Thursday, March 17, 2011

Q&A with Thomas Amo - The Zodiac Killer

The wonderful author of An apple for Zoe, Thomas Amo, has agreed to do another great Q&A with me, this time about the unsolved case of the Zodiac Killer... trust me, this could give you chills.

The Killer has never been caught, so lock your doors friends.

There might be a follow up on this one as Thomas has lots of info about him... please ask questions and tell us what you know about it?

Tell me a bit more about the Zodiac Killer?

One of the most famous unsolved cases in American Criminal History. This case ranks with, Lizzie Borden, Jack The Ripper and Black Dahlia.

The Zodiac was like Jack The Ripper and BTK because he openly communicated with police. What started out as what appeared to be attacks on lovers lanes, turned into full scale terror when he talked about killing a school bus full of children. 7 murders are positively attributed to him, but he claimed to kill over 30. Zodiac proved that serial killers weren't these slobbering maniacal monsters, like a Charles Manson. They were calculating and intelligent.

How long was his killing spree?

Known killings began December 1968 last known official victim was October 1969, less than a year. Although a murder in southern California in 1966 has been long considered what may have been his first, but there is no solid proof, only circumstances that are similar to later killings. His letters to the police do go as far 1978, however those later letters are thought to be forgeries or hoaxes.

Was he really a male?

We can say, yes to that answer as he was witnessed by two survivors of his attacks. Both survivors were able to give very accurate details about his height, body build, voice.

How sure are we that he acted alone?

 I would say in full confidence Zodiac did work alone. These are the types of murders where I don't believe a second killer or an accomplice would have been able to stay loyal. Once the pressure was on by the police the accomplice would have most likely turned himself in, therefore tipping police off to the real identity of the killer. Even the closest of killers who murder as a team will turn against their partner in order to save themselves.

Zodiac killings are very similar to BTK killings. They are motivated by ego and the power to scare. Keep communities terrified. The difference about Zodiac's killings, they weren't sexually motivated. He never makes any attempt to do anything with the victims other than kill them.

First victims: Betty Lou Jensen and David Faraday: Teens out on a first date. Park on Lake Herman Road in Benicia,CA. Zodiac parks behind them and fires into the car from the drivers side, which causes the two teens to try to escape from the passenger side. Instantly he kills the boy, reducing the threat of a fight and allows Betty Lou to run.  However she never has a chance, because he has a sight on his gun that can pinpoint his target. He shoots her no less than 5 times in the back.

Seven months later: Darlene Ferrin and Mike Mageau 4th of July 1969 park alone when again Zodiac parks behind them walks up to the passenger side this time and shoot the boy first then the girl. He goes back to his car, perhaps to reload, returns shoots the boy some more,  rounds the car to the driver’s side to the girl and shoots her several more times. Quietly walks away and drives off never being seen by anyone, except the boy who amazingly survives after being shot in the face, knee, and body. After the attack, the Zodiac goes to a payphone and calls the police and tells them where they can find the two victims and relates he's also the killer of the two kids at Christmas. (BTK would do this same thing with victim Nancy Fox) about 5 years later.

September 1969, Brian Hartnell and Cecilia Ann Shepard take an afternoon at Lake Berryessa,CA where alone by the water a man approaches them wearing a black hood in the shape of a box
and a black cover of his torso with the Zodiac cross symbol emblazoned across it. He pulls a gun and this time takes his time. He forces the girl to tie up the boy and then Zodiac ties up the girl. They then have a long conversation according to Robert Graysmith author of Zodiac. Zodiac relates to the couple he needs their car to go to Mexico. He escaped prison from Montana. (Interesting side note  Unabomber Ted Kazinsky was considered a Zodiac suspect and planned his bombings from a shack in Montana). Brian Hartnell relates the man was calm and in control the entire time he had them tied up and talked with them. After the long conversation Zodiac said plainly, I'm going to have to stab you now. Hartnell asked to be stabbed first because he couldn't bear to see Cecilia stabbed. Zodiac agreed and stabbed him and then the girl. He then quietly walked away. Later police got a call telling them of the killings at Lake Berryessa, only Hartnell had survived. On the door of Hartnell's car was a note that gave the dates of the previous two attacks with the date of the current attack and the addition of saying "by knife” This time he changed his attack from just shooting to stabbing. This is curious because, to murder with a gun, it's not personal. Not to say that it doesn't affect you, but to kill with a knife...that is very personal, not only are you involved in the killing but you feel the knife stabbing. This seems to be something he needed to experience. Shooting wasn't enough; he needed to feel the terror all the way.

One month later October 1969, he shoots cab driver Paul Stine in San Francisco. Again he walks away without any worry of being caught. He is seen by a little girl from a house across the street of the attack but she never sees his face clearly. He tears off a piece of Paul Stine's shirt that he cuts into swatches to include in his communications with police as proof he is the killer. BTK did this with the driver’s license of a victim when he contacted KAKE TV all those years later to prove it really was BTK.

Zodiac sent coded ciphers to newspapers that purported to reveal who he was. FBI, CIA, NAVY were unable to crack these codes. Ironically it was a high school teacher and his wife who managed to break the first Zodiac cipher. It didn't give his name but it gave a small insight to his ego and his showing off of his brilliant mind. How his ego must have increased when he learned FBI, CIA and Navy were unable to break his codes.

Summation: All in all, The Zodiac seemed outside of wanting to prove his was smarter than anyone and couldn't be caught, displayed some very telling signs. In all the attacks but the last one he focuses his attack on the girls. He quickly disarms the threat of the males but his overkill frenzy is focused on the women. This sounds like revenge for rejection. Rejection most likely from what he feels all women. He's not a homosexual, he's an alpha male, strong sex drive and as I said these killings weren't sexually motivated, by that I mean there was no rape, he seems to want to kill the kind of women he feels he can't have, or might have been rejected by in past attempts to date. I think he saw the kind of women he killed as women he wished would be his girlfriend, someone he would have wanted to have a relationship with, but maybe girls of this type may have made fun of him, growing up, he may have been an overweight kid in school and was awkward with girls. Most likely if this is the case then I would say there was ONE GIRL in particular that made him feel this way. So his focus goes from blowing off immature high school behaviour to taking it so personally he feels he has to make her pay for what she did. So if indeed the girl killed in 1966 was the catalyst of this...then it becomes his mission to keep killing her over and over or girls he thinks are like her. Also the letter writing is to prove to her, he's not dumb, he's not just some fat ugly kid...he's so smart even the FBI, CIA and Navy can't break his codes... And so Zodiac slips off into the darkness as quietly as he emerged into the lives of the bay area of 1968, keeping central California terrified over the next ten years. Never to be caught.

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