|“||To kill something gives me the most thrilling experience. It is even better than getting your rocks off with a girl. The best part of it is that when I die, I will be reborn in paradise and the people i have killed will become my slaves. I will not give you my name because you will try to slow down or stop my collecting of slaves for my afterlife.||„|
|~ The Zodiac Killer in his first cypher.|
The Zodiac Killer was a serial killer who was active from the late 1960s to the early 1970s. He is claimed to have killed 20-28 people in total, even up to 37, but only 5 were confirmed dead and 2 injured. He operated in Northern California between December 1968 and October 1969 and his targets were four men and three women between the ages of 16 and 29. His weapon of choice was a gun, although he used a knife during the attack on September 27th, 1969, at Lake Berryessa. He used cryptic writing in his letters that sent to the police (intentionally mocking them) and is infamous for his identity never being completely known even to this day. There were many suspects in the case of Zodiac Killer, but most of them were eliminated.
He was stated to be a white, 5'8" to 5'10" tall man in his 20s-30s, with a stocky appearance, sporting sunglasses, and light brown hair. In October 2021, a team of forensics experts lead to a suspect by the name of Gary Francis Poste, who died in 2018.
The Zodiac killer’s apparent first victim, an 18-year-old college student, was stabbed to death in Riverside, California, in 1966. Although this murder is commonly attributed to the Zodiac killer, some experts claim it was not committed by him. Soon after the murder, a local newspaper received a letter that provided details of the crime and declared that the victim was neither the first nor the last. In 1968 a teenage couple was shot to death near their car in a remote area north of San Francisco; one year later another couple was attacked in similar circumstances, though the male victim survived. After the 1969 attack, the killer phoned police to alert them to the crime and to take responsibility for the 1968 murders. Later that year the Zodiac killer attacked another young couple, though once again the male survived. The last victim, a taxi driver, was shot in October 1969.
The murders were the subject of intense investigation and media coverage, particularly because of the killer’s taunting letters and phone calls, in which he explained the mystical and intellectual bases of his decision to kill. His letters demonstrated great interest in astrological symbolism and may have reflected the influence of occult religious thought popular in California at the time.
Much remains mysterious about the Zodiac case, not least the issue of when the crimes stopped. Crime writer Robert Graysmith has argued that the Zodiac killer remained active through the 1980s and murdered dozens more people, though this view is controversial. During the 1990s several investigators claimed to have identified the Zodiac killer; the suspect most often cited was Arthur Leigh Allen (1933–92), a Vallejo, California, schoolteacher who had been institutionalized in 1975 for child molestation, though his identification with the Zodiac killer has never been substantiated.
- Arthur Leigh Allen
- Richard Gaikowski
- Lawrence Kane
- Ted Kaczynski, AKA "The Unabomber" - ruled out
- Ross Sullivan
- Jack Tarrance
- George Hodel, who was also a chief suspect in the murder of Elizabeth Short.
- Louis Joseph Myers
- Joseph Newton Chandler III
- David Carpenter - ruled out
- David Arthur Faraday, 17,
- Betty Lou Jensen, 16
- Michael Renault Mageau, 19
- Darlene Elizabeth Ferrin, 22
- Bryan Calvin Hartnell, 20
- Cecelia Ann Shepard, 22
- Paul Lee Stine, 29
- Robert Domingos, 18, and Linda Edwards, 17: shot and killed on June 4, 1963, on a beach near Gaviota. Edwards and Domingos were identified as possible Zodiac victims because of specific similarities between their attack and the Zodiac's attack at Lake Berryessa six years later.
- Cheri Jo Bates, 18: stabbed to death and nearly decapitated on October 30, 1966, at Riverside City College in Riverside. Bates's possible connection to the Zodiac only appeared four years after her murder when San Francisco Chronicle reporter Paul Avery received a tip regarding similarities between the Zodiac killings and the circumstances surrounding Bates's death.
- Donna Lass, 25: last seen September 6, 1970, in Stateline, Nevada. A postcard with an advertisement from Forest Pines condominiums (near Incline Village at Lake Tahoe) pasted on the back was received at the Chronicle on March 22, 1971, and has been interpreted as the Zodiac claiming Lass's disappearance as a victim. No evidence has been uncovered to connect Lass's disappearance with the Zodiac Killer definitively.
The Zodiac is also a suspect in the unsolved Santa Rosa hitchhiker murders.
Possible connection to the Texarkana Moonlight Murders
Some theories claim that the Zodiac Killer actually first appeared much earlier and claim that he and the Phantom Killer, responsible for the unsolved Texarkana Moonlight Murders of 1946, are the same person.
The evidence that the two might be the same include the following:
- They both had almost the exact same modus operandi, in that they hunted couples who were usually in their cars at gunpoint.
- They both wore hoods that covered their face.
- It is also believed that they even both used the same type of gun, a .38-caliber pistol.
It is generaly believed that the Zodiac likely had served in the military at some point, so if there is any truth to this theory, the two decades of inactivity between the Texarkana murders and the Zodiac murders could be explained as the killer being away in military service, if this theory is true.
Possible identification in 2021
On October 6, 2021, The Case Breakers, an independent team of 40 former law enforcement investigators, military intelligence officers and journalists, claimed to have identified the Zodiac Killer as Gary Francis Poste, but this information was not confirmed by the Vallejo Police Department. The Case Breakers have requested that police test the Zodiac Killer's DNA evidence to confirm it matches the DNA of Gary Francis Poste. The police, however, said that the case is not solved and that the killer was not identified yet. "The Zodiac Killer case remains open. We have no new information to share at the moment", an FBI spokesman told CNN.