Famous Unsolved Crimes The Zodiac Killer Part 2

About a famous unsolved crime involving the Zodiac Killer, history of the investigation, clues, and unanswered questions.


The Zodiac Killer (1966-?)

In September, 1969, Zodiac, wearing a square mask resembling a medieval executioner's hood, captured two college students picnicking near Lake Berryessa and tied them up. He stabbed the boy 6 times and gave the girl a total of 24 knife wounds in the form of a bloody cross. The girl, Cecelia Shepard, died, but the boy, Bryan Hartnell, survived. A few weeks later Zodiac killed a cab driver, but that time he was seen leaving the scene of the crime and the police got their first useful description of him. He was about 25 to 30, 5 ft. 8 in., wore thick glasses, and had short brown (perhaps reddish) hair. It did little good. No arrest was made.

Unanswered Questions: For the next several years the Zodiac played a number game. When the police credited him with 5 murders, he claimed 7. When they upped their figure to 6, he raised it to 17. Eventually Zodiac claimed more than 30 murders, and San Francisco police insisted there hadn't been that many corpses. However, in 1975 Sonoma County Sheriff Don Striepeke came up with a computer study of murder records filed in the state attorney general's office which indicated that 40 murders in five western states could be linked to one killer--possibly Zodiac--because of the similarity in technique. In Washington State, a symbol of two rectangles connected by a line--formed by twigs and with two stones within one of the rectangles--was found by some girls' bodies. Striepeke established that the symbol was a form of witchcraft in England, and that it was once put on the hearth of homes of deceased persons in order to speed the dead to the afterlife. (Zodiac was certainly concerned about his victims' afterlife.)

At least the sheriff's numbers matched Zodiac's fairly well, for in one of his last letters, written in 1974, Zodiac claimed 37 murders. There was one more letter after that, but it proved to be a fake. What happened to Zodiac? Is he out of commission, perhaps dead? Or is he simply killing more and writing less? Sheriff Striepeke at one point came up with the theory that the mass killer was leaving a trail of bodies that trace the letter Z over several Western states.

Whom to Notify: San Francisco Police Dept., 850 Bryant Street, San Francisco, Calif. 94103.

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