The mysterious case of the serial killer Zodiac, whose identity is unknown

Reader Matheus Widmer sent us a very interesting story suggestion: she asked us to talk about the story of an extremely intelligent, cruel, and shrewd serial killer. Maybe you have even heard of our bizarre character of the day: the killer Zodiac, as it turned out. We already mentioned him on this list with some of the most famous serial killers in the world.

The fact is, this guy is one of the greatest cop mysteries of all time - some say he is only behind Jack the Ripper. He is reportedly responsible for six deaths in California in the late 1960s. Still, he claimed to be responsible for taking the lives of 37 people.

Here's another curious face of this bloodthirsty, by the way: he communicated through puzzled letters he sent to local newspapers - some of these puzzles have not been deciphered to this day. The fact is that Zodiac, the nickname he gave himself, is still a complete stranger.

Due to his popularity, many people have even turned to the police claiming to be the criminal, but the real Zodiac has not yet been captured, and all that is known about his appearance is a spoken portrait depicting the only two victims. that survived their attacks.

Cold blood

Cheri Jo Bates

The first victim of the Zodiac is believed to have been Cheri Jo Bates, a college student from Riverside, California. Cheri was killed outside her campus library on October 30, 1966. While the young woman was in the library, the killer sabotaged her car and lurked after the girl who, after failing to start the vehicle, apparently he accepted a ride from the killer.

Before Cheri died, she spent an hour in the company of Zodiac, it is unknown exactly what. Then he killed her with three stab wounds to his chest, one to his back, and seven to his neck, nearly decapitating her. She was also asphyxiated and caught a lot in the face. No signs of rape or assault were found on the victim's body.

Some records indicate the presence of a white man who was seen driving an old car on the outskirts of the crime scene. According to police, one person reportedly witnessed the student's murder.

A month after Cheri's death, the killer's first letter was sent to the local newspaper. After that, more letters were sent, now not only to the press, but also to the police and Cheri's father. In this second letter, Zodiac said, “Bates had to die. There will be more deaths, ”in a free translation.

More crimes

Another Zodiac murder shocked the city of Vallejo, also in California. On December 20, 1968, a teenage couple parked the car in a place known to attract passionate couples. There, Zodiac shot David Faraday's head while he was still sitting in the car. He then shot Betty Lou Jensen five times when she was outside the vehicle, probably trying to escape.

Police believe Zodiac attacked another young couple on July 4, 1969. Mike Mageau and Darlene Ferrin were in Vallejo when they were shot. Mageau survived, but his girlfriend died on the spot. During this period, Zodiac wrote more letters to local newspapers, passing on some details of the crime.

In addition, Zodiac wrote a coded message, which he divided into several parts; each was sent to a different newspaper. The message was clear: If the newspapers did not publish the codes in their printouts, there would be more people murdered. The letter ended with a strange symbol that turned out to be a kind of "coat of arms" of the killer.


The coded message was deciphered thanks to the help of a Salinas teacher in the same state. The content revealed disturbing details of Zodiac's psychopathic mind, which stated that he liked to kill people “because this is so much fun” and also revealed that he believed his victims would become his slaves after he died too.

The nickname “Zodiac” was adopted by the killer in August 1969 in a letter he sent to the San Francisco Examiner newspaper. On September 27 of that same year, the killer took action again, choosing another young couple who were strolling at night. No shots this time: Zodiac stabbed them both over and over. Cecelia Shepard could not resist the attacks and died two days later, but her boyfriend Bryan Hartnell survived.

In Hartnell's car, Zodiac left a note stating the dates of the previous murders as a way of proving his identity. The two survivors helped the police create a snapshot of the killer, who was described as a robust white man who was to be in his late thirties with short brown hair and glasses. The victims also stated that during the attacks Zodiac wore a kind of cloak.

Another victim of the psychopath was a taxi driver who was shot on 11 October 1969, just weeks after the last attack. On October 13, Zodiac sent another letter saying that he had actually killed the taxi driver and was preparing a bomb attack on a school bus to kill several children at the same time. Fortunately, this promise was not fulfilled.


To this day the real identity of Zodiac remains unknown. The killer just lags behind Jack the Ripper on unresolved issues. Just to give you an idea, the police investigations into this guy have a list of over 2, 500 suspects, all already investigated by the police.

Since the case was reported, many police, detectives, journalists and onlookers have begun to investigate the story on their own. This has led to a series of discussions and speculation about the terrible killer - not only in the US, but in many parts of the world there are people dedicated to studying this case. On this site there is the full story with all the contents of the letters released - in English.

Possible suspects

Many books have already been written on the history of the Zodiac, and some authors have even pointed to some suspects, including Charles Manson and Ted Kaczynski, two of the most feared criminals on the planet. Arthur Leigh Allen was on the list after being identified as responsible for the attack on Hartnell and Mageau - yet a DNA test did not prove he was the killer.

The case surfaced in 2007 when research into director David Fincher's Zodiac movie found that some letters from the killer had not been tested for DNA.


Zodiac returned to the media when earlier this year writer Gary L. Stewart, author of "The Most Dangerous Animal of All, " said he was the son of the controversial killer.

According to Stewart, the discovery was made after the author decided to go after his biological father. According to the author's account in the book itself, there is forensic evidence that the killer is his father. In addition, he says he has shocking information about Zodiac's cold and unhealthy personality.

Before Stewart someone else had claimed to have a kinship relationship with the killer. In 1991, a San Francisco lawyer claimed that his already dead brother, Jack Steadman Beeman, was the killer, but nothing has ever been proven.

Some of the letters

The messages sent by the killer were always pretentious, cruel and, in some cases, described the crimes with an almost unbelievable coldness, so we will release here the translation of only two of the letters of the Zodiac. To read all of them, visit this site, which has extensive content about the case - in English.

“Here it is the Zodiac who speaks. By the way, have you solved the last cipher I sent? My name is ... [CODE]. I'm mildly curious about how much money you are paying off in my head. I hope you don't think I was the one who put out a cop with a bomb at the police station. Although I talked about killing children with one. It would not be right to invade someone else's territory. But there is more glory in killing a policeman than killing a child, because a policeman can shoot back. I've killed ten people to this day. It would have been so much more, but my bomb failed. I was flooded by the rain we had some time ago. ”

“Here it is the Zodiac who speaks. I was quite annoyed with the people of the San Francisco Bay Area. They did not accept my wishes that they wore a bottom with my symbol. I promised to punish them if they didn't heed by annihilating a school bus. But now schools are on vacation this summer, so I punished them otherwise. I shot a man sitting in a parked car with a .38. The map that accompanies this code tells where the bomb is. You have until autumn to dig it up. ”

* Originally posted on 12/22/2014.