one night about a year ago when we were both a few beers into our tab.
I faked the phone call to have some time to think through things. I wanted to make a move. A single queen suite seemed like fate and I didn’t want to pass up the chance. Still, the Marshal Service – like every other employer – has rules against workplace relationships. I stood on the shoulder of the highway for a good ten minutes before I decided to give it a shot. I rushed up the stairs, feeling like I had switched feet with Gene Kelly. I could hear music coming from our room, which was odd. Rose wasn’t one to play music while she fell asleep. Maybe…she was waiting for me?
As I got closer, I could tell the music was Bed of Rose’s by the Statler Brothers. As a rule, I’m not a fan of country music, but this was one of the few songs I enjoyed listening to on long trips in my grandpa’s pickup truck. I hadn’t ever told Rose about that, but I happened to know that she disliked country music, too. I smiled and kept walking, more sure of myself.
At the door to the suite, the music was blasting. A little too loud. That seemed strange. Before I opened the door, I peered at pedestrians walking by on the street. I had the strangest sensation of being watched. Just like at the hospital when we picked up Chloe. I pushed open the door. Rose was on the bed naked, her skin an unhealthy shade of pale. Her hands and face were covered in blood that had poured out of deep cuts on her wrists and throat. The bathtub was filled with blood. On the headboard, written in blood, was a message from Zach: Where is Chloe?