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4 Facts You May Have Not Known About The Zodiac Killer

Updated: May 05, 2022 11:52
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A police sketch of the Zodiac Killer during the shooting at Lake Berryessa.

The Zodiac Killer is one of the most famous serial killers in the world and serves as the Bay Area version of Jack the Ripper. While everyone knows his coded letters or “ciphers,” and the San Francisco slaying that made international headlines, few know specific details surrounding the unsolved mystery of the Zodiac Killer.

Here are a few things that aren’t common knowledge about the Bay Area’s greatest murder mystery.

1. It was likely the Zodiac Killer served in a branch of the military:

The Zodiac Killer’s first confirmed murder took place on Lake Herman Road, an unincorporated stretch of backroad  in Solano County that sits between Benicia and Vallejo, California. During the 60s, the Bay Area was home to multiple military bases, the most relevant to the killing would be the naval base on Mare Island that served as Vallejo’s economic engine until its closure in the mid 90s. The case for the Zodiac Killer being in the military goes beyond geographic coincidence. The first indicator of military training was the ciphers the Zodiac wrote. These ciphers were written in code commonly used by the US military to relay sensitive information. There was also the boot print presumably left by the Zodiac Killer at the scene of the Lake Berryessa double shooting. The boot was a military issue Wingtip common to men in the Airforce and Navy. Mare Island in Vallejo wasn’t the only operational military base near the crime scene. Travis Airforce Base was also in operation during the Zodiac Era and while many have assumed the Zodiac Killer was stationed on Mare Island, it’s also possible he was an airman in Fairfield.

2. The Zodiac Killer may have killed people in Riverside before the Bay Area:

Many independent investigators believe that the murder was of Cheri Jo Bates was the first time the Zodiac Killer struck. Roughly a month after Cheri was killed, letters similar to the now infamous Zodiac letters that appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle were sent the Riverside Police Department and the local Riverside Press-Enterprise. The way the killer sent the letters to both the police and local media was similar to the Zodiac, also the letters were written using similar language and punctuation to that of the Zodiac Killer. An interesting fact I didn’t know until researching for this article is that Riverside also has an active Airforce base, the March Air Reserve Base. It is possible that the Zodiac was an Airman and was transferred from Riverside to Travis AFB in Fairfield… But enough speculation.

3. The FBI had a suspect, but didn’t have enough evidence to prove it:

Arthur Leigh Allen was the name of the man who the FBI and local law enforcement thought was the most likely suspect. Arthur lived with his mom on 32 Fresno St in Vallejo and was a blue collar worker at the Phillips 66 refinery in Rodeo, California. He was also a known pedophile who had demonstrated an ability to create complex codes. He even had a Zodiac watch with the same circled cross symbol the Zodiac Killer used. However, the FBI couldn’t make the case stick and Arthur Leigh Allen managed to escape arrest and died of a heart attack at a mobile home in Santa Rosa.

4. The Zodiac Killer likely inflated his number of victims:

In 1974, the Zodiac Killer sent his final confirmed letter to the San Francisco Chronicle. The letter had praised the film The Exorcist, at the end of the letter, the Zodiac had indicated he had killed 37 people and mocked SFPD for not catching him. It is highly unlikely the Zodiac Killer killed 37 people, and even more unlikely that he killed 37 in San Francisco proper.

At this point, I don’t think it matters who the Zodiac Killer is. The media attention focused on murderers in this country is disturbing and in our deeply individualistic and fame obsessed society, I think it may contribute to the birth of more murderers. In many ways, serial killers have been replaced by mass shooters. In today’s highly surveilled world. it is much harder for someone to evade law enforcement for any meaningful amount of time, so the modern monster doesn’t try to avoid capture, but go out in a blaze of glory. Yet the victims are forgotten and reduced to numbers and disingenuous “thoughts and prayers” tweets by politicians who don’t care.

It sucks.






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Abraham Woodliff - Bay Area Memelord

Abraham Woodliff - Bay Area Memelord

Abraham Woodliff is a San Francisco-based writer, editor and digital content creator known for Bay Area Memes, a local meme page that has amassed nearly 200k followers. His work has appeared in SFGATE, The Bold Italic and of course, His book of short stories, personal essays and poetry entitled Don't Drown on Dry Ground is available now!

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