Ken Narlow
Ken Narlow holds binders of case notes from his investigation of the Zodiac killer. Narlow was photographed in February, 2007 at the Main Street location in downtown Napa where the Zodiac called Napa police after the Lake Berryessa stabbings. Register file photo LIANNE MILTON

Ken Narlow, a Napa County Sheriff’s detective who worked on the Zodiac killer case four decades ago, died Monday after a long battle from cancer. He was 80.

Narlow investigated the Zodiac killer in connection with the brutal stabbings of Pacific Union College students Cecelia Shepard and Bryan Hartnell at Lake Berryessa in September 1969. Shepard succumbed to her wounds; Hartnell survived the attack.

Narlow worked to find the self-proclaimed Zodiac killer. While many theories abound as to his identity, no one was ever arrested. The case remains open.

The Zodiac killer was also connected to slayings in Benicia, Vallejo and San Francisco between December 1968 and October 1969. 

Narlow worked as a consultant on the 2007 movie “Zodiac,” a fictionalized account of the search for the killer who became famous for leaving cryptic messages at the scenes of his crimes.

Narlow retired as captain in 1987 after more than 27 years with the Napa County Sheriff’s Department, according to Napa County Sheriff’s Capt. Tracey Stuart.

“He was an awfully good cop,” said Richard Lonergan, a retired Napa County undersheriff and Narlow’s longtime partner. “He was a great friend of mine. I enjoyed working with him all these years.”

“He was one of the best. He worked hard. I was very happy to be his partner,” Lonergan said Wednesday.

Napa County Sheriff Doug Koford also praised Narlow’s dedication.

“I have worked with a lot of dedicated men and women over my 35-year career and Capt. Ken Narlow was definitely one of those,” he said in an e-mail. “He was a very hard-working deputy and passionate about keeping our community safe. He represented the Napa County Sheriffs Office well, not only in his law enforcement capacity, but also his community service work. He will be missed by the law enforcement community.”

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Narlow, was born in Wisconsin, served in the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Air Force, according to his obituary. He was an active member of various charity groups in Napa, including Kiwanis and the Sons of Italy.

He is survived by his wife of 59 years, Marie Narlow, his son Mike and his daughter Kathy.

Services will be Dec. 11 at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Napa.


CORRECTION: The original version of this story has been changed to correct Ken Narlow's age.

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