Atlantis Online
June 24, 2024, 09:29:59 pm
Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.

Login with username, password and session length
  Home Help Arcade Gallery Links Staff List Calendar Login Register  

Can DNA identify the Zodiac Killer now that it has revealed the East Area Rapist

Pages: [1]   Go Down
Author Topic: Can DNA identify the Zodiac Killer now that it has revealed the East Area Rapist  (Read 176 times)
Keira Kensington
Superhero Member
Posts: 4705

« on: May 02, 2018, 01:30:21 pm »

Can DNA identify the Zodiac Killer now that it has revealed the East Area Rapist suspect?


By Anita Chabria and Ryan Sabalow, The Sacramento Bee
3 hrs ago

William Lloyd McDonald, formerly of Glen Burnie, is on trial in Anne Arundel Circuit Court in connection a homicide behind an Odenton bar in 2006.

Maryland appeals court overrules murder…


Workplace crush turns deadly at San Francisco…

Zodiac Killer, Zodiac Killer are posing for a picture: The Zodiac Killer was never caught. He is known to have attacked seven victims, killing five, in Benicia, Vallejo, Lake Berryessa and San Francisco. Two people survived, and the Zodiac claimed responsibility for many more deaths in letters, often signed with a symbol of a cross over a circle.© Photo illustration/Sacramento Bee/TNS The Zodiac Killer was never caught. He is known to have attacked seven victims, killing five, in Benicia, Vallejo, Lake Berryessa and San Francisco. Two people survived, and the Zodiac claimed responsibility for many more deaths in letters, often signed with a symbol of a cross over a circle. SACRAMENTO, Calif. - DNA sleuthing helped crack a decades-old cold case, leading to the arrest of a man suspected of being the East Area Rapist, also known as the Golden State Killer.

Now could the same type of detective work on genealogy websites be used to catch another of California's most infamous and elusive criminals - the Zodiac Killer?

"It is possible," said Pam Hofsass, a former San Francisco homicide detective who worked on the Zodiac case and now runs the forensic lab for the Contra Costa County Sheriff's Office. "It's totally worth looking at, and I hope with all of the news and revelations about the Golden State Killer that it will kind of be the impetus for the Zodiac."

The Zodiac Killer roamed Northern California from December 1968 through October 1969, but was never caught despite at least one close run-in with police. He is known to have attacked seven victims, killing five - in Benicia, Vallejo, Lake Berryessa and San Francisco - and leaving two survivors. However, the Zodiac claimed responsibility for many more deaths in letters, often signed with a symbol of a cross over a circle.

Like the East Area Rapist, the Zodiac Killer took on an almost mythological presence in the psyche of Californians, and the story of his killing spree has been told in multiple books and movies over the decades.

Hofsass said one of the biggest hurdles to using DNA to track the Zodiac Killer is getting a clean genetic sample. She said evidence collection rules were much looser on crime scenes during the era when the Zodiac was active because DNA forensic science didn't exist. Often, multiple people would handle evidence without gloves, adding their own genetic material to collected objects.

"Back in the day, that was the protocol," Hofsass said. "It's not a clean sample, that's the problem."

She gave an example of a blood-soaked glove she found when she first started working on the Zodiac case around 2009. It was stuffed inside an evidence envelope and seemingly forgotten.

"I opened up the coroner's materials, and there was this envelope that said, 'Black Bloody Glove,'" Hofsass said.

JonBenét Ramsey: On December 26, 1996, John Ramsey found his 6-year-old daughter JonBenét dead in the basement of their upscale home in Boulder, Colorado. His wife Patsy found a note that demanded a $118,000 ransom for JonBenét's safe return. The case became international news, thanks to photos and videos of JonBenét in child pageants. Almost immediately, authorities focused on JonBenét's immediate family – her parents and her 9-year-old brother, Burke. Nearly three years after the murder, Burke was questioned by a grand jury, but never charged. In 2008 – two years after Patsy's death – prosecutors formally cleared both parents of any involvement in their daughter's death, citing unidentified third-party DNA at the scene.Unsolved Crimes and Disappearances: JonBenét Ramsey, Natalee Holloway and Other Enduring Mysteries
Photo Gallery by People

The blood on the outside of the glove was identified as that of the Zodiac's last known victim, Paul Stine, a San Francisco cab driver shot in the head in the Presidio neighborhood in 1969, Hofsass said. But the blood and other matter collected from inside the glove was too muddled to be of use - possibly containing traces from anyone who had handled it over the years.

"We got a mixture on the inside," she said.

Tom Voight, a recreational Zodiac expert who runs the website, said he believes a clean DNA sample could be taken from saliva that might be on envelopes mailed by the Zodiac. The serial killer was a prolific communicator, sending letters, cards and mysterious cyphers to media, law enforcement and others, including former Sacramento Bee reporter Paul Avery while he worked at the San Francisco Chronicle.

"I think Zodiac was definitely licking his own stamps and envelopes," Voight said. "You just need to get the evidence, get it to the lab. Just copy what was done with the Golden State Killer."

Hofsass agreed that the envelopes could be useful.

"I think they are worth re-examining," she said. "That would go for all of the (law enforcement) agencies that received mail (and) taunting cards."

In 2002, that approach was attempted when ABC's "Primetime" asked a forensic expert from the San Francisco Police Department to compare a partial DNA sample authorities had from the surface of a stamp of a Zodiac letter with the DNA profiles of three men who were rumored suspects. That DNA analysis eliminated all three as suspects due to their significant differences with the sample. However, what was on the stamp provided only a partial genetic profile, and it wasn't strong enough to identify the killer, Voight said.

A partial DNA sample also exists from evidence recovered from the Lake Berryessa murders, said Lt. Chris Carlisle of the Napa Sheriff's Office. The Zodiac Killer attacked two college students, Bryan Hartnell and Cecelia Shepard, with a knife there in 1969. Shepard died but Hartnell survived, and Carlisle years later investigated the killing as a cold case.

Carlisle said physical evidence from that attack, including a car door and a blanket, were re-processed for DNA evidence in about 2010, but again the samples were found to be mixed and only a partial profile was obtained.

"There is always something when you get those mixtures, but separating it is the problem," Carlisle said.

But technology and techniques have improved. The East Area Rapist suspect, Joseph James DeAngelo, was identified when DNA saved from an old crime scene was associated with a distant relative on GEDmatch, an open-source genealogy site. Until recently, law enforcement limited DNA searches to databases of those with a criminal history. The use of the commercial site allowed investigators to virtually canvas a new pool of possible suspects, which included relatives of the killer.

From that hit, investigators from a federal and state task force tracked his family tree to narrow it down to men who lived in the vicinity of the crimes, eventually targeting DeAngelo in April.

Investigators then followed him to obtain two samples of "discarded" DNA from unidentified objects DeAngelo had been in contact with, according to Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones. Those samples matched crime scene DNA, leading to his arrest.

Voight said he would like to see a similar joint-agency effort around the Zodiac Killer.

"If California law enforcement authorities would simply join forces as they did with the Golden State Killer ... then this would be a pretty big year because I don't think it would take very long to catch him."

Carlisle said his agency was not actively investigating the Zodiac case, but did follow tips as they arise.

FBI spokesman Prentice Danner said the federal agency considers the case "pending inactive," meaning it's not officially investigating it, but the case is not closed either.

San Francisco Police did not immediately respond to a request for information about an investigation.

Hofsass said she was unaware of any agencies working collectively on the Zodiac case, but "I would expect to see a renewed interest in forming some kind of collaborative effort," she said.

Alex Breitler, a former Stockton Record reporter, grew up in Benicia and said he first heard about the Zodiac Killer when he was in elementary school.

"He was your local boogeyman," Breitler, 40, said. "He was the Michael Myers of my town."

Over the years, Breitler has devoured information about the Zodiac case and has become something of an expert on his crimes. He said the arrest in the East Area Rapist case instantly made him think of the man who terrorized the Bay Area so many years ago.

"More than anything, it just reinforced for me that the potential really is there to finally crack the case," he said.

Visit The Sacramento Bee (Sacramento, Calif.) at
Report Spam   Logged

Share on Facebook Share on Twitter

Superhero Member
Posts: 4309

« Reply #1 on: May 04, 2018, 01:12:46 pm »

DNA match sought to Zodiac Killer after break in other case

Associated PressMay 03, 2018

A San Francisco Police Department wanted bulletin and copies of letters sent to the San Francisco Chronicle by a man who called himself Zodiac are displayed Thursday, May 3, 2018, in San Francisco. Detectives in Northern California are trying to get a DNA profile on the Zodiac Killer to track him down using the same family-tree tracing technology investigators used in the Golden State Killer case. Vallejo police Detective Terry Poyser tells the Sacramento Bee his agency has recently submitted two envelopes that contained letters from the Zodiac Killer for DNA analysis. The Zodiac Killer stabbed or shot to death five people in Northern California in 1968 and 1969. He was dubbed the Zodiac Killer after he sent taunting letters and cryptograms to police and newspapers that included astrological symbols. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Northern California detectives still trying to identify the infamous Zodiac Killer who targeted victims in the late 1960s and taunted investigators with letters say they hope to try the same DNA tracing technology recently used to arrest a suspect in another string of cold-case serial slayings — those blamed on the Golden State Killer.

But first they have to get a better DNA profile.

Several months ago, the Vallejo Police Department sent two letters written by the Zodiac Killer to a private lab in hopes of finding his DNA on the back of the stamps or envelope flaps that may have been licked. They are expecting results soon.

"They were confident they would be able to get something off it," Vallejo police Detective Terry Poyser told the Sacramento Bee.

Poyser said he hopes a full DNA profile will be found that will enable detectives to try the same DNA sleuthing techniques that were used to arrest Joseph DeAngelo last month. Authorities suspect he committed at least 12 murders and 50 rapes in California between 1976 and 1986.

Investigators uploaded DNA collected at one of the crime scenes to an open-source genealogical website and found a partial match to a distant relative of DeAngelo's. From there, they painstakingly constructed a family tree dating back several generations before they zeroed in on DeAngelo.

Some privacy advocates say they are concerned with the process and worry about future abuses, but detectives investigating the Zodiac Killer say they hope the technique will help solve one of the most vexing cold cases in the country.

"That's a great idea," said Gary Harmor, founder and director of the Serological Research Institute, a private DNA lab. "I think we'll see more investigations use this technique."

Detectives in Southern California are testing DNA collected from a double-murder and **** to see if they can be tied to DeAngelo. Another man, Craig Coley, was recently cleared of those crimes after spending 38 years in prison in the murder of a 24-year-old college student and her 4-year-old son in 1978.

The Zodiac Killer fatally stabbed or shot to death five people in Northern California in 1968 and 1969, then sent taunting letters and cryptograms to the police and newspapers. The Vallejo police are the lead investigators because the first two victims were killed there.

The suspect was dubbed the Zodiac Killer because some of the cryptograms included astrological symbols and references.

Various pieces of evidence, including a rope used to tie a victim as well as the letters, have been tested unsuccessfully for the killer's DNA profile. Poyser said recent advances in DNA testing prompted investigators to seek a match on two of the killer's letters.

Vallejo Mayor Bob Sampayan said the samples were sent to the lab as a matter of routine. Sampayan, a former homicide detective, said police submit samples every couple of years in hopes that advances in DNA testing will finally yield a profile detectives can use.

"It was coincidental," Sampayan said of the new DNA test occurring at the same time as the breakthrough in the Golden State Killer case.

"There will come a time when we get a match," he said.

The 2007 movie "Zodiac," starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Robert Downey Jr., renewed widespread interest in a case that has always had a cult following of amateur detectives and cryptographers who sought to crack the killer's code.

One of those amateur sleuths, Tom Voigt, said the key to solving the Zodiac killings is mimicking the Golden State Killer investigation, which included forming a full-time task force dedicated to the case and exploiting publicly accessible DNA databases.

Voigt said the Zodiac case was being investigated part time by a Police Department in a city that filed for municipal bankruptcy.

"There's a formula to follow," Voigt said. "And it's to simply copy what happened to the Golden State Killer."
Report Spam   Logged
Pages: [1]   Go Up
Jump to:  

Powered by EzPortal
Bookmark this site! | Upgrade This Forum
SMF For Free - Create your own Forum
Powered by SMF | SMF © 2016, Simple Machines
Privacy Policy