Lake Herman Road was well known by local teenagers as a great place to make out. The entrance to the Benicia water- pumping station was perfect—isolated and surrounded by rolling hills. A locked gate prevented kids from entering the pumping station, but a small area to the side of the road, at the entrance, invited them to park there. Teenagers could see lights from approaching cars from a distance and would usually wait until they passed to resume their inexperienced groping.
David and Betty Lou weren’t paying attention to the passing cars. It was dark, foggy, and cold outside—about forty degrees—a perfect night to snuggle, to experience the excitement of a first kiss. Betty Lou sat in the front seat of David’s 1960 brown Rambler station wagon, her pretty head resting on his shoulder while they talked. Absorbed in each other, they didn’t pay attention when a vehicle pulled over and parked parallel to their car.
Perhaps my father had been watching Betty Lou. Her mother would later report to police that the gate to their home had been found open on several occasions when it should have been closed. The young girl resembled Judy—the way she had looked when Van had forced her to dye her hair black to avoid recognition while they were on the run. Betty Lou, cuddled up next to David, had no way of knowing that my father perceived that as a betrayal.
Van had carefully prepared for this night. Realizing that he would not be able to sight his gun if his prey took off running, he had taped a small penlight to the barrel of his .22-caliber semi- automatic pistol.
David and Betty Lou were oblivious to the man standing just feet away, until bullets started ripping through the car—through the back passenger window, through the roof, and then suddenly their attacker was on the driver’s side, aiming his gun through the window. He shot David, whose exit had been slowed by Betty Lou’s escape, just behind his left ear at point-blank range. David’s body slammed sideways and he fell out of the passenger side of the car.
In his left hand, he clenched the class ring he had planned to give Betty Lou that night.
Betty Lou ran for her life but could not escape the five bullets that ripped into her back. She had managed to run about twenty-eight feet when the last bullet felled her.
She died there, on the side of a dark road, at the hands of a man who had once loved a girl who looked like her.