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San Francisco Police Decide to Close 1968-69 Zodiac Killer Case

The State

Authorities say they have run out of leads in the hunt for the person blamed for at least five slayings in the city.

April 08, 2004|From Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO — Police are closing the case of the city's notorious Zodiac killer, whose identity has haunted inspectors for 35 years.

"The case is being placed inactive," said San Francisco Police Lt. John Hennessey, head of the department's homicide unit.

"Given the pressure of our existing caseload and the amount of cases that remain open at this time, we need to be most efficient at using our resources," he said.

Mayor Gavin Newsom has placed pressure on the department to solve a series of gang and drug-related killings in the city, which means that inspectors are being pulled off old cases and assigned to more recent ones. Police say they have run out of leads in the Zodiac case.

The killer who called himself the Zodiac is blamed for at least five killings between 1968 and 1969.

He taunted newspapers and the police with letters.

"The police shall never catch me, because I have been too clever for them," he wrote in a letter sent to the San Francisco Chronicle.

"I enjoy needling the blue pigs," he wrote. Detectives thought they might have had a break two years ago, when a partial DNA profile was taken from envelopes holding the letters.

The genetic evidence seemed to clear the only suspect ever named by police -- Arthur Leigh Allen of Vallejo. Allen, who was never charged, died of a heart attack in 1992.

DNA evidence may still be the key to one day identifying the killer.

"Our hope is that from that evidence a DNA profile will be developed," said Inspector Kelly Carroll, one of the last detectives to work on the case. "If there's any realistic hope of solving the case, it would be from the physical evidence that we have."

Mike Rodelli, an amateur investigator from New Jersey, still believes the killer is a certain well-known elderly San Francisco businessman who lives not far from where a cabdriver, Paul Stine, was shot to death by the Zodiac on Oct. 11, 1969.

A piece of Stine's shirt was cut away and sent to the Chronicle so the Zodiac would be credited for the crime.

Hennessey said the case would not be permanently closed.

If a promising lead came in, Hennessey said, Carroll would be put back on the case. "It's not like this case is going to fall off the face of the Earth for us," Hennessey said.

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