zodiac killer

ZODIAC DNA: The Silver Bullet

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Joseph James DeAngelo was probably very surprised when he was surrounded by police officers and arrested on April 24, 2018. The 72 year old resident of Citrus Heights, California, seemed rather ordinary but authorities held a press conference to announce that DNA evidence proved DeAngelo was the “Golden State Killer,” a prolific serial rapist and killer responsible for at least 12 murders, 50 sexual assaults, and more than 100 burglaries. DeAngelo may have believed that he had escaped justice for decades but a new method of DNA research has quickly become the greatest threat to elusive serial killers who remain at large.

In 2014, investigators in Arizona used an unconventional approach to identify the man responsible for murders attributed to the so-called “Canal Killer.” Two young women were murdered along a canal in Northwest Phoenix in the early 1990s. DNA linked the crimes but investigation failed to produce evidence implicating any viable suspects. Years later, detectives consulted forensic genealogist Colleen Fitzpatrick. Using a Y-STR, or a short tandem repeat of the Y-chromosome found only in men, Fitzpatrick compared the profile to information available on genealogy websites and narrowed the field of patterns to a spectrum of possible relatives of the killer. Fitzpatrick told investigators that the Canal Killer was most likely named “Miller.” Police reviewed the files and identified a suspect named Bryan Patrick Miller, previously arrested at the age of sixteen for stabbing a woman at a mall and again accused of stabbing a woman in Washington state. At the time of the murders in Phoenix, Miller lived in the area and frequently rode his bike along the canal where the bodies of the victims had been dumped. A DNA comparison proved that Miller’s DNA matched the DNA found on the victims of the Canal Killer. Miller was arrested in January 2015 and he denied any involvement in the crimes. He is currently in jail awaiting trial. [To learn more about the identification of the Canal Killer, read the article Shock Waves by Michael Butterfield in the fall 2017 anniversary issue of the magazine True Crime: Case Files.]

Authorities launched a new effort to identify the Golden State Killer using a similar method of DNA research. Retired Contra Costa County investigator Paul Holes had studied the crimes for years and was determined to catch GSK. Holes acknowledged that he had developed an “obsession” with the case, and he was a central character in the best-selling book about the crimes written by the late Michelle McNamara titled I’ll Be Gone in the Dark.

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Retired Contra Costa County investigator Paul Holes and writer Michael Butterfield (ZodiacKillerFacts.com) visit two Zodiac crime scenes (History Channel series MYSTERYQUEST, 2009).

After exhausting other avenues of investigation, Holes turned to GEDmatch, a genealogy website with genetic information obtained from over 950,000 individuals. According to the Washington Post, Holes then narrowed his search to the killer’s great-great-great grandparents, and investigators then assembled a list of at least 25 family tree including thousands of relatives. From there, public records, census reports, obituaries and criminal databases helped narrow the search to relatives who fit the profile of GSK such as age, background, and whereabouts during the crimes. This information led investigators to Joseph James DeAngelo. Police placed DeAngelo under surveillance and retrieved an item he had discarded for DNA comparison. DeAngelo’s DNA matched the DNA recovered from GSK victims and he was arrested.

News of DeAngelo’s capture inspired praise of law enforcement as well as debate about the ethical and legal problems raised by the use of public genealogy information in criminal investigations. The success and identification of long-elusive murderers also inspired other investigators to use similar methods to identify other notorious serial killers. SFGate.com, The San Francisco Chronicle, and The Sacramento Bee reported that authorities in Napa, Vallejo, and San Francisco, California were evaluating evidence which could possibly be used to identify the infamous “Zodiac killer” who terrorized citizens of Northern California with a series of murders and bizarre letters from 1968 to 1974.

In the late 1990s, San Francisco police submitted the suspected “Zodiac” communications to the crime lab for forensic testing. Robert Graysmith, author of the book Zodiac, wrote a story published on the website APB.com titled “The Day They Thought They Nailed Zodiac.” Graysmith claimed that police obtained a “Zodiac” DNA sample which matched “the prime suspect,” convicted child molester and Vallejo resident Arthur Leigh Allen. Graysmith also claimed that SFPD Inspector Vince Repetto then stated that the match was a “false positive” result. According to Graysmith’s account, SFPD Lieutenant Tom Bruton explained that the suspected “Zodiac” DNA was obtained from a letter sent to the San Francisco Chronicle in April 1978. Several handwriting experts had concluded that this letter was a forgery and not an authentic Zodiac communication. In his article, Graysmith expressed his dismay that police had used the 1978 for DNA testing and wrote, “They had tested a hoax letter,” despite the fact that Graysmith was one of the few individuals who claimed that the April 1978 letter was authentic.

In 2000, SFPD Lt. Tom Bruton denied that any DNA testing had ever produced any “false positive” results which matched Allen or any other suspect. SFPD Inspector Vince Repetto also denied that any DNA testing had ever produced any “false positive” results which matched Allen or any other suspect. Repetto further denied that he had ever told Graysmith or anyone else about any such false positive results from DNA tests. A document from the SFPD crime lab from the time in question revealed that the lab was able to find some cells on various Zodiac letters, including the suspected 1978 letter. This document also stated that the San Francisco police department did not consider the 1978 letter to be an authentic Zodiac communication.

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Retired San Francisco police inspector Vince Repetto and Lt. Tom Bruton in interviews for the Reelz Channel documentary ZODIAC: THE REAL STORY (2017).

During interviews for the recent Reelz channel documentary titled Zodiac: The Real Story, Vince Repetto and Tom Bruton described the investigation and efforts to obtain “Zodiac” DNA and exclude suspects. According to Repetto, suspected “Zodiac” DNA was obtained from a Zodiac communication. Repetto’s partner believed the DNA would implicate Allen. “We knew we had Arthur Leigh Allen’s DNA, and then we had DNA from one of the suspected letters.” The results of the DNA comparison were negative, and Allen’s DNA did not match the suspected Zodiac DNA. Repetto said his partner was “pretty upset it turned out not to be Allen.” Tom Bruton explained that the same DNA evidence was compared to other suspects, including Larry Kane. “We had compared handwriting and fingerprints with what we had in the crime lab, and there was no matches there. The last big hope was the DNA comparison.” The results of the DNA comparison were negative and Kane’s DNA did not match the suspected “Zodiac” DNA.

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SFPD Inspectors Kelly Carroll and Mike Maloney (ABC documentary PRIMETIME LIVE, 2002).

At the turn of the century, Inspectors Kelly Carroll and Mike Maloney were assigned to the Zodiac case. In an interview with this author in 2000, Carroll stated his belief that modern forensic science could identify the Zodiac killer. “If the Zodiac case is ever solved,” Carroll said, “it will be solved by someone in a white lab coat.” Carroll and Maloney submitted the Zodiac communications for further testing. The ABC television show Primetime documented work conducted by Dr. Cyndi Holt of the San Francisco police DNA lab. Envelopes and stamps were examined, and Holt stated that a partial genetic profile was obtained from a stamp, reportedly on an envelope sent in November 1969. The partial genetic profile could be used to exclude suspects but was not sufficient to conclusively identify any individual as the Zodiac.

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Dr. Cyndi Holt, San Francisco DNA Lab

In public interviews, Cyndi Holt and Kelly Carroll both expressed confidence in the “Zodiac” DNA partial profile, but some critics claimed that the entire DNA spectacle was staged for the media. Mike Maloney reportedly expressed some doubts about the methods used to obtain the DNA and questioned its value in eliminating suspects. Despite the alleged concerns about the evidence, the San Francisco police department announced that the suspected “Zodiac” DNA did not match suspect Arthur Leigh Allen. Allen’s accusers argued that the DNA was not sufficient to outweigh the so-called “mountain of circumstantial evidence” against the suspect, but no credible evidence linked Allen to the Zodiac crimes. Several years later, Vallejo police submitted evidence to a lab for testing, including two envelopes which contained some of the first letters sent by the killer in July 1969. The results reportedly revealed a partial genetic profile which was not sufficient to positively identify anyone as the Zodiac. This DNA profile did not match Arthur Leigh Allen.

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The plastic clothesline used by the Zodiac, and a green bottle found at the crime scene.

In 2010, investigators at the Napa County Sheriff’s Office re-examined evidence in the Zodiac’s attack at Lake Berryessa, including a bottle found at the crime scene, a blood-stained blanket, pieces of plastic clothesline used to bind the victims, and the car door featuring a handwritten message left by the killer. Napa County Sheriff’s Sgt. Pat McMahon told San Francisco Chronicle reporter Kevin Fagen that the evidence was submitted to the state Department of Justice DNA lab in Richmond, California. According to The Sacramento Bee, a partial genetic profile was obtained from a mixture of DNA, but this profile could not be separated from the other DNA in the mixture and was not sufficient to identify the killer.

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William White, Napa County Sheriff’s Office, with the blanket and clothesline from the Berryessa crime scene (CASE REOPENED, 1999).

In 2018, the Vallejo police department once again submitted the two early “Zodiac” envelopes for more forensic testing. According to Vallejo police Detective Terry Poyser, experts at the chosen lab were “confident” that DNA evidence could be obtained from the envelopes. Investigators in the other jurisdictions involved in the Zodiac case also re-examined other evidence with hopes that new methods might yield something which could identify the killer. The Napa County Sheriff’s Office and the San Francisco police department reviewed evidence in their cases for possible forensic testing. A complete DNA profile would be necessary in order to identify the Zodiac using the same methods used to identify the Golden State Killer. A partial profile would not be sufficient to narrow the spectrum of potential DNA candidates. The new testing could produce important evidence or a failure to discover DNA evidence would require investigators to identify the Zodiac using more traditional methods.

December 2018 will mark the 50th anniversary of the first “Zodiac” murders on Lake Herman Road in 1968. If the Zodiac is still alive, he may be watching the news about the arrest of Joseph DeAngelo with the growing fear that the next knock on his door may be cold case investigators armed with DNA evidence the killer left behind when he licked an envelope or stamp half a century ago.

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Copyright ZodiacKillerFacts.com

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Michael Butterfield is a writer and a recognized  expert on the unsolved “Zodiac” crimes. He has served as a media source and consultant for news articles, television documentaries, the History channel series The Hunt for the Zodiac Killer, and director David Fincher’s major motion picture Zodiac. Michael Butterfield appears in the Zodiac documentary Case Reopened, the History Channel series MysteryQuest, the E! Canada series The Shocking Truth, and the Reelz channel documentary The Real Story of Zodiac. He is also a contributing author for True Crime: Case Files, True Crime Magazine, and the two volume collection of essays titled A History of Evil in Pop Culture.

Dave Peterson’s “Zodiac” Files

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Dave Peterson worked for the Vallejo Times-Herald during the years of the “Zodiac” investigation, and his files detail his own research into suspects and various aspects of the case. Thanks to the efforts of Mike Morford, owner of Zodiackillersite.com, the producers of the new History channel series The Hunt for the Zodiac Killer were granted access to several boxes containing hundreds of pages from Peterson’s personal files.

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Dave Peterson’s nephew leads the television crew to the late reporter’s files.

The History channel website posted 32 photographs of documents in Dave Peterson’s “Zodiac” files, including notes about suspects. communications with investigators, and the reporter’s own theories.

View pages from The Dave Peterson “Zodiac” Files at History.com

The Hunt for the Zodiac Killer – Episode #1 – Riverside Evidence

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Episode #1 of the new History channel documentary series The Hunt for the Zodiac Killer featured a unique look into the mystery surrounding the still-unsolved murder of Riverside City College student Cheri Jo Bates in October 1966.

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Retired Riverside police detective Steve Shumway accompanied a film crew to the scene of the crime, now part of the concrete structure on the campus of Riverside City College.

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The production was granted unprecedented access to the boxes of evidence stored at the Riverside Police Department during a tour with Detective Jim Simons.

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Viewers got a rare look at a previously-unreleased photo of the boot print left at the crime scene and a plaster cast of the print.

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Shown together for the first time: the three handwritten letters sent to the Riverside police department, the Riverside Press-Enterprise, and Cheri Jo’s father Joseph Bates.

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A close up on the small symbol included as a signature.

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Preparing for forensic testing on the pants of victim Cheri Jo Bates.

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 The production was also granted access to the files of Vallejo Times-Herald reporter David Peterson courtesy of Peterson’s nephew.

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Peterson’s files also included his notes about Ross Sullivan, a possible suspect in the Bates murder who worked at the RCC library and had an interest in cryptography.

Episode #2 of The Hunt for the Zodiac Killer airs on the History channel Tues. November 21.

 

Cheri Jo Bates: A Zodiac crime or just an inspiration?

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Eighteen-year-old Cheri Jo Bates was murdered near the library of Riverside City College in Riverside, California, on the night of October 30, 1966. One month later, someone sent a typed letter to the Riverside Press Enterprise newspaper which read:

THE CONFESSION
By ______________________________

SHE WAS YOUNG AND BEAUTIFUL. BUT NOW SHE IS BATTERED AND DEAD. SHE IS NOT THE FIRST AND SHE WILL NOT BE THE LAST. I LAY WAKE NIGHTS THINKING ABOUT MY NEXT VICTIM. MAYBE SHE WILL BE THE BEAUTIFUL BLOND THAT BABYSITS NEAR THE LITTLE STORE AND WALKS DOWN THE DARK ALLEY EACH EVENING ABOUT SEVEN. OR MAYBE SHE WILL BE THE SHAPELY BLUE EYED BROWNETT THAT SAID NO WHEN I ASKED HER FOR A DATE IN HIGH SCHOOL. BUT MAYBE IT WILL NOT BE EITHER. BUT I SHALL CUT OFF HER FEMALE DEPARTS AND DEPOSIT THEM FOR THE WHOLE CITY TO SEE. SO DON’T MAKE IT EASY FOR ME. KEEP YOUR SISTERS, DAUGHTERS, AND WIVE OFF THE STREETS AND ALLEYS. MISS BATES WAS STUPID. SHE WENT TO THE SLAUGHTER LIKE A LAMB. SHE DID NOT PUT UP A STRUGGLE. BUT I DID. IT WAS A BALL. I FIRST PULLED THE MIDDLE WIRE FROM THE DISTRIBUTOR. THEN I WAITED FOR HER IN THE LIBRARY AND FOLLOWED HER OUT AFTER ABOUT TWO MINUTS. THE BATTERY MUST HAVE BEEN ABOUT DEAD BY THEN I OFFERED TO HELP. SHE WAS THEN VERY WILLING TO TALK WITH ME. I TOLD HER THAT MY CAR WAS DOWN THE STREET AND THAT I WOULD GIVE HER A LIFT HOME. WHEN WE WERE AWAY FROM THE LIBRARY WALKING, I SAID IT WAS ABOUT TIME. SHE ASKED ME “ABOUT TIME FOR WHAT?”. I SAID IT WAS ABOUT TIME FOR HER TO DIE. I GRABBED HER AROUND THE NECK WITH ME HAND OVER HER MOUTH AND MY OTHER HAND WITH A SMALL KNIFE AT HER THROAT. SHE WENT VERY WILLINGLY. HER BREAST FELT VERY WARM AND FIRM UNDER MY HANDS, BUT ONLY ONE THING WAS ON MY MIND. MAKING HER PAY FOR THE BRUSH OFFS THAT SHE HAD GIVEN ME DURING THE YEARS PRIOR. SHE DIED HARD. SHE SQUIRMED AND SHOOK AS I CHOAKED HER, AND HER LIPS TWICHED. SHE LET OUT A SCREAM ONCE AND I KICKED HER HEAD TO SHUT HER UP. I PLUNGED THE KNIFE INTO HER AND IT BROKE. I THEN FINISHED THE JOB BY CUTTING HER THROAT. I AM NOT SICK. I AM INSANE. BUT THAT WILL NOT STOP THE GAME. THIS LETTER SHOULD BE PUBLISHED FOR ALL TO READ IT. IT JUST MIGHT SAVE THAT GIRL IN THE ALLEY. BUT THAT’S UP TO YOU. IT WILL BE ON YOUR CONSCIENCE. NOT MINE. YES I DID MAKE THAT CALL TO YOU ALSO. IT WAS JUST A WARNING. BEWARE … I AM STALKING YOUR GIRLS NOW.

CC. CHIEF OF POLICE
ENTERPRISE

Police believed that the author of the confession had killed Bates and wrote, “The person who wrote the confession is aware of facts about the homicide that only the killer would know. There is no doubt that the person who wrote the confession letter is our homicide suspect.”

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Six months after the receipt of the “Confession,” three handwritten letters arrived at the Riverside Police Department, the local newspaper, and the home of Cheri Jo’s father, Joseph Bates. The first two read, “Bates had to die. There will be more.” A small symbol resembling the letter Z appeared at the bottom of each page. The third letter simply read, “She had to die. There will be more.” A desk found in the Riverside City College library included a morbid poem which was also attributed to the same author.

After the Zodiac murders began in Northern California, Riverside authorities noted the similarities to the Bates murder and contacted Zodiac investigators to discuss the possibility of a connection between the two cases. Sherwood Morrill, questioned documents examiner for the California Department of Justice, compared the Riverside notes with the Zodiac’s handwriting and concluded that the Zodiac was responsible for the Riverside messages. Riverside police initially embraced the theory that Zodiac killer Bates but later reversed course and accused a man who had allegedly known the victim. According to some theories, Bates was killed by Zodiac while others claim that the Zodiac was not involved in the murder but had written the Riverside messages and falsely claimed credit for the murder. Despite the denials from Riverside authorities, many people still believe that Cheri Jo Bates was killed by the Zodiac.

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Many observers noted the similarities between the language in the Zodiac case and the Riverside murder. The Zodiac used a ruse to lure some victims, and the author of the “Confession” letter stated that he disabled Cheri Jo’s car in order to create a ruse of offering his assistance and a ride. The Riverside writer sent three virtually identical handwritten letters, and the Zodiac sent three virtually identical handwritten messages.  The Riverside writer used the phrase, “I shall,” as did the Zodiac.  The author of the Riverside “Confession” wrote, “SHE SQUIRMED AND SHOOK AS I CHOAKED HER, AND HER LIPS TWICHED.” In his letter of July 26, 1970, the Zodiac wrote: “Some I shall tie over ant hills and watch them scream + twich and squirm.” Similarities between the Zodiac’s handwriting and the writing of the Riverside messages fueled speculation that Cheri Jo Bates may have been an early Zodiac victim.

In January 1969, the true crime magazine Inside Detective published a six-page story about the unsolved murder of student Cheri Jo Bates near Riverside City College on October 20, 1966. The article included information about the crime as well as a photograph of the infamous “Confession” letter. Did Zodiac kill Bates and read this article to relive his crime, or was he simply inspired by the Bates case and went on to commit the Zodiac crimes by imitating the work of the Riverside killer/author?

Read the Inside Detective article about the Bates mystery and consider the possibilities.

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New History channel series: The Hunt for the Zodiac Killer – Video promos and articles

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The new History channel documentary series The Hunt for the Zodiac Killer begins Tuesday November 14. You can watch new video promos for the series by clicking on the links below, and the History channel website features new articles including a timeline of Zodiac crimes and letters along with a look at some of the men named as “suspects” over the years.

The Hunt for the Zodiac Killer – Episode #1 – Riverside and the Murder of Cheri Jo Bates

The Hunt for the Zodiac Killer – Sneak Peek

The Hunt for the Zodiac Killer Video Promo 1

The Hunt for the Zodiac Killer Video Promo 2

The Hunt for the Zodiac Killer Video Promo 3

The Hunt for the Zodiac Killer Video Promo 4

The Hunt for the Zodiac Killer Video Promo 5

The Hunt for the Zodiac Killer Video Promo 6

The Hunt for the Zodiac Killer Video Promo 7

The Zodiac Killer: A Timeline at History.com

Could any of these men have been the Zodiac killer? at History.com

The San Francisco Chronicle published an article with a review of the first episode exploring the possible connection between the Zodiac and the still-unsolved 1966 murder of Riverside City College student Cheri Jo Bates.

San Francisco Chronicle: Can the latest Zodiac ‘hunt’ finally solve the case?

In Cold Blood: The Murder of Paul Stine

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Forty-seven years ago, Paul Stine picked up a passenger in San Francisco, possibly near the intersection of Mason and Geary. Stine recorded the intended destination as the intersection of Washington and Maple, in the upscale neighborhood known as Presidio Heights. For some reason, the cab stopped one block further west at the intersection of Washington and Cherry.

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Paul Stine was twenty-nine years old, a student, and a husband. Driving the cab was paying the bills but he had other aspirations. When the passenger climbed into the cab shortly before 10:00 PM, Stine most likely thought that he would simply deliver the man to the designated destination, earn a little cash, and move on to the next fare.

No one knows if Stine and the passenger talked during the drive. The man had experience deceiving people. Just two weeks earlier, the man appeared at a popular recreation area wearing a strange hooded costume featuring a white crossed-circle. The man approached a young couple and told them that he had escaped from a prison and needed money and a car so he could flee to Mexico. He reassured the victims that he just wanted to rob them and tied them up so that he could make his escape. He then produced a foot-long knife and stabbed the victims.

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When he was finished, the man walked over to the victim’s car and used a black marker to write a message on the passenger door. A large crossed-circle was followed by the dates of two previous attacks and the location “Vallejo.” Then, the killer added the date, the time, and words, “by knife.” He then traveled more than twenty miles to a payphone where he called police to report the crime.

Paul Stine may have heard about the man who called himself “the Zodiac,” but he had no reason to suspect that the deranged killer was sitting in his cab. The passenger apparently waited until they reached the final destination to reveal his true purpose. The man took out a gun and shot Stine in the head.

Across the street, some kids watched as the man handled the driver’s seemingly lifeless body. He got out of the cab and walked around to the driver’s side where he appeared to wipe the vehicle with a cloth or a rag. The man then walked away, taking with him a large piece of Stine’s blood-stained shirt.

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The crime appeared to be a routine robbery and murder until an envelope arrived at the office of the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper. The letter inside stated, “This is the Zodiac speaking. I am the murderer of the taxi driver over by Washington & Maple St. last night. To prove this here is a blood stained piece of his shirt.” The envelope did contain a piece of Stine’s shirt which established a direct connection between the writer and Stine’s murder.

The Zodiac deviated from his previous pattern of attacking young couples in areas known as “lovers lane” spots. Paul Stine was a cab driver, working alone and just doing his job when he was killed in a residential neighborhood. The killer previously used his own car and attacked two couples sitting in parked vehicles. Paul Stine was driving his cab and he transported the killer to the scene of murder. The killer had not taken anything from the other victims but he did remove a piece of Stine’s shirt.

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In subsequent letters, the Zodiac stated that he would no longer announce his murders and that he would disguise his crimes as routine robberies, killings of anger and fake accidents. References to other victims fueled speculation that the Zodiac continued killing but authorities were unable to confirm any Zodiac crimes after the murder of Paul Stine. Other Zodiac mailings included more scraps of Stine’s shirt but the Zodiac apparently kept the still-missing piece along with the keys to the cab and Paul Stine’s wallet.

The only known police sketch of the killer was produced by witnesses in the Stine case. Police believed that fingerprints found on the outside of the cab belonged to the Zodiac. The letter and the piece of Stine’s shirt provided a direct link between the murder and the writer of the Zodiac letters. Forty-seven years later, the Zodiac crimes remain unsolved and the case is part of true crime history. The murder of Paul Stine serves as a window into the past and a rare glimpse of the mysterious Zodiac killer

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Michael Butterfield is a writer and a recognized expert on the unsolved “Zodiac” crimes. He has served as a media source and consultant for news articles, television documentaries, and director David Fincher’s major motion picture Zodiac. Michael Butterfield appears in the Zodiac documentary Case Reopened and The History Channel series MysteryQuest. He has been a featured guest on Ireland’s Sean Moncrieff Show and House of Mystery with Alan R. Warren. He is also a contributing author for the eZine True Crime: Case Files, True Crime Magazine, and the two volume collection of essays titled A History of Evil in Popular Culture, both available at Amazon.com.

Click on the links below to view official documents, photographs, police sketches, newspaper articles, videos and more about this unsolved case.

THE VICTIM

Paul Stine

THE SCENE OF THE CRIME

Washington and Cherry Streets – October, 1969

THE CRIME SCENE

Crime Scene Photographs

THE EVIDENCE

Paul Stine’s Shirt

The Fingerprints

THE INVESTIGATORS and OTHERS

San Francisco Investigators and Others

THE SUSPECT SKETCHES

Sketches of the Suspect

THE ZODIAC’S LETTERS

The Zodiac’s Envelope and Letter

THE ARTICLES

Newspaper Stories and Other Material

THE JOE STINE FILES

Paul Stine’s Brother Joe

THE DOCUMENTS

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

THE VIDEOS

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

Lake Berryessa: A Survivor’s Story

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Forty-seven years ago, college students Cecelia Shepard and Bryan Hartnell were sitting by Lake Berryessa enjoying a relaxing visit. They did not know that a man was nearby, watching and waiting for the right moment to set his plan in motion.

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Bryan heard some noise and asked Cecelia to look around for the source. She saw a man as he moved behind a tree. Cecelia and Bryan dismissed the man as harmless and did not notice as he donned a dark hood featuring the symbol of a white crossed-circle.

The stranger came prepared with a some pre-cut lengths of clothesline to restrain Bryan and Cecelia. On his belt, a sheath held a foot-long knife and the holster for the gun in his hand. The man needed the gun to prevent Bryan and Cecelia from running away if they began to suspect his true intentions. He would lie to them and keep them calm with the promise that he meant no harm. Once they complied and were subdued, the man would no longer need the gun and could proceed with his plan.

The hooded stranger moved toward the couple. Cecelia saw him coming and said, “Oh my God, he’s got a gun.” Bryan and Cecelia watched as the hooded stranger walked onto the narrow patch of land surrounded by water and blocked their only escape route.

Bryan and Cecelia stared at the man with a gun in his hand. Later, Bryan Hartnell would write a transcript of his conversation with the stranger.

FOR NAPA COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE
-DIALOGUE BETWEEN AN UNKNOWN ASSAILANT AND BRYAN HARTNELL ( and Cecelia Shepard )

CECELIA: What do you want?
ASSAILANT: Now take it easy– all I want’s your money. There is nothing to worry about– all I want is your money.
BRYAN: O.K.– whatever you say, I want you to know that I will cooperate so you don’t have to worry – whatever you say we’ll do. Do you want us to come up with our hands up or down?
ASSAILANT: Just don’t make any fast moves– come up slowly.
BRYAN: But we don’t have any money – all I have is 75 cents.
ASSAILANT: That doesn’t matter– every little bit helps ( pause )– I’m on my way to Mexico– I escaped from Deer Lodge Prison in Montana, Deer Lodge. I need some money to get there.
BRYAN: You’re welcome to the money I have, but isn’t there something else I can do for you? Give you a check or get some more?
ASSAILANT: No.
BRYAN: I can give you my phone number and you can call me.
ASSAILANT: ( no reply )
BRYAN: I want to get in contact with you. I am a sociology major and maybe I can even offer you more help than you think you need.
ASSAILANT: No.
BRYAN: Well, is there any other thing you need?
ASSAILANT: Yes. One more thing– I want your car keys. My car is hot.
BRYAN: (Reaching into pockets, then patting his first front then back pockets) I guess in all the excitement I don’t remember where I put them. Let’s see. Are they in my shirt, in the ignition, on the blanket… Say! Would you answer a question for me? I’ve always wondered. On TV movies and in an article in the Reader’s Digest they say that thieves really keep their guns loaded?
ASSAILANT: ( excited slightly ) Yes, it is! ( then calmed and matter-of-fact ) I killed a couple of men before.
BRYAN: What? I didn’t hear you…
ASSAILANT: I killed a couple of guards getting out of prison. And I’m not afraid to kill again.
CECELIA: Bryan– do what he says!
ASSAILANT: Now I want the girl to tie you up.
[A]: (reaches for rope that he pulls from back pocket)
BRYAN: This is really strange. I wonder why someone hasn’t thought of this before. I’ll bet there’s good money in it.
ASSAILANT: ( no reply )
BRYAN: What was the name of that prison?
ASSAILANT: ( no reply )
BRYAN: No really, what did you say the name of it was? I’m just curious.
ASSAILANT: ( begrudgingly ) Deer Lodge in Montana.
( There must have been some dialogue at this point but I can’t remember any until we are both tied up. )
ASSAILANT: Now I want you both to lay face down so I can tie up your feet.
BRYAN: Come on– we could be out here for a long time and it could get cold at night.
ASSAILANT: Come on– get down!
BRYAN: Listen, I didn’t complain when you tied our hands, but this is ridiculous…
ASSAILANT: I told you…
BRYAN: We aren’t going anywhere– Anyway, I don’t think that it’s necessary ( or – Aw, come on, we don’t want to. )
ASSAILANT: ( pointing gun directly at me at point blank range ) I told you to get down!
BRYAN: Your hands are shaking? Are you nervous?
ASSAILANT: Yes, I guess so. ( laughs in a very relaxed manner )
BRYAN: Well, I guess that I’d be nervous, too.
( Then after we were tied and hog-tied )
BRYAN: Now that everything is all said and done, could you show me that your gun is loaded? (Or, and probably this: “Now that all is said and done, was that gun really loaded?”)
ASSAILANT: Yes, it was! ( or ) Sure, I’ll show you. ( He then opened cartridge or whatever )
(That was the last thing I remember him saying.)

( signed ) BRYAN HARTNELL

Later, Bryan described what happened next. “And so I saw him put away his gun, and I was turning to say something to Celia, and all of a sudden I felt my back…just…no, I don’t think I saw him pull it out… I don’t remember… I think I saw him whip it out his knife and just start stabbing me in the back… CHOMP, CHOMP, CHOMP, CHOMP! I was just (makes guttural sound)… you know, that kind of a sound..”

The man kept stabbing until Bryan feigned death. The man then stabbed Cecelia over and over again. When he was finished, the stranger walked back to the road. He took out a black marker and wrote a message on the passenger door of Bryan’s white Volkswagen Karmann Ghia.

Lake_Berryessa_Car_door_at_crime_scene

A passing fisherman alerted authorities and Bryan and Cecelia were later taken to a hospital. At 7:40 PM, the Napa Police Department received a call from a telephone booth at a local car wash. Officer David Slaight answered the call.

The voice of a young man addressed Slaight in a calm, deliberate tone. “I want to report a murder– no, a double murder. They are two miles north of park headquarters. They were in a white Volkswagen Kharmann Ghia.” Slaight waited for the man to continue, but the declaration was followed by silence. After a brief pause, he asked, “Where are you now?” The voice grew quiet as the mysterious caller replied, “I’m the one who did it.” The caller then set the receiver down, leaving the line open. Police traced the call but the man was gone.

Bryan described the costume and the crossed-circle symbol, and the message on the car door also included a crossed-circle. Authorities recognized the symbol as the signature of a murderer who sent taunting letters to Bay Area newspapers and claimed that he was responsible for the shootings of two young couples. He threatened to kill again if the newspapers did not print a cipher which he claimed would reveal his identity. When deciphered, the message began with the words, “I like killing people because it’s so much fun.” The writer also referred to collecting “slaves” for his afterlife. Police asked the writer to send another letter with details about the crimes to prove that he was responsible. Days later, another letter arrived, but this time the writer coined a phrase which would become infamous in true crime history, “This is the Zodiac speaking.” The evidence indicated that Bryan and Cecelia were the next victims in the Zodiac’s deadly fantasy.

Cecelia Shepard died, but Bryan Hartnell survived. Bryan’s story was the only reason that the world learned about the killer’s bizarre costume and the odd conversation before the attack. This brief glimpse remains the best portrait of the Zodiac available, and Bryan’s account remains a chilling look into the mind of the killer. The man pointed a gun and Bryan said, “Your hands are shaking, Are you nervous?” The man laughed and replied, “Yes, I guess so.” The man was nervous because he knew what was going to happen next.

The evidence demonstrated that the killer had planned carefully by pre-cutting the sections of clothesline he used to restrain the victims. The gun forced the victims to submit to the killer’s demands. The lie about the simple robbery lulled the victims into a false sense of security. Accepting the lie, the victims allowed themselves to be tied and subdued. Once they were no longer a threat, the killer stabbed the victims without warning or provocation. The killer then walked away and wrote a message on Bryan’s car. After the attack, the killer travelled more than twenty-five miles and called police to report the crime from a payphone. All of these actions indicated that the Zodiac planned this crime.

The killer‘s interaction with Bryan and Cecelia demonstrated his ability to improvise and remain calm while deceiving the victims. In the next attack, the killer shot a cab driver who believed he was delivering a harmless passenger to a routine destination. This crime indicated the killer’s desire or need for deception and his ability to manipulate his victims. The first and second attacks were ambush-style shootings which further indicated the killer’s use of deception and surprise. Bryan and Cecelia followed the killer’s instructions because they had been deceived, and the Zodiac relied on this deception to execute his plans. After the attack, Bryan played over the events in his mind and questioned his decisions. “I mean I wanted to get that gun,” he said. “There was a time when I think I could have gotten it.” On that day, the Zodiac came prepared to carry out a cold-blooded attack which included the brutal stabbing of innocent people. Bryan thought he was dealing with a common criminal, but the Zodiac most likely planned for that scenario and Bryan could have died in any attempt to escape.

The story of what happened at Lake Berryessa could have died with Bryan Hartnell. The blade of the knife came close to his heart, but a matter of inches helped Bryan survive to share his personal nightmare and his encounter with the most-wanted serial killer in American history. Bryan’s account provided the only look at the Zodiac in action, and his story remains a crucial tool in all efforts to understand the unsolved mystery.

————–

Michael Butterfield is a writer and a recognized expert on the unsolved “Zodiac” crimes. He has served as a media source and consultant for news articles, television documentaries, and director David Fincher’s major motion picture Zodiac. Michael Butterfield appears in the Zodiac documentary Case Reopened and The History Channel series MysteryQuest. He has been a featured guest on Ireland’s Sean Moncrieff Show, The Fringe Radio Show, and House of Mystery with Alan R. Warren. He is also a contributing author for the eZine True Crime: Case Files and the two volume collection of essays titled A History of Evil in Popular Culture, both available at Amazon.com.

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Read more about the Lake Berryessa case:

 

THE VICTIMS

* Bryan Hartnell and Cecelia Shepard

THE SCENE OF THE CRIME

* 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

THE SUSPECT and PERSONS OF INTEREST

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

THE DOCUMENTS

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)

VIDEOS

* 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

The Zodiac’s “Electric Gun Sight”

Hitchcock-Z-letter

In the second “Zodiac” letter sent in August 1969, the writer stated that he had used a gun with a light attached to the barrel for shooting at night. This letter offered details regarding the shooting on Lake Herman Road on December 20, 1968, and addressed questions about the killer’s ability to see the victims in the dark.

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

The Zodiac was not the first to conceive of a light attached to the barrel of a gun. Articles about a gun light had appeared in the magazine Popular Mechanics as far back as 1922 and 1933. A 1961 episode of the television series Alfred Hitchcock Presents titled “Museum Piece” featured a character named Ben using a rifle with a light attached to the barrel. Ben (played by actor Bert Convy) is shown with the gun as his father narrates the story of the hunt for a devious fox.

Hitchcock-LOGO

“I called her Circe because she led him to his doom. Worked her whiles on him, brazenly let him track her, almost as if she knew what lay in wait for him. He never hunted for sport, but once in a while, he collected an animal. In this case, he had his heart set on Circe. She’d been raiding hen houses in the neighborhood. Sooner or later, some farmer would trap her or shoot her anyway, so Ben decided to take her for his collection… He’d invented a fool proof gadget for night shooting. A spotlight mounted on his 22 in such a way that his shot would strike the exact center of light.”

Ben then tracks Circe to a barn. Using his gun-mounted spotlight, Ben shoots the fox but frightens a young couple necking inside the barn. Ben is attacked by the angry, interrupted lover and fires his gun by accident, killing the man instantly. Ben is then tried and convicted. Ben’s father later pleads with the district attorney for help but is refused. The DA is then murdered. The father recalls the failed search for the killer and says, “I remember the excitement of the manhunt. The most dangerous game.”

Hitchcock-gun-light

The description of the gun light in the Hitchcock episode is similar to the wording of the Zodiac’s letter in August 1969*. The mention of the phrase “the most dangerous game” could also be interpreted by some as another possible connection to the Zodiac’s deciphered message which referred to man as the most dangerous animal of all.

[ * Originally posted by ZodiacKillerFacts forum member Ratel, April 2010 ]

———————

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:

The episode “Museum Piece” was originally broadcast on April 4, 1961, during the sixth season of Alfred Hitchcock Presents.

SUMMARY (with SPOILERS): Clay Hollister is a museum curator and collector of Indian relics. One day, during a tour, Clay notices a man named Newton Clovis who is fascinated by a skeleton in Clay’s collection. Newton wants to analyze the bones. He does so and reveals that the bones are those of a long-missing district attorney. Newton is really a detective and demands the skeleton for further investigation. Clay refuses and kills him. Later, he adds the bones of yet another man to his collection.

Starring:

* Tom Begley – cast: Prison Guard
* Paul Bradley – cast: Court Reporter
* Bert Convy – cast: Ben Hollister
* Larry Gates – cast: Mr. Hollister
* Tom Gilleran – cast: Tim McCaffrey
* Myron McCormick – cast: Newton B. Clovis
* Charles Meredith – cast: Judge
* Edward Platt – cast: Mr. Henshaw
* Darlene Tompkins – cast: Tim’s Girlfriend

SUMMARY: Mr. Hollister now runs a small museum that is actually something of a shrine to his late son, Ben. He tells a visitor that the human skeleton in the museum is actually that of his son. In a flashback he recounts that his son was hunting a fox for his collection of stuffed animals when he comes across Tim McCaffrey, the son of a wealthy and influential rancher. A fight breaks out and Tim is accidentally shot. Despite his protestations that it was all an accident, he is convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment. Once there, he loses all interest in life. But just who is this stranger Mr. Hollister is telling this story to and is he being completely honest? [Written by garykmcd]

———————

Published articles that describe attaching a flashlight to a gun barrel:

Popular Mechanics – August 1922 issue (viewable on Google Books – page 244)

An article titled “Automatic Pistol Combined With Hand Flashlight” reads: “As a device to discourage burglars, a newly invented flashlight pistol should prove quite effective. The pistol barrel is placed along a tubular flashlight, and six shots of .22 caliber can…”

Popular Mechanics – October 1933 issue (viewable on Google Books – page 513)

An article titled “Focusing Flashlight For Gun Helps Hunter At Night” reads: “Hunting game at night is facilitated by using a focusing a flashlight which attaches to the weapon with automobile steering-post clamps, the same kind used by motorists for holding a flashlight on the steering wheel.”

Zodiac Hoax: The Reality of Satire

Zodiac-denies-being-Ted-Cruz

On Wednesday, March 9, 2016, Comedy Central aired an episode of The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore which included a skit about the Zodiac killer. Host Larry Wilmore explained the origins of the recent meme that Texas Senator and Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz is the Zodiac killer. Then, Nightly Show contributor Mike Yard appeared as a “conspiracy theorist” who presented a set of “facts” to link Cruz to the Zodiac crimes. This skit was amusing on some levels, but Yard’s “logic” was also an ironic parody of most Zodiac theorists.

When told that Ted Cruz was born in 1970 but the Zodiac crimes began in 1968, Mike Yard countered that the Obama “birther scandal” had demonstrated that birth certificates could be forgeries, a reference to the ongoing “birther” claims that President Obama was not born in the United States and is therefore an “illegitimate president.” Bizarre conspiracy theories are popular among a shockingly large percentage of the American population, but these conspiracy claims are also common among Zodiac theorists who claim that police departments and other law enforcement agencies committed the crimes, staged a hoax, covered up the crimes as part of a massive conspiracy, or worse. Yard’s Cruz/Zodiac conspiracy theory was designed to appear ridiculous from the outset but instead served as a fairly accurate portrait of the current culture of Zodiac crackpots and con men.

Yard also noted that the letters in Ted Cruz’s name could be rearranged into an anagram which included a reference to the fictional character Dracula. Using this logic, Yard then stated that Dracula was actually Vlad the Impaler, impaling was stabbing, and the Zodiac had stabbed some of his victims. Again, Yard was trying to portray a crackpot, but his portrayal was alarmingly similar to many real life Zodiac theorists who offer claims and links which often sound just as preposterous.

Yard’s “theory” concluded with a reference to Cruz’s plans to “kill” various government agencies as a link to killing. Again, Yard’s comic theory is remarkably similar to the theories offered by many Zodiac theorists who claim that their pet suspect made statements which allude to and/or condone acts of violence and murder. Some Zodiac theorists often exaggerate or distort the meaning of certain statements in order to portray suspects as sinister, dishonest or violent when the facts are not as useful in such pursuits.

Larry Wilmore noted that approximately ten percent of Florida Republican voters polled had stated that they believed Ted Cruz could be the Zodiac killer. An even larger number of polled voters said that they were not sure. Wilmore also noted that this percentage was higher than the number of Florida Republican voters who said they did not believe that one of Cruz’s opponents could be President. Unlike Yard’s theories, the numbers cited by Wilmore were not a joke— a large percentage of Florida Republicans who participated in this poll actually believed that Ted Cruz was the Zodiac killer or they were not sure. Uninformed people who get most of their “facts” from unreliable sources on the Internet are often convinced by ridiculous and unsubstantiated theories and claims. Many people are also impressed by the ridiculous and unsubstantiated theories and claims of those peddling Zodiac suspects and solutions.

Perhaps the prominent mention of the case on a popular worldwide television show could inspire some people to do a google search and learn about the real life Zodiac story, but the irony is rich because anyone who uses the Internet to find information about the Zodiac case will find many websites featuring theories and claims which are only slightly-less absurd than Mike Yard’s “Cruz/Zodiac theory.”

On April 4th, 2016, another hoax spread on the internet with the sensational headline, “Suspect Believed To Be ‘Zodiac Killer’ Arrested In Henderson Nevada.” According to the website associatedmediacoverage.com, the Zodiac killer had been identified as one Walter Gotberg, a 74 year-old man who was recently incarcerated fin Nevada or acts of domestic violence. Gotberg allegedly confessed that he was the Zodiac during conversations with another inmate. The same website states, “According to police reports, Walter Gotberg wasn’t officially listed as a suspect in the unsolved murders until laboratory results provided a match between Gotberg’s DNA and the DNA profile created by saliva found on stamps and envelopes used by the Zodiac Killer to send cryptic messages to media reporters and police.”

Associatedmediacoverage.com was the only “news” site reporting the alleged identification and arrest of Gotberg for the Zodiac crimes. There is no credible evidence that Gotberg’s DNA has been compared to the suspected “Zodiac DNA profile” obtained by the San Francisco Police Department, let alone that the test produced a match of any kind. In fact, no one has demonstrated that Walter Gotberg even exists. The website “Hoax Alert” posted an article debunking the Gotberg story as a “hoax,” and stated, “The image of the man ‘suspected’ to be the ‘Zodiac Killer’ is actually a stock image from 2014 that is regularly used on Australian bar websites.”

Many people posted links to the Gotberg hoax article on Facebook and other social media sites, spreading the story across the globe in a matter of hours. Very few people bothered to even read the article and even fewer bothered to check other media sources for confirmation of the story and its claims. Some readers on Facebook did note, “If this were true, other news agencies would be reporting it,” and some referred to the story as a “hoax.”

One Facebook user wrote, “The Zodiac is dead and buried in Mexico according to his ‘son’,” a reference to Gary Stewart, who claims that his deceased father Earl Van Best, Jr. was the Zodiac killer. Stewart’s claims first appeared in his book The Most Dangerous Animal of All, a work of “nonfiction” which was thoroughly debunked and discredited within days of its publication. Yet, Stewart’s claims continue to circulate on the internet without scrutiny or factual rebuttal. Debunked claims persist in a world where the facts are ignored in favor of entertaining nonsense. Mike Yard’s comedy sketch was only absurd and unrealistic to those who have not followed the history of the Zodiac case or the checkered careers of the many ambitious attention seekers and dedicated con men who continue to exploit the Zodiac tragedy in the quest for fame and fortune.

Learn more about the history of the “Ted Cruz is the Zodiac killer” meme at KnowYourMeme.com

NEWS & UPDATES: October 2015 Archive

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

zkf-icon-9

* 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: Amazon.com

Available thru: BookFinder.com

* 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 WeeklyStandard.com 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 ZodiacKillerCiphers.com 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 Suvudu.com, 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.” Amazon.com 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. Amazon.com 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 Zodiackillersite.com 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: ZodiacKillerFACTS.com 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 ZodiacKillerFACTS.com 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 info@zodiackillerfacts.com.

* 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 IFC.com. 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 IFC.com. 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 ZodiacKillerFACTS.com 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 ZodiacKillerFacts.com 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 ZodiacKillerFacts.com by AK Wilks.]

* UPDATE: March 29, 2011 – ZodiacKillerFacts.com 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 ZodiacKillerFacts.com 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 (amctv.com). “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: SusanMurphyMilano.com 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 NapaValleyRegister.com.

* 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 Zodiackillerfacts.com 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. Amazon.com 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.