Serial Series: The Zodiac Killer
Did you know that serial killers are able to be charged for wrongful death? Although many are tried for first or second-degree murder, wrongful death is still very much in play when it comes to charging serial killers. This blog in the Serial Killer Series will talk about one of the most famous serial killers of all time, the Zodiac Killer. We will discuss what he did and whether or not he was ever charged with wrongful death!
Who Is the Zodiac Killer?
The Zodiac Killer is an unidentified serial killer who murdered several people in the San Francisco Bay Area in the late 1960s. Many people believe he killed dozens of people, but he only took credit for a handful of murders.
The Zodiac’s first known victim was a young college student who was stabbed to death outside a college library in Riverside, California in 1966. A month later, the Zodiac sent a letter to the local police department describing details of the attack and taking credit for the murder. The Zodiac warned in the letter that he would murder again: “She is not the first and she will not be the last, I lay awake at nights thinking about my next victim.”
Two years later, the Zodiac Killer murdered a couple on a date at the popular Lovers Lane Lookout. Passing motorists found the couple dead outside their car, the woman had multiple bullet wounds in the back and the man was shot in the head.
Less than 7 months later, another couple fell victim to the Zodiac Killer while they were in their car. The man survived, but the woman died on the way to the hospital. A short while after the couple was shot, a call came into the police department, where the Zodiac Killer told the police dispatcher where he could find the victims and confessed to killing the couple as well as the previous couple who was shot at Lovers Lane.
After these killings, The Zodiac sent cryptic ciphers to multiple newspapers and told them to print them on the front page. Once the code was deciphered, the Zodiac Killer took responsibility for the shootings again, explaining exactly how he did it and the weapons he used. In addition, he exclaimed that he liked to kill for “fun.”
The Zodiac also said in the cipher that he thought the people he killed would serve him in the afterlife. “When I die, I will be reborn in paradise and all the (people) I have killed will become my slaves.”
On September 27, 1969, the Zodiac Killer attacked another couple at Lake Berryessa. Both victims were stabbed multiple times, but the man was able to survive the attack. The male victim said the Zodiac was wearing an executioners mask with a circle and cross symbol on it. In addition, after stabbing the couple, the Zodiac drew a crossed-circle on the victim’s car along with dates and locations of previous attacks. He also called the police department in Napa, reporting the attack and the crime scene all while confessing that he was the one responsible. Whenever the Zodiac Killer made these calls, he did it from pay phones in the area.
A month later the Zodiac shot and killed a cab driver in his car in San Francisco. The Zodiac cut off a piece of the driver’s shirt and fled the scene, although the police department was able to collect fingerprints and form sketches from witness accounts. The San Francisco Chronicle ended up receiving a letter from the Zodiac, who had mailed the shirt piece and confessed to murdering the cab driver. He also claimed that he didn’t leave any fingerprints and the sketch wasn’t accurate as he was wearing a disguise.
Was He Ever Caught?
Unfortunately, the Zodiac Killer was never caught. For years, the Zodiac Killer continued to send messages and make threats, even threatening to blow up a school bus of kids at one point. There were a total of 18 letters sent, and in 1974, he sent a letter to the San Francisco Chronicle, writing “Me: 37, SFPD: 0,” indicating that he had 37 victims and was never caught.
Was He Held Liable for Wrongful Death?
To this day, the Zodiac Killer’s identity remains a mystery. Because of this, none of the victims’ families could sue him for wrongful death. If the Zodiac Killer was caught, he most likely would have been sued for multiple counts of wrongful death and first-degree murder. Wrongful death cases occur when a victim was intentionally killed, and the Zodiac Killer was all about intentionally killing others.
Although these serial killer cases are extreme circumstances, wrongful death can occur in many different scenarios. If one of your loved ones passed away due to wrongful death, contact an attorney at Robert J. DeBry and Associates today.