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The Horrifying Murders Of The Zodiac Killer

A deep dive into one of the most infamous cold cases of all time.

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In the late '60s and early '70s, the Zodiac Killer terrorized Northern California, killing at least five people and claiming to have killed 37 people in total.

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The next crime occurred on July 4, 1969, only a few minutes away from the first killings. The killer approached a parked car with a flashlight and shot the two passengers before walking away and coming back to shoot them again. One of the victims, Michael Mageau, survived and was able to give a description of the killer:

Finally, on Oct. 11, 1969, in San Francisco, taxi driver Paul Stine was shot in the head by his passenger. A teenager across the street heard the shot and got a good look at the perpetrator, and so did two other witnesses.

When two police officers, Donald Fouke and Eric Zelms, drove past a stocky, white male with heavy-rimmed glasses a few blocks away from the scene, they did not question him, since he didn't fit the dispatcher's description.

The Zodiac would later mock this interaction in a letter, making it likely that the two cops drove by the nation's most notorious serial killer at the time without even knowing.

In 2002, the SF police department was able to extract a partial genetic profile from a Zodiac letter from the saliva on the stamp. It wasn't enough to conclusively identity a single person, but was enough to eliminate some suspects.

However, although Earl Van Best Jr. looks like the composite sketch from the Paul Stine killing, he does not fit the description of the large, heavyset man at the three previous killings.

The second and most famous suspect is from Robert Graysmith, who believes Arthur Leigh Allen was the Zodiac Killer. This theory is the basis for the 2007 film The Zodiac starring Jake Gyllenhaal as Robert Graysmith.

His case? The day of the third Zodiac attack at Lake Berryessa, Allen told his family he was going to that exact location. He came home that evening covered in blood, with a bloody knife in his car.

When Allen was interviewed, he said his favorite book was The Most Dangerous Game, a book about a man who hunted humans, and a book referenced by the Zodiac in his first letter to the press. He was also wearing a Zodiac-brand watch with the same Zodiac symbol the killer used. When police searched his trailer home, they found small, dissected animals, bloody knives, and sexual devices, but no direct evidence of the murders.

In 1974, Allen was convicted of child molestation and went to jail for three years. Coincidentally, during this time, no Zodiac letters were received. In 1987, an inmate told police that Allen admitted to him that he murdered Paul Stine. In 1991, Mike Mageau, the man who survived the second Zodiac attack, picked Allen out of a lineup of photos as the killer. This led the police to search Allen's home again, and this time they found bomb formulas, constructed bombs, and tapes about the Zodiac killer.

It's worth mentioning that Allen's DNA was compared with the Zodiac's stamp saliva and it was not a match. But it is believed that Allen had a habit of letting other people lick his stamps for him. Allen also underwent handwriting analysis, which wasn't a match either.

The last suspect comes from retired police officer Harvey Hines, who believes Lawrence "Kane" Kaye is the Zodiac. In 1962, Kane was involved in a car accident that resulted in brain damage influencing his behavior. A psychologist claimed Kane was "losing the ability to control self-gratification."

Also, Don Fouke, the cop who had possibly come into contact with the Zodiac after the Paul Stine killing, apparently said that in the hundreds of pictures he had been shown over the past 20 years, Kane was best likeness of the man he saw that evening.

Finally, in 1970, Kathleen Johns and her baby were tricked into getting a ride from the Zodiac. He told her he was going to kill her and throw her baby out after her. Johns was able to jump out of the car with her baby and escape. Although this is an unconfirmed Zodiac encounter, the Zodiac possibly confirms this interaction in a letter. In a lineup of photos, Kathleen Johns points to Lawrence Kane as the man who tried to kill her.

Also, Kane resembles the description of the killer at the Paul Stine murder scene, but not the large, heavyset description of the Zodiac in the first three murders.

  1. Now, who do you think did it? Was there perhaps a copycat? Was there one murderer for the first three crimes, and another who killed Paul Stine?

    I think it was Earl Van Best Jr.
    I think it was Arthur Leigh Allen
    I think it was Lawrence "Kane" Kaye
    I think it was both Earl Van Best Jr. and Arthur Leigh Allen
    I think it was both Earl Van Best Jr. and Kane
    I think it was both Arthur Leigh Allen and Kane

The Horrifying Murders Of The Zodiac Killer

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Now, who do you think did it? Was there perhaps a copycat? Was there one murderer for the first three crimes, and another who killed Paul Stine?
  1.  
    vote votes
    I think it was Earl Van Best Jr.
  2.  
    vote votes
    I think it was Arthur Leigh Allen
  3.  
    vote votes
    I think it was Lawrence "Kane" Kaye
  4.  
    vote votes
    I think it was both Earl Van Best Jr. and Arthur Leigh Allen
  5.  
    vote votes
    I think it was both Earl Van Best Jr. and Kane
  6.  
    vote votes
    I think it was both Arthur Leigh Allen and Kane

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