ALLEN : Primed Suspect

Thanks to the efforts of Robert Graysmith, David Fincher and others, many myths about Arthur Leigh Allen (aka “Lee”) still persist and most news reports which name him as a “prime suspect” often present these myths as facts. The general public tends to believe that these claims must be true because they appeared in a best-selling book, a popular film, or a TV news report. However, the facts tell a very different story about Allen, and these facts strongly indicate that Allen was not the Zodiac.

Graysmith and others frequently cite the fact that Allen was ambidexterous and could write with both hands as evidence that he had fooled handwriting experts who concluded that he did not write the Zodiac letters. Several experts examined many samples of Allen’s handwriting, produced by both his left and right hands and obtained with and without his knowledge– every single expert concluded that Allen did not write the Zodiac letters. Robert Graysmith then invented an elaborate theory to explain this problem with his pet suspect– Graysmith claimed that the Zodiac had used an over-head projector and samples of handwriting taken from other people in order to produce the Zodiac letters. According to Graysmith, documents expert Sherwood Morrill confirmed his theory. However, Morrill’s public and private opinion on the Zodiac writing had never changed. From his first work on the Zodiac case until his death, Morrill believed that the Zodiac was using his own, natural handwriting when preparing the Zodiac letters. The Zodiac left a handwritten message on the door of one Zodiac victim at Lake Berryessa. Experts, including Morrill, concluded that the Zodiac was responsible for this message, and it is highly implausible that the Zodiac used a projector on this occasion. One expert, Terry Pascoe, suggested that Allen’s handwriting could have been severely altered by a psychological state, yet this “theory” was not supported by any known facts. Authorities continue to conduct their investigation and continue to eliminate suspects on the basis of handwriting comparisons and other evidence, proving that they do not embrace Pascoe’s theory or Graysmith’s projector claims. The evidence demonstrates that the Zodiac letters do not implicate Arthur Leigh Allen.

Graysmith and others have repeatedly claimed that the Zodiac letters stopped when Allen went to prison on child molestation charges and then resumed when he was released. The facts demonstrate that this claim is not valid. The Zodiac stopped writing letters in March 1971, and there were long gaps in between many communications throughout his career spanning 1969-1971. Allen was first investigated as a suspect in August 1971. The next authenticated Zodiac letter appeared in January 1974 and several more followed until April 1974. The authenticated Zodiac letters then stopped. Allen was then arrested for child molestation in September 1974, and he was incarcerated shortly thereafter in 1975. Allen remained in the Atascadero hospital for the criminally insane until the summer of 1977, when he was released and returned to Vallejo. In April 1978, a letter was sent to The San Francisco Chronicle by someone who claimed to be the Zodiac. Sherwood Morrill had retired at that time, and while he believed that the letter was authentic, every other expert who ever examined the letter concluded that it was the work of a forger. The San Francisco police department, the FBI, and the other law enforcement agencies involved in the case have consistently stated that this letter was a forgery. The last authenticated Zodiac letter appeared in April 1974, and the evidence demonstrates that the gap in between Zodiac letters does not implicate Allen in any way.

Allen first became a suspect when an estranged friend reported him to police in the summer of 1971. Don Cheney had lived with Allen’s brother Ron during his college years and became friends with Arthur Leigh Allen via that relationship. The two men reportedly hunted and drank together, but, sometime in 1967 or 1968, Don Cheney complained to Ron Allen that Leigh had attempted to molest Cheney’s young daughter. Cheney claimed that he had seen Allen sometime in December of 1967 or 1968, or January of 1969. and the suspect confessed his desire to kill couples at lover’s lanes using a gun with a flashlight attached to the barrel, just like the Zodiac, and that he would write taunting letters to the police using the name “Zodiac.” Cheney claimed that he never saw Allen again after this conversation and only suspected he might be the Zodiac when he read a newspaper article about the case almost two years later. Cheney told his story to his friend and employer Sandy Panzarella (who also knew Allen). Panzarella contacted police and SFPD Inspector Bill Armstrong interviewed Cheney for approximately one hour. Armstrong and his partner David Toschi also spoke with Ron Allen, who said that Cheney was a trustworthy individual but also mentioned Cheney’s complaint regarding Leigh’s alleged molestation attempt. The investigators never questioned Cheney or Allen about the alleged molestation attempt or the possibility that Cheney may have falsely implicated Allen, using details he had read in the newspapers, as revenge for the alleged molestation. Police initially investigated Allen in the summer of 1971 but lost interest once he was excluded as a suspect via handwriting and fingerprint comparisons. More than a year later, in September 1971, Armstrong contacted Cheney by phone and spoke to him briefly before preparing a request for a warrant to search one of Allen’s trailers. This request consisted entirely of information gathered during the first two weeks of the investigation of Allen and based much of its alleged necessity on Cheney’s claims. Police searched Allen’s trailer and found nothing to implicate him in the Zodiac crimes. Armstrong and Toschi dropped the investigation and never looked back at Allen as a suspect again, moving on to others whom they described in official documents as “excellent suspects” who were later ruled out by handwriting, fingerprints and other evidence just like Allen.

Allen owned a Zodiac wristwatch which featured both the name “Zodiac” and the crossed-circle. The Zodiac killer had used both in his writings. Armstrong and others apparently believed that the watch was rare and the only place where both the name and symbol appeared together. Zodiac watches were very popular in the 1960s and 1970s and were advertised in many popular publications. The name and the symbol dated back centuries and had always been used together in astrology. As SFPD Captain Martin Lee explained in a 1969 press conference (apparently forgotten by Armstrong and others), astrologers had explained that the crossed-circle was known as the sign of the astrological Zodiac– meaning, a crossed-circle symbol WAS a Zodiac. This was the most logical and common pairing of the name and symbol, and this was where the watch company derived its name and logo. The Zodiac watch was just one of several instances in which the name and symbol were used together, and the pairing was not only common but consistent throughout history.

Allen’s now-infamous Zodiac watch has become the center piece of most theories regarding his possible guilt. Robert Graysmith, Don Cheney and others have twisted the facts regarding the watch in order to create the false impression that the watch somehow inspired the Zodiac crimes. Graysmith has repeatedly stated that Allen received the watch as a gift just days before the first known Zodiac murder in December of 1968. In his initial stories, Cheney never mentioned the watch, but, after the watch was featured prominently in Graysmith’s book, Cheney then added the watch to his stories, claiming that Allen had displayed the “new” watch during their alleged conversation. Allen’s mother Bernice gave the watch to Allen as a Christmas gift in December 1967; she also gave her other son an identical watch at the same time. Allen owned the watch for a year before the Zodiac crimes, and he would have no need to show the “new” watch to Cheney sometime in December 1968 or January 1969, especially when, according to his own account, Cheney had been in Allen’s presence prior to that time. The timing of the gift did not implicate Allen in the Zodiac crimes, yet the watch remained one of the only factually accurate claims used to accuse Allen.

Allen’s alleged statements to Don Cheney are also cited as evidence of his guilt, based on the reasoning that he had talked about sending taunting letters with the name “Zodiac” before the Zodiac killer actually did so. However, the 1939 film Charlie Chan at Treasure Island featured a San Francisco killer who sent taunting letters and called himself, “Dr. Zodiac.” The Chan films were regularly rerun on television throughout the 1960s, and anyone who had seen the film could possess the same basic knowledge allegedly displayed by Allen.

Allen reportedly told investigators that he had “bloody” knives on his car seat on the day of the Zodiac stabbing at Lake Berryessa. Police never confirmed this claim, but Allen claimed he had used the knives to kill chickens which he ate during his camping trip on that weekend. In October 1969, Allen told a Vallejo detective that he had gone to Salt Point Ranch to scuba dive on that day, and, in 1971, Allen told the same story and offered the explanation about the knives. In his book, Robert Graysmith claimed that Allen’s sister-in-law had actually seen the knives in Allen’s car on that day. The police reports and the statements of the sister-in-law proved that she had never seen any knives and had never claimed she had in the first place. Allen’s mention of the knives remains one of the more troubling aspects of his behavior during the investigation, but the possibility exists that he was telling the truth, or, that he was simply toying with investigators because he resented the accusations.

When confronted with the claims of Don Cheney, Allen denied that he had ever made any incriminating statements as described by Cheney. While another witness had claimed that Allen had mentioned a gun with a light attached to its barrel and another witness claimed to have seen Allen with a coded message, the facts demonstrated that these events had taken place AFTER Allen was first briefly questioned as a suspect in October 1969. According to Allen’s brother and sister-in-law, Allen at first enjoyed the attention which came with being a Zodiac suspect but he quickly grew weary when the accusations persisted. Some obvservers have suggested that Allen bragged about his status as a Zodiac suspect because he was desperate and eager to appear tough and even dangerous after he had been so thoroughly humiliated and exposed as a child molester. If Allen told people that he was briefly considered a Zodiac suspect and described the Zodiac’s crimes to these witnesses, this would explain his alleged statements. The notion that Allen had run around, confessing his criminal intent, showing off evidence, and discussing his murderous methods was not reasonable or consistent with the known facts. The notion that Allen had bragged about his brief Zodiac attention and that bragging created the impression that he could be the Zodiac was far more plausible and supported by the known facts.

In 1991, retired Vallejo detective George Bawart once again interviewed Cheney, and, this time, the witness changed, embellished and expanded his stories using information readily available in the media and Robert Graysmith’s best-selling book. Cheney made several statements which contradicted his previous statements, yet Bawart believed Cheney was a credible witness. Cheney took a polygraph test and the results were inconclusive; a second test allegedly indicated that Cheney was telling the truth. This second investigation led to the first public accusations against Allen using his real name (Graysmith had used the pseudonym “Starr” in his book), and Allen died under this could of suspicion leaving behind his consistent denials and claims of innocence. Years later, Don Cheney told new stories to Tom Voigt, Robert Graysmith, and others, including myself. His ever-expanding and changing stories often conflicted with known facts and his previous accounts, and his attempts to implicate Allen became more transparent with each new tale. By the time I spoke with Don Cheney in 2006, he was claiming that Allen had taken him to a Zodiac crime scene, confessed that he was hired as a contract killer by the husband of one Zodiac victim, had known another victim, and much more. Cheney’s behavior proved, beyond any doubt, that he was creating his stories in order to falsely accuse Allen, perhaps for the alleged molestation attempt or for reasons unknown. Even George Bawart changed his opinion and stated publically that he now questioned Cheney’s honesty and even wondered if he might have been somehow involved in the Zodiac crimes. My own experiences which Cheney left me with no other choice than to conclude that he was a very dishonest man who was willing to do and say anything to get attention and attack his former friend. Cheney died in 2009, leaving a legacy of tall tales which helped to derail the Zodiac investigation for decades and contributed to the popular myths regarding Arthur Leigh Allen. Both Allen’s brother and sister-in-law had known Don Cheney, and, to this day, neither believes his stories are true and both believe that he had invented his stories about Allen as revenge for the alleged molestation attempt or for other reasons.

In his books and in media interviews, Robert Graysmith repeatedly claimed that Allen’s own family had suspected that he was the Zodiac and reported him to police. Graysmith even claimed that the family had consulted a trusted uncle and held a family meeting to discuss the situation. Graysmith also claimed that Allen’s brother and sister-in-law believed that Allen was guilty and urged investigators to pursue the investigation even after SFPD Inspectors Armstrong and Toschi had lost interest in Allen as a Zodiac suspect. The actual police reports and the statements of Allen’s family members proved that they had never suspected that he was the Zodiac, that they never consulted a trusted uncle, never held a family meeting, and never reported Allen to police. To this day, Allen’s brother and sister-in-law do not believe that Allen was the Zodiac, and they shared that same opinion with investigators in 1971. Graysmith simply invented this lie in order to make his suspect look guilty and to sell books. In spite of their beliefs that Allen was innocent, both Allen’s brother and sister-in-law cooperate with investigators as much as possible. That investigation was terminated when Toschi, Armstrong and other investigators concluded that Allen was no longer a viable Zodiac suspect. Graysmith and others often claimed that Allen had “confessed” that he was the Zodiac, yet this was not true, either.

Graysmith also claimed that Allen had been identified by several people in the Zodiac case. Surviving victim Michael Mageau had caught a brief glimpse of the Zodiac, but police did not believe that he 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.

During one radio interview, Graysmith said that Allen’s “voice was identified by the young man who able to survive the stabbing.” This witness, Bryan Hartnell, told investigators that there was nothing about Allen’s physical appearance or voice that would include or exclude him as a suspect. According to official documents and Hartnell himself, he did not identify Allen’s voice as being at all similar to that of the killer. In the same interview, Graysmith said that Allen was “identified by the three young coeds that he was shadowing.” Graysmith has yet to substantiate this claim. Graysmith claimed that a man who had been at Lake Berryessa had also identified Allen but he never substantiated this claim, either. In another interview, Graysmith wrote, “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. Despite Graysmith’s claims, the evidence clearly demonstrated that no one had positively identified Allen and that Graysmith had invented these claims to make Allen appear guilty.

Graysmith also wrote, “We know Zodiac was 6 feet tall, weighed about 230 and was balding from descriptions and physical evidence.” 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.

Graysmith and others have repeatedly stated that Allen could be “placed” at “all” of the Zodiac crime scenes. With the possible exception of the highly questionably identification by surviving victim Michael Mageau, no one has presented any credible evidence to indicate that Allen could be “placed” at ANY of the Zodiac crime scenes. This was just one of many attempts by Graysmith to falsely implicate his pet suspect. Graysmith was also responsible for the myth that Allen had received a speeding ticket near the scene of the attack at Lake Berryessa. Allen did not receive such a ticket. Graysmith also claimed that Allen possessed a map of Lake Berryessa, yet he never substantiated this claim, either. Graysmith made many other claims in his attempts to link Allen to the Zodiac crime scenes, and he never provided any credible evidence to support those claims.

Graysmith claimed that Allen’s sister-in-law had seen him with Zodiac-like codes and then produced a copy of the code while under hypnosis. The alleged code appears in Graysmith’s second book Zodiac Unmasked. Allen’s sister-in-law denied that she had ever produced the code in Graysmith’s book or any other, and that while she had agreed to undergo hypnosis, the hypnotist was unable to hypnotize her. Graysmith also claimed that the sister-in-law had been hypnotized and said that she saw an image of a second “ghostly” Leigh strangling his brother– this was not true. Graysmith claimed that Allen was one of two identical twins, and that the other child had mysteriously died– this was not true, either. Graysmith lied to his readers and claimed that investigators had concluded that Allen had access to his friend’s Corvair on the night of a Zodiac attack; the actual police report stated that police investigated this possibility and concluded that he most likely did not have access to the car. (In Zodiac Unmasked, the author invented more stories about this scenario; in fact, he offered two conflicting accounts, one fictional story in which the car was at a gas station to be repaired, even inventing information about Det. Jack Mulanax and a receipt for the repairs, and the truth, that the car was at the station to be sold). Graysmith told readers that the Corvair’s owner had died; in truth, he was alive long after the book had been published. Graysmith told readers that Allen’s father had died just before the Zodiac crimes began and may have been wearing his father’s clothes when he committed the crimes; in truth, Allen’s father died AFTER the Zodiac crimes ended. In later years, Graysmith repeatedly claimed that Allen had known and stalked all of the Zodiac victims, but no credible evidence has ever been produced to back up this sensational and false claim.

Graysmith and others worked very hard to convict Allen in the court of public opinion and, in the process, created most of the myths which are now cited as “evidence” of his guilt by curious crime buffs and even the media. News reports and television documentaries often repeat these myths as irrefutable fact, further cementing the false impression that credible evidence existed to implicate Allen in the Zodiac crimes when the facts told a very different story. The following excerpt from an ABC News story about the case serves as a classic example of the effect Graysmith and Allen’s accusers have had on the public perception of the Zodiac case.

Figure No. 1: The Schoolteacher – Over the years, the Zodiac killings have intrigued a legion of amateur sleuths, who fill Web sites and discussion groups with theories about his identity, some logical, some outlandish, ranging from Charles Manson to the Unabomber. Some of the most dedicated amateurs make pilgrimages to the Zodiac’s crime scenes on the anniversaries of his attacks. One amateur investigator, former newspaper staffer Robert Graysmith, has spent 30 years gathering a mountain of circumstantial evidence on the man he believes is the Zodiac: a former Bay Area schoolteacher named Arthur Leigh Allen. Among the evidence Graysmith says supports his theory are: Witness accounts placing Allen at or near the scene of every Zodiac killing. A complaint in which one of the Zodiac victims, Darlene Ferrin, said she was being stalked by a man who called himself “Lee.” Allen went by his middle name. Information that Allen owned a watch with the brand name Zodiac and a logo identical to the symbol the Zodiac drew on his letters. Footprint impressions at Lake Berryessa from a rare military shoe, sized 10 ½ – Allen’s size. Graysmith also has a July 1971 police report in which a friend said Allen had told him in 1968 or earlier – before the first Zodiac killings – that he planned to: Kill couples in lover’s lanes. Attach a flashlight to his gun and shoot people in the dark. Write letters to harass police. Call himself Zodiac. Allen did not look anything like the composite sketch, but the Zodiac had said in the Nov. 9 letter “I look like the description passed out only when I do my thing. The rest of the time I look entirely different.” Allen died in 1992, but brain tissue preserved from his autopsy is still available for DNA testing.

The article cited several falsehoods as evidence of Allen’s guilt and relied heavily on Graysmith’s revisionist version of the case. No credible evidence had ever been presented to support the claim that Darlene Ferrin had ever complained about any stalker. The man named “Lee” was described as one of Darlene’s closest friends, not a stalker who had been bothering Darlene. No one who had known Darlene had ever claimed that this “Lee” was Arthur Leigh Allen. The “shoe” described in the article was not as “rare” as Graysmith and others claimed. Allen did not match the descriptions of the Zodiac killer, and no disguise could have sufficiently altered his appearance to match those descriptions of men who were much shorter and thinner than Allen. The ABC News article was just one of thousands which took the bad facts from Graysmith’s account and then cited these falsehoods as credible evidence to implicate Allen in the Zodiac crimes. Once again, the facts told a very different story.

The article also mentioned DNA testing. In 2002, the San Francisco Police department announced that DNA taken from an envelope containing a confirmed Zodiac letter did not match Allen. The department also announced that Allen’s palm print did not match the palm print found on the Zodiac’s “Exorcist” letter of 1974. Handwriting experts had concluded that Allen did not write the Zodiac letters and his DNA did not match DNA taken from the letters. Eyewitnesses not only provided a description of the killer which could not match Allen but some of them stated that Allen was not the man they had seen. Allen’s chief accuser had been exposed as a fraud who had invented stories to falsely implicate his estraged friend. Most of the so-called “evidence” cited by Graysmith and others had been exposed as pure fiction. In short, all of the available and credible evidence strongly indicated that Arthur Leigh Allen was not the Zodiac. The exculpatory evidence and the absence of credible evidence to link Allen to the Zodiac crimes indicated that the case against Allen would leave any modestly objective juror with reasonable doubts as to his guilt. A scenario in which Allen was the Zodiac would require jurors to accept a multitude of implausible impossibilities, while a scenario in which Allen was not the Zodiac would be consistent with virtually all of the known facts.

Graysmith and others are fond of claiming that the police believed that Allen was the best Zodiac suspect. However, the actions of the various law enforcement agencies proved that they had little interest in Allen after the initial investigation in the 1970s came to an end. Virtually all of the follow-up inquiries regarding Allen were largely motivated by the stories about the suspect which had appeared in Graysmith’s books and media reports. In essence, police had investigated Allen and determined that he was not a viable suspect, yet, years later, a best-selling book presented what seemed to be compelling evidence of his guilt. Unwilling to appear incompetent or apathetic, the police then took a second look at Allen only to reach the same conclusion– the evidence did not implicate Allen. Only the Vallejo police department publicly stated that Allen was a viable suspect but even that department eventually lost interest in Allen. The San Francisco police department did not consider Allen to be a viable suspect, and neither did the Napa County Sheriff’s Department or the Solano County Sheriff’s Department. Even the FBI had no interest in Allen. Retired Department of Justice agent Mel Nicolai stated that he thought Allen was a good suspect but even he conceded that the evidence was slim and tenuous at best. Retired detective George Bawart believed that Allen was the Zodiac but even he later expressed his doubts about Allen’s accuser, Don Cheney, thereby casting doubt on the basis for his own opinions regarding Allen’s guilt. Former Vallejo police Captain Roy Conway also believed that Allen was the Zodiac, but Conway had a long history of making statements about the case which raised serious questions about his logic and his investigation. Conway had launched his new investigation of Allen in the eaerly 1990s based on a story told by yet another estranged individual from Allen’s past, convicted felon Ralph Spinelli. At the time, Spinelli was facing what amounted to a possible life sentence for multiple armed robberies, and he said that he would implicate Allen in exchange for a deal to avoid jail time. While the deal was never made, Spinelli claimed that Allen had expressed his intent to kill a San Francisco cab driver shortly before the Zodiac did so. Conway and Bawart apparently believed Spinelli’s story. However, once he learned that the fingerprint evidence in the cab driver killing had excluded Allen as a suspect, Conway then stated that he did not believe that the Zodiac was responsible for that crime. After this crime, the Zodiac had sent an envelope which contained a handwritten confession and a piece of the cabdriver’s shirt, proving that Conway’s logic was not logical by any stretch of the imagination.

SFPD Inspectors David Toschi and Bill Armstrong had conducted the original investigation of Allen and abandoned him as a suspect after little more than a year. Both men described other men as “excellent suspects,” and both men later made statements which demonstrated that they did not believe that Allen was the Zodiac. In 1978, six years after he had abandoned Allen as a suspect, Toschi told a reporter that fingerprint and handwriting evidence would identify the Zodiac– the same evidence had already been used to exclude Allen as a suspect. In 1989, Armstrong told a TV producer that the same evidence would identify the Zodiac, despite the fact that this evidence had already excluded Allen years earlier. The actions and statements of investigators like Armstrong and Toschi demonstrated, beyond doubt, that they did not believe that Allen was the prime suspect in the Zodiac crimes at all. Other investigators, such as Ken Narlow, never believed that Allen was a good suspect. With the exceptions of Bawart, Conway and possibly Nicolai, few investigators actually believed that Allen was a viable suspect.

Thanks to the books, films, news stories and television documentaries which perpetuate the many myths regarding Arthur Leigh Allen, the general public believes that Allen was most likely guilty. However, the evidence does not implicate Allen and the facts strongly indicate that he was not the Zodiac killer. The film adaptation of Graysmith’s books also presented a largely fictional and incredibly distorted version of reality in an attempt to make Arthur Leigh Allen seem guilty of the Zodiac crimes. All of these elements combined to create many persistent myths.

The following chapters include a detailed summary of the facts regarding Arthur Leigh Allen, the history of the police investigation, and the evidence cited by accusers to implicate him in the Zodiac crimes.

Part One: ALLEN: The Beginning