The Zodiac Killer

by Jacqueline Gonzalez

Who was he?

The Zodiac Killer was a killer that, between the years of 1968 and 1969, committed 5 murders and sent cryptic messages to the police force of San Francisco and the local newspapers, taunting them with threats of killing more people while also evading them to the extent that they never truly found who it was.


Famous Quote:

“I like killing people because it is so much fun." - line from a decoded message of the Zodiac Killer

Victims

  • First Victim - It is suspected that Chari Jo Bates, a college student in Riverside, California, was the Zodiac's first victim. Bates was found murdered outside her school's library on October 30th, 1966. There were reports of a white male driving around the scene at the time of the crime and the police also found a watch there too. A letter allegedly written by the killer was sent to a local newspaper a month later. Then months after that, more letters were sent to the police, media, as well as the father of the victim that claimed to be written by the killer.


  • "Bates had to die. There will be more." was written in all the letters.



  • Next victims - David Faraday and Betty Lou Jensen were shot and killed on December 20th, 1968 in Vallejo, California. Faraday was shot in the head once and Jensen was shot five times in the back while they were parked at a local lover's lane.


  • More victims - Mike Mageau and Darlene Ferrin were attacked by the killer on July 4th, 1969, also in Vallejo California. Mageau and Ferrin were both shot at in the parking lot of Blue Rock Springs Park. Mageau survived the attack but Ferrin was not as lucky, she died at the scene of the attack.


  • Even more victims - Bryan Hartnell and Cecelia Sheppard were attacked by the killer on September 27th, 1969. This time the killer decided to stab the couple repeatedly instead of shooting them. Hartnell survived but Sheppard died two days after the attack in the hospital. The killer left a message on the car door of Hartnell's car that had the dates of the killer's earlier victims.


  • 2 weeks later, Paul Stine, a taxi driver, was shot and killed by the killer in point blank range on October 11th, 1969.

Rough Sketch

The survivors of the attacks were able to describe the killer's appearance for a rough sketch. They described him as a white male, age ranged around late twenties or thirties, that was heavyset, had short brown hair, and wore thick rimmed glasses. They also stated that he had worn a long hood, reminiscent to that of an executioner, during the attacks.

Letters

Around the time of the second murders, letters were sent to three area newspapers with descriptions of the crimes. A cipher,coded message, was also sent but in three separate parts to each of the newspapers. The letter had said that the newspapers had to print the cipher into them or else he would kill again. The letter also had a strange symbol, a circle with two intersecting lines, that later would become the killer's calling card.

His cipher was cracked by a teacher from Salinas. The message didn't include his name but gave the police an insight on his personality such as when he stated that he "liked killing because it was fun." and that his victims would become his slaves in the after life.


On August of 1969, the killer sent a letter to the San Francisco Examiner in which he called himself "Zodaic."

Unresolved

After a while the killings ceased and there was no more activity from the Zodiac killer. They never truly apprehened anyone, much less the real killer, but they did have a few suspects. The suspects ranged from it being a follower of Charles Manson, to Ted Kaczynski, and Arthur Leigh Allen. Allen was the most popular suspect for the crimes since both Hartnell and Mageau had identified him as the culprit, although he was later proven to not have been linked to the crimes by a DNA test.


In 2004, the case was announced as inactive by a member of the San Francisco Police Department.


Through out the years there has been a lot of speculation as well as more discoveries about the Zodiac Killer. In 2007, the producer of the Zodiac movie managed to find letters from the killer in police files during his research for the movie. He found them to be untested for DNA and many hoped that this would bring the case back to light. Then in 2014, The Most Dangerous Animal of All was released and in that book the author, Gary L. Stewart, claimed to have been the son of the real killer. While many doubt it to be true there have been some information about the author's father that could possibly link him to the crimes such as his criminal record and resemblance to the police sketch.