Criminal Justice Paper on The Zodiac Killer (Serial Killer)

The Zodiac Killer (Serial Killer)

For many decades serial killers have plagued society with their heinous acts of murdering innocent people. All of them tend to target the most vulnerable people―mainly women and children. Also, they either leave very little evidence and thus rarely get caught by law enforcement officers or try to intrude into the course of the investigation by making the detectives follow the false trail. Each serial killer has a personal signature with method operation that differentiates them from others. All of the above-mentioned facts can be evident from the operation of the Zodiac killer and methods he used.

The Zodiac killer is one of the most famous serial killers in America. He murdered at least seven people in the San Francisco Bay of the USA in the 1960s and 1970s (Campbell, 2011). The Zodiac killer had a unique relation with the media which left people surprised. It is believed that he was never caught by the police. It is commonly assumed that the last killing committed by him happened in 1974 because there were no similar instances ever since (Basavaraju, 2009). He had a unique signature that differentiated him from other serial killers. He sent letters to the police after killing his victims but left no trace of evidence. Most of the letters that were sent by the killer had special features known as ciphers that had a row of symbols neatly written (Basavaraju, 2009). Also, it should be mentioned that only one of four of such ciphers was decoded by the police. Some of his letters contained a lot of evidence whereas others did not have much of it thus making the police unable to reveal the identity of the Zodiac killer.

The first killings happened in 1968. The victims were David Faraday and Betty Lou Jensen. Seven months after the incident the killer struck again killing a young woman and seriously injuring another person in her company. In the month of September the year 1969, he assaulted a couple by threatening them with a gun thus making them to submit to his orders (Basavaraju, 2009). He tied them and stabbed them several times, the woman died whereas her companion survived with serious injuries. The killer also sent a letter to the police stating that he had killed two young children in a field (Campbell, 2011). From the information in the letter, it was true that the Zodiac was the one who had killed the children because it contained a detailed description of the murder since nobody else could possibly know about it that much. The Zodiac killer insisted that his messages should be posted in most of the local dailies. He threatened to kill more people if actors within the media fraternity did not do as he requested. All the local newspapers obeyed and published his messages on the front page (Basavaraju, 2009).

The killer sent coded messages to the media and demanded that they publish them for somebody to decipher, though only one of them was decoded, as it was stated above. The killer taunted the police on the way he operated and his identity has remained a mystery to date. The code he sent with his identity is yet to be cracked because of the complexity of his message. The Zodiac killer communicated with the police through letters and telephone calls. He teased the officers, the media, and the general public with cipher messages which were next to impossible to decode. In one of his communications with the police, he called and said that he wanted to report a murder that had just happened. He said that he had killed two people who were in a white Volkswagen. Sometimes he included a piece of cloth stained with blood in his letters just to show that he is actually the one who committed the murders (Campbell, 2011).

Investigation to reveal the identity of the Zodiac killer did not yield much as most of those arrested were cleared. Most of the suspects did not match the profile drawn by the experts (Campbell, 2011) The Federal Bureau of Investigation collected all the letters sent by the serial killer and began its own investigation. The services of a psycholinguistic approach were to aid in the drawing of the profile of the killer. These analyses provided many traits and characteristics of the likely Zodiac killer. The police worked with the community to find out the identity of the true killer, unsuccessfully, though. The letters pointed the inability of the police to investigate and come up with a profile of the Zodiac killer. The detectives were unable to decipher the messages and decided to send them to the media. Eventually, one of them was solved by a couple when it was printed in the newspaper. In the message, the killer alleged that he liked murdering people because it was fun (Campbell, 2011).

Summing it up, it is proved that  between the late 1960s and early 1970s at least 7 people were murdered by the Zodiac, though the number of victims might be bigger. He had a unique signature and method of operation. He sent letters to law enforcement agencies and the media after committing his heinous acts. Most of the letters had crucial details which proved that the person who wrote them is actually the one who had committed the murders. Law enforcement agencies were unable to break the coded messages. This made it difficult for law enforcement officers to reveal the true identity of the killer. Several people were suspected of being the Zodiac killer, but their profile did not match  that one of the real murderer. Thus, his was never caught.




Basavaraju, P. K. (2009). Heuristic Search Cryptanalysis of the Zodiac 340 Cipher. Retrieved from SJSU Scholar Works:

Campbell, M. (2011). The Zodiac Killer. New Scientist, 210(2813), 44-45.