zodiac killer

The ZODIAC FILES

ZodiacKillerFacts-ICON

The Zodiac killer is once again in the news after the arrest of The Golden State Killer. Authorities in Vallejo, Napa, and San Francisco have renewed efforts to obtain DNA from stamps, envelopes, and other evidence with hopes that the forensic genealogy techniques used to identify Joseph James DeAngelo as  the Golden State Killer could also identify the elusive “Zodiac.”

Host Alan R. Warren and writer Michael Butterfield discuss the Golden State Killer investigation and the search for Zodiac DNA in the latest episode of HOUSE OF MYSTERY: The ZODIAC FILES. Previous episodes are now available at the new YouTube channel The Zodiac Files with Michael Butterfield.

The new issue of True Crime: Case Files magazine features the new article Devil in the Dark: DNA and the Hunt for America’s Most Elusive Serial Killers.

ZodiacKillerFACTS now includes a collection of selected audio interviews featuring Zodiac cipher expert David Oranchak, podcast host/webmaster Mike Morford, and writer Michael Butterfield.

NEWAIRTALK – “DNA: Zodiac and the Golden State Killer w/ host Larry Mantle – Guests: Anita Chabria, social justice reporter, Sacramento Bee, and Michael Butterfield. [Aired May 4, 2018, NPR affiliate KPCC California]

ZODIAC DNA: The Silver Bullet

Zodiac-DNA-2018

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.

Paul-Holes-Michael-Butterfield-Zodiac-Crime-Scenes

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.

Vince-Repetto-Tom-Bruton

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.

SFPD-Kelly-Carroll-Mike-Maloney

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.

Cyndi-Holt-DNA-profile

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.

Berryessa-Clothesline-Bottle

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.

White-w-Berryessa-Blanket

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.

Read more about the issues and potential problems in the search for new evidence in the article ZODIAC DNA: The Magic Bullet.

________________

Copyright ZodiacKillerFacts.com

_______________________

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

Zodiac-Reporter-Dave-Peterson-Lake-Herman-Road

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.

The-Hunt-for-the-Dave-Peterson-Files

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

THFTZK-1-Riverside

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.

RPD-Det-Steve-Shumway-Crime-Scene

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.

Riverside-Police-Det-Jim-Simons-Evidence

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

Bates-Evidence-Boot-Print-and-Cast

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.

Bates-Three-Letters-RPD

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.

Cheri-Jo-Bates-Letter-Z

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

Cheri-Jo-Bates-Pants-Evidence

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

David-Peterson-Nephew-and-Files

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

David-Peterson-Notes

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?

CJB-ZKF-Inspiration

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.”

Bates-Letters-ZKF

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.

Riverside-Zodiac-Comparison-ZKF

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.

Cheri-Jo-Bates-Inside-Detective-1 Cheri-Jo-Bates-Inside-Detective-2 Cheri-Jo-Bates-Inside-Detective-3 Cheri-Jo-Bates-Inside-Detective-4 Cheri-Jo-Bates-Inside-Detective-5 Cheri-Jo-Bates-Inside-Detective-6 Cheri-Jo-Bates-Inside-Detective-7

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

ZKF-History-Updates

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

Screen Shot 2016-10-10 at 2.44.03 AM

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.

normal_Paul_Stine_portrait_2

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.

normal_Lake_Berryessa_Car_door_at_crime_scene

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.

normal_Paul_Stine_shirt_in_police_custody_w_Zodiac_scrap

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.

Stinekiller

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

* * * 

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

LB-Z

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.

Lake_Berryessa_Cecelia_Shepard_and_Bryan_Hartnell

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.

—————–

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