THE RADIAN THEORY: Mistakes in the Myth-Making


— Zodiac theorists Gareth Penn, Steve Hodel and Raymond Grant promote the theory that the Zodiac crime scenes formed a geometric angle known as a “radian,” yet none of these men can accurately locate the crime scenes on a map. That fact is simply stunning.



The Zodiac mailed one of his most controversial and mysterious pieces of mail in June 1970. The envelope contained a letter which was accompanied by a map of the San Francisco Bay Area. The writer also included a cipher comprised of 32 characters along with the explanation that the “map coupled with the code” would lead authorities to a buried bomb. On the edge of the enclosed map, the writer had added the notation, “is to be set to Mag. N.,” a reference to Magnetic North. In another letter, the Zodiac offered another hint and wrote, “PS. The Mt. Diablo code concerns Radians & # inches along the radians.”

A radian is an angle valued between 57 and 58 degrees, or, 57.296, defined as “an angle subtended by an arc of a circle equal in length to the radius of a circle.” The radian is the usual unit of measurement in higher mathematics, however, in applications of mathematics to surveying and navigation, the degree is more commonly used. The term “radian” is a contraction of the words “radius-angle.” [To learn more about radians, visit the ZodiacKillerFacts page Radians: By The Textbook.]

In his book Times 17, Zodiac theorist Gareth Penn claimed that he had discovered the true meaning behind the Zodiac’s cryptic radians clues. Penn wrote:

I was curious to discover what the Zodiac had meant by this rather bizarre suggestion. I bought a sheet of clear acetate and a marking pen. Using a protractor and a straightedge, I drew and angle of between 57 and 58 degrees on the acetate and then the acetate over a map of the Bay Area. I placed the apex of the angle on Mount Diablo, then rotated the angle until one leg passed through the scene of the murder at Blue Rock Springs. Then I felt as if a ton of bricks had fallen on me. The other leg of the angle went straight through Presidio Heights in San Francisco where the Zodiac had murdered the cabby. It was the most shocking experience of my entire life.

Penn had proposed a provocative solution to the Zodiac’s Mt. Diablo mystery by suggesting that the Zodiac had not only pre-selected the locations of the crime scenes based on some plan to construct a giant geometric angle but that the killer’s last known victim, cabdriver Paul Stine, was directed to an exact intersection where he was then murdered in order to complete the radian. The discovery of “the radian” generated attention for Penn and served as the foundation for his subsequent theories concerning the Zodiac’s methods, motives and identity. Penn’s radian theory was later adopted by other Zodiac theorists, including Steve Hodel and Raymond Grant. According to Grant, Gareth Penn and his suspect, Michael O’Hare, had conspired to commit the Zodiac crimes along with other co-conspirators. Like Penn, Grant cited the radian as evidence to support his claims, conclusions and theories. Other versions of radian theories were also promoted by Zodiac theorist Dennis Kaufman and others.

Penn’s radian theory became a prominent part of the Zodiac legend and was promoted by many believers, including Zodiac researcher Jake Wark and myself. During my 1999 appearance on the Learning Channel documentary Case Reopened, I explained the radian theory. My endorsement of Penn’s radian theory was later cited by Grant and others in support of that theory. However, my presentation of the radian theory was largely influenced by and based on Gareth Penn’s previous presentations. As a result, I had no idea that my presentation was actually severely flawed and inaccurate. In later years, my own desire to find the truth about the radian theory compelled me to re-examine the facts and to reassess my own beliefs. I had long-believed that the radian theory was valid, but my renewed research forced me to conclude that I had always been wrong.



Penn claimed that the crimes scenes at Blue Rock Springs in Vallejo and Washington and Cherry Streets in San Francisco formed an angle measured at approximately 57.3 degrees, or one radian. In his book, Penn stated that the Vallejo crime occurred at the Blue Rock Springs golf course. However, the shooting actually occurred across the street and further East of the golf course in the parking lot of Blue Rock Springs Park.

The golf course and the actual crime scene (marked “B”).

Penn was mistaken regarding the actual location of the Blue Rock Springs crime scene, an error which cast doubt on his radian theory and resulting conclusions. Some defenders of the radian theory suggested that the distance between the golf course and the park was insignificant when assessing the accuracy of the radian theory, but any Northeastern movement of the crime scene creates a geometric angle which is larger than previously measured from the golf course.

The problem was further compounded by the fact that Penn’s illustration of the Zodiac’s radian was incredibly inaccurate. For some reason, Penn placed the Blue Rock Springs crime scene more than four miles west of the correct location. This erroneous placement of the Vallejo crime scene did permit Penn to draw a radian angle from that scene, the San Francisco crime scene and the peak of Mt. Diablo. However, the inaccurate placement of the crime scene cast further doubt on Penn’s claims. An obvious irony was always evident in Penn’s illustration, an irony which I had previously failed to notice and still remains unnoticed by those who continue to promote Penn’s radian theory.

Penn’s incorrect placement of the Vallejo crime scene compared to the correct location.

Penn’s placement of the Vallejo crime scene was incorrect by several miles but his measurement from that incorrect location did form a radian angle. Yet, Penn’s illustration proves that a radian angle drawn from Mt. Diablo and the San Francisco crime scene does not pass through the Vallejo crime scene and completely misses the entirety of Blue Rock Springs Park as well as the adjoining golf course. Those who defended Penn’s theory often argued that the measurement of the radian was at least accurate regarding the entirety of Blue Rock Springs Park but the facts proved otherwise. Put simply, Penn’s own illustration proved that his theory was wrong.

Like many of those who promoted the radian theory, I was willing to accept a certain amount of inaccuracy regarding the measurement of the locations in question. I was wrong about the accurate location of the Vallejo crime scene and, therefore, the margin of error I had agreed to accept was greater than I realized. The angle created by the three locations was approximately 60 degrees or more, much larger than a radian of 57.3 degrees and that margin of error was too large to ignore or explain away as a simple mistake.

A U.S Geological Survey map with the correct locations marked at the peak of Mt. Diablo, the crime scene in San Francisco and the crime scene at Blue Rock Springs Park. The resulting angle measures approximately 60 degrees or more, larger than a radian of approximately 57.3 degrees.

Some defenders of the radian theory suggested that the radian was not meant to be accurate and only concerned the general locations of Blue Rock Springs Park and the Presidio Heights neighborhood in San Francisco where the Zodiac murdered cabdriver Paul Stine. However, the facts once again demonstrate that any angle based in the general area of Presidio Heights will not permit the other leg of the radian to pass through any portion of Blue Rock Springs Park, and vice versa. The facts proved that the radian theory was not valid. Gareth Penn was wrong, I was wrong, and so was anyone else who had ever promoted that theory as valid. Admitting errors is difficult for many people, but I conceded my mistakes and posted a public retraction of my endorsement of the radian theory at the message board. That post also included an accurate presentation which proved that the radian theory was not valid.



After the facts proved that the radian theory was not valid, I retracted my endorsement of that theory and so did others. Jake Wark had since departed from the online community and did not comment on the issue, however, having studied this theory with him in the past, I believe that Jake would also concede that the radian theory is not valid. The Zodiac may have been attempting to create some sort of geometric construction by choosing specific locations for his crimes, but the evidence proved that the radian theory was wrong and that its promoters were wrong regarding the actual locations in question.

As I expected, many promoters of the radian theory were not willing to accept the facts which debunked that theory, especially when that theory played an important role in their own theories about the Zodiac’s methods, motives or identity. In another twist of irony, those who had previously claimed that the Zodiac had chosen the geographic locations of his crime scenes with cold-blooded calculation and accuracy then changed their approach and argued that the Zodiac was just referring to general areas and imprecise measurements. At the heart of this denial was the claim that most maps did not include enough detail to accurately locate and then measure the geometric relationships created by those locations. Penn wrote, “The accuracy of measurement depends in large measure on which map you use.” Zodiac theorist Raymond Grant promoted the radian theory as valid and wrote:

It’s true, of course, that you can find a map somewhere that does include all three points—a map of northern California, for example. The problem is, a map which covers an area large enough to include all three points will not allow for enough recognizable detail to pinpoint the murder sites in Presidio Heights and Blue Rock Springs with any degree of accuracy.

Grant also expanded Penn’s original theory and wrote:

The legs of the radian go through Presidio Heights (the neighborhood), Lake Herman Road (the rural road), and Blue Rock Springs (the park). Depending on how you situate the angle itself, there is a variance among the three murder sites of 1-2° on a map, which doesn’t seem like a lot considering that each leg of the angle is 35-40 miles long… As I said earlier, when one places a radian (57.29°) on a map of the Bay Area . . . with its apex on the above circled point of Mt. Diablo (VABM 3849) . . . so that the south leg of the angle goes through the intersection of Washington & Cherry Street (where Paul Stine was murdered) . . . the north leg goes through the murder scenes at Lake Herman Road and Blue Rock Springs.

Raymond Grant’s claim that the legs of the radian “go through Presidio Heights (the neighborhood), Lake Herman Road (the rural road), and Blue Rock Springs (the park)” is demonstrably false. The facts (and illustrations included here) demonstrate that Grant was wrong– a radian based in Presidio Heights will not pass through Blue Rock Springs Park at all. Grant’s stated certainty on this issue seemed odd given that he, himself, had also stated that maps which featured these three locations did not provide enough detail to “pinpoint” the locations in questions. If Grant could not obtain a map which featured the three locations and sufficient detail to identify those locations, how could Grant measure a radian based on these locations and conclude, with certainty, that the legs of that radian “go through” the three locations? According to Grant’s own claims, he could not conduct the necessary research and therefore had no factual basis for his conclusions.

Grant’s errors regarding the correct measurements of the locations in question are further compounded by his failure to accurately locate those scenes on a map. Like so many others, Grant apparently relied on Penn’s incorrect placement of the Vallejo crime scene as depicted in the illustration from the book Times 17. Like Penn, Grant’s illustration had incorrectly placed the Vallejo crime scene more than four miles West of the correct location. Grant also placed the Lake Herman Road crime scene approximately seven miles Northwest of the correct location.

Grant’s placement of the crime scene locations compared to the accurate locations.

These incorrect placements permitted Grant to measure one radian angle from the San Francisco crime scene, and the general area of the Presidio Heights neighborhood, but Grant’s illustration was even more inaccurate than Penn’s. Grant’s placement of the Lake Herman Road crime scene was nowhere near the correct location and missed the entirety of Lake Herman Road itself. Grant had promoted the radian theory as valid when he could not even locate the crime scenes on a map. Grant’s own illustration proved that he was wrong.



The errors present in Penn’s work and my own previous attempts to assess the radian theory were undeniable, but the level of error in Grant’s presentations was simply stunning. Grant seemed to believe that a line drawn from Mt. Diablo would pass through both the Blue Rock Springs Park and Lake Herman Road crime scenes. Any line drawn from Mt. Diablo will not pass through both locations, as Grant would have realized if he had ever conducted the research necessary to support his own claims.



Raymond Grant’s continued promotion of the radian theory was puzzling and disturbing since the facts which debunked that theory were readily available to him for more than three years. Grant refused to accept the death of the radian theory because much of his own work was based on that theory. Grant wrote that the radian theory was “the starting point for the cryptographic speculation about the case,” and added, “Frankly, I don’t see any alternative to the obvious implication: The Zodiac committed those murders to create that angle on the map.” Grant refused to admit that the locations of those murders did not create that angle on a map.

A simple exercise will prove that Raymond Grant is not only wrong, but that the Zodiac could not have intended for anyone to believe what Grant claims. Using the map provided by the Zodiac, one can accurately locate the San Francisco crime scene at the intersection of Washington and Cherry Streets. Then, one can accurately locate what the Zodiac obvious intended others to interpret as the peak of Mt. Diablo.

Mt. Diablo map close up peak

Then, one can accurately locate the crime scene on Lake Herman Road, evident by its position just East of Lake Herman. Using a protractor to measure the angle created by the San Francisco scene, Mt. Diablo, and the crime scene on Lake Herman Road, one will immediately discover that the Lake Herman Road crime scene creates an angle of approximately 62 degrees or more, far from the 57.3 degrees necessary to create a radian.

The map used by the Zodiac with the peak of Mt. Diablo and the crime scenes on Lake Herman Road and in San Francisco.

The Lake Herman Road crime scene does not form a radian with the SF scene and Mt. Diablo, as the Zodiac’s own map clearly demonstrates. Therefore, the Zodiac must have known this fact if he was even moderately competent when locating the crime scenes and measuring the resulting angles. In order to believe that the Zodiac had access to accurate maps, selected the given locations, and intended a radian, one must believe that the Zodiac was as sloppy and inaccurate in his measurements as Gareth Penn, Raymond Grant and Steve Hodel. Grant’s Lake Herman Road radian theory was just as wrong as the original radian theory.



At least three books promote the radian theory as fact while using that theory to “support” accusations of murder and claims to have solved the case. These three books were written by Gareth Penn, Raymond Grant and Steve Hodel. And yet, all three books are grossly inaccurate regarding the geographic locations in question– meaning, these three authors promoted the radian theory as valid and used that theory to accuse people of murder despite the fact that these three authors could not accurately locate the crime scenes on a map. That fact is simply stunning.

In his book Most Evil, Steve Hodel presented several illustrated maps designed to convince readers that his radian theories were valid. However, Hodel was wrong about the locations in question and the value of the angles shown in those illustrations. Hodel incorrectly stated that a radian is a valued between 58 and 59 degrees instead of 57.3 degrees. In one illustration, Hodel’s angle was actually between 53 and 55 degrees.

In his book MOST EVIL, Steve Hodel incorrectly stated that a radian was valued between “58-59 degrees,” yet the angle in the same illustration measures approximately 53-55 degrees. A radian measures approximately 57.3 degrees.

Hodel’s placement of the Blue Rock Springs Park crime scene was also incorrect. The author incorrectly placed the crime scene so far West that his radian leg almost missed the entire city of Vallejo.

Steve Hodel’s illustration placed the crime scene far West of the correct location.

Such errors would be inexcusable in a high school book report. Hodel’s illustrations also incorrectly placed the locations of other murder scenes and even the peak of Mt. Diablo. The angles featured in Hodel’s illustrations were so incorrect that one must conclude that Hodel never bothered to check the value of those angles or he deliberately misrepresented those values in order to falsely support his claims. Like Penn and Grant, Hodel continued to insist that his theories and presentations were accurate long after they had been debunked.



Raymond Grant claimed that maps which featured the relevant locations do not provide enough detail to accurately identify those locations. One must question Grant’s assertion and wonder if he has ever tried to obtain such a map. Maps which feature all three locations and provide enough detail to accurately locate the crime scenes are readily available to anyone. In fact, the map used by the Zodiac provided adequate detail to identify the crime scenes. The USGS map used in the illustrations included with this article provide enough detail to identify the scenes, as do most maps. Gareth Penn reportedly used a map issued by the AAA (American Automobile Association) in his radian experiments. As seen in the image below, a map issued by the AAA features all three locations and provides adequate detail to accurately identify the locations in question.


Raymond Grant wrote: “And asking for 100% proof is what Mike Butterfield does when he DEBUNKS ideas. An idea is either 100% right, or it’s 100% wrong, and if he can find some microscopic nitpick in there, that proves his case.”

Grant’s placement of the Lake Herman Road crime scene was wrong by approximately seven miles and his placement of the Blue Rock Springs Park crime scene was wrong by approximately four miles. Grant claimed that these two crime scenes fall upon a straight line drawn from Mt. Diablo. Grant claimed that these two scenes formed a radian angle drawn from Mt. Diablo and the San Francisco crime scene. Grant claimed that most maps which show all three locations do not provide enough detail to accurately identify the correct locations. Grant claimed that his maps, illustrations, measurements and presentations were accurate and even more accurate than others. The facts demonstrate, beyond any and all doubt, that Raymond Grant’s claims are 100% wrong. That’s not my personal opinion– that’s an indisputable fact which can be easily verified in a matter of minutes using a map, a protractor and the facts. Therefore, Grant is 0.00% right. Again, that’s not my opinion but a proven fact. Given the absolutely stunning proportions of Grant’s colossal errors, no one can accurately refer to the debunking of his claims as “some microscopic nitpick.”



The facts which debunk the radian theory are readily available to anyone who cares to look. Promoters of the radian theory use erroneous maps with the wrong locations and the wrong measurements, an irony which serves as the final proof that the radian theory is invalid– even its promoters failed to do their homework. Gareth Penn, Raymond Grant and Steve Hodel promote the radian theory, but, in order to do so, they must discard the facts in favor of falsehoods.

Gareth Penn’s radian theory may have been compelling and entertaining, and, many people– including myself– may have been fascinated by its simplicity and its possible implications. At its core, the radian theory is the kind of answer so many people seek from the Zodiac mystery, some sort of explanation which would help us understand why this tragedy occurred. Like most sensational “answers” in the Zodiac case, the radian theory seems initially impressive until one examines the facts.




The Radian Theory * The Mt. Diablo Map * The Mysteries of the Map

Radians & Inches * Radians: By The Textbook

The World According to Gareth Penn * Raymond Grant: The Zodiac Murders– Solved!

The World According to Steve Hodel * Most Evil and the Further Literary Crimes of Steve Hodel

What Is A Radian?


Copyright 2013 * All Rights Reserved

ZODIAC DNA: A Question of Answers

San Francisco’s Old Mint recently hosted a special screening of the 2007 film ZODIAC. Attending the event were San Francisco Chronicle writer Kevin Fagan, retired San Francisco Police Captain Al Casciato, and SFPD Inspector Pamela Hofsass.

Sandy Betts attended the screening and described the event in her message board posts. According to Betts, Hofsass told the audience that the San Francisco Police Department has obtained a partial profile of the Zodiac’s DNA. The same news was reported over a decade ago when the San Francisco Police Department announced that it had obtained a partial DNA profile from Zodiac communications. Then, investigators explained that the partial DNA profile would help to exclude suspects but could not be used to positively identify the Zodiac. The same would appear to be true today, as a partial profile can only eliminate an individual as the donor of the DNA. The partial profile cannot positively identify the Zodiac because the profile is incomplete. The DNA of a suspect may appear to match the partial profile but testing cannot accurately complete that match without a complete DNA profile from the Zodiac communications or other evidence. Until a complete profile is obtained, the new DNA profile may prove useful in reducing the ever-expanding list of suspects and clearing some of the confusion which continues to cloud this case.

Members of the Zodiackillersite message board wondered if Hofsass was referring to a “new” DNA profile or the same partial profile previously obtained from Zodiac envelopes in 2002. The questions prompted Sandy Betts to post a clarification which read: “I don’t want people to come to the the wrong conclusion as to what I said. (I need to make it more clear.) The DNA is a “partial” and with technology advancing as fast as it is, I was told that it can be used in the near future, not today or tomorrow but near future. Because it is only a “partial” it can not be entered into CODIS.”

In 2002, SFGate reported that the SFPD had obtained a partial DNA profile from suspected Zodiac communications. The article quoted SFPD Inspector Kelly Carroll: “We have something we haven’t had to this point, a partial DNA fingerprint.” Carroll conceded that profile was “not enough at this time to submit” to CODIS (Combined DNA Index System).

In a 2002 CNN interview, Carroll stated,”Well, in the instance of this case, as I said, Zodiac mailed letters to the local newspapers. Now, he claimed to have disguised his appearance and to have disguised his fingerprints so that police couldn’t find him. But one of the things that we did in examining the evidence is realize that in 1969 the idea of DNA was at best science fiction and so it was probable that Zodiac did not have any idea about disguising or hiding his DNA. And so we concluded that there was the possibility that we could recover biological material deposited by Zodiac when he licked the stamps and the envelopes that he used to send the letters.”

I spoke to Kelly Carroll in 2000, when he had been assigned to the Zodiac case along with his partner, the late Mike Maloney. Carroll was optimistic about the potential of modern forensic technology and said, “If this is case is solved, it will probably be solved by someone in a white lab coat.” Carroll and Maloney worked to process Zodiac evidence for possible DNA, and it’s encouraging to see that the San Francisco Police Department is still trying to solve the case after all these years.

DNA evidence proved invaluable in many cases, often serving as the last word which either identifies the guilty party or exonerates the wrongly accused. DNA evidence has exonerated at least 300 people including Damon Thibodeaux, who was recently released after serving more than fifteen years in prison for the rape and murder of his step-cousin.

DNA evidence has raised new and disturbing questions regarding the convictions of the so-called “West Memphis Three,” who had been imprisoned for the murders of three young boys but were recently released by a controversial Alford plea. Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley conceded that the prosecution possessed evidence to convict them in court, and, in exchange for their guilty pleas, the trio was released after serving eighteen years in prison. The case received renewed and increased scrutiny when newly-obtained DNA evidence appeared to implicate the step-father of one victim.

DNA evidence finally settled a decades-long debate regarding the guilt or innocence of accused “Boston Strangler” Albert DeSalvo. After a series of unsolved murders, DeSalvo claimed responsibility in confessions which were later challenged by those who doubted DeSalvo’s guilt and questioned the official conclusion that he alone was responsible for all of the murders attributed to the same strangler. Previous attempts to obtain DNA evidence from the body of an exhumed victim raised questions when the discovered evidence did not appear to match DeSalvo’s DNA. However, new testing has now proved that DeSalvo’s DNA was found on the body of the last strangler victim Mary Sullivan. The Sullivan family had questioned the DeSalvo solution for many years, and nephew Casey Sherman authored a book which suggested that other suspects may have been responsible for the Boston stranglings. Upon learning the news that new DNA evidence implicated DeSalvo in his aunt’s murder, Sherman conceded DeSalvo’s guilt and said, “I only go where the evidence leads.” He also he thanked investigators for their “incredible persistence.” History has apparently closed the book on the enduring mystery of the Boston Strangler, leaving other great mysteries awaiting their final answers.

Renewed efforts to obtain DNA evidence could provide surprising results which may implicate previously-dismissed suspects or exonerate others who many had claimed were undoubtedly guilty. When the San Francisco Police Department announced that suspected Zodiac DNA did not match the infamous suspect Arthur Leigh Allen, his accusers dismissed the evidence and continued to claim that he was somehow involved in the Zodiac crimes. The results of DNA evidence are usually ignored by those who accuse suspects excluded by that DNA evidence, so the new partial profile may do little to discourage amateur sleuths who are convinced that their suspect was the Zodiac killer.

News of possible DNA evidence raises hopes that we may someday have answers to some of the questions which persist in the ongoing debate about this case. Can DNA from the Zodiac communications be matched to the DNA from other writings and thereby prove that one individual was responsible for all of the suspected Zodiac letters? Will DNA taken from the Zodiac communications match DNA linked to other Zodiac crimes? Can the new DNA confirm or exclude a link between the Zodiac letters and writings related to the still-unsolved murder of victim Cheri Jo Bates?

I have followed and researched this case for a very long time, and I would be thrilled to see new evidence identify the Zodiac, but that may prove difficult if the Zodiac is not one of the known suspects and his DNA profile is not contained in the CODIS database. I hope that Inspector Kelly Carroll was right when he predicted that the case would be solved by forensic science. After more than four decades, this unsolved mystery needs to meets its end.


CHERI JO BATES and The ZODIAC: Unsolved Crimes and Unanswered Questions


Visit the ZodiacKillerFacts Forum to discuss this and other case-related issues.

Copyright 2013 All Rights Reserved Gardner and Penn, Jekyll and Hyde

Dave Oranchak’s site features a new article about Zodiac theorist Gareth Penn and math and science writer Martin Gardner, the author of the column Mathematical Games for the magazine Scientific American. The article, titled Gardner and Penn, Jekyll and Hyde, focuses on Penn’s writings and Gardner’s opinions regarding Penn’s theories about the Zodiac ciphers and other material.

Oranchak discovered a collection of Martin Gardner’s correspondences and notes at Stanford University which reveals that Gardner was not impressed with Penn’s work. Notations written by Gardner regarding Penn read, “He must be mad,” and refer to Penn’s findings as “nonsense.” FBI experts had examined Penn’s work and concluded that his interpretation was “based on speculation and a multitude of assumptions” and his results were “forced.

In the early 1990s, I began corresponding with Gareth Penn. While I was initially intrigued by his claims and theories, I eventually discovered that Penn’s work could not withstand scrutiny. His interpretations of the Zodiac writings were interesting, to say the least, but most of his conclusions were questionable, at best, if not ultimately unsound. Most troublesome was the fact that one of Penn’s most prominent claims proved false– his theory that two of the crime scenes formed a radian angle deliberately designed by the Zodiac. Penn’s so-called “radian theory” became infamous and even inspired other Zodiac theorists such as Raymond Grant and Steve Hodel, who both used the erroneous theory to support their own “solutions” to the Zodiac mystery. In addition to my study of Penn’s work, my own communications with Penn, and his “suspect” Michael O’Hare, left me convinced that Penn’s take on the Zodiac case was wrong. In the years since, Penn has defended his theories and work, and, he even became a suspect himself when a former “follower” accused him of conspiring with O’Hare and others to commit the Zodiac crimes. Ironically, Penn’s accuser used much of the same erroneous and already-debunked material which Penn had used to accuse O’Hare as the Zodiac.

Martin Gardner’s conclusions cast further doubt on Penn’s theories and, as Oranchak wrote, serve as “another reminder to be wary about the foundations that we build in our minds.

[NOTE: Thanks to Dave Oranchak for obtaining and sharing the collection of Gardner documents.]


Related Links:

* TIMES 17: THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARETH – this article examines Penn’s book and history: also includes an article written by Penn’s suspect Michael O’Hare.

* THE RADIAN THEORY DEBUNKED – this article examines Gareth Penn’s infamous ‘Radian Theory.’

* MOST EVIL & THE FURTHER LITERARY CRIMES OF STEVE HODEL – a review of the book MOST EVIL and an examination of its many factual errors.

* THE WORLD ACCORDING TO STEVE HODEL – this article thoroughly debunks Hodel’s claims regarding the radian theory, the Zodiac crime scenes, the Mt. Diablo map and more.

Copyright 2013 – Butterfield

900+ Pages of FBI Files on the Zodiac Killer Investigation

Once again, morf of Zodiackillersite has provided previously-unreleased FBI files obtained by Freedom of Information Act requests. Some of the 900+ pages have been presented online over the years, but some of the material has never been available to the public.

Morf has conveniently packaged the documents in 5 files in PDF format for easy downloading and viewing. The first file contains approximately 297 pages, most concerning the events surrounding Gareth Penn and Michael O’Hare during the 1980s. Also includes: letters from Penn as well as a copy of his original article for New West magazine titled Portrait of the Artist as a Mass Murderer. The second file contains approximately 172 pages. Included: the original “Special Report” produced by the California Department of Justice, a letter from the senior editor of New West magazine to the FBI, and a typed draft of Penn’s original article. The third file contains approximately 368 pages of handwriting samples and other material regarding a suspect as well as files regarding the Bureau’s handwriting analysis of various Zodiac letters and other questioned documents (some of this material fills in the gaps in the previously-released collection of FBI files). The fourth file contains approximately 27 pages from a weekly planner belonging to a suspect. The fifth file contains approximately 50 pages of documents regarding the Zodiac crime at Lake Berryessa. Included: a handwritten statement from the man who discovered victims Byran Hartnell and Cecelia Shepard, a report from the man who found Hartnell on the road near the crime scene, and more. (Some of these files have been added to the ZodiacKillerFacts Document Gallery in the Lake Berryessa Documents section.)

While these documents do not appear to contain any shocking revelations or smoking gun clues, the pages of FBI files contribute to the ongoing study of the case. Morf’s consistent generosity in making these files immediately available to researchers and others serves as a fine example of a positive contribution by members of the online community who work to learn more about the the Zodiac story.

CLICK HERE to view and download the previously-unreleased FBI files provided by morf.

The Zodiac Killer Cover-Up: A Bad Case of Deja Vu

The news media is running through yet another Zodiac cycle after the publication of the book The Zodiac Killer Cover-Up: The Silenced Badge by long-time Zodiac theorist Lyndon Lafferty. Many observers may believe that Lafferty’s suspect is “new,” but the man was featured in the 1986 best-selling book Zodiac, under the pseudonym “Andrew Todd Walker.” Lafferty and his associates have been accusing and investigating the suspect since 1970, and, according to his book, his investigation was thwarted by a judge and various others. Lafferty has consistently failed to present any credible evidence to link his suspect to the Zodiac crimes and law enforcement has exhibited no interest in pursuing his theory, claims or suspect. On February 2, 2012, the suspect died, and Lafferty’s book subsequently became available for sale online.

News of the book release and the death of the suspect generated many news stories, including a new article at the website titled “Sister of Zodiac victim disappointed by death of ‘suspect’.” Pam Huckaby, the sister of Zodiac victim Darlene Ferrin, was interviewed by phone for the story, which also includes video with audio excerpts from the interview. According to the story, Pam is now “absolutely certain” that Lyndon Lafferty’s suspect was the man who had “stalked” Darlene during the months before she was murdered in July 1969. Pam said, “We’ve got him. That’s the man.”

Highlights of the story include:

* Huckaby said Lafferty showed her a picture of the man in 1987 and she immediately recognized him as the man who had been stalking her sister when she worked as a waitress in a Vallejo restaurant. “She was afraid of him. She told me he was bad,” Huckaby said.

* According to the article, Pam also “posed as a salesperson” and went to the home of Lafferty’s suspect.

* The reporter tells his colleagues that law enforcement has been “somewhat dismissive” of Lafferty and his claims.

Some observers may have been skeptical of Pam’s claims, as she had a long history of telling stories about her sister and the so-called “stalker.” Many of these stories had been featured in the book Zodiac and other accounts which claimed that Darlene had known the Zodiac killer. The theory persisted, yet most investigators and researchers noted that the stalker stories had no basis in fact.

Tom Voigt, the webmaster of the website, had many encounters with Pam and he repeatedly described her as an unreliable source of information. On Friday, January 26, 2007, at 8:26 pm, Voigt wrote, “the people primarily responsible for the ‘Darlene had a stalker’ stuff were her sisters, Pam and Linda. The fact is, Pam and Linda have identified numerous men over the years as being the stalker; Kane is just one of them. [Andrew Todd Walker] is another, and not long before Linda died she e-mailed me claiming Allen was that man. Give me time and I can probably add more names to the ‘Darlene’s stalker’ list as well.” On Friday, January 26, 2007, at 5:36 pm, Voigt responded to a question about the alleged “stalker” who had bothered Darlene: “The only person I recall being named in the police reports who apparently made Darlene uncomfortable was a guy named George… However, he didn’t fit the description of the stalker referred to in the yellow book [Robert Graysmith’s book ZODIAC]. If I recall correctly all of this ‘Darlene had a stalker’ nonsense came about in the 1980s and can be traced back to some extremely unreliable sources.” On August 1, 2007, Voigt wrote of stories about Larry Kane and Darlene Ferrin: “This reminds me of the nonsense that has surrounded the Darlene Ferrin murder for decades. You know, the stuff about how all of these people close to Darlene knew she was in danger, being followed, saw a murder, etc. Yet NONE OF THEM TOLD THE POLICE. Bull.”

On November 7, 2010, Voigt reported to the public: “Just got off the phone with Darlene’s sister. She recognized the man in the photo to be [Voigt’s suspect] Richard Gaikowski.” The sister in question was Pam Huckaby. According to Voigt, Pam had identified Richard Gaikowski as the man posed in a photograph with Darlene. The man in the photograph was not Richard Gaikowski. [Note: According to Voigt’s associates, several people who had known Darlene had stated that the man in the photograph was Darlene’s ex-husband, although he allegedly denied this when asked.] In 2000, a member of Voigt’s message board referred to some of the claims made by Pam, and Voigt responded, “The stories you mentioned came from Dee’s sister, Pam, who has severe credibility issues.” Voigt made other statements which cast doubt on Pam’s credibility. Many others shared similar opinions regarding Pam and her history over the years, including Voigt’s associate Howard Davis, author of the book The Zodiac/Manson Connection. On Monday, January 01, 2001, at 3:28 AM, Davis posted the following at Voigt’s message board: “Of course, I am fully aware that Pam has a credibility problem.”

In his book, Lyndon Lafferty wrote, “Our sensitive information was betrayed and Pamela Huckaby betrayed my confidence as well.” According to Lafferty, Pam’s “poor lack of judgment resulted in tragic consequences,” including the destruction of “32 years of covert investigations, possible grand jury indictments pending on the horizon, and a successful prosecution by the DOJ [Department of Justice].” Lafferty also blamed a judge for somehow protecting the Zodiac suspect in a “cover-up,” hence the title of Lafferty’s book. Dennis Kaufman, Howard Davis, Steve Hodel, Blaine Blaine, and many others have claimed that their suspects have escaped justice thanks to sinister, often elaborate conspiracies involving members of law enforcement and various authority figures. Like most Zodiac theorists, Lafferty was eager to blame others for his own failure to present credible and compelling evidence to implicate his suspect.

Lyndon Lafferty may be selling books, but I’m not buying his solution to the Zodiac case. As the saying goes, everything old is new again, and the latest media frenzy is just another bad rerun.


Related Links:

Copyright /

The Last Farewell

As the Zodiac story continues without end into another new decade, we are reminded that our own time on earth is all too short. I was saddened by the recent news that Donald Harden had died. Those who study the Zodiac mystery owe a debt to Donald and his wife Bettye for their diligent work to solve the Zodiac’s first cipher in the summer of 1969. I never met the Hardens but I was fortunate to meet their daughter Leslie in 2007. According to Leslie, Bettye Harden continued to study the Zodiac’s three unsolved ciphers over the years and believed that she may have produced another possible solution to one of the messages. Like her parents, Leslie wanted to help in the search for answers, and the Harden family made a significant contribution to this case as citizens.

On Friday March 23, 2012, another noted figure in the Zodiac mystery passed away. Former Vallejo police dispatcher Nancy Slover (Earp) answered the Zodiac’s call after the shooting at Blue Rock Springs Park on the night of July 4th, 1969. The brief conversation left a lasting impression on Nancy and she shared her memories with many curious Zodiac researchers, reporters, crime buffs and producers over the following decades. I had the opportunity to talk with Nancy in 2007 and again in 2009 during the filming of the television documentary MYSTERYQUEST. Nancy debunked persistent myths about the Zodiac case, particularly the story that her telephone conversation with the killer had been recorded on tape. According to Nancy, the Vallejo police department did not have the equipment installed to record incoming calls to the police dispather and no such tape was ever produced (although a handful of people did claim that they had listened to this recording). Nancy’s descriptions of the Zodiac’s behavior during the now-notorious phone call were chilling and always kept everyone on the edge of their seats. Nancy was one of only three people who spoke to the Zodiac and lived to talk about her encounter. She became a part of true crime history and will always be remembered fondly and with respect by everyone who knew her. I am grateful that I was able to learn from Nancy during our conversations and my condolences go out to her family and friends.

In one of his more famous letters, the Zodiac quoted from the Gilbert and Sullivan musical The MIKADO and declared of certain individuals, “They’d none of them be missed.” In the last year, several individuals have left this mortal coil, including Napa County Sheriff’s Investigator Ken Narlow, the man originally assigned to the case of the Zodiac’s knife attack at Lake Berryessa. Ken was known for his candor and professionalism as he continued his search for the Zodiac long into his retirement. Those who knew Ken were deeply saddened to learn that he had passed away. Now, Donald Harden and Nancy Slover have joined Ken, and I think it’s safe to say that they will be missed by anyone who cares about the Zodiac story.


* Read the Vallejo Times-Herald Obituary for Nancy Slover *

The Mystery of the Zodiac Killer

The case of the Zodiac killer will be featured along with other California crime stories on the Travel Channel series HIDDEN CITY. The show will air on Tuesday January 10, 2012 [at 10:00 PM and again at 1:00 AM in the Mountain Time Zone. Check your local listings for the Pacific, Central and Eastern times zones, or, consult the Travel Channel schedule.] Host and writer Marcus Sakey will also examine the assassination of famed San Francisco politician Harvey Milk (the subject of the film MILK, starring Sean Penn) and the “Vigilance Committee” of the Bay Area “Gold Rush” days. [Video Clip: Marcus Sakey discusses the Zodiac codes with crossword creator Byron Walden.]

According to a brief description posted at the Travel Channel website, “Marcus takes a cab ride with amateur detective Tom Voigt to the site of the only Zodiac murder that took place in the San Francisco city limits.” If the brief blurb is correct, the show will apparently focus on the Zodiac’s last known murder, the killing of San Francisco cabdriver Paul Stine. This attack occurred on the night of October 11, 1969, at the intersection of Washington and Cherry Streets. The crime scene is located in an upscale neighborhood known as Presidio Heights, named for its proximity to the Presidio military base at the northern tip of the San Francisco peninsula.

More than any other Zodiac crime, the murder of Paul Stine has been the subject of ongoing controversy and debate. According to the San Francisco Police Department, the killer left fingerprints at the scene which could possibly identify the Zodiac. After police made this announcement, the Zodiac denied that he had left any fingerprints behind. The killer was seen by three witnesses who provided the only eyewitness description and composite sketch of the killer. The Zodiac later claimed that he only resembled the sketch during his crimes. According to San Francisco police, two patrolmen drove by a white man who matched the description provided by the witnesses but they did not stop to question him because the police dispatcher had mistakenly described the killer as a black man. The Zodiac claimed that he had been stopped by two police officers who then allowed him to escape. The killer also claimed that he had hidden on the Presidio grounds and he mocked police for failing to catch him. Two days after the murder, an envelope arrived at the offices of the San Francisco Chronicle which contained a piece of the victim’s blood-stained shirt, establishing an undeniable link between the killer and the author of the many “Zodiac” letters sent to Bay Area newspapers. The letter included the Zodiac’s infamous threat to attack a school bus filled with children. Zodiac’s fantasy inspired the famous scene in the classic crime thriller DIRTY HARRY, in which a Zodiac-like killer named “Scorpio” hijacks a school bus and threatens the children on board. Authorities were unable to link the Zodiac to any murders after the killing of Paul Stine, although the elusive killer repeatedly alluded to other unidentified victims.

Those who are interested in learning more about the murder of Paul Stine and related subjects can view the original composite sketches of the Zodiac suspect, read the original police report written by the first officer to arrive on the scene, examine the fingerprint evidence, view the crime scene, watch videos about this crime, and study other material by following the links below. also provides a free message board forum where members can discuss the case, present their own research, or seek answers to case-related questions. The Document Gallery provides thousands of case photographs and a comprehensive collection of The Zodiac Letters. Visitors can also view the actual police reports and other official documents at The Zodiac Case Files page. A new section titled The Zodiac Crimes features links to pages devoted to the known and suspected Zodiac crimes, including photographs of the crime scenes and other material. If you are new to the Zodiac story and would like to learn more about this enduring true crime mystery, the Case Summary has been updated and expanded to provide a basic overview of the Zodiac story from 1968 up to 2012.

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


* Paul Stine


* Washington and Cherry Streets – October, 1969


* Crime Scene Photographs


* Paul Stine’s Shirt

* The Fingerprints


* San Francisco Investigators and Others


* Sketches of the Suspect


* The Zodiac’s Envelope and Letter


* Newspaper Stories and Other Material


* Paul Stine’s Brother Joe


* Paul Stine: Record of Death

* Paul Stine: Certificate of Death

* Report by SFPD Officer Armand Pelissetti

* Excerpt from Dept. of Justice Report on Stine Case

* Memo on the Zodiac Sighting by SFPD Officer Don Fouke


* Paul Stine’s Cab

* The Crime Scene: Washington and Cherry Streets

* A Possible Escape Route

* SFPD Officer Don Fouke on the Zodiac Sighting

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

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

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


NOTE: Writer/researcher Michael Butterfield toured the Zodiac crimes scenes with the original investigators and criminalist Paul Holes (Chief Forensic Services Division of the Contra Costa Sheriff’s Department) for the History Channel documentary series MYSTERYQUEST, which also examined the accusations against Zodiac “suspect” Richard Gaikowski. Watch the video tour of the San Francisco crime scene (the tour begins at the 4:07 mark).

TV ALERT: The popular TV crime series CRIMINAL MINDS will feature a Zodiac story in an upcoming episode titled “True Genius.” The CBS website posted the following synopsis: “A series of murders in San Francisco bearing the tell-tale signs of the infamous Zodiac Killer have the BAU wondering if the notorious serial killer has returned. Also, Reid ponders if he should be doing more with his genius abilities, on CRIMINAL MINDS, Wednesday, Jan. 18 (9:00-10:00 PM, ET/PT)


Copyright 2012


In June 2011, I received several emails from a man who claimed he had solved the Zodiac’s notorious “340” cipher. Corey Starliper complained that he had contacted authorities in Napa, Vallejo, Solano and San Francisco but he could not find anyone who would listen to him. Starliper stated that nine hours of work on his part had produced a solution with “98% readability.” I agreed to examine the solution and pass it along to others who knew much more about codes than myself.

Upon receipt of said solution, I immediately recognized its disjointed, garbled text as well as the many misspellings. To me, the solution was obviously incorrect and appeared to have been forced to fit a predetermined set of priorities– most specifically: linking the code to the once-prime suspect, Arthur Leigh Allen.











The overwhelming majority of those who examined the Starliper solution concluded that it was invalid and the results had been forced to fit a preconceived goal. Part of Starliper’s solution was based on his belief that the number of symbols in the 340 cipher was a clue referencing the Virgin Islands, where Zodiac victim Darlene was said to have traveled before her death. Starliper stated that the number 340 was also the area code for the Virgin Islands, however, this was not true at the time of the Zodiac’s code and that prefix was not used until decades later. This did not deter Starliper, nor was he discouraged by the news that many had deemed his solution to be invalid. After promising to “write back” with more information to explain his solution and methods, Starliper vanished– he never sent the explanation of his methods and findings as he had previously promised.

In late July 2011, Starliper resurfaced in Internet stories with titles such as “Massachusetts Man Says He’s Cracked Zodiac Killer Code,” “Tewksbury Native: I’ve Cracked The Code Of The Zodiac Killer,” and “Someone Finally Cracked One of the Zodiac Killer’s Codes.” The articles were often accompanied by a photograph of a smiling Starliper proudly displaying his “solution.” Starliper was quoted by “I found it exciting, that I was actually able to get into his head when nobody had for over 40 years.” He complained that no one in law enforcement would listen to his claims and said, “It’s disheartening to know that the authorities have basically shut the door on it.” Starliper had apparently chosen to blame authorities and ignore the fact that his solution was not valid.

Starliper stated that he first became interested in the Zodiac case after seeing the 2007 film ZODIAC and reading the book version by Robert Graysmith. “I saw the movie first, and when I saw the movie, (I had) instant interest in it… When I read the book, I was … just hungry for more when the book ended… I became absolutely obsessed with the case, to the point that I’d look up from Graysmith’s books … and realize that I’d actually forgotten to eat.” The book and the film ZODIAC both presented a distorted and factually inaccurate account of the case which has been altered and embellished in order to lend credence to Graysmith’s theories while making Arthur Leigh Allen look more guilty than the truth would permit. Starliper was admittedly influenced and inspired by the book and film, and his comments about the case, the evidence, Allen, and other subjects proved that he had relied on these unreliable sources for most of his information about the case.

Starliper’s attempts to exploit the Zodiac case in order to receive attention had worked, but his bogus solution and its sensational last line resurrected the accusations against the eternally accused suspect Arthur Leigh Allen. Once again, Allen stood accused by yet another amateur sleuth with yet another bad code solution. Once again, the amateur was obviously inspired by the book and/or film ZODIAC which used dubious methods, selective omission, exaggerations and even falsehoods to make Allen appear guilty of the Zodiac crimes when, in fact, the evidence indicated that he was not the killer. Like his predecessors, Starliper was eager to stand before cameras and exploit the murders of other human beings in exchange for his fifteen nano-seconds of infamy.

On the Internet, Starliper tried to portray himself as an honest man with honorable intentions who had been ignored by authorities and somehow victimized by his critics. He wrote: “A lot of people think it makes sense, but they’re bringing up the rear. 90 percent of the people whove commented dont think Ive cracked it. Then again, I havent seen a solution proposed in its place since this whole thing began.” On his Facebook page, Starliper offered this rather self-serving and disengenuous explanation:

STARLIPER: When people talk, things get shaken loose, and as far as I understand, this case is still open in Napa County. If you think my solution is inaccurate, present your own. Prove me wrong. I’ve received comments lately where people have been attacking my recent popularity as a desperate attempt to get that horrendous picture plastered all over the internet. That was never my intention. The only thing I’m concerned about is keeping interest alive long enough for this case to get solved once and for all whether I’m in the picture or not. I’m not going to be in the spotlight forever, and I have no desire to maintain the recent popularity/notoriety for any longer than I need to. I’ll have the write up on how I came to the conclusion I did shortly. In the interim I’m open to constructive criticism and I urge people to sit down with this code and try to make sense of it. It would be a shame to think that with all the hits I’ve gotten, I’m the only one who still thinks that this case is worth solving.

Much like his inspiration Robert Graysmith, Starliper seemed to think that the ends justify the means and that ANY attempt to draw attention to the Zodiac case serves a good cause. Like Graysmith, Starliper ignored the obvious fact that the case is already the subject of relentless “attention” and plagued by nonsense and falsehoods created and/or prepetuated by people like Starliper, Graysmith and others. Starliper falsely equated the lack of interest in his solution with a lack of concern for solving this case, despite the undeniable fact that the former had nothing to do with the latter. Obviously aware that his solution is not valid and that his critics will not ignore his grandstanding, Starliper conveniently claimed that he was not seeking attention for himself but to serve the unsolved case.

STARLIPER: Zodiac mispells various words. I released the code in lay from what I could garner. Leigh Allen never left a fingerprint behind. The latent partial in blood on the side of the cab probably came from a cop who reached out and touched it. Check your facts. The latent partial was never attributed to Zodiac. Zodiac wore gloves that night. Additionally, when he “did his thing” he always wore a coat of airplane glue on his fingertips. I can’t explain the 340 connection to the Virgin Islands. Part of Leigh Allen’s brain was saved after he died. They ran it against a few stamps that he sent to the police in his communications and they did not match…who says he licked the stamps? He had his mother on a ball and chain and by the time DNA testing could be conducted she was dead too (I think, I’ll have to doublecheck)…and no one ever considered that maybe after he killed his victims he had them lick the stamp, then saved the envelope to be sent a year later…he often sent letters and communications on the anniversaries of his killings. So the DNA not matching means nothing to me. Allens handwriting did not match, but Morrill said that his handwriting was forced that day, which means he wasn’t writing like he normally would. 101 pieces of circumstancial evidence were found against Allen. The solution may be incorrect but its just as valid as anyone else’s guess. This one makes the most sense. He uses phrases in the code that he used in other communications like “im so angry I could do my thing” verbatim. It also corresponds with Toschi’s idea that he was suicidal when he wrote it.

“Leigh Allen never left a fingerprint behind.” Allen’s fingerprints were taken when he was arrested for child molestation in 1974 and after his death in 1992, facts which raise questions about the meaning and purpose of Starliper’s strange statement. Starliper was obviously stating that Allen– AS THE ZODIAC– never left a fingerpint behind. Starliper’s logic was based only on wishful thinking, i.e. none of the suspected Zodiac fingerprints match Allen so therefore the fingerprints do not belong to the Zodiac.

“The latent partial in blood on the side of the cab probably came from a cop who reached out and touched it. Check your facts.” According to the very first officer to arrive at the crime scene that night, the fingerprint in question was already visible on the cab at the time. Starliper stated that the print was “probably” from a cop, yet this self-serving assumption was not supported by the facts. The officers on the scene that night, including SFPD Inspector David Toschi, stated that the crime scene was well-preserved. The body of the victim was examined and removed from the passenger side of the cab and the print was found on the largely undisturbed area on the driver’s side. There is no credible evidence to indicate that the print belonged to anyone but the Zodiac, and there is no evidence to support Starliper’s assumption of sloppy policework at the crime scene that night. Both Toschi and his partner Bill Armstrong told reporters and others that the fingerprints and handwriting would identify the Zodiac, and they both did so years AFTER both the fingerprints and handwriting had been used to eliminate Allen as a suspect. Starliper’s entire premise was refuted by the facts which he admonished others to check but had apparently ignored himself.

Starliper also stated that the Zodiac wore gloves. While a pair of men’s gloves were discovered in the cab there is no evidence that they belonged to the killer. Even the police stated that it was only a possibility that the killer had worn these gloves (Graysmith claimed that Toschi had identified the owner of the gloves– a woman). Starliper repeated the Zodiac’s unsubstantiated claim that he wore airplane cement on his fingers in order to prevent leaving prints. The killer would have no need to wear gloves if he had taken such precautions. If the gloves were used to prevent blood from getting on his hands, the killer’s decision to remove the gloves and handle the bleeding victim also made no sense.

The fingerprint in question was found on the outside of the cab, on a post between the front and back doors of the driver’s side– the exact spot where witnesses stated they had last seen the killer making contact with the cab AFTER these gloves were left inside the vehicle. Police had always believed that this print belonged to the killer, despite Starliper’s erroneous claims to the contrary, and they cleared numerous suspects on the basis of these fingerprints and other evidence. The available evidence and information does not support Starliper’s attempts to dismiss the fingerprint evidence which excludes Allen. Police ended their investigation of Allen after they failed to produce any credible evidence against him, after his handwriting did not match that of the Zodiac, and after they learned that the suspected Zodiac fingerprint did not match Allen.

Like Graysmith and other desperate theorists, Starliper attempted to dismiss the evidence which excluded his suspect by inventing scenarios to explain-away that evidence. After DNA and other evidence excluded Allen, Graysmith began claiming that Allen had mysterious accomplices who licked his envelopes and stamps, committed the crimes, or even wrote the letters for Allen. Such scenarios served the purposes of the desperate theorists but were not in keeping with common sense, logic and known facts. Starliper suggested that Allen’s mother had licked stamps for him despite the fact that no evidence existed to support this theory and DNA testing could easily identify the source of the DNA as a relative of Allen. Starliper also introduced the ridiculous idea that the Zodiac used the tongues of his recently dead or wounded victims to moisten stamps and envelopes before he fled the crime scene. While Starliper, Graysmith and others who accused Allen were quick to claim that Allen did not lick his stamps and often asked others to do so, there was no credible evidence that Allen did not lick his own stamps and no credible witnesses had ever come forward to confirm this dubious claim.

Starliper offered a rather bizarre statement to explain-away the handwriting experts who concluded that Allen did not write the Zodiac letters. “Allens handwriting did not match, but [Questioned Documents Expert Sherwood] Morrill said that his handwriting was forced that day, which means he wasn’t writing like he normally would.” This statement is 100% false. Morrill (and others) used samples of Allen’s handwriting which had been obtained with and without his knowledge and had been produced by both his right and left hands. Morrill and others based their conclusions on their examination of all the samples, not on one sample taken on “that day,” as Starliper claimed.

Starliper offered another sensational and dubious claim: “101 pieces of circumstancial evidence were found against Allen.” Starliper does not list these fictional “pieces” of circumstantial evidence. Like Graysmith and others, Starliper seemed eager to distort the facts in order to make Allen appear guilty. The original investigators and others who had examined all of the so-called “evidence” said to implicate Allen had also concluded that he was not a viable suspect. The original investigators, including Dave Toschi and Bill Armstrong, were not impressed by the circumstantial evidence against Allen; they consistently abandoned Allen as a suspect and never looked back as they moved on to investigate others often described in reports as “excellent suspects.” Starliper’s stated “101 pieces of circumstantial evidence” appeared to be a number pulled out thin air in order to bolster a weak presentation. Starliper never presented the unidentified pieces of evidence to which he referred. I have no doubt that Starliper could not provide a list of 101 points of CREDIBLE evidence against Allen because such evidence had never existed.

On his Facebook page, Starliper confessed, “The solution may be incorrect but its just as valid as anyone else’s guess.” This was a bizarre twist of circular logic, and Starliper was not saying what he seemed to think he was saying. Starliper was saying that his solution was just as BAD as any invalid solution produced by anyone else, or as good as any “guess.” He added that his solution “makes the most sense” when, in fact, his solution was clearly invalid and he admitted that the majority of those who have examined his solution had reached the same conclusion.

Shortly after I publicly described Starliper’s solution as a “laughable mess,” I received an angry email from Starliper in which he expressed his outrage that I had rejected his solution. After a reference to “coming after you publicly,” he stated that a dismissal of his solution was equal to “ruining your career.” Starliper was apparently operating under the delusion that I feared his wrath and that history would remember him as anything but a shameless attention-seeker.

Corey Starliper joined a long list of funny fellows, comic men and clowns of private life who viewed public tragedies as opportunities to serve themselves. Stories that Starliper had solved the Zodiac’s code continued to circulate all over the Internet and across the world, but the true story was again overshadowed and lost in the media madness and myth-making. Seemingly baffled by the fact that police were unwilling to listen to him, Starliper apparently failed to realize that he and others like him were the number one reason that authorities remained weary of citizens and amateur sleuths who claimed to have solved the Zodiac codes or the case itself.

The “Starliper Solution” could be useful as a possible title for an espionage thriller, but this bit of amateur code-breaking was absolutely worthless when trying to deciper the Zodiac’s message.


An analysis of the “Starliper Solution” is available at this link:

Another article provides further debunking of Starliper’s work:

Related Articles: … z1SuHo40ni … en-cracked … 22953.html

I was interviewed by author and broadcaster Sean Moncrieff for his radio show in Ireland on July 27, 2011. You can listen to the segment by clicking on the link below and selecting “Part 4: Wednesday July 27 2011.” The interview starts just before the 5 minute mark.

The Sean Moncrieff Show

Suspected “Zodiac” Forgeries

* UPDATE: May 28, 2011 – The Document Gallery has been updated to include two suspected “Zodiac” forgeries: A card sent in October, 1970 which read in part, “YOU ARE NEXT,” and the so-called “Equinox” letter sent in 1972. Neither letter is included on the list of authenticated Zodiac letters. These messages are presented with the corresponding pages from the FBI files regarding the Zodiac case. View the “You Are Next” Card or view the “Equinox” letter.

[Note of thanks: The letters were obtained by morf (of zodiackillersite) via the Freedom of Information Act and were provided to by AK Wilks.]

Suspected “Zodiac” Letter – March 1981 and the Document Gallery have been updated to include the suspected Zodiac forgery mailed in Atlanta, Georgia during the notorious “Atlanta Child Murders.” The letter was postmarked March 8, 1981. The author claimed to be the Zodiac and signed the message with a crossed-circle symbol.

Zodiac suspected letter - Atlanta, GA March 8, 1981


VIEW the letter and corresponding pages from the FBI files regarding the Zodiac case.

[Note of thanks: The letter was obtained by morf (of zodiackillersite) via the Freedom of Information Act and was provided to by AK Wilks.]