The Zodiac Killer: Case Closed?

Robert Graysmith’s drawing of Zodiac based upon survivor testimony
Robert Graysmith’s drawing of Zodiac based upon survivor testimony
Zodiac. The name means more than just astrology and birth signs to any Crime fan. Zodiac was the enigmatic name of a serial killer that managed to hold a large portion of northern California in collective terror as he killed at what appeared to be his leisure. 

If you believe all the letters sent to the newspapers of the San Francisco area are truly Zodiac’s, then there were 37 victims. However, police only officially confirm seven victims. It’s hard to pin down what makes the killer so legendary, but a large portion of it is that the Zodiac Killer managed to taunt police while providing numerous letters and cryptograms, promising that by decoding them, police would be able to identify who he was.  To this day, only one has been ackowledged by the Zodiac Killer to have been decoded correctly.

Throughout the 1960s and 70s, the Zodiac Killer managed to evade police capture while killing seven men and women between 16 and 29, not counting the other kills that where claimed in letters to the police but have yet to have been confirmed as victims.

On August 1, 1969, a letter, divided into three parts, was sent to the Vallejo

An official police sketch of Zodiac
An official police sketch of Zodiac
Times-Herald, the San Francisco Chronicle, and the San Francisco Examiner. While nearly identical in content, each letter included one-third of a 408-symbol cryptogram.  On August 7th, another letter was delivered to the San Francisco Examiner, and this letter confirmed that the previous letters were indeed from the the person who had killed two people and named himself “Zodiac”.

On August 8th, Donald and Bettye Harden claimed to have decoded the cryptogram and said that no name appeared in the message, despite claims that it was by Zodiac. Zodiac responded to this decryption, however, which led those that were involved with the case to belive it was an accurate translation.

The killings and letters continued until about 1974, with the killer thowing the police other cryptograms and puzzles in his letters to the newspaper. For about 40 years, these subsequent letters have failed to be decoded, but the times they are a-changin’.

One of the more famous letters to the San Francisco Chronicle included a 340-character cipher. It is this cipher that Corey Starliper of Tewksbury, Massachusetts claims finally to have solved.

Corey became interested in the Zodiac killings after reading Robert Graysmith’s Zodiac. (Graysmith was working at the the San Francisco Chronicle at the time of the killings.) Starliper claims that the key to the cracking Zodiac’s code is an instance where the killer mentions

Zodiac by Robert Graysmith: This book inspired Starliper to get involved with the case
Zodiac by Robert Graysmith: This book inspired Starliper to get involved with the case
the U.S. Virgin Islands almost arbitrarily. When this is combined with the number “340”, which, as Starliper points out, is an area code used in the Virgin Islands, as well as the number of characters in the cipher, the message begins to come together. Cory took the 3 and 4, added them to get 7, and then found that “707” happens to be the area code for the region of California where the Zodiac killer operated.

Using the similarity of the area codes as his key argument, Starliper claims that the solution is to use the 3 and 4 as keys in a Caesar code (a somewhat simple letter substitution method that was used by Julius Caesar), and by using similar letters to translate the symbols used by  Zodiac in other instances. (For example, Starliper uses “v” for ^ or >.)  In this way, Starliper determined that the decoded cipher read as:


Leigh Allen was the area police’s primary suspect for a long time, being the only suspect to be officially served a search warrant by authorities, but has yet to be confirmed as the killer through forensic evidence.

I’m sure there is a mandantory grain of salt which should be included when reading Mr. Starliper’s conclusions, but it is interesting none the less. What do you think about the Zodiac killer possibly being identified after all this time?

(For the full story on Corey Starliper go to ForestCity Patch.)

Christopher Morgan works for and He lives in New York City, and asks himself “What Would Dexter Do?” in these situations.


  1. ZodiacRevisited

    Starliper’s solution is clearly invalid.


  2. Ryoku

    This guy, or so called zodiac killer, you’d think would be the greatest mastermind ever? No. The man was a coward and upon my research finding out his motives was nothing but simple, because remember: he is human. His first reported killings were of couples, in love with each other. These victims were simply targeted due to something that unraveled those feelings in the past. He suffered from heart break and/or humiliation from someone he loved. I can easily tell the coward wasn’t a jockey in school or college but somewhat of a bookworm since most of his letters were deprived from book quotes. This humiliation or heart break caused an uprising in his feelings. He couldn’t handle it, so the only thing he could do was make up for the loss. This man had one original goal… revenge. His first target of the high school couple had to be someone he knew. Someone in relation to the person who humiliated him. He killed them in know skilled way, but by simply shooting them at point blank range. He killed them just as any killer would. Shoot and run. This murder obviously fed his new goal,… fame. He wanted to be famous to make up for his humiliation. His letters sent revealed that he would call himself the zodiac. He called himself this because he needed a way to mark himself in history without getting caught. The first letter sent was to test his ability to bring attention and uprising, and since that succeeded, it became his primary way of achieving fame. But, actually this coward didn’t call himself the zodiac until after a few letters, which once again brings up that he was testing the usefulness of this method. He eventually began threatening killings and attempting blackmails with letters, but many of the threats never took place. The threats were only designed to strike fear into the media and make his name heard. But again, the man was human and he had great fear of being caught by the cops, so many of his worthless threats that were deprived from books never took place. If you take time to study the letters, its obvious the man didn’t stray too far from his letters and encrypted messages, because he soon discovered that it was useful method in achieving fame without getting caught. None of the letters met up to their promises. All of them, in fact, were written to keep him from getting caught. None of the letters will tell you he is. Not even the encrypted ones. Remember, his greatest fear was getting caught. He was a coward. He also sent many counterfeit letters in a childish and silly attempt to hide his true goal of fame. He made up lame stories about his so called “paradise” and “slaves”, just to keep the media and everyone interested. The guy wasn’t crazy, he was just trying to make it harder for police to find him and keep his fame. Knowing this about him, allows you to see him for who he is. A coward, with no honor, nor respect in his methods. He isn’t the greatest mastermind on the planet. That’s just what he wanted you to think. That’s just what he used to achieve his fame. He is a mere man, in fear of the cops and authorities, trying to selfishly make up for a loss. There is nothing mysterious about it. The fact that the average minded society continues to bring him up only encourages what he planned years ago. Let the man rot in hell and forget about him, he’s worthless.

  3. tiaan du plessis

    Too me nor stripler or the teacher’s dycription is correct
    If you go through the symbals some things just does not make sence
    For instance why would he use the same code for double ll throughout the code but change the meaning of other symbols for the same letter, although the text does seem to make sence considering his violant crimes,the decription must be wrong, as for the second he did change the symbols yes but why would he write in abreviation and not in full sentances like the first time, my second observation is that no one ever concidered it too be longdatute and lagtatude cordinates? I however find the case of the zodiac killer fasanating and would love to know the motivation behind his crimes but best we can do to this day and age is speculate and make educated guesses.


    They may be able to give you an insight into the possible root cause of this issue and point you in the right direction for possible solutions.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.