The untold truth of the Zodiac Killer

The Zodiac Killer, or simply "Zodiac," as he called himself, was one of America's most notorious criminals, responsible for a series of murders between 1968 and 1969 in California's Bay Area in Northern California. Today, the killer is best known for sending taunting letters to the police discussing details of the killings, and containing ciphers describing his motivations and even his identity. He insisted that his ciphers be printed on the front page of the San Francisco Examiner for anyone to decode. One set of lines, translated by high school teacher Donald Harden and his wife, Bettye, as described by Biography, infamously states, "I like killing people because it is so much fun," and, "It is more fun than killing wild game in the forest because man is the most dangerous animal of all." The Zodiac Killer left an emblem on each of his letters: a circle with a cross in the middle. 

To this day, over 50 years later, the case remains open, and police remain stumped. Many films, shows, and documentaries have speculated about the potential perpetrator, most notably 2007's David Fincher film Zodiac, featuring Robert Downey, Jr. and Mark Ruffalo as detectives aided by cartoonist Robert Graysmith (Jake Gyllenhaal). The sketch of the serial killer as a narrow-chinned, short-haired, bespectacled white man, is now as recognizable as his emblem. 

Ultimately, the Zodiac Killer vanished as abruptly as he started, leaving 5 official killings attributable to him, although he claimed to have murdered 37 total.

Clues left in parentage and DNA

There have been several suspects over the years, most distinctively disgraced school teacher Arthur Leigh Allen. Various circumstantial evidence supported the claim that Allen was the Zodiac killer, as stated by History: he liked to go shooting at the location of the first official victims, Lover's Lane in Benicia, California, he wore a Zodiac brand watch, and he was a pedophile who may have wanted to target the young couples commonly killed by the Zodiac Killer. However, Allen died of a heart attack in 1992. More recently, in the 2014 book The Most Dangerous Animal of All, Gary Stewart accused his estranged father, Earn Van Best, Jr., of being the killer. The evidence is also circumstantial, though, per SFGate, and includes things like both the Zodiac Killer and Van Best enjoying Gilbert and Sullivan's opera, The Mikado. 

The hidden truth behind the Zodiac Killer may finally rest in DNA evidence, thanks to another recently cracked case: in recent years, the Golden State Killer, as described in All Things Interesting, was revealed by a mixture of genetic genealogy and DNA testing to be retired police officer Joseph James DeAngelo. Forensics DNA expert Dr. Monte Miller described hope for the Zodiac Killer case in an interview with CBS affiliate KPIX, where he said that spit on the killer's letters might be used to track him down, provided the evidence has been refrigerated and remains uncontaminated.