Zodiac Killer

Spenser Shuler Period 5

Brief Description

The Zodiac Killer was a serial killer who operated in Northern California in the late 1960’s to the early 1970’s. The killer was never identified and remains unknown. This man was said to have killed over 37 people while only 5 were confirmed dead. The killer sent many letters to local press forcing them to put the letters in their newspaper. He also sent in four cryptograms but only one of the four have been solved. Many suspects have been named but no conclusive evidence has 100% confirmed one person. In April of 2004 the San Francisco Police department marked the case inactive yet, was reopened in March 2007.

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Who, What, When, Where, Why, How

Five confirmed deaths have been in the hands of the Zodiac Killer. His first two victims were by the name of David Arthur Faraday and Betty Lou Jensen which were high school sweethearts. They were both shot and killed in their car. The next two victims were Michael Mageau and Darlene Ferrin, they were both shot in a parking lot in Blue Rock Springs Park. Mageau survived but Ferrin was confirmed dead later that day. Later in 1969 Bryan Hartnell and Cecelia Shepard were stabbed repeatedly at Lake Berryessa. Once again the guy survived but this time with eight stab wounds while Shepard died because of her injuries. The last confirmed death Paul Lee Stine. Paul was a cab driver who was driving the Zodiac and don’t know what happened but he was shot and killed on October 11, 1969.

Some of the people that are suspected to have been killed by the Zodiac were Robert Domingos and Linda Edwards. Three women were all killed at different times by the names of Cheri Jo Bates, Donna Lass, and Kathleen Johns. The first couple were shot and killed on a beach near Gaviota. The reason that they believe it was Zodiac is because it had many similarities between those killers and his confirmed attack at Lake Berryessa six years later. Bate was stabbed to death and was nearly decapitated and once again it was most likely the Zodiac because of a tip received and the similarity’s from his pervious murders. Donna Lass was killed in the 1970’s and the reason it is connected is because of a postcard advertisement that was received by the newspaper which seems to be the Zodiac and his interpretations. Kathleen Johns was different because she was not killed. On March 22, 1970’s on Highway 132 her car broke down while she was with her infant daughter. The Zodiac pulled over to help and told them that he was going to take them to a gas station but instead he ended up driving 1 ½ hours around until Johns hopped out of the car with her daughter and hiding in a field. The Zodiac claimed he wasn’t going to kill them while he had his weapon pulled out but gave up after he couldn’t find them. Once she found the police they took her back to her car but it was torched.

Letters from the killer is what made this man famous. The first that was received was a group of three to Vallejo Times Herald, San Francisco Chronicle, and The San Francisco Examiner (which are all news stations). All of the letters looked nearly identical and took credit for the shootings that happened earlier years. Each of the letters included a third of a 408-symbol cryptogram which the killer claimed contained his identity. The killer demanded that they be published in their newspapers or deaths would come. On August 7, 1969 another letter was received at the San Francisco Examiner which stated” This is the Zodiac speaking” which is how his name got started. The letter included details about the death of Faraday, Jensen and Ferrin which had information that had never been released to the public. With all of his codes placed in the newspaper a man and woman by the name of Donald and Bettye Harden seemed to have cracked the code to one of the cyphers. The misspelled message can be summed up in a few sentences. He loves killing people because it is fun and because it is killing man the most dangerous animal of all. When he dies he will be reborn in paradise and all the people he killed will be his slaves. He won’t give his name because it will slow down or stop the collection of his slaves in his afterlife.

Zodiac Real Voice On Jim Dunbar


Throughout his life he held communication with the press just enough to keep his identity safe but long enough to keep everybody scared. The main type of media that was used on these events were newspaper. Back in the 1970’s they didn’t have much technology so they had to use newspaper to get information to everybody. The Zodiac Killer also you the newspaper to get his point across and to let everybody know about him just not who he is. The media put this man as one of the worst of the worst. He killed so many people for no reason, he made threats, and he even targeted children, who in their right mind would do that.

The next type of media was telecast, there were a few times(such as video above) that he called in to famous talk shows and was aired live with his voice claiming he was the zodiac. There was no way telling if it was really him but just the voice freaked people out. Later on the they find out i the video above it was a mentally ill person calling in pretending to be him.

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One type of bias that was used quite heavily was bias by selection of sources. A lot of times that the Zodiac made another kill there were only two types of people that knew about the situation. One of those were the police. The police knew most of the story because they studied the crime scenes. Most of the time they were the only person that was allowed to do that besides the person that found the scene. So they story would be sided with the police and what they want you to know.

Bias Cont.

Another type of bias that was used was bias by placement. When articles were published in the newspaper, they were top headlines a lot of the time. When the Zodiac wanted something to be published in the paper they would usually put it in the headline to make him happy so he didn’t kill any more people. But other times (like his first couple killings) were in the middle of the paper and you had to search for them. It wasn't that important and they didn't know that is was the first of many kills by one person.
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One main criticism is historical. The events happened in the 1960’s to the 1970’s and that was about 50 or more years ago. The event would be a lot different nowadays. Because we have better technology so we would have found the killer with DNA, and all the special tools they have to track someone. The police were underdeveloped and couldn’t find a man that would be very easy nowadays. It affects the perception of the issue because serial killers were not normal and they didn’t have many prior to them. They didn’t know what people were capable of and that they did this for fun.
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Another criticism is cultural criticism. This deals with a culture that is different and doesn’t believe in that kind of stuff. Everybody was against it back then and they still are. There are more crazy people that would be willing to do that nowadays such as copycats.
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Zodiac Killer News

Works Cited

"Zodiac Killer | Zodiac Killer Police Reports | Zodiac Killer Letters | Zodiac Killer Ciphers | Zodiac Killer Codes." Zodiac Killer | Zodiac Killer Police Reports | Zodiac Killer Letters | Zodiac Killer Ciphers | Zodiac Killer Codes. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 May 2015.

"Zodiac Killer." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 03 May 2015.

Bio.com. A&E Networks Television, n.d. Web. 03 May 2015.