Who was the Zodiac Killer? In case you've been living off the grid in a literal man-cave in the Ozarks for the last sixty years or so, here's some quick background on the killer who kept Northern California in the grip of fear from the late 1960s through the mid-1970s:
The mystery of the Zodiac began on August 1, 1969, when three separate California newspapers (San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco Examiner, and Vallejo Times Herald) received nearly identical letters by someone claiming responsibility for two recent attacks on couples parked in their cars, attacks that left three dead and one survivor with gunshot wounds to the face, neck, and chest. Along with the letters, each paper received a third of a cryptogram, which, once solved, explained that killing was better than sex and that the victims would be Zodiac's slaves in the afterlife.
Many killings, letters, and cryptograms followed until the mid-Seventies, when the pattern ceased. But the Zodiac Killer was never discovered or arrested. He (or she) remains one of the most infamous uncaught serial killers in history. But myriad theories abound as to his identity. Let's explore the most intriguing of those, shall we?
The Zodiac Killer Was Identified by His Son
In 2014, Gary Stewart published the book The Most Dangerous Animal of All, in which he claimed that his father, Earl Van Best, Jr., was the Zodiac Killer. Evidence included the similarity between Best's visage and the police sketches of the Zodiac, claims that Best's name appears in the Zodiac's cryptograms, and a scar on Best's right index finger that matches that in a fingerprint left at a Zodiac crime scene.
Furthermore, publicist Chris Harris claims that he saw Best at a diner in 1969, near the site of one of the killings. Harris was in the area at the time making a documentary about the Zodiac when he sat beside a man who resembled Best. According to Harris, Best turned to him and said, "You have no idea what it's like to have to kill."
The Zodiac Killed Couples Because He'd Been Rejected
A man named Randy Kenney claims his friend Louis Myers admitted to being the Zodiac before he died in May 2002 of cirrhosis of the liver. Myers claimed he was motivated to kill couples because he had suffered romantic rejection.
Myers went to high school with two of the victims and worked at the same restaurant with a third. He was also in the military, giving him access to the type of boots the Zodiac wore. In fact, he had been deployed to Germany for two years, during which time there was a lapse in all communications from the Zodiac.
The Zodiac Stole a Dead Child's Identity
The man, who bore a striking resemblance to the Zodiac police sketch, was found to have stolen his name, Joseph Newton Chandler, from a boy who died in 1945. He was in California at the time of the murders, and then moved to northern Ohio in 1979, right when a murder spree hit the area. Associates have stories of strange and erratic behavior by the reclusive man. Did the Zodiac steal a new identity and flee to Ohio, only to start killing again?
The Zodiac Was a Police Officer
Some of the Zodiac's actions indicated possible knowledge of police procedure. For instance, he often attacked in very public places, almost as if he knew when cops wouldn't be there. His attacks also occurred in many different jurisdictions, causing confusion and evidence spreading amongst all the police precincts. Also, a Zodiac fingerprint is theorized to have been a fake - something that would require forensic know-how.