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Top 10 High-Profile People Suspected of Being the Zodiac Killer

by Angela Sirotenko
fact checked by Jamie Frater

One of the most mysterious unsolved crimes in the world is the case of the Zodiac Killer. Although police brought in many suspects after the murders began in the late 1960s, they were never able to definitively identify the culprit.

SEE ALSO: 10 Creepy Photos Of People Unaware They Are With A Serial Killer

Today, the case remains open. The codes received by the police have not been deciphered yet, which leaves many opportunities for someone else to unmask the Zodiac Killer. Will we ever find the person responsible for taking so many innocent lives?

This list will cover the top 10 high-profile people suspected of being the Zodiac Killer.

10 Ted Cruz

Photo credit: salon.com

Ted Cruz is the most recent Zodiac suspect. In 2013, some people started to realize that Ted Cruz fit the description of the Zodiac Killer. They believed that he tried to cover it up by performing certain actions.

All around the world, different journalists supposedly uncovered evidence to prove that Cruz was the serial killer. According to a Public Policy Poll, 38% of the voters in Florida thought that Ted Cruz might be the Zodiac Killer. Only 10% were sure that he was, while 28% were not sure.

However, one fact completely rules him out: Ted Cruz was born two years after the Zodiac killings began.[1]

Even so, some people started digging further to refute this new information. These speculators suggested that there was a high chance that Barack Obama’s birth certificate was fake and that he was born in Kenya. So, why couldn’t Ted Cruz’s birth certificate be fake as well?

Slowly after that, certain people began to accept the theory. Some Florida residents believe that Donald Trump initiated the accusations, but we will never know.

9 Arthur Leigh Allen

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It all began on October 30, 1966, when Arthur Leigh Allen became the prime suspect in the murder of Cheri Jo Bates. Allen is the number one suspect for being the Zodiac Killer and the only one to be served with search warrants.

Police and investigators gathered a lot of evidence that appeared to prove that he was the killer. Allen’s former friend, Don Cheney, reported to police that Allen had wanted to call himself “Zodiac” and kill couples at random.

The police made Allen take handwriting tests, but his handwriting did not match the Zodiac letters. Police found a Zodiac watch that Arthur wore and a bloody knife that he claimed to kill chickens with. They also discovered a Royal typewriter in Allen’s home that was like the one used to type up the confession letter in the Bates murder.[2]

Later, Michael Mageau, a victim who survived one of the Zodiac Killer’s attacks, identified Allen as the killer in another murder. One month later, police found Allen dead on the floor of his home.

Neither the Vallejo nor the San Francisco police ruled him out as a suspect even though his DNA and fingerprints were not a match in their cases. Detectives in charge were 95 percent sure that Allen was the Zodiac Killer because so much circumstantial evidence pointed to him.


8 Richard Gaikowski

Photo credit: zodiacciphers.com

The next person suspected of being the Zodiac Killer is Richard Gaikowski. There is a lot of reasonable evidence that points in his direction, including the words and phrases from the uncovered ciphers. Gaikowski worked with the Good Times newspaper, which focused on the anti-police, pro-violence counterculture in San Francisco.

In January 1969, people started noticing that the Good Times newspaper had published violent text and clues for the next Zodiac crimes. One day, the Zodiac Killer decided to send three separate letters to three different newspapers, with each letter containing one-third of a code.

Five months later, the Good Times newspaper published their own three-part code. They also occasionally published articles with the headline “Zodiac Killer” out of nowhere which was very strange.

In 1969, Gaikowski published his articles under “Gike” or “Gaik” to shorten his last name. That same year, the police received the third part of the cipher, which clearly had the name “GYKE” on it.[3]

About 20 years passed before police made him a Zodiac suspect. By that time, they couldn’t get his fingerprints to compare to the Zodiac’s unless Gaikowski gave his permission or the police got a court order. It gets worse. Doctors diagnosed Gaikowski with a mental illness, and that’s when the Zodiac didn’t write for three years.

The letters started to come again when Gaikowski went to work at a storefront theater. Detective Ken Narlow kept an eye on Gaikowski, but Narlow couldn’t get an arrest or search warrant because there wasn’t enough evidence.

7 Lawrence Kane

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There isn’t much background information on Lawrence Kane, but most of the evidence that appears to prove him guilty came from the deciphered codes of the Zodiac Killer.

When people started to decrypt the name that the Zodiac had sent in a coded form, they came upon “Kane.” Of course, this led to theories that Lawrence Kane could be the mysterious Zodiac Killer.

However, that’s not all the evidence that the police received. They also got information from Pam Huckaby, the sister of Zodiac victim Darlene Ferrin. Huckaby claimed that Kane had followed Ferrin months before the murder. Then a different Zodiac victim identified Lawrence Kane as her abductor.[4]

In 1969, when the Zodiac became more violent, doctors diagnosed Kane with massive brain damage from a car accident. His psychologist reported that he had “lost the ability to control self-gratification.” The police arrested Kane, but the Zodiac was still on the loose.


6 Earl Van Best Jr.

Photo credit: nymag.com

Out of all the suspects on this list, Earl Van Best Jr. has the closest facial features when compared to the sketch of the Zodiac Killer. Gary L. Stewart, Best’s biological son, raised the subject with police and claimed that his father was the famous murderer.

Stewart wrote the book The Most Dangerous Animal Of All about his theories.[5] He hoped that it would bring closure to the victims’ families. Stewart had gone on a hunt to find as much information as possible about his father’s connection to the killer. He started by looking at one of the cryptograms sent by the Zodiac Killer to the San Francisco Examiner.

Stewart found the words “EV,” “Best,” and “Jr.” He claimed that this type of coincidence was impossible and it made him want to dig even deeper. He also reported that his father’s fingerprints matched those found at several crime scenes because both the Zodiac and his father had a diagonal scar.

Stewart asked a handwriting expert to compare his father’s signature on his marriage certificate to the handwriting found in the Zodiac letters. According to the expert, there was a match. Stewart is now waiting for DNA tests to see if there is another match between his father’s DNA and what was found at the crime scenes.

5 Ross Sullivan

Ross Sullivan_Zodiac Killer

Photo credit: zodiacciphername.com

Ross Sullivan was suspected in the 1966 murder of Riverside City College student Cheri Jo Bates. While the case remains unsolved, it is believed by some investigators that Bates was the Zodiac’s first victim. Both The San Francisco Chronicle reporter Paul Avery and detective Dave Toschi investigated the Riverside killing in connection to the Zodiac murders.

Ross Sullivan worked at the RCC campus library, where the staff described him as an unnerved man with an affinity for dark poetry. A poem written on the bottom of a wooden desk was found in a storage closest at the college, and it described an attack similar to the one on Bates. Sullivan also bore a close resemblance to police sketches of the Zodiac killer. He had a buzz cut, wore glasses, and preferred military-style clothing and boots, which were similar to a boot print left at the Lake Berryessa murder scene.

However, he was never questioned as a suspect in the Zodiac killings. Sullivan was institutionalized on and off due to mental illness and died in Santa Cruz in 1977.[6]


4 Guy Hendrickson

There are some wild claims about Guy Hendrickson being the Zodiac Killer. His daughter, Deborah Perez, was at a press conference when she released some strange information about the famous murderer. Apparently, Hendrickson took his daughter with him when he committed the murders.

Perez claims that Hendrickson told her that the gunshots when he murdered people were just firecrackers. She also told the press conference that she stamped the cryptic letters on the envelopes received by the newspapers. Supposedly, she embroidered the mask worn by the Zodiac too.

Finally, Perez claimed that her father had killed 30–40 people and had apologized on his deathbed for it.[7] Many people started thinking that the murders were a “special activity” between her and her father.

3 Gareth Penn

Author Gareth Penn suspected that his professor, Michael O’Hare, was the Zodiac Killer. Penn believed that his professor was involved in the murder of Joan Webster. Surprisingly, the focus turned back to Penn and away from O’Hare as a possible Zodiac suspect.

Penn was very intelligent and became obsessed with the Zodiac case and the coding behind it. He even shared his thoughts about the radian theory, which was supposedly used by the Zodiac to show the locations of his murders on a map.

Some people were shocked that Penn seemed able to decipher the Mt. Diablo map found at the crime scene.[8] Others just thought that he was trying to help the police find the killer. Penn is still considered to be one of the prime suspects in the Zodiac killings.


2 Bruce Davis

Photo credit: wtkr.com

Little background information exists on Bruce Davis, but his long criminal record puts him on the list for top possible suspects. When he moved to California, the police and the FBI kept an eye on him and found that he was guilty of two murders.[9]

The police asked Davis about the Zodiac crimes. But he believed that he shouldn’t talk about them if he hadn’t been formally charged. Criminal analysts believe that certain events in his life, such as his father’s death, could have caused Davis to become the killer. In the same year that his father died, the Zodiac Killer made his first attack.

1 Rick Marshall

Photo credit: procaffenation.com

One day, Rick Marshall invited some fellow ham radio enthusiasts to his home, and they reported that he was strange and had similar qualities to the Zodiac Killer. The police found the evidence quite convincing and put him on the list for prime Zodiac suspects.

Several pieces of evidence point to Marshall. For example, he lived several miles away from the last known Zodiac murder. He owned a Royal typewriter and a teletype machine that was similar to those used by the Zodiac for his letters.

Overall, however, the evidence didn’t fit. For example, Marshall’s fingerprints didn’t match those at the crime scenes.[10]

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fact checked by Jamie Frater