DNA testing used to find Golden State Killer could help find the Zodiac Killer, experts say

After DNA testing helped capture the alleged Golden State Killer, authorities are hoping it will lead to the elusive Zodiac Killer, who remains unidentified after killing at least five people decades ago.

“It is possible,” former San Francisco homicide detective Pam Hofsass told The Sacramento Bee. “It’s totally worth looking at, and I hope with all of the news and revelations about the Golden State Killer that it will kind of be the impetus for the Zodiac.”

Hofsass, who now oversees the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office forensics lab, said the roadblock will be getting a “clean” DNA sample, meaning the DNA could be contaminated because of the ways crimes were handle years ago. Detectives and others working a case during the time period when the Zodiac Killer was active didn’t use gloves since DNA testing wasn’t an actual thing, which led to DNA evidence being contaminated.

“Back in the day, that was the protocol,” Hofsass explained. “It’s not a clean sample, that’s the problem.”

For example, a bloody glove that was stuffed inside an envelope was tested, and the blood came back as 1969 crime victim, Paul Stine, a cab driver thought to be shot in the head by the Zodiac Killer. Yet the blood was mixed in with other matter from the envelope and DNA from authorities who handled the evidence, making it difficult to find a clean sample of the killer’s DNA.

Tom Voigt, however, who considers himself an expert on the Zodiac Killer and runs the site zodiackiller.com, thinks it could be possible to pull a clean DNA sample from the many envelopes mailed out by the suspect. The killer enjoyed mailing out letters and cards to the media while writing information in mysterious cryptonams, which gained the suspect the nickname of “Zodiac Killer.”

“I think Zodiac was definitely licking his own stamps and envelopes,” Voigt said. “You just need to get the evidence, get it to the lab. Just copy what was done with the Golden State Killer.”

About The Zodiac Killer

The Zodiac Killer carried out his killings in Northern California from the late 1960s until the early 1970s. The killer mailed 37 pieces of mail to the media but authorities suspect that seven people were likely killed by the suspect, all between the ages of ages of 16 and 29, although it’s possible there are more victims, still unconfirmed.

The victims were both male and female. On December 20, 1968,  Betty Lou Jensen and David Faraday, both high school students, were killed on their first date while parked on Lake Herman Road in Benicia. On July 4, 1969, Darlene Ferrin and Michael Mageau were shot while parked at Blue Rock Springs Park in Vallejo. Mageau survived the attack

On September 27, 1969, Bryan Hartnell and Cecelia Shepard, both college students at Pacific Union College, were stabbed while having a picnic on a small island at Lake Berryessa in Napa County.  Hartnell survived eight stab wounds to the back; Shepard died from her wounds two days later. On October 11, 1969, the killer struck again and murdered Paul Stine while riding passenger in Stine’s cab at the intersection of Mason and Geary Streets in San Francisco.

The Zodiac Killer continued to mail cryptic letters and cards to the media throughout the 1970s, threatening to blow up a bus and expressing frustration that people weren’t wearing “Zodiac” buttons. The suspect also took credit for the abduction of Kathleen Johns in 1969, a woman who managed to escape after a man offered her a ride to the gas station in 1970.

[Feature Photo: Zodiac Killer/San Francisco Police Department]