Zodiac Copycat Killer Eddie Seda Left A Horrifying Mark Of His Own

For nearly three years in the early 1990s, New York City was gripped in panic over a serial killer stalking his victims, seemingly at random in the pre-dawn hours of the morning. What was worse, the killer claimed to be the infamous Zodiac Killer who had terrorized Northern California two decades earlier, according to The New York Times. In 1996, the city's residents would discover the truth: Heriberto "Eddie" Seda was the copycat killer responsible for eight attacks that left three people dead, per The Buffalo News.

Seda wasn't the first person to emulate an earlier serial killer. There have been many over the years, and some have even been inspired by films such as "Scream" and "Natural Born Killers," according to How Stuff Works. Seda, like the original Zodiac Killer, sent cryptic messages to the police and newspapers and left notes at several crime scenes that incorporated a strange symbol — modified from the West Coast killer's version — per The New York Times.

Copying the Infamous Zodiac Killer

Between 1968 and 1969, a man calling himself the Zodiac Killer shot or stabbed to death at least five victims and attempted to kill at least two others in Northern California, according to NBC News. The hunt for the Zodiac Killer –who has never been caught — was huge news for years during and after his spree and directly inspired Eddie Seda, who learned about the original serial killer on a PBS special, according to New York Magazine. "This guy terrorized a whole city and never got caught," Seda told the magazine in a 2004 interview, "I could be famous. I could do that."

Like the original Zodiac Killer, Seda used cryptic symbols and coded messages, and shot or stabbed his victims, per New York Magazine. Unlike the older killer, Seda went further in his use of astrological signs. Seda stated in his first letter to the police in 1989 — months before his killing spree began — that he planned to kill one victim for each of the 12 zodiac signs, according to The New York Times. Nearly all the victims had different birth signs and one victim who survived recalled a stranger asking him about his birthday, per the New York Times.

Obsessed with the Bible and the Green Berets

In 1990, Eddie Seda was an unemployed 23-year-old living with his mother and half-sister in an apartment in East New York, a neighborhood in Brooklyn, according to The New York Times. Seda always wanted to be a Green Beret, the U.S. Army's special operations force, and studied books on military tactics and ammunition, but failed the army entrance exam, per New York Magazine. Seda didn't drink, smoke, or do drugs, according to New York Magazine. But, he was obsessed with the Bible, magic, and building his own pistols that he would use in his murderous spree, according to "Sleep My Little Dead: The True Story of the Zodiac Killer" by Kieran Crowley.

Between March 1990 and October 1993, Seda terrorized New Yorkers and become the subject of one of the city's largest manhunts. His third victim, a 78-year-old man from Queens, who Seda shot in the back in May 1990, was the first to die, per The New York Times. In August 1992, Seda killed another victim by stabbing her more than 100 times, per New York Magazine.

Eddie Seda's Use of a Strange Symbol

The original Zodiac Killer's letters and coded messages to the media featured a symbol with a cross and circle that resembled a gun's crosshairs, per Wired. While a California couple cracked one cypher, or code in August 1969, a final code the killer sent in November 1969 wasn't deciphered until 2020, according to Wired.

Eddie Seda often incorporated a very similar-looking symbol, but his more closely resembled an upside-down cross overlaying a circle with the number 7 appearing at the top and sides, per The New York Times. Its meaning has never been explained. Also similar to the Zodiac Killer, Seda sent several coded messages to the media. New York Post reporter and true-crime author Kieran Crowley and his father-in-law, Alan Nemser, cracked Seda's mysterious code in 1994, according to the Long Island Herald. The deciphered message included the haunting words: "Be ready for more."

How Eddie Seda Got Caught

In another episode reminiscent of the original Zodiac Killer case, the New York Police nearly caught Eddie Seda in 1994. The police arrested Seda on an illegal handgun charge but prosecutors dropped the case before his fingerprints came back from the lab, according to The New York Times. In the West Coast case, the San Francisco police didn't stop a man near the scene of a murder in October 1969, because they believed the suspect they were looking for was Black. The Zodiac Killer later claimed he committed the murder and gloated that he was able to slip through the police dragnet, according to History.

In June 1996, Seda shot his half-sister after an argument, then barricaded himself in the family's apartment and began shooting it out with the police before giving himself up, per The New York Times. Detective Joseph Herbert cracked the case when he noticed Seda's handwriting matched that of the New York Zodiac Killer and that Seda included the strange symbol with the three 7s in his writing. Later, a fingerprint found on one of the Zodiac notes came back as a match with Seda, who then confessed to the killing spree.

Where is Eddie Seda Now?

In 1998, in two different trials, one in Queens and the other in Brooklyn, juries found Eddie Seda guilty of three counts of murder and nine counts of attempted murder and he was sentenced to a total of 235 years in prison, per Oxygen. Seda's first possible parole date isn't until December 2231, according to the New York State Incarcerated Lookup website.

For years, Eddie Seda's home was the infamous Attica Prison in Wyoming County, New York, made famous by the 1971 riot that's considered the deadliest in U.S. history. While there, he married a fellow inmate, Synthia-China Blast, a transgender woman, according to New York Magazine, and spent his time reading the Bible, making origami, and watching hunting shows on TV. Seda is currently incarcerated in the Clinton Correctional Facility, a maximum-security prison in Clinton County, New York, according to the New York State Incarcerated Lookup website. In an interview with New York Magazine, Blast said that Seda doesn't like people calling him a "copycat."