Decades Later, Zodiac Murders Still Draw Sleuths

Scene from 'Zodiac'

hide captionThe film Zodiac, about the Bay Area murders, is being released Friday.

Paramount Pictures

The premiere Friday of David Fincher's film Zodiac is renewing interest in a series of Bay Area murders in the late 1960s. But for some people, the mystery of the Zodiac killer has been a years-long obsession — one that will persist until the case is solved.

The Zodiac killer terrorized the San Francisco area, with his murders occurring in the evening at parking lots or other quiet areas. He taunted police and local media with letters and cryptograms, boasting of his crimes. At one point, he threatened to kill children on school buses.

The Zodiac has claimed responsibility for 37 murders, though the actual confirmed number of victims is five. Four of the victims were couples parked in a car together, shot and stabbed to death. The other victim was a cab driver.

The killer has never been identified, but theories about possible suspects abound: a Manson family member, "Unabomber" Ted Kaczynski, a San Francisco businessman dubbed Mr. X and a man named Arthur Leigh Allen, who died in 1992.

A community of amateur sleuths remains fascinated with the case, poring over details and visiting crime scenes. One follower of the murders, Tom Voigt, says his Web site has led to contacts with people involved in the case. Now, even police acknowledge that Voigt's site — which has 5,000 pages and about 10,000 individual images — is the main clearinghouse for Zodiac material.

Voigt earns a living by doing computer work, but most of his free time is spent on Zodiac-related pursuits. He says he has spent $75,000 investigating the case over the last 10 years.

John Mikulenka has made a documentary about amateur Zodiac detectives, Hunting the Zodiac. It will debut Saturday at the 2007 Zodiackiller.com Task-Force Meeting in San Francisco.

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