Will The Real Zodiac Killer Please Stand Up?

On Wednesday, the identity of the Zodiac Killer was finally revealed: It was Louis Myers, only 17 when he began the killings, who confessed from his deathbed back in 2001. In 2012, the identity of the Zodiac Killer was finally revealed: It was George Russell Tucker, a pseudonym for a then-recently-diseased 91-year-old former real estate salesman from Fairfield, California. In 2009, the identity of the Zodiac Killer was finally revealed: It was Guy Ward Hendrickson, a carpenter who brought his 7-year-old along for the ride during the killings.

It’s worth pointing out that last year, Dick Van Dyke also confessed.

Every cycle through the calendar brings with it a new media-corroborated claim that the Zodiac Killer case has been solved, and every claim is false. Critical of them all is Tom Voigt, owner and operator of ZodiacKiller.com, the expansive clearinghouse for all evidence related to the case since 1998.

Rick Paulas: How many people have claimed to know who the Zodiac was?

Tom Voigt: It happens about every week with me. At least once a week I’ll check my email and there’s somebody, somewhere in the world, that knows who the Zodiac is. It follows the same recipe. They’ll give me a few cryptic clues, but they don’t really come out and give any specifics. When I ask for some, I won’t hear from them anymore. Then maybe six months later, they’ll get back to me and claim they went to the police, and the police are very intrigued, and at that point they’ll usually give me an indication that it’s about money. They’re hoping I’ll endorse their theory and it’ll lead to a book deal. That’s when I usually don’t even respond.

Is there a specific time of year when the hoaxsters come out?

Probably the most-prominent was Deborah Perez. That was five years ago or something like that. She’d been in contact with me for several years. She was the first one I saw that really got a large amount of media coverage. That was early in the year as well. This most recent guy came forward in February. You know, maybe it’s a New Year’s Resolution. Some people want to get a job promotion, other people want to fill people in on who the Zodiac is.

Have you seen a change in news coverage about Zodiac allegations over the years?

Twenty years ago, when newspapers were still strong, these people wouldn’t get press coverage because there was actual journalism involved. Hoaxsters would have to provide proof and get the proof substantiated before it was considered news. Nowadays you have these admitted hoaxsters like Rick Dyer, this redneck going around claiming he had a Bigfoot body. He did the same thing five fucking years ago! Then late last year he said he was going to do it again, and the next thing you know he’s in The Huffington Post and CNN, and people are paying $20 to see his muppet. And it’s being covered by so-called mainstream journalists. I just think the integrity has gone downhill because of the Internet. There’s so much more competition than in the old days when you had maybe 50 big-time newspapers, and there was a lot to getting a job at the newspaper, you had to actually be trained, and have ethics. Now there’s a million news sources and people just publish anything.

What’s wrong with the most recent allegations?

This new guy, Louis Myers, it’s a worse theory than before. He was a teenager at the time the Zodiac was fully active. During one of the Zodiac crimes, he wore a mask. I don’t know what was under that mask, but I do not believe it included pimples.

By the way, it’s not a new suspect to me. The person who’s promoting the theory contacted me way back, shortly after the suspect died after allegedly confessing on his deathbed. And I said, okay, you know the Zodiac is famous for creating these cryptograms, but only one of them was solved. There’s three remaining. If your friend confessed, what do the codes mean? We can reverse engineer and see if your friend was telling the truth. And that’s when everything went sideways. The guy didn’t want to give me any details. He just thought I was going to put his name on my website and we’d all make millions of dollars. He made me an offer, like, if I join his team it’ll be really lucrative, crap like that. And I said, I get better offers in the mail every week from Ed McMahon. That’s not really a funny joke anymore, but that’s just how long ago this guy contacted me.

What pieces of evidence would someone have to provide in order for you to take them seriously?

Most people who know the case know that the Zodiac was famous for writing letters in his own handwriting. So, if someone claims they’re the Zodiac, let’s see their handwriting. And if it doesn’t match, then you have some explaining to do. Also, tell me the solutions to those cryptograms. There’s one that’s only 13 characters long and it was supposedly the Zodiac’s name. I don’t care who the Zodiac was, he’s going to remember what that code means, and if he confesses we can reverse engineer it. None of these logical things were done in this most recent case. They’re usually never done. I have not seen any handwriting from this individual. I haven’t seen any reference to what the codes mean. If you’re Randy Kenney, and you’re the one promoting this theory, even if you’re a total dimwit, you must at least ask one good question. I don’t need two or three, I’ll settle for one. Did you ask what the freakin’ codes mean, how he created the costume he used at Lake Berryessa, what he did with the remainder of the cab driver’s shirt he tore off, what he did with the weapons he used… there are so many good questions to ask, and this guy asked none.

Through the many claims of people saying they knew who the Zodiac was, how many actually made you take a closer look?

I think I have more data about possible suspects than all of the original law enforcement agencies combined. I say that because I have the original police reports from way back in the day, and then I have all the materials that I have collected since 1998. I have a form people can fill out online, anonymously if they want, if they think they know who the Zodiac is. So, there’s all the original suspects I know about, and all of the suspects since 1998. I have thousands and thousands and thousands of suspects, and I’ve only found three that were really worthy of close scrutiny. I’ve had a hand in obtaining all three of their DNA, so three out of ten thousand isn’t that many.

You know, I’ve had people turn in a suspect that was their junior high teacher, and they thought he could be the Zodiac because he’d bring in his lunch every day in a paper sack. He always used the same paper sack, so they thought he could be the Zodiac. It’s like panning for gold. Most of it’s junk, but occasionally you find a good one, and then you look at the good one really closely.

What happened with any of these good suspects?

The most recent good suspect was Richard Gaikowski, and I can’t get the police to compare his DNA to the Zodiac’s DNA. They have the Zodiac’s DNA, it’s a series of numbers. And I have Gaikowski’s DNA, which is a series of numbers. And I can’t get anybody to compare the two series of numbers. It’s very strange.

Do you think the case will ever get solved?

I think it’ll be solved. I think what’s going to happen is eventually the Department of Justice in Sacramento will take over and they’ll re-examine the letters, and they’ll obtain a full DNA profile from, perhaps, the saliva the Zodiac used when he licked the stamps on the envelopes. And they’ll put it in the national database, and they’ll get a hit, and that’s what’s going to close the case eventually. But if the Zodiac never got arrested — if he’s not in the database — the good news is that Zodiac’s codes are so famous now, puzzle solvers around the world are working on them. If just one of those three unsolved codes gets cracked, there could be a clue to his identity.

Rick Paulas once spent a full month trying to crack the 340-symbol cipher. He did not.