Monday, 10 June 2013

Real Life Horror: The Zodiac Killer

The mystery of The Zodiac Killer is one that still fascinates people to this day.

On the night of Sunday, October 30, 1966, long before anyone was to hear of The Zodiac Killer, an 18-year-old student named Cheri Jo Bates was brutally murdered near the parking lot of Riverside City College 's library annex. Neither rape nor robbery seemed to have been a motive, as her clothes were undisturbed and her purse was present and intact.

After disabling her lime green Volkswagen by pulling out the distributor coil and the condenser, then disconnecting the middle wire of the distributor, The Zodiac Killer had apparently waited for Bates to return to her car and try to start it, whereupon he made a pretense of unsuccessfully tinkering with the engine. After this ruse, and probably with the offer of a ride, he lured her into a dark, unpaved driveway between two empty houses owned by the college, where they spent approximately an hour and a half. Exactly what they did during this time is uncertain, but eventually the man attacked her, slashing her three times in the chest area, once in the back, and seven times across the throat. Police determined that the murder weapon was a small knife with a blade about 3 1/2" long by 1/2" wide, but the wounds to Bates' throat were so deep and brutal as to nearly decapitate her, severing her larynx, jugular vein, and carotid artery. She had also been choked, beaten, and slashed about the face. Found about ten feet from Bates' body was a paint-spattered man's Timex watch with a broken 7" wristband, stopped at around 12:23, which one source claims was later traced to a military PX in England. The paint was analyzed, and was found to be common exterior house paint. Also found at the scene were the heel-print from a shoe that appeared to be close to size 10, as well as hair, blood, and skin tissue found in the victim's hands and beneath her fingernails. Greasy, unidentified palm- and fingerprints were also found in and on her car, about 200 feet away. Although the library closed at 9:00 p.m. (and books found in her car verify that she had been inside before then), two separate witnesses reported hearing an "awful scream" at around 10:30, followed by "a muted scream, and then a loud sound like an old car being started up" about two minutes later. This time matches an estimation given by the coroner, and is generally accepted as the time of her death.

Judging by these details, the murder of Cheri Jo Bates would appear to be nothing more mysterious than a particularly vicious crime of passion, committed perhaps by a spurned suitor, an ex-boyfriend, or a subject somehow linked to Miss Bates. Certainly, the simple fact that Bates spent over an hour in the dark with the man who murdered her suggests that she knew and trusted him enough to converse more than casually. It was not until almost exactly one month after the attack that the case approached a bizarre new level. On November 29, 1966, carbon copies of an anonymous letter were mailed to the Riverside Police and the Riverside Enterprise. Typed using a portable Royal typewriter with either Pica or Elite typeface, it was entitled "The Confession," and carried a "byline" that consisted of the word "BY" followed by twelve underscores. Both copies were on low-quality white paper eight inches wide and torn at the top and bottom so as to be roughly squarish, and had been sent unstamped and with no return address from a secluded rural mailbox. Presumably, the author planned on the letters being sent by Postage Due mail. At least one of the details referred to in this letter had not been made public, and at the time, investigators agreed that it was most likely genuine, though this opinion has changed over the years.

Here's the confession letter:


BY _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _




Neither envelope bore a complete address; they were handwritten with a felt-tip pen in the following manner.

Daily Enterprise

Riverside Calif

Attn: Crime

Homicide Detail


One fingerprint was found on the envelope sent to the RPD Homicide Detail, but it has never been matched to a suspect, and whether it was left by the author, a postman, or a police officer is unknown.

The killer's claim that "she did not put up a struggle" was contradicted by the numerous defense wounds on her hands and arms, as well as by the flesh and hair found beneath Bates' fingernails. While a contemporaneous newspaper report reflects uncertainty as to whether the knife actually broke in her body, no evidence of this event is reported in the autopsy report, and more recent pronouncements from RPD detectives are unanimous that the knife did not break. Bates' car had indeed been sabotaged in the manner described, which had not been fully revealed by the news media. The phone call that is referred to near the end of the letter has never been elaborated on by authorities, though researcher Tom Voigt suggests that it was placed to the Riverside Press , rather than the police, and so went misunderstood and ignored.

The letters were delivered on the same day they were posted. The next day, November 30th, both the Enterprise and the local police submitted their copies to the Riverside County Postal Inspector, who in turn notified the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Murder is not a federal crime, but extortion through the mail is, and the FBI briefly considered joining the investigation under this pretense. However, since no specific victim of extortion was named or alluded to, there would be no federal aid in the investigation. In an unexplained turn of events, what appears to be a photocopy of the "Confession" was attached to an FBI report declassified in the 1990's, but the typescript and number of words per line are different from those in the well-known copy that appears in a photograph of the letter lying either on a detective's or a reporter's desk.

On the six-month anniversary of Bates' death, the Riverside Press , the police, and the victim's father (whose name and address had appeared in the local newspaper the day after the murder) were each sent nearly identical copies of another letter, this one written in pencil on lined notepaper. Instead of a signature, two of the letters bore a symbol that resembled a letter Z joined with a numeral. In what would become a hallmark of the Zodiac's epistolary style, the envelopes were franked with excessive postage: in this case, they each carried two of the necessary four-cent stamps. The letters sent to the police and Press read as follows:

The copy without the hieroglyph signature, sent to Joseph Bates, substituted "Bates" with "She". One latent fingerprint was developed on the letter sent to the Riverside Police Department, but its origins are not known, and it has never been matched to a suspect.

In mid-April 1967, a janitor at the RCC Library discovered a poem written on the underside of a folding school desk. The desk had been in storage for an unknown period of time, but the contemporary receipt of the "Bates had to die" letters led many investigators to believe that the poem described Bates' murder and was written by her killer. Some amateurs, however, have noted that the style and tone of the letter indicate otherwise: one compelling theory is that that an unrelated student penned it following an unsuccessful suicide attempt. The handwriting is of debatable resemblance to the three "Bates" notes or any other Zodiac printing and the date of its origin is unclear, so the entire issue remains open to interpretation. The poem read:

Sick of living/unwilling to die 
if red / 
blood spurting, 
all over her new 
oh well 
it was red 
life draining into an 
uncertain death. 
she won't 
this time 
someone ll find her. 
just wait till 
next time. 

The cryptic signature, "rh," may have been a reference to RCC's President at the time, R. H. Bradshaw.

In the wake of Bates' murder, Riverside Police worked the case under the assumption that Bates knew her killer, or at least that the killer knew her. They even identified a likely suspect from a pool of viable candidates, an ex-boyfriend bitter over their breakup and resentful of her blossoming relationship with a football player. (The RPD maintains a local man as their prime suspect in the murder, and in December of 1998 even went so far as to secure a warrant for samples of this man's hair, skin, and saliva, which were sent to the FBI crime lab to be checked against the evidence found at the scene. As of December 2000, the FBI completed this analysis, and the results are being double-checked by state authorities. An announcement is eagerly awaited by authorities and amateurs alike.) When the Zodiac case exploded into national news in the fall of 1969, though, RPD Chief L.T. Kinkead nevertheless sent a 3-page synopsis of the local murder and the events that followed to investigators in Napa and San Francisco , a letter that seems to have been largely ignored. It wasn't until Paul Avery of the San Francisco Chronicle initiated a 1970 meeting between these investigators that they began to consider the elusive Bay Area serial killer as a possible culprit, though even then RPD Captain Irwin Cross "expressed doubt that the Zodiac was responsible".

Despite the stylistic similarities between the aftermath of Cheri Jo Bates' murder and the linked murders that would later take place in the San Francisco Bay Area, the current opinion of the Riverside Police Department and most other investigators is that the Riverside and Bay Area episodes were not related. Opinion is split, however, as to who authored the 1966 and 1967 documents, and whether they were even written by the same person.

Vallejo and Benicia lie just north of the San Pablo Bay and the Carquinez Strait , about 20 miles northeast of San Francisco . In the late 1960's, the area abutting the two rough-and-tumble, working-class cities was practically uninhabited, and even now only a few paved surfaces cross the barren expanses of southern Solano County above the Vallejo-Benicia Freeway. One of these is Lake Herman Road , running from eastern Vallejo to northern Benicia by way of the unincorporated area between them.

As early as 9:00 pm on Friday, December 20, 1968, a light-colored hardtop four-door, possibly a Chevrolet Impala, was seen parked near the gated entrance to the pumping station off Lake Herman Road just east of Lake Herman. The same car was also seen there at about 10:00pm by a different witness. Between these two sightings, a young man and his girlfriend were parked in the same spot when a car heading west toward Vallejo slowed to a stop several yards past their car, then began to slowly back up toward them. The car gave them both such a bad feeling that they immediately pulled out of the gravelly area and drove off toward Benicia . The other car followed them until the first exit, which they took, watching the stranger continue east on Lake Herman Road.

At 11:10pm, David Arthur Faraday and Betty Lou Jensen were parked in the same place when they were shot to death near Faraday's brown Rambler. Having told Betty Lou's parents that they were going to a Christmas concert, they had instead driven to the isolated lover's lane and had been there for less than an hour when someone pulled in with them, exited his vehicle, and began firing into their car. The killer was armed with either a .22 caliber rifle or, more likely, a handgun loaded with .22 LR ammunition. From light footprints and ballistic evidence, it appeared that the killer started from behind the car, shooting out the right rear window, then the left rear tire, then coming around to the front left. The two teenagers scrambled out the passenger's side door.

Jensen, 16, left the car alive and must have started to run toward the road; her body was found less than 30 feet from the rear bumper. The shot pattern - five rounds along the right side of her back, ranging from the space between the fifth and sixth ribs all the way down to the pelvis - suggested that the killer was either competent with firearms or had fired into her body as she lay wounded by a previous shot, as a coroner's report states that the shots had come from no more than 10 feet away. In any case, the grouping does not indicate marksman-like accuracy, or even the great degree of skill that is often attributed to the killer due to this particular murder, especially considering that two rounds missed the wounded girl as she fled. Faraday was killed by a single close-range bullet to the head; researcher Mike R. of NJ points out that the position of Faraday's body, with the boy's feet by the rear wheel and his head pointing away from the front of the car at an angle of about 45 degrees, suggests that he was not killed while climbing out of the door but rather while standing by the right rear wheel. All told, 10 shots were fired, but only eight rounds were accounted for.

The entire episode was over in a few heartbeats, and the killer left the scene immediately upon its conclusion. This was determined by an almost minute-by-minute timeline put together from the statements of several witnesses driving by the area between 9:00pm and 11:15pm. One of these witnesses, Stella Borges, may even have seen the killer's car, described as a light-colored Chevrolet, headed toward Benicia just before she discovered Jensen's and Faraday's bodies. Despite the best efforts of Solano County Sheriff's Det. Sgt. Les Lundblad, assistance from half a dozen local law enforcement agencies, and a reward fund set up by students at the victims' high schools, no killer was ever identified. As author Robert Graysmith grimly noted in his seminal book, 'ZODIAC' , "There were no witnesses, no motives, and no suspects".

Six months later, shortly after 12:00am. on Saturday, July 5, 1969, Darlene Elizabeth Ferrin, 22, and Michael Renault Mageau, 19, were shot as they sat in Ferrin's car in the parking lot of the Blue Rock Springs Golf Course. According to Mageau's statements to police in the days that followed, Ferrin had picked him up at his house about half an hour earlier, and they were going to get a bite to eat when Darlene said that she wanted to talk to him about something. At Mageau's suggestion, she turned around on Springs Road and headed east to Blue Rock Springs Park in Benicia , a spot popular with local teenagers cruising after dark. Ferrin turned off the car's headlights and motor but left the radio playing. After just a few minutes, three cars occupied by some young revelers entered the parking lot briefly, laughing, yelling, and throwing firecrackers. They drove off shortly thereafter, and Ferrin and Mageau were left alone again until about midnight, when another car, alone this time, pulled into the lot from the direction of Vallejo. Its lone occupant turned off the car's headlights and pulled up next to Ferrin's car, six to eight feet away on her left. The car, a brown Ford Mustang or Chevy Corvair, idled there for a moments and Mageau asked Ferrin if she knew the driver, to which she responded, "Oh, never mind". Mageau later said that he wasn't sure whether this meant that she did or didn't know the driver, but before he could inquire further the car pulled out and drove off at high speed back toward Vallejo.

After about five minutes, the brown car returned to the parking lot and pulled up behind and to the right of Ferrin and Mageau, about 10 feet back. Leaving his headlights on this time, the driver exited his vehicle with a bright lamp or flashlight. Obscuring his face by holding the light at arm's length and shining it directly at them, he walked silently up to the passenger's side door. From his manner, Mageau thought he might be a policeman, and was reaching for his ID when the man raised a handgun and fired five 9mm rounds through the window. He shot first at Mageau, hitting him in the face and body: at such close range, several of the slugs tore through his flesh and entered Darlene. Fueled by pain and adrenaline, Michael kicked himself into the back seat, catching another bullet in his left knee. The attacker then fired at Ferrin, hitting her in each arm and in the back as she turned away. Mageau thought that the shots sounded quiet, perhaps fired through a silencer, but nearby resident George Bryant heard both the earlier firecrackers and the shots, and described the shots as much louder.

The killer was walking back to his car after this volley of shots when he heard Mageau begin to yell, either in pain or in rage. He returned to Ferrin's car, fired two additional shots at each of the victims, then turned around casually and got back in his own car. Mageau was able to catch a look at the man's face in profile, and described him as short, about 5'8" tall, but extremely heavyset. Though "not blubbery fat" the man was at least 195 pounds and had a large face. In terrible pain but still conscious, Mageau managed to turn the car's blinkers on in an attempt to summon aid, then opened the passenger's side door and tumbled to the pavement. From there, he watched the attacker peel out, turn his car around, and drive back in the direction of Vallejo . Though the Zodiac would later claim that he remained under the speed limit after the attack, both Mageau and George Bryant reported that he left the scene at a high rate of speed.

Several police cars and an ambulance soon arrived, summoned by more late-night teenaged drivers who had discovered the car and victims, but the aid they could offer was too little and too late for Darlene, who died in the ambulance with Mageau and Officer Richard Hoffman of the Vallejo PD. Mageau went straight into surgery, Darlene was pronounced Dead on Arrival at Kaiser Foundation Hospital at 12:38am. Despite the killer's subsequent claim that the attack was committed with a 9mm Luger, this weapon was manufactured with an eight-round magazine, and the killer fired at least nine shots without reloading. While a 32-round extended magazine for the Luger had been available for some time, Vallejo police believe the weapon was actually a 9mm Browning High-Power, which carries thirteen rounds in its factory magazine, although the weapon could have been one of several 9-round 9mm handguns available at the time.

Some of Ferrin's close friends reported that she may have been stalked in the months preceding her death, or at least the recipient of some unwanted visits; author Robert Graysmith's account contends that she knew her killer. These views are not shared by most legitimate investigators, however, nor by Darlene's widower, Dean Ferrin, who was never interviewed for 'ZODIAC' and in subsequent conversation has stated that he noticed no unusual behavior or anxiety on his wife's part in the months before her death. The alleged "stalker" in this case was likely George Waters, a Vallejo man and would-be paramour who had been rebuffed several times by Darlene and who, by many accounts, did not take it in a gentlemanly fashion. Waters was soon tracked down and interviewed by Vallejo detectives, who determined that he had been watching fireworks with his wife on the night of the Fourth, and had been at home in her company at the time of the murders. Stories that Ferrin and/or Mageau knew one or more of the other Zodiac victims are entirely unconfirmed, as are rumors that Mageau may have been hiding some knowledge of the killers identity or motive. His accounts of the night's events, to both the police and the press, uniformly describe an unknown man who walked silently up to the car and started shooting. These and other details were maintained through all recorded interviews with Mageau, whether in horrible pain after the incident, under heavy medication at the hospital, or in the spotlight of morbid local celebrity.

The lone indication that Ferrin may have known her killer, or may have been known to him, was a pair of calls made to Darlene's home shortly after the murder. When the calls were answered by Ferrin's friends at the house, there was no voice on the other end. One source close to the family claims that the calls were made by Darlene's brother Leo, who was waiting to hear from Darlene about an unrelated matter. At 12:40am, a pay phone call was made through the Operator to Vallejo Police Headquarters. According to the police dispatcher, the caller's voice was mature and without accent, and he spoke evenly and consistently as if reading from a script. At one point, the dispatcher tried to ask the caller's identity and location, but he would not be interrupted and said, "I want to report a double murder. If you go one mile east on Columbus Parkway to the public park, you will find kids in a brown car. They were shot with a 9mm Luger. I also killed those kids last year. Good bye".

Robert Graysmith's 'ZODIAC' contains an apocryphal scene in which the caller hangs up, but is surprised by a call-back device on the police switchboard that causes the pay phone to start ringing. This allegedly caught the attention of a chance passerby who watched the caller take the receiver off the hook, leave the booth, and drive off in a brown car. This man, described in a subsequent letter from the killer, was sought by both the police and local newspapers to no avail, indicating that Graysmith may simply have been elaborating on a bogus detail provided by the Zodiac to create confusion. When the police were able to trace the call to a pay phone at Tuolumne Street and Springs Road, they found that the booth in question was just a few blocks away from the Vallejo Sheriff's Office.

A few weeks later, on July 31, 1969, the San Francisco Examiner , San Francisco Chronicle, and Vallejo Times-Herald each received letters laying claim to the Vallejo murders. Enclosed with each letter was one-third of a cryptogram, to be published on each newspaper's front page by August 1. Not only were the author's claims bolstered by an intimate knowledge of the two crime scenes, he also promised another murder spree if his request was not met. Though worded slightly differently, each letter shared the same salient facts, and each was closed with the crossed-circle design that would become the Zodiac's signature. The first to be transcribed in its entirety was the one sent to the Vallejo Times-Herald :

Dear Editor

I am the killer of the 2 teenagers last Christmass at Lake Herman and the Girl last 4th of July. To Prove this I shall state some facts which only I+ the police know.


1 Brand name of ammo Super X

2 10 shots fired

3 Boy was on back feet to car

4 Girl was lyeing on right side feet to west

4th of July

1 Girl was wearing patterned pants

2 Boy was also shot in knee

3 Brand name of ammo was Western

Here is a cyipher or that is part of one. The other 2 parts of this cipher have been mailed to the S.F. Examiner + the S.F. Chronicle.

I want you to print this cipher on your frunt page by Fry Afternoon Aug 1-69, If you do not do this I will go on a kill rampage Fry night that will last the whole week end. I will cruse around and pick off all stray people or coupples that are alone then move on to kill some more untill I have killed over a dozen people.

The killer's letter to the Chronicle was similar, but gave an additional impetus to publish the code: "In this cipher," he wrote, "is my identity." The 3-Part Cryptogram was solved in less than a week by a North Salinas, CA, high school teacher and his wife. Despite the claims of the Chronicle's letter, it did not appear to reveal the killer's identity. Their solution was submitted to the Vallejo PD on August 8, verified by the Cryptographic Unit at Skaggs Island Naval Communications Center, and published on August 9 by the San Francisco Chronicle and the Vallejo Times-Herald:


The letters covering the cipher blocks were checked unsuccessfully for fingerprints by the Vallejo and San Francisco police; they found none, though one print may have been developed on a cipher-block. As happened after the Bates murder, local police contacted the FBI for aid in the investigation, and as in the Bates case the federal interest here was possible extortion. In fact, many FBI reports still classify the case under the original extortion heading.

A little-known letter containing a key to the cryptogram was sent anonymously to the Vallejo Police on August 10, one day after the Harden solution was made public. It was postmarked San Francisco, and the typewritten address was to a VPD sergeant. The key was handwritten on a sheet of white paper, and was accompanied by a short typewritten note on a 3x5 index card expressing hope that " the enclosed key will prove beneficial to you in connection with the cipher letter writer." It was signed " concerned citizen ." The key was described in an FBI report as "generally valid" and "substantially accurate", but this is unsurprising since the author probably read the decryption in the newspaper and simply made his own key letter by letter. One useful palmprint was found on the envelope, but it was never matched to any individual.

By August 2, all three cipher blocks had been printed. "We're not satisfied that the letter was written by the murderer, but it could have been," said the Vallejo Chief of Police Jack E. Stiltz, requesting another letter "with more facts to prove it". In response, a second letter was mailed to the San Francisco Examiner on August 1 or 2, and received on August 4. It was in this three-page letter that the killer first referred to himself as "The Zodiac".

This is the Zodiac speaking. In answer to your asking for more details about the good times I have had in Vallejo, I shall be very happy to supply even more material. By the way, are the police having a good time with the code? If not, tell them to cheer up; when they do crack it, they will have me.

On the 4th of July: I did not open the car door. The window was rolled down all ready. The boy was origionaly sitting in the frunt seat when I began fireing. When I fired the first shot at his head, he leaped backwards at the same time, thus spoiling my aim. He ended up on the back seat then the floor in back thashing out very violently with his legs; that's how I shot him in the knee. I did not leave the cene of the killing with squealing tires + raceing engine as described in the Vallejo paper. I drove away quite slowly so as not to draw attention to my car. The man who told police that my car was brown was a negro about 40-45 rather shabbly dressed. I was in this phone booth having some fun with the Vallejo cop when he was walking by. When I hung the phone up the damn thing began to ring & that drew his attention to me + my car.

Last Christmass In that epasode the police were wondering how I could shoot + hit my victims in the dark. They did not openly state this, but implied this by saying it was a well lit night + I could see silowets on the horizon. Bullshit that area is srounded by high hills + trees. What I did was tape a small pencel flash light to the barrel of my gun. If you notice, in the center of the beam of light if you aim it at a wall or ceiling you will see a black or darck spot in the center of the circle of light about 3 to 6 inches across. When taped to a gun barrel, the bullet will strike in the center of the black dot in the light. All I had to do was spray them as if it was a water hose; there was no need to use the gun sights. I was not happy to see that I did not get front page coverage.

No address

Police were unsuccessful in developing latent fingerprints on the first set of letters; perhaps as a result, this latest letter was submitted directly to the FBI crime lab, which determined that the letter was written on Woolworth's " Fifth Avenue " brand paper. The lab found useful prints on its second and third pages, but they have never been matched to a suspect.

The next attack came on Saturday, September 27, 1969, on the western shore of Lake Berryessa , about 60 miles northeast of San Francisco in Napa County. At about 3:00pm, three young women from Angwin had just pulled into a parking area near the lake when a man driving a light blue, two-door Chevrolet with California plates, probably a 1966 model, pulled up beside them, drove forward a short distance, and then backed up so that he was right next to their car. Without leaving his car, he sat looking downward, as if pretending to read something. The women walked down to the lakeshore and had been sunbathing for about half an hour when they noticed the same man watching them. They later described him as "clean cut and nice looking" about six feet tall and over 200 pounds, with short dark hair parted on the side. He wore a black short sleeved sweatshirt over a tee shirt with dark blue or black slacks. He watched them silently for another 20 minutes or so, smoking cigarettes, then walked off. When the women returned to their car at around 4:30, the stranger's car was gone.

The Napa County Sheriff's Department briefly investigated another encounter at the lake. It occurred at about 6:30, when a local dentist and his son well north of the crime scene noticed a man walking nearby who met the general description given by the young women. When this man saw the father and son and realized that he had been noticed, he turned around and walked away from them. It was initially thought that he might have been involved in the Zodiac's next attack, but detectives determined that the unidentified man did not have a car in the area, and it would have been impossible for him to arrive at the crime scene in time. Cecelia Ann Shepard and Bryan Calvin Hartnell, two college students who had also made a spontaneous trip from Angwin, were picnicking at Twin Oak Ridge, a peninsula on the western shore of the lake, at twilight when they were approached by a man later described as 5'8" to 6' tall, dark-haired, and heavyset, wearing a dark jacket and dark clothing that seemed sloppy or dishevelled. Cecelia, who saw the man first, noted that he was wearing glasses. He seemed to Hartnell at the time to be "in his thirties and fairly unremarkable", though the young man would describe a larger and possibly younger individual after getting a closer and more dangerous look.

Before getting too close to the couple, he ducked behind one of the two nearby trees, put on an unusual four-cornered hood, and emerged about 20 feet away. The hood was well sewn, black, and had a bib that fell almost to the man's waistline. Embroidered on it was the crossed-circle design that had appeared in the 3-Part Cryptogram and its cover letters and would serve as the Zodiac's signature in most of his letters to come. Holes had been cut for the eyes and mouth, and though clip-on sunglasses had been added to further protect the killer's identity, Hartnell caught a glimpse of greasy brownish hair through the holes in the mask. On his belt, he wore a long knife in a wooden sheath and an empty leather holster. A large semiautomatic pistol was in his right hand and he pointed it at Shepard and Hartnell as he spoke.

"I want your money and your car keys," he said in a calm monotone. "I want your car to go to Mexico". Hartnell handed him the keys to his Volkswagen and all the change from his pockets. The man pocketed the coins and dropped the keys on the picnic blanket, then holstered his weapon. Hartnell made a vague offer of help to the man in order to escape injury, to which the man responded, "No. Time's running short." The man then stated that he was an escaped convict from the Pacific Northwest , that he had killed a prison guard there, and that he had "a stolen car and nothing to lose. I'm flat broke". Though the town mentioned by the killer is generally given as Deer Lodge, Montana, a reliable source reports that the state was not Montana but Colorado. An early interview with Hartnell has the badly wounded student saying that he can't remember the exact name of the town, but that it "had some double name, like Fern Lock or something." His interviewer suggests "Lodge," and Hartnell agrees. "Deer Lodge" was then suggested as a northwest city with a federal penitentiary, and the victim said, "That could be it, I guess". Subsequent inquiries to the northwestern authorities revealed that there had been no such jailbreak or murder. Hartnell, who survived the attack, said that the man's voice was unremarkable, sounding neither educated nor illiterate, and though Hartnell could not detect an accent, he said the killer did have a slight lilt or drawl to his voice.

Still hoping for a peaceful resolution, Hartnell tried to relax the man by talking to him, and they spoke for a few minutes about his car before the man removed some of the clothesline from his belt and ordered Shepard to hogtie her friend. Hartnell balked at the idea, and the man began to shout, "Get down! Right now!" Shepard acquiesced, and as she did so, she took out her wallet and tossed it to the man, who ignored it. When she was finished, the hooded man tied her up and tightened the knots that she had used on Hartnell. It was at this point that the young man noticed that his attacker's hands were shaking, and that he seemed very nervous. "I'm going to have to stab you people," the stranger told them. "I couldn't stand to see her stabbed," Hartnell responded. "Stab me first". "I'll do just that," the killer replied.

The knife he used was double-edged and about a foot long, possibly a bayonet. It has been described as looking made or repaired by hand, with wooden handle slabs, two brass rivets, and white tape where the guard would normally be. Hartnell was stabbed six times, and a retired police source confirms a fatal ten for Shepard, who died of her wounds two days later. Leaving them both for dead, the attacker walked to Hartnell's nearby car and, using a black magic marker, inscribed his crossed-circle logo and the dates of his Bay Area attacks on the door.




Sept 27-69-6:30 

by knife 

Detectives later found a series of clear footprints leading to and from the scene of the attack. The shoes that formed them were determined to have been Wing Walkers, a style of low-cut military boot, size 10. Set deep in the sand, the prints suggested a heavy man. Just as he had after the Blue Rock Springs attack, the killer later drove to a pay phone and placed a call through the Operator to the local police. The call came through the Napa Police Department switchboard at 7:40pm, a little over an hour after the attack. The call was traced to a pay phone outside a car wash at 1231 Main Street in Napa. As was the case in Vallejo, the booth was near the station. Evidence technicians later found a clear palm-print on the receiver, the print man was so nervous that he smudged it during the lifting process and any evidentiary value was ruined. In a calm voice, the caller said, "I want to report a murder, no, a double murder. They are two miles north of Park Headquarters. They were in a white Volkswagen Kharmann Ghia." When the switchboard operator asked where he was calling from, he said quietly, "I'm the one that did it." Then, perhaps to facilitate a trace or perhaps to avoid the kind of attention he had recounted in his letter to the Examiner , he simply dropped the receiver and walked away, never again to refer directly to this attack.

On the night of Saturday, October 11, 1969, San Francisco cab driver Paul Stine picked up a fare at the corner of Mason and Geary Streets in Union Square headed for the Presidio, which lies at the northern tip of the San Francisco peninsula. The destination that Stine entered in his log and called in to his dispatcher was at the corner of Washington and Maple Streets in Presidio Heights. The cab was parked one block west, however, at the intersection of Washington and Cherry Streets, when the passenger shot Stine point blank in the right side of the head. Whether the killer had made the trip in the front seat or got in front after the murder is uncertain, but witnesses saw him in front as he removed the dead man's wallet and keys, and then cut a large piece from the back of his shirt which he soaked in blood and took with him as he walked slowly north on Cherry Street.

Three teenage siblings on the second floor of 3899 Washington , directly across the street from the cab, happened to spot the killer as he cut Stine's shirt and suspected foul play. They watched him exit the cab and wipe down parts of the cab's interior and exterior, briefly leaning on the driver's side doorframe. They called the police, who logged the call at 9:58 p.m. and broadcast an incorrect description of the killer as a black male. Consequently, when patrolmen Donald Foukes and Eric Zelms responded in a radio car and noticed a heavyset white man sauntering east on Jackson Street , they made no effort to apprehend him. Despite the intensive search of the area that followed, the killer's head start allowed him to escape, probably to a nearby getaway car.

Foukes made a statement about his recollection of the incident, recorded in an SFPD memo dated November 12,1969: "The suspect that was observed by Officer Foukes was a WMA 35-45 Yrs about 5' 10", 180-200 lbs. Medium heavy build, Barrel chested, Medium complexion, Light-colored hair possibly greying in rear (May have been lighting that caused this effect.) (Navy or royal blue) Elastic cuffs and waistband zipped part way up. Brown wool pants pleated type baggy in rear (Rust brown). May have been wearing low cut shoes. Subject at no time appeared to be in a hurry walking with a shuffling lope, Slightly bent forward head now. The subject's general appearance to classify him as a group would be that he might be of Welsh ancestry."

During shooting for a documentary on the case in the mid 1980s, Foukes stated that "The individual I saw that night was a white male adult approximately 35 to 45 years of age, 5 feet 10 inches, 180 to 210 lbs. Since we were looking for a negro male adult, we proceeded on Jackson Street toward Arguello, continuing our search. As we arrived at Arguello Street , the description was changed to a white male adult. Believing that this suspect was possibly the one involved in the shooting, we entered the Presidio of San Francisco and conducted a search on West Pacific Avenue on the opposite side of the wall in the last direction we observed the suspect going. We did not find the suspect". Mel Nicolai, a former Special Agent for the California Department of Justice who worked on all but the Lake Herman Road Zodiac murders, is quoted as saying that Foukes' and Zelms' first broadcast description of the man they saw was even taller, between 6' and 6'2", and over 200 lbs.

An apocryphal passage in Robert Graysmith's book "Zodiac" has the officers going so far as to stop the man and ask him if he had seen anything strange in the past few minutes, but this conversation is not noted in any of the subsequent police reports. In no known interview does either Foukes or Zelms mention any exchange of words with the unidentified subject, and the story may have been based only on a forthcoming letter from the killer. While dramatic, the Zodiac's account of the night's events cannot be confirmed, and may well be a prevarication. On the other hand, such an encounter and its repercussions would be a tremendous embarrassment to the SFPD on several levels, and if this incident did in fact occur then a concerted effort would certainly have been made to keep it under wraps.

The bullet that killed Stine was mistyped at the scene as a .38, but later ballistics tests determined it to be a 9mm. It was not, however, the same 9mm used for the Blue Rock Springs attack. The latent impressions of thirty fingers, three palms, and one lower finger or palm were found in and on the cab. Found on the passenger's side front door handle, the finger/palm print was relatively clear and crime lab technicians believed it was left by the killer, though the possibility exists that one of the police, firemen, or lab technicians at the scene could inadvertently have left it. Certain other prints, none of such clarity, were actually left in blood, and "are also believed to be prints of the suspect," according to a San Francisco Police memo. In any event, none of these prints have yet matched any of the millions filed in the National Crime Identification Computer database maintained by the FBI. Also recovered from the cab was a pair of men's leather gloves in a size 7 (XXL), though it remains uncertain whether they were left by the killer.

Two days later, the Chronicle received a letter from the Zodiac claiming responsibility for the murder. The return address on the envelope was the crossed-circle design, and enclosed with the letter was a swatch of Paul Stine's bloody shirt. Three latent fingerprints were developed on the paper by the SFPD crime lab, but remain unmatched to any suspect.

This is the Zodiac speaking. I am the murderer of the taxi driver over by Washington St + Maple St last night, to prove this here is a blood stained piece of his shirt. I am the same man who did in the people in the north bay area. The S.F. Police could have caught me last night if they had searched the park properly instead of holding road races with their motorcicles seeing who could make the most noise. The car drivers should have just parked their cars and sat there quietly waiting for me to come out of cover. School children make nice targets, I think I shall wipe out a school bus some morning. Just shoot out the frunt tire + then pick off the kiddies as they come bouncing out.

The Zodiac would send three swatches of the bloody fabric, but 104 square inches of Paul Stine's shirt are still unaccounted for.

Thus far, authorities had observed the Zodiac to follow a few vague patterns. He had always attacked after sundown on weekends, always attacked young couples in or near their cars, and always attacked in remote suburban areas near water. If he could now break his pattern by shooting a lone 29-year-old male in downtown San Francisco, they felt, then there was no reason why he couldn't follow through on his threat to "wipe out a school bus"; within days, Bay area bus drivers had received special instructions on how to react if fired upon. The school bus threat was one that the Zodiac would return to in different forms. At the urging of the San Francisco Police, the Chronicle suppressed the threat for a week; on October 18, a police composite sketch based on the teenage witnesses' testimony was amended according to the descriptions given by the responding patrolmen at Cherry Street and was distributed with the full content of the letter.

It was during this time that the Zodiac case began to garner exceptional press coverage, and tips to the killer's identity poured in from points as far as Houston , Atlanta , and St. Louis. At the same time, homicide detectives along the West Coast began to consider the Bay Area killer as a suspect in their unsolved cases. Among these were L.T. Kinkead and H.L. Homsher of the Riverside, CA, Police Department, and they forwarded a summary of the 1966 Bates murder to investigators in Napa, Solano, and San Francisco Counties. The summary was lost in the shuffle for over a year.

The Zodiac's next mailing was sent to the Chronicle in early November in an envelope stamped with double the necessary postage and the instruction "Please Rush to Editor." Inside were a "Jesters" brand greeting card and another lengthy cipher. This letter marked the first appearance of what appeared to be a body count, a number that rose steadily with each new mailing. No evidence of any kind, however, suggests that the Zodiac was responsible for any murders beyond the six commonly attributed to him. The Zodiac also sent a second swatch of Paul Stine's bloody shirt in November, but it is unclear whether it was enclosed with this letter or the one that followed it.

This is the Zodiac speaking I though you would need a good laugh before you get the bad news you won't get the news for a while yet

PS could you print this new cipher on your frunt page? I get awfully lonely when I am ignored, so lonely I could do my Thing!!!!!!

Des July Aug Sept Oct = 7

A few days later, he sent a longer letter that included a schematic drawing of a "death machine" that he claimed to have rigged and ready. It was designed to blow up buses. The Chronicle received both of these letters on Monday, November 10, 1969, and passed them on to police after making copies for themselves. A source at SFPD was "of opinion one or more latent prints may be developed" on this letter, but no finding was ever made public.

This is the Zodiac speaking up to the end of Oct I have killed 7 people. I have grown rather angry with the police for their telling lies about me. So I shall change the way the collecting of slaves. I shall no longer announce to anyone. When I committ my murders, they shall look like routine robberies, killings of anger, + a few fake accidents, etc.

The police shall never catch me, because I have been too clever for them.

1 I look like the description passed out only when I do my thing, the rest of the time I look entirle different. I shall not tell you what my descise consists of when I kill

2 As of yet I have left no fingerprints behind me contrary to what the police say in my killings I wear transparent fingertip guards. All it is is 2 coats of airplane cement coated on my fingertips -- quite unnoticible + very efective

3 my killing tools have been boughten through the mail order outfits before the ban went into efect. Except one & it was bought out of the state. So as you can see the police don't have much to work on. If you wonder why I was wipeing the cab down I was leaving fake clews for the police to run all over town with, as one might say, I gave the cops som bussy work to do to keep them happy. I enjoy needling the blue pigs. Hey blue pig I was in the park -- you were useing fire trucks to mask the sound of your cruzeing prowl cars. The dogs never came with in 2 blocks of me + they were to the west + there was only 2 groups of parking about 10 min apart then the motor cicles went by about 150 ft away going from south to north west

p.s. 2 cops pulled a goof abot 3 min after I left the cab. I was walking down the hill to the park when this cop car pulled up + one of them called me over + asked if I saw anyone acting suspicious or strange in the last 5 to 10 min + I said yes there was this man who was runnig by waveing a gun & the cops peeled rubber + went around the corner as I directed them + I disappeared into the park a block + a half away never to be seen again. [This section has been marked off with the note "must print in paper."]

Hey pig doesnt it rile you up to have your noze rubed in your booboos?

If you cops think I'm going to take on a bus the way I stated I was, you deserve to have holes in your heads. Take one bag of ammonium nitrate fertilizer + 1 gal of stove oil & dump a few bags of gravel on top + then set the shit off + will positivily ventalate any thing that should be in the way of the blast.

The death machine is all ready made. I would have sent you pictures but you would be nasty enough to trace them back to developer + then to me, so I shall describe my masterpiece to you. The nice part of it is all the parts can be bought on the open market with no questions asked.

1 bat. Pow clock -- will run for aprox 1 year

1 photoelectric switch

2 copper leaf springs

2 6V car bat

1 flash light bulb + reflector

1 mirror

2 18" cardboard tubes black with shoe polish inside + oute

the system checks out from one end to the other in my tests. What you do not know is whether the death machine is at the sight or whether it is being stored in my basement for future use. I think you do not have the manpower to stop this one by continually searching the road sides looking for this thing. + it wont do to re roat + re schedule the busses because the bomb can be adapted to new conditions.

[Here the Zodiac's crossed-circle has been modified with five Xs drawn along the symbol's left side]

Have fun!! By the way it could be rather messy if you try to bluff me.

PS. Be shure to print the part I marked out on page 3 or I shall do my thing.

To prove that I am the Zodiac, Ask the Vallejo cop about my electric gun sight which I used to start my collecting of slaves.

No explanation was given for the marks along the Zodiac symbol's perimeter, but it was assumed that each one represented a murdered victim. At this time, the Bates murder had not yet been linked to the Zodiac, and this has been seen as a suggestion that the Bay Area killer was not responsible for the murder in Riverside . This drawing remained unpublished until 1996, when Douglas Oswell and Michael Rusconi posted it on the World Wide Web.

Early in the evening of Sunday, March 22, 1970, Kathleen Johns, 23, was driving with her infant daughter Jennifer on Highway 132 in San Joaquin County, several miles west of Modesto, when a man in a light-colored American car started honking his horn and blinking his lights at her. Driving alongside her car, he said that one of her wheels was wobbling and volunteered to fix it. He followed her as she pulled over at Bird Road , a turn-off just west of Interstate 5, then got out with a lug wrench and pretended to tighten the nuts on her right rear wheel. In fact, he removed them, and when Johns tried to drive off, the whole wheel spun loose. Again, the man offered help, this time in the form of a ride to a nearby service station. She accepted, and they continued in the man's car westward on 132 until he pulled into a Richfield station at Chrisman Road . It was closed, and there followed an hour and a half or more of silent and apparently aimless driving through the city of Tracy and its rural environs. As they passed occasional other service stations, she asked a few times "What's wrong with this station," or "Why can't we go in that station," to which he replied that it was not the right one. A police report states, "she said she was very scared of this man, did want to get out, but did not tell him to stop the vehicle or let her out".

Ms. Johns soon realized that the stranger wasn't taking her to any service station, and asked him if he always went around helping people like this. The man responded, "By the time I get through with them, they won't need my help". From time to time he would slow down, as if he were about to pull over, and then would speed up again. Finally, he stopped the car short at a stop sign, and Johns took the opportunity to escape. She held her baby tightly and jumped from the car, running across a nearby field and up an embankment where she hid in the shadows. The man turned his headlights off, moved his car a few feet, and waited silently without leaving the car. After about five minutes, he turned his lights back on and drove away.

Ms. Johns was soon picked up by a passing Samaritan. When she made it to the local police station in Patterson, Ms Johns recognized the man who had sabotaged her wheel as the man in the composite sketch of the Zodiac, which appeared in a Wanted poster that hung prominently in the office. The desk sergeant, perhaps terrified at the prospect of a confrontation with a villain on the level of Dr. Octopus or the Joker, had Johns wait alone in a nearby cafe for several hours until her car could be returned. The sergeant broadcast the car's last known location, and a Stanislaus County Sheriff's Deputy found it thoroughly burned and still smoldering, the abductor had returned to the car and set it on fire, destroying everything inside. Some sources report that Johns' car was moved to another location before being torched. However, the car's hubcap was found nearby, meaning that if the car had been moved then the man responsible had gone to the unlikely trouble of bringing it with him, if not reattaching the hubcap, driving to the new location, removing the hubcap again, and discarding it before igniting the car. Given that the police reports make no mention of any trouble finding the car near the Interstate intersection, it seems safe to assume that the car was never moved.

Ms. Johns' accounts of the night's events have varied over the years, and differ from interview to interview. The most dramatic version, and the most familiar, is the one recounted in a San Francisco Chronicle article by Paul Avery that appeared eight months after the incident, which has the man overtly threatening both the woman and her baby, and getting out of his car with a flashlight after her escape. This version of the story is the one that appears in Robert Graysmith's 'ZODIAC' . It should be remembered that Ms. Johns told two separate police officers shortly after her abduction that the man simply closed the car door and drove away. Moreover, articles published in the Modesto Bee and San Francisco Examiner in the days after the incident match the police reports. In the late 1990s, after identifying two different and dissimilar men as her abductor, Johns admitted that she couldn't even remember if she had been legally married at the time, and that her memory could not be trusted to make a case against any particular suspect.

The abduction attempt near Modesto was the last time anyone knowingly saw the Zodiac in person. His letter-writing campaign, however, was to continue for some time. The next mailing was sent to the Chronicle on April 20th, and included a short code and the plans for a modified bus bomb.

This is the Zodiac Speaking By the way have you cracked the last cipher I sent you? My name is --

I am mildly cerous as to how much money you have on my head now. I hope you do not think that I was the one who wiped out that blue meannie with a bomb at the cop station. Even though I talked about killing school children with one. It just wouldn't doo to move in on someone else's teritory. But there is more glory in killing a cop than a cid because a cop can shoot back. I have killed ten people to date. It would have been a lot more except that my bus bomb was a dud. I was swamped out by the rain we had a while back.

The new bomb is set up like this

PS I hope you have fun trying to figgure out who I killed

[crossed-circle] - 10 SFPD - 0

Although the word "cerous" in this letter is routinely corrected as a misspelling of "curious," it is in fact an English word defined by Webster as "Of, relating to, or containing cerium." Cerium is the most abundant of the rare-earth elements, number 58 on the periodic table. The phrase "blue meanie" is almost certainly a reference to the uniformed ogres in The Beatles' animated film, The Yellow Submarine , which was released in 1968; it soon gained popularity as a counter-culture euphemism for police.

The latest bus threat went unreported until later that month, when a note arrived at the Chronicle demanding its publication. Postmarked 28 April 1970, the note was written on a "Jolly Roger" brand greeting card featuring a cartoon prospector riding a dragon and the pun "Sorry to hear your ass is a dragon."

I hope you enjoy your selves when I have my Blast

P.S. on back

If you don't want me to have this blast you must do two things. 1 Tell everyone about the bus bomb with all the details. 2 I would like to see some nice Zodiac butons wandering about town. Every one else has these buttons like, peace symbol, black power, Melvin eats bluber, etc. Well it would cheer me up considerably if I saw a lot of people wearing my buton. Please no nasty ones like Melvin's

Thank you

An unspecified number of latent fingerprints were developed on this card and its envelope by San Francisco Police evidence technicians shortly after its receipt. One SFPD Inspector noted that, while the envelope prints could have been left by a mail carrier, the prints on the card itself were probably those of the Zodiac.

The slogan "Melvin eats bluber" may have its roots in an old novelty button favoured by at least one college English professor that read "Melville Eats Blubber." The bomb threat was finally revealed to the public on April 29, 1970, but the schematics (described as "dubious") were not published until 1986, when they were reproduced in Graysmith's "ZODIAC".

The next letter was sent to the Chronicle on June 26. It contained another code and a Phillips 66 road map of the Bay Area, which was annotated with a stylized clock face drawn on the summit of Mount Diablo . The design was basically the Zodiac's crossed-circle with a zero at the top, a numeral three on the right side, a six at the bottom, and a nine on the left. According to the annotation, the zero " is to be set to Mag. N."

This is the Zodiac Speaking

I have become very angry with the people of the San Fran Bay Area. They have not complied with my wishes for them to wear some nice [crossed-circle] buttons. I promiced to punish them if they did not comply, by anilating a full School Buss. But now school is out for the summer, so I punished them in another way. I shot a man sitting in a parked car with a .38. The Map coupled with this code will tell you where the bomb is set. You have untill next Fall to dig it up.

The only Bay Area shooting in recent memory that had been committed with a .38-caliber weapon was that of SFPD Officer Richard Radetich, who was shot to death in his car while writing out a traffic ticket six days before this letter was postmarked. A witness to the murder identified ex-convict Joseph Wesley Johnson, a black man who bore no resemblance to any description of the Zodiac, as the shooter, and SFPD officials were adamant that the letter's claim was false. Most investigators agree that the Zodiac was capitalizing on Radetich's murder and wrote the letter without the knowledge that police had already identified a suspect.

A short note that seemed to confirm Kathleen Johns' claim was sent to the Chronicle on July 24, 1970. Although several Bay Area newspapers had reported on Johns' abduction, only the relatively small Modesto Bee included the detail that her car had been burned, and many cite this as evidence that it truly was the Zodiac that Ms. Johns rode with. Sent with this note was a lengthy perversion of the song "I've Got a Little List" from Gilbert & Sullivan's musical, The Mikado. Its postscript refers back to the June letter and its unsolved 32-character cipher.

This is the Zodiac speaking

I am rather unhappy because you people will not wear some nice [crossed-circle] buttons. So now I have a little list, starting with that woeman + her baby that I gave a rather interesting ride for a coupple howers one evening a few months back that ended in my burning her car where I found them.


As someday it may happen that a victom must be found. I've got a little list. I've got a little list, of society offenders who might well be underground who would never be missed who would never be missed. There is the pestulentual nucences who whrite for autographs, all people who have flabby hands and irritating laughs. All children who are up in dates and implore you with im platt. All people who are shaking hands shake hands like that. And all third persons who with unspoiling take thos who insist. They'd none of them be missed. They'd none of them be missed. There's the banjo seranader and the others of his race and the piano orginast I got him on the list. All people who eat pepermint and phomphit in your face, they would never be missed. They would never be missed And the Idiout who phraises with inthusiastic tone of centuries but this and every country but his own. And the lady from the provences who dress like a guy who doesn't cry and the singurly abnomily the girl who never kissed. I don't think she would be missed Im shure she wouldn't be missed. And that nice impriest that is rather rife the judicial hummerist I've got him on the list All funny fellows, commic men and clowns of private life. They'd none of them be missed. They'd none of them be missed. And uncompromising kind such as wachamacallit, thingmebob, and like wise, well-nevermind, and tut tut tut tut, and whatshisname, and you know who, but the task of filling up the blanks I rather leave up to you. But it really doesn't matter whom you place upon the list, for none of them be missed, none of them be missed.

[Another giant crossed-circle, more than half the page]

PS. The Mount Diablo Code concerns Radians + # inches along the radians.

A radian is a specific angular measurement based on the transcendental number pi. It is equal to a circle (or 360 degrees) divided by 2pi (or 6.23818...). The resulting degree, whose legs are equal in length to the length of the arc they form, is equal to 57.29578... degrees.

Two days later, exactly one month after the Mount Diablo letter, the Zodiac sent his thirteenth mailing, devoted to the tortures that his slaves would undergo in the afterlife. The penultimate sentence is another corruption of The Mikado .

This is the Zodiac speaking

Being that you will not wear some nice [crossed-circle] buttons, how about wearing some nasty [crossed-circle] buttons. Or any kind of [crossed-circle] buttons you can think up. If you do not wear any type of [crossed-circle] buttons, I shall (on top of everything else) torture all 13 of my slaves that I have waiting for me in Paradice. Some I shall tie over ant hills and watch them scream + twich and squirm. Others shall have pine splinters driven under their nails + then burned. Others shall be placed in cages + fed salt beef untill they are gorged then I shall listen to their pleass for water and I shall laugh at them. Others will hang by their thumbs + burn in the sun then I will rub them down with deep heat to warm them up. Others I shall skin them alive + let them run around screaming. And all billiard players I shall have them play in a darkened dungen cell with crooked cues + Twisted Shoes. Yes I shall have great fun in flicting the most delicious of pain to my slaves

[Giant crossed circle, about half the length of the page] = 13

SFPD = 0

After a few months' silence, October brought two more cards from the Zodiac. One, a postcard with a collage on its face and 13 holes punched through it, was postmarked on October 5, 1970. In words and letters cut from magazines and newspapers it was addressed simply to " San Francisco Chronicle, S.F ." and read:

Dear Editor,

You'll hate me, but I've got to tell you.

The pace isn't any slower! In fact it's just one big thirteenth


"Some of them fought it was horrible"

P.S. There are reports city police pig cops are closeing in on me. Fk I'm crackproof, What is the price tag now?


Though originally dismissed as a hoax, certain phrases from this card are repeated in later confirmed Zodiac letters, particularly the word "crackproof," which would appear in a letter to the Los Angeles Times five months later. The juxtaposition of the letters "FK" also repeat in the Zodiac literature, frequently in the two long ciphers and in the hieroglyph that closes the "Exorcist" letter of 1974. Literary analysis notwithstanding, the card was soon judged to be genuine because it announced a body count of 13, the number given in the Zodiac's last letter, which had not been made public.

The other mailing, sent October 27, was a customized Halloween greeting card, and it was addressed personally to Paul Avery at the Chronicle , though his name was misspelled on the envelope as "Averly." Inside the envelope, written twice very lightly in the shape of an X, was the comment "Sorry no cipher." In addition to signing the card with a "Z" and the customary crossed-circle, the Zodiac drew an unusual symbol (also used as a return address on the envelope), 13 eyes, and the message "Peek-a-boo, you are doomed." Kathleen Johns, the woman abducted on Highway 132, stated in an interview that she had received a similar card, ostensibly from the Zodiac, at about the same time: she claims to have forwarded the card to Avery, but no mention of a second card has ever been reported. Johns attributes the card to a crank, since her name and address appeared in the newspaper shortly after her abduction, but the timing of the card and description that she gave of it suggest the strong possibility that it was genuine and somehow lost in the case's sea of details.

The card to Avery was widely considered a threat on his life, and the Chronicle ran a front page story about it on October 31. Among the mail that this generated was an anonymous letter from Riverside urging Avery to investigate a link with the still-unsolved Bates murder. Graysmith transcribes it in ZODIAC :

Please forward the contents of this letter to the detective in charge of "The Zodiac Murder Case." I hope this information will also help you, as we would both like to see this case solved. As for myself, I wish to remain anonymous and I know that you will understand why!

A few years ago in Riverside , California , a young girl was murdered, just about, I believe, on "Halloween" evening! I could write a much longer letter, citing the similarities between Zodiac's case and this murder, which occurred in Riverside but if the police department cannot see said comparative similarities between these two cases, then I will take a "slow boat to China," even if these two crimes were committed by two different people! I think, after all the facts are studied, regarding both of these cases, if police have not already investigated these possibilities and are not already aware of the "Riverside case," then, even so perhaps they should look into it....

Letters to newspapers, "similar erratic printing" find out about these two different cases ....Give Captain Cross a call on the phone, he knows that "I do not quit."

Mr. Avery, I will give you a call in the near future, please look into the case, the Riverside police have a wealth of information, so does San Francisco, let us hope that they are not too proud to work together, and if they already are, let us hope that there has been an exchange of information....

After locating a year-old letter from the Riverside Chief of Police to a Napa County detective that had similarly linked the Bates murder with the Zodiac, Avery visited the Riverside police and reviewed their evidence. Intrigued by the letters sent to the police and press, not to mention what appeared to be a "Z" used as a signature in some, he instigated a meeting between their detectives and detectives from Solano, Napa , and San Francisco counties, who compared notes on the Bates murder and each of the known Zodiac attacks up to that point. Authorities from Northern California , particularly SFPD Inspector Bill Armstrong, felt that there was a link between the Bates murder and the Zodiac crimes, and that they were most likely committed by the same man. State handwriting analyst Sherwood Morrill checked the writing on the desk and envelopes against the killer's letters to the Chronicle and found that they were "unquestionably the work of Zodiac". Riverside police, particularly Capt. Irvin Cross, were less certain and "reaffirmed their skepticism", probably because they had not released the full details of the crime to their counterparts upstate, the number of stab wounds received by Bates, strongly suggesting what is known as a "rage killing," was not announced publicly until May of 2000. The Riverside story broke on November 16, 1970, when Avery's article was printed in the Chronicle.

The official position of the Riverside Police Department and most independent investigators as of 1998 is that Cheri Jo Bates was not a Zodiac victim. RPD maintains a local man as their suspect, and considers the Zodiac murders entirely unrelated, though they do concede the possibility that the Bay Area killer authored one or more of the letters sent in southern California.

The next letter came after an uncharacteristically long five-month silence. Posted on March 22, 1971, with two upside-down 6-cent stamps, it was the only letter the Zodiac ever sent to the Los Angeles Times , and it was the first to be sent from outside San Francisco : it had been postmarked in Pleasanton, 15 miles east of the Bay.

This is the Zodiac speaking

Like I have allways said, I am crack proof. If the Blue Meannies are evere going to catch me, they had best get off their fat asses + do something. Because the longer they fiddle + fart around, the more slaves I will collect for my after life. I do have to give them credit for stumbling across my riverside activity, but they are only finding the easy ones, there are a hell of a lot more down there. The reason I'm writing to the Times is this, They don't bury me on the back pages like some of the others.

SFPD-0 [crossed-circle] -17+

In an interview with researcher Mike Butterfield, an RPD detective stated that there is a suspicion within his department that the author of the anonymous 1970 letter to Paul Avery linking the Zodiac to Riverside might also have counterfeited this letter. Adding to this apparent mystery is the fact that another source has reported that SFPD Inspector David Toschi was also under suspicion for writing this letter. There are no available facts to bolster either hypothesis.

A week later, the Zodiac sent another postcard, though an agent of the US Postal Service recognized and intercepted it before it was delivered. The intended recipient was unclear: it was marked to Paul Avery's attention (again misspelled as "Averly"), but the address side bore no specific address, just the names "The Times," "S.F. Examiner ," and "San Francisco Chronicle " clipped from the respective newspapers. A hole was punched through the upper left corner in lieu of a return address, above which the author had written the word " Zodiac ." Around the hole itself were four lines drawn in a fashion similar to the crossed-circle design used by the killer. The entire perimeter of the card had been notched by a hole-punch. The front of the card was decorated with a sketch of a condominium complex that had been under development at Incline Village , NV , near Lake Tahoe , by Boise/Interlake between 1967 and 1970. The same picture had appeared in the Chronicle three days earlier in an advertisement for the complex, known as Forest Pines.

While the handwriting on this postcard is similar to that on confirmed Zodiac letters, it is not unmistakably the same, and the possibility exists that it is a forgery. The use of the hole-punch and the misspelling of Paul Avery's name, however, are both traits of confirmed Zodiac cards and letters.

If this card was indeed genuine, it marked the last communication from the Zodiac for almost three years.

The Zodiac resurfaced in 1974, when he wrote a series of letters to the Chronicle over a period of six months and with postmarks from around the Bay Area. Though ultimately identified through analysis of the envelopes and handwriting, these four letters were different from the others in that the author had abandoned his usual salutation ("This is the Zodiac speaking") and signature (the crossed-circle design).

The first was sent on January 29 from San Mateo or Santa Clara, just south of San Francisco , and referred to the recently released movie 'The Exorcist' as "the best saterical comidy that I have ever seen." It also included a quote from The Mikado (about a "dicky-bird" whose "blighted affection" drives it to suicide) and an inscrutable drawing that resembled a hieroglyph of some sort.

I saw and think "The Exorcist" was the best saterical comidy that I have ever seen. Signed, yours truley:

He plunged himself into the billowy wave and an echo arose from the suicide's grave

titwillo titwillo titwillo

PS. If I do not see this note in your paper, I will do something nasty, which you know I'm capable of doing.

Me-37 SFPD-0

In addition to a single 8-cent Eisenhower stamp, the Zodiac had placed on the envelope two USPS stickers: one bore a picture of a clock set to 12:55 or 11:05 with the advice to "mail early in the day," and the other was a reminder to use the recently-introduced ZIP code. Probably from the same packet, the killer also stuck two short paragraphs about the stamps and their packaging: "Stamps in this book have been gummed with a matte finish adhesive which permits the elimination of the separation tissues .... This book contains 25, 8-cent stamps, four on this pane and seven each on three additional panes. Selling price $2.00." Although this letter fell under brief suspicion as a possible forgery in mid-1978, it was verified as genuine by a panel of handwriting analysts from various agencies throughout California .

The next letter arrived at the Chronicle on February 14, 1974, seven days after the Symbionese Liberation Army had kidnapped Patty Hearst. It was transcribed by the Chronicle in August 1976. Though its postmark is unclear in published photographs, an FBI report states that it was sent from San Rafael .

Dear Mr. Editor,

Did you know that the initials SLAY (Symbionese Liberation Army) spell "sla," [the word "sla" is written in script] an old Norse word meaning "kill."

A friend

The terms "Old Norse" and "Old Icelandic" refer to the same tongue, but there is debate among scholars over which is more appropriate. Some use the former in respect to the language's Norwegian origins, but most use the latter because most of the surviving texts were written in Iceland. Gareth Penn, a former student of medieval literature and historical linguistics, points out that the Nordic "sla" in fact means "to strike," and goes on to list the English language dictionaries which name it as a cognate of the English "slay" without giving its original definition, and with Norse rather than Icelandic named as the original tongue: Webster's Third International; Chambers' Dictionary; the Oxford English Dictionary; the Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology ; and Eric Partridge's Origins. "All are scholarly, not popular", writes Penn, who suggests that the gleaning of this misinformation came as the result of a higher education than the SFPD and armchair profilers everywhere had attributed to the Zodiac. For their part, the FBI seems less than certain that this letter was written by the Zodiac.

Three months later, on May 8, a postcard was sent to the Chronicle from Fremont , about 25 miles southeast of San Francisco , across the Bay. The message side expressed "consternation" at newspaper ads for the movie {Badlands}, which was inspired by spree murderers Charles Starkweather and Caril Ann Fugate. The pre-stamped address side read " Editor, SF Chronicle, 5th + Mission , San Fran ".

Sirs -- I would like to expression my consternt [this word is crossed out] consternation concerning your poor taste + lack of sympathy for the public, as evidenced by your running of the ads for the movie " Badlands ," featuring the blurb: "In 1959 most people were killing time. Kit + Holly were killing people." In light of recent events, this kind of murder-glorification can only be deplorable at best (not that glorification of violence was ever justifiable) why don't you show some concern for public sensibilities + cut the ad?

A citizen

The final letter was postmarked in San Rafael on July 8, 1974. The return address on the envelope was simply "RP." In a looping, obviously disguised script, it was an attack on the conservative Chronicle columnist Count Marco Spinelli.


Put Marco back in the, hell-hole from whence it came -- he has a serious psychological disorder -- always needs to feel superior. I suggest you refer him to a shrink. Meanwhile, cancel the Count Marco column. Since the Count can write anonymously, so can I --

The Red Phantom
(red with rage)

The San Francisco news media presented these last two letters as genuine, but SFPD Insp. David Toschi advised the FBI confidentially that he had doubts as to their authenticity. After examination, the FBI Laboratory reported that, while some characteristics of the "Badlands" and "Count Marco" letters were inconsistent with the writing of the confirmed Zodiac letters, "these inconsistencies are not sufficient to eliminate the writer of the Zodiac letters" as the author of the late 1974 letters. The Laboratory went on to state that "similarities were noted which would indicate that these letters were probably prepared by the writer of the Zodiac letters".

San Francisco police have not verified a Zodiac letter since 1974.

On April 24, 1978, a letter to the San Francisco Chronicle was mailed from either Santa Clara or San Mateo County by someone very familiar with the Zodiac case and literature. Although this letter was initially thought to be genuine, and though some continue to believe that it was in fact the killer's final message to the citizens of the Bay Area, the modern consensus among law enforcement agents and most researchers is that the letter was a counterfeit.

The handwriting on the envelope was recognized by a copyperson at the newspaper, and the letter made its way almost immediately to journalist Duffy Jennings. Jennings had taken over the Zodiac beat from Paul Avery, who was now at the San Francisco Examiner. After immediately preserving his scoop with photographs of both the letter and its envelope, Jennings phoned Inspector David Toschi, the only detective working San Francisco 's end of the Zodiac case. Toschi was out serving subpoenas, so Jennings hand-delivered the originals to the Hall of Justice where they were routed instead to Deputy Chief of Police Clem DeAmicis. The letter read:

Dear Editor

This is the Zodiac speaking I am back with you. Tell herb caen I am here, I have always been here. That city pig toschi is good but I am bu [crossed out] smarter and better he will get tired then leave me alone. I am waiting for a good movie about me. Who will play me. I am now in control of all things.

yours truly:

[crossed circle] guess

SFPD - 0

When Toschi arrived back at headquarters, he was summoned directly to DeAmicis' office where the two men conferred and Toschi was granted custody of the letter. Sherwood Morrill, the former state Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation handwriting expert that had authenticated most of the Zodiac letters for Toschi and the SFPD, had retired in late 1973, and Toschi's first move was to call John Shimoda of the US Postal Service crime lab to confirm the Zodiac's authorship. It is unclear why Toschi called Shimoda rather than the current chief of the state's questioned documents section, Robert Prouty. In any case, Shimoda confirmed it as the Zodiac's handiwork, and Toschi delivered the letter to a fingerprint expert at the SFPD crime lab, who found no trace of prints or any other useful evidence on the single page or its envelope.

In order to fully understand the controversy that still surrounds this letter, you have to take a look at its context. At the time of its receipt at the Chronicle , Inspector Toschi, a 25-year veteran of the San Francisco Police Department, was probably the most high-profile law enforcement agent in the Bay Area. While the charismatic Toschi had many supporters in city government and the local media, he had also made his share of enemies, who felt that his flashy demeanor and his yen for publicity were unprofessional and could lead to a conflict of interest. Further, rumour around City Hall had it that Supervisor Dianne Feinstein would tap him as Police Chief in her bid for the Mayor's seat, and this would certainly mark him as a threat to SFPD Chief Charles Gain and his deputy, Clem DeAmicis.

In the fall of 1976, local author and columnist Armistead Maupin had written a serial for the Chronicle about a fictitious SFPD detective chasing an unknown killer similar to the Zodiac. The story's protagonist, Inspector Tandy, received advice and mentoring in the serial from none other than Toschi. At about this time, Maupin received three notecards from what appeared to be private citizens complimentary to Toschi and urging that he appear more often in the story. A good journalist, Maupin attempted to verify the notes and found that the names did not belong to San Francisco residents. Toschi was well known for the short notes he sent to various reporters and politicians, and Maupin began to suspect that it was he who had sent the cards. Seeing them as harmless, if not entirely honest, Maupin kept the notes under wraps until April 1978, when the only Zodiac letter to mention Toschi by name arrived at his newspaper, sparking suspicions that Toschi had graduated to something akin to fraud, counterfeiting a Zodiac letter. Maupin and the agent he had hired to publicize an unrelated book approached Sergeant Jack O'Shea, head of the SFPD Intelligence Unit, with their suspicions. O'Shea and Toschi's boss, Lieutenant Jack Jordan, head of the Homicide Bureau, determined that Toschi had written the fan letters. Both men would eventually be disciplined, O'Shea more severely, for not reporting this knowledge immediately.

Chief Gain has said that he was not told of Toschi's phony letters until late June 1978, but the late April transfer of two detectives from Special Investigations and the Gang Task Force to the Zodiac case may have been a sign that Toschi was already under suspicion as the author of the latest letter. Exactly what transpired within the Hall of Justice is unknown, but on July 10, Chief Gain held a press conference to announce two nominally disparate events: the discovery that the Zodiac letter might be a forgery, and the transfer of Toschi to the Pawnshop Detail in light of the phony fan letters to Maupin. At no time was it explicitly stated that Toschi was suspected of writing the Zodiac letter, but the implication could not be missed, especially when it was announced that two handwriting experts were checking Toschi's hand against not just the questioned April document but also the heretofore accepted "Exorcist" letter of January 1974. The official rationale for announcing Toschi's embarrassing transfer was to "counter and negate" Maupin's claims, as Toschi put it, "not to put the department on the defense, they would go on the offense" but despite a brief revival of state and federal interest, no convincing negation was ever launched.

By August, no fewer than four experts, including Keith Woodward, former chief of the LAPD's document department; Robert Prouty, the specialist bypassed by Toschi in April; his BCII colleague Terrence Pascoe; and John Shimoda, the Postal Service expert who had initially confirmed the letter; had determined that the April letter was a fake, "a carefully drawn copy of the true Zodiac printing .... constructed by a person that had access to printed letters of the Zodiac". The lone holdout to this finding was the retired Sherwood Morrill, whose bitter statements to the media revealed a determined loyalty to Toschi and a great disrespect for Gain. The letter of January 1974, which had also fallen under suspicion, was deemed to be genuine.

Speculation as to the author of the 1978 letter has focused on three possibilities. The first, of course, is the Zodiac himself, though even the untrained eye can see that the words and characters seem to have been meticulously drawn rather than written in the semi-manic freehand used by the killer in his earlier missives. Second is Toschi, and rumors have even suggested that he was identified as the author by DNA testing in the 1990s, though there have certainly been no official pronouncements to that effect by the SFPD or any other source. An FBI memo from August 1978 states that analysis of the April letter was discontinued "in light of recent disclosures ... indicating that David Toschi had authored one or more 'Zodiac' letters" though it must be remembered that the FBI received this indication from the SFPD, and not through its own investigation. In fact, Toschi was eventually reinstated to his post as a homicide Inspector.

Finally, author Robert Graysmith had enough knowledge of the Zodiac literature to forge such a letter, and even had a motive, he had been shopping his novel about the case for two years already in 1978, though it would not see print until nine years later. In this book, Graysmith describes a photo enlarger setup that he claims could have been used to write the original Zodiac letters, but would have served quite well to forge the latest one. It may be worth mentioning at this point that Graysmith had been disciplined for plagiarism during his time as a cartoonist for the Chronicle . In any event, he has lobbied quite vocally on Toschi's behalf, maintaining in his book and in subsequent interviews that, whoever wrote the letter, it wasn't Toschi. San Francisco Police remain tight-lipped on the issue, saying in 1999 that "The Police Department has never made a statement on accusations that Toschi faked a Zodiac letter one way or another. We will confirm that not all the Zodiac letters are authentic".

The Lake Berryessa attack offered several examples of odd behavior on the part of the Zodiac. There is, for instance, the four-cornered hood that he put on just before approaching the couple: its design is rare, if not unique, and the killer made no attempt to explain it either to the students or to the press. Presumably, he wished to conceal his identity, but this could have been accomplished less ostentatiously with a ski mask or similarly common item. As a reason for attacking Shepard and Hartnell, he had a fabricated story about escaping from prison in the northwest, yet signed the car door with his easily recognizable crossed-circle logo and murder chronology. It should be noted that he omitted from this chronology the Riverside murder, which was not attributed to him until 1970, leading many to view this omission as evidence that the Zodiac was not, in fact, responsible for the murder of Cheri Jo Bates. He told the students that he wanted their money and car keys, but took only Hartnell's pocket change and left the keys and the girl's wallet on the picnic blanket, and tied them up and stabbed them rather than simply shooting them with the pistol he had pointed at them earlier. Finally, he never took credit for this attack in a letter as he had for the Vallejo and San Francisco attacks.

The FBI's Crime Classification Manual describes three forms of offender behaviour at the crime scene. "Modus Operandi" is defined as the actions necessary to commit a crime and ensure a successful escape. The two Vallejo attacks, for instance, show a consistent blitz-style MO using a handgun and followed by a quick, controlled retreat. The MO at Lake Berryessa is superficially closer in style to the Riverside attack, which was executed with a knife and preceded by some kind of verbal interchange between killer and victim, but the differences are apparent on examination: Bates' killer was ill-prepared for his attack, using only a small pocketknife on a young woman who fought back vigorously, whereas the Zodiac went to great lengths to immobilize his victims at the lake. In fact, it seems that the man who killed Cheri Jo Bates wasn't even sure that he would kill her, having conversed with her for over an hour before he lost control and stabbed her, at Lake Berryessa, there can be little doubt as to the Zodiac's intentions. Modus Operandi is learned, pragmatic behavior, and can be improved upon with experience, as shown by the foresight evinced by the killer when he foiled a potential call-back from the Napa police switchboard by leaving the phone off the hook. The Zodiac also became more audacious in attacking at dusk in an open area, though he was careful to choose one that was fairly isolated. Willful alteration of the crime scene in order to confuse or mislead investigators is called "staging," and is usually seen in cases where the killer and victim are acquainted with one another: often times, the offender will attempt to make the crime appear to be a random rape or robbery gone wrong. This phenomenon does not seem present in the Zodiac case, unless one counts the letters as a form of staging, having been deliberately crafted to give an impression of their author as a dyslexic Gilbert and Sullivan fan. Any action taken by the offender that is unnecessary to the crime's completion, or is performed solely to gratify his own psychological needs, is called "personation." The elaborate hood, the jailbreak lie and the demand for money and car keys are examples of personation. Repeated examples of the same personation by the same offender are called a "signature," and this occurred both clinically and literally on the car door: the crossed-circle design appeared at the foot of every letter from the Zodiac between 1969 and 1971. The phone call was another aspect of the signature, mirroring calls made to police in Riverside and Vallejo and totally unnecessary to his escape.

The killer's choice of the knife over the pistol, in conjunction with his use of the unusual hood, is generally cited as evidence that the Berryessa attack was one of ritual significance to the killer. This may be true, the hood remains unexplained except insofar as it was probably meant to instill terror in his victims, and by Hartnell's account the Zodiac seemed to lose control during the assault on Shepard. However, the fact that he had this time chosen a location as open as the lakeside may have led to the tactical decision to use the knife, a silent weapon perhaps brought along for such a contingency. There are some who remain unconvinced that the Berryessa attack was an authentic Zodiac incident, citing numerous deviations from the general pattern of the other Bay Area attacks. There is, in truth, no conclusive evidence tying the Zodiac to this incident as there is for the Vallejo and San Francisco murders. The handwriting on Hartnell's car is identifiably similar to that in the Zodiac's letters, but the door-writer's posture rules out a definitive authentication by the layman. Regardless, the differences between the lakeside incident and the other Bay Area attacks, which include the time of day, the lingering, the weapon and the absence of a follow-up letter offering proof of the author's culpability, are to most investigators outweighed by the circumstantial evidence of similar handwriting, weight, and general description, not to mention the phone call after the incident. Behaviorally, the variations in MO and signature can be ascribed to the growing boldness, calculation, and self-gratification of a developed serial killer. Moreover, if the true Zodiac were not in fact responsible, his drive for publicity would almost certainly compel him to deny the charges or offer a false confirmation as he did for the Riverside murder of Cheri Jo Bates. A Zodiac copycat at Lake Berryessa would have to have been the right height and weight; he would have had to study and superbly forge the killer's handwriting; and he would have had to exhibit an understanding of the killer's need for situational control, at the same time being careful to leave none of his own personation at the scene. Meanwhile, the true Zodiac would have had to suppress his most identifiable character trait. While intriguing, this hypothesis requires a suspension of disbelief that is simply too great for most investigators.

One aspect of the legend that has grown like moss on the long-unsolved Zodiac case is that the killer was meticulous in his efforts to deprive the police of any physical evidence. Often, the Zodiac's claim in November 1969 that he wore "transparent fingertip guards" made of airplane cement is cited as evidence that he was clever enough to foil what was then law enforcement's most conclusive evidence against a suspect. That boast, however, is repeated in contradiction with the facts reported by numerous investigators and recorded in dozens of local, state, and federal documents. An examination of reports filed by the San Francisco Police Department, the Vallejo Police Department, the Napa County Sheriff's Department, the California Department of Justice, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation reveals that the Zodiac may actually have been rather sloppy both in the construction of his letters to the press and at the scenes of some of his attacks. At least two lifts were taken from the July, 1969, letter to the Vallejo Times-Herald , and it appears that an additional print was found on the cipher-block sent to the San Francisco Examiner, both part of the killer's very first mailing. Additionally, two "fingerprints of value" were developed on the second and third pages of the killer's next letter, his August 1969 missive to the Examiner. These were developed by the FBI Laboratory, whose Latent Fingerprint Section would perform almost all of the ensuing print work for the case and store it under Latent Case #A-10042.

The Napa County Sheriff's Department found several finger and palm-prints following the attack at Lake Berryessa. While the numerous impressions found on Bryan Hartnell's Kharmann Ghia were mentioned only in passing and are probably unrelated to the attack, four prints of note were found among 35 developed in the phone booth where the Zodiac placed his call to the Napa Police Department. Of particular interest was a clear palm-print found on the receiver - it was still off the hook, and the print was still wet, indicating that it had been left by the last person to use the phone, presumably the killer. To evidence technician Harold Snook's great shame, however, the print was not given enough time to dry, and it was ruined in the lifting process.

The three youths who witnessed the immediate aftermath of Paul Stine's murder watched as the killer proceeded to wipe down certain areas of Stine's cab. He was, no doubt, trying to obliterate any prints he may have left - an action that would be pointless if his fingertips had been covered with guards. Further, while the witnesses were specific in their description of a wiping action, they saw nothing that could be interpreted as the planting of false prints from the time the killer exited the cab to the time he left the area. Regardless, SFPD crime lab technicians developed dozens of prints in and on the cab. Among these were several that, according to an SFPD memo, "show traces of blood and are believed to be prints of the suspect". Most of these came from the post between the driver's side front and rear doors. In addition, wrote an SFPD Inspector, "latent prints from right front door handle are also believed to be prints of the suspect". It should be noted that these prints featured the loops, whorls, and textures that would be missing if the killer's fingers were coated in airplane cement or any other medium.

The letter that followed this attack, claiming Stine as a victim, also bore fingerprints: another FBI report says that SFPD "stated that latent prints were obtained from the [10/13/69] letter". Only in the next letter, sent November 9, 1969, did the Zodiac make any claim about masking his fingerprints. Again, this claim would be counterproductive if, as some theorists maintain, the Zodiac had left false prints in the cab: after all, why would the killer go to the trouble of leaving such a red herring only to deny that it existed? A more reasonable explanation is that the Zodiac knew the police had not only handwriting and fingerprints, but now a good physical description, as well, and the "transparent guards" claim was a desperate bid to instill doubt in the SFPD. Nonetheless, prints were found on the killer's greeting card of April 28, 1970, and according to a San Francisco detective, "the latents were not made by persons handling the card after its receipt".

A 1969 FBI report categorized SFPD's prints into "thirty latent fingerprints, three latent palm-prints, and one latent impression (fingerprint from lower joint area of a finger or palm print)". Only two, belonging to Paul Stine and an unidentified police officer or newspaperman, were ever identified. The number of fingerprints submitted to the FBI Lab by San Francisco and Vallejo Police was later raised to 38, a figure that does not include the lifts made by the Napa County Sheriff's Department. While the great majority of these prints are probably unrelated to the case, there is a high degree of probability that some of them do belong to the killer, and that he could be identified through a match with one or more of them.

Law enforcement confidence in the prints appears to be high. Literally hundreds of suspects were checked against them, including Arthur Leigh Allen, the most widely known. In Allen's case, Vallejo Police requested that the FBI "expeditiously compare" his prints to the two latents developed on the August 1969 Examiner letter, and "further requested the FBI to compare Allen's fingerprints with all latent prints developed in the Zodiac investigation as time permits." There was no match and Allen was "dismissed as a suspect", shedding light on the faith that both local and federal authorities maintain in their evidence.

In the years since Robert Graysmith's seminal book ZODIAC touted "Robert Hall Starr" as the top suspect in the unsolved murders of five San Francisco Bay Area residents, it has become increasingly difficult to discuss the Zodiac case without also discussing Arthur Leigh Allen. Allen, the Vallejo resident and convicted child molester who served as the inspiration for the pseudonymous "Starr," died in 1992 under a cloud of speculation that he was the notorious serial killer who put five bullets in the back of a teenage girl as she ran for her life. He was never charged for those murders, however, and despite the best efforts of some investigators, not a single piece of evidence was ever developed that could tie him to the Zodiac crimes. In fact, Allen's alleged links to the case have been found time and again to be false, coincidental, or attributable to Allen's deviant personality.

Arthur Allen first came to the attention of the Vallejo Police Department in early October 1969, though the circumstances of his candidacy are unclear. Detective John Lynch's first and only report on Allen does not mention how Allen became a possible suspect, but a cursory look at VPD reports from the time shows that even the shakiest accusations were considered grounds for a police interview in conjunction with the murders of Betty Lou Jensen, David Faraday, Darlene Ferrin, and Cecelia Shepard. For a time, rumor held that Allen had received a speeding ticket near Lake Berryessa on the night of Shepard's murder, but it was later determined that this event never occurred. Whatever lead instigated Lynch's interview, it can safely be assumed that it was not accompanied by any significant evidence, as the conversation was quite brief and the detective was not particularly aggressive. In all likelihood, Arthur Leigh Allen was simply one of dozens of Vallejo locals who had been fingered by a friend, an enemy, an acquaintance, or a relative based on little more than a hunch. Too tall and too bald to match the Zodiac's description, he was quickly forgotten.

The tip that launched Allen to the top tier of possible Zodiac suspects came almost two years later. On July 15, 1971, southern California businessman Santo Panzarella approached the Manhattan Beach Police Department with the information that Allen had made incriminating statements to Donald Cheney, Panzarella's partner, that would seem to indicate that Allen was the Zodiac killer. Intrigued, two MBPD detectives visited Cheney and Panzarella at their place of business, and were told a remarkable story. Cheney, who had been friends with Allen for years until he moved to southern California , told the detectives that he and Allen had had a conversation in Allen's Fresno Street basement in December 1968 that started on the topic of recreational hunting but soon took a turn for the bizarre. Allen brought up Richard Connell's classic short story The Most Dangerous Game, the tale of a mad count that hunts shipwrecked travelers on his private island for sport, which has been published in dozens of fiction anthologies and is popular at the grade school level. Allen is said to have greatly enjoyed the story, and allegedly identified with the count.

After broaching the idea of hunting humans, Allen is said to have given a hypothetical account of how he would commit a series of murders in lovers' lanes. He allegedly described how he would "use a revolver or pistol with a flashlight attached to same for illumination and an aiming device and would walk up and shoot people... Allen also talked about shooting the tires of a school bus and picking off the 'little darlings' as they came bouncing off the bus" and went on to say that he would send harassing notes to the police. If this was not enough, Allen also allegedly stated that he would call himself "Zodiac." According to the MBPD report, "Cheney replied, "Zodiac? why that, why not something else?" Arthur Allen at this time became very emotional and stated, "I like the name 'Zodiac' and that's the name I'm going to use'".

On its face, Cheney's account appears damning - after all, if Allen made these comments in December 1968, then he had displayed knowledge of the Lake Herman Road murders that no one but the Zodiac would have until August 1969. The Zodiac's threat to shoot at a school bus did not come until even later, in October of that year. We can forgive minor quibbles, such as the misquote of "little kiddies" as "little darlings;" the police, rather than the newspapers, being named as the recipients of the forthcoming letters; and the missing definite article that the killer unfailingly used as part of his moniker. There is, however, the question of Cheney's timing: why did he wait two years to come forth with this information?

Cheney moved to southern California in January 1969, and it is possible that he did not hear about the second Vallejo attack and the letters that followed it. However, the Zodiac case exploded into national attention following Paul Stine's murder in downtown San Francisco and it is unlikely that anyone in the state of California could have avoided hearing about the unknown killer who stalked lovers' lanes, wrote taunting letters to the newspapers and called himself "the Zodiac" and apparently Cheney was no exception. By their own admission, "Mr. Panzarella and Mr. Cheney had read and seen articles in the newspaper, the Los Angeles Times, concerning the 'Zodiac' killings". Ignorance then, is no explanation for his silence. We must infer from his account that none of the Zodiac reports registered with Cheney and that he never again thought of Allen as a possible killer until 1971, when he heard about an obscure and totally unrelated series of unsolved murders in Grass Valley, CA, a small town about 150 miles north of San Francisco and Vallejo. According to Cheney and Panzarella, it was "the recent killings in the Grass Valley Area by an unknown suspect that brought the suspicions to a focus."

We must wonder how the Grass Valley murders would jog Cheney's memory as regards Allen and the suspicious conversation, when the almost daily reports out of San Francisco detailing a killer identical to the one Allen described did not. We must also wonder why, if Allen was indeed the Zodiac, he would reveal the identifying details of his murderous exploits within days of their commission. Certainly, he could not expect Cheney's memory to be as bad as it appears to be; the slaying of Jensen and Faraday on December 20, 1968, dominated the Vallejo media for weeks. The Zodiac did take certain risks, but situational control was one of his hallmarks. Such a concern would almost certainly rule out anything as foolish as overtly detailing his crimes, especially to someone who might have suspicions about him already - Allen had touched Cheney's young daughter inappropriately on a camping trip years before, and Cheney had complained to Allen's brother about it. (In one report, a VPD detective wrote, "This might be a motive why Cheney would make such an accusation against Arthur Allen").

Arthur Allen, by most accounts, was something of an eccentric. Described as "anti-establishment", he was rejected as a VPD applicant at age 19 and received a discharge other than honorable from the US Navy at 25. He owned several handguns and allegedly kept one in his car at all times. He was also a paedophile and had lost jobs, alienated friends and would be committed to Atascadero State Hospital because of this disorder. Cheney was not the only person to whom he had spoken about the Zodiac murders: Allen made no secret of his 1969 interview with Det. John Lynch and bragged openly that he was a Zodiac suspect. He also appeared to have an interest in abnormal psychology, studying Mental Hygiene and working at Atascadero before his incarceration there. It is not too great a stretch of the imagination to think that Allen, with his interest in guns, law enforcement and the criminal mind, might simply have been interested in the shocking local murder and brought the topic up one night with Cheney. He may even have recognized the apparent lack of motive in the case, and commented on "The Most Dangerous Game" to explain it as sport.

The Chief of Manhattan Beach Police contacted the San Francisco Police Department soon after the interview and SFPD Inspector William Armstrong spoke to Cheney on July 26. During the eleven intervening days, Cheney began what has become an interesting trait of recovering memories that are increasingly elaborate in their indictment of Arthur Allen. He began by backdating the conversation by one year, telling Armstrong that it took place in December 1967, rather than 1968. He then remembered that Allen had asked about how one could disguise one's own handwriting, and claims to have offered Allen advice on that subject. In subsequent interviews, Cheney has also remembered that Allen had not initiated the conversation by bringing up Connell's short story but by declaring that he was looking to change careers and would like to become a police officer. In the event that this plan fell through, Cheney said, Allen allegedly stated that he could become a criminal instead, and would elude detection by committing murders that had no motive. This story was changed yet again when Cheney stated that Allen couched his statements in plans to write a crime novel. Then he added Allen's alleged idea to disable a woman's car by removing the lug nuts from one of her wheels. (This story is an obvious allusion to the abduction of Kathleen Johns in March 1970, which has not been confirmed as a genuine Zodiac incident. Johns has positively ruled Allen out as the man who disabled her car and took her on a frightening ride through rural San Joaquin County). Finally, Cheney has said that his inspiration to notify the police came not from the Grass Valley murders as previously stated, but from reading a newspaper article about the Zodiac's threat to kill "little darlings" - not even the Zodiac's actual phrase - which he linked with Allen's similar words. It has become clear over time that Cheney's account cannot be relied upon for accuracy. A number of likely explanations come to mind, not the least of which is that his memory of events had simply become mixed up over the years, incorporating one or more genuine conversations with news accounts he had read or heard. The one explanation that does not seem credible is the one offered by Cheney himself.

Armstrong put these issues aside and notified the Vallejo Police Department. After some background investigation, it was agreed that detectives from both jurisdictions would contact Allen together and interview him as a suspect. The interview took place at Allen's place of employment in early August, and was an almost humorous example of a suspect running circles around the detectives interrogating him. Allen displayed a great knowledge of the pop culture references used by the Zodiac as well as the media reports about the killer but nothing about the crimes themselves. He denied the incriminating conversation that Cheney described, but did acknowledge reading "The Most Dangerous Game" and stated that it had made an impression on him. He offered an alibi for his whereabouts on the day of the Lake Berryessa attack in the form of a serviceman from Treasure Island - this may have been an oblique reference lost on the investigators, to the 1933 film "Charlie Chan At Treasure Island", in which the Chinese detective matches wits with a San Francisco villain named "Doctor Zodiac." He claimed to have spoken with his neighbour, Mr. White, upon returning home that afternoon - a possible reference to Ranger William White, who had appeared on television the day after the lakeside murder to discuss the crime scene. Allen also mentioned "the two knives I had in my car with blood on them" without any prompting from police: the blood, he said, "came from a chicken I killed". There has been speculation that this is a reference to Brian Hartnell's words just before he was brutally stabbed by the Zodiac: according to Ranger White's statements, quoted liberally by the local media, Hartnell asked to be stabbed before his friend because he was chicken and couldn't bear to see her in pain. It has become clear with the declassification of Napa police reports that these were not Hartnell's words and that they were attributed to him for the media's benefit. Finally, when asked for his whereabouts in October 1966, Allen responded, "You mean about the Riverside killing?" Had this statement come any time before November of 1970, it may have carried weight as evidence, but the Riverside murder of Cheri Jo Bates had been linked to the Zodiac for almost a year, and made front page news around California when the story broke.

The detectives commented on Allen's wristwatch at some point during the interview. It was an expensive Sea Wolf model, made by the Swiss manufacturer Zodiac, whose logo is a crossed-circle. Allen responded that he received it as a gift in the summer of 1969. Allen's brother was later asked about it and said that his mother gave it to him for Christmas in 1967. In a parting shot at the detectives and police in general, Allen stated with doubtless irony that "he wished the time would come when police were no longer referred to as 'pigs'". The Zodiac had used the epithet on occasion, notably in his seven-page letter of November 1969, and it was dutifully publicized by the San Francisco Chronicle on November 12, 13, and 26, garnering front page status twice.

In every case, Allen can be seen to exploit the media reports of the crimes and letters in an effort to tease his interviewers. While this behavior and the taunting letters that the Zodiac sent to the newspapers have been compared, Allen can just as easily be seen to speak from the comfortable knowledge that he would never be tied to the crimes because he was not the killer. Only the brand of Allen's wristwatch suggested knowledge of the Zodiac events before they took place, and even this item was assigned undue suspicion by Allen himself, who told police that he had received it just before the killer took his name. None of his remarks - or remarks attributed to him by any reliable source - betray knowledge of the crimes beyond the common understanding held by anyone who had followed the news accounts of the case. In 1971, the number of people with such understanding numbered in the hundreds of thousands.

In the absence of any other promising leads, however, San Francisco and Vallejo police saw Allen as the most viable of their Zodiac suspects. On September 14, 1972, a search warrant for his Santa Rosa property was issued, and detectives were soon combing through his trailer and cars looking for firearms, ammunition, clothing and any other evidence that could link him to the crimes or letters. Nothing of the sort was found. Major case prints - inked impressions of the entire hand, fingertip to palm, were taken, as were samples of his left- and right-handed writing. All were tested by state experts against the Zodiac evidence, in no case was there a match. California handwriting analysts even went so far as to state that Allen's writing "definitely was not that of the Zodiac killer". He was given a polygraph test and passed it.

The matter seemed resolved until 1986, when author Robert Graysmith levelled his pen at Allen in his groundbreaking case study, 'ZODIAC'. Once a best seller and now in its 29th printing, 'ZODIAC' has been cited as a source by almost every subsequent work on the case. Graysmith was tipped to Allen's suspect status by local authorities and carried on an unofficial investigation of him in the early 1980's without significant findings. Nonetheless, Allen remained the favorite of San Francisco detectives, and Graysmith followed suit, exaggerating the marginal links between Allen and the Zodiac case and mixing rumour with fact to convince the reading public that there was no doubt as to the killer's identity. The world knew him as "Robert Hall Starr" but to anyone who had met him, there could be no mistaking Allen.

In December 1990, when Ralph Spinelli was arrested for armed robbery in Lake Tahoe , NV , his bid for leniency included a tip to the Zodiac's identity: none other than Arthur Leigh Allen. Facing 30 years in prison, Spinelli claimed that Allen had told him in 1969 that he was going to San Francisco to kill a cabdriver. Perhaps not coincidentally, Allen's only arrest before his child molestation charge was for a fight with Spinelli. Under pressure following the success of Graysmith's book and with the knowledge that Allen's Vallejo property had not been searched in 1972, VPD took advantage of Spinelli's negligible tip and searched Allen's Fresno Street basement. Seized were bomb-making materials, newspaper clippings, several firearms, a knife, a typewriter, and Allen's Zodiac watch. Of these, the knife and one handgun could have been Zodiac evidence (it is widely believed that the Zodiac was not responsible for the murder of Cheri Jo Bates or the typewritten confession that followed it), but neither led to charges or an arrest, and it can be assumed that they were unrelated. Allen's prints were submitted to the FBI Laboratory, and again the comparison came back negative. According to one newspaper report, "Allen was dismissed as a suspect".

The wealth of factors pointing to Allen's innocence has led many armchair investigators to approach the record looking for loopholes in the truth. When Allen's fingerprints didn't match the crime scene prints, doubt was cast on their legitimacy despite law enforcement's confidence in them. When his handwriting didn't match the Zodiac's, a photo-enlarger setup was proposed. When Allen passed a grueling 10-hour polygraph test, he was labeled a sociopath who could beat the machine. One wonders what it would take to get around an exclusion based on DNA evidence, should such evidence arise.

In proposing incriminating circumstantial evidence, Allen's accusers add their own loopholes. Allen can be "placed" in Riverside in 1966 but can just as easily be "placed" in Santa Rosa. Cheney's account is often cited but not his egregious timing or the numerous changes in his story. Spinelli's story is also given credence but his acrimonious relationship with Allen, imminent prison time and 20-year silence are played down. Allen is said to have had access to a car like one seen by a victim but the truth is that Allen had lost access to that car when he was fired from a job three months before the attack. Allen had mysterious coded letters in a strongbox but they were sent to him by a patient at Atascadero. The Zodiac letters are said to have stopped while Allen was at Atascadero but the letters stopped eight months before Allen was incarcerated, and the one received upon his release was a phony. A convicted child molester, Allen was, like the Zodiac, interested in "little kiddies" but paedophiles that kill outside of their target group are incredibly rare. In the aggregate, the coincidences are compelling, but when each is scrutinized, the case against Allen becomes a ball of string: pull on it, and it falls apart.

In the final analysis, only one article exists that could serve to tie Allen to the Zodiac case and this is the Sea Wolf wristwatch given to him by his mother. She died January 10, 1989. Hardly a conclusive link to the murders, or evidence of anything except a mother's generosity, it was seized by Vallejo police during their 1991 raid on Allen's apartment. Despite his repeated requests, it was never returned. Legally blind, stricken with diabetes and kidney failure, the target of a campaign of innuendo that dogged him to the last, Arthur Leigh Allen died without it 18 months later.

In April 2004, the SFPD marked the case "inactive," citing caseload pressure and resource demands. However, they re-opened their case sometime before March 2007. In 2007, a man named Dennis Kaufman claimed that his stepfather Jack Tarrance was the Zodiac. Kaufman turned several items over to the FBI including a hood similar to the one worn by the Zodiac. According to news sources, DNA analysis conducted by the FBI on the items were deemed inconclusive in 2010. Kaufman's claims have later been widely discredited. He claimed to have incriminating rolls of film taken by his stepfather. The photos allegedly showed victims of the crimes. Kaufman later published some of these photos on his own web page. The photos were very small, had low resolution, and were so blurry that nothing could be positively identified. An associate of Kaufman's, Nanette Barto, who received her Forensic Document Examining certificate from an unaccredited school, claimed to have matched Jack Tarrance's handwriting to that of the Zodiac Killer. However, in 2010, the FBI's Head Document Examiner at Quantico deemed the handwriting "Inconclusive".

In 2009, Deborah Perez claimed that her father, Guy Ward Hendrickson, was the Zodiac. However, Perez also allegedly previously claimed that she was the illegitimate daughter of John F. Kennedy, so her claim that her father was the Zodiac has been viewed as unlikely. In 2009, a lawyer named Robert Tarbox (who, in August 1975, was disbarred by the California Supreme Court for failure to pay some clients) said that in 1972 a merchant mariner walked into his office and confessed to him that he was the Zodiac Killer. The seemingly lucid seaman (whose name Tarbox would not reveal due to confidentiality) described his crimes briefly but persuasively enough to convince Tarbox. The man claimed he was trying to stop himself from his "opportunistic" murder spree but never returned to see Tarbox again. Tarbox took out a full-page ad in the Vallejo Times-Herald in which he cleared the name of Arthur Leigh Allen as a killer, his only reason for revealing the story 30 years after the fact. Robert Graysmith, the author of several books on Zodiac, said Tarbox's story was "entirely plausible." Retired police handwriting expert Lloyd Cunningham, who worked the Zodiac case for decades, added "they gave me banana boxes full of Allen's writing, and none of his writing even came close to the Zodiac. Nor did DNA extracted from the envelopes (on the Zodiac letters) come close to Arthur Leigh Allen."

In 2009, an episode of the History Channel television series "MysteryQuest" looked at newspaper editor Richard Gaikowski. During the time of the murders, Gaikowski worked for Good Times, a San Francisco counterculture newspaper. His appearance resembles the composite sketch and Nancy Slover, the Vallejo police dispatcher who was contacted by the Zodiac shortly after the Blue Rock Springs Attack, has identified a recording of Gaikowski's voice as being the same as the Zodiac's. Additional circumstantial evidence exists but cannot definitively connect Gaikowski to the murders.

The Vallejo Police Department website maintains a link for providing Zodiac crime tips, the case is also open in Napa County and also in the city of Riverside. Retired police detective Steve Hodel argues a case in his book "The Black Dahlia Avenger" that his father, George Hill Hodel, was the Black Dahlia suspect whose victims include Elizabeth Short. The book caused the release of previously suppressed files and wire recordings by the Los Angeles district attorney's office of his father which showed that he was a prime suspect in Short's murder. The L.A. District Attorney subsequently wrote a letter which is published in the revised edition stating that if he were still alive he would be prosecuted for the crimes. In a follow up book, Hodel argued a circumstantial case that his father was also the Zodiac Killer based upon a police sketch, the similarity of the style of the Zodiac letters to the Black Dahlia Avenger letters and questioned document examination.

On February 19, 2011, "America's Most Wanted" featured a story about the Zodiac Killer. A picture has recently surfaced of known Zodiac victim Darlene Ferrin and a man who closely resembles the composite sketch, formed based on eyewitness' descriptions, of the Zodiac Killer. Police believe the photo was taken in San Francisco in the summer of 1966 or 1967. Police hope someone can identify the man in the photo. It has been suspected that the man in the photo is Darlene Ferrin's ex-husband, James Phillips. This has not been confirmed.

A former California Highway Patrol officer, Lyndon Lafferty in a 2012 book "The Zodiac Killer Cover-Up, AKA The Silenced Badge" argues that the Zodiac killer is a 91-year-old Solano County, California man whom he calls "George Russell Tucker." Using a group of retired law enforcement officers called the Mandamus Seven, Lafferty discovered "Tucker" and a cover-up for why he was not pursued. The man died in February 2012 and is not considered a suspect by law enforcement agencies. The British author Tom Slemen presents a case on Zodiac in his 2013 book "Strange Mysteries" which explores the possibility that the killer lived near the Presidio of San Francisco during his last killing, the murder of cab-driver Paul Stine, and he also hints that Zodiac had a British connection.

“Killing is like marriage, fun at first till you realize what you’ve done.” - The Zodiac Killer

If you want to watch a documentary on The Zodiac Killer then just check out the video below:

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