NEWS & UPDATES: October 2015 Archive

OCTOBER 2015: This is an archived posting of the original “News & Updates” page.


* BOOK REVIEW: August 1, 2014 – Gary Stewart and co-author Susan Mustafa recently published the book titled The Most Dangerous Animal of All which claims that Stewart’s father, Earl Van Best, Jr., was the Zodiac killer. Publisher Harper Collins remained silent until the book was released and Stewart went on a publicity tour with interviews on television and radio. According to Stewart, he has presented more evidence against his father than anyone has ever presented against any other suspect in the entire history of the Zodiac case. Stewart and Mustafa are convinced that their claims are true. However, examination of the book and its claims cast serious doubts on Stewart’s solution to the mystery. Much of Stewart’s book has been debunked, leaving virtually no credible evidence to implicate Earl Van Best in the Zodiac crimes. Click here to read the ZodiacKillerFacts review of Gary Stewart’s book.

* UPDATE: MAY 31, 2014 – In March 1971, a letter arrived at the offices of The Los Angeles Times newspaper. The author claimed to be the Zodiac and referred to the recent reports that he was responsible for the unsolved murder of Riverside City College student Cheri Jo Bates in 1966. Previously released photographs of this letter have been dark and the handwriting appeared distorted. I recently obtained a large book collection titled Crimes and Punishment: The Illustrated Crime Encyclopedia. Page 2152 of volume 18 featured another photograph of the LA Times letter. The quality of this photograph was better than the others I have seen. The detail was sharper and the handwriting was not distorted by high contrast or the photocopy process. Click Here to view this image at the ZodiacKillerFacts document gallery.

NOTE: Here is some basic information and links to resources which may be useful to anyone who wants to track down their own copy of this encyclopedia set or the individual volume containing the LA Times letter.

Title: CRIMES AND PUNISHMENT: The Illustrated Crime Encyclopedia

Set: 28 volumes

ISBN-10: 185435793X (entire set)

ISBN-13: 978-1854357939 (entire set)

Publisher: Marshall Cavendish Corp / H. S. Stuttman

Date: September 1994

Photo of LA TIMES Letter: Page 2152, Volume 18

Available thru:

Available thru:

* MEDIA UPDATE: Wednesday, February 12, 2014 – The San Francisco TV station KGO ABC 7 will feature a story about the Zodiac case on Friday, February 14, 2014. According to Investigative Producer Jim O’Donnell, the new ABC story will examine one of the many tips reported to police regarding possible Zodiac suspects. This time, a New York man claims that a friend once confessed that he was the Zodiac killer. The segment will also include a brief recap of the Bay Area crimes. The Zodiac story will air during the 11:00 PM news broadcast and will available to view on the ABC 7 website approximately one hour later at midnight (Pacific Standard Time).

* RADIO INTERVIEW: February 2, 2014 – On January 31, 2014, I was a guest on “The Fringe Radio Show” to discuss the unsolved “Zodiac” murders and other infamous serial killer. An archived recording of the 2-hour broadcast is now available at the K-Talk Radio Archives. Click on the following link to listen to the show: The Fringe Radio Show with Michael Butterfield.

* UPDATE: November 22, 2013 – In November 1969, the Zodiac mailed one of his most baffling clues and a letter including one of his most controversial claims. The killer sent a greeting card along with his second cipher consisting of 340 symbols. In his next communication, the Zodiac wrote that he was angered by the “lies” told by police who claimed that he had left fingerprints at the crime scene and had been seen by witnesses. The Zodiac announced that he would change his “way of collecting slaves” and disguise his future murders as routine robberies, accidents and other random crimes. The killer also claimed that San Francisco police had stopped him near the scene of his last murder but had inexplicably allowed him to escape justice. The 340 CIPHER: Dead Ends examines some of the solutions offered by amateur code breakers. 

* UPDATE: OCTOBER 30, 2013 – 47 years ago, Cheri Jo Bates was murdered near the campus of the Riverside City College library. One month after the murder, someone mailed an envelope to the offices of the Riverside Press-Enterprise newspaper. The envelope contained a typed letter titled “The Confession” which included an account of the murder and the warning that more victims were to come. Six months after the murder, someone mailed three handwritten notes to the newspaper, the police and the father of Cheri Jo Bates. The author wrote, “Bates had to die. There will be more.” Three years later, the Zodiac surfaced in Northern California with bizarre letters sent to newspapers and a horrific series of seemingly inexplicable murders. Riverside police contacted Zodiac investigators with the suspicion that their unsolved case was linked to the Zodiac crimes. Many investigators believed that the Zodiac had killed Bates and some handwriting experts concluded that the Zodiac was responsible for the Riverside writings. In November 1970, San Francisco Chronicle reporter Paul Avery revealed the so-called “Riverside connection” and Cheri Jo Bates became known as the Zodiac’s first known victim. In one letter, the Zodiac wrote, “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 Riverside Police Department later declared that Bates had been killed by someone she had known and officially denied that the Zodiac was responsible for the crime. The RPD then discovered that DNA evidence found at the murder scene did not match their suspect, but the department continued to insist that the suspect had killed Bates and the Zodiac was not involved. Decades after the murder, the case remains unsolved and the shadow of the Zodiac still haunts this mystery. Read more in the ZodiacKillerFacts blog entry RIVERSIDE ACTIVITY: Unsolved Mysteries.

* MEDIA UPDATE: August 30, 2013 – Former KGO-TV reporter Richard Carlson shares his memories of the Zodiac case in a new article posted at titled Signs of the Zodiac. Highlights include:

* Carlson recalls visiting the scene of the Stine murder in San Francisco on the night of the crime.

* A behind-the scenes account during the now-infamous televised exchange between attorney Melvin Belli and the Zodiac impostor known as “Sam” on The Jim Dunbar Show.

* A look at the events surrounding the proposed meeting between Belli and Sam after the television broadcast.

Find a link to the story and read more at the ZodiacKillerFacts Forum or go directly to the article Signs of the Zodiac.

* UPDATE: July 26, 2013 – Forty-three years ago today, the Zodiac mailed one of his most baffling clues and inspired one the most persistent myths in the history of the case. Read the ZodiacKillerFACTS article THE RADIAN THEORY: Mistakes in the Myth-Making and learn how to debunk this myth using a map, a protractor and the facts.

* UPDATE: July 22, 2013 – San Francisco’s Old Mint recently hosted a special screening of the 2007 film ZODIAC. Inspector Pamela Hofsass attended the screening and reportedly told the audience that the SFPD has obtained a partial profile of Zodiac DNA. The SFPD had previously reported the same news more than a decade ago but the latest rumors indicate that investigators are still working to obtain new evidence which could finally solve the Zodiac mystery. Read the ZodiacKillerFacts blog entry ZODIAC DNA: A Question of Answers or visit the ZodiacKillerFacts Forum to discuss this and other case-related issues.

* UPDATE: June 7, 2013 – Dave Oranchak’s site features a new article about Zodiac theorist Gareth Penn and math and science writer Martin Gardner, the author of the column Mathematical Games for the magazine Scientific American. The article, titled Gardner and Penn, Jekyll and Hyde, focuses on Penn’s writings and Gardner’s opinions regarding Penn’s theories about the Zodiac ciphers and other material. The ZodiacKillerFacts Blog page has been updated with a new post regarding Oranchak’s article which includes links to various articles related to Penn and his theories. [NOTE: Thanks to Dave Oranchak for obtaining and sharing the collection of Gardner documents.]

* UPDATE: June 2, 2013 – The Benicia Herald featured a story about former Benicia police Chief Pierre Bidou discussing the Zodiac case with students of the Benicia Citizens Police Academy. Read the article: Citizens Police Academy: Signs of the Zodiac.

* UPDATE: On April 17, 2013, the Napa Valley Register reported the death of Napa Police officer David Slaight. On the night of September 27, 1969, Slaight was assigned to dispatcher duty and received a telephone call from an individual who claimed to be responsible for the stabbing at Lake Berryessa. Slaight described the phone call attributed to “the Zodiac killer” in his interviews for the 2003 television documentary COLD CASE FILES as well as the 2007 documentary THIS IS THE ZODIAC SPEAKING. Slaight died at the age of 68 after he was diagnosed as suffering from ALS (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), often referred to as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Vallejo Police dispatcher Nancy Slover Earp had also received a phone call from an individual who claimed to be responsible for a previous attack attack at Blue Rock Springs Park as well as two other murders. She appeared in several television documentaries including HAUNTING EVIDENCE and MYSTERYQUEST. Nancy Slover-Earp died in 2012. The passing of both Nancy Slover-Earp and David Slaight closed a chapter in history as they were the only two people to have allegedly spoken to the Zodiac killer by telephone. Bryan Hartnell, the man who survived the stabbing at Lake Berryessa, remains the only living person believed to have spoken with the Zodiac killer. 

* UPDATE – ZODIAC BOOKS: Several new books focus on the unsolved mystery of “the Zodiac killer.”

* FRINGE: The ZODIAC PARADOX features characters from the popular FOX science fiction television series FRINGE. In an interview posted at, author Christa Faust offered this description of the plot. “It starts in the late sixties, when young graduate students Walter Bishop and William Bell are testing a special blend of perception-altering chemicals at Reiden Lake. Their artificially enhanced minds accidentally open a rift between universes and allow a vicious serial killer to escape into our world. The killer is profoundly changed and unnaturally enhanced by their psychic encounter, but it isn’t until 1974 that Walter learns the true nature of the monster they have unleashed. It’s up to him, along with Bell and Nina Sharp, to find a way to stop him.” 

* HUNTER AMONG THE STARS by John Robert Jordan is described as “A Critical Look at the Zodiac Killer as Serial Killer, Occultist, and Speller.” offers the following description of the book: “Hunter Among the Stars is a critical re-examination of the Zodiac Killer’s tragic murder spree. Beginning with a “blitz attack” restatement of the “Zodiac Mythos”, the author quickly establishes his own premise; the Zodiac Killer’s unique pathology and it’s interface with his hitherto unidentified occult practice. After meticulously reconstructing each crime and deconstructing each investigation, the author provides the first systematic diagnostic analysis of the Zodiac’s Killer’s spelling errors in forty years. Critically evaluating the modern technique of profiling, Hunter identifies the fallacies inherent in all Zodiac profiles, and concludes by revealing the personation or “signature” on a “Zodiac kill” linking it to the killer’s use of occult astrology and belief. Hunter offers investigatrs and readers alike the first testable hypothesis forever answer the twofold question of how many victims Zodiac murdered and whether the killer moved his homicidal enterprise elsewhere.” [Note: All spelling errors contained in the original text.]

* ZODIAC CRACKED: THE MANIFESTATION OF A KILLER presents yet another solution to the Zodiac mystery. offers the following information regarding the author: “Marianne Koerfer is a retired Police Secretary and a native Chicagoan. She is the author of two civic articles, Creating Opportunities for The Employee Who is Disabled and Law Enforcement Opportunities. Her current focus is directed toward reviewing, researching, and writing about cold cases. She strives to bring long neglected cases out from the archives and back into the open case status by developing a fresh profile of a viable suspect through an intense reinterpretation of the evidence and circumstances of these dark crimes.

* UPDATE: August 20, 2012 – Mike Morford of the website has obtained more than 900 pages of FBI documents via a Freedom of Information Act request and he generously shared these documents with the research community. Information regarding these files and links to view the documents are available at the ZodiacKillerFacts Blog page.

* UPDATE: Tuesday, May 22, 2012 – The release of a new book by long-time Zodiac theorist Lyndon Lafferty has sparked a wave of media coverage announcing that the Zodiac killer has been identified. Those who are new to this story, and Lafferty’s history, may be tempted to believe that the case has finally been solved, but the facts tell a very different story. Lafferty has been accusing his suspect for decades and has never presented any credible evidence to implicate his suspect, the man identified in Robert Graysmith’s book ZODIAC as “Andrew Todd Walker.” Lafferty is a retired law enforcement officer, but law enforcement agencies have dismissed his claims and theories and authorities have no interest in pursuing his solution to the case. According to Lafferty and his book, the investigation of his suspect was thwarted by a biased judge and others, including Pam Huckaby, sister of Zodiac victim Darlene Ferrin. Pam now claims that Lafferty’s suspect is the man who allegedly stalked Darlene in the months before she was killed. Lafferty claims that Pam betrayed his confidence, leaked sensitive information to irresponsible parties, and destroyed any hope to ever charge and prosecute Lafferty’s suspect. “Andrew Todd Walker” died in February, 2012, shortly before the release of Lafferty’s book, THE ZODIAC KILLER COVER-UP. For more information, including links to the related news stories featuring excerpts of a recent interview with Pam Huckaby, read the ZodiacKillerFACTS blog entry The ZODIAC KILLER COVER-UP: A Bad Case of Deja Vu.

* TV ALERT: The case of the Zodiac killer and other California crime stories will be featured on the Travel Channel series “Hidden City” hosted by writer Marcus Sakey. The Hidden City webpage offers this synopsis of the broadcast: “Marcus examines the infamous murder of Harvey Milk, rides along with the San Jose police to uncover the fear and greed which created the Vigilance Committee during the gold rush, and gets inside the mind of the Zodiac killer.” The show will air on Tuesday January 10, 2012 at 10:00 PM and again at 1:00 AM in the Mountain Time Zone. Check your local listings for the Pacific, Central and Eastern times zones, or, consult the Travel Channel schedule.

* UPDATE: January 3, 2012: has been updated with four pages designed to provide basic information about the Zodiac case. The Case Summary has been revised, expanded and updated with more information on various aspects of the case. A Reference Information Page has been added which provides basic information such as the names of the victims, the law enforcement agencies involved, the recipients of Zodiac communications, and a list of Zodiac-related books, films and television broadcasts. A new section titled Zodiac: UNSUB offers two pages featuring information regarding The Eyewitness Descriptions and The Psychological Portraits of the Zodiac killer. The site has also been revised for easy access to basic information with a link to The ZODIAC CASE FILES, including the police reports and other official documents regarding the original Zodiac investigation. This new page features a filing cabinet approach to the files produced by the Benicia Police Department, the Solano County Sheriff’s Office, the Vallejo Police Department, the Napa County Sheriff’s Department, the San Francisco Police Deparment, the California Department of Justice, the FBI and other official agencies involved in the investigations of the known and suspected Zodiac crimes.

January 2012 marks the fifth anniversary since was first launched in 2007. Throughout the new year, other areas of the site will be revised, expanded and updated to include more information about the case and other material which may be of interest to regular visitors and new visitors. The Mysteries of the Mt. Diablo Map contains several pages devoted to the Zodiac’s so-called “Mt. Diablo map” and other clues. The first article serves as a basic introduction to this enigmatic piece of the Zodiac’s legacy. The second article Radians & Inches focuses on the Zodiac’s mathematical clues. The Mt. Diablo Map provides a unique look at one of the Zodiac’s most cryptic clues. Zodiac researcher Ed Neil obtained a copy of the same road map used by the Zodiac. Ed’s photographs may be useful to those with questions about the Zodiac’s map. Radians: By the Textbook features pages from an 11th year high school textbook which explain the use of radians and inches in mathematics. The ZodiacKillerFACTS Document Gallery features a collection of FBI files about the Zodiac case which is presented in chronological order, organized and listed by month and year for easy reference (the remaining sections will be added soon). This site also features a comprehensive list of links to the original police reports, crime scene sketches, official documents, photographs, videos and other material which is organized by each of the four known Zodiac crimes as well as other cases possibly linked to the killer. The Document Gallery includes a collection of the Zodiac letters, other possible communications, and suspected forgeries. The ZKF Blog page features periodic updates and articles about new developments, media reports, and case-related issues. This page also includes a list of links to reliable Zodiac websites and sources. The ZodiacKillerFACTS forum offers a place for discussion about the case, the exchange of information, and the examination of theories (membership is free). Credible tips, case-related information and legitimate inquiries should be directed to

* TV ALERT: Wednesday, October 12, 2011 – Director David Fincher’s movie version of the Zodiac story airs tonight on the Independent Film Channel. The IFC website states that the film will air at 12:30 AM Eastern Time (late Wednesday night/early Thursday morning). Check your local listings for times in your area or check the schedule at A scene-by-scene examination of the film and its factual accuracy is available in the ZodiackillerFACTS article titled FACT vs. FINCHER.

* ANNIVERSARY: October 11, 2011 – Tuesday marks the 42nd anniversary of the Zodiac’s last known killing, the murder of San Francisco cab driver Paul Stine. To learn more about this case and view original police reports, other official documents and photographs, click here.

* TV ALERT: August 4, 2011 – Director David Fincher’s movie version of the Zodiac story airs tonight on the Independent Film Channel. The film be will be repeated twice in a back-to-back broadcast. Check your local listings for times in your area or check the schedule at A scene-by-scene examination of the film and its factual accuracy is available in the ZodiackillerFACTS article titled FACT vs. FINCHER.

* UPDATE: August 1, 2011 – Recently, several news reports have stated that the Zodiac’s infamous “340 cipher” had been solved by a resident of Tewksbury, Massachusetts named Corey Starliper. The alleged solution ends with the line, “MY NAME IS LEIGH ALLEN,” an obvious reference to the once-prime suspect Arthur Leigh Allen. The overwhelming majority of those who have examined Starliper’s solution have deemed his work invalid and critics have challenged his questionable methods. Starliper contacted me in late June 2011, and I have added a new blog entry about this issue titled, “The STARLIPER SOLUTION.” This blog page also features links to news stories about Starliper’s claims and links to articles which critique and debunk Starliper’s methods and findings.

* RADIO INTERVIEW: July 27, 2011 – I was a guest on the Ireland radio show hosted by author and broadcaster Sean Moncrieff. After a basic run down of the case itself, Sean and I discussed several issues, including the recent claims by amateur “code-breaker” Corey Starliper. You can listen to the segment by clicking on the following link; the interview starts just before the 5 minute mark. The Sean Moncrieff Show.

* UPDATE: July 21, 2011 – The Document Gallery has been updated to include the infamous “code key” sent to the Vallejo Police Department on August 10, 1969. This “key” was mentioned in the Vallejo police reports but has never been available to the general public. The individuals known as “morf” and “AK Wilks” sent a Freedom of Information request to the FBI and received copies of the original envelope, the note card and the key itself. [Note: Special thanks to “morf” and “AK Wilks” for their persistence and generosity.]

* UPDATE: May 28, 2011 – The Document Gallery has been updated to include two suspected “Zodiac” forgeries: A card sent in October, 1970 which read in part, “YOU ARE NEXT,” and the so-called “Equinox” letter sent in 1972. Neither letter is included on the list of authenticated Zodiac letters. These messages are presented with the corresponding pages from the FBI files regarding the Zodiac case. View the “You Are Next” Card or view the “Equinox” letter. [Note of thanks: The letters were obtained by morf (of zodiackillersite) via the Freedom of Information Act and were provided to by AK Wilks.]

* UPDATE: March 29, 2011 – and the Document Gallery have been updated to include the suspected Zodiac forgery mailed in Atlanta, Georgia during the notorious “Atlanta Child Murders.” The letter was postmarked March 8, 1981. The author claimed to be the Zodiac and signed the message with a crossed-circle symbol. CLICK HERE to view the letter and corresponding pages from the FBI files regarding the Zodiac case. [Note of thanks: The letter was obtained by morf (of zodiackillersite) via the Freedom of Information Act and was provided to by AK Wilks.]

* TV ALERT: March 28, 2011 The AMC network broadcast a new series of documentary vignettes titled The UNSOLVEDWATCH THE VIDEO. The first segment focused on the Zodiac case and featured brief interviews with author Susan Milano Murphy, author John Gilmore (Severed), author Michael Connelly, and FBI profiler Jim Clemente. Host Dan Abrams introduced and narrated the segment which included a brief synopsis of the case as well as briefs clips of vintage news footage featuring Det. Les Lundblad, Bryan Hartnell and others. In a melodramatic introduction, Abrams said: “The ideals of the 1960s were born in California’s Bay Area, and that’s where some would argue they died, smothered by a costumed serial killer who worked in shotguns, hunting knives and cryptograms. Local police forces clashed, careers ruined, and a new kind of monster emerged. He took five confirmed victims with as many as two dozen more suspected but never proven. The series of lover’s lane murders committed by the man still only known as the Zodiac remain unsolved.” The Zodiac did not use a shotgun in any of his known or suspected crimes, and claims of police clashes have been greatly exaggerated by the media and others over the years. The program did not include any new or important information. AMC’s limited series of vignettes will continue throught the last week of March leading up to the April 3rd premiere of the new series The KILLING. On Tuesday, March 29, AMC will broadcast the film ERASER along with another UNSOLVED vignette about the unsolved murder of Jon Benet Ramsey.

* The Zodiac Killer on AMC’s The UNSOLVED – Susan Murphy Milano Tapped for New AMC Network Project “The Unsolved” Produced by Eight Time Emmy Nominated, Jeff Roe – Nationally recognized Intimate Partner Violence Prevention Expert and Author, Susan Murphy Milano has recently been invited to participate in a new project by the producers and host of the short-form documentary series, “The Unsolved.” This nightly series leads the way towards the premier of the new original drama, “The Killing” premiering Sunday, April 3 at 9pm ET on AMC ( “The Unsolved” will focus on true-life unsolved crimes such as Jon Benet Ramsey, The Black Dahlia, Natalee Holloway, Marilyn Sheppard, The Alphabet Murders, and The Zodiac Killer. Host Dan Abrams’ voice will guide viewers through the evidence packed presentations of each of these cases along with Murphy Milano’s commentary. Each night the shows will delve into the lives of the people most affected by these crimes, using footage, police reports and news stories, the cases will be fleshed out quickly, but huge in content so viewers will come away with a better understanding of, not only the crime itself, but its ramifications upon friends, politicians, media, detectives and family members whose lives are forever changed. The goal of the series is to produce compelling, not sensationalized, treatments of each case through interviews and visuals that will keep viewers engaged, yet aiming to be sympathetic and respectful to the victims and loved ones left in the wake of the events of the trauma and its inevitable aftermath. Outlaw Laboratories and eight time Emmy Award nominee, Jeff Roe will produce and direct each of the shows in the series, told in a stylistically different approach that won’t rely on re-enactments, but will be chocked full of evidence directly from the case files. NOTE: The AMC series The UNSOLVED is actually a series of vignettes. Each segment will last approximately 3-5 minutes and will be shown during the broadcasts of six true story films over six nights. The Zodiac segment is reportedly scheduled to air during the broadcast of the gangster film GOODFELLAS on the night of March 28, 2011. [See also: and AMC TV Originals “The Killing”.]

* NEW: March 21, 2011: A new section titled The Mysteries of the Mt. Diablo Map contains several pages devoted to the Zodiac’s so-called “Mt. Diablo map.” The first article serves as a basic introduction to this enigmatic piece of the Zodiac’s legacy. The second article Radians & Inches focuses on the Zodiac’s mathematical clues. The Mt. Diablo Map provides a unique look at one of the Zodiac’s most cryptic clues. Zodiac researcher Ed Neil recently tracked down and purchased a copy of the same road map used by the Zodiac. Ed’s photographs may be useful to those with questions about the Zodiac’s map. Radians: By the Textbook features pages from an 11th year high school textbook which explain the use of radians and inches in mathematics. More information is also available in the article titled Gareth Penn and the Radian Theory.

* TV ALERT: February 19, 2011: NBC’s THE TODAY SHOW aired a segment on the Zodiac case which featured Dave Collins and Dick Lonergan of the Napa County Sheriff’s Office, FBI profiler Cliff Van Zant, author Robert Graysmith, and Zodiac survivor Bryan Hartnell. WATCH THE VIDEO or read the story at the

* TV ALERT: February 19, 2011: AMERICA’S MOST WANTED aired a segment on the Zodiac case which featured a photograph showing Zodiac victim Darlene Ferrin and an “unidentified man.” The AMW website states that “police want to know who he is.” Read more about the issues surrounding this photograph in the article Darlene Ferrin and the Unidentified Man or join the discussion at the FREE FORUM.

* Featured Blog: Remembering the GOOD TIMES and Richard Gaikowski with “Becky Sharp”

* NEW: The MYTHS & LEGENDS section has been updated with new articles regarding the Ferrin case, including: Darlene Ferrin MYTHS: The BeginningThe Painting Party, The Stalker and “Andrew Todd Walker”, and an examination of the 1991 Geraldo Rivera television broadcasts regarding the life and death of Darlene Ferrin, NOW IT CAN BE TOLD: The Rest of the Story, including links to watch the original programs.

* TIT WILLOW: THE STORY OF THE ZODIAC KILLER by Judith Chapman presents yet-another “I-knew-the-Zodiac-killer” tale. Chapman accuses her now-deceased husband Peter Plante. offers the following summary of Chapman’s book: “This book details the murders of the Zodiac Killer of the San Francisco Bay Area of the 1960’s. The author describes twenty years of terror, living with the man she believes to be the Zodiac. The book includes handwriting evidence and a solution to the “My name is ..” cipher.

Selected Audio Files & Interviews

Selected Radio/Podcast Interviews:

  • Michael Butterfield on The KEVIN SMITH SHOW excerpt: FBI Profilers
  • COAST TO COAST AM with George Noury, featuring writer Michael Butterfield and Zodiac researcher Ed Neil, with other highlights.
  • ZODIAC: A to Z / Robert Graysmith’s Crooked Compass – In this segment of the audio webcast program ZODIAC: A to Z, writer Michael Butterfield and Zodiac researcher Ed Neil explain the geographic errors contained in the books Zodiac and Zodiac Unmasked. Recorded in 2007, this 7-part webcast examines the author’s many errors concerning the location of the crime scene on Lake Herman Road, the crime scene at Blue Rock Springs Park, the location of the pay phone used by the Zodiac to call the Vallejo Police Department, the crime scene at Lake Berryessa, the location of the Zodiac sighting on the night of his last known murder in San Francisco, the author’s infamous “hidden road” in Vallejo, and his claims regarding the Zodiac’s Mt. Diablo map. This audio webcast is accompanied by illustrations, maps, aerial photographs, and excerpts from Robert Graysmith’s books.


Zodiac Reference

Visit the The ZodiacKillerFacts Document Gallery to view hundreds of photographs and thousands of documents related to the Zodiac case, or, choose from the selection of subjects listed below. 
Click Here to View The ZODIAC CASE FILES from the original investigation also provides a collection of photographs, documents, videos and other reference material regarding the Zodiac’s other known crimes, including the shootings at Lake Herman Road and Blue Rock Springs Park as well as the attack at Lake Berryessa. SEE ALSO: The ZODIAC REFERENCE PAGE, which provides a list of names and other information relating to the Zodiac case.

LAKE HERMAN ROAD: December 20, 1968


David Faraday and Betty Lou Jensen


The Scene of the Crime: 1968


The Crime Scene: December 20, 1968

The Crime Scene: Police Sketches


Shell Casings and Jensen Dress

The Rambler


The Investigators and Others


Newspaper Articles and Other Material


Death Certificates and Morgue Photographs

Benicia Police Dept: Report by Capt. Daniel Pitta (2 pages)

Solano County Sheriff’s Office Report (76 pages)

CA Dept. of Justice / CII Report – Ballistics (3 pages)


The Funeral of David Faraday




Darlene Ferrin and Michael Mageau


Blue Rock Springs Park


Clothing of the Victims and Other Items


The Payphone Used by the Zodiac


Vallejo Police Investigators and Others


Darlene Ferrin Certificate of Death

VPD Report by Det. Ed Rust: Michael Mageau Interview (4 pages)

Vallejo Police Department Report (97 pages)



Bryan Hartnell and Cecelia Shepard


Lake Berryessa, September 1969

The Zodiac’s Message: The Car Door

– Photographs of the car door

– Video of the car door

The Evidence:

The Boot Prints and Clothesline

The Phone Booth 

Photographs of the Phone Used By The Zodiac to Call The Napa Police Department


Sketches of the Zodiac in costume and a man seen at the lake


Read the reports produced by the Napa County Sheriff’s Department and other agencies, including:

NCSD Report: Ken Narlow and others (19 pages)

NCSD Report: Hal Snook (4 pages)

NCSD Report: Collins and Land (6 pages – one page missing)

NCSD Report: RE: the three girls at the lake (1 page)

NCSD Report: RE: Gun used by the Zodiac (1 page)

Napa Police Department: Report by Dispatcher David Slaight re: Zodiac call (1 page)

FBI Report: re: Fingerprints (3 pages)

CA Dept. Of Justice/CII Report (2 pages)

CA Highway Patrol Report: RE: Bryan Hartnell’s car (1 page)

Transcript: Interview with Bryan Hartnell (13 pages)

Transcript: Written account by Bryan Hartnell (2 pages)


Video of the car door

Interview with Park Ranger William White

Interviews with NCSD Capt. Donald Townsend

Bryan Hartnell’s Hospital Interview for TV News

SAN FRANCISCO: Photographs, Videos, Newspaper Articles, and Official Documents


Paul Stine


Washington and Cherry Streets – October, 1969


Crime Scene Photographs


Paul Stine’s Shirt

The Fingerprints


San Francisco Investigators and Others


Sketches of the Suspect


The Zodiac’s Envelope and Letter


Newspaper Stories and Other Material


Paul Stine’s Brother Joe


Paul Stine: Record of Death

Paul Stine: Certificate of Death

Report by SFPD Officer Armand Pelissetti

Excerpt from Dept. of Justice Report on Stine Case

Memo on the Zodiac Sighting by SFPD Officer Don Fouke


Paul Stine’s Cab

The Crime Scene: Washington and Cherry Streets

A Possible Escape Route

SFPD Officer Don Fouke on the Zodiac Sighting

SFPD Captain Martin Lee on the Zodiac’s Threat to Attack a School Bus

SFPD Captain Martin Lee on the Zodiac’s Crossed-Circle Symbol

SFPD Captain Martin Lee on the Zodiac’s State of Mind

See Also: The Zodiac Letters



Like many infamous unsolved cases, the Zodiac mystery draws its share of those who claim to have the solution. In more recent years, a new phenomenon has dominated media reports, the “daddy did it” claims from children who seek publicity. Several people have “identified” their fathers or stepfathers as the Zodiac killer, and this trend has fueled repeated media cycles with a publicity tour for the accuser. Gary Stewart stepped into the spotlight when he identified his father as the Zodiac killer. Stewart’s claims may have seemed compelling to some observers but his story was all too familiar.

Deborah Perez made headlines when she claimed that her father Guy Ward Hendrickson was the Zodiac. She also claimed that she accompanied him during some of the crimes and had even written some of the Zodiac’s letters. Law enforcement agencies did not agree with Perez’s conclusions and other people came forward to report that she had also claimed to be the daughter of President John F. Kennedy.

Dennis Kaufman claimed that his stepfather Jack Tarrance was the Zodiac. Kaufman offered many theories linking Tarrance to other infamous crimes and even produced a hooded costume and rolls of film which allegedly linked the suspect to the Zodiac murders and other killings. Law enforcement agencies were not impressed and ultimately ignored Kaufman’s ongoing media circus.

Retired detective turned writer Steve Hodel found fame when he claimed that his father was responsible for the infamous “Black Dahlia” murder in 1947. The best-selling book Black Dahlia Avenger offered evidence said to link George Hodel to the crime, including photographs found among George Hodel’s possessions which Steve Hodel claimed depicted “Dahlia” victim Elizabeth Short. Skeptics disagreed and members of Short’s family eventually stated that the woman in Hodel’s photographs was not Elizabeth. Hodel then published another book titled Most Evil which claimed that George Hodel was also the Zodiac killer. This book featured many claims which proved false and most of Hodel’s theory was easily debunked.

Perez, Kaufman, Hodel and others all claimed that handwriting experts-for-hire determined that their suspects had written the Zodiac letters. Each claimed that compelling evidence proved that they had identified the Zodiac but none offered such evidence. All of these individuals spoke with certainty that they had solved the mystery when the facts proved otherwise. Yet, all of these people were celebrated by media with little interest in the facts and an ongoing need for sensational content. The authors and their publicists know that most people do not know enough about the Zodiac case to adequately scrutinize these sensational claims.


Many books have been written about the Zodiac mystery but few received the publicity surrounding the release of Gary Stewart’s book titled The Most Dangerous Animal Of All. With co-author Susan Mustafa, Stewart described the search for his biological father, Earl Van Best, and his eventual conclusion that the same man was also the Zodiac killer. Stewart was interviewed on numerous television and radio programs and his solution was praised by many readers who posted positive reviews on

I listened to one radio broadcast as a woman described how she had read Stewart’s book and was utterly convinced that he had solved the case. The host agreed with the caller and hoped that the San Francisco Police Department would conduct tests to determine if Best’s DNA matched a partial DNA profile obtained from the envelopes mailed by the Zodiac. Stewart repeatedly said that he wanted a DNA comparison and believed that the results would prove he had identified the killer. Other listeners did not realize that there were two major problems with Stewart’s version of the story.

1) The partial DNA profile obtained by the San Francisco Police Department is only a partial profile, meaning, it can only be used to exclude a suspect as the source of the DNA. The information is not sufficient to provide a conclusive match to any one person. And, some people believe that others who handled the envelopes were potentials sources of the DNA.

2) DNA tests should be conducted on viable suspects who have been implicated by other credible evidence. The SFPD cannot afford to test the DNA belonging to every suspect identified by attention seekers and opportunists. Doing so would only encourage others to come forward with false claims which waste law enforcement resources.

Gary Stewart would require hard evidence if DNA tests could not positively identify the Zodiac killer. Such evidence would be necessary prior to accusing a suspect, but Stewart’s book offered no reason to accept his solution to the case.


Page 322 of the book The Most Dangerous Animal Of All described Gary Stewart’s meeting with his co-author Susan Mustafa. Stewart asked if Mustafa was interested in writing his Zodiac book and the author reportedly replied, “I’m not willing to put my reputation on the line unless I believe what I’m writing.” The resulting book was then marketed as the solution to the Zodiac mystery. Unsuspecting readers might be impressed by the book and its claims but the facts told a different story.

In the book’s introduction, Stewart wrote that he conducted twelve years of research and intended to leave “no doubt as to the identity” of the Zodiac. Part one of the book included approximately one hundred and thirty pages devoted to the life of Earl Van Best. At the age of twenty-eight, Best married fourteen year-old Judy Chandler. Best was eventually arrested on statutory rape charges and was sent to prison. Articles about Best and Chandler appeared in The San Francisco Chronicle newspaper called the story “the Ice Cream Romance” because Best and Chandler met in an ice cream parlor. Chandler gave birth to Gary Stewart and joined Best after his release from prison. However, she later took then four year-old Gary and left Best to escape the abusive relationship. Decades later, Stewart watched a television show about the unsolved mystery and realized that Best somewhat resembled the police sketch of the Zodiac suspect.

Stewart and Mustafa suggested a link between Best and Chronicle writer Paul Avery. According to the book, Avery authored a series of articles about the so-called “Ice Cream Romance” and Best was somehow offended. Best, as the Zodiac, then sent a threatening Halloween card to Avery. However, Stewart and Mustafa presented no evidence that Avery was the author and other information indicated that Avery did not write the “Ice Cream” articles.

The authors claimed that Van Best’s name appeared in the Zodiac’s ciphers. The book presented a photograph of the Zodiac’s first cipher and the symbols surrounding the word “best” in the deciphered text. The symbols V and E are substituted for the letters B and E in the deciphered text. In Stewart’s illustration, the two lines of symbols above the word “best” are highlighted to emphasis the letters J and R. According to Stewart, this configuration implied the name of his father, Earl Van Best, Jr. This strained interpretation was hardly conclusive and relied on the assumption that the Zodiac intended for his name to be noticed in both the original symbols and deciphered text together at the same time. The initials were not in the proper order and the lines containing the letters J and R were not the same as the line which contained the letters V and E.

Stewart and Mustafa further claimed that another Zodiac cipher implicated Best. The still-unsolved cipher contained thirteen symbols. The name Earl Van Best, Jr. contained thirteen letters. Stewart viewed this as more than coincidence and posted this “evidence” on his website. However, he did not provide any reason to believe that the thirteen symbols actually represented the letters in the Van Best name. Like other Zodiac theorists, Stewart simply assumed a connection which favored his pre-selected conclusion. Other theorists noted that the Zodiac’s first cipher contained eighteen symbols of apparent gibberish which could somehow contain the killer’s identity. Infamous “Unabomber” Ted Kaczynski was identified as a potential Zodiac suspect at one time, and the name Theodore J. Kaczynski contains eighteen letters. The same method could be used to find a “match” to many other names.

According to the book, Susan Mustafa’s literary agent found Best’s name in the Zodiac’s so-called “340 cipher.” He located a backward letter B and then began looking for the other letters, eventually discovering the entire name “Earl Van Best Junior.” The agent used a series of unidentified symbols to form the word “Junior.” Stewart and Mustafa assured readers that the agent tried to repeat the same results with other names but failed. This cipher solution may have seemed compelling but the methods used to achieve the results were designed to favor the desired outcome. Mustafa’s literary agent simply assigned his own predetermined letters of the alphabet to his chosen symbols in the Zodiac’s “340” cipher. This solution also assumed that the triangle symbol in the cipher represented the letter A, that a half-filled circle represented the letter E, that an “I” symbol represented the letter L, and that the “V” symbol in the cipher represented the letter U. Without these assumptions, the literary agent could not construct Best’s name. The agent wanted to find Best’s name and then made his own assumptions in order find Best’s name. No one else would have any reason to look for Best’s name in the cipher and no one would make the same assumptions while attempting to solve the cipher. According to the logic used by Stewart and the literary agent, the Zodiac’s cipher could only be solved by someone who already knew the identify of the Zodiac killer.

Stewart, Mustafa and the literary agent offered no legitimate reason to believe that their methods were sound other than the fact that those methods achieved the desired results.


Gary Stewart’s book offered the only “direct evidence” said to link Earl Van Best, Jr. to the Zodiac crimes. On page 329, Stewart and co-author Susan Mustafa stated that Lieutenant Bob Garrett examined the fingerprints found at the scene of the Zodiac’s last known crime, the killing of cab driver Paul Stine in San Francisco. Garrett stated that he could not make a positive match between the possible Zodiac fingerprints and the fingerprints of Earl Van Best. Instead, Garrett provided a visual comparison for Stewart and Mustafa which showed a possible Zodiac fingerprint and Best’s fingerprint. According to Stewart and Mustafa, both fingerprints showed what appeared to be a scar. However, Garrett was forced to reverse the Zodiac fingerprint in order to align the possible scar on the correct side in order to match the same possible scar on the Best fingerprint. Stewart and Mustafa believed that the aligned scars on both fingerprints served as compelling evidence that Best killed Paul Stine.

A report written by SFPD Inspector William Hamlet described the fingerprints found at the crime scene:

“All of the latent prints in our case were obtained from a taxi cab. The latent prints that show traces of blood are believed to be prints of the suspect. The latent prints from right front door handle are also believed to be prints of the suspect. These prints are circled with a red pen. The other latent prints many of which are very good prints, may or may not be the prints of the suspect in this case”

The fingerprint isolated and compared by Stewart, Mustafa and Garrett was not among those latent fingerprints which were circled in red as stated in the SFPD report. The fingerprint was found at the crime scene but no one knew if that fingerprint actually belonged to the killer. Further, the only way to link Earl Van Best to the crime relied on assuming that the print was left by the killer and then reversing the image of that print. As a further stretch, the assumption that the print was valid and the reversal of the image did not produce any match between the fingerprint found at the crime scene and Best’s fingerprint. The reversal only changed the placement and alignment of a line which may or not be a scar. The faint line which appears to run through the fingerprint in question could have been produced by some feature or indentation on the surface of the cab where the print was obtained.

The methods used to achieve the favorable results were unreliable and self-serving. Stewart and Mustafa had no reason to believe that experienced police officers had somehow reversed the fingerprint. The authors simply assumed that such a reversal had occurred and then reversed the image to suit their needs. The fingerprint evidence did not link Earl Van Best to the murder of Paul Stine.

Stewart and Mustafa also consulted document examiner Mike Wakshull. Wakshull initially thought the evidence was not sufficient to reach a conclusion, however, he quickly changed his mind and concluded that Earl Van Best, Jr. had written the Zodiac letters. Wakshull stated, “I am virtually certain that the writer of the marriage certificate between Earl Van Best Jr. and Judith Chandler is the same writer as the writer of the Zodiac letters.” Wakshull was not hesitant in his conclusion; he even published his own book with a title that left no room for doubt– The End of the Zodiac Mystery.

In his book, Wakshull described his methods and the handwriting samples used in his examination. Wakshull wrote, “The only writing from Van on the first and the third marriage certificates was his signature. Regarding the second marriage certificate, Judith had attested to Gary that Van completed all the information except the witnesses’ signatures, including her printed name.” Wakshull then explained that he “had only four documents for comparison, three of them containing only Van’s signatures.” The fourth document was the marriage certificate reportedly completed by Best himself. This marriage certificate was included in the photograph section of Stewart’s book but the image was very small. At least four different photograph exhibits of handwriting comparisons between the Zodiac’s writing and Best’s writing cited this marriage certificate as evidence.

According to Wakshull, Judy Chandler claimed that Earl Van Best completed and signed the marriage certificate. Shortly after the publicatios of Stewart’s book, Zodiac theorist Mike Rodelli reported that he had contacted the church where Stewart’s parents had married. According to a church source, the writing on the marriage certificate was that of Reverend Edward Fliger, the man who had presided over the marriage ceremony of Earl Van Best and Judy Chandler. Other samples of Filger’s writing on other marriage certificates were remarkably similar to the writing on Best’s marriage certificate. Wakshull claimed that the writing on the marriage certificate was that of the Zodiac killer. According to Wakshull’s conclusion, Filger had written the Zodiac letters.

Wakshull’s conclusion that Best had written the Zodiac letters relied heavily on the assumption that Best was responsible for the writing on the marriage certificate, and any conclusion based on that mistaken assumption could not be valid. The removal of the Best/Chandler marriage certificate from the known writing samples of Earl Van Best, Jr. left Wakshull with only three signatures to compare to the Zodiac’s writing. Therefore, certain letters of the alphabet were not available in the Best signatures to compare with the same letters which appeared in the Zodiac writings. Three signatures were not sufficient to form a valid conclusion.

The evidence presented in his book did not support Stewart’s claims that his father was the Zodiac killer.


According to Gary Stewart, Earl Van Best, Jr. killed several human beings and then escaped justice. Stewart wanted the San Francisco Police Department to conduct DNA tests to determine if Best’s DNA matched a partial DNA profile obtained from envelopes which contained Zodiac communications. The SFPD would not oblige Stewart and instead ignored his claims. Stewart had to explain why authorities did not accept his solution to the mystery and he offered an answer. Co-author Susan Mustafa hinted at this explanation in an interview published in The Advocate. “The book involves a bit of the SFPD not wanting to cooperate for a reason that’s the hook of the book,” Mustafa said. “You’ve got to read the book for that.”

Stewart’s mother Judy divorced Earl Van Best Jr. and later married a man named Rotea Gilford, a man often described as the first African-American investigator to work in the San Francisco Police Department. In Stewart’s scenario, the Best-Gilford connection embarrassed the SFPD, perhaps enough to conceal the fact that Van Best was one of the most notorious serial killers in American history. In support of this conspiracy theory, Stewart claimed that the SFPD possessed a secret file containing the horrifying truth about the life and crimes of Earl Van Best Jr.

According to Stewart, his mother Judy wanted to see the San Francisco Police Department file on Best, but a police representative refused, saying, “I am not going to reveal what is in that file. It would make what he did to you look inconsequential.” Judy then turned to her husband’s former partner, Earl Sanders. On page 242 of his book, Stewart stated that Judy met with Sanders and then called her son to report, “He says he can’t tell us what your father did. He says what your father did was so heinous that it would destroy us.” Stewart did not learn the contents of the SFPD file on Best but his public comments indicated that he believed the secret file contained some link between his father and the Zodiac crimes.

In his book, Stewart stressed an alleged connection between Best and the infamous satanist Anton Lavey. In 1966, Lavey founded The Church of Satan in celebration of what he declared to be Anno Satanas, the first year of the Age of Satan. Lavey’s sensational publicity stunts earned him a reputation as an American bogeyman, but Stewart offered no evidence that Lavey or Van Best were responsible for any murders. In a television interview, San Francisco Chronicle reporter Paul Avery mentioned that members of The Church of Satan had once suspected another member may have been the Zodiac. Avery joked that “the Zodiac was so bad, even The Church of Satan didn’t want him.” Avery’s comments notwithstanding, no one had presented any evidence which linked the Zodiac to The Church of Satan or any occult activity of any kind.

Stewart also claimed that Earl Van Best Jr. was connected to Bobby Beausoleil, a biker linked to the “family” of killers led by Charles Manson. Beausoleil was convicted for his role in the murder of music teacher Gary Hinman. Beausoleil was also known for his appearance in the film Lucifer Rising along side author and director Kenneth Anger and singer Marianne Faithfull. Steve “Clem” Grogan, another member of the Manson “family” performed in a band with Beausoleil and was also convicted for killing Hinman. In his book, Stewart wrote that he received an email in which Beausoleil stated that he had “jammed” with Best and other musicians. Stewart did not present any evidence to indicate these relationships connected Best to the Zodiac crimes. Instead, the emphasis on these relationships relied on the old ploy of guilt by association.

Stewart was apparently unable to link Best to any crime other than the original statutory rape charges regarding Stewart’s mother Judy. The “heinous” truth allegedly concealed in Best’s police file has not been revealed, but Stewart believed that the SFPD’s refusal to reveal its contents could be evidence of an ongoing cover-up. Stewart also implied that this cover-up was linked to the SFPD announcement that the case had been “closed” in 2004. In fact, the case status was only “inactive,” meaning that the department would not devote substantial resources to the cold case without a new lead or new evidence.

Stewart was not the first to claim “cover-up.” Steve Hodel claimed that his father George Hodel was California’s Zodiac killer, the “Black Dahlia” killer of Los Angeles, and Chicago’s notorious “Lipstick killer.” According to Hodel’s version of the story, the arrest of his father would expose corruption and destroy the careers of important officials who allowed him to escape justice. Dennis Kaufman claimed that authorities knew that his step-father Jack Tarrance was the Zodiac but conspired to conceal this fact for unknown reasons. Blaine Blaine aka “Goldcatcher” claimed that Napa County Sheriff’s Department investigator Ken Narlow, Department of Justice Agent Fred Shirasago and others were conspiring to discredit Blaine and help his suspect escape justice. Howard Davis claimed that officials inside the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office conspired to conceal the connection between the Zodiac crimes and Bruce Davis, a member of the infamous “family” of killers led by Charles Manson. Hodel, Blaine, Kaufman and Davis did not provide any credible evidence to support their continuing claims of conspiracies and official cover-ups.

Gary Stewart offered no credible evidence to indicate that his father was responsible for the Zodiac crimes. Instead, he insisted that the San Francisco Police Department conduct DNA tests to prove whether or not Earl Van Best, Jr. was the Zodiac. The implied conspiracy to conceal the heinous truth about Best’s secrets was a convenient excuse to explain the lack of evidence to support Stewart’s claims.


Despite his earlier contact with Lieutenant John Hennessy, the San Francisco Police Department has expressed no interest in any further examination of the claims made by Gary Stewart. Despite the publicity surrounding the release of his book, Gary Stewart failed to convince anyone but uninformed readers. WIthin days of its release, much of the “evidence” presented in Stewart’s book was debunked and dismissed. Even Stewart’s mother Judy was not convinced. According to Stewart, Judy “cannot imagine that Van could be capable of such violence.” Judy reportedly referred to Stewart’s Zodiac claims as “fiction.”

During his many media interviews, Gary Stewart consistently stated his certainly that Earl Van Best, Jr. was the Zodiac. Stewart referred to his claims as “the truth about my life.” In a CNN interview with Erin Burnett, Stewart boasted, “I believe for the first time in the history of this case that I have presented more evidence than has ever been presented on any one suspect.” Stewart’s certainty was not justified by the evidence.

A handwriting expert examined alleged samples of Best’s writing and determined that Best had written the Zodiac letters. One of these handwriting samples was apparently written by someone other than Best, casting serious doubts on the conclusions of the expert. The cipher solutions by Stewart and his literary agent relied on unreliable methods which could be used by others to reach their own preconceived results. Beyond the story of the relationship between his mother and father, Stewart offered no evidence that Earl Van Best was responsible for any crimes. Alleged connections between Best, satanist Anton Lavey and Manson associate Bobby Boeuseliel could not link Best to the Zodiac murders.

The only remaining “evidence” said to link Best to the Zodiac crimes seemed to be little more than trivia:

* Best somewhat resembled the composite sketch of the Zodiac.

* Best was reportedly in California during the time of the Zodiac crimes.

* Best liked Gilbert and Sullivan operas.

* Best had some interest in ciphers when he was younger.

* Best allegedly knew a satanist and allegedly played music with a murderer.

* Best was an immoral person who may have committed crimes.

This list was not conclusive or compelling. Similar lists could be said to implicate other suspects. Stewart’s self-serving cipher solutions, creative fingerprint claims, and invalid handwriting analysis were easily debunked, leaving only the trivia to justify the ongoing accusation that Earl Van Best, Jr. was the Zodiac killer. Contrary to his boasts during the CNN interview, Gary Stewart did not present any credible evidence to indicate that his father was the Zodiac.

Stewart’s co-author Susan Mustafa staked her reputation on the book and its claims. “I’m a true-crime writer. I have a reputation for research and accuracy,” Mustafa said. “If I didn’t believe this, I would never put my reputation on the line for it.” According to the story told in the book The Most Dangerous Animal Of All, Stewart and Mustafa never possessed any credible evidence to link Best to the Zodiac crimes.

An article in People magazine featured a photograph of a confident Gary Stewart along with the quote, “I know people are going to try and shoot this down.” Stewart’s baseless claims made an easy target for critics and his “evidence” collapsed under minimal scrutiny. Unfortunately, most media reports and book reviews did not scrutinize Stewart’s claims. The campaign launched by the publisher, Harper Collins, ensured that Gary Stewart and his claims would saturate the media just as the book was released to the public. However, Harper Collins managed to keep the release secret until The Most Dangerous Animal Of All hit the market, thereby ensuring that critics could not dismantle Stewart’s claims before unsuspecting readers purchased the book. Stewart’s book was rated by 4 out of 5 stars on with the following review from the Baton Rouge Advocate: “A compelling work of true crime that makes a strong case for Best being responsible for the series of murders and horrifying threats that paralyzed San Francisco with fear in the late 1960s and early 1970s.” Another featured review from Kirkus called Stewart’s book “convincing.” The case against Earl Van Best, Jr. could only appear strong and convincing to those who did not know that Stewart’s evidence was not compelling at all. Stewart’s claims were easily debunked but this fact was not reported by the media. The name Earl Van Best, Jr. joined George Hodel, Guy Ward Hendrickson, Jack Tarrance and the other fathers accused by their own children, and Gary Stewart’s book became just another sad chapter in the ongoing story of the unsolved Zodiac murders.


David Oranchak’s article The Most Pattern-Seeking Animal of All

Gary Stewart’s Website The Most Dangerous Animal of All:

CNN story about Gary Stewart:

CNN blog about Gary Stewart’s claims:

SF Gate article about Stewart:

SF Gate article about Stewart:

SF Gate article about Best scandal:

News Story about Stewart:

The Advocate:

YouTube News Video:

YouTube News Video:

DailyMail UK article about retired SFPD Inspector David Toschi: article:

The Wire article:

Newsweek article:

Stewart Radio Interview:

Police Reports & FBI files

LAKE HERMAN ROAD – 12/20/1968: Read the original reports and other official documents produced by the Benicia Police Department and the Solano County Sheriff’s Office during the investigations of the murders on Lake Herman Road on the night of December 20, 1969.

BLUE ROCK SPRINGS PARK – 7/4/1969: Read the original reports and other official documents produced by the Vallejo Police Department and other agencies during the investigation of the shooting and murder at Blue Rock Springs Park on the night of July 4th, 1969.

LAKE BERRYESSA – 9/27/1969: Read the original reports and other official documents produced by the Napa County Sheriff’s Department and other agencies during the investigation of the stabbing and murder at Lake Berryessa on September 27, 1969.

SAN FRANCISCO – 10/11/1969: Read the official documents regarding the Zodiac’s last known murder of cabdriver Paul Stine in San Francisco on the night of October 11, 1969.

RIVERSIDE, CA – 10/20/1966: Read the original reports and other official documents produced by the Riverside Police Department and other agencies regarding the investigation of the murder of Cheri Jo Bates in Riverside, California on the night of October 30, 1969.

CA Dept. of Justice: Read the reports produced by the California Department of Justice regarding the original Zodiac investigation.

FBI Files: Read the FBI files regarding the Zodiac investigation.

Click Here to view previously-unreleased FBI files including documents regarding the Zodiac attack at Lake Berryessa, Zodiac theorist Gareth Penn and his pet-suspect Michael O’Hare, and the Bureau’s handwriting analysis of various Zodiac letters and other questioned documents.

The Myth of Bungling Cops


MYTH: “Lack of Cooperation Hindered Investigation”

[Note to the reader: Due to the incredibly ridiculous nature of this myth, the debunking will be brief and to the point.]

Thanks to the efforts of Zodiac author Robert Graysmith and others, media reports often erroneously state that a “lack of cooperation” somehow hindered the investigation and permitted the killer to escape justice.

In interviews, Graysmith repeatedly cites this problem as one of the reasons that authorities failed to properly investigate and arrest his suspect, Arthur Leigh Allen. During his appearance on America’s Most Wanted, Graysmith told host John Walsh, “I realized the police departments in the different counties were not sharing, so, as a private citizen I realized I could go places they couldn’t and get information. It took ten years, I compiled it into a book so people could remember this case.” Graysmith apparently operated under the delusion that he had some special access denied to investigators. In truth, police were free to go virtually anywhere they pleased in search of information – including many places Graysmith could not – and, in the course of his amateur investigation, the cartoonist failed to uncover any important or relevant evidence previously unknown to the investigators. As Graysmith uttered these absurd remarks, Walsh nodded in agreement, then turned to the camera and, in a bit of understatement, said, “That book made a difference and that book is STILL helping keep this story alive.” In truth, Graysmith’s book had kept the story alive by contaminating the historical record and perpetuating myths. The Zodiac story was, in fact, alive and well before the publication of Graysmith’s book, and his revisionist account – which claimed the author had solved the case – did little to help the real search for the killer.

In the film ZODIAC, Graysmith’s character is given brief access to the Vallejo police reports and scours the files for information he later gives to Toschi. The film implies that Toschi was unable to read the files himself, when, in fact, Toschi was given a copy of the Vallejo police files and had full access to the information gathered by the various agencies involved in the investigation.

All of the available evidence indicates that the various law enforcement agencies drawn into the hunt for the Zodiac not only cooperated and shared information, but that the men and women assigned to the case acted in an appropriate and professional manner. Those who continue to claim otherwise, or claim that investigators failed to cooperate, have chosen to ignore the known facts. Robert Graysmith criticizes police and blames investigators for the failure to catch the Zodiac, and an ignorant media repeats his falsehoods. Unsuspecting readers of Graysmith’s books, Internet followers of the case, and others, continue to believe that police somehow botched the investigation despite the evidence to the contrary. The overwhelming majority of those involved in the actual investigations have said that virtually everyone cooperated and shared information. A few individuals have claimed that others had failed to share important information yet rarely elaborate or provide examples.

Police reports, FBI files, and other documents produced during the decades of investigation reveal that virtually all of the various agencies involved had access to virtually all of the available information regarding the crimes attributed to the Zodiac and the investigations conducted by the Benicia Police Department, the Vallejo Police Department, the Napa County Sheriff’s Office, the San Francisco Police Department and the California State Department of Justice. In 1969, DOJ Agent Mel Nicolai was assigned to coordinate the investigations, to facilitate cooperation, and to collect and distribute information gathered during the investigations. Nicolai’s reports repeatedly state that the various investigators were made aware of new information, and the now-retired agent said that stories of infighting, jurisdictional jealousies, incompetence and a lack of cooperation were “bullshit.”



Melvin Belli & The “Birthday” Call


Zodiac Killer Movie

Melvin Belli, the “Birthday” Call and The Zodiac

On the night of October 11, 1969, the Zodiac murdered cabdriver Paul Stine and removed a portion of the victim’s shirt. Days later, the killer mailed an envelope to the offices of The San Francisco Chronicle. Inside, the Zodiac had included a blood-soaked piece of Stine’s shirt along with a letter that traumatized the Bay Area for decades. In his customary cavalier style, The Zodiac wrote, “School children make nice targets. I think I shall wipe out a school bus some morning just shoot out the frunt tire and pick off the kiddies as they come bouncing out.”

The Zodiac’s threat to assassinate school children terrified children and parents everywhere, and created a nightmare of security concerns for police and school officials. Armed men escorted children to and from schools while patrol cars and even aircraft followed along and monitored the surrounding area. As media coverage of Zodiac’s murderous plans increased and fears of a horrific ambush grew, a local television station was the setting for a chilling scene.

In the early morning hours of October 22, 1969, the Oakland police department received a phone call from a man claiming to be the Zodiac. The caller said he wanted famous Boston attorney F. Lee Bailey to appear on a local television talk show, but told the operator that he would settle for San Francisco lawyer Melvin Belli in the event Bailey was unable to appear.

Hours later, Belli was the guest on the show with host Jim Dunbar. A man called the KGO television station several times, and, in conversation with Belli, claimed he was the Zodiac and that his name was “Sam.” One exchange revealed that Sam had been interested in Belli for some time.

DUNBAR: Talk to us. Just, tell us what’s going on, inside you, right now. Please.

CALLER: I have headaches.

DUNBAR: Right.

BELLI: How long have you had those headaches, uh, Sam? Been a long time?

CALLER: Since I killed a kid.

BELLI: Well, was it before December that you had the headaches?

CALLER: (pause) Yes.

BELLI: If, did, were you in service, that you might have had an injury in service, did you ever fall out of a tree or down stairs? Were you ever unconscious?

CALLER: (pause) I don’t know.

BELLI: You don’t remember. Does aspirin do you any good?


BELLI: Doesn’t do you any good?



BELLI: Damn stuff never did me any good either.

DUNBAR: – Sam, let me ask you a question. Did you, um, did you attempt to call this program one other time when Mr. Belli was with us? And, you called –


DUNBAR: Did you try to call us one other time about, oh, two or three weeks ago when Mel Belli was with us?


DUNBAR: And you, uh, well –

BELLI: You couldn’t get through, and we were talking?

DUNBAR: And you couldn’t get through, the phones were tied up, is that it?


BELLI: Sam, let me ask you this – There’s some reason why you go to a particular doctor or a particular priest, and some reason why apparently you wanted to talk to me, or Lee? Is it that you feel we have compassion for people who get in trouble? Or, is that you feel that we can do something for you? Or is that you feel we’re, we’re, have enough integrity that if we promise you something, that we’re gonna stick to it?

DUNBAR: Well, let’s find out why he wanted to talk to – Why did you want to talk to Mr. Belli, Sam?

CALLER: I don’t want to be hurt.

At one point during the exchange, the caller threatened, “I’m gonna kill those kids!” Belli persuaded Sam to meet with him in person, but, due to the media circus surrounding the secret meeting, no one was surprised when Sam failed to appear at the agreed upon location. Efforts to trace Sam’s calls to the KGO switchboard were unsuccessful. A surviving victim and two police dispatchers had all spoken with the real Zodiac and, after listening to audio tapes of the caller’s voice, all agreed “Sam” was an imposter.

In the weeks after his televised phone conversations with “Sam,” Melvin Belli worked with rock legends The Rolling Stones as they attempted to find a concert venue somewhere in San Francisco. Belli worked as mediator between The Stones and Dick Carter, the owner of the Altamont Speedway. (These conversations and other footage featuring Belli with the famous band members can be seen in the film GIMME SHELTER.)

On December 6, 1969, crowds gathered at the site of the concert at the Altamont Speedway. Melvin Belli arrived and made his way through the mass of spectators. The infamous motorcycle gang The Hells Angeles served as security, reportedly in exchange for large quantities of beer, and gang members were involved in various hostile and violent incidents with fans throughout the concert. Fans were shocked when Alan Passaro, a 21 year-old Hells Angel, stabbed a man as the band played on.

When the man died, the brutal stabbing quickly became a media nightmare for The Rolling Stones, and a serious legal problem for The Hells Angels. The concert had been recorded on film as part of the upcoming movie, GIMME SHELTER, and the film revealed that the victim had pointed a gun at lead singer Mick Jagger before the Hell’s Angel intervened.

A few days after the December 6 concert, the district attorney called the owner of the Altamont Speedway and informed him that the he and the Hell’s Angels would face charges in the killing of the gunman. The owner then called members of the Hell’s Angels in an attempt to locate the missing gun used by the victim. The owner hoped the gun and the concert footage would prove that Alan Passaro had acted to protect Jagger and others from the gunman and, therefore, should not face charges.

Once the Angels located the weapon, the Altamont owner contacted attorney Melvin Belli, who had helped the Rolling Stones arrange the concert at the speedway. Belli told the owner to put the gun in a shoebox and bring it to his office. The owner followed Belli’s instructions and took the weapon to Belli’s San Francisco office. While Belli was able to help the gang members temporarily avoid prosecution, the district attorney later filed first-degree murder charges against Alan Passaro. (A jury acquitted Passaro in January 1971, and stated that he had acted in self-defense.)

Melvin Belli left San Francisco on December 20, 1969, to attend a conference of military trial lawyers held in Munich, Germany. On that same day, the Zodiac mailed a letter to Belli’s home. Postmarked December 20, the envelope arrived at the attorney’s residence on December 23. Belli’s housekeeper then forwarded the envelope to the attorney’s office. After the Christmas holiday, office employees opened the envelope and found it contained a written plea for help and a blood stained scrap of cloth. Belli’s staff immediately notified the San Francisco Police department.

Handwriting experts concluded that the Zodiac had written the letter, and police confirmed that the scrap of cloth did, in fact, come from the shirt worn by the Zodiac’s last known victim, cabdriver Paul Stine.

Paul Avery, reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle contacted Melvin Belli by phone in Munich, Germany on December 28. Belli commented on the Zodiac letter and offered his help to the Zodiac. Avery’s article (see photos below) appeared in The San Francisco Chronicle on December 29, 1969, and specifically stated that Belli was “en route to Germany” on the day the letter had been postmarked – December 20, 1969. Avery also mentioned that the housekeeper had forwarded the letter. Belli described his travel plans to Avery, who wrote, “Belli said he is scheduled to remain in Europe for several weeks – he has a trial starting next week in Naples, and then plans to fly to Algiers (Africa) to confer with fugitive Black Panther Eldridge Cleaver …”

On January 14, 1970, SFPD Inspector William Armstrong contacted the FBI to report that someone claiming to be the Zodiac had called the home of Melvin Belli and asked to speak with the famous lawyer. (see photo of this report below) The report read:

1 14 70 RE: SAN FRANCISCO AIRTEL DECEMBER TWENTY NINE LAST. On instant date Insp. (name redacted), Homicide Detail, San Francisco Police Department, confidentially advised that UNSUB, who identified himself as ‘Zodiac,’ telephonically contacted attorney Melvin Belli’s residence in effort to contact Belli. UNSUB was advised Belli was in Europe and stated, ‘I can’t wait. Today’s my birthday.’

This report was marked “URGENT” and directed to the “Identification Bureau.”

According to the report, San Francisco police requested that the FBI “re-check” the fingerprints of a suspect who had previously been reported to the Bureau, suggesting that the birth date of the caller was the same as the date the call had been made. The name, and birth date of the suspect, were redacted before the report was released to the public, leading to speculation regarding the actual date of the call. The first line of the report read, “RE: SAN FRANCISCO AIRTEL DECEMBER TWENTY NINE LAST,” and has been misinterpreted as the date that San Francisco police notified the FBI regarding the “birthday” call. Each FBI report includes the date of the last report referencing the same subject matter. On December 29, San Francisco police contacted the FBI to report the Zodiac’s most recent attempts to contact Melvin Belli by mail. Per FBI procedure, the next report to reference the Zodiac’s possible attempts to contact Belli cited the most recent report on the subject.

The report stated that the FBI was contacted by San Francisco police “On instant date.” This term is used in official documents to quickly and clearly denote the current date, time, or subject – in short, “instant date” translates to today’s date. As the report is dated January 14, 1970, logic dictates that the “birthday call” took place on or shortly before January 14, 1970.

FBI files indicate that police were quick to report developments to the FBI. The SFPD sent dozens of requests to the FBI for assistance in the investigation, including fingerprint and handwriting comparisons, checks for criminal records, identifications of suspects, suspect information, examination of coded messages, and more, including simple memos to correct the spelling of a suspect’s name. In one instance, police requested copies of the fingerprints belonging to a potential suspect and arranged with the FBI for the evidence to be flown from Washington to California on the same day the request was submitted.

The “birthday” call inspired police to set up a trace on Belli’s home phone in the hopes that future calls from “The Zodiac” would lead to his location and identity. On February 18, 1970, Inspector Armstrong contacted the FBI to report that the individual who had been calling Belli at the television station had been identified and located. The calls had been placed from a mental institution, and the caller, who had used the names “Sam” and “The Zodiac,” was actually a patient named Eric Weil.

An amateur photographer, Eric Weil lived in the Bay Area during the 1960s. “By all accounts, Eric was just one of those guys who showed up everywhere with a camera,” wrote a former acquaintance. “My efforts to track down Eric were unsuccessful. One person I interviewed was pretty sure Eric ended up doing time in prison not long afterwards.”

On December 3, 1965, songwriter and rock legend Bob Dylan appeared at a press conference held in the studio of San Francisco television station KQED and hosted by the music lover, Ralph J. Gleason. Eric Weil attended the conference and took photographs with a Polaroid camera throughout the event. As the conference began, Weil had an odd question for Dylan.

GLEASON: Who’s first? Come on.

WEIL: I’d like to know about the cover of your, of your forthcoming, or your, uh, uh, album – the one with Subterranean Homesick Blues in it. I’d like to know about the, the meaning of the photograph with you and the wearing of the “Triumph” tee-shirt.

DYLAN: What did you want to know about it?

WEIL: Well, that, you know, that, that’s an equivalent photograph, it means something, it’s got a philosophy in it – (audience laughs; Dylan is amused) – and I’d like to know visually what it represents to you, because you’re a part of that.

DYLAN: (searching for an answer) I haven’t really looked at it that much, I don’t really –

WEIL: (emphatically) I’ve thought about it a great deal.

DYLAN: All right, it was just taken one day when I was sitting on the steps, you know. I don’t, uh, I don’t really remember, really, uh, too much about it.

WEIL: What about the motorcycle as an image in your, in your songwriting? You seem to like that.

DYLAN: Oh, well, we all like motorcycles, to some degree.

WEIL: (quietly) I do.

Weil’s fascination with celebrity was evident during the 1965 press conference and during his 1969 telephone conversation with Melvin Belli on KGO television. Speaking as “Sam,” Weil admitted to TV host Jim Dunbar that he had previously attempted to call the television station during Belli’s appearance on the program several weeks earlier. Weil’s behavior indicated that he had become fixated with Belli, and that the calls to Belli’s home were part of his ongoing efforts to establish contact with the publicity-loving lawyer.

In his 1971 summary of the Zodiac case, reporter Paul Avery wrote that Eric Weil had been identified after calls to Belli’s home were traced to the mental hospital. In his 1975 book, GREAT CRIMES OF SAN FRANCISCO, San Francisco Chronicle reporter Duffy Jennings stated that police had been able to locate “Sam” after calls to Melvin Belli’s home were traced to the hospital in Oakland. Jennings wrote that police believed the imposter had been responsible for the calls to the television station as well as call to the Oakland police department in October. San Francisco investigators cleared Eric Weil as a Zodiac suspect.

The FBI report is the only official document to mention the so-called “Zodiac birthday call” to Belli’s residence. The call is not mentioned in any of the hundreds of pages of reports produced by the Vallejo police department, the Napa County Sheriff’s Office, the Department of Justice or the San Francisco police department. If authorities had any reason to suspect that the real Zodiac was responsible for the birthday call, the important information regarding the killer’s possible date of birth would most likely appear somewhere in the official files generated during the decades of investigation.

The fact that someone claiming to be the Zodiac had made such a call was not disclosed until 1999, when the FBI files regarding the Zodiac case were released to the public through the Freedom of Information Act.

Robert Graysmith’s 2002 book, ZODIAC UNMASKED, cited the FBI report and claimed that this call was made by the real Zodiac on the December 18 – the birthday of his chosen suspect, Arthur Leigh Allen. No one had ever attributed the “birthday” call to the real Zodiac until Graysmith did so in this book. Graysmith was also the first and only person to claim that the call had occurred on the birthday of his suspect.

Graysmith’s account of the call varies. On page 362 of ZODIAC UNMASKED, under the date “Thursday, December 18, 1969,” Graysmith wrote, “Zodiac called the attorney’s home, but got his housekeeper instead.” Graysmith cited the lone FBI report, # 9 49911 88, dated January 14, 1970, as the source for his date of the call.

Under the date “Saturday, December 20, 1969,” Graysmith wrote, “Two days after the call, exactly a year after the first Northern California murders, Zodiac’s letter containing a square of Stine’s bloody shirt arrived at Belli’s home. Unopened, it was forwarded down to his business office to be opened by his secretary.” On page 365, Graysmith wrote, “…December 20, a letter from Zodiac arrived at Belli’s office.”

Graysmith provided a quote from Belli on page 363 of ZODIAC UNMASKED. “On December 18, 1969, the Zodiac mailed me a brief note wishing me a happy Christmas. I went off to safari in Africa. But while I was there, the Zodiac, according to my housekeeper, phoned me several (more) times.”

(Graysmith inserted the word, “more,” into Belli’s quote in order to imply that Belli had mentioned a previous call when, in fact, he did not do so.)

Belli dated the letter December 18 but did not provide the date of the phone calls. He stated that he was “off to safari in Africa” while the Zodiac was phoning his home. Belli’s timing of the event indicates that he did not leave San Francisco until after the Zodiac had mailed the letter on December 20, 1969. Belli’s statement, made long after the time in question, indicates he may have been confused about where he had traveled at the time, but his statement that he left after the Zodiac mailed the letter is consistent with the account of his travel plans provided to reporter Paul Avery.

Using the available information, the following timeline accounts for Belli’s whereabouts:

Dec 6 thru Dec 20 = San Francisco

December 20, 1969 = Belli departs for Europe

Dec 20 thru Dec 28 = Munich, Germany

Dec 28 thru Jan 2/3 = Munich, Germany

Jan 2/3 thru Jan 9/10 = Naples, Italy

Jan 9/10 thru Jan 14/on = Algiers, Africa

This rough estimate places Belli in San Francisco until December 20, when he departed for Europe. Belli remained in Europe until he left for Africa some time in the second or third week of January.

If Belli was correct, and the calls to his home were placed while he was in Africa, the calls took place some time in the second or third week of January of 1970. The only FBI report to mention this birthday call is dated January 14, 1970, or the end of the second week of January.

Graysmith wrote that Belli had returned to California after he had been in Naples. According to Belli’s statements, he was scheduled to be in Naples during the first week of January. Belli also said that the Zodiac calls had occurred after he had arrived in Africa. Belli was scheduled to be in Africa sometime during the second or third week of January. If Belli had returned to California he must have done so sometime in the middle of January before he traveled to Africa.

All of the available information indicates that the call occurred shortly before or on January 14, 1970. None of the available information indicates the call occurred on December 18, 1969.

Graysmith’s books served as the basis for a new film directed by David Fincher (Se7en). In the film, the so-called “Zodiac birthday call” serves as a lynchpin of Graysmith’s accusation that his suspect, Arthur Leigh Allen, was the Zodiac. Facts are changed and the sequence of events surrounding Belli are rearranged.

One curious scene shows Toschi and Armstrong arriving at the home of Melvin Belli while Christmas music plays. Inside, they find the melodramatic attorney sitting behind his desk and holding a new letter from the Zodiac. Belli reads the letter to the inspectors who are not happy with him. Belli says that the people have a right to know about the letter and Toschi says, “Which is why you contacted the Chronicle.”

Armstrong asks when the letter arrived and Belli says that the envelope came during “the middle of last week.” He believed that the Zodiac had chosen to write to his home because he had been unable to contact Belli at the TV station or“here.” Armstrong asks, “He tried to contact you here?” Belli responds, “Several times,” and explains, “I was out but he spoke with my housekeeper.” Armstrong then runs off to question the housekeeper.

The facts demonstrate that Belli was in Munich, Germany, and not in San Francisco, when the Zodiac’s letter arrived at this home on December 23, 1969. He was not at his home and did not touch the Zodiac letter, nor did he contact the Chronicle before alerting authorities. Belli did not tell police about phone calls to his home because no such calls had occurred at that time. The FBI files state that Belli’s housekeeper did not report receiving any phone calls from someone claiming to be the Zodiac at the time in question but several weeks later in January 1970.

Immediately after this scene of the film, a title on the screen reads, “March 22, 1970 – 2 1/2 Months Later.” Approximately 2 1/2 months before March 22, 1970 would date the scene in Belli’s home in the second week of January, or the time of the FBI report that mentions the “Zodiac birthday call.”

In another scene, Graysmith sits in the home of Melvin Belli, waiting to meet with the famous attorney. Melvin’s housekeeper brings the cartoonist some refreshments while he moans about the length of his wait. He tells her that he is writing a book about the Zodiac case and the housekeeper says, “I talked to him.” Graysmith asks, “With Mr. Belli, about the case?” and the housekeeper replies, “With Zodiac, when he called.” She tells Graysmith that the caller had said it was his birthday.

When asked to recall the date of the phone call, the housekeeper says, “Mr. Belli was away for Christmas, gone for a week…then the letter arrived.” She further states that Belli “came back on Christmas.” Graysmith deduces, “So, the call came before December 20” and says to himself, “So, he (Belli) left on the 18th.”

Graysmith never interviewed Belli’s housekeeper, and he did not learn of this so-called “birthday” call until 1999 with the release of the FBI files on the Zodiac case. These files demonstrate that the phone calls to Belli’s home occurred in early 1970, and that these calls were traced to the patient in a mental hospital.

Belli did not leave for Europe on December 18, but on December 20, as he told reporter Paul Avery. Belli was not in San Francisco for Christmas as the housekeeper described in the film, but in Munich, Germany, as is well documented in press accounts of that time.

After the scene with Belli’s housekeeper, the film shows Graysmith as he breathlessly dials Toschi for confirmation on the “birthday” call. Toschi is evasive but then tells the cartoonist that, had his partner checked on the call, he would have to “put that in a report” for the Department of Justice.

Any reports Armstrong filed with the Department of Justice would have stated that the phone calls to Belli’s home were traced to a mental patient and were not made by the real Zodiac. Toschi therefore had no reason to tell Graysmith otherwise.

Graysmith is also shown speaking with Agent Mel Nicolai of the State Department of Justice in Sacramento, California. Nicolai states that none of the suspects had been born on December 18, the day Graysmith believes the “birthday” call took place. The agent says, “Armstrong checked this out.”

Had Armstrong “checked this out,” he would have known that his own suspect, Arthur Leigh Allen, was born on December 18. Obtaining a suspect’s date of birth and other vital statistics is usually the first thing on an investigator’s list of things to do. None of the investigators seemed to notice this important fact, indicating that they knew that the “birthday” call did not take place on December 18, and they considered the call to be of little importance in the investigation.

Near the end of the film, Robert Graysmith appears at the home of SFPD Inspector David Toschi, proudly produces Arthur Leigh Allen’s drivers license, and cites the December 18 “birthday” call to attorney Melvin Belli. Toschi seems impressed by Graysmith’s discovery concerning Allen’s date of birth and the date of the “birthday” call. In reality, Toschi knew that the “birthday” call did not occur on December 18, and that the call was placed by a patient in a mental hospital, not the Zodiac.

In the final analysis, several conclusions are inescapable:

– The man who called the TV station on October 22 and spoke with Melvin Belli by phone was not the Zodiac, but Eric Weil.

– The real Zodiac mailed a letter to Belli’s home on December 20, 1969, the day that Belli departed for Europe.

– The letter was received several days later and the SFPD alerted the FBI on December 29.

– The media reported the story in late December while Belli was in Europe.

– The media attention provoked the TV caller to call Belli’s home some time in January of 1970.

– Belli’s housekeeper told the the caller that Belli was in Europe.

– The housekeeper contacted police to report the Zodiac call.

– Shortly after receiving this information, the SFPD alerted the FBI on January 14, 1970.

– SFPD then placed a tap on Belli’s phone and once the man called again, they were able to trace the call to a mental hospital and patient Eric Weil.

– On February 18, 1970, the SFPD informed the FBI that the matter had been resolved.

– The “birthday” call was forgotten because it was not made by the real Zodiac.

– The real Zodiac did not call Melvin Belli.

Blue Rock Springs Park & The “Silencer” Myth

Blue Rock Springs Park and the “Silencer” Myth

In the days after the shooting at Blue Rock Springs Park, surviving victim Michael Mageau told police that the sound of the gunshots seemed “muffled,” as if the gunman was using a “silencer.”

The statements given by a victim can be reliable and useful, but the combination of trauma, confusion, and other factors can often hinder a victim’s ability to recall certain aspects of the event.

The sound of a gunshot can be deafening, especially at close range, and the first shot can often cause a ringing in the ears of those within close proximity to the weapon as it discharges. Victims of a shooting often report that they did not hear the sound of the gun firing or that the sounds were somehow muted or muffled. These witnesses often report having heard the sounds of bullets passing by their ears and penetrating people or nearby objects. Bullets traveling close to the ear can create a sound that is similar to the sound of a silencer.

Victims of rapid gunfire are often mistaken when attempting to recall the number or sequence of shots fired during a crime, and frequently provide accounts that are in conflict with the known facts.

According to Mageau’s statements to police, he was sitting in the passenger seat of a parked car when a man approached from behind with a bright light. Mageau said he “heard a muffled sound” and felt a pain in his back and his neck. He then “heard some more muffled sounds” which he said resembled the sounds made by a “gun with a silencer,” and then felt more “pains in his body, his back and around his neck.” As he attempted to flee to the back seat of the car, Mageau said the gunman “kept shooting” him “again and again.”

Mageau stated that the suspect then shot Darlene Ferrin “again and again” before walking back to his own vehicle. Mageau cried out, causing the suspect to return and shoot Mageau “two more times, once in the back and once in the left leg.” The suspect then shot Darlene “twice more” and then “casually walked back to his vehicle and got in.”

The first shot, which caused pain in Mageau’s back and neck, entered the right side of his neck just below his right ear, traveled through his jaw and exited from his left cheek. This shot was fired from a position directly behind Mageau and to his right.

The shot, and the wound it instantly caused, would have been sufficient to diminish Mageau’s ability to hear. Mageau’s position inside the vehicle may have made it difficult for him to hear the shots fired outside the vehicle, especially after he moved to the back seat. The chaos and fear created by the sudden attack could have added to Mageau’s inability to recall every shot or aspect of the event. Mageau later admitted to reporters that his memory of the shooting was more an impression than an accurate account of the crime.

These combined factors cast doubt on Mageau’s statements concerning a “silencer,” but the statements of one witness prove that Mageau, like so many victims traumatized by violent crime, was mistaken.

George Bryant lived with his father, a groundskeeper, in a small house located in Blue Rock Springs Park, not far from the scene of the shooting. On the night of the crime, Bryant was lying in his bed, unable to sleep. According to his statements to police, he “reversed the pillow on his bed and laid on his stomach and looked out the window.”

Bryant told police that he “could hear laughing and a few firecrackers but he couldn’t see anybody.” At approximately midnight, Bryant “heard what appeared to be a gunshot.” The police report notes Bryant’s comment that the gunshot“was much louder than any of the firecrackers.”

A brief pause followed the first sound, and then Bryant stated he “heard what appeared to be another gunshot.” After another “short pause,” Bryant said he “heard rapid fire of what appeared to be gunshots.” He then heard the sound of a car leaving the scene at a high rate of speed.

When compared with the statements given by Mageau, it seems clear that George Bryant heard the gunfire that wounded Mageau and killed Darlene Ferrin. Bryant stated that he heard gunshots at the exact time the shooting occurred. The distance between the scene of the shooting and Bryant’s bedroom window is such that he would not have been able to hear the sound of a silencer but could easily have heard the sound of a 9mm pistol firing several times, and distinguish between those sounds and the sounds of the firecrackers he had heard earlier.

Bryant said that he also heard laughter at the same time he heard the firecrackers. In his interview with police, Mageau said that three cars pulled into the parking lot shortly before the shooting occurred. Mageau said he heard “some laughing and carrying on and a few firecrackers were set off” before the three vehicles drove away.

George Bryant said he heard one gunshot, then, after a brief pause, he had heard another. He said this second shot was followed by another pause and then rapid gunfire. Mageau told police that he “heard a muffled sound” and then felt pain. He then “heard some more muffled sounds” and felt more pain. According to Mageau, the suspect then fired at Darlene several times, walked away, returned, and fired several more shots into the vehicle.

Both Bryant and Mageau provided similar accounts: A sound, a pause, a sound, a second pause, and then several more sounds.

Mageau said the sounds were muffled. Bryant said he heard what appeared to be gunshots that were louder than the same firecrackers both he and Mageau had heard. Mageau was sitting in the car with the radio playing when he was surprised, and instantly shot in the neck by a man holding a gun near Mageau’s ear. Bryant was lying on his bed in a quiet room listening to the sounds outside his window. The event left Mageau severely traumatized; Bryant calmly reported to police what he was able to remember less than 24 hours after the shooting occurred.

Mageau’s wounds, the proximity of the weapon, his position in the car, the sound of the radio and the surprise element of the attack indicate that Mageau’s ability to accurately recall the shooting is less than reliable. Bryant’s timing of the gunshots, the mention of laughter and fireworks before the shooting in corroboration with Mageau’s statements, the sequence of the shots, Bryant’s proximity to the shooting, his ability to distinguish between firecrackers and gunshots, and the fact that he was not directly involved in the shooting or confused at the time, indicate Bryant’s recall of the events of that night is more accurate than the account provided by Mageau.

The Zodiac did not use a silencer at Lake Berryessa, despite the fact that he was committing a crime in daylight at a scene frequented by other people. It would seem unlikely that he would therefore choose to utilize a silencer while committing a crime at a quiet lovers’ lane area at midnight.

Michael Mageau’s memory of muffled sounds is understandable given the circumstances, but the statements of George Bryant and the evidence indicate that the Zodiac did not use a silencer during the shooting at Blue Rock Springs Park.

Director David Fincher explained his use of a silencer in his recreation of the crime and said that the silencer was “in the police reports.” The actual reports simply repeated Mageau’s original statements that the shots sounded somehow muffled, as if the killer had used a silencer, however the same reports also stated that a witness, George Bryant had heard the shots that night. Fincher justified the use of a silencer and said that, while some witnesses had reported hearing gunshots, other witnesses had heard firecrackers which may have been mistaken for gunshots. Bryant told police that he had heard the sound of firecrackers prior the shooting, and that he then heard the sound of gun shots. With the exception of Michael Mageau, Bryant was the only witness who claimed to have heard firecrackers, and he was the only witness who said he had heard the shots. Fincher’s comments are curiously unfounded, and his attempt to justify the inclusion of the silencer may be a minor issue but serves as an example of the overall apathetic view taken when addressing the factual nature of the film.

Continue With The ZODIAC Movie: Fact vs. Fincher

Darlene Ferrin – MYTHS: The Beginning

Darlene Ferrin Myths: The Beginning

On the night of July 4, 1969, Darlene Ferrin and her friend Michael Mageau were both shot while sitting in a parked car at Blue Rock Springs Park in Vallejo, California. Michael Mageau told police that the gunman had simply driven into the parking lot, exited his vehicle and then began firing a gun at Michael and Darlene. Both victims were transported to the hospital but Darlene died on arrival at 12:38 AM. Two minutes later, the Vallejo Police Department received a phone call which was answered by police dispatcher Nancy Slover. The caller said, “I want to report a murder. If you will go one-mile east on Columbus Parkway, you will find kids in a brown car. They were shot with a nine-millimeter Luger. I also killed those kids last year. Goodbye.

During the hours, weeks and months after the shooting, Vallejo police worked with investigators assigned to the double murder on Lake Herman Road. They found no evidence that any of the victims had known each other and no evidence that any of the victims had known the killer. Vallejo police assigned to the Ferrin murder investigation interviewed many of the people who had known Darlene, including her family, friends, co-workers, employers, acquaintences and others. As part of standard investigative procedure, police asked if there was anyone who had bothered Darlene or had reason to harm her. None of the individuals who were interviewed provided any information which would indicate that Darlene had known her killer or that anyone had been bothering or stalking her before the murder. Darlene’s sisters, Pam and Linda, were both interviewed and neither provided any information to indicate that Darlene was afraid of anyone, that she had been stalked, that she had witnessed a murder, that she had known any of the Zodiac victims, or that she was part of a satanic cult. However, years later, Pam and Linda both told such wild tales when interviewed by reporters, psychics and television crews. No one who had known Darlene Ferrin could think of anyone who had bothered or stalked her or anyone who would want to kill her. The only individual who was described as a possible suspect was George Waters, who had apparently bothered Darlene while she worked as a waitress. Police interviewed George, who denied any involvement in Darlene’s murder. Police investigated and determined that George was not a viable suspect, yet the stories about George would later be transformed by others in order to create the myths about Darlene’s mysterious and murderous stalker.

The evidence indicated that Darlene did not know her killer and that she was the victim of a random attack, yet Darlene’s sisters and others were eager to become part of the story which had captivated the Bay Area. Joseph Delouise, a well-known psychic, contacted Darlene’s mother. Convinced that police had failed to pursue the leads provided by Delouise and Darlene’s family, Delouise’s West Coast Representative Christopher Harris persuaded Vallejo Mayor Florence Douglas to attend a press conference in Los Angeles at the Statler Hilton Hotel. Douglas was a candidate struggling to win the Democratic nomination in the Governor’s race against incumbent Ronald Reagan. To her critics, the event seemed to be nothing more than the kind of grandstanding typical in an election year. “I believe some clues were overlooked in the murder of Darlene Ferrin,” Douglas told reporters. The campaigning mayor did not believe that Ferrin was the victim of a random act of violence but the deliberate target of a killer she may have known. Douglas denounced the Vallejo police investigation and called for a new examination of the case.

Christopher Harris addressed the crowd and criticized the Vallejo police. “I observed while in Vallejo that the police disregarded the ridiculous,” he said. “I am now a firm believer that in the ridiculous, especially in the case of Darlene Ferrin, lies a storehouse of clues. The police should have done a complete character sketch of Darlene Ferrin. There are too many questions into her death that have not been properly tied down.” Harris was apparently unaware of the fact that police had thoroughly investigated any and all leads, including information provided by Darlene’s family.

Harris also stunned reporters with a baffling revelation. During her visit with psychic Joseph Delouise, Darlene’s mother claimed that her daughter had exhibited her own ability to accurately predict the future. Mrs. Suennen told Delouise that Darlene had made a cryptic remark just hours before she died, “You might read about me in the papers tomorrow.” Darlene’s mother had not mentioned this potentially important information during any of her conversations with police, yet, according to Harris, she only shared this secret with a psychic months after the murder. The episode created a minor controversy, but the allegations regarding apathetic police and the mysterious secrets of Darlene Ferrin had a lasting impact.

Read the Christopher Harris letters and other material at the ZodiacKillerFacts Document Gallery. ]