The team at That’s Strange sits down to discuss the horrifying and almost unbelievable story of the Zodiac Killer. Come with us back to the Bay Area in the late 60’s and early 70’s as we breakdown all the nefarious acts committed by the still unknown killer. The Zodiac tormented the San Francisco area with his violent crimes and constant taunting of those trying to catch him. Sending letters to police, media, and even a local lawyer one thing is for sure, the Zodiac craved attention. He went above and beyond to terrify the community. From his horrific murders to the way he taunted police in the letters and ciphers he would send during his active years. You can see all the letters that Zodiac sent here. Sifting throughout the various forms of communication he used will put you in the mind of the killer. While his crimes have become infamous, the Zodiac case remains unsolved. Thousands of suspects were under suspicion while many of them fizzled out, a few remain in the limelight of the Zodiac case. Below you can see some of the suspects that we either didn’t cover or covered briefly.
- Ross Sullivan became a person of interest through the possible link between the Zodiac Killer and the murder of Cheri Jo Bates in Riverside. Sullivan was a library assistant at Riverside City College and was suspected by colleagues who said that he went missing for several days after the murder. Sullivan resembled sketches of the Zodiac and wore military-style boots like the footprints found at the Lake Berryessa crime scene. Sullivan was hospitalized multiple times for bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.
- Kathleen Johns, who claimed to have been abducted by the Zodiac Killer, later recognized U.S. Navy veteran Lawrence Kane in a photo lineup. Patrol officer Don Fouke, who possibly observed the Zodiac Killer following the murder of Paul Stine, said that Kane closely resembled the man he and Eric Zelms encountered. Kane worked at the same Nevada hotel as possible Zodiac victim Donna Lass. Kane was diagnosed with impulse-control disorder after suffering brain injuries in a 1962 accident. He was arrested for voyeurism and prowling.
- Police informants accused U.S. Navy veteran Richard Reed Marshall (born Joe Don Dickey) of being the Zodiac Killer, claiming that he privately hinted at being a murderer. Marshall lived in Riverside in 1966 and San Francisco in 1969, close to the scenes of the Bates and Stine murders. He was a silent film enthusiast and projectionist, screening Segundo de Chomón’s The Red Phantom (1907), a name used by the author of a possible 1974 Zodiac letter. Detective Ken Narlow said that “Marshall makes good reading but [is] not a very good suspect in my estimation.”
- Ted Kaczynski, also known as the Unabomber, was investigated for possible connections to the Zodiac Killer in 1996. Kaczynski worked in northern California at the time of the Zodiac murders, and like the Zodiac had an interest in cryptography and threatened the press into publishing his communications. Kaczynski was ruled out by both the FBI and SFPD based on fingerprint and handwriting comparison, and by his absence from California on certain dates of known Zodiac activity.
- Bruce Davis, a member of Charles Manson’s Manson Family cult and a convicted murderer, was investigated, but no evidence linking him to the Zodiac murders was discovered. A 1970 report by the California Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation stated that all male members of the Manson Family had been investigated and eliminated as Zodiac suspects.
- In 2007, a man named Dennis Kaufman claimed that his stepfather Jack Tarrance was the Zodiac. Kaufman turned several items over to the FBI including a hood similar to the one worn by the Zodiac. According to news sources, DNA analysis conducted by the FBI on the items was deemed inconclusive in 2010.
- In 2014, Gary Stewart published a book, The Most Dangerous Animal of All, in which he claimed his search for his biological father, Earl Van Best, Jr., led him to conclude Van Best was the Zodiac Killer. In 2020, the book was adapted for FX Network as a documentary series.
We hope you all enjoy this episode on the Zodiac killer. The case remains unsolved to this day. You can head over to thatsstrange.net to keep up to date on everything we have coming up!