ALLEN: The End
On the afternoon of August 26, 1992, the Vallejo police and fire departments were notified that a person needed assistance at 32 Fresno Street. There, fire and ambulance personnel found Allen’s lifeless body on the floor of his basement room. The prime suspect in the most notorious unsolved murder case in California history was dead.
Upon inspecting Allen’s room, VPD officers Lawson and Baron noticed the computer on Allen’s desk and the copy of Allen’s polygraph agreement still in the printer. Retired Detective George Bawart then received a phone call from Baron, and learned that Allen had died. Bawart drove the scene and inspected the basement room and Allen’s body.
Allen was wearing a robe and had a bruise on his head, which may have occurred when he fell to the floor. The bruise seemed somewhat suspicious to Bawart, and although there were no signs of foul play, the state required that an autopsy be performed on the body in order to determine the cause of death. This autopsy would later reveal that Allen’s death was caused by the complications of diabetic kidney failure, and it uncovered no evidence to indicate that the head wound had not occurred during the fall.
Bawart examined the basement of the Fresno Street address and hoped that some scrap of evidence remained which could prove that Allen was the Zodiac. The retired detective noted that the computer appeared to be new and had not been in the room when Vallejo police had searched the property more than a year earlier. Near the computer, Bawart found an index of computer discs which had been labeled “Polygon.” The document in the printer, revealing Allen’s intention to submit to the polygraph examination, must have seemed ironic to the detective.
Allen had a collection of video tapes next to his bed, but he had placed one tape on a bookshelf across the room. This tape had been labeled “Z.” Bawart suspected that the tape might contain some evidence related to the case, and he asked Vallejo Detective Sampayan to confiscate the tape until a warrant could be obtained to view its contents. Sampayan, who had been assigned to investigate the circumstances of Allen’s death, agreed and returned to headquarters with the video tape.
The following day, Capt. Conway drafted another affidavit requesting a warrant to view Allen’s mysterious video tape. Conway also asked that the court permit Vallejo police to seize Allen’s computer and discs so that they could be studied by a competent computer operator. Again, a judge granted the request, and police soon received their final disappointment.
According to one source, the video tape featured only a few Zodiac related television programs. However, an unconfirmed report stated that the tape contained a message from Allen in which he Allen cursed the Vallejo police. Allen was said to have concluded the taped message by exposing his bare buttocks to the camera.
Equally disappointing were Allen’s computer discs, which had been labeled “Polygon.” In his affidavit, Conway wrote: “Webster’s dictionary defines polygon as a closed plane figure bounded by straight lines a closed figure on a sphere bounded by arcs of great circles.” Conway added, somewhat erroneously, that he was “aware that the Zodiac sent cryptograms to various newspapers and police agencies which (featured) geometric figures which could be called polygons.”
Analysis of the discs failed to uncover any information which could establish any connection between Allen’s polygon data and the Zodiac’s writings. Nevertheless, police thought it was curious that a sickly 58-year-old man would pursue such interests. By all appearances, the relatively new computer had only been used to create the polygon discs and the polygraph agreement. The enigmatic discs and Allen’s reasons for producing them remained an odd footnote at the end of Allen’s story. The possibility exists that Allen had attempted to label the disc “Polygraph” using some form of abbreviation but did so illegibly.
The death of Arthur Leigh Allen was reported in the local newspapers and TV media; most attributed his demise to a heart attack. An article in The San Jose Mercury News quoted Captain Conway’s comments on the February search of Allen’s home. “We found some writings, some pipe bombs, some illegal weapons…None of it was sufficient to make an arrest for him being the Zodiac.”
Former SFPD Inspector David Toschi echoed Conway, “Mr. Allen was a very, very good suspect. We looked into Mr. Allen very closely.” The article further stated that police “focused on Mr. Allen in 1971 when relatives and friends told police he was acting erratically,” and that “Mr. Allen had reportedly told some people that he was the Zodiac killer.” Neither of the statements were entirely accurate, and the sudden reference to the suspect as “Mr. Allen” seemed an obligatory gesture to the dead.
Days later, The Vallejo Times Herald featured another story under the headline “Suspect’s death won’t halt Zodiac investigation,” which detailed the posthumous search of Allen’s home and the discovering of the puzzling videotape and discs. Capt. Conway refused to comment on the ongoing investigation, but did say that Allen’s death did not appear to have been a suicide or the result of foul play.
On April 26, 1993, an audience gathered in the auditorium of San Francisco State University for a conference regarding the Zodiac case. Members of a special panel included Robert Graysmith, author of the book which had promoted Allen as a prime suspect, Captain Conway, and retired detective George Bawart.
Captain Conway told the audience that the evidence indicated that Allen was the Zodiac. Bawart said, “I find so many coincidences that point in one direction, I feel it is no longer a coincidence, and I feel there are so many areas that point directly at Arthur Leigh Allen that I feel he is a viable suspect and in all probability the Zodiac.” Graysmith agreed.
In 1994, Conway told writer Rider McDowell, “I believe as I always have that the Zodiac was Arthur Leigh Allen,” and stated, “If Allen were alive today, we would file charges against him as the Zodiac.” Jim Lang, then Chief Deputy District Attorney for Solano County, also told McDowell, “If things had continued to develop against Allen, we would have filed charges.”
While the statements of both Lang and Conway were often cited by Allen’s accusers, the statements of Lang’s superior, District Attorney Mike Nail, appeared to contradict the claim that Allen would have been charged in the Zodiac case. In August of 1991, Nail told a reporter for The Vallejo Times Herald, “It’s unlikely charges will be pressed against (Allen) in connection with the mysterious killings. I really suspect that nothing’s going to come of it.” At the time that Lang made this statement, most of what has been considered to be the damning evidence against Allen was known to Vallejo authorities.
Speculation concerning Allen’s possible guilt only increased in the years after his death, despite the apparent lack of any evidence to connect him to the Zodiac crimes. Unable to defend himself from the grave, Allen had now become “the man who most detectives believed was the Zodiac” an epitaph which might just as well have been engraved on his tombstone.
Fingerprint comparisons, palm print comparisons, handwriting comparisons, and DNA comparisons appear to exonerate Allen, and more than three decades of investigation by police, the media and amateur sleuths failed to produce any credible evidence to link the so-called “prime suspect” to the Zodiac crimes.
Allen had professed his innocence and stated, “I’m not the damn Zodiac.” Had he lived to stand trial, it is quite possible that a jury would have believed him.
Copyright – ZodiacKillerFACTS.com / Michael Butterfield