Right Or Left Handed?

Zodiackiller.com Message Board: General Zodiac Discussion: Right Or Left Handed?

By William Baker (Bill_Baker) (pool0023.cvx4-bradley.dialup.earthlink.net - on Monday, March 05, 2001 - 02:36 am:

There has been a lot of discussion/debate over the handedness of Z, particularly as to his writings. I made reference to that issue in a post only an hour or two ago under "Envelopes." I also wonder about his "gun hand."

The opening page to this site shows Z in his hood, with the holster on his right hip, indicating a right-handed draw. I wonder though, not recalling mention in this regard, if either Bryan Hartnell or Mike Mageau was asked specifically about which hand Z held the pistol, and, in Bryan's case, which hand held the knife he used to stab Cecilia. In a predominately right-handed world, assumptions about handedness are often inadvertantly made.

Forgive me, but I'm still not clear on whether Z sat in the back seat or the front passenger seat when he shot Stine. Or perhaps this point is still moot. If Z was in the front seat when he fired the shot, considering the gun placement and path of the projectile, it would have been awkward for him to have used his right hand. Were he in the back seat, then either hand could have been used. And if he was in the back seat initially, I don't recall any witness statements to the effect that he "wiped down" the rear passenger area, although he may have done so before the witnesses had gathered at the window.

Don Cheney didn't recall seeing Allen using a firearm with his right hand, knowing that Allen, though ambidextrous, was left-handed. At that time, most handguns were fashioned for right-handed use, with the slide lock/safety levers on the left side of the weapon to be accessible to the right thumb. And the lever on bolt-action rifles was on the right side for right-handed users. I'm curious as to whether Allen, while receiving weapons training in the Navy, shot right or left handed.

I would think that Z, going into battle, as it were, would have used his natural, God-given handedness and the one he felt the most comfortable and skilled at using. His writing, however, may have been something else altogether.

More points to ponder.


By Douglas Oswell (Dowland) (121.philadelphia08rh.16.pa.dial-access.att.net - on Monday, March 05, 2001 - 07:10 pm:

Jake posted a sketch, based on the Jensen autopsy report, showing all the points of entry on the right-hand side of the spine. That might suggest a right-handed assailant.

By William Baker (Bill_Baker) (pool0699.cvx38-bradley.dialup.earthlink.net - on Tuesday, March 06, 2001 - 05:00 pm:

Doug, I had considered including the right-side entry wounds into BLJ's back in my post above, but, as you pointed out, it only suggests right-handedness. The paths, or tracks of the slugs within her body (those that were not deflected by bone, thereby altering the initial path) would be more helpful in determining the angle(s) of penetration. A slight right-to-left angle could suggest either a right-handed shooter or that the victim was travelling in a slightly left-to-right angle away from the shooter, thus presenting more of her right back as a target.

It is interesting to note that Z's aim was substantially accurate on a horizontal plane, but the spread occurs along the vertical plane. With a target moving at an angle away from the shooter, it would be very difficult to maintain horizontal accuracy. If I were to guess, I'd say that the shots were fired from a stationary shooter, with the victim running pretty much perpendicular to the shooter. And if the bullet tracks did pass into the body at a slight right-to-left angle, I'd tend to think that Z was firing right-handed. I'd also go so far as to speculate that the shots were fired rapidly, in that, even with a weapon with very little recoil (.22), the aim of a firearm in the hands of a less experienced shooter would tend to creep up slightly with each successive shot, especially if a clear sight picture was not possible.

By the way, I screwed up on my above post when I mentioned the holster on the Z figure on this site's home page. There is a knife scabbard on his left hip, but there is no handgun holster shown on either hip. That's what I get for relying on my short-term memory, instead of checking the illustration first before mentioning the nonexistent holster.


By William Baker (Bill_Baker) (pool0262.cvx11-bradley.dialup.earthlink.net - on Sunday, March 11, 2001 - 04:39 am:

At the risk of sounding impatient, does no one have any opinion or response to what I proposed? There has been so much speculation regarding the Jensen killing and the mannner in which she was gunned down, I would think that my own conjecturing would be subject to discussion. And, what with the controversy regarding the handedness of Z and various suspects, I would think that someone out there either agrees or differs with my tentative and hypothetical conclusions.

By Jake (Jake) (spider-th043.proxy.aol.com - on Sunday, March 11, 2001 - 06:14 am:

Bill, for some reason handedness doesn't seem to inspire much conversation around here -- Mike R. posted a lengthy examination on the topic, specifically the start/finish points of the various crossed-circles closing the Z letters (it's linked under "Analysis" at my site), and people stayed away in droves.

For my part, I defer to your experience, having never fired anything more powerful than a BB gun (I wasn't very good).

The location of the sheath and holster has been bugging me, though -- a Napa report puts the knife on the front left of Z's belt, but I can't find a mention of the holster. It stands to reason that the pistol would hang on the opposite side, but I'd hate to think we were taking Graysmith's word for it. Tom, any insight?

"This is the Zodiac Speaking..."

By Classic (Classic) (spider-wg054.proxy.aol.com - on Sunday, March 11, 2001 - 04:04 pm:

To Bill and Jake: z's handedness could possibly be determined by his footprints or more specifically the position of his feet during firing. I do not know if footprints were left after shooting BLJ. Most likely z was using a two hand hold on the pistol. If his feet were paralell that would suggest an isoceles stance which would be of no help to us. However,if the left foot was forward, even if just slightly,that would mean a weaver stance and a right hand hold. Conversly, if the right foot was forward that would mean a left hand hold. Hope this helps, Classic.

By Alan Cabal (Alan) (spider-wk053.proxy.aol.com - on Sunday, March 11, 2001 - 09:39 pm:

I fire right-handed with my right foot forward.

I'm sure I'm not the only one who does this.

By Ed N (Ed_N) (spider-ntc-ta014.proxy.aol.com - on Monday, March 12, 2001 - 05:17 pm:

I still think Z was either standing still or walking slowly towards a retreating BLJ while firing. If the latter, then both feet would alternately be forward. Since there were no footprints other than slight shoeprints found in front of the Rambler, that doesn't help much.

However, to quote from BLJ's autposy report:

There are three exit wounds: first is over the left anterior chest laterally and left margin of the breast in the 4th ICS and 5" from sternum, the second is in the anterior abdominal wall, 2 below the xyphoid process and " from the midline, and third is laterally and 3&3/4" to the right of the umbilicus.

Heart: A bullet wound penetrates from right to left through both atrium.

Lungs: There are three through and through bullet wounds dorresponding
(sic) to the three bullet wounds of entry on the right posterior chest cage and one bullet wound through the left lung in line with the wound through the heart.

GI tract: ... A bullet wound penetrates the liver...

GU Tract: A bullet wound penetrate
(sic) the right kidney: the left is normal.

Remarks: The bullet wound over the posterior iliac crest penetrates the deep muscles and exits to the right of the umbilicus. One bullet is recovered in the subcutaneous tissue of the base of the anterior neck (left side) and the other bullet in the subcutaneous tissue anteriorly to the right 7th rib, which it penetrated, of the sternum. The entry wounds measure 3/16" in diameter; the exits
(sic) wounds are larger.

Immediate cause of death: Multiple bullet wounds to the chest and abdomen with hemorrhage.

The above follows after other quotes from the autopsy report from both Howard (Other Victims: Betty Lou Jensen) and myself (General Zodiac Discussion: Zodiac's Familiarity with Weapons).

But what does the above mean? Concerning Z's handedness, it certainly looks like he was firing his gun at BLJ with his right hand, as the bullets' trajectories appear to be roughly right-to-left.

By William Baker (Bill_Baker) (pool0260.cvx11-bradley.dialup.earthlink.net - on Monday, March 12, 2001 - 11:31 pm:

Ed, that info does illuminate things somewhat. Earning a "minor" in gunshot wounds in the college of homicide investigation, I couldn't help but to feel the stirrings of long-dormant fascination with the study of projectile behavior once it impacts a body. Between gunshot homicides, suicides and accidental shootings, there have been literally many hundreds of cases to study.

Forgive me for taking up space and time with my reminiscences, and my reliance on one- and two-dimensional representations of the physical findings.

Absent any autopsy findings as to actual bullet tracks within the body, the subcutaneous location of the slug in her left anterior neck could suggest that the bullet was deflected upwards after striking bone, or perhaps that the shot was fired as she was either falling or prone. The contrast of some entries/exits being straight on, some only slightly right-to-left and others more so, may suggest that she was beginning to falter and twist with each successive shot, or changing her path of flight, thereby presenting a different body angle to the shooter. She may have been on her way down when the projectile that was found in her neck was fired. The slug that passed through her left lung and heart are highly suggestive of a right-to-left angle of penetration. As a very personal aside, I was shot in the right back, just below the shoulder blade, and it passed between my ribs, through both my right and left lung, and entered my heart. The shooter was standing behind me, to my right.

At the risk of sounding pedantic, the appearance of an entry wound is extremely important in determining the angle of fire. When the slug strikes the skin at anything other than a right angle, it leaves an abraded collar at the margin of the wound, which points in the direction of the angle of penetration. The wider the collar, the greater the angle. In other words, a straight-on, ninety-degree-angle shot would leave no asymmetrical abrasion on the margins of the entry wound.

Speaking without benefit of seeing the photos of the entries, or knowledge of bullet paths, since all except the one that struck the lower back had passed between the ribs, the slug that was recovered from her neck was probably deflected by bone, considering the angle and the meager space between ribs. These types of erratic changes in behavior are very characteristic of .22 slugs. While the recovered slug should accordingly bear evidence of this impact with bone, any absence of such defect on the projectile would strongly suggest that she was either falling or already on the ground. Lead is extremely malleable, and the slightest deflection should have been imprinted on the slug.

I'm not in the same league with forensic pathologists, but at the same time I've stood alongside them during autopsies and, humbly, occasionally contributed to their expertise (and vice versa, obviously). At a range of ten feet, give or take, the more I think about it, I doubt that evidence of right- or left-handed firing would be discernable. I do think that the totality of the autopsy findings may tend to suggest whether Betty Lou was collapsing or already down when additional shots were fired.


By Michael (Michaelmc) (ip154.lancaster8.pa.pub-ip.psi.net - on Tuesday, March 13, 2001 - 04:27 am:

Bill i concur with you. .22 slugs do some stange things after impact. But without additional info I agree with you the shooter was probably right handed. he may have been firing one handed. or on the move or both. this could account for the loose pattern.


By Kevin (Kevinrm) (cx206582-c.mesa1.az.home.com - on Tuesday, March 13, 2001 - 09:18 pm:


With all this talk of bullets, I would value your opinion on whether or not you think Z was "incompetent with weapons". In other words, from what you have seen, on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the best and 1 being totally "incompetent", "if you had to place money on it", where would you put him? I ask because certain folks, I feel, are not being objective in regards to this.

By Ed N (Ed_N) (spider-ntc-ta033.proxy.aol.com - on Tuesday, March 13, 2001 - 09:44 pm:

Kevin... I am totally objective regarding this. The reason I reached the conclusions I did was based on the facts. Now, perhaps I did exaggerate a little regarding his incompetence, but on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being "couldn't hit the side of a barn at 10 paces," no, Z was not a 1. Nor was he a 10, not by any stretch of the imagination.

If we assume the average person to be a 5, that is, doesn't handle a gun often but could still shoot something maybe 4 out of 5 times at a distance of ten yards, then Z demonstrated less competence than this. Other than BLJ, none of his other victims were at a distance of more than 3 or 4 feet, and as I've shown with BLJ, he hit her with a spread of five shots. So, with his known victims and the skill he demonstrated, I'd place his competence at no more than 4. Considering that two were contact wounds, and two were in a car and couldn't escape, I'd be tempted to place Z at 3 or 3.5.

As Howard suggested, maybe he was a good marksman, but he purposely attempted to show he was incompetent. Until such time as can be proven otherwise, I stand by my conviction. I'd rate Z between a 3 and 4.

By Kevin (Kevinrm) (cx206582-c.mesa1.az.home.com - on Wednesday, March 14, 2001 - 06:46 pm:

Ed, when you say "spread" of five shots, I noticed that they were aligned vertically. I don't know, but from looking at these, I don't see anything to indicate he was that bad of a shot. The shots were generally in a close pattern. Certainly, they weren't in an area the size of a half dollar, but then again, I really doubt there are that many people around who could even do that to a live target at night.

Next, his knowledge of the ammo and his use of a variety of weapons suggest, to me anyway, that this guy is above average in his knowledge of firearms. This is diffent than actual skill.

Lastly, his shooting of someone point blank or from 3 to 4 feet doen't mean that he was inept at all. One could easily argue that he did this on purpose because it was effective ( which it was ). I doubt that his goal was to show everyone what a great shot he was.

I rank him at a 6 or 7....

By Michael (Michaelmc) (ip67.lancaster8.pa.pub-ip.psi.net - on Wednesday, March 14, 2001 - 07:00 pm:

His actual ability may have been different when he wasnt doing his thing. For instance he may have sprayed the victims at Blue springs just to see the reaction. If he was evolving as a killer he may have been trying to get a different "thrill" each time out. his ability is really in the 7 range. Keep this in mind trained police officers often have very low hit ratios in real shooting situations as opposed to what they can do on the range. It is interesting to note that Z did move to a more powerful weapon after Lake Herman perhaps he thought that the situation was slipping away. So closer range and more fire power for future crimes.


By Ed N (Ed_N) (spider-tn044.proxy.aol.com - on Wednesday, March 14, 2001 - 11:12 pm:

Michael wrote:

It is interesting to note that Z did move to a more powerful weapon after Lake Herman perhaps he thought that the situation was slipping away. So closer range and more fire power for future crimes. (italics mine)

Does this not suggest incompetence rather than superior marksmanship? It does to me. If he really was a 7 out of 10 (bear in mind my suggested average of 5 in my earlier post), why would he need closer range and more firepower?

More efficient gun, yes, but if he was that good, he'd still be picking them off at ten feet on moonless nights, but he didn't. In fact, more powerful gun, closer range, no escape. It really smacks of someone who was so unsure of himself and his weapon that he didn't want to risk leaving a survivor (which he did anyway).

And if Z was really that good, why did he use a .22 in the first crime at LHR rather than a more powerful gun as in later crimes? Maybe he really didn't know that much about guns in the first place...

By Classic (Classic) (spider-wi073.proxy.aol.com - on Sunday, March 18, 2001 - 12:16 am:

Alan: you are correct in that some people do shoot opposite of what I said. I should have prefaced my remarks with "in all likely hood" or something to that effect. There are no absolutes in anything,but the majority of shooters stand the way I described.

By Douglas Oswell (Dowland) (84.philadelphia01rh.15.pa.dial-access.att.net - on Sunday, March 18, 2001 - 09:05 am:

Ed, I don't think the point was to prove how good a marksman he was, but rather, to murder people.

By Esau (Esau) (proxy2-external.scrmnt1.ca.home.com - on Sunday, March 18, 2001 - 10:34 am:

I am right handed but I fire a rifle left handed due to poor sight in my right eye. I fire a pistol right handed. I am not ambidextrous.

By Ed N (Ed_N) (spider-ntc-tc051.proxy.aol.com - on Sunday, March 18, 2001 - 10:47 am:

Douglas: point well taken. In any case, I still think the facts show that Z wasn't that good a marksman.

By Michael (Michaelmc) (ip249.lancaster9.pa.pub-ip.psi.net - on Monday, March 19, 2001 - 01:00 pm:

Well I tried a experiment just to see what the diffuculty factor really was. For this test i did the shooting at an indoor police range that can simulate night conditions. The range is also equiped with automatic target retrevil. I used cardboard backed police torso targets to make the target more realistic I put an old shirt on the target. Useing the distances and number of shots as outlined in Graysmiths book I started the test.I used 2 different .22 pistols both made pre 1968 one with smallish adj sights and the other with better fixed sights. The ammo used was Win super-x. I fired 2 stings with each pistol, one handed and two handed. And to try to simulate "excitement" I ran around the range facility to raise my heart rate. After which I fired one more sting with each pistol. The results were interesting. The groups were really quite consistant ranging from 3 1/2 inches to 4 3/4 inches even more interesting is that 2 of the groups would have been in the 1 3/4 in range except for one flyer in the group. also in every case the groups were strung out vertically. So my conclusion is he probably was right handed and probably some what skilled. Ed makes the point that Z wasnt that good of a marksman .....he certainly was better with a .22 that a 9mm.


By Douglas Oswell (Dowland) (proxy-dover.mednet.af.mil - on Monday, March 19, 2001 - 01:27 pm:

What's the chance that the .22 was actually a long rifle?

By Esau (Esau) (proxy2-external.scrmnt1.ca.home.com - on Monday, March 19, 2001 - 06:45 pm:

Douglas, if you're talking about the weapon being a long rifle it's not very likely. If you're talking about the ammo being long rifle it's 100%. I know of no .22 semi auto pistol that fires .22 short ammo. The empty shell casings found at the scene rule out a revolver. According to Graysmith's Zodiac page 9 the weapon used was a JC Higgins model 80 or a Hi Standard model 101. Both of these weapons are semi auto pistols. Graysmith doesn't say if this information was from a ballistics test or not. The ammo was Super X copper coated .22 long rifle.

By Ed N (Ed_N) (spider-ntc-td032.proxy.aol.com - on Monday, March 19, 2001 - 07:08 pm:

Has anyone considered that maybe Z was using a sawn-off shotgun? Not being an expert with guns, I don't know if there is such a thing as a sawn-off .22 rifle, and if someone did saw one off, would it even be accurate enough to use?

By Classic (Classic) (spider-tr023.proxy.aol.com - on Tuesday, March 20, 2001 - 11:54 am:

Esau: High Standard did make semi-auto pistols that used .22 short ammo that were similar to the model 101,but if the casings found were .22 long rifle ammo that is pretty solid proof that's what he used. The J.C. Higgins Model 80 is the same as a High Standard Model 101. H.S. made guns for Sears and Roebuck to be sold under the brand name J.C. Higgins. It's sort of like what some car companys do nowadays, same exact car,but sold under a different name(Plymouth Laser& Mitsubishi Eclipse as an example). The identity of a pistol can be determined by the extractor and/or firing pin marks left on a spent casing.

Ed N: A shotgun wound is totally different(and much more devastating)than a .22 wound. A rifle barrel on a .22 could be cut down and still be accurate if it was done properly. Care must be taken not to damage the rifling at the crown. I do not think this is what z did because of the positive id the police gave concerning the model 80/101.

By Michael (Michaelmc) (ip248.lancaster9.pa.pub-ip.psi.net - on Tuesday, March 20, 2001 - 05:24 pm:

The type ie width, twist and number of grooves in the rifleing marks left on the recovered slugs is how the type of weapon was ID'ed. A sawed off rifle could and would work, I doubt that at such short range the crown or lack of on the barrel would matter much. Something else occurs to me even though Z went to a 9mm he may have wanted a larger mag capacity not more power. In those days a .22 pistol held 10rds the Browning Hi Power held 13 and just about every common automatic pistol only held 8. Does anyone know if he ever reloaded? or only used what was avalable in the gun.


By Ed N (Ed_N) (spider-ntc-tc081.proxy.aol.com - on Tuesday, March 20, 2001 - 09:20 pm:

Only ten shots were accounted for, so he probably didn't reload.

By Classic (Classic) (spider-wd042.proxy.aol.com - on Tuesday, March 20, 2001 - 10:26 pm:

Michael: The type of rifling identifies the manufacturer(High Standard) but not the particular model, that comes from the markings on the casings.

By Bryan (The_Giant) ( on Wednesday, March 21, 2001 - 01:46 pm:

in reference to your question on barrel length, the longer the barrel the better the accuracy. If cut a barrel down from a rifle then it would be less accurate for a rifle. But if he fashioned a pistol from a longer barrel then the accuracy rate would increase for a pistol. The Main reason the barrel on a rifle is long, Is for shooting at something further away (max effective range would be around two hundred yards). A pistol is mostly used for shooting something closer (max effective range 50 yards). Most Police action is within 7 to 10 yards away. The effective range of a 12 gage shotgun is also 50 yards. (That’s why police carry a shotgun instead of a 30.06) a Pistol is a point and shoot, where as a rifle is mostly aimed and shoot.

By Michael (Michaelmc) (ip153.lancaster9.pa.pub-ip.psi.net - on Friday, March 23, 2001 - 07:38 pm:

Bryan, That is not really true. The accuracy potental for a pistol is really the same as a rifle given similar ballistics. For instance hunting pistols that are chambered for rifle cartridges have similar accuracy as like chambered rifles. the real draw back to pistols is the fact it is harder to hold steady when fireing and the sights are designed for quick use at close range. A scoped pistol with a solid rest is only limited by the cartridge that it fires. A famous old Hunter many years ago killed a deer at 600yds with a .44 mag revolver .....his name Elmer Keith.


By Lapumo (Lapumo) (p99.as2.dungarvan1.eircom.net - on Monday, March 26, 2001 - 10:28 am:

Just an observation-in looking at some of the Zodiac letters,there appears to be a lot of "smudging".I do believe this was a problem for
left handed people,especially as I recall students
at school,using ink,where the left hand would rub over what they had already written.Right handers would not have the same problem.It was also the reason some people turned the page at an angle when writing.

By Bryan (The_Giant) ( on Monday, March 26, 2001 - 12:19 pm:

there are exceptions to the rules. But Z did'nt use a 44 Mag, I would love to see anyone kill a deer 600yrd with a 22. But thanks for your input.