The Zodiac Killer terrorized Southern California during the 1970s, killing five victims and claiming credit for several more. The killer originated the name in a series of taunting letters and cards sent to the San Francisco Bay Area press. Each letter closed with a symbol consisting of a circle with a cross through it, in what would come to be known as the Zodiac Killer’s symbol. The letters were also each accompanied by one part of a three-part cipher that he claimed contained his identity. The identity of the masked killer has remained a mystery, despite the efforts of countless historians and investigative crime shows.
Arthur Leigh Allen is the most notable suspect linked to the Zodiac killings. Allen was a convicted pedophile who lived next to the first Zodiac victim. Allen maintained his innocence for the rest of his life. He defended himself during a 1991 interview, in which he talked about the emotional strain the Zodiac investigation has put on him and his family. “They haven’t arrested me because they can’t prove a thing,” he asserted. “I’m not the damn Zodiac– this has been miserable and rotten and I haven’t deserved any of it.”
Despite Allen’s pleas to be left alone, the San Francisco Police Department continued to look into his case. They scheduled a meeting to discuss charging him with the murders, but Allen suffered a fatal heart attack before the meeting could take place. CNN claimed that Allen’s DNA was tested against fibers from the Zodiac crime scene in 2002, but they came back negative once again.
The FX docuseries The Most Dangerous Animal of All offered a different take on the Zodiac killings. The series was adapted from the non fiction book of the same name, and theorizes that the killer may have been a California man named Earl Van Best, Jr. The series is led by author Gary L. Stewart, who came to suspect Best after discovering that Best was his biological father.
Stewart makes a fairly compelling case against his father, pointing to the fact that Best and the Zodiac Killer had similar handwriting and scars on their hands. Best also had a background in code-breaking, which is a crucial detail given the Zodiac’s legendary use of codes and full-page cyphers. Best even looks like the Zodiac police sketch, with short hair and thick, black glasses.
Several critics derided Stewart for failing to base his theory on evidence, and relying on hearsay to sell the series. “To be blunt, everything adds weight to Gary’s theories,” wrote Roger Ebert critic Brian Tallerico. “There are weird little things like Gary’s belief that you can even see his dad’s name in one of the ciphers, but there’s a lot of bending to make it all .”
We May NEVER Know Who The Zodiac Killer Is
Two of the reported 2,500 men where Best and Allen, who have been investigated in relation to the Zodiac Killer. Other notable suspects include Ross Sullivan, Lawrence Kane, and the “Unabomber” himself, Ted Kaczynski. Ted was ruled out on the basis of his handwriting, but Sullivan and Kane remain two of the most popular suspects for amateur sleuths.
A major setback for modern day investigators is the lack of evidence. Police officers were all over the Zodiac crime scenes in the 1970s, but the fact that so many of them occurred in different cities led to miscommunication and broken chains of command. Much of the evidence that was collected was tampered with, or worse, damaged by the passage of time. These repeated dead ends have led some to question whether we will ever be able to determine the killer’s true identity.
The Zodiac killer is one of the greatest police mysteries of all time because he was never caught, never messed up in his actions, and no one knew his identity, aside from eyewitness drawings in which he said looked nothing like him. Is he still alive? Could there have been more than two murderers working together?
The public remains hopeful that the Zodiac killer will one day be brought to justice. Tom Voigt, the creator of Zodiackiller.com, stated that the day will come where someone is able to piece together the evidence and identify the killer.
“It looks to me that the case could be solved if somebody could just collect all the information and put it in one spot to let as many people as possible see it,” he stated. “The idea that because the guy stops killing, he must be dead is ridiculous. BTK stopped and he wasn’t dead . . . he was there the whole time.”Tom Voigt