|If you attended public school in California from the late 1950s through
1960s, top Zodiac suspect
Arthur Leigh Allen might have been your teacher or trampoline coach.
Click here to find out.
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|The Allen-Zodiac Connection
| Arthur Leigh Allen's connections to the
Zodiac killer began on Oct. 30, 1966, when Cheri Jo Bates was stabbed to death at
Riverside City College (RCC) in Riverside, Calif. In late-November 1966, two anonymous, typewritten
Bates-murder confession letters were mailed to the local police and newspaper. (The
typewriter was identified as being a Royal model, with either Elite or Pica type.)
Allen allegedly was in Riverside the weekend Bates was murdered. The information placing
Allen in Riverside was developed in 1971 by the Vallejo Police Department (VPD) and the
California Department of Justice (DOJ). Allen later hinted it was true, first claiming to
have been "in the area" at the time, then telling people he was in nearby Pomona
when he first heard of the Bates murder.
Employed as an elementary-school teacher in California's Calaveras County at the time of
the Bates murder, by the time his employment ended in late March 1968 Allen had used only
one of 19 available sick days. The day Allen was absent was Nov. 1, 1966. (Initially, Allen attributed
the absence to "school business." He was later charged with a sick day.) Did
Allen stay an extra day or two in Riverside, gathering second-hand information to use in
the anonymous confessions? Or did Allen actually kill Bates, missing work on Nov. 1
because of facial wounds inflicted by his victim? (Modern FBI profiles on serial killers
usually say that during periods of activity, the killer will behave erratically, exhibit
moodiness, drink or smoke more than usual and miss work.) During the execution of a
1991 search warrant, VPD seized a Royal typewriter with Elite type from the home of
In late-April 1967, three anonymous letters referring to Bates were mailed. In 1970,
Sherwood Morrill, head of the Questioned Documents Section of California's Criminal
Identification and Investigation Bureau, determined them to be the work of Zodiac. Each contained double the
necessary postage, a Zodiac trademark. Two of the three letters were signed with an
unusual symbol. Some believe the symbol resembles a sloppy "z," others say it
looks like a "32." At the time Bates was killed, Allen was 32
years old, and his permanent residence was 32 Fresno St. in Vallejo, Calif. (In
1970, Zodiac would create a cipher that contained 32 symbols.)
At the approximate time the three letters were mailed, a desk was discovered on the RCC
campus that had a morbid poem scratched into the surface, possibly referring to the Bates
murder. In 1970, Morrill claimed the poem was definitely the work of Zodiac, although
other experts believed the condition of the desk prevented authentication. The poem was
signed "rh." The president of RCC at the time Bates was murdered was RH
Bradshaw, a detail a stranger to the area probably wouldn't have known.
Interestingly, after establishing the moniker "Zodiac," the only reference
Zodiac ever made to the Bates murder came in a letter to the Los Angeles Times
postmarked March 13, 1971. RCC, where Bates was a student, was founded on March 13,
1916. Timing his letters to be postmarked on a significant date was a Zodiac specialty and
the Times reference to Bates is another example of this.
The Bates murder was initially merely local news, not likely to have gotten much exposure
outside of the Riverside area. If Zodiac didn't actually kill Bates, which is a strong
possibility, he at least had enough knowledge of the crime to produce the anonymous
A strong case can be made that Zodiac had ties to the Riverside area. Allen certainly did.
**To date, even though it was an item it was looking for in the 1991 search, VPD has
not attempted matching Allen's typewriter to that of the anonymous confessions.
|Zodiac name/cross-circle symbol/ciphers/etc.
| According to his brother, Ron, Allen was
given a Zodiac watch as a Christmas gift from their mother in 1967. (Allen's estimation of
when he received the watch was July or August 1969.) The logo for the Zodiac watch is a
cross-circle symbol, the same as eventually used by the Zodiac killer.
According to police statements, within days of receiving the watch, Allen is alleged to
have made these claims to his friend, Don Cheney:
(Allen used the premise of writing a novel to communicate this fantasy. Cheney
estimates the conversation took place on Jan. 1, 1969.)
He would like to kill couples at random.
He would taunt the police with letters detailing his crimes.
He would sign the letters with the cross-circle symbol from his watch.
He would call himself "Zodiac."
He would wear make-up to change his appearance.
He would attach a flashlight to the barrel of his gun in order to shoot at night.
He would fool women into stopping their cars in rural areas by claiming they had problems
with their tires, then loosen their lug nuts and eventually take them captive.
Don eventually took this information to the police and, in 1972, the San Francisco Police
Department (SFPD) was able to secure a search warrant against Allen as the Zodiac killer.
Unfortunately, SFPD elected to search a trailer that Allen frequented in nearby Santa Rosa
instead of searching his home at 32 Fresno St. in Vallejo. Nothing incriminating
According to a police statement, in an early-1968 conversation with his friend, Philip,
Allen is alleged to have been fascinated with the concept of hunting people. According to
Allen, people would be more challenging to hunt than animals, since they "have
On July 31, 1969, Zodiac mailed a cipher to the news media. Within days it was solved and
stated that killing man was "(sic) more fun than killing wild game in the forrest
because man is the most dangeroue anamal of all to kill." Additionally, during a 1971
police interrogation, Allen offered the fact that, as a youth, he had read a book that had
made a lasting impression on him. The book was called The Most Dangerous Game and
was about hunting a man "like an animal."
On June 15, 1958, Allen was arrested by VPD and charged with disturbing the peace, the
result of an altercation with acquaintance Ralph Spinelli. The charges were
dismissed on July 8, 1958. Zodiac would later taunt San Francisco Chronicle
columnist Marco Spinelli in a letter postmarked July 8, 1974.
According to statements to police by family and friends, prior to the publication of
Zodiac's codes, Allen had possession of codes featuring identical symbols. Additionally,
Allen was known to use the same unusual spelling and phrasing as Zodiac later used, such
as spelling "Mery Xmass" instead of Merry Xmas and saying "trigger
mech" instead of trigger mechanism. Allen would intentionally misspell words
to be funny.
In a 1969 letter, Zodiac used the term "bussy work," which is jargon used by elementary-school
teachers. ("Busy work" is a technique used to keep children busy and
therefore happy, by assigning them menial tasks.) Prior to his termination in March 1968,
Allen had almost 10 years of experience as an elementary-school teacher.
**Despite its negative ramifications on his life, Allen continued to wear his Zodiac
watch until it was seized during the execution of VPD's search warrant in 1991.
|Lake Herman Road
| In late-March 1968, Allen was fired from his
job as an elementary-school teacher for molesting a student. (This was Allen's second
career failure, as in 1958 he was less-than-honorably discharged from the Navy after two
years of service.) With no source of income, Allen moved back home with his mother and
father at 32 Fresno St. in Vallejo. According to friends and family, Allen hated his
mother and felt inferior around his father, Ethan. (Ethan was a very successful military
man.) Certainly, being a child molester didn't help Arthur's status around the house.
Allen began gaining weight and drinking heavily, eventually taking a part-time job as a
service-station attendant. By winter, Allen was in a downward spiral of depression and
alcohol abuse, most probably amplified by two major stressors: his birthday and Christmas.
The apparently motiveless Lake Herman Road murders occured on Dec. 20, 1968, just
between Allen's Dec. 18 birthday and Christmas, Dec. 25.
Profiles indicate serial killers are always active in areas they are very familiar with.
Allen was living only about seven minutes from the Lake Herman Road crime scene. He had an
explosive temper, was known to park and drink alcohol in rural settings such as Lake
Herman Road and always carried weapons in his automobile.
**In 1991, the search warrant executed by VPD revealed Allen owned the same type of
ammunition used to kill the victims of Zodiac's Lake Herman Road attack.
|Blue Rock Springs
| Zodiac's Blue Rock Springs attack of July 4,
1969 was the second within seven months to occur on the eastern outskirts of Vallejo. This
time, Zodiac was only about four minutes from Allen's home. Major holidays can bring out
ugly behavior in people and Allen was already dealing with unemployment and alcohol abuse.
The male victim, Mike Mageau, survived the attack and gave police a description of
Zodiac's car: brown in color, possibly a Corvair. At the time, Allen had a friend, Philip,
who was trying to sell his brown Corvair. According to a police statement, Philip's
Corvair was parked in front of a service station in Vallejo where Allen had recently been
employed and the key was inside the office. Philip had occasionally allowed Allen to drive
the Corvair. The possibility exists that Allen either had a key to the car or to the
service station where it was parked.
Additionally, there are potential connections between Blue Rock Springs victim Darlene
Ferrin and Allen. In 1966-67, Ferrin worked as a waitress at the International House of
Pancakes on Tessessee Street in Vallejo, less than 1/10 of a mile from Allen's home at 32
Fresno St. About that time, Allen is alleged to have told Don Cheney that he was fond of a
waitress from that restaurant. Also, according to a police report, an unidentified male
named "Lee" was known to associate occasionally with Darlene. (Allen was known
by his middle name, spelling it "Lee.") Until "Lee" is identified, the
possibility exists that victim Ferrin might have known Allen. Finally, in 1971 Allen's
father, Ethan, died. The date was March 17...Darlene's birthday. It was yet another
occasion when someone close to Allen died on a significant Zodiac date.
**According to a police report, in mid-1992 surviving Blue Rock Springs victim Mageau
picked Allen out of a VPD police lineup, saying "That's him! He's the man that shot
| On Sept. 27, 1969, Zodiac used a foot-long
knife with a sheath and rivets to attack a young couple at Lake Berryessa in Napa
County, just north of Vallejo. Allen, an outdoorsman, frequented recreational areas such
as Berryessa often, trapping game, scuba-diving and camping. Allen was familiar with the
Berryessa area and even told VPD's Sgt. Lynch, in an Oct. 6, 1969 interview, that the day
of the attack he "was going to go to Berryessa, but went up the coast instead."
Allen first used a mysterious couple from Treasure Island as an alibi, but could
never produce their names or phone number. (A 1930s film, Charlie Chan At Treasure
Island, featured a villain named "Dr. Zodiac," who wrote taunting
letters about his San Francisco crimes.) Later, Allen attempted to use a deceased elderly
neighbor as an alibi, claiming this neighbor, William White, had seen Allen the afternoon
of the Berryessa attack and that the two had a conversation. (At this time another William
White, a ranger from Napa County, was all over the news as a spokesman on the Berryessa
attack.) Neighbor White died within a couple of weeks of this alleged encounter. His
birthday was Dec. 20.
During a 1971 police interrogation, Allen admitted to having possession of bloody knives
the day of the Berryessa attack, claiming he used the knives to "kill a
Allen's physical appearance and voice were the same as Zodiac's, according to
surviving Berryessa victim Bryan Hartnell. Hartnell had been taken to see Allen at his
place of employment by a DOJ representative in the mid-1970s.
Zodiac left size 10.5 footprints at the crime scene. According to a police report,
Allen wore size 10.5.
**In 1991, the search warrant executed by VPD revealed Allen owned a foot-long knife
with a sheath and rivets. To date, even though it was an item it was looking for, VPD
has not attempted matching Allen's knife to the wounds of the Berryessa victims.
| When Zodiac hailed Paul Stine's cab in San
Francisco on Oct. 11, 1969, his original destination was Washington and Maple Streets in
Presidio Heights, an intersection featuring a school crosswalk. (Amazingly, the
address Stine was headed when he encountered Zodiac was 500 9th Ave., the Allen
Arms Apartments.) On Oct. 13, two days after killing Stine, Zodiac mailed a letter
threatening school children. Exactly one week earlier, Allen had been interviewed
by VPD's Lynch at the elementary school where Allen worked as a janitor. If Lynch
had asked to see Allen's driver's license, he might have noticed that the issue date was Oct.
According to a police report, in 1991 Allen's old nemesis Ralph Spinelli came forward to
VPD claiming that just prior to the Stine murder, Allen had admitted he was Zodiac and
would "prove it by going to San Francisco and killing a cabbie." After
killing Stine, Zodiac took his wallet, car keys and a portion of his shirt. In no other
attack did Zodiac take items from his victims. It is a matter of fact that Zodiac did,
indeed, prove he was Stine's killer and he did so by including scraps of Stine's
bloody shirt in his subsequent taunting letters to the news media.
One such letter was postmarked Nov. 9, 1969 and contained a bomb diagram.
Ingredients for the bomb included ammonium nitrate, fertilizer and gravel. Zodiac
claimed in the letter that the bomb was being stored in his basement and that his
"killing tools" were acquired through "mail order outfits." In
1991, the search warrant executed by VPD revealed Allen had, in his basement,
handwritten diagrams for bombs comprised of ammonium nitrate, fertilizer and
gravel. Also found were mail-order catalogs for bombs, guns and booby traps.
**Allen and Stine had much in common. Both were students, both had the middle name
"Lee" (spelled "Leigh" by Allen) and both were born on Dec. 18.
Perhaps Dec. 18 was the most significant Zodiac date of them all.
|-Arthur Leigh Allen Timeline-
|This timeline is based on official police reports, Social Security
records, employment applications, motor vehicle records and testimony from friends and
(Most of the information about this suspect found elsewhere is grossly inaccurate):
- Dec. 18, 1933: Arthur Leigh Allen was born in Honolulu, Hawaii.
- Allen was reared in Vallejo, Calif. and was graduated from Vallejo High in 1950. (It
is suspected that Zodiac had very close ties to Vallejo, most likely as a resident.)
- 1948-57: Allen attended Vallejo College, majoring in liberal arts. He received his
associate of arts degree in 1957.
- 1951-52: Allen worked as a lifeguard at the Plunge in Vallejo.
- 1953: Allen worked as a sail maker at Mare Island Naval Shipyard in Vallejo, Calif.
- 1954-1960: Allen attended Cal Poly State College in San Luis Obispo, Calif., majoring in
elementary education. He received his bachelor's degree in 1960.
- 1957: Allen enlisted in the U.S. Navy. (Zodiac was thought to have an affiliation
with the military, most likely the Navy.)
- June 15, 1958: Allen was arrested by
the Vallejo Police Department for disturbing the peace as the result of an altercation
with acquaintance Ralph Spinelli. The charges were dismissed on July 8, 1958. (Zodiac
demonstrated an animosity toward the police. It could have stemmed from a perceived
- December 1958: Allen was discharged from the Navy.
- 1959-1962: Allen, attempting to gain his teaching credential, was hired by Santa Rosa
Elementary in Atascadero, Calif.
- 1961-1962: Allen worked two summers as a psychiatric technician at Atascadero State
Hospital in Atascadero, Calif.
- 1962-1963: Allen taught at Travis Elementary, Travis Air Force Base, Calif. He was
eventually fired for having a loaded weapon in his car on school grounds.
- 1964-1965: Allen was incapacitated with a "severely lacerated leg," allegedly
the result of a motorcycle accident.
- 1966-1968: Allen taught at Valley Springs Elementary in Valley Springs, Calif. His
teaching career ended when he was fired for molesting a student.
- December 1968: Allen's mother, Bernice, gave him a Zodiac watch as a gift. (According to Allen's brother, Ron, the
watch was received in December 1967.)
- January 1969: Allen allegedly confided in Don Cheney that he intended to kill couples at
random, threaten school children in taunting letters to the police and call himself
- April 4, 1969: Living back at home with his parents, Allen was terminated from his
part-time job at a gas station in Vallejo where he had worked for approximately six
months. In August 1971, Allen was described by this former employer as being
"undependable with a drinking problem." In addition, Allen was said to be
"too interested in small girls."
- July 1969: Shortly after the murder of Darlene Ferrin, a
relative of the victim informed investigators that Darlene had a relationship of some sort
with a man named "Lee".
- During the 1969-70 school year, Allen was employed part-time as a janitor at Elmer Cave
Elementary School in Vallejo. (During Allen's stint at Cave, Zodiac wrote letters
threatening school children.)
- Oct. 6, 1969: Allen was questioned
by Detective John Lynch of VPD regarding the murder of Cecelia Shepard at Lake Berryessa. It is unknown
who turned Allen in as a suspect or why. (Allen later admitted that when asked by Lynch
where he was on Sept. 27, 1969, Allen had said "I was going to go to Lake Berryessa,
but I went up the coast instead.")
- Oct. 10, 1969: Allen supposedly told Ralph Spinelli he would soon be "going to San
Francisco to kill a cabbie." (Zodiac would later taunt San Francisco Chronicle
columnist Marco Spinelli in
a letter postmarked July 8, 1974.)
- 1970-74: Allen attended Sonoma State College, majoring in biological sciences with a
minor in chemistry. He completed all academic requirements in 1974, but did not receive
his bachelor's of science degree until after July 1981. (During Allen's stint at Sonoma
State, the Zodiac murders apparently ceased. However, the Sonoma coed killings began. According to retired special
agent Jim Silver of the California Department of Justice, if you mapped where the coeds
were last seen and where they were later found dead, Allen's trailer would be directly in
the center. Eventually, many other
murders were suspected of being the work of Zodiac. One investigator theorized that
Zodiac was choosing crime scenes to form a giant
- March 17, 1971: Allen's father, Ethan, died at age 67. Ethan was a retired, highly
decorated naval commander. (Ethan Allen died on what would have been Darlene Ferrin's
24th birthday. When Allen became a suspect, this was looked at with suspicion.)
- Summer 1971: Allen was employed as a junior chemist at an oil refinery in Pinole, Calif.
- July 15, 1971: The Manhattan Beach (Calif.) Police Department (MBPD) was contacted by
Allen's former friend, to whom Allen allegedly made the incriminating statements in
January 1968. (See above.)
- July 19, 1971: A report
was prepared by MBPD for Inspector Toschi of the San Francisco Police Department
- July 27, 1971: SFPD inspectors Dave Toschi and Bill Armstrong, along with Special Agent
Mel Nicolai from CII, traveled to Vallejo to meet with Sgt. Jack Mulanax of VPD regarding
Allen. It was decided that more background information on Allen would be obtained before
any contact would be made with him. Mulanax immediately began investigating Allen.
- Aug. 4, 1971: Mulanax, Toschi, and Armstrong interviewed Allen at his place of
employment in Pinole, Calif. (The last authenticated Zodiac letter had been mailed in
March 1971, just a few months earlier. However, after Allen's interview by police, it
would be two-and-a-half years before Zodiac would write again.)
- Sept. 14, 1972: SFPD obtained a search
warrant against Allen and made him submit handwriting samples. Detectives found several bizarre items
during the search, but nothing that would incriminate Allen in the Zodiac crimes.
- Sept. 27, 1974: Allen was arrested by the Sonoma County Sheriff's Department on a charge
of child molesting. (Zodiac had written several times in 1974, breaking a
two-and-a-half year silence. However, no authenticated Zodiac letter was ever received
again after Allen's arrest.)
- March 14, 1975: After pleading guilty, Allen began serving his sentence at Atascadero
(Calif.) State Hospital.
- Aug. 31, 1977: Allen completed his sentence and was released from Atascadero.
- Jan. 3, 1978: Allen was hired as a fleet mechanic by Benicia Import Auto Service in
Benicia, Calif. This employment ended on Mar. 3, 1978, apparently due to a slowdown in
- June 25, 1978 through 1987: Allen found sporadic employment in Vallejo, including a
stint as an aide to senior citizens. Allen also worked at Ace Hardware on Tennessee Street
for several years, as a buyer for the tool and garden departments.
- Jan. 10, 1989: Bernice Allen died at age 83.
- Feb. 14, 1991: VPD executed a search
warrant against Allen and found a huge cache of weapons. Amazingly, even though Allen
was a felon, no charges were filed. Enraged at the search, Allen began granting interviews
with the news media to proclaim his innocence and blast the police. (There was a huge
amount of circumstantial evidence against Allen, including Ralph Spinelli coming forward
with Allen's incriminating statements of Oct. 10, 1969.)
- Aug. 1, 1991: Allen gave an interview to the Fairfield (Calif.) Daily Republic in
which he claimed to have consulted with attorney Melvin Belli. (Zodiac had written a letter to Belli in
NOTE: The letter can be found at the Zodiac Letters page.)
- July 1992: Definite Zodiac victim Mike Mageau picked Allen out of a police photo lineup,
saying "That's him! He's the man who shot me!"
- Aug. 26, 1992: Arthur Leigh Allen died of natural causes at age 58. He had been suffering
from diabetes and heart problems.
- Aug. 28, 1992: VPD obtained a search warrant against Allen and found many interesting items. (VPD has been
extremely secretive about the results of this search. The objective was to seize a
videotape Allen had in his possession that was labeled with a "Z." The exact
contents of the video have never been revealed, although VPD has said there was no
- UPDATE: In October 2002, Allen's DNA was compared to DNA obtained from a
confirmed Zodiac letter. There was no match. In 2003, due to Allen's alleged habit of
having others lick his stamps and envelopes (he claimed the taste of glue made him sick),
SFPD obtained a voluntary DNA sample from Don Cheney. The
results were negative.