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Relatives of N.D. native accused of being Zodiac killer say story is false

Despite what a California woman told reporters last week about her late step-father, native North Dakotan Guy Ward Hendrickson, being the notorious Zodiac killer, relatives of Hendrickson say the story is false.

Despite what a California woman told reporters last week about her late step-father, native North Dakotan Guy Ward Hendrickson, being the notorious Zodiac killer, relatives of Hendrickson say the story is false.

Last week, Deborah Perez held a news conference in San Francisco and claimed Guy Ward Hendrickson, her step-father who died in 1983, had committed several murders attributed to the never-solved Zodiac killings.

The Zodiac killer was responsible for murdering at least five people in 1968 and 1969 in the San Francisco area, and writing cryptic letters to police boasting of the crimes. The unknown masked murderer remains the "the most infamous uncaught killer in American crime lore," The San Francisco Chronicle reported. More than 1,000 people have confessed to the crime or named others as the killer. One or two suspects have been thought by many in law enforcement to be the Zodiac killer; Hendrickson has never been publicly a main suspect.

Hendrickson was born in Velva, N.D., in 1915, his niece told the Herald.

Hendrickson was "a nice, kind man to me," his niece said in an e-mail to the Herald, responding to an interview request because of Perez's announcement.

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The woman, who lives in the western United States, asked that her name not be published to protect the family.

Hendrickson was married three times, and married Perez's mother and adopted Perez and her siblings in the early 1960s.

Perez said she was 7 when she accompanied her step-father on several killings and wrote the famous "Zodiac letter" sent to the flamboyant lawyer Melvin Belli.

She didn't realize what her step-father had done until seeing a TV show a few years ago, Perez said.

Perez claims to have the eye glasses missing ever since from one victim, a taxi driver.

Local police said they planned to check on Perez's claims and evidence, but hadn't yet.

Janice Hendrickson, 65, California, contacted reporters last week to say she is one of Guy Hendrickson's natural children and to dispute Perez's story.

She said Perez was lying about Guy Hendrickson to make money and that her father would never have hurt anyone.

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"My father was real bullheaded, and he did have a temper, and he did hit me ... slapped the crap out of me," Janice Hendrickson told The Chronicle. "But did he kill people? I don't believe he did."

She added, "I have fond memories of him, even though he went off on me now and then."

Steve Huff, who edits the True Crime Report for Village Voice and has followed the Zodiac killings, says Perez has told crime writer M. William Phelps, and others, that she is the illegitimate daughter of John F. Kennedy.

There's little reason to believe Perez's claims about Guy Hendrickson, which he first heard a year ago, Huff told the Herald last week.

Janice Hendrickson told California reporters that Perez, who is 47, grew up in Mexico and was a child when Guy Hendrickson married Perez' mother. Guy Hendrickson was married three times and lived in Oregon and California most of his adult life, Janice said.

Huff provided the Herald with the name of Guy Hendrickson's parents, including his mother's maiden name, and his social security number.

Hendrickson's niece corroborated the information. She told the Herald that Milla Krohn, a concert pianist, and Carl Hendrickson, a farmer, married in 1914 in North Dakota, their native state. Guy was born in 1915 in Velva, N.D. He and his parents apparently then lived near Havre, Mont., in about 1920, Huff said.

Guy Hendrickson was a star baseball player in high school and "learned to be a carpenter from his maternal grandfather from Norway," the niece told the Herald. She said she thinks Hendrickson served in Coast Guard during World War II, at the shipyards in Richmond, Va.

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"He was a pretty normal guy," said his niece. "I believe the last time I saw him was when my grandfather -- his stepfather -- died in 1966."

Hendrickson died in 1983 in Orange County, Calif., said his niece. The family has no relatives remaining in North Dakota, as far as she knows.

"We always enjoyed our visits with him and I have good memories of him," the niece told the Herald. "The rest of the family is pretty saddened by all of this and I hope it is resolved quickly so that we can all just go on with our lives and remember him fondly."

To see exclusive photos of Guy Ward Hendrickson, see www.truecrimereport.com .

Anyone with information about Guy Ward Hendrickson can contact Lee at (701) 780-1237 or e-mail slee@gfherald.com .

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