The Strange Murders of the Zodiac

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Reanna Ventresca, Writer

In the 1970s, the Zodiac Killer tormented northern California. He taunted the police with letters and newspapers that gave them hints. Four letters contained ciphers with complex letters and weird symbols. He would sign all of his letters with a circle and a plus sign over them. He would send the police letters saying if they did not print his letters, he would bomb places or kill more people. This case has been known as the most infamous in America to this day.

The Zodiac claimed he killed 37 people, but investigators think that there were only 7 victims, two of which survived. His targets tended to be young couples and a lone cab driver. His victims include David Arthur (17) and Betty Lou Jensen (16). They were shot and killed by Lake Herman Road on December 20th, 1968.  

Michael Renault Mageau (19) and Darlene Elizabeth Ferrin (22). Were both shot on July 4th, 1969 in a parking lot at Blue Rock Springs Park. Michael fortunately survived. Paul Lee Stine (29) was shot and killed on October 11, 1996, in Presidio Heights. 

Two of his other victims, Bryan Calvin Hartnell (20) and Celcelia Ann Shepard (22) were stabbed on September 27, 1969, at Lake Berryessa. Bryan survived eight stab wounds to his back, but Celcelia passed away because of her extensive injuries. Since Bryan Hartnell survived the stabbing, he was able to include a description of the killer. A white man, about 5’11, was wearing a black executioner’s-type hood with clip-on sunglasses. After the killer stabbed Bryan and Celcelia, he called the police on a pay telephone and reported that he had just stabbed two people. The police arrived shortly after but had little evidence to go on.

The last letter the Zodiac ever sent was on January 29, 1974. In the letter, he was praising the Exorcist movie as, “The greatest satirical comedy [sic] I have ever seen”. He included a new symbol at the bottom of the page that has, to this day, been unexplained by investigators.

The most recent cipher from this case was solved in 2020. This cipher was made by The Zodiac killer in 1969. It was solved by a team of 51 experts. The message read, “I hope you are having lots of fun in trying to catch me. I am not afraid of the gas chamber because it will send me to paradise [sic] all the sooner because I now have enough slaves to work for me”. Even after all this time, the messages have not given any more clues to the identity of the zodiac. There have been hundreds of people who claimed to be the zodiac killer or people the police suspected. Out of all the suspects, there was never enough evidence to convict someone of being The Zodiac killer. 

One of the biggest suspects, in this case, was Arthur Leigh Allen, who passed away in 1992, but there was still not enough evidence to connect him to the murders. This case had frustrated the police for decades, and to this day, remains unsolved.