– This week on BuzzFeed Unsolved we’re covering the Zodiac Killer. Right now we are at the scene of his first crime which, at the time, seemed like a good idea, but now that we’re here, it’s fucking pitch black. This is a horrible idea so let’s just get this over with. – Sounds good, let’s do it. – [Voiceover] So, 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. – [Voiceover] 37? – [Voiceover] He claims to have killed 37 people. – [Voiceover] Like, he wrote a note? – Yeah, he was a, he was a douche bag. On December 20, 1968 around 11 PM near Vallejo, California 17 year old David Faraday and 16 year old Betty Lou Jensen were shot and killed while sitting in a parked car in a gravel parking area off of Lake Herman Road.
In the exact spot we are sitting right now. – The exact spot, like right here? – Like right here. – Its’ just the wind. – Yes, right here. (yells) – It’s the wind! – You’re not freaked out a little right now? – What the fuck, dude? – It’s the wind. You don’t want me, we can close the windows. – Yeah, let’s close the windows, fuck this shit. – If anything, though, it would make it somewhat easier to hear footsteps that sneak up on us. – Fuck, you’re right, let’s open the windows. (laughing) By the time police arrived, Betty was found dead on the ground 30 feet away from the car, but David was still alive.
However, David would die on the way to the hospital. At this time, nobody knew that this was the work of a serial killer. – [Voiceover] Oh, ’cause it was the first murder? – ‘Cause it was the first time. Can we leave now? – Should I grab the camera? – What is wrong with you? Are you really not scared right now? – Why? Why on earth? – [Voiceover] ‘Cause look where the fuck we are, dude. Look where the fuck we are. There’s nothing around! – Have you never been in the middle of nowhere before? – [Voiceover] No, I am freaking out! Look at this shit, where the fuck are we right now? There’s two of us out here and who knows what the fuck is out in that darkness.
Not down to find out. Call me a wiener, whatever, I don’t care. The Zodiac’s next crime would occur on July 4, 1969 at around midnight near Blue Rock Springs Park, only a few minutes away from the previous crime. The Zodiac approached a parked car with a flashlight, shooting 22 year old Darlene Ferrin and 19 year old Michael Mageau before walking away and coming back to shoot them both again. Both were still alive when found, but only Mageau would survive. Mageau was able to make out the face of the man who shot him and described him as a young white man, approximately 26 to 30 years old, stocky, 200 pounds or larger, about five foot eight with light brown curly hair, and a large face.
Within an hour, the police received a phone call from somebody claiming to be the shooter. He also claimed to be the shooter in the Lake Herman Road murders. Happened right around here. The parking lot was probably empty just like this. I don’t like the way this feels either. – I mean, it’s eerie ’cause it’s night time, but if I was here during the day, it wouldn’t feel weird at all. Right behind you is a freaking kiosk that says, “Parking fees are free today.” Like, that’s not a scary sight.
– I guess. On August 1, 1969 the San Francisco Chronicle, the San Francisco Examiner and the Vallejo Times Harold all received identical hand written letters from someone claiming to be the killer. The letters revealed specific details about the murders to prove that the writer was in fact the killer. The letters were signed with a distinct mark, a circle with a cross through it, the mark that would eventually become known as the mark of the Zodiac Killer. Also included in the letters were three different codes that the Zodiac demanded be printed in newspapers or else he would kill again. – [Voiceover] Why did they print them? – [Voiceover] Because he said if they didn’t print them, he would kill more.
– [Voiceover] That just creates fear and gives the killer what they want. – [Voiceover] But at the same time, I wouldn’t want death on my hands either. – [Voiceover] It’s not your hand, you’re not killing anybody that guy is killing someone. – [Voiceover] True. – [Voiceover] You not printing something has nothing to do with whether or not someone is going to kill someone. – [Voiceover] The Zodiac claimed that the cracked codes would reveal his identity. On August 4, another letter was received that started with the phrase, “This is the Zodiac speaking.” Marking the first time the killer referred to himself as the Zodiac.
On August 8, 1969 the code was cracked by a couple in Salinas, CA. It reads, “I like killing because it is so much fun, “it is more fun than killing wild game in the forest “because man is the most dangerous animal of all to kill. “Something gives me the most thrilling experience, “it is even better than getting your rocks off with a girl. “The best part of it is that when I die, “I will be reborn in paradise and those I have killed will “become my slaves. “I will not give you my name because you will try to “slow down or stop my collecting off slaves for afterlife.” – [Voiceover] Since when do you get to keep slaves in the afterlife when you kill someone? – [Voiceover] Well, apparently that’s common knowledge in crazy town. Also, this dude must’ve skipped class the day they taught run on sentences because that shit was ridiculous. – [Voiceover] Also this guy sounds like, just the biggest bro douche ever, right? Killing is better than getting my nuts off with a girl? Like, shut up.
– [Voiceover] On September 27, 1969 in Napa, California 22 year old Cecelia Shepard and 20 year old Bryan Hartnell were picnicking on the shore of Lake Berryessa when Cecelia saw a man hiding behind a nearby tree and staring at her. After some time, the man came out from behind the tree wearing an executioner style hood over his head with the Zodiac Killer symbol on his chest. He had a gun and a long knife and used pre-cut rope to tie up Cecelia and Bryan before stabbing them repeatedly. Cecelia died at the hospital, but Bryan Hartnell would survive, despite being stabbed six times in the back. Bryan Hartnell described the man as being five foot eight to six feet tall, heavy set, weighing about 225 to 250 pounds with dark brown hair that he saw through the eye holes in the mask. A message was found on the side of Bryan’s car with the Zodiac sign, the dates of all three killings, and the words, “by knife” written below the September 27th date.
– [Voiceover] What did he use to write on the car? – [Voiceover] Just a little black paint, you know? Maybe he went to Joan’s Crafts and supplies. – [Voiceover] Right, Michaels. – [Voiceover] Michaels, he went to Michaels. On October 11, 1969 just before 10 PM in San Francisco, California at the intersection of Washington and Cherry a cab driver Paul Stine was shot in the head by his passenger. A teenage girl from her home across the street heard the shot along with two other witnesses in her home and got a good look at the man as he wiped down the car and walked away. They called the police and described the man as a white male between 25 to 30 years old. Five foot eight to five foot nine tall, stocky, with a reddish-brown crew cut and heavy rimmed glasses. A police car that was nearby came quickly to the scene, but the chaos of the situation would strangely result in the police dispatcher incorrectly identifying the suspect as an African American male.
(laughter) – [Voiceover] Classic! Way to go, fucking San Francisco police. – [Voiceover] Yeah. – [Voiceover] Are you kidding me? – [Voiceover] Yeah, when I saw that I was like, “God damn it.” – [Voiceover] Oh my lord. – [Voiceover] That incorrect identification would prove to have disastrous consequences. The police car driven by officer Don Fouke and Eric Zelms would come upon a white male walking on the sidewalk described by officer Fouke as five foot 10, 170 pounds, about 40 years old, wearing glasses with reddish hair and a crew cut. Very similar to the description offered by the teenage girl. However, because they were looking for an African-American male, Fouke and Zelms left the man alone. Watching him disappear into (mumbles) park. Brutal right? Right now we’re coming up to where the two officers allegedly saw the Zodiac. They turned left onto Jackson right here. And they saw a white guy walking right here. So the officers think he walked down to the park, entered through here, and that’s where they lost him.
The Zodiac would later comment on this interaction in a later letter in detail. Making it very likely that Fouke and Zelms came into contact with that nation’s most notorious serial killer at the time without even knowing it. A composite sketch would be drawn based on the two descriptions that would later become part of a famous wanted poster. – [Voiceover] Is this the Ted Cruz wanted poster? – [Voiceover] Yeah, it is.
– [Voiceover] It is the one that everyone looks like Ted Cruz. – [Voiceover] Regardless, the theory is ridiculous because Ted Cruz wasn’t even alive when the Zodiac was killing people. Case closed, it wasn’t Ted Cruz unless he’s a fucking time traveler. – [Voiceover] Unless he changed his birth certificate, man. Remember how obsessed about Obama’s birth certificate they were? I want to see Ted Cruz’s real birth certificate is all I’m saying. – [Voiceover] Another crucial piece of evidence was a bloody finger print discovered in the cab. However, the Zodiac also claims in a letter that it was planted by him to throw the cops off his trail. Two days later the San Francisco Chronicle gets another letter that claims responsibility for the cab driver, Paul Stine’s murder, and includes a piece of Stine’s blood stained shirt. Even more horrifying, the letter also included quote, “School children make nice targets, “I think I shall wipe out a school bus some morning.
“Just shoot out the front tire and then pick off the kiddies “as they come bouncing out.” End quote. He also later included diagrams of bombs that could be used on buses. – [Voiceover] Where is he dropping these letters off? How does he get these letters to the press? – [Voiceover] I don’t know. Also, like the image of the Zodiac sitting down in his little desk getting his, like, pen ready– – [Voiceover] I mean he does seem like he’d be into calligraphy. – [Voiceover] Maybe. – [Voiceover] This guy seems crazy enough that he’s got a fucking quill pen. – [Voiceover] He has a letter-writing desk. – [Voiceover] What’s the name they call letter-writing desks? – [Voiceover] Oh fuck, I don’t– – [Voiceover] There’s a specific name. – [Voiceover] After this, a Zodiac task force was created so that multiple departments could share info. On April 20, 1970 a letter to the San Francisco Chronicle included a cipher with the sentence “my name is” blank. Which would later become a point of contention in potential suspects.
The Zodiac would continue to send letters before stopping in 1971. Only to send his last letter in 1974 where he claims to have killed 37 people and bizarrely reviews his viewing of The Exorcist, which he called, quote, the best satirical comedy that I have ever seen, end quote. – [Voiceover] What? This guy. – [Voiceover] I can’t imagine why he felt the need to write a Rotten Tomatoes review in his last letter, but– – [Voiceover] Because he had no friends, the only people he could talk to were the press and the police. – [Voiceover] Do you think he would be a frequency Yelper today if he were still alive? – [Voiceover] Oh, he’d definitely be a fucking one star Yelper. – [Voiceover] Skipping forward, in 2002 the San Francisco police department was able to extract a partial genetic profile from a Zodiac letter from the saliva on the stamp. The profile was not enough to conclusively identify a single person, but enough to eliminate potential suspects. And with that, let’s take a look at the suspects with the most circumstantial evidence against them.
The first theory is from Gary Steward who believes that his father, Earl Van Best Jr. was the Zodiac killer. Gary Steward published a book called the Most Dangerous Animal of All that presents this theory. Earl Van Best Jr bares and uncanny resemblance to the composite sketch from the Paul Stine killing. His name also matches the number of characters in the my name is cipher. Finally, Stewart says a handwriting expert is virtually certain that Best’s handwriting on his marriage license matches the writing of the Zodiac killer. Now, here are reasons why Best may not be the Zodiac. According to an administrator at the church where Best’s marriage certificate came from, the handwriting is that of the priest and not Best himself, making the match that was virtually certain implicate the priest rather than Best. – [Voiceover] Where do you even go to get handwriting, like, certification skills? Probably from the fucking University of Phoenix. – [Voiceover] Oh shit! What did the University of Phoenix do to you? – [Voiceover] They’re like a for-profit college. – [Voiceover] Are they? Furthermore, Best only matches the description of the Zodiac at the Paul Stine killing, but not the heavy set large-faced description of the Zodiac in the previous three killings.
Gary Steward also tried to test his father’s DNA against the recovered 2002 Zodiac DNA, but investigators never complied with their reason being not enough evidence to make a case. Gary Stewart has maintained this is a police cover up. – [Voiceover] Number, why did they say there was not enough evidence to comply? – [Voiceover] Yeah, why not just test against the DNA though? – [Voiceover] Yeah, does it like cost money or like, what’s the reason not– – [Voiceover] Maybe that DNA lab is super popping, like, they just had no time for theoretical tests.
The second and most famous theory is from Robert Graysmith who believes that Arthur Leigh Allen is the Zodiac Killer. This theory is the basis for the 2007 film, The Zodiac, starring Jake Gyllenhaal as Robert Graysmith. – [Voiceover] Who is that? Internet sleuth? Like us? – [Voiceover] He’s definitely more credentialed than us. – [Voiceover] Okay. He has a card. (laughter) – [Voiceover] Actually, Robert Graysmith was a political cartoonist at the San Francisco Chronicle that became obsessed with finding the Zodiac. After a decade of personal research, Graysmith wrote two books entitled Zodiac and Zodiac Unmasked that heavily implicate Arthur Leigh Allen as the Zodiac. Here’s Graysmith’s case for Arthur Leigh Allen. The day of the third Zodiac attack at Lake Berryessa in 1969, Allen told his family he was going scuba diving at Lake Berryessa.
Later that evening, he would come home covered in blood with a bloody knife in his car. And if you’ll recall, the Zodiac murdered Cecilia Shepard that day with a knife. Two years later in 1971 one of Allen’s friends, Don Cheney said that Allen called himself the Zodiac before the killer publicly referred to himself as the Zodiac. – [Voiceover] Wait, wait, wait, wait. So, he literally called himself “the Zodiac”? – [Voiceover] I guess, that’s true. – [Voiceover] Hey Ryan, call me the Zodiac from now on, that’s my nickname. – [Voiceover] How do you even work that into a conversation? – [Voiceover] I know, right? – [Voiceover] The only time I can think of is when you go bowling and you write your name on like the frames. Write your name as the Zodiac. – [Voiceover] Right. – [Voiceover] And then your friends will be like, “Who the fuck wrote their name as the Zodiac?” Could you imagine if he’s like super douchey about it too? Like, he won’t respond unless you call him Zodiac. They’re like, “Arthur you wanna go out?” He’d be like, “That’s not my name.” (heavy sigh) – [Voiceover] Ugh! – [Voiceover] “Okay, Zodiac do you want to go out?” Okay.
Cheney also said Allen told him he was planning to hunt people with a gun and a flashlight tied to it. – [Voiceover] What? You tell your friend that. – [Voiceover] I know. – [Voiceover] He just laughs, says, “Oh, Zodiac, “You’re such a funny guy.” – [Voiceover] You’re such a trickster! As a result of this information, the police would interview Allen a second time where Allen would say his favorite book is 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. To add insult to injury, Allen was also wearing a Zodiac brand watch which contained the same symbol the killer used. The police searched Allen’s trailer home where they found small dissected animals in a freezer, bloody knives, and sexual devices, but no direct evidence of the murders. – [Voiceover] That’s a weird thing to keep in your freezer. Cut up animals and sexual devices? – [Voiceover] Oh no, the sexual devices weren’t in the freezer, that would be weird. No one wants a frosty dildo inserted into them. In 1974 Allen was convicted of child molestation, a crime for which he spent three years in jail. Coincidentally, during this time no Zodiac letters were received.
In 1987 a San Jose jail inmate named Ralph Spinelli told police that Allen admitted to him that he murdered Paul Stine. In August 1991, Vallejo detective George Bawart interviews Mike Mageau, the man who survived the second Zodiac attack and saw the Zodiac without his mask on. When shown a lineup of photographs Mageau picked out the man who shot him, it was Arthur Leigh Allen. – [Voiceover] What? – [Voiceover] With this info, the police search Allen’s home again and this time they find formulas for bombs, constructed bombs, and tapes about the Zodiac killer. They interview Allen again and he says he knows nothing.
– [Voiceover] Wait, wait, wait, they found bombs and/or plans for bombs in his house and they don’t, they’re not able to detain him? – [Voiceover] The Zodiac put diagrams of bombs in his fucking letters. – [Voiceover] Right, and he talked about putting bombs on children’s school bus and this guy molested a kid. – [Voiceover] And there was fucking tapes about the Zodiac killer, this guy’s reliving his greatest hits at home via audio book? What the fuck? – [Voiceover] He just a said what? “Plead the fifth” at this point? – [Voiceover] One year later in August 1992, Allen is found at home dead from a suspected heart attack.
And with that, let’s transition into reasons why Allen may not be the Zodiac killer. Allen’s DNA was compared against the 2002 DNA extracted from stamp saliva on a Zodiac letter, it was not a match. However, it’s also believed that Allen had a habit for letting others lick his stamps instead of him, which would explain why the profile didn’t match him. – [Voiceover] But I don’t even like thinking that this guy was smart enough to think that. – [Voiceover] In my opinion, that’s an Olympic level stretch. Additionally, in 1971 the police took Allen’s finger prints, but the prints did not match the bloody prints recovered from the Paul Stine crime scene. They also had Allen undergo handwriting analysis, but the handwriting did not match the Zodiac either. Allen also does not look like the sketch from the Paul Stine killing in the slightest, but it’s worth mentioning that Arthur Leigh Allen was considered the prime suspect for the Zodiac for most involved police departments and is widely believed to be the Zodiac.
The third theory is from retired Escalon, California police officer, Harvey Hines who believes Lawrence Kaye, more commonly known by the surname Kane was the Zodiac killer. Kane was involved in a car accident in 1962 which resulted in brain damage influencing his behavior. One psychologist claimed Kane was quote, “Losing the ability to control self-gratification,” end quote. Additionally, Kane can be see in the Zodiac’s “my name is” cipher. And in that cipher there are three eights with circles around them, three times eight is 24 and Kane was born in 1924. – [Voiceover] Okay, that means nothing to me. – [Voiceover] Yeah, I didn’t think you would like that one.
– [Voiceover] Well, I mean, it’s just like reaching at straws at that point. – [Voiceover] Additionally, the Zodiac’s second victim, Darlene Ferrin had a sister who said Kane was the man who followed and harassed Darlene in the weeks leading up to Darlene’s murder. In the 1969 Paul Stine murder, the man suspected to be the Zodiac seen by officer Don Fouke was described as 35 to 45 years old. Kane was 45 in 1969. Officer Don Fouke said in 1987 that of the hundreds of pictures over the past 20 years he had been shown, Kane was quote, “The closest of them as he remembered “the killer.” End quote. Kane also lived a six minutes walk away from Mason and Geary, the location where cab driver, Paul Stine was thought to have picked up his killer. In fact, an excerpt from Vallejo PD states, quote, “Investigation has placed Kaye in the locales where “several of the Zodiac’s victims either lived or were “killed,” end quote. To piggy back on that sentiment, in 1970 Kane moved to South Lake Tahoe and that year a possible Zodiac victim that I didn’t discuss earlier named Donna Lass disappears in South Lake Tahoe.
Donna Lass also coincidentally worked at the same South Lake Tahoe hotel as Kane. – [Voiceover] That’s crazy. – [Voiceover] But the last and arguably most damning evidence Kane is about another Zodiac interaction I haven’t discussed yet. On the night of March 22, 1970 on highway 132 near Patterson, California, Kathleen Johns and her baby were tricked into riding in the Zodiac’s car. After entering the car, the Zodiac told Johns that he was going to kill her and throw her baby out after her. As the Zodiac was about to make a turn, Johns jumped out of the car and ran into a nearby field with her baby and escaped. Despite some believing this is an unconfirmed Zodiac encounter, others believe a letter confirms this incident. Quote, “So I now have a little list, starting with the “woman plus her baby that I gave a rather interesting ride.” End quote. The reason I bring this encounter up is because Kathleen Johns, unlike most surviving Zodiac victims, had extended face time with the Zodiac. This is important because when shown a line up of photographs, Kathleen Johns was reportedly able to pick out the man who tried to kill her.
It was Lawrence Kane. – [Voiceover] I mean, that’s some pretty strong evidence. – [Voiceover] But now let’s look at some evidence that proves Kane isn’t the Zodiac. I couldn’t find an instance of a DNA test against the recovered 2002 sample, nor could I find a record of Kane’s fingerprint being tested against the fingerprint found at the Paul Stine crime scene. Furthermore, Kane’s handwriting was not a match to the Zodiac’s, but also could not be ruled out. Additionally, Kane, much like Earl Van Best Jr., matches the description of the killer at the Paul Stine murder scene, but does not match the large heavyset description of the Zodiac in the first three crime scenes. Now that you’ve heard all the stories, who do you think did it? – I think those two at the end are the most plausible.
But I think the real answer would have to be there was one person and then a copycat, as well. – It’s possible, in my mind, Arthur Leigh Allen was the killer for the first three, stopped, and then Lawrence Kane took over as a copycat. – Oh, well then yeah. – It seems like to me he wanted to get caught, he was like asking to get caught almost. – He was playing that line. He was tired with like, “Oh, I’ve killed someone and “gotten away with it,” he’s like, “How far can I push it, “that line?” – That’s true, yeah. Regardless, the case remains unsolved. And probably will stay unsolved, unfortunately. – Trying to find this crime scene. No idea where the hell we’re going right now. Do you keep getting hit by spiky things in your socks? – No. – Calling all people right to us. – Seriously, dude, let’s fucking just clap a little bit louder.
This week on Buzzfeed Unsolved, did you see that fucking shadow? – No, there’s no shadow. – That, for sure you heard that. Fuck you, you heard that for sure, right? (laughing) You fucking for sure heard that shit, right? – There’s nothing, Ryan! – Is the back door open? – Our headlights are on. – We’re on the side of a gravel road in the middle of the fucking night. – I heard crickets chirping and frogs. – Let’s just fucking skedaddle on home. – Statistically speaking, though, we’re probably super safe right now. Did the killer live around here? We’re right in the middle of this farm. Is this like his farm? Is he like no trespassers. – We’re not doing this right now, we’re going home.
We’ll be safe, I’m not died. – Alright, Buzzfeed Unsolved, I’m cutting. (mysterious music).
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