Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Zodiac Killer

Cryptic Message

A few weeks later, on July 31, 1969, the San Francisco Examiner, San Francisco Chronicle, and Vallejo Times-Herald each received letters laying claim to the Vallejo murders.  Enclosed with each letter was one-third of a cryptogram, to be published on each newspaper's front page by August 1. 

Not only were the author's claims bolstered by an intimate knowledge of the two crime scenes, he also promised another murder spree if his request was not met.  Though worded slightly differently, each letter shared the same salient facts, and each was closed with the crossed-circle design that would become the Zodiac's signature.  The first to be transcribed in its entirety was the one sent to the Vallejo Times-Herald:

The cryptogram sent to the Times-Herald
The cryptogram sent to the Times-Herald

Dear Editor

I am the killer of the 2 teenagers last Christmass at Lake Herman and the Girl last 4th of July. To Prove this I shall state some facts which only I+ the police know.

Christmass
1 Brand name of ammo Super X
2 10 shots fired
3 Boy was on back feet to car
4 Girl was lyeing on right side feet to west

4th of July
1 Girl was wearing patterned pants
2 Boy was also shot in knee
3 Brand name of ammo was Western

Here is a cyipher or that is part of one.  The other 2 parts of this cipher have been mailed to the S.F. Examiner + the S.F. Chronicle.

I want you to print this cipher on your frunt page by Fry Afternoon Aug 1-69, If you do not do this I will go on a kill rampage Fry night that will last the whole week end.  I will cruse around and pick off all stray people or coupples that are alone then move on to kill some more untill I have killed over a dozen people. 

The killer's letter to the Chronicle was similar, but gave an additional impetus to publish the code: "In this cipher," he wrote, "is my identity."  The 3-Part Cryptogram was solved in less than a week by a North Salinas, CA, high school teacher and his wife.

Despite the claims of the Chronicle's letter, it did not appear to reveal the killer's identity.  Their solution was submitted to the Vallejo PD on August 8, verified by the Cryptographic Unit at Skaggs Island Naval Communications Center, and published on August 9 by the San Francisco Chronicle and the Vallejo Times-Herald

The cryptogram sent to the San Francisco Chronicle
The cryptogram sent to the San Francisco Chronicle

I LIKE KILLING PEOPLE BECAUSE IT IS SO MUCH FUN

IT IS MORE FUN THAN KILLING WILD GAME IN THE FORREST BECAUSE MAN IS THE MOST DANGEROUE ANIMAL OF ALL TO KILL SOMETHING GIVES ME THE MOST THRILLING EXPERENCE

IT IS EVEN BETTER THAN GETTING YOUR ROCKS OFF WITH A GIRL

THE BEST PART IS THAE WHEN I DIE I WILL BE REBORN IN PARADICE AND ALL THE I HAVE KILLED WILL BECOME MY SLAVES

I WILL NOT GIVE YOU MY NAME BECAUSE YOU WILL TRY TO SLOI DOWN OR STOP MY COLLECTING OF SLAVES FOR MY AFTERLIFE EBEORIETEMETHHPITI

The letters covering the cipher blocks were checked unsuccessfully for fingerprints by the Vallejo and San Francisco police; they found none, though one print may have been developed on a cipher-block.  As happened after the Bates murder, local police contacted the FBI for aid in the investigation, and as in the Bates case the federal interest here was possible extortion. In fact, many FBI reports still classify the case under the original extortion heading.

 

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