The Zodiac Killer: 50 Years of Unsolved Crime

Since the killing began and until today, the mystery of the Zodiac Killer remains to be solved.

It’s a crime that’s been going on for centuries, with people scratching their heads and wondering who it could be and what drove him to insanity. One thing’s for sure, the fame of the Zodiac Killer is now part of history.

Getting to Know the Zodiac Killer

The Zodiac Killer, also known as Jack the Ripper of Northern California, remains at large despite 50 years passing since his last crime. The Zodiac is a pseudonym well known to the people during the late 1960’s to the early 1970’s, and the name still leaves an eerie tingling sensation down anyone’s spine. His crimes are unfathomable, and no one can begin to comprehend what brought him to this carefully designed manslaughter.

In less than a year, the Zodiac was able to kill several people successfully and claimed to be responsible for the death of several more despite the lack of evidence to prove it. The Zodiac Killer’s popularity reached the big screen and inspired the creation of “Dirty Harry,” a 1971 movie. Several years later, police started pointing their fingers at Arthur Allen, a child molester.

Investigations lead the police to believe that Allen was the would-be killer, relying on the similarity both criminals have in common. For one, the identity of his boots were the same as the Zodiac. Second, Allen mentioned that “The Most Dangerous Game” was his favorite story, which the Zodiac coincidentally says in one of his letters. Third, Allen’s watch showcased the Zodiac’s symbol, a crosshair.

But despite all the similarities between Allen and the Zodiac, police soon realized that the two were different. Police were now left with tons of boxes containing pieces of evidence, trying to point to who the killer might be. What people were and are left with now, is a mental image of a man, who was probably consumed with insanity, to have skillfully created a series of elaborate murders.

Infamous Crimes of the Zodiac

The Zodiac claimed to have committed 37 murders. However, police are only able to identify seven victims–of the seven victims are two survivors. He shot approximately five people during his rampage, with only one survivor. In his first slaughter, the Zodiac shot two teenagers. During his second crime, he again shot two other people, Michael Mageau and Darlene Ferrin. Of the two, Mageau was fortunate enough to live. And later on, he shot one, Paul Lee Stine.

The Zodiac also stabbed two of his other victims, Bryan Hartnell and Cecelia Shepard. Unfortunately, Cecelia died during the attack because of the severity of her injuries, while Hartnell survived despite receiving eight stab wounds in total. The gruesome deaths of the Zodiac are telling of what might have been going on in his head. Coupled with the fact that he’d send letters and cryptograms to the media to perhaps shed some light as to his motive.

Letters from the Zodiac

This is the Zodiac Speaking.” This would be the first message of the Zodiac in his letters. Unlike other killers, the Zodiac had an unusual characteristic that is uncommon in the history of serial killers. He would write letters, and send it to the Chronicle, Vallejo Times Herald, and the San Francisco Examiner, among others. He sent nearly a total of two dozen letters, claiming that he murdered approximately 37 people.

Zodiac Killer letter

These letters, however, became vital for the police in identifying the Zodiac’s identity. The messages contained potential DNA evidence, identifying who the serial killer may be. But the story would be too good to be true if it were that easy for authorities to find out who he was. The Zodiac was so skillful that he made sure he had minimal contact with the letter. He made sure he left no saliva, fingerprint, or blood, which would then be traced back to him. At best, police only had a slim hope and chance of identifying who he was.

Another chilling fact about the Zodiac was that he would send cryptograms as part of his elaborate game. Once the cryptograms have been deciphered, the message would contain a horrific word. In his first cryptogram, the Zodiac sent the letter in parts to the Chronicle, Vallejo Times Herald, and the San Francisco. He revealed in this first message that he gains pleasure from killing people because it is fun, compared to hunting wild game. He says, “man is the most dangerous animal of all to kill.” Unfortunately, this cryptogram was the only one decoded with certainty.

Identifying the Real Killer

The letters proved to be of great importance in identifying who the Zodiac might be, and it remains to be the only hopeful direction for the case. Police have relied on using DNA and genealogy in trying to resolve matters, similar to how the authorities solved the Golden State Killer. The same problems still circulate DNA evidence, one of which was that the letters are already compromised after being mishandled by many people. The likelihood of finding the identity of the killer with certainty is slim.

On a brighter note, there has been some breakthrough, such as when the Combined DNA Index System was used to identify the potential killer. The system has good intentions of matching the DNA profile, but the result could never be met. The genetic profile of the Zodiac could not be completed, and the best option would be to gather all evidence across all murders and put together what they have.

Another critical factor in identifying the Zodiac, is matching the handwriting to the accused. Although there have been several people who come up to have the same writing, they weren’t able to conclusively point the slaughters to the right suspect. There would always be one factor missing, or an alibi which would remove them from the list. Nevertheless, modern technology is catching up–who knows who it would be able to identify next?

The Zodiac’s scheme to make his murder a puzzle makes his case more mysterious. It’s a mystery that’s been baffling the police for many years now, and it remains unsolved despite the many evidence and clues. It would be interesting to know who was the person behind such an elaborate scheme and understand how his mind operates. But more importantly, to serve justice to his victims and their families.

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