Now I’m sure you’ve heard of the classic rhyme that quite possibly lead to the suspect in one of the biggest murder cases in the world being found? The one that goes a little like this:
Roses are red, Michael Jackson sang thriller… Ted cruise is the zodiac killer?
No? Well it turns out that this is actually a real theory, in-fact this theory is so real it lead to 38% of Florida Voters voting against having Ted Cruz run for the republican candidate in the most recent election.
Because you know who wants a menacing serial killers as their president? Not Florida, you go Florida.
In all honesty though is having a man that eats pizza like this really any better? (Example A to the left)
Now i’m not saying that the 38% of Florida voters are wrong but… the likelyhood is that Ted Cruz is just not the zodiac killer, (mainly because the zodiac killer first killed in 1968 and Ted Cruz wasn’t born till 1970, but that’s a whole other theory) and so before you continue to read this blog post on who exactly the zodiac killer might be I politely ask you to completely remove the name Ted Cruz and all his involvement with the zodiac killer out of your head (I see you wondering, stop that)
Now let’s get into the real theory of just who the zodiac killer is, but before one start I have one last thing..
Just what is a zodiac killer?
During the late 60’s and early 70’s a killer who would later be self-named ‘the zodiac killer’ created an extreme state of fear and endangerment in North California, killing a minimum of 5 people and claiming to have killed up to 37 other people.
The first known movements of the Zodiac Killer
On 20th December 1968 at a empty car-park in Vallejo, California, David Faraday, aged 17 and Betty Jensen, aged 16, were shot at whilst sitting in their car, (this very event inspired the classic horror movie scenes of teens alone in a car-park for many years to come).
Police arrived at the scene of the crime to find that Betty was lying dead on the floor around 30 feet away from the car (suggesting she attempted to escape the killer) but David was found to have survived the attack, however he would later die on the way to the hospital. Due to the fact that this was the first murder in the chain no-body knew that the shooting of David and Betty was the work of a serial killer, let alone the work of the Zodiac. And so the Zodiac killer had moved his first chess piece in the game of life and death.
The series begins
On 4th July (The day we very kindly let America rule themselves, and look how that turned out) 1969, in blue rock springs park, the zodiac killer shot at Darlene Ferrin, aged 22 and Michael Mageau, aged 19, making them his second known targets.
At around 12am Darlene and Michael were sat in a parked car just a few minutes away from the scene of the first murder, again they were alone in an empty car park when the zodiac approached them with a flashlight, a few seconds later he opened fire on the couple. The zodiac killer then walked away but for some unknown reason turned back around and shot at them both again. Both Darlene and Michael were found alive but Darlene would later die from her injuries.
When later interviewed by police Michael gave a discription of what he saw the killer to look like:
- 26-30 year old Male
- 200 LBS +
- Light curly brown hair
- Rounded face
Now keep this description in mind for later on in the post
The unknown phone call
Within an hour after finding Darlene and Michael a phone call was put through to the police from a man claiming to by the shooter of the couple and the previous couple the year before, the man didn’t go by the name ‘The zodiac killer’ yet.
The Letters by a killer
I don't know what it is about serial killers and letters to the press but according to my last two blog posts apparently its a thing. Like maybe they have to pass a certain number of anonymous letters on to get their brownie badge in serial murder? Do US news-outlets have a special address just for these letters? I don't know but it seems a pretty unrealistic action for someone wanting to remain unfound, but it obviously works otherwise their story wouldn't be getting featured on an 'Unsolved mysteries' blog.
On 1st August 1969, nearly one month after the zodiacs second shooting, the San Francisco chronicle, The San Francisco examiner and the Vallejo times (the local town newspaper) all received hand written letters from someone claiming to be the the killer behind the recent teen murders.
Within the letters very specific details about the crimes were given along side the quote:
“I shall state some facts that only I + the police know”
This was to show that it was deferentially the killer who was the author of these letters and not someone looking for a get rich quick scam.
The letters were signed with a mark rather than a name, a circle with a cross that would later become known as the sign of the zodiac killer.
Also included in the letters were three different codes that the killer requested be published in all three newsletters or else he would kill again. The killer claimed that if the codes were somehow cracked they would revel his identity.
On the 4th August another letter was sent to all three news letters. The letter started with the opening:
“This is the zodiac speaking”
This was in fact the first time the killer had referred to himself as ‘the zodiac’.
On 8th August 1969 the code was cracked by a couple, who interpreted the code as followed:
“I like killing because it is so much fun, it is more fun than killing wild game in the forest because man is the most dangerous animal of all 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 those who 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 the afterlife”
“Killing is better than getting my rocks off” comes in close second of “things worst than having a serial killer as your president”.
The Lake Berryessa murders
on 27th September 1969 in Napa, California, a young couple named Cecelia Shepard, aged 22 years, and Bryan Hartnell, aged 20 years were attacked and stabbed by the zodiac killer whilst out at Lake Berryessa.
The couple were enjoying a picnic by the lakes edge when Cecelia noticed a man hiding
behind a tree and watching the couple. After several minutes the man came out from the tree and started walking towards them. The man was described as wearing an executioner style mask, along with a zodiac killer symbol on his chest (But like this might just be me but at that point I would have gotten the hell out of there). The zodiac then preceded to tie both Cecelia and Bryan up and stab them several times.
Cecelia would later die from her injuries but Bryan, despite being stabbed 6 times in the back, lived. Bryan once recovered was able to describe the man who attacked both him and Cecelia as:
- Big boned
- 225-250 LBS
- Dark brown hair (that he had seen through the eye holes in the mask
The message upon the car
When the police came to inspect the scene of the crime, they found a handwritten message on the side of Bryan’s car. The note contained the dates of all three of the previous murders and was signed with the zodiac symbol once again. The words “by knife” were in bold below the attack on Cecelia and Bryan.
The killer taxi
On 11th October 1969 at 10pm in San Francisco a taxi driver named Paul Stine was shot in the back of the head by someone sitting in the passenger seat of his taxi.
Once the gun shot was fired a young girl, along with several other witnesses heard the nose and went to inspect what had happened. The girl claims to have looked out of her window and saw a man whiping down the taxi and walking away. The young girl phoned the police and descibed the man as:
- White male
- 25-30 years old
- Big built
- Brown hair
As you can see this very clearly matches the previous discriptions of the zodiac killer.
The wrong man
A little after the attack on the taxi driver a nearby police car received a call explaining what he happened and set off to the scene of the crime. However on the way to the crime scene the police pulled over and incorrectly arreasted an African-American male on susption of being the zodiac killer.
Now I've said it once, and ill say it again, the police force in the US isn't exactly the most on point police force but this just tips the ice berk. How and why would you arrest an African-American man when serveral different wittnesses had repeatly stated that the man believed to be the zodiac killer was white?
Not only did officers Donald Fouke and Eric Zelms wrongly identity the African-American male, but they would come across the suspected zodiac killer and allow him to walk free.
Whilst driving Fouke and Zelms came across a man who they described as:
- 175 LBS
- 35-40 years old
- Reddish hair
This as you will notice is very similar to the other deciptions given by wittnesses. However because Fouk and Zelms were told to be aware of an African-American man they simply didnt flag up the possible zodiac killer that was right infront of them. Later the Zodiac killer would mention the two officers in his open letter, making it very very likely that the white man that Fouk and Zelms saw was infact the zodiac killer.
The bloody fingerprint
When conducting their search of the taxi belonging to Paul Stine police found a bloody fingerprint that was thought to be a match to the zodiac killer. However in one of his handwritten letters the zodiac states that he left behind fake clues to throw the police off. To me this is starting to sound like some sort of game to the zodiac killer, like he knows he can never actually be found, I mean he literally murdered someone in broad day light?
The letter for a taxi driver
Two days after the murder of taxi driver Paul Stine the San Francisco Chronicle recieved yet another letter from the zodiac killer, only this time he claimed responsibility for the killing of ‘the cab driver’.
Attached to the letter was a piece of Stine’s blood stained shirt. To further add to this the letter included the words:
“School children make nice targets. I think I shall wipe out a school bus some morning. Just shoot out the front tire and pick off all the kiddies as they come bouning out”
Further down in the same letter the zodiac placed digrams of bombs he had designed that could be used on buses.
My name is ‘blank’
On 20th April 1970, two years after the zodiac’s first known killing, the San Francisco chroncile recieved a letter which started off with a the words “My name is blank” and a cipher (Cipher=code) attached. The zodiac carried on sending letters for a further year but would for some reason stop in 1971. Then 3 years later in 1974 the zodiac sent his very last letter.
In the final letter the zodiac claims to have killed up to 37 more people in the past 3 years. Then as-if this guy/gal couldnt get anymore weird, they oddly include a review on the movie ‘The exorcist” quoting:
“I think the exorcist was the best saterical comdy I have ever seen”
18 years on
In 2002, 18 years after the zodiac’s last letter, the LA police were able to gain a genetic profile from a stamp left on one of the zodiacs letters. The profile was found to me unable to identity one single person but did help in ruling out certain genetic groups.
So now with over 49 years worth of investigating lets take a look at the portial suspects the LA police department have found over the years:
Arthur Leigh Allen
The theory that Allen could be the zodiac killer was put forward first by Robert Graysmith and this very theory was in fact the one that inspired the 2007 film Zodiac (which i’m sure die hard Robert Downey Jr and Mark Ruffalo fans will have seen). After 10 years of personal research Graysmith wrote two books on the possible zodiac killer, which will be included down below.
On the day of the third zodiac killing at Lake Berrynessa in 1969 Allen told his family he was going scuba diving that day at the very same Lake Berrynessa. Later that day he returned home covered in blood and a bloody knife left behind in his car (remember the young couple were tired and stabbed repeatedly).
In 1971, two years after the Lake Berrynessa attack, a friend of Allens named Don Cheney stated that Allen refereed to himself as ‘the zodiac’ before the killer had even mentioned it. Cheney swears that Allen mentioned to him a number of occasions that he was planning to hunt people with a gun and a flashlight (Don seriously? End the friendship, call the police??)
Due to new evidence coming forward the police interviewed Allen a second time. In this second interview Allen would state that:
“His favourite book is the most dangerous game”
The dangerous game is actually a book about a man who hunted humans and a book that was mentioned in the zodiac’s first letter.
During the interview Allen was seen to be wearing a watch with the exact symbol the zodiac killer had previously used.
The police then went on to search Allen’s home and found some really doddy stuff:
- Bloody Knifes
- Dead animals kept in the freezer
- sexual devices
However no evidence linking Allen directly to the zodiac murders was found.
In 1974 Allen was arrested for Child abuse and spent 3 years in prison. Could this possibly explain why no more zodiac letters were written after 1974?
In 1987 an inmate who had spent time with Allen during his prison years states that Allen admitted to him that he was the one who had killed the taxi driver Paul Stines.
In 1991 local detective George Bawart interviewed Michael Mageau, the man who had lived from the second zodiac attack. Most importantly Mageau saw the zodiac without his mask on. When Bawart showed Mageau a line up of photos of possible zodiac kilelr Mageau picked out the man who shot him, it was Allen.
After this police decide to search Allen’s home again to try and find some link between him and the zodiac. This time they did find:
- Plans for bombs
- finished bombs
- Tapes about the zodiac killer
They take him in for yet another interview and Allen says he knows nothing. What is odd here is that the zodiac often talked about bombs and sent in plans for bombs that matched Allens.
In 1992 Allen passed away from a heart attack.
Earl Van Best Jr
The theory that Earl Van Best Jr was the real zodiac killer was put forward by his own son Gary Stewart in which he discusses his theory in his book ‘The most dangerous animal of all’
Stewart’s first warning sign was the likeness between Van Best and the police sketch released of the zodiac killer.
Stewart noted that the name Earl Van Best Jr contained the same number of letters as the zodiac had written in the ‘My name is blank’ letter.
Furthermore Stewart hired a handwriting expert to look over the zodiacs letters and compare them with his farthers handwriting. The expert came to the result that he was ‘99.9% certain that the handwriting on both letters came from the same person’.
However it is important to note that the handwriting that the expert compared came from Van Best’s marriage licence, which is typically signed by the priest present and so may not have been Van Best’s actual handwriting.
Lawrence Kane Kaye
The theory that Lawrence Kane Kaye was the man behind the zodiac killings came from retired police officer Harvey Hines.
In 1962 Kaye was in a car crash that resulted in a brain injury that effected his behaviour and doctors working with Kaye quoted that he was:
“Losing the ablity to control self-gratification”
Furthermore to this the name ‘Kane’ can be seen in the My name is letter.
The second victim, Darlene, had a sister who stated that Kaye had stalked and harrashed Darlene in the weeks leading up to her death.
Kaye lived just a 5 minute walk away from the location in which the taxi driver Paul Stine had picked up his killer. Police officers working on the case also state that Kaye has been placed at several of the locations in which the killings took place.
In 1970 Kaye moved to south lake tahoe were another zodiac killer was believed to be attacked. A woman named Donna Lass, who worked at the same hotel as Kaye, disappeared and was never found. This again places Kaye at the scene of a zodiac attack.
This however was not the only involvement Kaye had with a zodiac victim.
In March 1970 on highway 132 a woman named Kathleen Johns and her baby were tricked into riding in a car with the zodiac killer himself. Once she entered the car the zodiac told Johns he was going to kill her and her child. Johns jumped out of the car and ran away from the zodiac killer with her baby. This is a confirmed zodiac case due to the zodiac quoting in one of his letters:
“Now I have a little list, starting with the woman with the baby that I gave a rather interesting ride too”
When shown a line up of possible attackers, Johns went straight to Kaye, after having face time with the actual zodiac killer.
The man never found
So it has now been 49 years since the first known zodiac killing of Betty Jensen and in that time many theory’s have been put forward. Could Arthur Leigh Allen be the man behind these brutal attacks? or was he just a crazed zodiac fan? What about Lawrence Kane Kaye, was he the 1970’s joker or was he just a man in the wrong place at the wrong time?
Whoever the killer may be we can hopefully believe that he has either ‘finished his collecting of slaves’ or his collecting was ended by nature. It is important to remember that this man/woman did kill many people, who could have been someones family member or friend, and created a state of fear throughout the US. No one man should ever have that power but sadly the likelihood is that this will forever stay an unsolved mystery.
If you enjoyed this post about the zodiac killer then you might enjoy some of the following resources I came across during my research or mentioned throughout the post:
- A complete list of the zodiac killers letters
- The 2007 film ‘The zodiac’ based on Robert Greysmith’s theory
- 5 shocking facts about the zodiac killer
- The latest news on the zodiac killer