Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Zodiac Killer

The 1978 Letter

On April 24, 1978, a letter to the San Francisco Chronicle was mailed from either Santa Clara or San Mateo County by someone very familiar with the Zodiac case and literature.  Although this letter was initially thought to be genuine, and though some continue to believe that it was in fact the killer's final message to the citizens of the Bay Area, the modern consensus among law enforcement agents and most researchers is that the letter was a counterfeit.

The handwriting on the envelope was recognized by a copyperson at the newspaper, and the letter made its way almost immediately to journalist Duffy Jennings.  Jennings had taken over the Zodiac beat from Paul Avery, who was now at the San Francisco Examiner.  After immediately preserving his scoop with photographs of both the letter and its envelope, Jennings phoned Inspector David Toschi, the only detective working San Francisco's end of the Zodiac case.  Toschi was out serving subpoenas, so Jennings hand-delivered the originals to the Hall of Justice where they were routed instead to Deputy Chief of Police Clem DeAmicis.  The letter read:

Dear Editor
This is the Zodiac speaking I am back with you.  Tell herb caen I am here, I have always been here.  That city pig toschi is good but I am bu [crossed out] smarter and better he will get tired then leave me alone.  I am waiting for a good movie about me.  Who will play me.  I am now in control of all things.
yours truly: 
[crossed circle] – guess
SFPD - 0 

When Toschi arrived back at headquarters, he was summoned directly to DeAmicis' office where the two men conferred and Toschi was granted custody of the letter.  Sherwood Morrill, the former state Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation handwriting expert that had authenticated most of the Zodiac letters for Toschi and the SFPD, had retired in late 1973, and Toschi's first move was to call John Shimoda of the US Postal Service crime lab to confirm the Zodiac's authorship.  It is unclear why Toschi called Shimoda rather than the current chief of the state's questioned documents section, Robert Prouty.  In any case, Shimoda confirmed it as the Zodiac's handiwork, and Toschi delivered the letter to a fingerprint expert at the SFPD crime lab, who found no trace of prints or any other useful evidence on the single page or its envelope.


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