Zodiac killer’s name to be revealed
By: Tamara Barak Aparton , Examiner Staff Writer, San Francisco Chronicle: 04/29/09
Coded message: Longtime San Francisco attorney Melvin Belli was addressed directly in a letter from the serial killer who called himself “Zodiac.”
The Zodiac killer, who taunted and terrified Bay Area residents in the late 1960s with cryptic letters and a trail of victims, has been identified, according to a group claiming to have cracked the case that has baffled police for decades.
The killer is not one of the handful of men repeatedly linked to the 40-year-old crime spree, according to the group, which plans to announce its findings today.
The group also says new evidence shows the killer had an accomplice for some of the slayings.
Two years ago, colleagues of the late Melvin Belli, a prominent San Francisco attorney, organized a team of investigators and forensic experts to probe the Zodiac case after a woman came forward claiming to be the killer’s relative.
Belli, who died in 1996, became connected to the hunt for the Zodiac after a man claiming to be the killer wrote him a letter containing a scrap of shirt from his last known victim, San Francisco cab driver Paul Lee Stine.
Edward Lozzi, spokesman for the group and former communications director for Belli’s law firm, said the team will support its claims with forensic evidence, including cryptology and handwriting analysis, along with new information from law enforcement investigations and murder accomplice evidence.
Bart Baggett, Forensic Document Examiner, has submitted a letter to authorities of his findings.
“The murders were not random. They were definitely people who were targeted,” Lozzi said, adding that the recent findings show that none of the previously suspected men is the Zodiac Killer. “This is an entirely new direction.”
The killer, who claimed to have killed 37 people, sent coded messages and letters promising more deaths to the press.
Investigators linked the elusive suspect to the killings of five people in San Francisco, Vallejo, Lake Berryessa and Benicia from December 1968 to October 1969.
Two more victims were shot but survived. The Zodiac continued to send letters to authorities and newspapers throughout the 1970s.
Arthur Lee Allen, a former Navy man who died in 1992, is the potential suspect most widely mentioned in the case. Other names that have surfaced over the years include Jack Tarrance, Larry Kane and former Manson Family member Bruce Davis.
The San Francisco Police department, which reopened the Zodiac case in 2006, is not involved with today’s noon news conference, department spokesman Sgt. Wilfred Williams said. He declined to comment further.
Lozzi has said that all evidence his group has collected has been turned over to the FBI.
* Dec. 20, 1968: David Farraday, 17, and Betty Lou Jensen, 16, are killed in a gravel parking area near Lake Herman Road in Vallejo with a .22-caliber semiautomatic pistol.
* July 4, 1969: Darlene Ferrin, 22, and Mike Mageau, 19, are each shot several times with a 9 mm semiautomatic pistol while parked in Blue Rock Springs Park in Vallejo. Ferrin dies, but Mageau lives to provide a description of their assailant. That night, a man calls the Vallejo Police Department, identifying the murder weapon and claiming responsibility for the killing and the Lake Herman Road murders.
* July 31, 1969: The Examiner, the San Francisco Chronicle and the Vallejo Times-Herald receive letters from a person claiming to be the killer. The letters each contain one-third of an encoded message cipher. The letters are signed with a crossed-circle symbol. The logo is also used on Zodiac brand watches.
* Aug. 4, 1969: In a letter to The Examiner, the killer first uses the famous greeting, “This is the Zodiac speaking,” thus coining the name by which he will be known.
* Aug. 8, 1969: Donald and Bettye Harden crack the cipher codes and produce a statement from the Zodiac describing his enjoyment of killing.
* Sept. 27, 1969: On the shores of Lake Berryessa in Napa, Cecilia Shephard, 22, and Bryan Hartnell, 20, are approached by a man in a hooded costume with the Zodiac’s symbol. Both are stabbed several times, but Hartnell survives. The symbol and the message “Vallejo 12-20-68, 7-4-69, Sept 27-69-6:30 by knife,” identifying the previous murders, are found written on Hartnell’s car door.
* Oct. 11, 1969: Yellow Cab driver Paul Stine, 29, is shot and killed just before 10 p.m. at the intersection of Washington and Cherry streets in San Francisco. Police officers speak to a man who may have been the killer, but they do not suspect him because their dispatcher had given them an inaccurate description.
* Oct. 13, 1969: The Chronicle receives a letter and a portion of Stine’s bloodied shirt from the Zodiac.
* Nov. 8, 1969: A fourth cipher, 340 symbols long, is sent to the Chronicle. That cipher has yet to be solved.
* Letters are sent until the 1970s, but there are no more confirmed Zodiac victims.