Zodiac Killer

Sketch of wanted murder suspect known as the "Zodiac Killer" (via newspapers.com)

Sketch of wanted murder suspect known as the “Zodiac Killer” (The San Francisco Examiner, via Newspapers.com™)

The Zodiac Killer is an unidentified serial killer known to have murdered at least five people in Northern California from late 1968 to late 1969.

Confirmed Attacks

Five murders and two attempted murders have been confirmed by investigators as Zodiac Killer attacks:

-David Faraday (17) and Betty Lou Jensen (16), shot and killed on a remote road in Benicia, CA, in December 1968.

-Darlene Ferrin (22) and Mike Mageau (19), shot in July 1969 in a remote parking lot in Vallejo, CA. Mageau survived.

-Cecelia Shepard (22) and Bryan Hartnell (20), stabbed in September 1969 on the shore of Lake Berryessa in Napa County, CA. Hartnell survived.

-Paul Stine (29), taxi driver fatally shot by his passenger in San Francisco’s Presidio Heights neighborhood in October 1969.

Letters and Cryptograms

Between 1969 and 1974, the killer sent letters to police and newspapers to demand media coverage and take credit for the murders. They often began with the line “This is the Zodiac speaking,” leading to the use of the Zodiac pseudonym. Notable inclusions in these letters were four cryptograms, two of which have been solved, and the symbol resembling gunsight crosshairs that served as the Zodiac’s signature. Through these letters, the Zodiac claimed to have killed as many as 37 people.

Numerous other letters, cards, phone calls, and even murders are believed to be the Zodiac’s work, but are not confirmed. The cryptic nature of the killer’s communications, along with copycat correspondences and attacks, have further complicated the search for answers.

Theories

Multiple suspects have been put forward as the potential Zodiac Killer, though only one was officially named as a suspect by police. Unfortunately, none have ever been charged, and the case remains unsolved. The coded messages, taunting letters, and highly publicized nature of the case have since made the Zodiac Killer a fixture in popular culture.

Learn more about the Zodiac Killer through historical newspapers from our archives. Explore newspaper articles, headlines, images, and other primary sources below.


Articles and Clippings about the Zodiac Killer

"Friends Quizzed in Slaying of Teen Pair" Zodiac victims David Faraday and Betty Lou Jensen 22 Dec 1968, Sun The San Francisco Examiner (San Francisco, California) Newspapers.com"Woman Is Killed; Man Is Hurt" Darlene Ferrin murdered and Michael Mageau wounded in Zodiac attack 05 Jul 1969, Sat The Sacramento Bee (Sacramento, California) Newspapers.com"'Knife Killer Could Strike Again'" after lethal Zodiac attack on Cecelia Shepard and Bryan Hartnell 30 Sep 1969, Tue The Napa Valley Register (Napa, California) Newspapers.com29-year-old San Francisco taxi driver Paul Stine shot to death by Zodiac29-year-old San Francisco taxi driver Paul Stine shot to death by Zodiac 13 Oct 1969, Mon The Los Angeles Times (Los Angeles, California) Newspapers.com"Sketch Made Of Killer in Taxi Slaying" Description and sketch of suspect in murder of Paul Stine 14 Oct 1969, Tue The San Francisco Examiner (San Francisco, California) Newspapers.com"Fears Numerous as Stars" article discusses Zodiac Killer's next attack, letters, cryptograms 19 Oct 1969, Sun Democrat and Chronicle (Rochester, New York) Newspapers.com"Wanted" "Murder suspect known as 'ZODIAC'" 21 Oct 1969, Tue The San Francisco Examiner (San Francisco, California) Newspapers.com"'Zodiac Killer' Threatens To Murder School Children" Theories on Zodiac motives, codes, next steps 19 Oct 1969, Sun The Tampa Tribune (Tampa, Florida) Newspapers.com"This is the Zodiac Speaking" is Zodiac Killer's opening line in letters to police (excerpt) 19 Oct 1969, Sun The Tampa Tribune (Tampa, Florida) Newspapers.com"Zodiac's Sign --- Stained With Blood" Five victims of the Zodiac Killer (excerpt) 19 Oct 1969, Sun Ventura County Star (Ventura, California) Newspapers.com"A Letter From Zodiac" includes killer's second cryptogram and symbol signature 12 Nov 1969, Wed The Napa Valley Register (Napa, California) Newspapers.com"Zodiac Warns in New Contact: 'The Pace Isn't Any Slower!" Zodiac note claims 13 victims (excerpt) 12 Oct 1970, Mon The Los Angeles Times (Los Angeles, California) Newspapers.comFirst of two-page spread discussing Zodiac Killer: victims, letters, state of mindFirst of two-page spread discussing Zodiac Killer: victims, letters, state of mind 27 Dec 1970, Sun Daily News (New York, New York) Newspapers.comSecond of two-page spread on the Zodiac Killer: psychological profile, handwriting analysisSecond of two-page spread on the Zodiac Killer: psychological profile, handwriting analysis 27 Dec 1970, Sun Daily News (New York, New York) Newspapers.com"Zodiac Killer's Cryptic Card Claims Tahoe-Area Victim" 26 Mar 1971, Fri Ventura County Star (Ventura, California) Newspapers.com"'Zodiac' killer may have murdered Lompoc teenagers" Zodiac suspected in Edwards, Domingos murders 14 Nov 1972, Tue The Lompoc Record (Lompoc, California) Newspapers.com"Top Prober In 'Zodiac' Murders Reassigned, Admits Forging Letters To Newspaper Writer" 12 Jul 1978, Wed The Indianapolis Star (Indianapolis, Indiana) Newspapers.com"Fifteen years later, mystery of the 'Zodiac killer' unsolved" 16 Oct 1984, Tue The Fresno Bee (Fresno, California) Newspapers.comTwo examples of letters claimed to be written by the Zodiac KillerTwo examples of letters claimed to be written by the Zodiac Killer 17 Nov 1987, Tue The San Francisco Examiner (San Francisco, California) Newspapers.com"Has the Zodiac killer returned?" New Mexico murders raise questions, potential copycat 06 Jan 1988, Wed The Albuquerque Tribune (Albuquerque, New Mexico) Newspapers.comMulti-page article discusses various suspects in Zodiac Killer case after decades-long searchMulti-page article discusses various suspects in Zodiac Killer case after decades-long search 15 May 1994, Sun The San Francisco Examiner (San Francisco, California) Newspapers.com"Unabomber, Zodiac link explored" in pursuit of Zodiac Killer 15 May 1996, Wed Record Searchlight (Redding, California) Newspapers.com"Suspect linked to NYC Zodiac copycat shootings" Man arrested for attacks inspired by Zodiac Killer 19 Jun 1996, Wed The Post-Star (Glens Falls, New York) Newspapers.com"Journalists Claim Authorities Bungled Serial Murder Case" with delays pursuing prime Zodiac suspect 10 Dec 1999, Fri The Herald-News (Passaic, New Jersey) Newspapers.com"Obsession with San Francisco Zodiac killings lives on" Unsolved crime inspires sleuths, new movie 23 Feb 2007, Fri Merced Sun-Star (Merced, California) Newspapers.com"DNA tech sought in Zodiac Killer search" 04 May 2018, Fri Record Searchlight (Redding, California) Newspapers.com
"Zodiac Killer," Newspapers.com Topics (https://www.newspapers.com/topics/crimes-mysteries/zodiac-killer/ : accessed June 23, 2024)