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Zodiac Killer Confirmed?

To those that are unaware of the infamous Zodiac killer, the unidentified individual was a serial killer who had terrorized California in the 1960s - 1970s with five brutal murders. The first murder occurred on December 20, 1968, where high school students Betty Lou Jensen and David Arthur Faraday were shot near the edge of Benicia, California. Betty Lou Jensen was only 16 at the time and received a total of five gunshots while David Arthur only received a fatal gunshot wound to the head. The second attack would occur on July 4th, 1969 in which the Zodiac killer would pull up to a brown corvair and instantly kill Darlene Ferrin, age 22, however, the nineteen-year-old male in the car, Mike Mageau survived after being shot in the jaw, shoulder, and leg. Mike Mageau had described his shooter to be about 5’8 and “beefy.” This was the first description of the killer and although the murders were initially thought to be separate, the Zodiac killer had sent three ciphered messages to different newspapers, signing each with a plus sign through a circle and taking credit for the murders. The signature left behind would give him his name, the Zodiac killer as it is believed that the symbol was taken from the Swiss Watch brand, Zodiac. 

The Zodiac killer had begun his infamous taunting to the police and the Californian community through the messages. However, a highschool teacher, Donald Harden, and his wife Bettyte would soon decrypt the Zodiac killer's cipher which was known as 408 cipher because of how many characters it contained. The letters would usually open with something resembling, “This is the Zodiac speaking…” and continue onward with him both claiming credit for the crimes and taunting the police. In one of his letters he states, “I like killing people because it is so much fun” and in a letter to the San Francisco Chronicle he stated “I hope you are having lots of fun in trying to catch me.” Within the same letter, he threatened to kill more people if the San Francisco Examiner did not put his letters on the front page, both increasing his publicity and displaying the level of influence he had on the community. He is also infamously known for calling the police after the murders and taunting them. 

On September 27th, 1969, he would end up making twenty-two year old Cecelia Ann Shepard and twenty year old Bryan Hartnell his next victims. He tied both of them up and proceeded to stab them resulting in Cecelia Ann Shepard passing away two days later but Bryan Hartnell survived. Bryan provided the second public description of the killer as a white, middle aged man, about six feet tall, and weighing about two hundred pounds. The last confirmed murder occurred on October 11th, 1969, when a cab driver by the name of Paul Stine had unknowingly picked up the Zodiac killer. After the cab driver had reached his destination, the Zodiac killer had shot him and despite witnesses calling the police, the man still got away. He would further taunt the police by sending them another message with a piece of the victim's blood-stained shirt attached to the note. At the end of the note, the Zodiac killer threatens to shoot a tire off a school bus and “pick off the kiddies as they come bouncing out.” 

In the last cipher he sends, he allegedly taunts the police by stating, “My name is…” and leaving thirteen symbols after his name which have yet to be deciphered. One of the most highlighted potential suspects during the investigation was Arthur Leigh Allen, a former elementary school teacher and convicted sex offender, but he was dismissed due to his writing sample. Another suspect includes Earl Van Best Jr. whose son accused his father of being the Zodiac killer as he wrote in his book, The Most Dangerous Animal of All. Most recently a team by the name of Case Breakers, a group of former law enforcement, prosecutors, and intelligence officers have claimed they have identified the Zodiac Killer to be none other than Gary Francis Poste, a former air force veteran who died in 2018. Although they seem certain the FBI has made the statement “The FBI’s investigation into the Zodiac Killer remains open and unsolved. Due to the ongoing nature of the investigation, and out of respect for the victims and their families, we will not be providing further comment at this time.” Regardless of who is the actual serial killer, someone who has been potentially connected to more than 37 murders, maintained a taunting demeanor to both the Californian community and the police, and has even gotten away with killing in front of others, makes the Zodiac Killer truly one of the United State’s most infamous unsolved serial killers. 


(An interview discussing the Case Breakers reasoning can be found here. I also highly recommend everyone to listen or check out Earl Van Best Jr.’s book, The Most Dangerous Animal of All. Even if Earl’s father is not the Zodiac Killer, which in itself sounds like a twisted drama of a “Are you the father?” pregnancy test spin-off, it must be maddening or difficult at the very least to somehow speculate your father is the Zodiac Killer and then discover enough self-convincing evidence to write a book about it.)








Citations: 

Anguiano Dani, Case of the Zodiac killer takes another twist - but police says it isn’t solved, The Guardian, October, 2021, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2021/oct/08/zodiac-killer-investigation 


Biography.com Editors, Zodiac Killer Biography, The Biography.com, October 2021, https://www.biography.com/crime-figure/zodiac-killer#citation 


Corbett Kelly, How did the Zodiac Killer get his name? The Serial Killer’s Story Explained, Distractify, October 2021,  https://www.distractify.com/p/why-do-they-call-him-the-zodiac-killer 


Jenkins Philip John, Zodiac Killer, Encyclopedia Britannica, December 2020, https://www.britannica.com/biography/Zodiac-killer 


Kavanagh Joanne, CATCHING A KILLER Zodiac ending explained: Is Arthur Leigh Allen the Zodiac Killer, The U.S. Sun, October 2021, https://www.the-sun.com/entertainment/tv/3808568/zodiac-ending-explained-arthur-leigh-allen/  

Oxygen, The Zodiac Killer Case Explained | Oxygen, Youtube, October 7th, 2021 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IT9HHoAF-dI 


The Zodiac Killer, Crime Museum, https://www.crimemuseum.org/crime-library/serial-killers/the-zodiac-killer/

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