The Zodiac Killer ("Zodiac," or "the Zodiac" as
he styled himself) murdered five people between December of 1968 and October of 1969. The
murders were accompanied by letters to the news media demanding publication of his threats
and other written material, on pain of further killings. As the Unabomber, Theodore
Kaczynski murdered three people and injured many more, over a period beginning in May of
1978 and continuing through April of 1995. His murders were accompanied by letters to the
news media demanding publication of the letters themselves, and the so-called
"Manifesto," on pain of further killings.
Kaczynski's status as a suspect hinges on the sheer weight and number of the
similarities linking him to the Zodiac. In brief, both killers:
Shared a common psychological pathology, predicated on sexual frustration so extreme
that Kaczynski sought relief through surgical emasculation.
Shared a common criminal signature, taking symbolic vengeance against classes of
people whose attainments they had reason to envy.
Used the notoriety achieved by murder to seek publicity on an ever-increasing scale,
sending taunting and threatening letters to the media in some cases the same
media demanding some form of publication on pain of further killings.
Assumed a self-styled moniker and used it in a trademark fashion. Each
placed taunting phone calls to the police, while each left outdoor graffiti accompanied by
an arcane symbol consisting of lines within a circle.
Mailed a letter to the editor of the San Francisco Chronicle, threatening mass murder
on a horrifying scale, then issued a wryly-worded, sneering retraction, after panicked
authorities had given the appropriate response.
Moved in key areas during the times of several significant occurrences relating to the
Possessed physical descriptions that bore a number of striking similarities, most
notably the heavy structure of their facial features and the large, square jaw that was
captured by forensic artists creating composite sketches rendered years apart.
Used disguises in the commission of their crimes.
Displayed a wide range of intellectual abilities, revealing an aptitude for
mathematics and the thought processes associated with a mathematical mind.
Showed an understanding of bomb-making that would have been at approximately the same
level of proficiency in 1969.
Created elaborate codes and ciphers of their own design.
Used literary allusion as a means of casting hints regarding their personal
motivations and the details of their surroundings, alluding repeatedly to a specific
Initiated a long-running series of correspondences containing teasing references to
the recurring motif of woods, trees, hills and mountains.
Displayed numerous similarities within their compositional tone and style, which in
many instances mirrored one another in their form and content.
Displayed similarities in handwriting style so close that it is easy to see how one
could have been converted to the other with a bare minimum of effort.
The odds of any single criminal bearing all the qualities outlined above has been
conservatively estimated at more than one in two billion.
Despite this plethora of close and compelling similarities, authorities involved in
the Zodiac case essentially, the San Francisco Police Department have long
since ruled out Kaczynski as a suspect. Their disinterest in Kaczynski is predicated on a
number of undisputed facts. Among these are:
Kaczynski's fingerprints do not match the presumed Zodiac prints that the authorities
have on file.
SFPD's handwriting analyst cannot conclusively match Kaczynski's handwriting to the
known Zodiac exemplars.
Kaczynski was living in Lombard, Illinois during most of the Zodiac events.
Kaczynski makes no mention of the Zodiac events in his thousands of pages of journals
and autobiographical notes.
Kaczynski's fingerprints do not match the presumed Zodiac prints that the
authorities have on file.
SFPD claims that it compared Kaczynski's prints with those of the Zodiac and found no
match. This is positively true only insofar as the prints of Kaczynski are concerned. SFPD
cannot state with absolute candor that they have compared Kaczynski's prints with the
Zodiac's because, by their own admission, they are not absolutely certain that the prints
they have on file belong to Zodiac. FBI documents released to the public within the past
decade describe the fingerprints ascribed to Zodiac. These are shown to consist of a
single latent from a lower finger or a palm, and the extreme tip areas of two fingers,
none of which were made "in blood," as the popular legend states. That an
organized killer such as Zodiac would leave fingerprints, while not completely impossible,
is improbable to a high degree. None of the fingerprints associated with the case
including prints found here and there on the Zodiac correspondences have been shown
to match each other. FBI documents reveal also that none of the prints could be
concatenated and classified, which may be taken to indicate that they are of poor quality
and doubtful origin.
Improvements in image-enhancement have revealed the presence of a "writer's
palm" moving from left to right across the surface of Zodiac's Exorcist Letter:
While the authorities are apparently convinced that this "writer's
palm" could have originated only from the hand that wrote the letter, two
circumstances militate against this conclusion as an absolute certainty. Perhaps most
significantly is the fact that no other palm prints of this nature were found on any of
the Zodiac correspondences from 1969 through 1971, suggesting that Zodiac understood full
well the importance of masking his prints during composition of the letters. Moreover,
further enhancements of the letter clearly indicate that the odd-sized sheet of paper had
been more-or-less loosely crumpled, then smoothed-out prior to its having been written on:
This suggests that the paper had been written on by a third party,
crumpled, discarded, and retrieved by Zodiac for use as a means of confounding the
authorities in their investigation.
In the final analysis, fingerprints cannot be relied upon as exclusionary
tools, until or unless authorities can match specific prints with other prints to ensure
that they indeed were made by Zodiac.