The 13th Sign

July 15, 2009

By Tom Voigt
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PORTLAND, Ore. -- Forty years ago, the Zodiac killer was plotting his next move. Fresh off his second attack in the Vallejo area -- a July 5th double shooting that left one dead -- the killer began preparing his onslaught of letters and codes to be sent to the local Bay Area newspapers. Four decades have passed. While the police did their job the best they could, attempting to gather evidence that would prove the Zodiac's identity, certain private citizens have since taken the low road, a road that requires no evidence, leading -- they hope -- to a pot of gold.


For what could be considered rather obvious reasons, I know a thing or two about astrology and the various signs of the zodiac. For example, I'm aware there are 12 zodiac signs in all, each represented by a unique symbol. Me, I'm a typical Capricorn and my zodiac symbol is a "seagoat." The other zodiac signs are Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Aquarius and Pisces.

The case of the self-named "Zodiac" killer might be far removed from the realm of astrology, but it really depends on whom you ask. Did the killer follow the stars, or did he take the name "Zodiac" just for kicks? Opinions vary. However, I believe recent events have definitively linked the killer to astrology in a very unlikely way. Thanks to those recent events, we now have a 13th sign of the zodiac: Moneycorn.


As Jeff Foxworthy might say, "You know you're a Moneycorn when you hold a news conference to announce that your deceased stepfather was the Zodiac killer."

Data on this new zodiac sign is still developing. Unlike the other 12 signs, whether you are a Moneycorn does not depend on when you were born. Rather, it depends on when your scruples died. However, like the other zodiac signs, Moneycorns have their own symbol: A dollar sign.


Over the past year, the public has been subjected to Attack of the Killer Stepdads. Two unrelated Californians, whom I'll refer to as "Jethro" and "Sybil" (if for no other reason than to stifle their craving for notoriety), have followed a hauntingly similar path to what they obviously hoped would be fame and fortune. Here is the recipe they used:

1) Contact news media
2) Accuse dead stepfather of being the Zodiac killer
3) Sit back and wait for the money truck to roll in

I've watched my share of infomercials, but that has got to be the most unique three-step plan to riches that I've ever seen. We owe it to such creative minds to take a closer look at the geniuses responsible:


Meet Jethro. He used to be a cell-phone salesman, but barely kept his family fed. Then one day he was watching YouTube, when up from his mind sprang a bungling ruse. Theory, that is. Zodiac killer. Big bucks.

Unlike an episode of the Beverly Hillbillies, Jethro's whacky "my stepdad was the Zodiac" storyline didn't end after 30 minutes. In fact, there has now been more than a decade of his zaniness. Like a TV series, when ratings lag, a new character is added to the mix to renew interest from viewers. In Jethro's case, the new character was Kris Pickel, a reporter from Sacramento's CBS13 TV news.

Like Ellie Mae before her, Pickel tends to get overly fascinated by shiny things, to the point of featuring them in a series of TV "news" segments. And like Ellie Mae, Pickel doesn't seem to ever learn that all that glitters isn't gold. Both painful and hilarious to watch, Pickel's stories featuring Jethro are guaranteed to cause the same symptoms as drinking from a jug of Granny's moonshine. NOTE: You may want to drink from the jug PRIOR to watching the Pickel/Jethro segments. Trust me.

Vocal supporters of Jethro's theory have included a tree doctor and a woman who almost nearly graduated from an online "college." However, she and Jethro recently had a falling-out that stemmed from the death of Michael Jackson. You think I'm kidding, but I am not.

Is it possible that Jethro's stepfather really was the Zodiac? Sure, I guess, so long as you aren't familiar with the facts of the case and are more than willing to ignore contradictions, while making leaps of logic that would make Evil Knievel proud. Realistically, Buddy Epson could probably make for a more likely candidate to be the Zodiac than Jethro's stepfather.

Conclusion: As tools go, Jethro is a Swiss Army knife.


Chances are you've heard of Sybil. She's the minivan mom who made big news last April by holding a news conference to accuse her stepfather of being the Zodiac killer.

I learned of Sybil about 18 months ago when she began contacting me, mostly through e-mail and voicemail. Sybil's Zodiac stories were obviously works of pure fantasy. I'll give her credit, though; she would change components of her stories when notified by yours truly that she had gotten key facts wrong. Her supporter (is it plural yet?) would probably argue that such changes are a sign she wants to be accurate. Ha! Ok, I'll give her that much -- Sybil doesn't want to make mistakes when "recollecting" events she actually had no involvement in. Now let us fast forward a bit.

As news conferences go, it was a trainwreck. Held on the sidewalk outside the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper in a very (cough) "gritty" section of town, the reporters in attendance probably couldn't help but think about how they were standing in used wine. To prove her claims were true blue, Sybil's handler showed the bored onlookers a pair of glasses that allegedly belonged to a Zodiac victim. As the story goes, Zodiac killed the victim and wore the glasses away as some kind of psycho/sicko gesture. The fact the glasses displayed at the press conference were slightly different than the glasses worn by the victim was apparently oblivious to Team Sybil. Perhaps the dollar signs were in their eyes?

Conclusion: Regardless of how many personalities Sybil might carry, I highly doubt any of them really believe her stepfather was the Zodiac killer. Unlike Jethro, who is truly dim, Sybil's behavior suggests a scammer at work. If this Zodiac gig doesn't work, I expect she'll soon find a human appendage in her cup during a visit to her local Starbucks.


Sure, Attack of the Killer Stepdads might have its scary moments -- such as when Jethro tries to speak coherently or when Sybil forgets her lines. But for all of us Web geeks focused on nabbing the real Zodiac and exposing frauds along the way, The Internet Nerds Strike Back is a much more rewarding story.

The Zodiac killer
The Zodiac killer

The 12 signs of the zodiac. Room for one more?
The 12 signs of the zodiac. Room for one more?

Zodiac killer + dead stepfather =...
Zodiac killer + dead stepfather =...

"Jethro," seen here counting to six all by himself, wants you to believe his dead stepfather was the Zodiac killer.

Meet "Sybil." Her stepfather was the Zodiac killer. Don't believe her? Just ask her psychologist.

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