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Don Cheney was the first to alert police to Allen as a possible suspect, after numerous conversations he had with Allen apparently suggested a link to the crimes, supposedly telling Cheney he wanted to 'kill couples at random', 'call himself Zodiac' and 'would use a flashlight attached to his gun to aid hunting at night'.
Another discrepancy attaching Allen to the Zodiac crimes is the fact the best known composite sketch of the killer bore little, if any resemblance to Arthur Leigh Allen.
He also underwent handwriting tests that the police had prepared for him using the relevant pens and involving particular words found in the letters, with a handwriting expert determining there was no correlation between the Zodiac letters and the handwriting Allen submitted to them.
However, Allen did own a Zodiac watch adorned with the now famous crosshairs symbol, given to him by his mother in 1967, had connections with the US Navy after enlisting in 1957, which could have linked him to the 10.5 size Wing Walkers military style boot found to have made the footprint impressions during the Lake Berryessa attack on Bryan Calvin Hartnell and Cecelia Ann Shepard - and Allen wore 10.5 shoes. Additionally, in a confession to police, revealed he was in possession of knives covered in blood on the day of the Lake Berryessa attack, but stated they were used to kill a chicken. On October 6th 1969, ten days after the Lake Berryessa attack, Sergeant John Lynch from the Vallejo Police Department interviewed Arthur Leigh Allen, with Allen stating that he traveled to Salt Point Ranch, located on the coast, due west of Napa on September 26th 1969 for a spot of scuba diving.
On September 27th 1969, the day of the Lake Berryessa attack, he claimed he returned to the Vallejo area and remained at home for the rest of the day. During further investigation, on August 4th 1971, Detective Jack Mulanax, along with Inspectors Dave Toschi and Bill Armstrong headed to the place Arthur Leigh Allen now worked, an oil refinery in Pinole, California, made famous for the office interview featured in the 2007 movie Zodiac. He was once again questioned on his movements during the day of the Lake Berryessa attack, recalling his prior interview with Sergeant John Lynch, claiming that he had made conversation with a service man and his wife that day. Furthermore, he claimed he had spoken to an elderly neighbor William White in Vallejo at approximately 4.00 pm that afternoon. However, this could not be corroborated, as William White had died only a week after this alleged conversation. They noticed he was wearing a Zodiac watch with the crossed circle logo. Allen appeared eager to divulge information, no matter that it only seemed to draw suspicion toward him.
He stated he had read 'The Most Dangerous Game' at high school, had been in the region of Riverside, California, an area possibly connected to the Zodiac case with respect to the murder of Cheri Jo Bates outside the Riverside City College Library on October 30th 1966 and parted with a veiled insult, looking forward to a time "when people no longer referred to police officers as pigs".
Investigators interviewed Arthur Leigh Allen's sister-in-law, Karen Allen, to harbor as much information they could on their prime suspect - and although she found the Zodiac connection unlikely, Allen had some unsettling issues with children, apparently unable to cement any meaningful relationships with women of his own age. After being shown several pieces of Zodiac correspondence, in particular the Melvin Belli letter mailed to the Belli residence at 1228 Montgomery Street in San Francisco on December 20th 1969, she pointed out that her brother-in-law would condense the spoken phrase "trigger mechanism" to "trigger mech", as well as having received a Christmas greeting card from Arthur Leigh Allen using the double 'S' spelling of Christmas. She also alluded to the fact that Arthur Leigh Allen was left-handed, but had learned to write with his right hand under pressure from his schoolteachers.
Arthur Leigh Allen's brother, Ronald Allen believed it was unlikely that Donald Cheney would make up stories if they were not correct. Donald Cheney had also confided to Ron that Arthur Leigh Allen had made an inappropriate advance concerning one of his children and was the owner of two .22 caliber weapons.
Blue Rock Springs Park in Vallejo on July 4th 1969. However, this identification from a photographic line-up more than two decades later (1992) was inherently flawed.
His residence at 32 Fresno Street was located just 10 minutes walk from the payphone at the intersection of Springs Road and Tuolumne Street, where the Zodiac made his first call to police. Nancy Slover, a police dispatcher, took the call after the attack on Michael Mageau and the murder of Darlene Ferrin at Blue Rock Springs Park on July 4th 1969. Both the Blue Rock Springs attack and the double murder at Lake Herman Road were within a 15 minute driving distance from the Fresno Street residence. For approximately six months, Allen was employed at the Arco Service Station in Vallejo, before he was dismissed in the April of 1969, with his employer citing Allen's drinking problem and an unhealthy interest in small girls.
Darlene Ferrin had worked at the International House of Pancakes on Tennessee Street, Vallejo, situated about one block, or walking distance from the Arthur Leigh Allen residence at 32 Fresno St. A police report at the time highlighted that somebody by the name of 'Lee' was apparently often seen in the company of Darlene Ferrin. Don Cheney, a close associate of Arthur Leigh Allen, stated that Allen had mentioned to him that he was fond of a waitress at that restaurant. Arthur Leigh Allen often went by the name of 'Lee', actually spelling it in the shortened version.
Met by Detective George Bawart, Michael Mageau picked out Arthur Leigh Allen from a photographic line-up of 1968 driver's licenses, but this was undertaken in 1992, twenty three years after the event, so has little evidentiary value. He also requested the search warrant for Allen's Santa Rosa trailer in Sunset Park in 1991, activated by Inspector Bill Armstrong and granted by a Sanoma County judge. When Inspector Toschi and Armstrong first arrived at the trailer park Allen was not at home, however, when they entered they found dead squirrels in a freezer, sexually explicit items and reading material, but more importantly, on Allen's return, left with samples of his handwriting which were later used to compare to the Zodiac letters. View the police report regarding the interview with Arthur Leigh Allen at the Sunset Trailer Park.
Between 1970 and 1974 Allen attended Sanoma State College, approximately thirty miles northeast of Pinole. It was this area that became synonymous with the coed killings or Santa Rosa Hitchhiker Murders that began on February 4th 1972 with the murders of Maureen Louise Sterling (12) and Yvonne Lisa Webber (12), who disappeared while hitchhiking along the Guerneville Road, northwest of Santa Rosa. The murders may have drawn to a close with the murder of Theresa Walsh (23) at Mark West Creek, a thirty mile stream in Sanoma County on December 22nd 1973. All told, claiming the lives of at least seven women, but likely more. Allen was known for his predatory instincts.
The Sunset Trailer Park in Santa Rosa lies close to the hitchhiker murders.
On September 27th 1974 Allen was arrested by the Sanoma County Sheriff's Department for child molestation involving a young boy and sentenced on March 14th 1975. During this time period the Zodiac letters ceased, but after his release from the Atascadero State Hospital on August 31st 1977, the resumption of what is claimed to be another Zodiac one page letter surfaced on April 24th 1978, stating "I am back with you". SEE 1978 LETTER
Allen had also previously been fired from a teaching position at Valley Springs Elementary School for child molestation in 1968, the run up period before the first murders of David Faraday and Betty Lou Jensen on December 20th 1968 at Lake Herman Road in Benicia.
He also stated that his favorite story was 'The Most Dangerous Game', bearing in mind this was partially mentioned in the 408 cipher (man is the most dangerous animal). This short story by Richard Connell, first published in 1924, chronicled a man called General Zaroff who lived on Ship-Trap Island, where he indulged in capturing shipwrecked sailors, before equipping them with hunting clothes, a knife and food before releasing them with a three hour head-start. He would then hunt them down for sport and kill them. However, if they managed to survive for three days he would allow them their freedom.
General Zaroff had become bored with just hunting wild animals, as he eluded, it posed no challenge - with the 408 cipher stating "I like killing people because it is so much fun it is more fun than killing wild game in the forest".
In the November 9th 1969 Bus Bomb letter the Zodiac stated ''What you do not know is whether the death machine is at the sight or whether it is being stored in my basement for future use' and 'Take one bag of ammonium nitrate fertilizer + 1 gal of stove oil & dump a few bags of gravel on top + then set the shit off + will positivily ventalate any thing that should be in the way of the blast".
On February 14th 1991, the Vallejo Police Department armed with a search warrant entered the basement of Allen's Vallejo residence, where they found bomb making diagrams including the use of oil and ammonium nitrate, pipe bombs and a host of incriminating evidence, but Allen claimed they had been left there by a third party. No charges were filed against him as a result of their findings.
In the 2007 Zodiac Killer documentary 'His Name was Arthur Leigh Allen', George Bawart, a former Vallejo Police Department officer, commissioned with investigating the prime suspect Arthur Leigh Allen discusses how he was approached by Ralph Spinelli in 1989. Ralph Spinelli, described by George Bawart, as a small time crook from Vallejo, furnished him with an interesting story involving Arthur Leigh Allen, namely that he was approached by the suspect outside one of his nightclubs in Fairfield, California called the 'Crazy Horse Saloon'. Arthur Leigh Allen allegedly said to him that he could offer his assistance to Spinelli as a form of hitman, following this up by claiming "I'm Zodiac", and stating that he could kill people and take credit for it. Ralph Spinelli, rejecting Allen out of hand, was supposedly further told "I'll prove to you I'm telling the truth, I'll kill someone in San Francisco and you'll know its me". Also, Donald Cheney, who first alerted police to his former friend as the likely Zodiac Killer recalled Arthur Leigh Allen mentioning an Agatha Christie book, with which he had developed an interest in due to its intricate plotline. He said that Allen had not mentioned the book by name, but Cheney had identified it at a later date upon reading it. The book was called the ABC Murders.
In one of his final interviews Arthur Leigh Allen rejected the notion he was Zodiac, talked of the police searches and refuted the claims by Ralph Spinelli stating "They took a lot of my tapes, samples of my handwriting and screwed up a lot of my stuff here too, but they didn't take that. They took a couple of typewriters. I know who the guy was (referring to Spinelli), I never said a word to him, I didn't like the punk, and I said this guy must be on the hot seat for something, and they said (the police), 'Oh no, he just phoned down and volunteered this information.' When I found out the next day by a different police officer that yes he sure had, he was trying to plea bargain his 30 year rap on multiple armed robberies. I couldn't murder anyone, it's difficult as hell, and it can be terribly depressing....and if I deserved any of it, that would be something different, but I don't. There are two types of liars in the world, fishermen and policemen, and not necessarily in that order. And their function is lying to you, as to trip you up. They can't do it to me because I have nothing to trip over. I am not the Zodiac Killer. I know that, I know that deep in my soul. I've never been known for good luck, and I guess this is pretty much living proof of it. I couldn't murder anyone." Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch/1991.
The police had Allen on their radar for the Blue Rock Springs attack after Mageau identified Allen as the killer, but one month later Arthur Leigh Allen was found dead on the floor of his 32 Fresno Street, Vallejo residence.
Arthur Leigh Allen died of arteriosclerotic heart failure, brought about by diabetic renal failure on August 26th 1992. Although DNA and fingerprints (in particular, the blooded print lifted from Paul Stine's taxicab) provided no correlation and all appear to rule him out as a suspect, the book has not been closed on him by either the Vallejo or San Francisco Police Department.
Detective George Bawart would later say "The only reason I look in that direction and I am 95 percent sure it was him, is because so many coincidences point in his direction. What really bothers me about this case is that we were ready to charge Arthur Leigh Allen, with the idea in mind that it would be taken to trial so that 12 jurors could make that determination. But he died before we could do that."
In the subsequent years from 1978, Arthur Leigh Allen worked several jobs and spent a few years employed at Ace Hardware by Tennessee and Amador Street in Vallejo. His role was a buyer for the garden and tool departments and will be remembered being portrayed by John Carroll Lynch in the closing scene of the David Fincher 2007 Zodiac movie, when amateur sleuth Robert Graysmith, played by Jake Gyllenhaal, enters the Ace Hardware store to set eyes on the man he is utterly convinced is the Zodiac Killer. But according to Robert Graysmith, the real story unfolded like so "I'm following (Allen) around in an orange Volkswagen Rabbit and I park outside of Ace Hardware and obviously he's seen me from the big window and so I'm parked and he pulls alongside me so I can't get my door open and he gives me this look like you wouldn't believe".
Robert Graysmith was a political cartoonist for the San Francisco Chronicle when the Zodiac Killer story broke, becoming obsessed with the unfolding mystery - an obsession that would eventually cost him his marriage. His fascination with the case, along with detailed information he has collected down the years led him to write his first Zodiac book, released in 1986, following this up with Zodiac Unmasked in 2002. Robert Graysmith became utterly convinced of Arthur Leigh Allen's guilt, who he referred to under the pseudonym 'Robert Hall Starr' in his early writings, until the real name emerged after Allen's death in 1992. However, despite Allen being cleared forensically, Robert Graysmith was not about to drop his interest in a man he had vested so much interest into, not withstanding the two books he had painstakingly compiled. In a later interview he stated that the Zodiac letters had been stored in plastic envelopes, enduring extremes of temperature for many decades, along with being handled by many people, arguing that evidence preservation was not as stringent by today's standards. He also questions that the Zodiac Killer would ever have licked a stamp, even back in 1969 - for although DNA testing was not available, the ability to procure blood type from the analysis of saliva was - and doubts that an intelligent killer, wearing gloves to conceal fingerprints, would not have been aware of this fact. Robert Graysmith has come under widespread criticism for his many inaccuracies and embellishments regarding the Zodiac case, yet, it must also be remembered that his contribution, is why we are, where we are today. His contribution to the Zodiac Killer story, without doubt, kept the case alive in the public domain.
Google Map view of the distance between 32 Fresno Street and the payphone at Springs and Tuolumne.
Robert Graysmith - Zodiac Unmasked http://murders.ru/zodiac%20unmasked.pdf
VIEW ZODIAC DOCUMENTARY- THIS IS THE ZODIAC SPEAKING
Videos relating to suspect Arthur Leigh Allen
1963 June 4th-The Domingos/Edwards Murders
1966 October 30th-The Cheri Jo Bates Murder
1966 November 29th -The Confession Letter
1966 December- The Riverside Desktop Poem
1967 April 30th- Bates Had to Die Letter
1968 December 20th-The Lake Herman Murders
1969 July 4th-The Blue Rock Springs Attack
1969 July 31st- Vallejo Times Herald Letter and
408 Cipher Page1 (solved)
1969 July 31st- Examiner Letter and
408 Cipher Page 2 (solved)
1969 July 31st - Chronicle Letter and
408 Cipher Page 3 (solved)
1969 July 31st-The Complete 408 Cipher
1969 August 4th- Debut of Zodiac Letter
1969 August 10th- Concerned Citizen Card
1969 September 27th- The Lake Berryessa Attack
1969 October 11th-The Presidio Heights Murder
1969 October 13th-The Paul Stine Letters
1969 October 22nd-Call to Chat Show
1969 November 8th-The Dripping Pen Card and
340 Cipher (unsolved)
1969 November 9th-The Bus Bomb Letter
1969 November 21st-The San Jose Code Letter
1969 November 28th-The Betsy Aardsma Murder
1969 December 7th-The Fairfield Letter
1969 December 16th-The Fairfield Letter
1969 December 20th-The Melvin Belli Letter
1970 Feb 21st- The Hood and Garcia Murders
1970 March 22nd-The Modesto Attack
1970 April 20th-"My Name is" Letter,
Cipher 3 (unsolved) and Bus Bomb Diagram
1970 April 28th-The Dragon Card
1970 June 26th-The Button Letter
Cipher 4 (unsolved) and Map
1970 July 4th-The Sleeping Bag Murders
1970 July 24th-The Kathleen Johns Letter
1970 July 26th-The Little List Letter
1970 Sept 6th-The Donna Lass Disappearance
1970 October 5th-13 Hole Postcard
1970 October 27th-The Halloween Card
1971 March 13th-The Los Angeles Letter
1971 March 22nd-The Pines Card
1971 Unknown- The 148 Character Cipher
1971 July 13th-The Monticello Card
1974 January 29th-The Exorcist Letter
1974 February 3rd-The SLA Letter
1974 May 8th-The Citizen Card
1974 July 8th-The Red Phantom Letter
1974 December 27th- Christmas Card
1978 April 24th-The 1978 Letter
1987 October 28th- The 1987 Letter
1990 December-American Greetings Card
Unknown DMV Letter (possibly November 1971)
2004 August 18th-Cutshall and Allen Murders
1986 April 22nd- Saechao and Salee Murders
1972 April 7th-Tamalpais Valley attack
1967 June 8th- Molina and Rodriguez Murders