Friday, May 18, 2012

The Zodiac Killer: Suspect Fingered by Retired Coppers Dead at 92

By Nicholas Stix

The first Zodiac murder victim, Cheri-Jo-Bates, October 30, 1966

Six of the Zodiac murder victims are shown above. In other cases, it is disputed as to whether victims were murdered by the Zodiac Killer, while other victims attributed to the Zodiac Killer survived their ordeal. All of the murders reckoned to the Zodiac Killer were committed in California. Cheri Jo Bates was murdered at Riverside City College in Riverside, on October 30, 1966 (observers are divided on whether Bates was murdered by the Zodiac Killer). David Arthur Faraday, 17, and Betty Lou Jensen, 16, were murdered on December 20, 1968, while on their first date, in Vallejo, California. Darlene Ferrin, 22, was murdered on July 5, 1969, in Vallejo. Cecilia Shepard, 22, was murdered on September 27, 1969, at Lake Berryessa, where she and her friend, Bryan Hartnell, 20, were picknicking. Hartnell survived his wounds. Paul Lee Stine, 29, was murdered on October 11, 1969, in San Francisco’s Presidio Heights district. The killer had entered Stine’s taxicab under the pretext of being a fare.

Police composite sketches of the Zodiac Killer suspect, October, 1969

Lyndon Lafferty (foreground) and the other former law enforcement officials he says have cracked the Zodiac case. In the background are Bob Jernigan (left), Jerry Johnson (center) and James Dean. Lyndon Lafferty, an ex-CHP officer, and several others believe they have solved the Zodiac case, fingering a 91 year old man in Fairfield, Calif. (Brant Ward/The Chronicle) July 5, 2011

Look, I know what most people think of Zodiac theories, and there have been so many over the years that if a person walked into the Vallejo Police Department right now and said he was the Zodiac, they’d tell him to get out. But I do feel that we have a very credible case.

Retired California Highway Patrol officer Lyndon Lafferty last year

The San Francisco Chronicle’s Special Report on the Zodiac Killer

Zodiac sleuths with police skills keep case alive
By Kevin Fagan
Tuesday, July 5, 2011 4:00 a.m.
San Francisco Chronicle

Lyndon Lafferty and his cohorts are like a lot of unofficial sleuths trying to solve the 42-year-old Zodiac serial killer case - utterly convinced they've cracked it, obsessive about their research, and dismissive of any theory that doesn't match theirs.

But there's one thing Lafferty's ad-hoc gumshoes have that most of the others don't.
They have badges. Retirees' badges - but badges nonetheless.

Across the nation, at least a dozen law enforcement officials - both active and retired -have taken it upon themselves to try to solve the mystery of the killer who fatally shot or stabbed five people in the Bay Area in 1968 and 1969 and sent almost two dozen taunting letters stuffed with cryptograms to individuals and newspapers, including The Chronicle, until 1974.

They pore over the ciphers and come up with translations they say lead to everyone from an already convicted serial slayer from Kentucky to a Southern California officer's father.

Official investigators in Napa County, Vallejo and San Francisco - the Zodiac's killing zones - usually have a few choice words for the amateur tipsters who contact them each at a clip of at least a half-dozen a week. Among the more common labels: kooks, publicity-hunters and liars.

Law enforcement tips

But when it's a cop giving the clues - well, that's something different.
Lafferty and another of his sleuthing crew, for instance, used to be California Highway Patrol officers. Another member of the team was a police detective, and yet another was a naval intelligence officer.

"There are so many crackpots and theories, but we take the ones that come in from ex- or current law enforcement a little more seriously," said Pat McMahon, a detective with the sheriff's office in Napa County, where the Zodiac stabbed two people, one fatally, in 1969.

He said it's not surprising that others in law enforcement would take an interest in the Zodiac. After Jack the Ripper, it's probably the most infamous unsolved murder case in history - and police are drawn to unsolved mysteries like cats to catnip, McMahon said.

"We're just that kind of people," he said. "We're nosy, and we want to know the unknowable."

Wide gamut

Among those nosy people is Chicago police Lt. John Lewison, who contacted the FBI in the spring to say he'd cracked enough of the Zodiac's cryptic messages to discern the killer's initials. He's not revealing them publicly.

There are also former Colma Police Chief Raymond Ottoboni, who contends that the Zodiac killed at Lake Tahoe, former Los Angeles police Detective Steve Hodel, who fingers his own father as the Zodiac, and Dr. John Averitt, a police psychologist in Cookeville, Tenn., who just released an online documentary re-exploring old theories of the Zodiac's involvement in a pair of killings in Santa Barbara.

Some send thick packets to media outlets and investigators, such as retired police Detective John Cameron of Great Falls, Mont., who says the Zodiac is convicted quintuple-murderer Edward Edwards of Kentucky.

"His handwriting matches up, the clues match up, and I believe he killed about 118 people," Cameron said. Edwards died in April in Ohio, three months before he was to be executed.

No smoking gun

Napa detective McMahon said his department has looked into several of these theories, including Cameron's, "but my problem is the smoking gun is not there yet on any of these."

Lafferty's crew is apparently the biggest yet.

The 78-year-old retired CHP officer and two of his fellow sleuths - ex-Vallejo police Detective James Dean and former Navy intelligence officer Jerry Johnson - worked on the Zodiac case while on active duty. The rest of his team includes another ex-CHP officer, a minister and a local historian.

"Look, I know what most people think of Zodiac theories, and there have been so many over the years that if a person walked into the Vallejo Police Department right now and said he was the Zodiac, they'd tell him to get out," Lafferty said.
"But I do feel that we have a very credible case."

He said the Zodiac is an elderly alcoholic living in Fairfield who was motivated to kill by jealousy over his wife's affair with a prominent local man.

Man driven by rage

Lafferty dragged himself into the Zodiac zeitgeist in August 1970, nine months after the last confirmed killing, when he became suspicious of a man parking at Vallejo highway rest stops.

A CHP officer assigned to the area, he noticed that the white Chevrolet sedan and the man in it matched depictions on the Zodiac "wanted" posters. He ran the man's license plate, began checking with other investigators, and put together the dossier he said he believes names the killer.

He concluded that the killer was not the prime suspect for many investigators, Arthur Leigh Allen, a Vallejo resident who died in 1992 - and with whom Lafferty went to high school.

"Our suspect was motivated by psychotic rage," Lafferty said. "His wife was sleeping with a (prominent local man), and when local investigators narrowed in on him in the early 1970s ... their bosses told them to drop the investigation and burn their files."

New code solution

Decades later, Lafferty said, he found his suspect's 18-letter name spelled in the ciphers of Zodiac letters. Lafferty - who said he did code work in the Air Force during the Korean War - sent his solution to the FBI in 2003, where it wound up with Dan Olson, chief of the agency's Laboratory Cryptanalysis and Racketeering Records Unit.

Olson told The Chronicle the finding was not enough to solve the case, "but I can't disagree with his results."

"I could do some shuffling and come up with different names, but at the same time is it possible Mr. Lafferty was correct? Certainly," Olson said.

Lafferty said he isn't giving out the name of the killer, the local bigwig or the bosses to anyone but police investigators, "because I don't want to put my family in danger." But he does plan at the end of the summer to put out a book - as do many Zodiac sleuths - called "The Zodiac Killer Cover-Up," which uses pseudonyms. He hopes it will prompt police to take a new look at his old theory.

"I had to wait until some people, including the suspect's wife, finally died," Lafferty said. "But that has finally happened recently, and now it's time to tell the story."

Lafferty has at least one convert - the sister of one of the Zodiac's victims.

"I am sure Lyndon has the right guy," said Pam Huckaby, sister of Darlene Ferrin, who became the Zodiac's third victim on July 4, 1969, when she was shot to death in a car in Vallejo.

“It's him”

Huckaby said that for months before her death, Ferrin was being stalked by a stocky man resembling the later Zodiac police sketches - and when Lafferty contacted her in the mid-1980s about his theory, his suspect matched the stalker.

"I personally went to Fairfield to get a look at this man, and when I saw him I shook and just about fell to the ground," Huckaby said. "It's him."

San Francisco, Vallejo and Napa investigators all said they would look at Lafferty's theory when it is brought to them - just as they look at all theories.

"A lot of the time, it's crackpots, but if these guys were police, they should have no trouble bringing their idea down here for a look," said Vallejo police Sgt. Jeff Bassett. "I don't see how we could have missed this one (Lafferty's suspect), but it's certainly not out of the realm of possibility.

"The important thing, always, is to try to solve the case."

E-mail Kevin Fagan at

This article appeared on page A - 1 of the San Francisco Chronicle

* * *

Retired CHP gumshoe's Zodiac suspect is dead
By Kevin Fagan,Demian Bulwa
May 18, 2012 04:00 AM
San Francisco Chronicle

The man fingered as the Zodiac serial killer by a retired California Highway Patrol officer in a new book has died - leaving the mystery as alive as ever, and adding yet another figure to the long list of deceased men associated with the case.

The man was a 92-year-old former real estate salesman who died in Fairfield in February. The Chronicle is not naming him because law enforcement agencies do not consider him a suspect, even if former CHP Officer Lyndon Lafferty does.
The Zodiac shot or stabbed five people to death in Solano, Napa and San Francisco counties in 1968 and 1969, slayings that have never been solved. The killer taunted police and newspapers, including The Chronicle, with letters bragging about his lust for murder and challenging investigators to crack ciphers he said would reveal his name.

Lafferty, 79, wrote in his new book, "The Zodiac Killer Cover-Up: AKA the Silenced Badge," that he first encountered the man in 1970 while on patrol in Vallejo. He gave the man the pseudonym George Russell Tucker in his book, and went to check up on him at his home four months ago - spotting him in the driveway - before sending his book to press.

Lafferty wrote that he focused on "Tucker" while working with the late Solano County sheriff's Sgt. Leslie Lundblad. He wrote that the man's wife had been having an affair with a judge and that the affair had led officials to halt investigations of the man in the Zodiac killings.

The judge and the wife are long dead, Lafferty said.

Lafferty learned this week that "Tucker" is also dead - as of Feb. 2. A Solano County sheriff's investigator said he died of a heart attack.

"I can't say my suspect is absolutely the Zodiac, but I am 98 percent sure we have the right man, and he's been our suspect for 40 years," Lafferty said. He researched his book with seven fellow sleuths, including other law enforcement officials who investigated the case at its height.

The man he named is in the Napa County sheriff's database of people of interest in the case, but was not considered a serious enough candidate to list as a suspect, said Napa police Detective Todd Schulman, who is on a cold case task force in the county.

"We get two or three tips a week," he said.

Solano County and San Francisco investigators also said the man is not a suspect.

In the Fairfield neighborhood where the now-deceased man's tidy blue house sits empty, residents said they couldn't imagine their affable neighbor as a killer.

Nora Del Ross, who lives across the street, said the man moved in the same week she did about 40 years ago. She said he was kind to her children and brought gifts to newcomers.

"No, there's no way he would have been the Zodiac killer - not the way I knew him," she said. "I'm blown away. It's utterly ridiculous."

"He never seemed like a psycho killer or anything like that," said Ana Braselton, 25, who moved in next door to the man two years ago. "He was a good man, at least from the outside."

"Tucker" joins the pantheon of people named in the case over the years by amateur sleuths. New names still pop up every week on Internet forums, ranging from people's uncles and fathers to some whom authorities have actually investigated.
Foremost among them in terms of police interest is Arthur Leigh Allen, a convicted child molester from Vallejo who died in 1992 at age 58. He was named as the Zodiac in former Chronicle cartoonist Robert Graysmith's 2002 book, "Zodiac Unmasked."

Others looked into by police were a carpenter from Orange County, a convicted killer in Ohio and a former Martinez newspaper editor. All are dead, and authorities never named any as suspects.

Kevin Fagan and Demian Bulwa are San Francisco Chronicle staff writers.,

[Thanks to reader-researcher “W” for sending me this article.]

* * *

According to the Zodiac Killer Facts forum, “George Russell Tucker’s” real name was William Grant, who spent his last 40 years living in Fairfield, in California’s Solano County. I came up with hits for a “William T. Grant” and a “William G. Grant” the same age in Fairfield. Grant’s middle name would have had six letters, for a total of 18 (Thomas? George?).

However, the members of the Forum pooh-pooh Lafferty’s theory, and maintain that the case remains unsolved.


Anonymous said...

His name was William Joseph Grant. He was married to Marian M Grant who died in 2007. He was a radio operator in the Airforce in WWII and was from Middlesex, MA originally. He was in the 529th squadron off the 380th Bomb Squadron. When he died he was living at at 2211 Cunningham, Fairfield (now for sale - built in '77 so he couldn't have lived there before '77) where he lived with a Nadia Z Grant (relative? new wife?) who is still in Fairfield at Dover Apts Dover Ave. Before living on Cunningham he lived on Cordelia Rd in the 60's and 70s. Lafferty has done some very good research - I really think this must be the guy!

Anonymous said...

His name was William Joseph Grant and when he died he was living at 2211 Cunningham, Fairfield (house built in '77 therefore that is the earliest he could've lived there)where he is shown to have lived with a "Nadia Z Grant" who still lives in Fairfield on Dover Ave/Dover apts. During the 60's /70's prior to that he lived on Cordelia Rd in a house surrounded by pine trees ("peek through the pines" was one of his cryptic clues). He was married to Marion M. Grant who died in '07. He was from Middlesex, MA and joined the Airforce in '42. Was a radio operator (thus knew codes) in the 259th squadron of the 380th bomb group. (The ZK was known to wear airforce "wing walker" shoes according to footprints found at the scene of his crimes). The famous Judge whom Lafferty referred to who was having an affair w/ the ZK's wife was Raymond J Sherwin who was also an ex-president of the Sierra Club and an international Sierra Club award is named after him and given out every year. Why is this bit of trivia important?: ZK cryptically mentioned "Sierra Club" on one of his postcards to the media. No one could ever figure that out. It all makes sense now....ZK's wife, Marion, was a legal secy and worked w/Sherwin. They met in '64. Lafferty and his group, IMHO, are really onto something big w/ their research. I hope they reopen the case and look into this guy seriously. Sadly he's dead now so he can't be brought to justice.

Anonymous said...

The expert in this case is Harvey Hines who did extensive research in the case and found Larry Cane the half English half Jewish man from San Francisco to be the Zodiac. He also did military code work in the Navy. He was a real estate salesman. Everywhere he went a body turned up when he went to Riverside on real estate business a murder occurred. When he took off to go to Vegas in that 3 year quiet period a murder occurred. When he got a job in Tahoe a nurse he followed from San Francisco turned up dead. The confirming witness was Hanna the Nevada patrolman who saw a car weaving out in the desert he recognized Cane because of his weird eyebrows with a passenger with a cap over her head that was perfectly still this was the one he murdered and was going to a mine shaft to dispose of the body. So if Grant was in all
those places Vegas Riverside Tahoe which he wasn't he stayed in the Northern California area he couldn't be the zodiac. It doesn't mean he wasn't a killer but not the Zodiac.

Dave O said...

FBI cryptanalysis Olson says, "I could do some shuffling and come up with different names, but at the same time is it possible Mr. Lafferty was correct? Certainly."

I would amend this by saying it's possible, but not likely, because his solution allows many alternate solution. This means his guess is no better than any other guess. So, yes, he could be correct, but so could all the other guesses.

Here's a full analysis of some of Lafferty's code work:

Anonymous said...

I lived next door to William Grant for many years. I was a teenager at the time, and remember that he was not friendly or nice as a neighbor. He was a bully and threatened to shoot my father on a few occasions when they didn't agree on the fence that went between our properties. I have a friend that lived behind him and she said that he threatened to get his gun on occasion as well. I can remember him outside working in the yard and only seeing his wife as she came home or left in her car. They were not social and I never saw them talking to any other neighbors. This time period would have been 1977 to 1997 that my parents owned and lived in the house. The killings had stopped as far as we know, and I wonder why they had if he was still alive until recently. I hope it is not him, it is very unsettling to think that we lived next door to a serial killer.


This new crime suspense thriller novel advances fresh new heretofore un-investigated plausible LEADS(not far-fetched theories or outlandish suspects)in this case, check it out:

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

Hasn't anyone noticed that Robert Redford matches all the composite drawings for Zodiac, that he is the same height as the Zodiac is and likely shoe size. Check it out.