Enigma: The Zodiac Killer
“I’m not afraid of the gas chamber because it will send me to the paradise all the sooner because I now have enough slaves to work for me.”
The above quote was identified as a part of the hidden message that the newspapers received from the Zodiac Killer, a brutal and notorious murderer who terrorized Northern California, USA in the late ‘60s and early 70’s.
The first known attack took place on 20th December, 1968, on Lake Hermon Road in California. A young couple named David Faraday and Betty Lou Jonsen had been shot using a .22 handgun, and unfortunately neither survived. No direct evidence was ever found on the case that could lead the police to the murderer.
After several months, on 04th July, 1969 in Vallejo, another young couple was shot, this time with the use of a 9 mm pistol. Darlene Ferrine, who was shot five times, died on the spot, but Michael Mageau survived and was able to provide a description on the Zodiac Killer’s appearance. However, the murderer himself had called the closest police department claiming that he was responsible for the murders.
On August 1, three newspapers operating in San Francisco received letters from a person introduced himself as Zodiac Killer. He claimed the responsibility for Mageau – Ferrine case and Faraday – Jonsen deaths as well. After being inactive for almost a year, the killer was in action once again.
The letters which were sent to the newspapers consisted of cryptograms, making the letter more puzzling and taunting. The murder had threatened the press to publish these ciphers which included 408 symbols and characters. The first letter was solved by a high school history teacher, Donald Harden and his wife soon after it was published on newspapers. It revealed a blood chilling statement, “I like killing people because it’s so much fun.” The letter did not reveal the identity of the killer although he had mentioned that the cipher will have his name hidden in it. From the ciphers that the Zodiac Killer had sent to the press and the police, two has been solved, one of which is called ‘304 cipher’ was cracked in 2020 by a group of three people – after 51 years. The rest stays a mystery to this date, which possibly could contain more information on this notorious slayer.
After the Mageau – Ferrine incident, the Zodiac Killer attacked another young couple which is known as ‘Berryessa Case’, where he stabbed the woman to death and the man was fortunate to survive. In that case too, the murderer called the police and took responsibility for his crime. Then his fourth attack took the life of a cab driver, who was shot to death. With these confirmed deaths, five in total, the law enforcements suspected that he was responsible for 20 to 28 murders. But in his letters which were sent to the press, he claims to have killed 37 people in total, although he had not named any of his other victims.
According to survived victims and eye witnesses, the murderer had average height, was wearing horn – rimmed glasses and dark colored clothes. Some witnesses described him having a strange gait as well. A sketch of the murderer’s face was made following the clues given by witnesses. After this sketch was out for public, several people identified their friends, relations or family members as the murderer, not only because of their physical appearance, but also the suspicious belongings they had and their personal history which could connect them to this horrifying murder series.
Among these suspects, Arthur Leigh Allen was the prime suspect identified by the law enforcement in this case. Michael Megeau, the survived victim of the Zodiac’s second attack identified Allen as the person who shot him that night. Making Megeau’s statement stronger, Bryan Hartnell, another survived victim, recognized Allen’s voice and appearance were identical to the Zodiac. Apart from these direct and solid evidences, living close to where the first two attacks took place, telling his friend that he was interested in killing people, and having bloody knives in his possession on the day of the third attack which took place in Berryessa led the law enforcement and general public into believing that Allen could be the notorious murderer everyone had been hunting for. However, his fingerprints or handwriting did not match with the evidences and samples the police had, therefore he could not be charged as the actual murderer.
There were some other notable suspects among the lengthy list of whom were reported as possible ‘Zodiac Killers’. Jack Tarrence, who was suspected by his stepson Dennis Kaufman for possessing a knife with dried blood on it and a black hood which is similar to Berryessa victim’s description on Zodiac’s clothing. Another family member had stated that he once claimed to stab people a number of times and he has lost count of them as well. But his DNA also mismatched with the samples picked at the crime scene, which cleared his name yet left the question unsolved.
Lawrence Kane, Richard Marshall and Richard Gaikowski was also some of the many suspects who drew attention of the general public for the bits of strong evidences which could possibly connect them with the horrible slaughters. But none of the witnesses were enough to close the case. Therefore, it remained opened as a cold case, which aroused the curiosity of people around the world that wanted to see who the true Zodiac Killer was.
And Ted Cruz, the famous Senator for Texas tweeted a cipher which was identical to Zodiac’s letters and it brought a totally different belief that this senator who is hated by many people including his co-workers, could be the actual Zodiac Killer. But his birth certificate indicates that he was born after the second attack of the Zodiac which left everything puzzled as before.
However, on October 6th, 2021, several news agencies and websites published a news which revealed that the true Zodiac Killer has been identified at last by a group of private investigators. Through a press release they claimed that they believe Garry Francis Poste, a USA Air Force veteran to be the real culprit behind all the brutal murders committed under the name ‘Zodiac Killer’. Although they have presented some evidences that could name Poste as the Zodiac, the law enforcement has not accepted him as the real culprit and the case is still opened for the considerably weak evidences provided by the private investigators.
Considering the contradictory evidences that the police and the investigators had collected, could it be possible that the original Zodiac Killer had someone else’s aid to fulfil his brutal cravings? Especially in Arthur Leigh Allen’s case, there were a substantial amount of evidences which could easily prove that he was the real Zodiac Killer, but his fingerprints or handwriting did not match with the murderer’s samples. Could it be that there was a patron who acted as an alternate for the original Zodiac Killer?
And there comes another theory that the some of the suspects could have been engaged in this Zodiac Killer incident. Living in the same neighbourhood, it is also possible that some of the suspects worked together to bring the persona of the ‘Zodiac Killer’ to life.
It’s quite possible that this violent murderer could still be out there, feeling satisfied that no police officer or investigator has been able to track him down. Whether he is still waiting for his time or probably already in his so-called ‘paradise’ with all the ‘slaves’, is what we do not know.
– Rtr Heshani Dharmapala
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