The Zodiac Killer is one of the most infamous subjects for debates and speculations of profilers, psychologists, detectives and criminology enthusiasts. An unknown assailant, believed to be responsible for at least five murders around the San Francisco area, left a huge dark blood stain in its history. Despite his huge efforts on communicating with the police and local newspapers, no one could crack the shell of Zodiac’s identity.
The most commonly described psychological profile of the Zodiac Killer shares many similarities with other notorious serial killers, such as the BTK or the Green River Killer. They all killed and disappeared for decades. Nonetheless, BTK notified authorities about his crimes and communicated with them for a while.
Based on Zodiac’s taunting letters sent to police and newspapers, Dr. Lawrence Z. Freedman, chairman of the Institute of Social and Behavioral Pathology at the University of Chicago, concluded that the Zodiac Killer led a terror-dominated life, insisting on his power due to feeling powerless. As Freedman said, Zodiac’s behavior indicated that he was most likely insane and suicidal. His suicide, if committed, would have been a final expression of what his homicides meant to him.
Another psychological assessment has been offered by William F. Baker. On October 21, 1969, the San Francisco Examiner featured an article “Zodiac’s Graph: Impotent, Shrewd and Paranoid”, in which, based on thirty-five years of experience in handwriting analysis, Baker portrayed the Zodiac as unquestionably paranoid and schizophrenic person.
In 2001, Michael D. Kelleher and psychologist David Van Nuys offered new insights about the Zodiac in their book “This Is the Zodiac Speaking: Into the Mind of a Serial Killer”. The authors concluded that the Zodiac may have suffered from multiple personality disorder.
While making the 2007 blockbuster “Zodiac”, producers consulted with criminal profiler Sharon Pagaling-Hagan, who believed that building the Zodiac persona was more important to the killer than the murders. According to Pagaling-Hagan, by signing his last letter as “a citizen”, Zodiac essentially re-joined society, satisfied with his accomplishments.
The Zodiac Killer had not stuck to one certain pattern; he changed and perfected his modus operandi, obviously showing that killing was a sport for him. On some occasions, Zodiac displayed traits of both serial and spree killer, as well as both organized and disorganized offender, which classifies him as a mixed type of killer.
All attacks occurred on weekends, dusk or after dark, usually around holidays. It is commonly agreed that the Zodiac’s primary motive was to demonstrate superiority. He craved attention, wanted to be in charge of the investigation.
Three times during his killing spree, Zodiac went after couples, what may indicate envious feelings against them due to an inability of having a meaningful love relationship with another person.
Zodiac enjoyed ambushing his victims; he hadn’t considered the killings as being high-risk, even though all of them occurred out in the open. The killer may have fantasized about being more powerful than he actually was.
People who analyzed Zodiac’s ciphers noticed something similar to the symbol of Taurus the bull. The perpetrator may have enjoyed astrology or saw himself as being fated by the stars. If that’s true, Zodiac had knowledgeable discussions about astrological symbols and their meanings with those who were close to him.
Taunting the authorities may be the indication of an uncertainty about killer’s intelligence. Publicity gave a huge boost to Zodiac’s ego. He enjoyed the spotlight of the media, police and the whole of San Francisco. Each time he communicated with each of them, Zodiac fueled his excitement.
In conclusion, here’s what we know so far about the infamous unidentified killer:
- White male, in his late twenties to early thirties, 5′ 8 to 5′ 10, heavyset, strong and aggressive (based on witness’ description), curly brown or light reddish brown crew cut hair, horn rimmed eyeglasses.
- Has an odd gait – peculiar, lumbering or heavy walk, wears 10½ boots and size 7 gloves.
- Has a slow and measured voice, unique sound and cadence with a monotone.
- Loner, incapable of holding a steady job, but the timeline suggests that the perpetrator may have had a day job or something else that kept him occupied during the week.
- Organized, intelligent and meticulous, owns a car, which was described as a brown 1963 Chevrolet Corvair.
- Post-high school educated or possibly self-educated. Odd misspellings were considered simply as a steer off.
- May have shown narcissistic traits, craved attention, people who know him best would describe him as being arrogant, shortcoming and insecure.
- Some experts believe that the offender may be foreign, possibly British.
- Has a military background, either Naval or Merchant Marine.
- Might have been impotent, or had bad relationships with women.
- Possibly suffered from multiple personality disorder.
After more than 50 years of cold leads, do you still think we will ever know the real identity of the Zodiac Killer?