Questions for the Medical Examiner Message Board: General Zodiac Discussion: Questions for the Medical Examiner

By Tom Voigt (Admin) ( - on Sunday, March 16, 2003 - 10:15 pm:

(I'm posting this on behalf of Muskogee.)

As some of you know, I am a fourth-year medical student. As such, I spend
time on "rotations" in different specialties. For the next two weeks, I'll be
at the Maricopa County Medical Examiner's office, here in Phoenix. I have
worked with them before, and I regard their work highly.

If anyone would like me to ask the doctors questions with regard to possible
or accepted Zodiac victims, please let me know. While they may not know the
details of the Zodiac case, they will be able to answer general questions with
regard to the autopsies (and I can fill them in on the Zodiac details, and, of
course direct them to Tom's website for reports, etc.). It may be a stretch
to assume they'll be able to help us, but I think it's worth a try.

I am familiar with current methods of autopsy and homicide investigation, but
I'm hoping to ask some of the old-timers what has changed since the 60's/70's.
This will help me better interpret the information we have on the Zodiac
victims. Anyone else have questions that I might pass along?

By Sandy (Sandy) ( - on Wednesday, March 19, 2003 - 11:39 am:

Muskogee, Could you please let me know if blood spots 34 years old, could still show if it came from a victim? As long as we have the victims DNA? Thank you very much! Sandy

By Muskogee (Muskogee) ( - on Thursday, March 20, 2003 - 06:52 pm:

Sandy, it would depend on the medium the blood is on, the storage conditions, etc. In theory, yes. In practice, maybe. I actually think Ray might be a better candidate for this question.

Anybody else have any questions? I only have one more week of chopping and slopping before I move on the much dreaded "rural medicine" rotation.

By Nick (Nick) ( on Friday, March 21, 2003 - 12:46 am:

Muskogee, before you land in Mayberry, I'd like to know if the wound patterns at BRS, LHR, LB and SF conclusively indicate that the Zodiac was right-handed.

By Muskogee (Muskogee) ( - on Monday, March 24, 2003 - 04:16 pm:

Nick, sorry it took me a few days! I spoke with Dr. Mosley on the issue and he states that it is very difficult to know whether an attacker is right- or left-handed, except in rare instances. We specifically talked about stab/slash wounds.

For example, if ALL of the wounds are in a specific direction and on the right or left side of the body, that would INDICATE the handedness, but not prove it conclusively (ie. wounds on the right side of the body indicate a left-hander facing off with the victim...however, it could be a right-hander standing to the side of the victim instead).

In most cases the victim and the attacker are moving quite a bit, which throws all estimates off. Additionally, many stab victims are stabbed on both sides of the body. It's even difficult to figure out the size and length of the blade used, sometimes.

Gunshot wounds are often even more difficult to interpret. The exception may be the case of PS. Stine sustained a contact wound to the right temple. This strongly indicates the suspect was using his right hand. From behind the victim, it would be very difficult, if not impossible, to manuever one's left hand into a position consistent with that wound. However, it IS possible that Zodiac could have slid into the rear passenger seat before shooting, making it more likely that the left hand was used.

In conclusion, it seems very unlikely that we can know the handedness of Zodiac based on the wound patterns seen in these 4 cases. Please let me know if I did not fully answer your question!

Your question has made me wonder: Did BH ever state which hand he saw Zodiac using, either in the stabbing of CS or while holding the gun? I cannot find any information to that effect.

By Nick (Nick) ( on Tuesday, March 25, 2003 - 01:51 am:

Thanks Muskogee. That's exactly what I was asking. I'm sure the zodiac's dexterity has been discussed many times on this site. I was just hoping for a forensic confirmation. I just assumed the zodiac killer was right-handed. He is always depicted that way. The Stine murder is validation enough in my mind. I suppose it would not be illogical to inquire if any of the major zodiac suspects were known to be left-handed.

By Howard Davis (Howard) ( - on Tuesday, March 25, 2003 - 06:16 pm:

The knife was on Zs left side and gun was on the right side.The strips of line were possibly on the left in his pocket.He came towards the couple with his gun drawn in his right hand.
I don't recall if BH says he used his left hand to stab them.We should review the reports again.He probably could only see which hand Z used when he attacked C.S.

By Muskogee (Muskogee) ( - on Tuesday, March 25, 2003 - 07:21 pm:

Howard, thanks for the info! I'm guessing you're right about BH only seeing CS stabbed- it's probably difficult to watch someone stab you in the back! I re-skimmed the BH report last night and saw no mention of "handedness."

Nick, ALA was apparently fairly ambidextrous. As a personal aside, I am "left-handed," but can write almost equally illegibly with my right hand. I cut with both scissors and knives right-handed. I sew clothes left-handed, but I suture right-handed. I think lefties and people who are ambidextrous throw another monkey wrench into an already difficult assessment.

By Nick (Nick) ( on Wednesday, March 26, 2003 - 12:08 am:

If the gun was in his right hand, then he was probably right-handed. That would be the natural inclination. I realize there are exceptions, but the odds being what they are, it's a fairly safe conclusion.

By Howard Davis (Howard) ( - on Wednesday, March 26, 2003 - 11:00 am:

Sorry -reverse that.Knife on right side and the gun was on his left side.Doing a quick deal at work can be dangerous!

By Sandy (Sandy) ( - on Wednesday, March 26, 2003 - 11:32 am:

Muskogee,Thank you,the book was kept in a cool place most of that time and wrapped in a paper bag. It has been in a box at the bank for safe keeping. The cover of that book was woven like cloth. I would think that would be better than leather?

By Muskogee (Muskogee) ( - on Wednesday, March 26, 2003 - 02:27 pm:

Howard and Nick, I would be inclined to believe he's a lefty, then. I wouldn't bet a lot of money on it, but that would be where I (as a lefty) would put a knife and a gun on my belt (very scientific, I know). What I would really like to know is if BH saw either the knife or gun in Zodiac's hand.

Sandy, are you saying the blood stains are on the pages of a book?

By Muskogee (Muskogee) ( - on Wednesday, March 26, 2003 - 02:38 pm:

I've spoken with a couple of doctors at the medical examiner's (ME's) office. As far as processing homicides, from the ME's perspective, very little has changed since the '60s. The police used to do a few of the things the ME now does, and vice versa, but otherwise it was very similar.

Two minor changes are computerized reports and digital photos. Digital photos are new to this particular ME's office since I was there in 2000.

So, if anyone is interested (or really bored), I can detail an average autopsy (is there such a thing?) for you so you have an idea of how they likely evaluated our Zodiac victims.

By Howard Davis (Howard) ( - on Wednesday, March 26, 2003 - 06:32 pm:

I would think that the gun was held in the perps left hand as that is side the holster(slightly to his front)was on.He,of course, walked up to them with the gun pointing at them.
Since BH was face down and hog tied,it would be almost impossible to have known which hand was used to stab him,but since the sheath was on his right side it may be logical to assume he used his right hand.
The med reports are available to view stab wound patterns.
There is a universal club for we lefties!Trying to make us feel accepted I guess.
Can you e me?

By Nick (Nick) ( on Thursday, March 27, 2003 - 01:05 am:

Can it could be confirmed conclusively that the LB suspect's holster was on the left and sheath on the right? I just assumed it was the other way around.

By Howard Davis (Howard) ( - on Thursday, March 27, 2003 - 03:46 pm:

We are dealing with BH in the reports.He is all we have and it's an observation see saw.I am doubtful about him as a witness,but considering all that he went through,it's understandable he would possibly waver on certain points.This is what he told the police concerning which side the holster and sheath were on and which hand he held the gun with.
I have spent hours reading all the LB reports carefully comparing all of BHs statements over the years and it is very difficult to pin him down(like height,weight,etc.)except on the costume(he wasn't certain which kind of foot wear Z had on or if he wore gloves-Land did overhear BH-CS? say he wore gloves?)he wore and the basic conversation and order of events,etc.

By Sandy (Sandy) ( - on Friday, March 28, 2003 - 03:20 pm:

Muskogee, The blood is on the cover of the book none inside.

By Muskogee (Muskogee) ( - on Monday, March 31, 2003 - 03:33 pm:

Anyone want the "average autopsy" rundown? If not, I'm done with my ME rotation!

Sandy, again, it's possible someone could obtain usable DNA from that. Unfortunately, that's not what the doctors I was with were doing, so they don't know a lot more about it than I do. I would consult Ray or a forensic biologist on the subject and find out their take. All I know is from what I learned in undergrad as a biology major.

By Muskogee (Muskogee) ( - on Tuesday, May 13, 2003 - 10:34 am:

Howard, I emailed you awhile back. Is your email address on here correct?

By Howard Davis (Howard) ( - on Sunday, May 18, 2003 - 11:50 am:

It's waiting after all these years LOL

By Scott Bullock (Scott_Bullock) ( - on Sunday, May 18, 2003 - 01:05 pm:

Howard? Geez man, you'd been gone so long I's beginning to worry 'bout you! I have to admit, I'd feared the worst! [Just kidding!] Where have you been?

By Howard Davis (Howard) ( - on Wednesday, May 28, 2003 - 01:06 am:

I am back with you.Tell Tom Voigt I am here.I have always been here.I am waiting for a good debate between us.You will get tired and then leave me alone.Who will start it.I am now in control of all things.
As you can see I havn't changed!LOL Thanx for the concern!

By Muskogee (Muskogee) ( - on Wednesday, May 28, 2003 - 06:25 pm:

Howard, I emailed you again and I haven't heard back. What gives? Can you e me?

By Howard Davis (Howard) ( - on Wednesday, May 28, 2003 - 08:16 pm:

Musk'-just did...