The Zodiac Serial Killer: An Undiscovered Identity

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In July of 1969, the start of what would be one of the most nationally renowned unsolved cases began in the Northern areas of California. The San Francisco Examiner, a popular newspaper, received a coded letter that contained a shocking and eerie message. The sender of this letter was none other than the infamous Zodiac Killer, an unidentified serial murderer who struck terror within the minds of Californians far and wide with his public letters filled with mind-boggling ciphers and tumultuous threats, as well as his gruesome murders. While the Zodiac seemingly disappeared in the late 70’s, his legacy of killings remains, inspiring not only books and movies, but three copycat murderers. Who really is this man and why did he kill many innocent people? The identity of this singular man has stumped law enforcement officials and citizens for over five decades, but there are many different theories as to who he is. From normal people who lived in the general areas of the murders, to a political figure named Ted Cruz, and the most likely murderer who is the prime suspect, Arthur Leigh Allen, who has evidence piled against him.

On a Tuesday of June 1963, two seniors who attended Lompoc High School participated in the annual “Senior Ditch Day” to sunbathe on a beach near Gaviota State Park. These students were the engaged couple Linda Edwards and Robert Domingos. The couple was due back that evening, but when they had not returned, Robert’s father began to worry and went out to the beach to search for the teenagers. Robert’s father discovered a shack on the beach and found a terrifying scene inside of it, his son and his son’s fiance’s bodies lying on the floor of the shack. The teenagers had been bound by ropes and shot with a .22- caliber weapon, thus ending their lives. The bodies were then dragged to the shack by the killer who attempted to start a fire to dispose of the bodies and failed. This double homicide was not connected to The Zodiac until 1972, when evidence was compared to other Zodiac cases in the area.

Cheri Josephine Bates was The Zodiac Killer’s next victim in his string of murders. Bates lived with her father and was enrolled at Riverside City College in Riverside, California. On the evening of October 30, 1966, Bates left a note for her father that reads “Dad-- went to the RCC library.” and like the two teenagers before her, was due to be home that night. She never arrived home and her body was found brutally stabbed and sprawled between two nearby homes, her vehicle still remaining in the library parking lot. Law enforcement officials collected evidence such as a mens watch, hairs that were stuck in the victim's blood, and a military make boot print. One month after this murder letters titled “The Confession” were sent to the local police department and newspaper. The author of this letter claimed to be the killer of Bates and stated, “Miss Bates was stupid. She went to the slaughter like a lamb.”and then further added “I am not sick. I am insane.”(Butterfield) Then in April of 1967 almost identical letters were sent to the paper, police department, and Cheri Bates’ father which claimed “Bates had to die. There will be more.”(Butterfield) The letters were all signed with a “Z” like symbol. Soon after, the Riverside murder was linked to the Zodiac crimes and a story about this connection was revealed to the public in The San Francisco Chronicle. This stemmed a response from the killer himself, writing “I do have to give them credit for stumbling across my riverside activity, but they are only finding the easy ones, there are a hell of a lot more down there.”(Butterfield)

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While there were many possible and confirmed Zodiac killings, the last confirmed murder was that of Paul Stine, a 28-year old student. Paul worked as a cab driver in San Francisco and the night of his murder he picked up a passenger that needed to be transported to the Presidio Heights neighborhood. While stopped at an intersection the passenger shot Paul in his head. The killer then removed a piece of Pauls shirt to be used as what was believed to be a trophy or keepsake. Police did not have an accurate description of the killer and claimed that he was black male, while in actuality the killer was a white male who fit The Zodiac’s physical profile. The Zodiac Killer had simply walked right past the police without anyone noticing. Just like many other Zodiac murders, a letter was sent to the newspaper, The San Francisco Chronicle, by the killer. The letter was addressed from “The Zodiac” and stated “I am the murderer of the taxi driver.” Also included in the letter was the piece of Stine’s shirt that had been removed.

While the identity of the The Zodiac Killer is still unknown, there are a multitude of suspects who could very well be the killer himself. From probable suspicion to just plain crazy conspiracy theories, many people argue about who this one man truly is. Some even believe that Senator Ted Cruz is the notorious Zodiac Killer because of a tweet he published. Cruz posted a funny Halloween post on twitter in 2016, featuring a Zodiac cipher as his Halloween message. While many people like to argue this conspiracy theory, Cruz was born two years after the first confirmed Zodiac killing, which would mean he wasn't even conceived when the first murder happened. People also claim that it is a sign that Ted is in fact the Zodiac Killer because his wife, when asked, has not denied it. This may be a funny joke to make or used as a meme, but it is not a plausible scenario given the years of the murders and the age of Cruz at the time they were committed.

Another suspect of the Zodiac case is Arthur Leigh Allen, a resident of Northern California. While Allen did not exactly match the police description of The Zodiac Killer, it was also made clear that the killer had possibly worn disguises which explains why he may not have matched their sketch to a tee. Before the murders began Allen was given a Zodiac watch and the symbol inside the watch was a circle with a cross through the middle, the same name and symbol used to identify the Zodiac murders. Don Cheney, Allen’s friend, also allegedly claims that before he had claimed a multitude of eerie statement around the nature of “I would like to kill couples at random and send the police taunting letters” and “I would like to call myself the Zodiac and use the symbol from my watch to represent me.” Between many of the murders Allen just happened to be in the general area while they took place, but the watch and the exact statements seem to all add up.

There are quite a few other suspects in the Zodiac Killer case such as hotel worker Lawrence Kane, Ross Sullivan, a staffer at the RCC library, and radio operator Richard Marshall. Lawrence Kane has a few links to the case like working with Zodiac victim Donna Lass and having a knack for peeping on women in his spare time. Ross Sullivan worked at the same library where Cheri Jo Bates was killed and he had a similar profile to the composite sketch of the Zodiac. Richard Marshall just happened to be living in Riverside and in San Francisco at the times of two different murders committed by the Zodiac Killer. Marshall also began telling people that he found “something much more exciting than sex” which could have been a reference to murder.

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The Zodiac Serial Killer: An Undiscovered Identity. (2022, Jun 29). Edubirdie. Retrieved May 20, 2024, from
“The Zodiac Serial Killer: An Undiscovered Identity.” Edubirdie, 29 Jun. 2022,
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