ROBERT GRAYSMITH: Q & A - To Tell The Truth

After the release of the film ZODIAC, Robert Graysmith participated in a Questions and Answers forum on the website for the newspaper The Washington Post. Throughout the postings, Graysmith made many false and unsubstantiated claims, often in his attempts to convict his pet suspect in the court of public opinion. Once again, Graysmith proved that he had no regard for the facts and that he was happy to confuse and mislead those in search of reliable information about the Zodiac case.

The questions from the public and Graysmith's answers are listed below, accompanied by the relevent facts.

Robert Graysmith: Hi. I'm Robert Graysmith. I'm in San Francisco working out of the same studio where I wrote Zodiac over a ten year period back in the 1970s and early 1980s. It's a thrill to be interviewed by readers of the Washington Post, my favorite of all newspapers.

# 1 - Los Angeles, Calif.: As a prime suspect, why was Leigh Allen's photo never shown in a line-up to the surviving July 4 victim (until decades later) or the lady with the baby whose car the Zodiac burned, or the witnesses at the party above the Stine crime scene, or the cops who stopped and released him near the Presidio after the Stine killing?

Robert Graysmith: That is a terrific question and the first most people ask about the case. It seems the most obvious course to obtain a conviction. Mike Mageau, the surviving victim from the July 4, 1969 shooting at Blue Rock Springs, was hospitalized with pins in his legs and wounds to his face and neck. He gave three interviewss with police and a public defender, then vanished from Vallejo after dying his hair and becoming a street person. For years we searched for him, convinced that Mike knew who Zodiac was. I received letters from health care workers who had crossed his path briefly and heard he was having a tough time. It was not until 1991 when Vallejo Det. George Bawart, a close friend of mind, tracked down Mike to a LA airport and was able for the first time show him a photo line up of five driver's license pictures of two suspects and fillers. "I gave Mageau the lineup admonishment," Bawart told me. "He looks at them 20, 30 seconds. Points to Arthur Leigh Allen and says, 'That's the man! That's the man who shot me at Blue Rock Springs!" Kathleen Johns, the woman who was kidnapped with her baby, was in hiding for ten years and I found her through a postmark on a Christmas card. I interviewed the babysitters but they were never shown a photo of any of the suspects since they saw only an owl-faced man in a car from a distance.

FACT CHECK: There is no credible evidence that Michael Mageau ever "vanished" or that police were unable to locate him. Mageau was contacted by police several times after the shooting and, on several occasions, he was asked to view photographs of various suspects (he identified none as the shooter). However, police did not believe that Mageau could accurately identify his attacker, for several reasons. Mageau himself admitted that he never got a good look at the shooter and had only seen the man briefly in a "profile view." According to Mageau, the shooter approached the car carrying a bright light and Mageau was then shot in the jaw and other areas of his body. While recovering in the hospital, Mageau provided a description of his attacker which did not match Arthur Leigh Allen. Michael Mageau described the suspect at the Blue Rock Springs Park shooting as a "WMA, short, possible 5'8", was real heavy set, beefy build... not blubbery fat, but real beefy, possibly 195 to 200 [lbs] or maybe even larger... short curly hair, light brown almost blond... with a large face." Allen's driver's license, issued on October 13, 1967, described him as six feet tall, 250 lbs, with brown hair. On October 6, 1969, just months after the shooting at Blue Rock Springs Park, Allen was interviewed by a Vallejo detective who described the suspect as "6'1", 241 (lbs), heavy build and is bald." In short, Mageau's description did not match Allen and his identification of Allen, despite these descrepencies, led many to question the accuracy of his identification. Retired Detective Bawart described the identification and stated that Mageau saw Allen's photo and declared, "That's him. That's the man who shot me." According to Bawart's report for the Vallejo Police Department, Mageau was asked to assess the certainty of his identification of Allen on a scale of 1 to 10, and Mageau replied that his level of certainty was an 8. He also pointed to the picture of another man in the photo lineup and stated that the face of that individual was similar to the face of the Zodiac. While George Bawart and Vallejo Police Captain Roy Conway described Mageau's identification as "positive," the Vallejo Police Department did not consider the identification to be valid. This conclusion was based in large part on Mageau's statements during his identification, his conflicting description and the fact that Mageau had admittedly seen the killer's face only for an instant more than two decades before he identified Allen as the shooter.


# 2 - McLean, Va.: Do you believe the case will ever be solved to everyone's satisfaction? Or is "Zodiacology" doomed to be like "Ripperology", where books and theories will be spun for decades or centuries without any solid conclusion?

Robert Graysmith: I certainly hope so. I think with the attention of the new movie, new evidence might be uncovered. I am satisfied that Dave Toschi, Bawart, Capt. Conway and Lt. Jim Husted of Vallejo PD were right and that the Zodiac was Arthur Leigh Allen. But there is obviously much more to the case and this is what David Fincher the director and his team of detectives in Hollywood have been working toward for three years. Even though their new findings are not in the movie Zodiac, they are preparing a time line and still interviewing witnesses and unearthing documents. I think the fact that Allen was at Lake Berryesssa the day of the stabbings (there were only about ten people that day including Zodiac) is compelling. He admitted to being there a hour before in letters and to his fellow workers at the Sonoma Auto Parts store. He was already a suspect in the other Zodiac crimes and to get himself up to that remote lake the same time as Zodiac has to be more than coincidence.

FACT CHECK: Toschi, Bawart and Conway may have believed that Arthur Leigh Allen was the Zodiac but the facts strongly indicate that he was innocent and the San Francisco and Vallejo police departments did not endorse Allen as a viable suspect after the DNA, handwriting, fingerprint and even palm print comparisons had excluded Allen as a suspect. Toschi himself investigated Allen from 1971-1972 but then abandoned Allen in search of better suspects, going so far as to refer to other individuals as "excellent suspects" in the years that followed. Toschi, and his partner Bill Armstrong, both stated, publically and in private interviews, that the fingerprints and handwriting evidence would identify the Zodiac, and both men made these statements long after both fingerprint and handwriting comparisons had excluded Allen as a suspect. At the time that Toschi and Armstrong made these statements, both men were aware of virtually all of the evidence said to implicate Allen in the Zodiac crimes. [Armstrong himself once told an interviewer that Graysmith's chapter regarding Allen in the book ZODIAC was "hogwash."] Graysmith has repeatedly claimed that Arthur Leigh Allen was at Lake Berryessa on the day of the Zodiac attack there yet he has never produced any evidence to support this claim. Graysmith has alluded to "records" kept by officials which named those at the lake that day although no such records were ever kept and did not exist. Graysmith then began mentioning the "letter" from Allen to a friend in which the suspect allegedly confesses that he was at the lake that day although Graysmith has never produced this letter and no other person has ever claimed to have seen the letter, either. No one has ever come forward to claim that Allen said he was at Lake Berryessa on that day. Graysmith has also claimed that San Francisco police discovered a map of Lake Berryessa during the search of Allen's trailer and that this map was signed by the suspect. Graysmith has never produced the map and no one has ever confirmed its existence. In his answer to the Post question, Graysmith claimed that Allen was "already a suspect in the other Zodiac crimes" at the time of the Berryessa attack. The earliest date for any police interest in Allen was October 1969, one month AFTER the attack at Lake Berryessa. No credible evidence has ever been presented, by Graysmith or anyone else, to prove or even indicate that Arthur Leigh Allen was at or near Lake Berryessa on September 27, 1969. Graysmith's false claims regarding "records" which proved that Allen was at the lake are reminiscent of Graysmith's early attempts to place Allen near this crime scene with false claims that Allen was stopped near Lake Berryessa on the day in question and given a ticket for speeding. When confonted, Graysmith claimed that he had received this false information from an unnamed police source, although Graysmith's history of inventing false evidence to implicate Allen strongly indicated that the police source never existed and that Graysmith himself was responsible for the false story of Allen's speeding ticket.


# 3 - Anonymous: The movie grabbed and held my attention for its (rather long) running length. SPOILER ALERT. However, I felt extremely unfulfilled at the end of the movie when the narrative revealed that the Zodiac killer was never found. In hindsight and with the benefit of DNA testing (which the movie did not deal with), who do you think the Zodiac killer was? The DNA evidence seems to have ruled out Leigh, one of the main suspects, does it not?

Robert Graysmith: I would love to have viable DNA evidence, but the chain of custody was broken. It came about this way. The Zodiac letters, inside a cardboard box, were driven to Sacramento California by SFPD Homicide Inspector Jim Deasy in 1978 where they lay in Fred Shirasago's office for years and endured the sweltering heat of Sacramento summers. The letters were later returned to SFPD, having never been refrigerated, and taken from headquarters and into private hands, breaking the chain of custody. The television show who organized the testing obtained them from there. Who knows what DNA was picked up during that time. The DNA fragmentary print was obtained by a trace on the back on one envelope, on the front of the other, and the seal on the last. They were mixed and the result was tested to obtain the partial fingerprint. Still even if the DNA rules out Allen, even though he knew the victims and was near or at the crime scenes, it still not rule him out. In 1969 we did not have DNA, but we did have ABO-PGM which was a saliva test that could tell us the race, sex and bloodtype of the mailer, including whether he was secretor and so on. Leigh Allen was in the habit of mailing unsealed, unstamped letters from Prison inside envelopes he had stamped and sealed to have his friends stamp and seal the enclosed letter outside prison.

FACT CHECK: See FACT CHECK for the next question.


# 4 - Benicia, Calif.: Why are they just now testing for DNA on some of the letters sent? Have they done any other DNA testing?

Robert Graysmith: Some DNA testing was done in 1988. Vallejo PD has just sent three letters to Sacramento for testing.

FACT CHECK: The first reported use of DNA testing in the Zodiac case occurred in the late 1990s, as Graysmith himself reported in a story he wrote for the now-defunct website Published on December 7, 1999, the story was titled, THE DAY POLICE THOUGHT THEY NAILED THE ZODIAC. Graysmith claimed that, in February 1997, the SFPD had contacted him regarding the results of DNA testing on the envelope which had contained the suspected Zodiac forgery of April 1978. According to Graysmith, the initial tests had produced DNA which matched his suspect Arthur Leigh Allen; however, a second test did not match Allen. According to the SFPD, Graysmith's claims are false and no DNA tests ever produced any results which matched Allen or any other suspect. Graysmith claimed that the Zodiac letters had been mishandled, exposed to the Sacramento summers, and were not refrigerated. Graysmith wrote, "Who knows what DNA was picked up during that time." In Graysmith's fantasy version of the facts, someone could have touched the letters and left their DNA on the paper, and this explained why later DNA testing did not match Allen. However, the DNA which was used to exclude Allen was obtained from an envelope, from underneath the stamp, and it is not likely that the DNA was transferred there by anyone handling the letters. Graysmith claimed that Allen asked friends to lick and seal his stamps and envelopes, stating that Allen would sometimes mail unsealed letters inside envelopes that he had sent to these friends. According to Graysmith's scenario, Allen (as the Zodiac) wrote a Zodiac letter which was addressed to a local newspaper and written in Zodiac-like writing. Allen included a scrap of blood-soaked clothing taken from a Zodiac victim. He then placed the letter and the scrap into an unsealed envelope and then placed that envelope (and its contents) into another envelope which he sealed and addressed to a friend in the hopes that his friend would seal the envelope and lick the stamp but never look inside the envelope or ever question Allen's need for his services as a substitute tongue. In his Post answer, Graysmith wrote, "Still even if the DNA rules out Allen, even though he knew the victims and was near or at the crime scenes, it still not rule him out." During one interview, Graysmith admitted that no evidence would ever deter his belief that Allen was the Zodiac. Despite Graysmith's repeated claims to the contrary, no credible evidence exists that Allen knew ANY of the Zodiac victims or that he was ever near or at any of the Zodiac crime scenes. The only evidence which could be cited to support such claims would be Michael Mageau's highly questionable identification of Allen as the Zodiac shooter (an identification which was not endorsed by the Vallejo police department), and, Don Cheney's claim that he had once accompanied Allen to the restaurant where a Zodiac victim worked as a waitress. Don Cheney made many false claims designed to falsely implicate Allen in the Zodiac crimes, and even detective George Bawart, who had previously endorsed Cheney as a credible witness, began to doubt Cheney's story after he appeared in a documentary and made other strange claims.


# 5 - Arlington, Va.: What about the man who wrote the movie posters and who had almost identical handwriting to Zodiac (except for his K's)? Was he not pursued as a suspect any further?

Robert Graysmith: Bob Vaughn, though I have never used his name in print. Ken Narlow of Napa Sheriff's Office considered him completely innocent.

FACT CHECK: Graysmith has repeatedly exaggerated and distorted the stories regarding Bob Vaughn in order to further his own theory that the Zodiac was somehow altering his handwriting and that more than one person was involved in the crimes. Graysmith allegedly consulted Sherwood Morrill regarding Vaughn's writing but this occurred after Morrill had retired. Graysmith has never provided any credible evidence to support his claims about Morrill's conclusions and claims regarding Vaughn and Graysmith's theories, and the facts demonstrate that Morrill held contradictory opinions until his death. Bob Vaughn was never a suspect in the Zodiac case and no evidence has ever been presented to implicate him in the crimes or to indicate that he wrote the Zodiac letters.


# 6 - Seattle: How much of Avery's spiral (that is, the drinking, the drugs, the loss of job) was a result of his own obsesession with the Zodiac? That is, do you think he would've (or already had?) developed the same addictions?

Robert Graysmith: Avery was a former war correspondent and I think that the stress of that experience and the strain of the daily deadlines at the Chonicle made for a very addictive personality and more than a few reporters there sufferred similarly. He had an honest fear of Zodaic which I saw in many of his letters in which he said, "Zode is going to get me."

FACT CHECK: The film ZODIAC presented a distorted and largely fictionalized portrayal of Paul Avery. In the film, Avery's boss takes him to task, citing the reporter's kook-like letter to the Department of Justice on Chronicle letterhead, in which Avery asks to be appointed the head of the Zodiac investigation. In truth, Avery never wrote such a letter. In 1971, Avery did write a summary of the Zodiac case for Chief Robert Houghton which ended with the following pararagraph: "I feel privileged that you have asked me to assist in the coordinated investigation as a sort-of special investigator and consultant on media relations and I look forward to working you, Chief Houghton and the other investigators who may be assigned to the Zodiac Squad. I feel that by working together, using such assistance as can be provided by the best brains in the state (such as psychiatrists and criminologists) and such aids as computers, the Zodiac will be in custody in the near future. Respectfully, Paul Avery, Investigative Reporter, The San Francisco Chronicle." The movie ZODIAC depicted Avery as dependent on an oxygen tank in the late 1970s, also indicating that he was unemployed and somehow retired. Paul Avery was healthy and gainfully employed in the late 1970s, and, he was still employed and in good health when interviewed for a television program in 1989. In fact, Avery did not require the use of oxygen until the late 1990s. Graysmith and the movie greatly exaggerated Avery's problems and behavior in order to fuel the myth that the case somehow destroyed his career and life when, in fact, this was not true.


# 7 - Raleigh, N.C.: What do you think motivates a human being to become a serial killer? What are the factors that go into the making of such a phenomenon?

Robert Graysmith: My guess is that they are missing something in their genetic makeup. Some serial killers think that a conscience is something others have made up to make them feel inferior. They most certainly have crossed wiring in dealing with love and violence. They replace one with the other.

FACT CHECK: Graysmith is entitled to his opinions.


# 8 - Fairfax, Va.: How can you be so confident that you have the right killer? Do you ever worry that you're slandering an innocent man posthumously, especially in light of recent DNA information?

Robert Graysmith: In my previous answer I laid out the chronology of the path of the tested letters which were in private hands and outside the chain of police custody. And of course we handled them at the Chronicle. Every letter was handled by a photoengraver and made into a velox. The best detectives I know consider him the main suspect. I respect their opinion. As far a slander the late Leigh Allen was a child molester and I don't know how much lower you can fall than that. When Detective Bawart went into his basement in 1991 he found Allen's tapes of children screaming. My job was to keep the case alive, to make it vivid and to make certain that someone reading the book might have the answer to the puzzle.

FACT CHECK: Graysmith's claims are once again untrue. After several Zodiac letters had arrived at the offices of The San Francisco Chronicle, the newspaper staff was instructed that touching the letters and envelopes could damage fingerprint evidence and they were asked to not to handle the letters. Graysmith's ridiculous claim that "every" letter was handled by a photogengraver is nothing more than yet another attempt to cast doubt on evidence which has been used to clear his pet suspect. Once again, Graysmith is attempting to mislead readers by suggesting that handling the letters could somehow insert DNA and genetic material underneath the stamps and sealed areas of the envelopes. Graysmith states that the "best detectives" he knows consider Allen to be the main suspect. Dave Toschi, Bill Armstrong, George Bawart and others all behaved in ways which contradict Graysmith's claims regarding their opinions on Allen. Toschi and Armstrong both stated, in public and in private interviews, that the fingerprint and handwriting evidence would identify the Zodiac long after both fingerprint and handwriting evidence had excluded Allen as a suspect. Graysmith's response to the question about slandering Allen proves what many critics have said about him--- namely, that he doesn't see anything wrong in slandering and libeling Allen because Allen was a convicted child molester, as if Allen's guilt regarding his crimes against children somehow excuses Graysmith when he not only exaggerates and distorts the evidence said to implicate Allen in the Zodiac crimes but even invents his own facts in order to do so. Graysmith states that his job was to "keep the case alive," a euphemism for his crimes against the truth and his campaign to railroad Allen in the court of public opinion.


# 9 - Minneapolis, Minn.: I was impressed by the weight given to handwriting analysis. In contemporary TV crime fiction I don't recall it getting much attention. Is it still an important tool?

Robert Graysmith: David Fincher has hired handwriting experts and in their findings they looked at not the handwriting but the spaces between the letters, the misspellings and where the words were broken at odd places. These match the 150 receipe cards that the director found. It is an important clue, but also the great mystery of the Zodiac case. I worked with Sherwood Morrill and found him to be diligent. I though at first that Zodiac might be two men. This is why it is such a great mystery.

FACT CHECK: The handwriting experts which Fincher consulted did not conclude that Allen wrote the Zodiac letters, so Graysmith's distortion is just another instance in which he twists the facts to make his suspect seem guilty. The methods described by Graysmith do not indicate that Allen wrote the Zodiac letters. Graysmith claims that he "worked with Sherwood Morrill" when, in fact, Graysmith claimed that he had consulted with Morrill after his retirement from the California Department of Justice. In his book ZODIAC, Graysmith claimed the suspected Zodiac letter of 1978 was authentic, and he presented an elaborate, though seriously flawed, theory to support this claim. According to Graysmith, the Zodiac used handwriting samples obtained from several different people and an enlarger/projector in order to fabricate his handwriting style. It is unlikely, if not implausible, that the Zodiac used a projector on this occasion. In ZODIAC, Graysmith put forth the theory that Allen was the Zodiac, and, therefore, the author of the Zodiac's many handwritten messages. He used his elaborate projector theory to explain how Allen was able to disguise his handwriting and fool document experts such as Sherwood Morrill, who was only one of several experts to conclude that Allen did not write the Zodiac letters. Graysmith claims in one quick sentence, "Sherwood Morrill confirmed my theory." (pg. 219). Yet he states that in 1981 he "dropped in on Sherwood Morrill "to compare handwriting of a suspect with the Zodiac's (ZODIAC, pg. 298, paperback edition). If Morrill actually believed that Graysmith's projector theory was true, he would not continue to exclude or include suspects based on their handwriting. Graysmith seems oblivious to this blatant contradiction. Official documents and media interviews, as well as the expert's family, demonstrate that Morrill's opinions never changed throughout his many years on the case. Until his death, Morrill stated that he was certain the Zodiac used his normal handwriting when writing the letters and the expert was unwavering in his belief that he could identify the killer using little more than a bank deposit slip. The writing on Bryan Hartnell's car door is unmistakably similar to the Zodiac's handwriting, and Morrill himself concluded that the Zodiac was responsible for that message. The facts demonstrate that Sherwood Morrill never endorsed Graysmith's opinions and theories about the Zodiac letters and writing and that he instead held opinions which directly contradicted Graysmith's.


# 10 - Arlington, Va.: Why wasn't the sister of the first woman murdered, who I believe you found in prison, shown a photographic lineup? She said she saw a man at her sister's party wearing a suit and sitting in the corner of the room and she rememberd his name was "Leigh."

Robert Graysmith: She and her sister Pam, long before San Francisco knew of Leigh Allen, were interviewed in San Jose by VPD. Sgt Lynch and put together a composite drawing. Yes you are right, the logical seemed to have been overlooked because so many of the 2500 suspects had been cleared by handwiting. Leigh Allen was on a typewritten guest list of I think 14 people that the police hand. I turned this over to David Fincher while he was conducting his own private investigation.

FACT CHECK: Graysmith is once again distorting the facts and misleading the public. Allen first came to the attention of the San Francisco Police Department in the summer of 1971. Darlene's sisters Pam and Linda first mentioned the party which allegedly took place in Darlene's home in May 1969, the man in the suit, and the rest of this dubious tale when interviewed by police in 1977. The story of the painting party, the mysterious stranger who allegedly stalked Darlene Ferrin, and the majority of the stories told by Pam and Linda have been debunked and refuted by Darlene's husband Dean and other members of their family. Graysmith has known these facts for many years, and he was aware that both Pam and Linda had a documented history of inventing tall tales when he cited both as reliable sources in his books ZODIAC and ZODIAC UNMASKED. Graysmith has mentioned the "typewritten guest list" of the party for many years but no one has ever produced this alleged document and no one in law enforcement has ever confirmed its existence. If the list did exist, the evidence indicates that this list was produced years after Darlene's murder. Several people allegedly named on that list, including Dean Ferrin's brother, Arthur Leigh Allen's brother Ron, and others have denied that they ever attended such a party. Dean Ferrin stated that no such party ever took place in his home and that he painted the house himself without the help of anyone else.


# 11 - Fairfax, Va.: Were you with the filmmakers when they were making the movie?

Robert Graysmith: I was with them from the first day, while writing the script, considering casting and trying to get the movie made. I photographed and made hundreds of hours of audio tapes of Fincher, screenwriter Jamie Vanderbilt and producer Brad Fischer as they attempted over nearly two years to get their film green lighted. I compiled this in a book called SHOOTING ZODIAC, which ends where most Hollywood books begin. I might publish this someday, but I have another book in progress. But in the process of building their film all three became crackerjack detectives, finding new evidence such as a map of Lake Berryessa showing paved and gravel roads in and out of the area, the site of the murder and signed Arthur Leigh Allen.

FACT CHECK: Graysmith has repeatedly mentioned the map of Lake Berryessa allegedly found during the research for the film ZODIAC but no one has ever confirmed its existence or discovery. David Fincher and his production team produced a feature length documentary about Arthur Leigh Allen which presented a great deal of information and evidence yet this map was never mentioned or shown during the film.


# 12 - Nashville, Tenn.: Don't mean to betray my own ignornance, but if his notes said solving the cryptograms would reveal his name, has anything come up as far as a key if you try to solve backwards using known suspects' names?

Robert Graysmith: There are still unsolved cryptograms. They are all printed in Zodiac (1986) and Zodiac Unmasked (2002). Give it a try. There is still so much to learn. Yes all the top ten suspects have been applied to the codes. Several work very well.

FACT CHECK: In his book ZODIAC, Graysmith presented his proposed solution to the Zodiac's unsolved 340 symbol cipher. Graysmith claims that experts endorsed his solution and the film ZODIAC depicts a television interview of Graysmith regarding his solution. In truth, FBI code experts and many others had concluded that Graysmith's solution was not valid, as documented in the FBI files pertaining to the Zodiac investigation.


# 13 - Washington, D.C.: Do you think the unsolved cryptograms mean anything?

Robert Graysmith: Yes. Writing the letters and ciphers eventually became Zodiac's true motive.


# 14 - Freising, Germany: Was any thought ever given to a connection between the Zodiac killings and Charles Manson's group of hippies?

Robert Graysmith: Yes. Very seriously, as well as Anton LeVey's Church of Satan.

FACT CHECK: Police reports and other official documents state that investigators examined the possibility that Charles Manson's notorious "Family" of killers was responsible for the Zodiac crimes but determined that no credible evidence existed to support this theory. Manson prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi and other law enforcement officials have dismissed this theory. To learn more, read the article titled The Zodiac/Manson ConspiraZ.


# 15 - Phoenix, Ariz.: Any parts of the movie (or book) that ended up on the cutting room floor you would've liked to make it in? Not as a stab at Mr. Fincher, of course, who did a fabulous job, merely something there wasn't room for.

Robert Graysmith: I did like a scene I watched filmed in front of the Chronicle with Avery sleeping his car. It was funny and sarcastic and added much to Avery's character. Downey did a fantastic job. I was in AUTOFOCUS, a movie starring Greg Kinnear about Hogan's Heroes' star Bob Crane made from my book, but that ended up on the cutting room floor. I would like that back, but as far as Zodiac goes, it was near perfect and I promise you exactly like being there.

FACT CHECK: Family and friends of actor Bob Crane have criticized Graysmith, stating that he distorted the facts in that murder case just as he had done with his exploitation of the Zodiac story.


# 16 - Reston, Va.: I recall that the movie says the fingerprints and DNA found at one or more crime scenes did not match that of Leigh Allen. Any thoughts?

Robert Graysmith: Yes, there are palm prints and the partials on Stine's cab that don't match anybody. Has there ever been a mystery like this? My best friend, Inspector Dave Toschi who lives nearby, and I have been going over that for nearly thirty years. The case has a million angles and I am glad to have left it behind to work on other projects. It will suck you in.

FACT CHECK: Graysmith largely ignores this question because the facts strongly suggest that the fingerprints found on the cab did belong to the Zodiac and these prints do not belong to Graysmith's suspect. Graysmith states that he is glad to have left the case behind but, at the same time, every word he utters proves that he has been consistently obsessed with the case, writing two books in less than 7 years.


# 17 - Los Angeles, Calif.: The film, and the people portrayed, seem very aware of the role media can play in generating "copy cat" killers. Did you have any of those concerns regarding the production and influence of this film? If not, why?

Robert Graysmith: Not too many. It has been nearly 40 years. I can't speak for the filmmakers who worked with the original officers and with the surviving victims and witnesses to make the best film possible. I waited until 1986 to publish my book Zodiac, about crimes in 1968-69, precisely for that reason. I waited until 2002 to do the follow up. None of us take this case lightly. I think the possibility that we might learn something new is important and outweighs the danger of an imitator. Long after I published my first book, we had Zodiac copycats in New York and Japan. The book was not widely available then so that was not why they became copycats. The visual and arcane aspects of the Zodiac appeal to a certain type of mind.

FACT CHECK: Graysmith claims that he waited until 1986 to publish his book out of concern for generating a copycat killer. In 1976, Graysmith obtained a copyright for his own book about the Zodiac case. In December of 1980, Graysmith had said that his book would be published by Norton and available in 1981 (the last entries in Graysmith's book are dated around this time). In 1983, columnist Herb Caen wrote an article stating that Graysmith's book, then titled THIS IS THE ZODIAC SPEAKING, would be published by St. Martin's Press and available in the fall of that year. Graysmith states that the copycat killer in New York appeared "long after" he had published his first book. Graysmith's book was published in the spring of 1986 and the New York Zodiac first appeared in the summer of 1990. Graysmith claimed that "the book was not widely available then so that was not why they became copycats." Graysmith's book was not only available in New York at the time of the New York copycat but the evidence proved that the copycat killer had consulted Graysmith's book during his crime spree. Graysmith's book was also available in Japan at the time that the Japanese copycat Zodiac first appeared.


# 18 - The Stars: Hello Robert, One more question. You certainly became all consumed by this case. How do we know that YOU are not the Zodiac!?

Robert Graysmith: In those days I weighed 145 (mainly from the stress of the search) was shorter and had much bigger feet. I have none of the killers skills--chemistry, sewing, cryptography, criminology, bombmaking, electronics, but, and I just thought of this the other day, I think Zodiac may have been a cartoonist. Look at the skeleton death threat card to Avery. The pumpkin on the front covering the pelvis of the printed skeleton and the brushwork and skeleton on the interior were drawn by Zodiac, cut out with an X-acto knife and other lettering done with brush. This is not a skill that is taught. You are a cartoonist or not. I have over my desk as I type this five cartoons drawn and signed by a suspect in the Zodiac case--Arthur Leigh Allen. Recall the neatness of the 312 word cipher. Zodiac needed a T-square, lighttable, triangle and other drafting tools to draw that. Whoever Zodiac is he is a skillful artist. Perhaps police should enlist an art critic to find similarities in the art styles and that of the suspect. Allen is the only one of 2500 suspects who is also a cartoonist.

FACT CHECK: Graysmith's claims regarding Allen as a cartoonist have never been substantiated and he has never produced any drawings allegedly made by the suspect. Graysmith's claims regarding the equipment necessary to produce the Zodiac's code are simply his opinion posing as fact-- the Zodiac did not require such equipment to produce the code, although he may have used such equipment to do so.


# 19 - Bradenton, Fla.: Wow! What a great movie!

Robert Graysmith: God bless you. I saw how hard those guys worked on that film. I am still getting calls at midnight from them about documents and dates--I have boxes to the ceiling of my studio filling one entire wall two layers deep, and I say, " Guys, the movie is done. You don't need more files." They have the bug. Fincher has 3100 pounds of photos, records and audio tapes, many of which I provided. I loaned them everything I had because I believed they were going to do it right.


# 20 - Arlington, Va.: If you could find one person in the world (apart from Zodiac himself) that you believe is a critical material witness who has yet to be found (and might still be alive), who would that be? What would be the question you would ask?

Robert Graysmith: Yes. A young man named Leigh (who I did find down south) who knew Darlene and saw her with an older man. He also drove a white chevy 58-59. He looks nothing like Zodiac but I have never been able to shake the feeling that he knows more than he realizes. That is why it so important to keep the story alive.

FACT CHECK: Graysmith never mentioned this "Leigh" in his books and he had never identified this man. If Graysmith had, in fact, identified the man named Leigh who was a friend of Darlene, then he had most likely identified the man described by Darlene's sister, a man named Lee who was reportedly one of Darlene's three closest friends. Police were never able to identify this man and Graysmith repeatedly implied that Arthur Leigh Allen was this Lee. If Graysmith has identified another man as that Lee, then he has debunked his own theory and proved that Allen was not the Lee who was friends with Zodiac victim Darlene Ferrin.


# 21 - Bethesda, Md.: Are you done with this case now or might you do another book about it? Nevertheless, what are your future plans/projects?

Robert Graysmith: Thanks for asking. I have published 7 true crime books, 3 have been movies. I have completed 23, yes 23, which I have illustrated with drawings, foldout maps, long bibliographies and put in my library. Someday I will offer these books, all on different subjects, for publication but the sheer joy of doing them make these the best days of my life. My interest and passion about Zodiac actually has been turned onto a beneficial path. My latest is THE LAUGHING GORILLA a 1935 story set in San Francisco about police corruption, and the completed SHOOTING ZODIAC, the story of three Hollywood detectives who try to greenlight a film. I just never wanted to do another Zodiac book, but this story is really about three good guys who take on an obstacle. It is the ultimate behind the scenes Hollywood book. They kept me in the loop at every stage of their quest over 3 years.


# 22 - Baltimore, Md.: Mr. Graysmith, I read your book with great interest ... this is the Zodia ... ah. Just kidding. I was wondering why the sister of his victim was never shown a picture of Leigh? Wouldn't that have cleared a few things up?

Robert Graysmith: Absolutely. That is why I have always thought the American public should be enlisted to solve difficult crimes. We are great problem solvers and go to the heart of the matter. I guess since handwriting cleared so many back then, they were not viable suspects by the time they got around to asking. Toschi didn't know of Leigh Allen until 1971. The boy at Lake Berryessa, Sept. 27, 1969, told me when I found him, "Man, I thought they caught that dude. Nobody ever questioned me after that day." He picked out Allen as being there that day. "I thought he was so young to be bald," he said. I think VPD Det. Bawart did just that with the Stine killing and Blue Rocks Springs over thirty years after the crimes.

FACT CHECK: The man seen by several witnesses at Lake Berryessa was described as having a full head of dark brown hair. Investigators believed that this man was the same man seen by the boy, and his father, at the lake, indicating that they did not describe the man as bald. Graysmith has never produced any evidence to support his claim that the boy had identified Allen as the man he had seen at Lake Berryessa on the day of the Zodiac attack.


# 23 - Annandale, Va.: The suspect's name is Leigh but it's pronounced Lee, right? That's been confusing to me. And they show the name written as Leigh on a piece of identification. Please explain the different name pronunciation.

Robert Graysmith: Leigh Allen told my friend who went in to buy hardware from him before I came in eyeballed him that last day, that Ace Hardware printed his nametag as LEE because it would have cost more to have the name LEIGH sewn on his smock. His parole officer also told me the story. Check out Zodiac for the verbatim accounts.


# 24 - Minneapolis, Minn.: How did your relationship with your wife and children proceed from where the film narrative ends?

Robert Graysmith: Melanie and hang around together all the time, laugh, go to art shows and attend the movies just to see the Zodiac trailer. My best friends in the whole world are my sons David, an accountant, Aaron (one of the five CI directors at a major studio whos credits include both Stuart Little films, Castaway and so on) and my daughter Margot who is also with a film studio in Hollywood.


# 25 - Washyington, D.C.: Was there any concern on the part of you or the filmmakers that this story takes place back when it does and that modern day science (DNA, forensics) have come along to make your story and crime solving a little bit retro and not hi-tech?

Robert Graysmith: Zodiac as a film had to be of its time. Back then police departments were not sharing info. Det. Bawart told me that if they had a cell phone they would have had Zodiac. He said that the cipher killer would not have lasted ten minutes today. A task force would have been formed and the superior forensics would have ended his career before it began. A good example would be the calls to KGO-TV which could not be traced unless they had 15 minutes.

FACT CHECK: In this answer, Graysmith is working overtime to deceive readers. The police reports, official documents, interviews with the original investigators and more all prove, beyond any doubt, that the investigators working on the Zodiac case all shared information with each other on a regular basis and in a timely manner. The facts demonstrate that all of the agencies involved had cooperated throughout the Zodiac investigation. Graysmith's claims to the contrary are not only false but born of his need to explain how police had failed to arrest his suspect when so much seemingly damning evidence implicated Allen. Graysmith claims that a task force would be formed today, yet he ignores the fact that a task-force was essentially created at the time of the original investigation. Graysmith also misleads the readers by suggesting that modern technology would have been able to trace the calls to the KGO TV station and, therefore, would have led to the arrest of the Zodiac. Graysmith knows that the calls to the TV station were not made by the Zodiac but had been placed by a patient in a mental hospital. This individual was identified and authorities concluded that he was not the Zodiac. The same individual was responsible for calls to Belli's home, yet Graysmith has also attempted to deceive the public by claiming that these calls were made by the Zodiac, and, by proxy, his suspect.


# 26 - So, you really went into the hardware store to see him? I loved that scene!

Robert Graysmith: One hunded percent accurate. After ten years of trying to find Zodiac I walked into that store and saw him face to face. It was if someone had struck a tuning fork, the room just vibrated and time stood still. At that moment I was free. I was satisified that I had found MY solution. With the publication of the book Allen and the other two suspects were watched and we had no more letters, no more killings. The book ended the reign of Zodiac. The day after going into the hardware store I stood in line at the post office and wrote the last page in pencil and put it in with my typed manuscript and sent it to my editor at St. Martin's Press, Richard Marek, James Baldwin's former editor.

FACT CHECK: Graysmith wrote that his book "ended the reign of Zodiac." The last known Zodiac crime occurred in 1969, and the last authenticated letter was sent in 1974. Graysmith's book was published in 1986, meaning that his book had nothing to do with "ending" anything, let alone the reign of the Zodiac.


# 27 - Nashville, Tenn.: Was a videotape found by the VPD in Allen's residence after he died?

Robert Graysmith: Yes. It said Zodaic on label, but Bawart told me that it only showed Allen mooning the police. By the way David Fincher and his investigator, Max Daly, found a survivalist catalog taken from that basement that had pictures of a bomb disposal costume you could buy--a square black hood coming down over the chest. Bryan Hartnell, the survivor from Berryessa, did tell me the hood was very neatly sewn. Police also found articles about Mel Belli and the Zodiac case. They also found guns of every caliber and live pipe bombs, Zodiac did tell us that he had bombs in his basement.

FACT CHECK: The Zodiac had sewn a crossed-circle symbol onto the chest of his costume; this would be virtually impossible to do on a bomb disposal "costume" which is made to withstand explosive impact. The bombs which Allen had in his basement were pipe bombs; the bombs described by the Zodiac were not pipe bombs and were in no way similar to pipe bombs or the "bomb recipe" allegedly found during the search of Allen's home in the early 1990s.


# 28 - Washington, D.C.: What was Jake Gyllenhaal like? Did he talk to you much about him playing you in the movie? How inquisitve was he? Were you satisfied with his portrayal of you, of the other characters?

Robert Graysmith: Until I saw Jake's performance I didn't know how deferential I was or how consumed by Zodiac. When you are in the grip of it you don't know. Jake simply observed me and I saw in the film he caught every mannerism, even wore my awful 1970s clothes. How he knew I had been a boy scout in Tachikawa, Japan I don't know, but it's in the movie. I never told anyone. I am the luckiest guy in the world. Who doesn't love Jake Gyllenhaal. He got it just right. Mark Ruffallo simple became Toschi. He visited Dave in San Francisco and came back as him. He is the most accessible of all the actors, a regular guy and if you have a chance to see him on Broadway please go. It was as a perfect a cast as one could want. And as I said David Fincher is the only director who could have made this film and he made it as a newspaper film along the lines of ALL THE PRESIDENTS MEN. How appropriate that this is the Washington Post site.


# 29 - Providence, R.I.: What about the physical disparity between the killer seen leaving the Stine cab and Leigh Allen? Was Leigh Allen "too tall and too bald" to be this killer? Did he ever wear glasses?

Robert Graysmith: No glasses and he did not smoke. We know Zodiac was 6 feet tall, weighed about 230 and was balding from descriptions and physical evidence. He wore size 7 gloves and size 10 1/2 shoes. The movie got that right. I saw Allen in person often after my meeting him at Ace Hardware, but this was tailing and at night. He looked about right to me. Allen was smart and physically formidable.

FACT CHECK: None of the many witnesses who reportedly saw the Zodiac had ever described the suspect as "balding." Here are the descriptions provided by the various witnesses. No one saw the shooter on Lake Herman Road so no description exists. Surviving victim Michael Mageau described the suspect at the Blue Rock Springs Park shooting as a "WMA, short, possible 5'8', was real heavy set, beefy build... not blubbery fat, but real beefy, possibly 195 to 200 [lbs] or maybe even larger... short curly hair, light brown almost blond... with a large face." Surviving victim Bryan Hartnell stated that the attacker had brown hair and when asked to explain he said, "'Cause I saw it from where the goggles fit... I looked so closely to find out. And when he turned you know they kind of flittered... I could see his hair. It looked kinda greasy." Bryan told this author, "I remember when I was first talked to, I mean, I had the guy being a walrus, you know... He had one of those Sears-type of jackets, you know, those can be either lined or unlined, and if it's lined, a person could be thin, if it's unlined the person would be heavy... I mean, he's not obese." Witnesses at the Stine scene, including police officer Donald Fouke, provided this description: "White Male Adult, in his early forties, 5'8", heavy build, reddish-blond 'crew cut' hair, wearing eyeglasses, dark brown trousers, dark (navy blue or black) 'Parka' jacket, dark shoes." This description was subsequently adjusted for the SFPD composite sketch which published this description: WMA 35-45 years old, 5'8" Reddish brown hair, Crewcut, Heavy Rim Glasses, Navy blue or black jacket. None of the witnesses ever described the Zodiac as Graysmith did: 6 feet tall, 230lbs, and balding. Graysmith's description matches his suspect, Arthur Leigh Allen, and not the man seen by witnesses in the Zodiac case. Page 90 of ZODIAC features a curious passage in which Graysmith described the evidence discovered in a cab where the Zodiac had shot and killed the driver. "Just under the dash, Toschi found a pair of dull-black leather gloves. They were soaked with blood but were too small for a man. Later he discovered that they belonged to a woman passenger from earlier in the day." Photographs of evidence on display in the offices of the San Francisco Police Department appear to show these gloves stored in a plastic bag. A report prepared and distributed by the California Department of Justice stated that the gloves found in the cab were men's gloves, size seven. Men's gloves are sized using two different methods. One method measures the size of the hand in inches while the other method creates an estimate based on height and hand size. According to either method, a size seven glove is small or extra small. The gloves found in the cab were most likely too small to belong to the individual described by witnesses to the crime. In the updated edition of ZODIAC UNMASKED, Graysmith wrote that the gloves were important evidence belonging to the killer. His description of a scene from the film based on his book features this puzzling passage regarding the police search of a trailer owned by suspect Arthur Leigh Allen. "The trailer search continues as the inspectors find two windbreakers. "Hey, hey," says Toschi, "black gloves. Size seven, same as we found in the cab. He's got the same shoe size and glove size as Zodiac - I'm sure it's just a coincidence." If Toschi had determined, in 1969, that the gloves belonged to a woman passenger, as Graysmith wrote, he would have no reason to believe that the gloves belonged to the killer when searching Allen's trailer in 1971. If Toschi knew that the size seven gloves were too small to belong to the killer or Allen, Toschi would not have any reason to say that Allen had the same gloves size as the Zodiac. Allen was more than six feet tall, weighed more than 200 pounds, and he had large, even massive hands. The size of the gloves indicates that the killer left the gloves behind to mislead investigators or that the gloves belonged to someone other than the killer and are not related to the crime. The discovery of the gloves is curiously absent from Graysmith's other accounts of the trailer search in both ZODIAC and ZODIAC UNMASKED, although such distortions regarding the gloves, the search and Allen do appear in the film adaptation.


# 30 - Baltimore, Md.: The first guy who was murdered in the movie, the one with the girl who were on a hillside ... What's happened to him? Was his life somewhat ruined by the murder of his girlfriend and his personal injury?

Robert Graysmith: If you mean Mike, who turns up at the airport at the end, yes Zodiac ruined his life. Whereas, Bryan Hartnell, the stabbing victim, survived and prospered. He ended up representing Mike in court in one of those ironic path crossings of the only two surviving victims.

FACT CHECK: Graysmith is correct: Hartnell did have encounters with Mageau in the years after the Zodiac attacks.


# 31 - Washington, D.C.: Where does "Zodiac" end and where does "Zodiac Unmasked" pick up?

Robert Graysmith: I spent three years editing Zodiac, after 13 drafts of 1200 pages to 317, to be certain we were on safe legal grounds. I changed some dates and the names of the three suspects. That book ends in 1983. Zodiac Unmasked takes up with the actual name of Allen, new information, and brings us to the death of Paul Avery and Det. George Bawart finally finding the missing witness, Mike Mageau. David Fincher has carried the case forward by locating statements by the Washington and Stine witness and the officer who passed Zodiac who identified Allen as the man they saw. I located witnesses at Berryessa who identified Allen as being at the lake that day--the son of the now deceased dentist and one of the college women.

FACT CHECK: In other interviews, Graysmith claimed that he and his editors had removed 500 pages from his first book; in his answer here, Graysmith raised that number to almost 900 pages. Graysmith claimed that he had "changed some dates and the names of the three suspects" in his first book. Here is an example of the manner in which Graysmith "changed" the facts in ZODIAC. According to the police reports, the investigators and the family of Arthur Leigh Allen, police contacted Allen's brother Ron and his sister-in-law Karen to inform them that Allen was a suspect in the Zodiac case. Ron and Allen were surprised to learn that Allen was a suspect, they explained that they had never suspected him, and neither believed that he could be the Zodiac. According to Graysmith's version of events in ZODIAC, the family suspected that Allen was the Zodiac, they held a family meeting to discuss what to do, and the family reported Allen to the police. While Graysmith did change "some dates" in his first book, more often that not he did so in order to make his suspect appear guilty. Allen's father Ethan died in 1971, shortly before Allen became a suspect. In ZODIAC, Graysmith used the pseudonym "Starr" when referring to Allen and wrote: "Starr's father died just before the Riverside murder (1966). He passed on to his son a love of sailing. The Zodiac killing costume consisted of old-fashioned Navy clothes, pants with pleats. Was Starr, out of hatred or even love of his father, dressing up in his father's clothes to do the killing?" Graysmith was clearly suggesting that the death of Allen's father in 1966 had somehow inspired Allen to commit murder, despite the fact that Allen's father had died in 1971-- almost two years after the Zodiac's last confirmed murder. Graysmith has repeatedly claimed that eyewitnesses had identified Allen. While surviving victim Michael Mageau had identified Allen as the man who shot him, police reports demonstrate that his identification was highly suspect, that Mageau also stated that the Zodiac had a face similar to another man shown in the photo-lineup, and that police did not believe his identification was valid. The evidence proves that none of the other witnesses had ever identified Allen (and Graysmith has never provived any evidence to support his claims that the boy witness or one of the girl witnesses at Berryessa had ever identified Allen). In his answer here, Graysmith stated: "David Fincher has carried the case forward by locating statements by the Washington and Stine witness and the officer who passed Zodiac who identified Allen as the man they saw." Fincher never uncovered such statements. The witnesses at the Stine scene never identified Allen. Don Fouke, the SFPD officer who reportedly saw the Zodiac near the Stine scene, had repeatedly stated that Arthur Leigh Allen was not the man he saw that night, and, further, Allen did not match the description of Stine's killer. Fouke never identified Allen. In his answer here, Graysmith once again created his own facts and evidence in order to make his suspect seem guilty.


Robert Graysmith: Thank you for having me. I was a bit slow at the beginning because I have only recently gone on line and gotten email. This is the first time I have answered questions in a forum like this. It was a lot of fun. Please support the movie Zodiac. These guys worked their hearts out to create a film of the 1970s with many layers and the support of ALL of us who worked to capture Zodiac. - Robert Graysmith