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Crime News

Could DNA Also Lead To The Zodiac Killer’s Arrest? Police Sent His Old Letters To Lab For Testing

Police believe that DNA helped crack the case of the Golden State Killer. Now, what about the Zodiac Killer, another elusive serial killer who terrorized California? 

By Gina Tron
The Zodiac Killer Case, Explained

Now that DNA helped crack the decades-old cold case of the Golden State Killer, could it also lead to the capture of another infamous — possibly the most infamous — unsolved serial killer in California?

The arrest of Joseph James DeAngelo for some of the crimes of the Golden State Killer has certainly given hope to that question.

The Zodiac Killer terrorized Northern California in the late 1960s and early ‘70s with five brutal murders. Police initially believed the killings were random, but local newspapers and law enforcement later received coded letters from someone calling themselves the “Zodiac Killer,” who took credit for the murders.

The case garnered worldwide attention and was the subject of the 2007 movie “Zodiac” starring Robert Downey Jr. and Jake Gyllenhaal.

"It is possible [that DNA can break this case, too]," Pam Hofsass, a former San Francisco homicide detective who worked on the Zodiac case told the Sacramento Bee. "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."

It seems that police began the process long before the arrest of DeAngelo. A few months ago, detectives at the Vallejo Police Department sent two envelopes and their stamps that they believe were mailed by the Zodiac to newspapers in 1969.


Detectives in San Francisco and Napa counties are also taking another look at the evidence they obtained during the Zodiac Killer case, in hopes that there is new potential for DNA, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. Ten years ago, police have tried to extract DNA from evidence and old letters but with no success. However, technology has advanced. Now, in light of DeAngelo’s arrest, police are even more hopeful.

However, there are some challenges. DNA evidence wasn’t exactly a thing back when the Zodiac Killer was in the midst of his killing spree.

“Back in the day, when these Zodiac crimes occurred, nobody had even heard of DNA,” Napa County Sheriff’s Sgt. Pat McMahon, who worked the Zodiac case in the past, told the San Francisco Chronicle. “Things weren’t preserved with that in mind.”

Tom Voigt, who runs the website zodiackiller.com, feels that DNA could be taken from saliva that might just be on one of the Zodiac’s old letter envelopes.

"I think Zodiac was definitely licking his own stamps and envelopes," Voigt told the Sacramento Bee earlier this week. "You just need to get the evidence, get it to the lab. Just copy what was done with the Golden State Killer."

Just hours after Voigt’s comments, news broke that those letters have been sent to a DNA lab months ago.

If DNA can be extracted from one of the Zodiac’s old letter, perhaps it can be matched against DNA samples on a genealogy site, just like the police did with the Golden State Killer’s DNA.

In that case, police use DNA obtained from a crime scene, which sat in evidence storage for decades, and brought it to the free genealogy site GEDmatch. It matched with the DNA of one of DeAngelo’s relatives, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. Police then collected DNA from DeAngelo's trash to confirm the match before his arrest.

[Photos: Getty Images]