Napa Zodiac/DNA Story, 5-19-01 Message Board: Zodiac Media: Napa Zodiac/DNA Story, 5-19-01

By Ed N (Ed_N) ( - on Saturday, May 19, 2001 - 11:40 pm:

From The Napa Valley Register (, Saturday, May 19, 2001, pp. 1, 4:

DNA results may reveal identity of Zodiac killer

From The Associated Press


DNA evidence may be about to reveal the identity of the notorious Zodiac killer, solving a case that has baffled police for more than three decades, a newspaper reported Friday.

The San Francisco Examiner said saliva on envelopes containing taunting letters from the killer is being matched with samples from one of the key suspects in the case, which dates back to the 1960s.

The man in question is Arthur Leigh Allen, a former Vallejo school teacher who died in 1992.

Leigh "is a primary suspect in the case, but that's all he is," said Lt. JoAnn West, a spokeswoman for the Vallejo police and also for an intercity task force set up in 1998 to continue the investigation.

West wouldn't say if DNA from other suspects was being compared with the sample from the envelope.

The Zodiac spawned a trail of terror in the San Francisco Bay area in 1968 and 1969. He claimed 37 killings, though officials lay six Bay Area slayings at his feet.

The killer helped fan the fear by writing 21 letters to the Examiner, the San Francisco Chronicle and the Vallejo Times-Herald, providing details about the crimes that only he could have known. They all started with the chilling greeting, "This is the Zodiac speaking."

Investigators long felt Allen was the killer, but at the time had no way to use the DNA evidence they collected.

By Jake (Jake) ( - on Tuesday, June 05, 2001 - 03:01 pm:

I've posted a staff-written Vallejo Times-Herald rebuttal to this AP story over at my site in the "The Latest" section. I hope the impending Big Update can act as a tiebreaker.


By Sandy (Sandy) ( - on Tuesday, June 05, 2001 - 09:32 pm:

Jake, Thanks for posting that information.I just went to your site to read the article,I am still a fan of your site, as well as Tom's.I have a copy of the Valley times Dec. 3rd 2000. It tells that Riverside sent the hair that was left at Cheri jo's crime scene,to the DNA Berkeley. They wanted to prove that Z didn't do it, and try to prove their suspect did. I wonder what is taking them so long?

By Mark (Mark) ( - on Wednesday, June 06, 2001 - 05:51 am:

Jake, I also want to thank you for story-I'm beginning to wonder myself what the big hold up is! I can readily understand that current cases get priority, DNA tests are expensive, and law enforcement only has so much manpower. However,this is the Zodiac case we're talking about, I would think at least somebody would move this along more rapidly! At least we know they have Allens DNA and that's encouraging. If they have some DNA from the envelopes maybe we can finally get a match or rule him out! That whole Riverside situation seems to be quite the fiasco, I don't even know WHAT to think!

By Ed N (Ed_N) ( - on Wednesday, June 06, 2001 - 01:08 pm:

Since there was not even a hint in 1969 that DNA could be extracted from saliva and used as a tool to catch criminals, I have to wonder how everything was stored. Almost certainly not in sterile, hermetically sealed conditions. Even if the envelopes weren't treated with ninhydrin, who's to say that, after 32 years, any of the envelopes would have viable DNA that could be extracted? For all we know, Z sealed the envelopes with a moist sponge (like the ones they used to have at the post office for stamps), not because he feared identification through DNA, but because it was a habit he picked up early on.

By Douglas Oswell (Dowland) ( - on Wednesday, June 06, 2001 - 02:20 pm:

I've seen a number of the Zodiac letters first-hand, and the way they were carried about (very, very casually, and without protective covering) leads me to think that they weren't kept in the kind of condition conducive to the preservation of any biological samples. Remember, we're talking about very small numbers of epithelial cells on the gummed areas of stamps and envelopes, the youngest of which is probably 27 years old by now. And remember that some attempt at testing was done ca. 1996 by SFPD, which means that the number of viable specimens has been reduced, probably to what's in the possession of the Vallejo authorities.

By Ed N (Ed_N) ( - on Wednesday, June 06, 2001 - 05:12 pm:

Douglas: they have only two (presumably) authenticated letters that I know of, one of the first three from 7-31-1969, and the fourth letter, from 8-1/2-1969. And that's assuming that neither have been souvenired and are currently in someone's private collection...