Let’s take a more in depth look at the details of that night. Especially the timing and statements of the witnesses driving by the crime scene. Keep in mind that the exact times that everyone drove by are very subjective and could easily be off by plus or minus 10 minutes.
10:15 PM: Helen Axe
Helen drove by the turnout around 10:15 PM and she reported the vehicle was on the right side, and when she came back around 10:30 it was on the left side. She saw the victims well enough to recognize them both.
11:01 PM: Peggie Your & Family
Peggie and her family drove by at approximately 11:05 PM and observed the vehicle was on the left side, which is consistent with Helen’s description. Peggie said that she also saw the victims sitting in the car. Since they had only driven to the bottom of the hill and turned around, it would have only been a couple of minutes later that they drove by the second time. So maybe around 11:07 PM. It’s unclear if she saw the victims both times they passed or only the first time.
Another interesting detail is that when Peggie Your drove by at approximately 11:05 PM, she observed that the car had no frost on it. It was a pretty cold night according to police reports, that said it was approximately 20 degrees fahrenheit. Helen had observed that the car had moved from the right side to the left side between 10:15 and 10:30, so it had been parked on the left side for roughly 40-60 minutes. Would that be enough time for frost to form on the outside of the car? I suppose it depends on if the vehicle was running or not. I imagine they probably left the engine running and the heater on, or they would have been pretty cold. Not a cozy environment if they had left the car off. Plus, their breathing and body heat would have likely kept the front windshield free of frost, but maybe not the back. According to her testimony and the police sketches, Peggie would have only seen the back and driver’s side of the car. Regardless, it doesn’t seem that the car having frost or not gives us any additional clues as to what happened that night.
11:10 PM: Robert & Frank
Robert & Frank, the two racoon hunters that Peggie saw at the bottom of the hill, left shortly after Peggie. When Peggie saw them, they were on the inside of the gate, so it took them at least a couple minutes to open the gate, pull the truck to the other side and close the gate, then drive up the hill and pass by the turnout. So they drove by around 11:10 PM. The interesting thing is they reportedly saw the car on the right side, only minutes after Peggie said she saw it on the left side. And they didn’t see anyone in the car.
It’s hard to tell if Peggie or the hunters were incorrect or if the victims had switched the car back and forth multiple times. It seems most logical that one of them, probably the hunters were mistaken. And by this time the victims had probably reclined the seat and that’s why the hunters didn’t see anyone in the car.
11:14 PM: James Owen
Approximately 4 minutes later, around 11:14 PM, James drove by, also seeing the victim’s car on the left side, but this time there was another car parked next to it.
So James drove by roughly 4 or 5 minutes into a 10 minute window between Robert & Frank and Stella Borges. This was after the killer had pulled into the turnout, but didn’t see anyone in either car. So he either drove by just as the killer arrived, and the killer ducked to avoid being seen, or the killer may have already gotten out of the car and ducked behind the Rambler to avoid being seen. Based on the police sketches of where the cars were located, it seems like James would have been able to see anyone on either side of the Rambler, and whether or not the passenger door was open.
So let’s assume James drove by before the killer got out of his car. That leaves roughly 5 or 6 minutes for the crime to be committed and the killer to drive away. Stella didn’t report another vehicle passing by her so the killer likely left the scene driving in the direction of Benicia.
James reported that just before getting to the turnout, another vehicle passed him going in the opposite direction. The timing of this seems to suggest the other vehicle isn’t any of the other witnesses, nor the killer. As far as I’m aware, the vehicle nor the driver were ever identified. They would likely be able to at least corroborate James’ observations, but probably wouldn’t provide additional details.
11:20 PM: Stella Borges
Approximately 6 minutes later, at 11:20, Stella drives by and sees the victims bodies. That makes roughly a 10 minute window from the time the hunters drove by, not seeing the other car, and Stella finding the bodies. In that 10 minutes the killer pulled in, killed the teens, and drove away.