Long-Missing Woman May Be Victim of Zodiac Killer
On Labor Day 30 years ago, Donna Lass disappeared from her job at a Tahoe casino first-aid station. The 25-year-old registered nurse was never found.
Information presented to authorities last week suggests she was a victim of California’s Zodiac, believed to have killed several people in the late 1960s and early ‘70s.
Officers from El Dorado County, Calif., and Douglas County, Nev., met with two members of the Lass family and Harvey Hines, a retired detective from Groveland, Calif., who believe Donna was abducted and murdered by the Zodiac.
“There are suspicions that Donna Lass was a victim of the Zodiac,” said South Lake Tahoe Sgt. Tom O’Conner. “But we haven’t actually ever established that she was murdered. We haven’t even found the body.”
Hines, who retired from a 30-year police career in 1992, has been investigating the Zodiac serial murders since 1973. He was accompanied by Mary and Don Pilker, Donna’s sister and nephew.
“What I’ve wanted to do for a long time is hand my case over to some agency and let them run with it,” Hines said. “I don’t care if I don’t get a dime’s worth of credit as long as someone closes it out.”
Lass was working a swing shift at the nurse’s station. The last entry in her log at work was listed as 1:45 a.m.
Hines thinks she was abducted at work. He said she left behind personal items including an opened letter and a dirty uniform--"and on her log, a pen was dragged from the last word she wrote to the bottom of the page.”
Donna was never seen again. Family members came to Tahoe to search for her in 1970. Then they returned to Sioux Falls, S.D.
“We drove her convertible home, packed all her things,” Mary said. “And we were scared the whole way home.”
Mary said she believes Hines’ report is the key to solving Donna’s case. She’s been in contact with Hines since 1974, but only recently did her family take a serious look at the information he compiled.
Police say the Zodiac murdered five people and wounded two in San Francisco Bay area attacks, although the serial killer claimed nearly 40 slayings in his letters.
The Zodiac was never caught. But Mike Rustigan, a criminology professor at San Francisco State University, has said many investigators believe he was Arthur Leigh Allen, who died in August 1992. Rustigan said police found evidence in Allen’s Vallejo, Calif., home linking him to the case.