The Zodiac Killer is allowed to produce handwriting in subsequent letters the same or similar to previous communications because he is effectively doing no more than mimicking himself. A copycat or hoaxer can mimic the Zodiac Killer using previously published letters and envelopes in the newspapers, but what they cannot do is mimic unreleased communications by the Zodiac Killer. To my knowledge, only two envelopes were released to the newspapers prior to January 29th 1974 that were addressed to San Francisco. The envelope to the Melvin Belli letter was released on December 28th 1969 with the address of "Mr. Melvin M. Belli 1228 Mtgy San Fran Calif". The envelope to the 340 cipher was released on November 16th 1970 with the address of "S.F. Chronicle San Francisco Calif Please Rush to Editor". The author of the Exorcist letter (if a hoaxer) when addressing their envelope to the San Francisco Chronicle only had these two envelopes to work with, but copied neither. This mimicry would have been expected of a hoaxer.
Instead, the author of the Exorcist letter chose to mimic part of the address from two envelopes mailed by the Zodiac Killer in April 1970. These two envelopes were addressed San Fran (dot) Chronicle on April 20th and April 28th 1970 and never publicly released via the newspapers prior to January 29th 1974. When you look at the April 28th 1970 envelope in particular, it isn't just the handwriting that is extremely similar, it's the positioning of the detached full-stop, the spacing between each of the three components, the very slight left to right slant, the marginally elevated letter L, the letter I is dotted directly above in every instance, and both the letters R and H are slightly separated. The April 20th and April 28th envelopes were the only two Zodiac communications up to January 29th 1974 that were addressed in this fashion, yet the author of the Exorcist letter (if a hoaxer) would have managed to virtually replicate every facet of this address despite having never laid eyes on them. This clearly shows that the Exorcist letter author was the Zodiac Killer, putting to rest any notion that this letter may have been fraudulent.
People will say this just further proves that the Exorcist letter was penned by Inspector David Toschi, who had inside knowledge of the two April 1970 letters. Why would Inspector David Toschi copy the address so perfectly from an envelope that had never been released into the public domain by January 29th 1974, thereby drawing suspicion towards somebody from within? He was an intelligent seasoned investigator, not an imbecile. The exact same reasoning can be applied to the 1978 letter when comparing the opening line from each communication. A copycat or investigator would apply logic, and mimic the widely publicized "This is the Zodiac speaking" introduction displayed in four San Francisco Chronicle publications (or mimic the 11 out of the 12 communications prior to January 29th 1974 that carried this introduction), not mimic an introduction never released into the public domain such as "This is the Zodiac speaking I" in the Melvin Belli letter. However, the Zodiac Killer is perfectly allowed to be himself.
Based on Mike Rodelli's book and everything he has stated over the last few years, we should today have the ability to either incriminate or exclude Kjell Qvale as the Zodiac Killer.once and for all. According to Alan Keel, Criminalist at the San Francisco Police Department, San Francisco, California from 1996 to 1999, he "revealed that there were two letters in possession of the department that, in contrast to the "true" Zodiac letters, had abundant saliva and DNA-containing oral epithelial cells on them, that DNA was easily extracted from these two letters, and that the DNA extracted from these two letters matched between them. These two letters were considered forgeries, since the "true" Zodiac verifiable letters had not been licked by the sender". According to Mike, Alan Keel had "analyzed two letters, one of which is the 1978 'forgery', and finds that this letter and one of the 1974 letters are loaded with saliva and cells. He then easily extracts DNA from both of these letters using the more primitive DNA technology of that time and finds that the DNA matches between those two letters, thus proving that one person sent both". The only problem with the statements by Alan Keel is that the 1978 letter is unlikely to be a forgery.
On October 29th 2021, Mike Rodelli stated on the Zodiac Killer message board "The fact remains that in 2007 Keel told me, as he had told Lafferty before me, that there is a 1974 forgery based on DNA and the ONLY 1974 letter that had been tested for the presence of cells during Keel's tenure (as demonstrated by the DNA chart that I believe Keel made in about 2000) was the Exorcist letter. This is not rocket science. Even if it is not the Exorcist letter that Keel was talking about, it IS a candidate as being a forgery whose DNA matches the 1978 letter based on the information in the chart". Mike Rodelli is correct. The only communication from 1974 that can conceivably match the DNA from the 1978 letter is the Exorcist letter. Mike also stated on the Zodiac Killer Net forum "This is where the rubber truly meets the road in this discussion and where we can see that it is unlikely that anyone but Zodiac wrote the SLA letter. When you look at the hand printing on the SLA letter in a vacuum, it certainly does not jump off the page to me that it was penned by Zodiac. But when you take a close look at the envelope, that is a different story". Mike then shows comparisons between the SLA envelope and the Stine envelope, 340 envelope, Bus Bomb envelope and Kathleen Johns envelope, arguing "It's hard to look at these envelopes and not see the similarities. And note that the November 8, 1969 envelope contained a piece of Stine's shirt, thus proving its authorship as being from Zodiac".
Therefore, if Mike Rodelli is being fair-minded and believes the SLA handwriting is consistent with these other communications, then he should have no argument conceding that the handwriting and construction of the Exorcist envelope handwriting is consistent with the envelopes from April 20th 1970 and April 28th 1970, which he believes are Zodiac communications. Mike should therefore come to the same conclusion, that since the two April 1970 envelopes were the Zodiac Killer, then so is the Exorcist letter. The April 1970 communications were the only two confirmed Zodiac envelopes to carry the address of San Fran (dot) Chronicle prior to January 29th 1974. The envelopes were also never released into the public domain, meaning the Exorcist letter author could not have mimicked them.
Mike should now agree that having established the Exorcist letter as genuine Zodiac material - and using the findings of Alan Keel and Mike's correct argument that the 1978 DNA should conceivably match the Exorcist letter DNA (being the only ones tested in the DNA chart) - we have to conclude that the 1978 letter is genuine as well. Mike went on to say on the Zodiac Killer message board "Keel further allowed, although not in this email but in a conversation I had with him at about the same time, that there was so little saliva on the Zodiac letters that it would not be unfair to say that they had been sealed with tap water and the stamps applied with tap water. So if you're wondering why after 20 years we still don't have a verified sample of Zodiac's DNA it's because the only DNA he may have left on these letters is from when he applied the stamps to the envelopes. If he wet the stamps with water but didn't wear gloves then as he applied the stamps to the envelopes the glue could have pulled a few odd cells off of the tips of his fingers thus leaving essentially touch DNA on the stamps. That is why if they do have Zodiac's DNA today it is because of this minute number of cells that they have had to find using the most Advanced Techniques available".
The argument being that the "true Zodiac letters" had few cells, whereas the fraudulent Zodiac letters had "had abundant saliva and DNA-containing oral epithelial cells". However, we have now established that the Exorcist letter is genuine, just like the two April 1970 communications. Yet these two envelopes have few cells found in the DNA chart, whereas the Exorcist letter has abundant cells, despite one author throughout. This disproves the contention of Alan Keel that the 1978 letter is a forgery, that matches one of the 1974 communications. All it proves is that the Zodiac Killer authored the 1978 letter and one of the 1974 communications. These findings also disprove the notion that the Zodiac Killer didn't lick his envelopes and/or stamps. The only way to argue the findings presented above, is to claim that there is unfounded similarity between the Exorcist envelope handwriting and the two April 1970 envelopes, while simultaneously claiming there is a similarity between the SLA envelope and the Stine envelope, 340 envelope, Bus Bomb envelope and Kathleen Johns envelope, But this would be an argument in bad faith.
The DNA chart stating that a "DNA sample was obtained" from the 1978 letter appears to back up Mike Rodelli's statement of this letter producing enough DNA to create a profile, based on the findings of Alan Keel. This being the case, if the profile of the 1978 letter matches the profile of the Exorcist letter, then we have a full DNA profile of the Zodiac Killer. Forensic genetic genealogy can now be used to discover the ancestry of the killer and ultimately identify him, in similar fashion to that used in the case of the Golden State Killer, resulting in Joseph James DeAngelo,Jr. pleading guilty to thirteen counts of murder on June 29th 2020
FOLLOW UP ARTICLE: WE MAY ALREADY HAVE ZODIAC DNA
On April 20th 1970, the Zodiac Killer made reference to the murder of San Francisco police officer Brian McDonnell (44) on February 16th 1970, who suffered devastating and sadly fatal injuries two months earlier, when a bomb packed with fence staples exploded on an outside ledge of Park Police Station in the Upper-Haight neighborhood. He wrote "I hope you do not think that I was the one who wiped out that blue meannie with a bomb at the cop station", while simultaneously giving us a diagram of a bomb to be placed just 274 feet from another "cop station", that of Ingleside. This sense of irony didn't seem lost on the Zodiac Killer. What the Zodiac Killer knew of Brian McDonnell, other than what he read in the intervening two months is unknown, but in the remainder of his short message he stated "But there is more glory in killing a cop than a cid because a cop can shoot back". Was this just an offhand comment, or was this statement relevant to the history of Sergeant Brian McDonnell?
The Desert Sun newspaper of February 17th 1970 read: Haight Ashbury Police Station Rocked By Bomb Six Officers Injured In Blast Showering Big U-Shaped Staples.
SAN FRANCISCO (UPI) - A powerful bomb packed with U-shaped staples rocked a Haight-Ashbury District police station Monday night injuring six policemen, one of them critically. New Police Chief A. Nelder said the fused explosive was placed on the rear window sill of the sergeant’s office at Park Station in Golden Gate Park. The thunderous blast, which jarred residents for blocks around, sprayed staples through the office like miniature machinegun bullets. Sgt. Brian McDonnell fell gravely wounded with multiple head injuries. Patrolmen Robert Fogerty, 43, and Frank Rath. 27, were hospitalized with multiple puncture wounds. Officers Alfred Arnaud, 24, Robert O’Sullivan, 26. and Ronald Martin, 28, were treated for lesser injuries. “All I remember was a bomb exploded,” said one shaken officer who survived with only scratches. “I saw Sergeant McDonnell lying in the rubble, bleeding from an artery wound in his neck.” Police immediately sealed off the area and rerouted traffic. First reports indicated the building had been demolished. The blast did knock out all power in the station and shattered every window. It also demolished the sergeant’s police station wagon which was parked behind the station near Kezar Stadium, where the San Francisco Forty Niners play National Football League opponents. There were reports that a man was seen running from the station, and police later said a white and pink van was sighted leaving the area. However, there were no immediate suspects. Four days ago, three cars were blown up and two reserve policemen were injured by two bombs which exploded in a parking lot adjacent to the Berkeley police station across the bay from San Francisco. The explosive used in the Berkeley bombing was a metal pipe filled with powder and set off by a lighted fuse. The type of bomb used in the bombing of the Park police station was not determined immediately. A special U.S. Army bomb squad was summoned to the scene from the Presidio nearby. After the bombing, all district police stations in San Francisco were ordered to secure all doors and exits and post a guard.
The uncle of Brian McDonnell was Sergeant Joseph Lacey (40), murdered on December 30th 1956 while socializing with a friend in a tavern. The two were enjoying a drink when two armed men burst into the establishment with the intention of robbing it. Sergeant Lacey, despite being off-duty at the time, drew his gun and attempted to put a stop to the robbery, but was beaten to the draw and sadly killed. One of the robbers was apprehended shortly after the crime and plead guilty to first-degree murder. The actual shooter of Sergeant Lacey remained a free man for nearly three years, before being captured and found guilty of second-degree murder. Fourteen years after the murder of Joseph Lacey, the end of watch would unfortunately befall his nephew, Brian McDonnell. Whether this historical case was mentioned in the newspapers to some degree in relation to the Brian McDonnell murder is unknown - but if it was featured and noted by the Zodiac Killer, the sentence of "there is more glory in killing a cop than a cid because a cop can shoot back" would certainly have more meaning with respect to the April 20th 1970 communication.
Would it be surprising the Zodiac Killer after reading and referencing the attack on Park Police Station, that he would then focus his bomb threats in close proximity to another police station on April 20th 1970 and June 26th 1970. The diagram of the bomb location on April 20th 1970, coupled with the radians and inches values from July 26th 1970, leaves little doubt that the unfortunate murder of Brian McDonnell was the catalyst for his remaining bomb threats towards Ingleside Police Station in 1970. It is also unsurprising that after reading headlines such as "Six Officers Injured in Blast Showering Big U-Shaped Staples", that the Zodiac Killer would follow up his April 20th communication with the Dragon card on April 28th 1970, writing on the front of the card "I hope you enjoy yourselves when I have my Blast". He would repeat this approach on the card inner, stating "If you don't want me to have this blast you must do two things".
The Dragon card is thought to depict the Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra characters of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza. This may have been a deliberate choice on behalf of the Zodiac Killer, as these characters were featured in statue form within Golden Gate Park, the location of Park Police Station. The two locations are about one mile from one another. Despite claiming he wasn't responsible for the Park Station bombing, he certainly wasn't averse to mocking the police at a time of immense grief. The Zodiac Killer, despite making many threats to murder by use of bomb, constantly made excuses for not doing so. On November 9th 1969 he claimed that the bomb was ready for "future use". On April 20th 1970, the problem was "I have killed ten people to date. It would have been a lot more except that my bus bomb was a dud. I was swamped out by the rain we had a while back". On June 26th 1970 he promised to annihilate a full school bus, "but now school is out for the summer". It seemed for the Zodiac Killer the lingering threat was all that was required, pouring huge doubt on him having any serious intentions of following through on his bomb threats towards San Francisco. Knowing that the police had to take the threats seriously was satisfactory enough for a killer who thrived on instilling fear in the Bay Area community.
On February 16th 1970, a militant group placed a bomb packed with fence staples on the window ledge of the San Francisco Police Department Park Station, killing Sergeant Brian McDonnell and severely injuring and wounding nine other police officers. The Zodiac Killer had nothing to do with the brazen attack, but spurred on from his previous threats upon random police targets, managed to reference the Park Station bombing, in accompaniment to the diagram of a school bus on the Southern Freeway. The Zodiac Killer stated in the April 20th 1970 letter, that "Even though I talked about killing school children with one. it just wouldn't doo to move in on someone else's teritory. But there is more glory in killing a cop than a cid because a cop can shoot back". This killer had targeted six kids like sitting ducks and blindsided his seventh victim, because he was a coward. The idea that this man would target somebody who could shoot back was extremely unlikely, with the threat to escalate his attacks, more a case of creating fear and panic in the community, rather than his willingness to do so.
It was likely the newspaper coverage of the Park Station bombing that inspired his following two communications. The Dragon card mailed 8 days later, carried the introduction of "If you dont want me to have this blast you must do two things. Tell everyone about the bus bomb with all the details. I would like to see some nice Zodiac buttons wandering about town. Everyone else has these buttons like, black power, melvin eats bluber, etc". The bombing at Park Station was believed early on to be the work of the Weather Underground or the Black Liberation Army, hence the Zodiac Killer's need to get some recognition by the requesting the wearing of Zodiac buttons and referencing Black Power. It may also be significant that he placed "I hope you enjoy yourselves when I have my Blast" right alongside a picture of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, suggestive of a location. A statue of Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote and Sancho Panza can be found in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, approximately one mile from Park Station (1899 Waller Street), which also sits in Golden Gate Park, in the southeast corner. This threat of a blast, in accompaniment to the imagery, indicative of a compassionless killer piggybacking upon the Park Station bombing, by suggesting a threat in the near vicinity. An ominous foreboding that was already embedded in the April 20th 1970 letter in the form of the school bus bomb diagram. Just two months later, on June 26th 1970, the Zodiac Killer would expand on his bus bomb diagram by supplying us with extra details.
The Zodiac Killer had given us the drawing of his intended bomb location, complete with photoelectric cells, car battery and timer. But now was the time to "clue us in" on where it was buried (or where it was threatened to be buried). The location he had designated was just three miles south of the Park Station, right alongside Ingleside Police Station on the Southern Freeway. The Zodiac Killer's threat never materialized, but somebody else did move in on his promised territory, when on August 29th 1971, Sergeant John Young was shot and killed inside the Ingleside Police Station. Two men brazenly entered the reception area and thrust a 12-guage shotgun through an opening in the bullet proof glass, striking and killing Sergeant John Young and injuring a civilian employee.
A bomb placed on the embankment of the Southern Freeway (274 feet from Ingleside Police Station) is notable for another reason. The Zodiac Killer didn't state he would "annihilate a school bus" on June 26th 1970, he promised to "annihilate a full school bus", suggesting that the school bus would have to be near the terminus of its route. The Thomas More Catholic School had a bus route along the Southern Freeway, just yards from Ingleside Police Station, passing a location mimicking the bus bomb diagram (shown below in red), with the school itself situated in the southwest corner of San Francisco. Children traveling from all over San Francisco would have been seated on this bus as it drove south in the morning light. The sun would have been to the east, with the school bus exiting the freeway extremely close to the school. It most certainly would have been full as it passed the proposed bomb location.
The Zodiac Killer threatened to kill police and place bombs, but he will be ultimately remembered for targeting the young and defenceless - and just like most serial killers - be recognized for the coward he was.
The Zodiac Killer mailed the 'Button' letter and Phillips 66 Map on June 26th 1970 overlaying his crosshairs over Mount Diablo. Just a month later, realizing the clues in the Button letter were insufficient, he gave us the answer in the 'Little List' letter declaring "PS. The Mt. Diablo Code concerns Radians & # inches along the radians". The crosshairs with the bold SFPD = 0 were telling us exactly where he planned to 'set his bomb'. By identifying the location in degrees, using a black, bold circle and coupling it with a 'dig' at the San Francisco Police Department, he was effectively giving us the target and the location. His target was the San Francisco Police Department subtended at an angle of 246 degrees from true north. Bearing in mind his bomb threats were focused in San Francisco, all we had to do was find the police department. How experienced the Zodiac Killer was regarding radians is unknown, but he designed a form of clock face with a directional marker pointing true north and then stated "0 is to be set to Mag.N" (which was approximately 17 degrees in 1970). We don't actually need to know how many radians he intended, from which point, and whether they were meant to travel clockwise or anticlockwise around the clock face, because the bold, dark circle is already the answer.
On the left I have combined the crosshairs from the 'Button' and 'Little List' letters. The bold, dark circle is 246 degrees around the circumference (which is 4 radians + magnetic north). A radian is 57.3 degrees, so 4 X 57.3 + 17 degrees = 246 degrees. If we deduct 2 radians from true north we get 360 - 114.6 = 245.4 degrees. So, whether we use 2 radians anticlockwise from true north or 4 radians clockwise from magnetic north, the result falls within the circumference of his bold, dark circle (246 and 245.4 degrees).
Drawing a line through this bold, dark circle from Mount Diablo and across San Francisco, it passes near only one police station, that of Ingleside. It isn't absolutely accurate, but it is the closest police station the measurement relates to. This is why he added SFPD next to the bold, dark circle rather than placing it at the foot of his letter in customary fashion. His bomb was to be set in the vicinity of the San Francisco Police Department at Ingleside. Whether he actually meant it is debatable, but it was the threat that was likely his main goal - sowing more fear into the heart of San Francisco.
The Zodiac Killer made many bomb threats in the 1970s, including references to "black power" in the April 28th 1970 'Dragon' card, along with his Symbionese Liberation Army letter in 1974. This has led some to ponder if the Zodiac Killer was somehow affiliated to a radical group, or possibly infuriated by groups such as the Black Liberation Army or Black Panthers, stealing the limelight away from his dwindling publicity: "I would like to see some nice Zodiac buttons wandering about town. Everyone else has these buttons like, black power, melvin eats bluber, etc". The Zodiac Killer may have been mailing correspondence well into 1971, with communications such as the July 13th 1971 'Monticello' card, 148 character cipher, and quite possibly, the unseen DMV letter. At this period of time, it appeared as though the Zodiac Killer was desperately attempting to connect himself to the murders of Debra Gaye Furlong, Kathy Ann Snoozy and Kathy Bilek, all savagely stabbed in excess of fifty times.
Mary Alice Willey arrived in San Francisco in 1969, making some questionable alliances, including the black power movement. "She became a strident devotee of George Jackson, the charismatic but militant San Quentin inmate who had gained international fame for his best-selling prison classic, "Soledad Brother." She wrote letters to Black Panther Johnny Spain, who was also incarcerated at San Quentin. And she began associating with members of the Black Liberation Army, a violent offshoot of the Black Panthers that would become implicated in the Aug. 29, 1971, killing of a police officer at San Francisco's Ingleside Station. There is reason to believe that Mary Alice may have played a role in the attack and the slaying of Sgt. John V. Young". Read more at the San Francisco Chronicle.
While in San Francisco she dated a fellow student, Patrick Warren McDowell, who claimed he belonged to the Symbionese Liberation Army, a group ultimately responsible for the kidnapping of Patty Hearst in 1974. In February 1971 he was arrested for the failed robbery of the Sugar Bowl Ski Lodge near Lake Tahoe, having borrowed Mary Alice Willey's car.
If the Zodiac Killer was still closely following the news in 1971, as it appears he was, regarding Snoozy, Furlong and Bilek, then it wouldn't have gone unnoticed that the Ingleside Police Station he had threatened to bomb just over a year ago, had now come under attack. On August 21st 1971 a gun was smuggled to George Jackson in San Quentin Prison. As Jackson was being escorted back to his jail cell, a guard noticed the gun. Jackson raised the weapon and, paraphrasing Vietnamese revolutionary leader Ho Chi Minh, declared: "This is it, gentlemen. The dragon has come." As he later ran across the prison courtyard, a guard opened fire killing Jackson instantly.
On August 29th 1971, a woman who bore a resemblance to Mary Ann Willey, wearing a blond wig, entered Ingleside Police Station to report a stolen purse. "Police have long thought the woman who had come to the station to report her stolen purse was a lookout connected to the Black Liberation Army, and they believed that woman was Mary Alice". Chronicle. A short time later several black men entered the station and murdered John V. Young with a shotgun through the grill of the reception desk. Within two weeks of this attack Mary Alice Willey had vanished.
On September 11th 1971 a worker stumbled across the body of a woman while driving along the Delta-Mendota Canal in Stanislaus County near Patterson - close to the abduction site of Kathleen Johns on March 22nd 1970. There was no evidence of sexual assault, but she had been stabbed at least 65 times, and her murderer had attempted to sever her fingers and hands. An identification was not made.
"In March 1970, a pregnant woman and her 10-month-old daughter were abducted near Modesto by a man who drove them around the valley and, according to some police reports, threatened to kill them. Kathleen Johns and her daughter ultimately escaped and hitched a ride to the police station in Patterson. While giving her statement, Johns reportedly saw a drawing of the Zodiac Killer and claimed he was the one who abducted them.
Johns' conflicting statements, though, cast doubt upon whether she had, indeed, encountered and survived the Zodiac. The murder Hedrick is revisiting happened just 18 months after that abduction. The Zodiac claimed 37 kills, though only the five were confirmed. There's nothing to suggest the Zodiac Killer, who never was captured, claimed credit for this murder, sheriff's Detective Marc Nuno said". Read more at The Modesto Bee.
Nearly four decades later, in September 2008, her body was exhumed from Patterson cemetery, and using a forensic sculptor to reconstruct her face and modern DNA testing, she was finally identified as Mary Alice Willey.
It is important when we examine the writings of the Zodiac Killer to view them in context to the news breaking during the time in which he put pen to paper. The 1970s were a turbulent period in San Francisco and the Zodiac certainly monopolized on this fact in at least three of his communications pertinent to this story. The Zodiac Killer also had a penchant for adding historical references to his material in order to convey the message. The Mikado by Gilbert & Sullivan, a Tim Holt comic book, The Most Dangerous Game by Richard Connell, and surprisingly, Moby Dick by Herman Melville to name but a few. To believe the Zodiac Killer's bomb threats may have been inspired by a man who borrowed the Moby Dick author's name, may take a bit of selling.
Samuel Joseph Melville was the principal conspirator and bomb setter in the 1969 bombings of eight government and commercial office buildings in New York City. He was born Samuel Joseph Grossman, but changed his name with respect to novelist and poet Herman Melville. He had already committed four bombings prior to the November 9th 1969 Zodiac 'Bus Bomb' letter. It began with Grace Pier on July 27th, followed by August 20: Marine Midland Building, September 19: Federal Plaza and then an Army Induction Center on October 7th. These crimes received statewide coverage throughout America, but were they an inspiration to the Zodiac Killer in the power of large scale destruction as a tool for terror. The answer may have come five and a half months later. But first we shall take a look at the April 20th 1970 letter, which stated "I am mildly cerous as to how much money you have on my head now. I hope you do not think that I was the one who wiped out that blue meannie with a bomb at the cop station. Even though I talked about killing school children with one. It just wouldn't doo to move in on someone else's teritory. But there is more glory in killing a cop than a cid because a cop can shoot back. I have killed ten people to date. It would have been a lot more except that my bus bomb was a dud. I was swamped out by the rain we had a while back".
We know that the Zodiac Killer often referenced newspaper headlines - and this communication would be no different - denying his involvement in the murder of San Francisco police officer Brian McDonnell (44) on February 16th 1970. Person or persons unknown had placed a pipe bomb packed with fence staples on the window ledge of Park Police Station in Upper Haight (1899 Waller Street). Another eight police officers were also injured. The Zodiac Killer was unlikely to have had any involvement in the bombing, however, he was keen to suggest that he was capable of such an act, but for "the rain we had a while back". Two weeks prior to the April 20th 1970 Zodiac letter, on April 6th 1970, the deadliest day in the history of California law enforcement occurred, when two armed criminals managed to kill four California Highway Patrol officers in just under 5 minutes. Known as the Newhall Massacre, it hit the newspaper stands around the country.
One can't help thinking the Zodiac Killer was fully aware of this tragedy, when he cynically penned the words "there is more glory in killing a cop than a cid because a cop can shoot back". Or maybe, we give the Zodiac too much credit. The Zodiac Killer may not have killed Sgt. Brian McDonnell on February 16th 1970, but his following correspondence on April 28th 1970, just eight days later, would certainly coalesce both Sam Melville and Park Police Station under one banner, when he wrote "If you dont want me to have this blast you must do two things. Tell everyone about the bus bomb with all the details. I would like to see some nice Zodiac buttons wandering about town. Everyone else has these buttons like, black power, melvin eats bluber, etc. Well it would cheer me up considerably if I saw a lot of people wearing my buton. Please no nasty ones like melvin's. Thank you".
The phrase "melvin eats bluber" was referring to the prominent lawyer and bon vivant Melvin Belli, who had earlier become the focus of one of Zodiac's letters. The Zodiac was referring to the 1960s fad buttons created by Irwin Weisfeld, but had altered the slogan from "Melville Eats Blubber" (Moby Dick) to "Melvin Eats Bluber".
Bearing in mind the introduction and tone of this card: "I hope you enjoy yourselves when I have my blast," and his choice of counterculture button, the following connection cannot be ignored. The Zodiac borrowed the Melville Eats Blubber button and changed it for purpose, as did Sam Melville, when altering his name from Grossman to Melville before his bombing campaign. The crucial question, however, is where did Zodiac intend to have this "blast". The clue may be staring us square in the face (see image on right).
The Zodiac Killer wrote "I hope you enjoy yourselves when I have my blast" around the picture of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, the characters in a novel by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra. These characters are situated only 3,650 feet (0.68 miles) from the murder site of Sgt. Brian McDonnell, both of which are situated in Golden Gate Park. The Zodiac Killer, almost certainly, never had any intention of placing a bomb near the Don Quixote and Sancho Panza statue in Golden Gate Park, but the fact that this statue was in such close proximity to the bombing of Park Police Station on February 16th 1970, could be interpreted as a mischievous and insensitive offering to police. He was effectively rubbing their "noze in their booboos".
Then came the possible threat on Ingleside Police Station, two months later, on June 26th 1970, contained within the 'Button' letter and map code, and featured in the article 'The 32 Symbol Code-Hidden In Plain Sight'. The Zodiac Killer would again reference the slaying of another police officer - on this occasion Sgt Richard P. Radetich (25), who on June 19th at 5:25 am was gunned down by three shots from a .38 caliber revolver at point blank range through the driver side window of his vehicle, while in the process of serving a parking ticket. He was sat in his police car near 643 Waller Street, The same Waller Street as Park Police Station. The proximity of these three consecutive communications to the area of San Francisco shown below, certainly shows us where the Zodiac Killer's focus was between April 20th and June 26th 1970. However, he wasn't finished just yet. The 'Little List' letter mailed on July 26th 1970 was the fourth and final piece of the jigsaw.
On June 19th 1970, Sgt Richard Radetich was gunned down by three shots from a .38 caliber revolver at point blank range through the driver side window of his vehicle, while in the process of serving a parking ticket. He was sat in his police car near 643 Waller Street, San Francisco in the Lower Haight District when he sustained life threatening injuries and subsequently died 15 hours later. Local residents heard a vehicle speeding away from the area, unfortunately however, the number of assailants present at the crime scene is unknown. The parking ticket Richard Radetich had just written, was for a 1965 Oldsmobile bereft of 1970 license tags, albeit, Police Chief Alfred J. Nelder at the time said they had no reason to suspect the owner of this vehicle to be a participant in the commission of the murder. Detectives suspect the killer or killers pulled their vehicle alongside the officer's police car, and without exiting their vehicle, fired through the closed window, shattering the glass and fatefully striking Richard Radetich in the head.
A short distance from the crime scene (0.3 miles), a gas station attendant recalled seeing a white Cadillac racing down Oak Street and entering Divisadero Street. Officer Radetich's murder shocked the local community, as he left behind a wife, Nancy, and his eight-month-old daughter Janine. Seven days later, a letter from the Zodiac Killer arrived at the San Francisco Chronicle that suggested that he may have been the responsible - stating that he "shot a man sitting in a parked car with a .38". But was the Zodiac Killer the murderer or was it an attempt to lay claim to somebody else's crime?
Two violent groups operating in the early 70s needed little prompting to come forward and admit their crimes, despite this however, neither the 'Black Liberation Army' or the 'Weather Underground' ever admitted any involvement in the Richard Radetich murder. As with this case, the Zodiac appeared extremely lucky to seemingly always lay claim to crimes that were never solved - or he was indeed was the murderer of Richard Radetich.
On April 20th 1970, two months before this murder, the Zodiac Killer mailed his '13 Symbol' cipher to the San Francisco Chronicle and proclaimed "I hope you do not think that I was the one who wiped out that blue meannie with a bomb at the cop station. Even though I talked about killing school children with one. It just wouldn't doo to move in on someone else's teritory. But there is more glory in killing a cop than a cid because a cop can shoot back. I have killed ten people to date. It would have been a lot more except that my bus bomb was a dud. I was swamped out by the rain we had a while back". The Zodiac Killer was referencing the murder of Sgt Brian McDonnell (44) on February 16th 1970, who was killed by a bomb packed with fence staples, planted on the window ledge of the 1899 Waller Street Park Police Station in Upper Haight, San Francisco. It seemed strange that the Zodiac Killer would deny this murder, stating "It just wouldn't doo to move in on someone else's teritory"- because this murder took place in Upper Haight, less than 2 miles from the Richard Radetich murder in Lower Haight, to which he was intimating a link.
Two months after the Brian McDonnell murder and eight days after his previous correspondence, the Zodiac Killer mailed the 'Dragon' card on April 28th 1970, depicting what appears to be characters from a novel by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra. The novel featured Don Quixote and his horse Rocinante, along with his squire Sancho Panza, perched on a nameless donkey, who both embark on a mission to restore chivalry.
The Zodiac Killer wrote on the face of the card "I hope you enjoy yourselves when I have my Blast". Was this postcard chosen for a specific reason - a case of Zodiac rubbing salt into the wounds of the San Francisco Police Department by bringing up the suggestion of another impending bomb. The 1899 Waller Street Police Station and location of the murder of Sgt Brian McDonnell is situated on the boundary of the San Francisco Golden Gate Park and in close proximity to the memorial statue of Miguel de Cervantes, featuring Don Quixote and Sancho Panza. So, was this card really just a random choice, or was the Zodiac Killer simply 'needling the blue pigs' with the threat of another blast in that location.
Furthermore, standing outside the California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park, just opposite the Miguel de Cervantes statue, is a memorial to Robert Emmet, an Irish nationalist. Robert Emmet the hippie was suggested as a solution to the indecipherable 18 characters at the foot of the Zodiac 408 cipher.
Then came the 'Button' letter on June 26th 1970, hinting at the murder of Richard Radetich, despite earlier protestations it wouldn't do to move in on somebody else's territory. The murders in Upper and Lower Haight, and the Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra statue, mentioned in these three correspondences by the Zodiac Killer, are all contained within a 2 mile radius.
Shortly after the murder of Richard Radetich a white Cadillac was spotted speeding north on Divisadero Street from Oak Street. In a previous article it was reasoned that the Zodiac Killer shortly after the murder of Paul Stine, entered the Presidio Park and made his escape eastwards into the Cow Hollow region. A murderer heading northbound on Divisadero Street is on a direct collision course with the Cow Hollow region. Divisadero Street terminates at Marina Boulevard on San Francisco's northern edge.
On July 24th 1970, the Zodiac Killer would claim his involvement in the abduction of Kathleen Johns just west of Modesto, California - a crime that has also gone unsolved - despite the claims of Kathleen Johns it was indeed the Zodiac Killer. The contradictions and connections between the '13 Symbol' cipher, 'Dragon' card and 'Button' letter are there for all to see - but did the Zodiac Killer ever take the unlikely step from 'needling the blue pigs' to killing them?
The Zodiac Killer appeared to enjoy taunting the police and newspapers, often replying to them directly. Two such examples were the 'Debut of Zodiac' Letter, where he replied the following day to the San Francisco Examiner's article on August 3rd 1969, giving more details regarding his first two attacks to Vallejo policeman Jack E. Stiltz. Then the Zodiac mailed the Bus Bomb Letter on November 9th 1969, responding to the San Francisco article featuring comments by Chief of Police Martin Lee, entitled Zodiac Called a Clumsy Criminal. So it makes perfect sense to examine the preceding article to Zodiac's Halloween Card mailed on October 27th 1970 to possibly unearth the trigger behind this correspondence. It is easy to search for correlations between any two pieces of work, so the following has to be treated with caution - but we will travel back to the San Francisco Chronicle article authored by Paul Avery on October 12th 1970, just two weeks prior to the mailing of the Halloween Card.
It was entitled Gilbert and Sullivan Clue to Zodiac, so it would come as no surprise that the Halloween Card opened with the line "I feel it in my bones, You ache to know my name, And so i'll clue you in". It would appear that the Zodiac Killer deliberately chose this particular card in regards to the use of the word 'clue,' to be considered as his response. But once again he disappointed, revealing very little. However, what could be garnered from this card was his use of the pumpkin to strategically mask the pelvic gender of the skeleton, unashamedly revealed on the card inner to the accompaniment of the word 'Boo' - while in reverse, masking the face of the skeleton and suggestive of a hidden identity. The question is, what identity are we looking for - a sexual identity or the killer himself?
The San Francisco Chronicle article also stated "Homicide detectives who've been hunting Zodiac for nearly two years frankly admit he is as much an enigma now as he was on December 20th 1968, when he chalked up his first two victims". On the Halloween Card he chalked up 4-TEEN victims on the card inner in very bold stylized white writing - although whether this was as a response to the article rather than necessity based on the color of the card background, is unknown.
Very little, if anything about the Zodiac crimes can be regarded as sexual, as no apparent interference took place in any of the four crimes, but could this in its absence tell us anything about the killer himself. It has been suggested that his savage attacks on young courting couples is an attack on something unavailable to him, either from a standpoint of confidence and inadequacy, or in terms of his repressed or closet sexuality. After all, the Zodiac did state that killing people was "better than getting your rocks off with a girl". In a previous article 'From Your Secret Pal' we examined the possibility that the Zodiac Killer was a latent homosexual as alluded to in the San Francisco Chronicle, authored by Paul Avery on October 18th 1969 - so here we will slightly expand on that idea.
Jose Sarria was a high profile advocate of the LGBT scene in San Francisco, becoming synonymous with the Black Cat bar at 710 Montgomery Street from 1945 to its closure in 1974, also founding The League for Civil Education to highlight acceptance towards homosexuality and even finding the time to run for office. Jose Sarria encouraged patrons to be proud of their homosexuality, while often dressing up - and as a performer often sang in opera based shows and torch songs. However, there was fierce opposition from society, with constant police intimidation and raids, with cross dressing patrons routinely arrested on the pretext of impersonating a woman. Jose Sarria encouraged the arrested to demand jury trials in an attempt to clog up the court system, forcing a rethink by authorities. Despite this, the names and addresses of those arrested were routinely published in the newspapers as a form of deterrent and shaming. This oppression was certainly cause enough to ignite a hatred towards the police and newspapers, two things the Zodiac seemed to revel in during his barrage of communication for nearly five years - but whether this was the incendiary is pure conjecture.
For one night only, that of Halloween, homosexuality was 'overlooked' by the police force, ultimately becoming a day that would prove emblematic for LGBT celebrations. However, the rest of the time it was business as usual - or for that matter, lack of business - as gay premises, including the Black Cat bar were routinely raided by police. Jose Sarria was annoyed by the constant harassment and sought the help of prominent attorney Melvin Belli, who had offices at 722 Montgomery Street, a stone's throw from the Black Cat bar - and together they formulated a plan to protect the cross dresser from the 'intent to deceive' law.
A button or label was created stating I am a boy, effectively negating deception as an intention. In response to the perceived threat on Paul Avery in the Halloween Card, colleagues would adorn buttons on their clothing similar to the I am a boy declaration, but on this occasion would read I am not Paul Avery.
The Zodiac Killer aligned himself with Melvin Belli for a brief period, even mentioning or inferring the attorney's name in the Dragon Card mailed on April 28th 1970, where the Zodiac declared "I would like to see some nice Zodiac buttons wandering about town. Everyone else has these buttons like, black power, melvin eats bluber, etc. Well it would cheer me up considerably if I saw a lot of people wearing my buton. Please no nasty ones like melvin's". The intention of Zodiac is rooted in the Irwin Weisfeld counterculture buttons of the 1960s, nevertheless the Sarria connection remains a viable influence. A further link exists in the maker of the Dragon Card (created by the Jolly Roger Card Company). After winning a court case, Melvin Belli would often raise a Jolly Roger flag over his Montgomery Street office building in the Barbary Coast district of San Francisco, returning full circle to the Halloween Card characteristics once more.
Mason and Geary Street, the supposed intersection where fate carried Paul Stine to his death, bisects the Nob Hill and Tenderloin districts, and combines both the LGBT and theater influences under one banner - but reference was made by Robert Graysmith, stating that Paul Stine picked up the Zodiac Killer from outside the Westin St Francis Hotel, situated at 335 Powell Street in Union Square. Jose Sarria was arrested at the Westin St Francis public restrooms for solicitation, a location often frequented by homosexuals, with police attempting to clamp down on such activities.
The Zodiac Killer liked dressing up, as we saw during his Lake Berryessa attack on September 27th 1969 and he apparently had access to disguises, that he alluded to in the Bus Bomb Letter on November 9th 1969, when in response to Chief of Police Martin Lee he stated "I look like the description passed out only when I do my thing, the rest of the time I look entirle different". The question is, how different did he look the rest of the time? The Halloween Card was taken as a perceived threat on the life of San Francisco reporter Paul Avery, but how serious a threat was it considered - after all, the Zodiac Killer apologized on the inside of the envelope addressed to Paul Avery with 'sorry no cipher' and sealed it with a kiss.
The Zodiac Killer appeared to have artistic leanings, not only in the design of his cards and ciphers, but also the possibility he was connected to the theater due to their content, as explained in the previous article Exit Stage Left. His interest seemed unconstrained by his age, having alluded to The Most Dangerous Game, a short story by Richard Connell, published on January 19th 1924, and The Mikado, released to the paying public on March 14th 1885. Furthermore, there have been suggestions of a Charlie Chan link, in the role of detective fiction, first put to film in 1926. The Dragon card mailed on April 28th 1970 appeared to depict the characters Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, created by author Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra in 1605 and 1615. And finally, the subtle reference in the accompanying text to 'Melville Eats Blubber', pointed towards Herman Melville, an American novelist, famous for his penning of Moby Dick in 1851.. The Zodiac Killer placed the line "I hope you enjoy yourselves when I have my blast" on the card, in reference to his concealed bomb, and in the attached letter, implored the public to wear "some nice Zodiac buttons". The greetings card and text seemed to reveal little, but it is conceivable there was a lot more.
The Dragon card was mailed on April 28th 1970 and the Button letter soon followed on June 26th 1970, both continuing the theme of bombing in the text. The Zodiac Killer also gave us a fourth code, along with a Phillips 66 route map, stating that together they would reveal the location of a 'hidden' bomb.
The novelist Herman Melville took elements from Don Quixote into the Captain Ahab character of Moby Dick, both driven in their desire to achieve their ultimate goal. Captain Ahab was gripped with his pursuit of the whale, whereas Don Quixote's pursuit of chivalry seemed boundless. Indeed, Herman Melville was a fan of Don Quixote, referencing the Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra novel in his diary while writing Moby Dick. Herman Melville not only wrote novels, but published poetry in his later life and was the author of many short stories. Surprisingly, despite the worldwide recognition of Moby Dick today, it was not warmed to by the public at the time and effectively ended his career as a revered novelist.
"Then be called ten times a donkey, and a mule, and an ass, and begone, or I'll clear the world of thee." Herman Melville, Moby Dick (1851).
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