, 7-4-02 Message Board: General Zodiac Discussion: 2002 Task-Force Meeting:, 7-4-02

By Ryan Olesin (Ryan) ( - on Friday, July 05, 2002 - 09:09 am:

The cult of Zodiac
By Joshua Wolfson
Staff writer

VALLEJO - In many ways, it was like your typical Fourth of July get together. Dozens of people from all walks of life gathered at a park to soak up the sun, take pictures and trade stories.

This group, however, didn't have fireworks or hot dogs on their minds. Instead, they spent Independence Day discussing, debating and analyzing one of the most notorious serial killers in modern American history at the scene of one of his grizzly crimes.

Exactly 33 years to the day after the Zodiac Killer murdered a woman at Blue Rock Springs Park on the outskirts of Vallejo, 50 amateur detectives from all over the country, along with family members and curious locals, met hoping to shed new light on the still unsolved case.

"I think it is like America's Most Wanted -- somebody out there knows the truth," says Kip Martin, 48, who drove from Sacramento to participate in the meeting. "There are so many good suspects that it is even more confusing."

The Zodiac Killer became infamous for a series of brutal murders in California during the late 1960s but was never identified by law enforcement officials. For this reason, along with the cryptic, coded letters he sent to newspapers following a slaying, the Zodiac Killer has remained an irresistible phenomenon to some.

"There are no real super heroes, but there is a real super villain," says Martin.

The meeting attracted few casual observers. Instead, the participants discussed the case with the kind of seriousness and verve usually reserved for a political or religious event.

"I think it is the biggest murder mystery ever," says Victor Cantu, who drove four hours from Chico to attend the event.

"He was so smart," Cantu continues. "Some of these letters were in codes that the NSA and the CIA couldn't figure out."

Others' interest in the Zodiac stem from the desire to put him away. For instance, several participants noted the arrogant and boastful letters Zodiac would write to taunt and berate the police for not catching him. And since the police were unable to bring him to justice, it is now their job to take the Zodiac down.

"You just want to solve it and put him away," says Clark Kent.

Although the park was full of hundreds of people celebrating the Fourth with barbecues and baseball, some said the spot where 22-year-old Darlene Ferrin was murdered gave them the creeps.

"I get chills walking here, even 33 years later," says Vallejo native Kevin Birdsall, who was a boy at the time of the killings.

Despite his fears, Birdsall once went so far as to visit the workplace of Vallejoan Arthur Leigh Allen,the man considered by many to be the likeliest Zodiac suspect.

"He made my hair stand up on my neck," Birdsall recalls of his visit in the late 1980s to a hardware store where Allen, who died in 1992, worked. "He was a real menacing figure."

For Pacheco resident Rick Gilmore, the park brought back feelings of sadness rather than fear. A cousin of Ferrin's, he had not visited the park since her killing.

"It about choked me up a couple of times," he says of the visit.

Gilmore says he appreciates the attention the meeting has brought to the Zodiac case and doesn't consider the interest to be morbid or misplaced.

"It's nice to know people haven't forgotten," he says.

Thursday's meeting was the brainchild of Tom Viogt, creator and webmaster of, a Web site that has become the unofficial epicenter of all things Zodiac. The site, which Viogt says was visited more than 850,000 times in May, offers detailed information on Zodiac victims, suspects and the cryptic code the killer used in letters to the media.

Born in Southern California, Viogt first became interested in the Zodiac Killer through his father, who was a newsman.

"As I got older, I thought 'what is happening with this [case],'" Viogt recalls. "I started reading and got hooked."

Through a message board on Viogt's Web site, which went online in 1998, a community of people interested in the Zodiac murders sprung up. In fact, many participants used the meeting as an opportunity to visit in person with fellow enthusiasts they met through message board posts and email exchanges.

For Kendra Levitin, a 25-year-old banker and student from Santa Rosa, the meeting allowed her to discuss the Zodiac case with people as knowledgeable as she is.

"I find it difficult to talk with friends and family. They don't know the details of the case," she says.

Standing next to her, Roger Redding, who flew to the event from Texas, speaks in agreement.

"It is sort of like a secret society or something," he says. "We all know the same things."

By Ryan Olesin (Ryan) ( - on Friday, July 05, 2002 - 09:23 am:

I cut and pasted, I did not make the spelling errors such as "Viogt".

By Tom Voigt (Tom_Voigt) ( - on Friday, July 05, 2002 - 05:05 pm:

Thanks, Ryan. It's nice to see so many familiar names getting recognition.

(By the way, there were closer to 100 participants involved in the event.)

By Ryan Olesin (Ryan) ( - on Friday, July 05, 2002 - 09:01 pm:

Here's the actual link. There is a small picture of the meeting in the article.

By Alan Cabal (Alan_Cabal) ( on Sunday, July 07, 2002 - 06:09 pm:

It's astounding that the article made it all the way to print with the word "grisly" misspelled as if Z were some sort of a bear. America just keeps getting dumber and fatter.

By Douglas Oswell (Dowland) ( - on Sunday, July 07, 2002 - 06:38 pm:

Someone must have read this. The spelling is now correct.

By Ed N (Ed_N) ( - on Sunday, July 07, 2002 - 11:34 pm:

Alan: you do know that the system tends toward mediocrity?

By Alan Cabal (Alan_Cabal) ( on Monday, July 08, 2002 - 06:43 pm:

Oh, absolutely. It's all about entropy, even Jefferson knew that way back in the Stone Age. Mediocrity and obesity have replaced diligence and thrift here in the New World Order. The Vallejo PD circa 1969 is the role model for the Department of Homeland Security, for which we should all be grateful. Don't crush that dwarf, pass me the pliers...