The Zodiac Killer or Zodiac was a serial killer who operated in Northern California from at least the late 1960s to the early 1970s. The killer's identity remains unknown. The Zodiac murdered victims in Benicia, Vallejo, Lake Berryessa, and San Francisco between December 1968 and October 1969. Four men and three women between the ages of 16 and 29 were targeted. The killer originated the name "Zodiac" in a series of taunting letters sent to the local Bay Area press. These letters included four cryptograms (or ciphers). Of the four cryptograms sent, only one has been definitively solved.
|Number of victims||5 confirmed dead, 2 injured, possibly 20–28 total dead (claimed to have killed 37)|
|Span of killings||1960s–1970s|
|State(s)||California, possibly also Nevada|
Suspects have been named by law enforcement and amateur investigators, mainly led by Dave Toschi, but no conclusive evidence has surfaced. The San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) marked the case "inactive" in April 2004, but re-opened it at some point prior to March 2007. The case also remains open in the city of Vallejo, as well as in Napa County and Solano County. The California Department of Justice has maintained an open case file on the Zodiac murders since 1969.
Although the Zodiac claimed 37 murders in letters to the newspapers, investigators agree on only seven confirmed victims, two of whom survived. They are:
- David Arthur Faraday, 17, and Betty Lou Jensen, 16: shot and killed on December 20, 1968, on Lake Herman Road, within the city limits of Benicia. Coordinates:
- Michael Renault Mageau, 19, and Darlene Elizabeth Ferrin, 22: shot on July 4, 1969, in the parking lot of Blue Rock Springs Park in Vallejo. While Mageau survived the attack, Ferrin was pronounced dead on arrival at Kaiser Foundation Hospital. Coordinates:
- Bryan Calvin Hartnell, 20, and Cecelia Ann Shepard, 22: stabbed on September 27, 1969, at Lake Berryessa in Napa County. Hartnell survived eight stab wounds to the back, but Shepard died as a result of her injuries on September 29, 1969. Coordinates:
- Paul Lee Stine, 29: shot and killed on October 11, 1969, in the Presidio Heights neighborhood in San Francisco. Coordinates:
The following murder victims are suspected to be victims of Zodiac, though none have been confirmed:
- Robert Domingos, 18, and Linda Edwards, 17: shot and killed on June 4, 1963, on a beach near Gaviota. Edwards and Domingos were identified as possible Zodiac victims because of specific similarities between their attack and the Zodiac's attack at Lake Berryessa six years later. Coordinates:
- Cheri Jo Bates, 18: stabbed to death and nearly decapitated on October 30, 1966, at Riverside City College in Riverside. Bates's possible connection to the Zodiac only appeared four years after her murder when San Francisco Chronicle reporter Paul Avery received a tip regarding similarities between the Zodiac killings and the circumstances surrounding Bates's death. College coordinates:
- Donna Lass, 25: last seen September 6, 1970, in Stateline, Nevada. A postcard with an advertisement from Forest Pines condominiums (near Incline Village at Lake Tahoe) pasted on the back was received at the Chronicle on March 22, 1971, and has been interpreted as the Zodiac claiming Lass's disappearance as a victim. No evidence has been uncovered to connect Lass's disappearance with the Zodiac Killer definitively.
There is also a suspected third escapee from the Zodiac Killer:
- "Zodiac Letters". Zodiackiller.com. Archived from the original on June 27, 2017. Retrieved August 9, 2011.
- SFPD News Release, March 2007
- "Zodiac: The killer who will not die". sanfranmag. Archived from the original on August 24, 2011.
- Napa PD Website, Vallejo PD Website and "Tipline," Solano County Sheriff's Office
- California Department of Justice Website
- Graysmith, p. 160.
- Adams, p. 274
- "Police report". zodiackiller. Zodiackiller.com. Retrieved May 30, 2010.
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