The disturbing story of Arthur Leigh Allen, the main suspect in the zodiac murders

Arthur Leigh Allen, a convicted child molester from Vallejo, California, was the only Zodiac Killer suspect police named, but was he really the killer?

zodiac killer factsAn undated photo of Zodiac Killer suspect Arthur Leigh Allen.

In the late 1960s, a serial killer was hunting his victims in Northern California. The so-called “Zodiac Killer” murdered at least five people between 1968 and 1969, taunted reporters and police with complicated figures and apparently disappeared without a trace. And while the serial killer has never been definitively identified, many believe it was Arthur Leigh Allen.

Allen, a convicted child molester, once talked to a friend about writing a “novel” in which a killer named Zodiac would stalk couples and send letters to the police. He wore a Zodiac watch with a symbol that matched the killer’s signature, lived near many of the crime scenes, and owned the same type of typewriter Zodiac probably used to write his letters.

But despite the fact that Allen seemed like the perfect suspect on paper, the police were never able to definitively link him to the crimes of the Zodiac Killer. Evidence such as fingerprints and handwriting failed to link Allen to the killer, and to this day, the Zodiac Killer’s true identity remains a mystery.

Here’s why some think Arthur Leigh Allen was the Zodiac Killer anyway, and why he’s never been charged with any of the Zodiac murders.

Arthur Leigh Allen’s Checkered Past

Whether or not Arthur Leigh Allen was the Zodiac Killer, he led a troubled life. Zodiac expert Tom Voigt, who runs, said Rolling Stone: “Yeah [Allen] it wasn’t the Zodiac, it might be responsible for some other murders.

Born in 1933 in Honolulu, Hawaii, Allen grew up in Vallejo, California, near the sites of many of the future Zodiac massacres. He briefly enlisted in the US Navy and later became a teacher. But Allen’s behavior deeply disturbed his colleagues. Between 1962 and 1963, he was fired from Travis Elementary for having a loaded gun in his car. And in 1968, he was fired from Valley Springs Elementary School for a much more serious incident: sexually abusing a student.

Licensed by Arthur Leigh Allen

Public domainArthur Leigh Allen’s driver’s license from 1967, shortly before the Zodiac Killer spree began.

From there, Allen seemed to drift aimlessly. He moved in with his parents and allegedly developed a drinking problem. He got a job at a gas station, but was soon fired for showing too much interest in “little girls”.

According, Allen then briefly worked as a janitor before finding some stability in his studies. He attended Sonoma State University and earned a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences with a minor in chemistry, which led to a junior position at an oil refinery. But Allen was charged with child molestation in 1974, after which he pleaded guilty and served a prison sentence until 1977. He then held a series of odd jobs until his death in 1992.

At first glance, the life of Arthur Leigh Allen seems like a sad and pointless existence led by someone with serious problems. But many believe that Allen led a secret double life as a serial killer named Zodiac.

Was Arthur Leigh Allen the Zodiac Killer?

There are a number of reasons why Arthur Leigh Allen is seen as a compelling suspect for the Zodiac Killer. For starters, it’s commonly believed that Zodiac served in the military; Allen served in the Navy. Allen also lived in Vallejo, California, near the Zodiac Killer’s hunting grounds, and wore a zodiac watch with the symbol that the killer later signed on his letters.

Then there’s what Allen said. According to, Allen told a friend in early 1969 about an idea he had for a book. The book would feature a killer named “Zodiac” who killed couples, taunted the police, and signed letters with the symbol on his watch.

Allen’s book idea could have been just that: an idea. But going over the known and suspected murders of the Zodiac Killer, it also seems entirely plausible that Allen committed them.

zodiac killer sketch

Public domainA police sketch of the Zodiac Killer. To this day, the identity of the serial killer is unknown.

Shortly after an alleged Zodiac victim, Cheri Jo Bates, was stabbed to death on October 30, 1966, Allen took his only sick day off work that year. Two years later, the first confirmed victims of the Zodiac Killer, Betty Lou Jensen and David Faraday, were murdered just seven minutes from Allen’s home on December 20, 1968 (authorities later determined that Allen possessed the same type of ammunition that had killed the two teenagers).

The Zodiac’s next victims, Darlene Ferrin and Mike Mageau, were shot on July 4, 1969, just four minutes from Allen’s home. Ferrin, who died after the attack, worked at a restaurant near where Allen lived, raising speculation that he knew her. And Mageau, who survived the attack, identified Allen as the man who had attacked them. In 1992, Mageau was shown a photo of Allen and yelled, “That’s him! He’s the man who shot me!

The coincidences don’t stop there. After Zodiac victims Bryan Hartnell and Cecelia Shepard were stabbed at Lake Berryessa on September 27, 1969 (Hartnell survived, Shepard did not), Allen was seen with bloody knives, which he said he had used to kill chickens. San Francisco Weekly He further reports that Allen wore the same dark Wingwalker shoes as the Zodiac, and Allen also had the same shoe size as the serial killer (10.5).

Bryan Hartnell's car

Public domainThe message the Zodiac Killer left on Bryan Hartnell’s car, with the same circular symbol that Arthur Leigh Allen had on his watch.

The last known Zodiac victim, taxi driver Paul Stine, was murdered on October 11, 1969, in San Francisco. Decades later, a man named Ralph Spinelli, who knew Allen, told police that Allen had confessed to being the Zodiac Killer and said he would “prove it by going to San Francisco and killing a cabbie.”

All of that seems pretty suspicious. But Voigt also argues on his site that the timeline of the Zodiac lyrics could reflect Allen’s nervousness about being caught by the authorities. After being interviewed by the police in August 1971, the Zodiac lyrics stopped for two and a half years. And after Allen’s arrest for child molestation in 1974, the Zodiac fell silent.

Arthur Leigh Allen was even the favorite suspected zodiac killer of Robert Graysmith, the former San Francisco Chronicle cartoonist whose book Zodiac it was later made into a feature film.

Yet despite all of this, Allen always maintained his innocence. And the police never found strong enough evidence to charge him.

The other suspects of the zodiac killer

In 1991, Arthur Leigh Allen began to speak out about the allegations against him. “I am not the Zodiac Killer,” he said in an interview in July of that year with ABC 7 News. “I know that. I know it in the bottom of my soul.”

Indeed, History reports that solid evidence could not link Allen to the Zodiac crimes. Fingerprints from his palm and fingerprints did not match evidence recovered from Stine’s cab or one of the letters, and a handwriting test suggested that Allen had not written the Zodiac taunts. The DNA evidence also appeared to exonerate him, though Voigt and others have argued against it.

So if it’s not Allen, then who was the zodiac killer?

The names of several other potential suspects have surfaced in recent years, including newspaper editor Richard Gaikowski, who was hospitalized for going “mad” at the same time the letters of the Zodiac stopped, and Lawrence Kane, whose name appeared on the killer list. encrypted

Richard Gaikowski

TwitterRichard Gaikowski looked a lot like the police sketches of the Zodiac Killer.

In 2021, an investigative team called the Case Breakers also claimed to have identified the Zodiac Killer as Gary Francis Pole, an Air Force veteran turned house painter who allegedly led a criminal gang in the 1970s. Poste, they said, had scars that matched those on a zodiac sketch. And they claimed that removing his name from the figures of the Zodiac changed the meaning of him.

However, to this day, the true identity of the Zodiac Killer remains a head-scratching mystery. The FBI’s San Francisco office maintains that “the FBI’s investigation into the Zodiac Killer remains open and unresolved.”

So was Arthur Leigh Allen the Zodiac Killer? Allen died in 1992 at age 58 after suffering from diabetes and insisted on his innocence to the end. But to Zodiac experts like Voigt, he remains a compelling suspect.

“The reality is that Allen is the suspect you just can’t put down,” Voigt said. Rolling Stone. “I just can’t put that ‘Big Al’ down, especially now. [that] I’m going through all these old emails and tips and clues going back 25 years. And some of the things that they told me about it are just amazing.”

After reading about Zodiac Killer suspect Arthur Leigh Allen, find out about the San Francisco Chronicle journalist’s story Paul Avery, who tried to hunt down the infamous killer. Or, see how a The French engineer claimed to have cracked some of the most difficult Zodiac Killer ciphers..

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *